The sweet smell of success… in a gymnasium?



OK, we admit it.  One normally would not associate the … well, let’s call it the aroma of a gymnasium to be the first thing to come to mind when you think of the sweet smell of success.

But a gymnasium can be – and it should be – a way to make you think of success.

Let me explain.  I suggest that you have a look at this tremendous blog post by Mounir Ajam of SUKADClick here to do that right now.  But then come back…for the rest of the story.

Let’s assume for the moment, though, that you are a “Type A” project manager who doesn’t follow instructions well, has little time for this blog post, never-mind another one, so you just kept on reading and here you are without going off and reading Mounir’s blog post.

I bet I gotcha!  Here you are.  Well…one more chance to read that first…

Well, even if you haven’t done that little eeny-teeny-tiny piece of homework, we can sum things up for you.

In a project which happens to have a gymnasium as its product, when is it done?  When is it successful?  It depends on how success is defined, of course, and that should be done in the project charter.

Let’s say that this organization is particularly mature and sustainably-minded.  By the way, you’ll note that the element of GREEN never comes up here.  Sustainability and ‘green’ are not synonyms.  Here, we are thinking about sustainability in terms of the economic and social aspects; we are thinking holistically about what success means and why the gymnasium was being built in the first place.

The blog post talks of 4 measures of project success, Product Success, Project Management Success, Project Success, and Business Objective Success.  It’s not a perfect match but it’s actually quite like the section of our book which refers to Harry Mulisch’s Discovery of Heaven and its table of contents, which include:

The Beginning of the Beginning

The End of the Beginning

The Beginning of the End

The End of the End

In the blog post, Mounir points out that the project charter should say that the project’s objective is to build a gymnasium to improve employee health.  That simple restating of the objective helps us think through our natural stopping point (The End of the Beginning) and through to the realization of benefits.

Below is a figure used by permission which shows this pictorially.  However, once again, we suggest that you get the full “whiff” of the gymnasium story by going to the original blog post.


Figure courtesy of: The SUKAD Way™ | CAM2P™ Model | The Four Dimensions of Project Success

And if this intrigues you, this is exactly what we’re going to be stressing in our upcoming book, “Sustainability in Projects, Programs, and Portfolios: Realizing Enterprise Benefits and Goals”.  Or maybe, we should have called it, “The Sweet Smell of The Gymnasium”!


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We put the “X” in ConteXt.


Look at the two Xs above.

They are exactly the same color and shade.

I know… I know…!   The one in the yellow box looks grey…. and the one in the grey box looks yellow.

But once again, here is the fact: these Xs are of the same color and shade.

If you don’t believe us – look at that little connecting line at the bottom center.  It’s the same bleeping color.  How can that be?  They look totally different when you look at them individually.

What makes this mind blowing revelation take place is – context.  It’s only when we (literally) understand the background of the situation that we can appreciate what makes the foreground (the readily apparent) really, truly understandable.  And sometimes, as in this case, knowing the background changes the ‘readily apparent’ as ‘not the facts’.

Now, recall that according to some experts (and probably your own experience as well) a project manager’s job is mostly communications. Some say that it’s as much as 90% of our job. But it’s not just ‘sending email’ or even ‘active listening’, or ‘frequent status updates’, although all of those are important.

For communications to be effective, we have to provide the right background (which you LITERALLY see above) for the communication to make sense.

This means thinking about the format and media of the message. This means providing orientation for your audience (after first absolutely knowing who that audience is). This means balancing the amount of context and background with a competing need to be concise and clear and to avoid being condescending.  And as you’ll see later, from an EarthPM perspective, it means balancing your project’s needs with the enterprise’s portfolio needs, which are likely much longer-term in nature and holistic in their viewpoint than your project’s handover of its deliverable.  No offense meant.  Just sayin’.

In other words, just as we have to balance the competing constraints of time, scope, schedule, cost, quality, risk, and resources, when we communicate, we have to balance the need to be concise and clear with the need to send “the right color X”, which means sending along the right amount of context.  And this is even more true when integrating sustainability into Project, Program, and Portfolio Management, which will become increasingly important over the next few years.

