Thursday, August 30, 2018

Teams as its own Process Area

Team Management, in Version 6 of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOKv6), is buried in the Project Resource Management Knowledge Area under the Executing Process Group.

PMBOKv6 is 756 dense pages (not including the Agile Practice Guide). Of those pages, only 45 of them mention teams. Only 25 of those pages talk about teams in any detail.   That detail is mired in discussions of documentation inputs and outputs along with a brief exhortation to use good interpersonal skills.

Stakeholders get their own Knowledge Area. I would argue that they get TWO Knowledge Areas – if you also include Project Communications Management.

The Project Team is the group that makes the project actually happen.

So why do Teams get such short shrift?  Why is any concentration on teamwork buried in the Execution phase as one of many resources – like materials and money?

Even materials (Project Procurement Management) and money (Project Cost Management) get their own Knowledge Areas – along with being included in Project Resource Management.

So much of what we do these days requires team health and team resilience.

The project failures I have witnessed have been a result of dysfunctional project teams.

Successful projects (often in spite of everything else) have been a result of high-performing, highly resilient project teams.

We need to start paying more attention to team resilience and team health.

One way we can do that is by making Project Team Management a recognized knowledge center – separate and apart from Project Resource Management (which also includes materials, equipment, supplies, and facilities).

The processes I propose within Project Team Management :

  • Initiating Process Group – Identify Roles, Identify Team Members
  • Planning Process Group – Plan Team Management (including team management and performance norms), Estimate Assignments,
  • Execution Process Group – Acquire Team, Develop Team, Manage Team (These are already in the Execution Process Group for Project Resource Management)
  • Monitor Process Group – Monitor Team Performance, Monitor Team Resilience (and yes, I see these as two separate things that need to be monitored – because the team can perform well and be completely burned out)
  • Closing Process Group – Lessons Learned, Reassign Team

The people who help us make an idea real should be given the attention (and support) they deserve.

Thank you to Robb Smith, CEO of Integral Life, for his recommendation that team health, performance standards and norms should be built into the project charter.  I deeply appreciate his time and enjoyed our enlightening discussion last week.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Aretha Franklin and Teamwork

Aretha Franklin’s 1998 Grammys performance of Nessun Dorma, beyond it being a masterclass in deeply respecting the source material while making it your own, was an illustration of great team functioning.

Luciano Pavarotti, the legendary tenor, had to cancel his performance at the last minute.

The impact would have left a huge hole in the program. The producers stared at the specter of having to come up with something “entertaining” quickly. The orchestra and chorus were staring down the possibilities of either losing their gig or having to learn a new song impossibly fast. Staging, other presenters and performers, broadcasting – all impacted.

Then Aretha stepped up, 30 minutes beforehand, and sang it in Pavarotti’s key.

The aria is difficult enough. Singing it outside one’s natural range – just…wow.   (The link is a recording of her singing the aria her way. Notice that she’s pitched it up a bit.)

By Aretha stepping up the way she did, everyone wins.

Aretha gets to show off a skill she’s been practicing in a friendlier environment and be a hero.

The audience gets a unique version of this Puccini operatic showstopper.

The orchestra keeps their gig.

And the production team collapsed in relief.


Organizations dream of having teams where talented individuals willingly step in for each other so that the show goes on.

Some of the best teams I’ve been on have had these characteristics.

  • Talented individuals.
  • An understanding and acceptance of the goal and the desired outcome.
  • A willingness to stretch if they have a skill that they may not use very often or are just learning, but is needed at that moment.
  • Encouraging team members who appreciate the help – even if it is not what they expected.
  • An appreciative organization that allows the team member to do the work without fear of criticism or judgment.

Aretha Franklin stepped up and rescued the 1998 Grammys – taking a HUGE risk to her reputation by subbing for a legendary tenor at the last minute. She did this without making anyone else adjust.  This is why she is legendary.

RIP Ms. Franklin and thank you.
Subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

Each month, I will share resources and materials centered around a theme.