On top of all of the other things we do as project managers, more and more, we have to be sure that our project is in the proper context with the overall enterprise goals, and the the benefits (and other byproducts) that our project generates are in line with the enterprise vision.  That means thinking about the PRODUCT of the project in the steady state, not just the handoff of the PRODUCT of the project to the operations folks.  Once again – it’s about context.

Our advice to you in this area:

• Know the stakeholders and their needs for background BEFORE you send any messages or convene any meeting

• Front-load your message – by that, I mean to put the ‘walk-away’ message early on in an communication; but don’t stop there, back up and give rationale and context as well

• Where necessary, and using things like hyperlinked text, provide the OPPORTUNITY for getting more background for those who need it, and in this way avoid cluttering up your message with too much context. But you DO need to provide it. Look again at the Xs if you need a reminder

• Consider the medium you’re using. Certain communications are tainted by the very medium you use to send them. Think: would a phone call be better? Would this information better be conveyed with a graphic (bar chart, pie chart) to make the point clear for the (majority) visual thinkers in my audience?

• Re-read your communications one more time before sending, with the idea of context foremost in your mind. Would ALL of the stakeholders be able to get your “walk-away” message with the amount of context you’ve provided? If not, consider ‘painting’ the background a little to make sure you have the right color “X”.

• Now let’s REALLY get serious about context. Make sure that you, yourself, as a project leader – not a project manager – are connected to the context of your project in the environment (excuse the pun) of the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) statements that your enterprise makes. This can be accomplished with a simple visit to your external “ABOUT US” tab to see what your enterprise is touting to the world about its CSR efforts. That’s true leadership: knowing how you fit into the vision and passing that golden thread along to your team members.

If you’re interested in learning more about the visual aspect of this image, there’s a very good article and radio show clip about it right here.

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The Conscious Software Development Telesummit! {{UPDATE 12-Nov-14}}



Creating successful custom – and sustainable – software for your organization is hard – over 70% of projects fail!

Perhaps you have seen some of these common issues:
• deploy late
• go over budget
• have missing/buggy features
• requirements scope creep
• team miscommunication and conflicts
• “shelfware” that is just not adopted by users
• not aligned to the organization’s strategy
And software projects can be a headache to hire for, manage and architect right.

What to do? Listen to my interview on “Sustainability and long-term thinking in Project Management” at the Conscious Software Development Telesummit, which takes place on November 10th – 21st,  2014:

You must click on THIS LINK to access the program for free.

Register for the summit for free, using the link above. Then listen to another 21+ interviews and read the transcripts for detailed notes on how you can bring more consciousness to your software projects and organization. And stop the 70% of zombie programming projects that give you headaches, loose you tons of money and waste your team’s time.

Hear from these top experts on software, team relations, strategy, deployment and more. So you discover things that you don’t know that you don’t know about creating successful projects and managing your portfolio of apps. This elite group of software superstars, best selling authors, popular podcasters, outstanding bloggers and celebrity coaches are imparting decades of experience, wisdom and some very generous free resources to help you begin making progress immediately.

This unique panel of experts is all unified under one vision; to empower you with practical understanding of how you can put their knowledge to use, bring consciousness to your software challenges and transform your work for the better.

It is easy to participate. Sign up for free with your email. Then listen to the MP3 interview recordings any time or anywhere: on your commute, office or home.

Join other leading CIOs, VPs of Development, project managers, architects, stakeholders, end user champions and all those want to bring more awareness and choice to the complex art of software creation.


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Lessons from our millennials


A recent story about the so-called millennial generation – those born between 1982 and 2000 (ish) recently caught our eye.

The story was about how millennials – who actually care quite deeply about the environment – do not want to be called environmentalists.  The part that really enchanted us about this story is that these sentiments are exactly what we at EarthPM have been all about for the past 5 years or so.