Subscribers will have access to

– Any freemiums and PDFs I develop without having to submit your email (again)

– A first glance at projects I am working on

– Special subscriber-only offers

– First-dibs on new services and offerings

You are trusting me with your attention and energy.

I promise not to spam you with repeated emails during marketing campaigns and I will do my best to provide value with each interaction.

Thank you so much for your time and support.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Spicy Octopus Dumplings and Risk Mitigation

In an earlier video – I mentioned that I purchased a bag of spicy octopus dumplings.

Let’s say that I want to serve spicy octopus dumplings to my friends – Mary, Dave, June, and Mike.

The Spicy Octopus Dumplings are the change. Mary, Dave, June, and Mike are the people in the organization.

If we want to serve Spicy Octopus Dumplings to our friends (or…make a change to the org), it helps to figure out whether the people in the organization (or my friends) are ready for the change (or, in this case, for the spicy octopus dumplings).

I am going to assume that none of my friends have ever had spicy octopus dumplings before.

To evaluate the potential success of the meal, I am going to break down the components.

For spicy octopus dumplings, we need to ask whether:

  • The individual likes (or can at least tolerate) spicy food.
  • The individual has tried, likes, or can tolerate) octopus.
  • If they haven’t tried octopus before, do they like seafood?
  • The individual has tried and likes dumplings.

I’m going to add whether the person has tried and liked other forms of Korean food to this questionnaire. If the person is familiar with the flavor profile of Korean food, they are more likely to accept the change.

Mary – loves spicy food, has tried and liked octopus at the local sushi joint, and thinks dumplings are awesome.  She hasn’t had Korean food before, but she’s an adventurous eater.  The spicy octopus dumplings shouldn’t be a problem.

Dave – likes spicy food and loves dumplings.  He’s never had octopus before, but he likes other forms of seafood. And he’s never tried Korean food, but he’s willing to try. He also has a high likelihood of liking the spicy octopus dumplings.

June – likes dumplings and is OK with some forms of seafood – white fish is ok, but things like clams, oysters and strong tasting fish are not. She also doesn’t tolerate spicy food and thinks that octopus is disgusting. She’s also very suspicious of Korean food and is not going to try it voluntarily. Spicy Octopus dumplings are going to be a harder sell.

And Mike’s entire diet is hamburgers, fries and diet cokes.

If the organization is mostly filled with Marys and Daves as we attempt to implement the spicy octopus dumpling change, you are likely going to be ok.

You can reduce some of the risk of rejection by introducing them to Korean food and Octopus.

And since Mary already enjoys octopus, she can help Dave with acceptance.

It helps if YOU have experience with and are a fan of Korean food if you are trying to implement the spicy octopus dumpling change.  This will help guide the rest of the organization with NO experience and provide a safe space for trying out this new thing.

But what if your organization is filled with Junes and Mikes?

You have a mismatch between your organization and the change you wish to create.

You will likely need to adjust.

Maybe you can have leek dumplings as your change instead?  You are still serving dumplings – but it is not spicy, not octopus, and generally pretty mild.  And if June likes Chinese food, you have a much higher chance of succeeding.

But you still have Mike. How much do you need to accommodate Mike?

  • Is he a senior executive or CEO?
  • Can you provide an alternative that does not impact the baseline change you need to make?
  • Do we even have to dis-invite Mike to make this change happen?
  • Or do we have to give up on the change altogether?

The answers and solution depend on your circumstances.

No matter what – keep an eye on WHY you are making the change.

If your goal is to have a nice dinner with friends – maybe a burger and fries will work after all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Risk and Choice

(Transcript from Temi – edited for context)

One of the ways you can mitigate risk is by the selection of the risk that you take.

Some organizations and some people are risk averse and likely for good reason and some have a much higher tolerance for risk.

I’m going to use the products from my international grocery store trip for an example.