And that’s simply the fact that you don’t have to take a political stance or be an “environmentalist” to understand that (for example) corporate social responsibility (CSR) simply … makes sense (and cents).

Take, for example, this extract:

Young people have been the life blood of the environmental movement for decades. There could be trouble on the horizon though, and it all comes down to semantics.

To explain, it’s helpful to use the example of Lisa Curtis, a 26-year-old from Oakland, California.

Curtis comes from a long line of environmentally-conscious Americans. Her grandmother, Sis Curtis was an avid hiker and at 84 remains a Sierra Club and World Wildlife Fund member. Lisa’s 55-year-old mother, Barb Curtis drives a hybrid car, roofed her house with solar panels, and avoids using plastic except as a last resort.

Although they aren’t the types to flaunt it, both women would call themselves environmentalists.

However, it’s Lisa Curtis, the youngest of the three, who truly sets the bar for sustainability in this family. She started her high school’s recycling club, she traveled to Copenhagen in 2009 to observe international climate talks and she nearly experiences physical pain when she’s forced to throw away food scraps in a regular trash can rather than a compost bin.

“It just feels wrong,” she says.

But unlike the Curtises before her, Lisa refuses to call herself an environmentalist.

“I think the term has been sort of corrupted… politicized,” she says.

This is the difference when it comes to millennials, 18-33 year-olds. Young Americans, including staunch environmentalists like Lisa, may be turning away from the word “environmentalist.” A Pew Research Center poll earlier this year asked participants if they felt the term “environmentalist” describes them very well. Over 40 percent of respondents said yes, except when it came to millennials. Just 32 percent of them agreed. That might not seem substantial, but Pew says it’s statistically significant.

The Pew Research Center didn’t ask participants for their for reasons why. But Lisa Curtis has a theory: the word “environmentalist” has become outdated.

“It’s starting to be used more in a derogatory way,” she says. “Oh you’re such an environmentalist. You’re not in touch with the real world.”

This is particularly important to us as project managers for a reason that’s increasingly important: these millenniums are your new project team members, your new project managers – perhaps even your new bosses.

They integrate sustainability thinking into their life – so much so that they don’t want the label or the connotation of environmentalism.  It makes sense – and it makes sense for us as project managers.

We don’t need a separate knowledge area in the PMBOK(R) Guide… we need an increased sense of holistic and long-term thinking when we make project decisions.

Learn from this.  The millennials have a meaningful and important message for us.


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Expresso yourself


EarthPM is proud to have been an invited speaker to the IPMA2014 World Congress in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.  The event took place on 29, 30 September and on 1-October.  So in other words, yesterday was our event.

Thanks to Menno Valkenburg and many others who helped plan the Congress, there was a Sustainability “stream”, and also thanks to Menno, we were able to arrange our presentation to be done without travel from the US to Europe and back , which (as you’ll see from the description below) was no easy task.  However this arrangement reduced our own carbon footprint and preserved commitments that the travel time would have blasted away.  So, there was a bit less gezelligheid (look it up!) but it was a net win-win.  Thank you, Skype!

We chose to engage the audience in the World Cafe format.  And, we decided to do it in a way that honored coffee – since I know from personal experience that there is a pretty strong Dutch coffee (koffie) culture.  Further, we really didn’t have time to do the proper World Cafe treatment, so we did an “Espresso” version.  Two 15 minute rounds at four tables.

Each facilitated table was named after a coffee producing country (we somewhat randomly chose Vietnam, Panama, Brazil, and Kenya) and was tasked with brainstorming ways in which Project Management and Sustainability intersect.

Below we share with you our (Copyrighted, use with permission only) format for the discussion, which yielded brainstormed ideas we’re still processing, but which help fuel even further the depth of the sometimes unexpected connection between these two disciplines.  Sit down, have an espresso, and if you think of any ideas while the caffeine does its thing… let us know, won’t you?  Bedankt!


The “Expresso” format used at IPMA-2014 in Rotterdam/Boston











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