Item one is the donut peach. Now, if you’re trying to donut peach new for the first time, this is at a fairly low risk. Most of us have had peaches and we know whether or not we like the peach and this tastes like a peach. It smells like a peach. It looks like a peach, just a little squishy.

This, to me is like an upgrade between something like project management systems. I know we’ve got a project management system. We just need to do an upgrade to it or transition to one that’s somewhat similar. So… low risk change.

Slightly higher risk is, say, going from a pear, which many of us have had before and many of us know we like them, to something like this, which is also a pear.

Now, some of us live in an area who have had a chance to try Asian pears. We don’t know whether or not this pear is like an Asian pear or not and this was the first time I’ve tasted it.

So yeah, this is like an Asian pear just in terms of texture, so it’s a lot crunchier than your normal pair, little closer to an apple and this is a lot sweeter than Asian pears, which tend to go more towards the apple side of things. This is more like a really, really sweet bosc pair, but with apple texture, so pretty good. But again, this is higher risk.

The analogy I would use here would be – I’ve got a fairly good project management process. I need a tool to help me automate it or help me solve a problem that I’m struggling with in my current process. Like resource management.

Again, it’s a calculated risk, slightly higher risk tolerance. Um, these are really good.

An even higher risk – something like this, small octopus dumplings. Now, depending on how you feel about octopus, your risk level on this, uh, might be higher than most people. I happen to like octopus when it’s done well.

You can mitigate it (the risk).

An example – let’s say I’ve never tried octopus. I know, I like dumplings. Higher risk. We’ll find out whether or not you like octopus.

The other, slightly lower, risk is I know I like octopus. I know I liked dumplings. This should be good.

I would actually use this more as a metaphor for – we don’t really have a project management process. We do some stuff on spreadsheets. We’ve got a few things at work. Let’s try to implement a system.

That will be more of your small octopus dumpling.

I will actually report back, let you know how this is (the small octopus dumplings). This was one of my picks. An interesting thing I have not tried yet. And, honestly, I enjoy picking out things like this to freak out my friends. So hope that helps as an analogy.

If you have access to a farmer’s market nearby and it’s in season, go ahead and get yourself some donut peaches. This is probably your lowest risk thing. I hope this helps.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

How to Try New Things

(Transcript from Temi)

Hi. I just got back from the Korean grocery store. One of the great things about living in the DC area is that we have a number of fantastic international grocery stores and digging through these things is one of my absolute favorite things to do and one of the things I’d love to do on at the Asian grocery store is pick out some vegetable or some product that I’ve never actually tried before.

This particular plant is Taiwanese spinach and this one’s a little more of a calculated risk than some of the things that I pick up.

One, I was able to discern that yes, this is spinach and two, I’ve got a rough idea of how to handle greens or how to cook greens, but I have no idea how this is going to behave when I cook it and I don’t particularly know what it tastes like.

And so far the only thing I can come up with is spinach with a little bit of soap. So this might not be a repeat purchase, but my plan for this particular bunch of greens is to put it in soup so I’ll be able to mask any soapiness out of this.

This really speaks to risk and taking risks and trying new things. It could be as simple as doing this in your personal life first were and in a small scale like going to the grocery store and picking up something brand new that you’ve never tasted before or never tried before.

You don’t have to buy a ton of it. You don’t even really have to eat all of it. You could taste it and come up with a calculated reason why you don’t like it.

One, you can now say you’ve tried it and you don’t like it, and two, you can explain why that is.

Or you’ve discovered something that you really enjoy.

You can do the same thing in your business – find a really small technique that you’ve never tried before.

When you’re managing your project or you’re working with your team, something really low risk and experiment with it. Talk to your team afterwards. Then you’ll have an educated reason as to why you did like the technique or you didn’t like the technique.

So whether it’s doing standup meetings where you have your developers lead those meetings and you can see what’s working, what’s not and why.

And if you decide to not do that again, you’ll at least know why you didn’t want to do it again.

Thank you. And I hope this helps.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Meditation and Task Motivation

Mike Griffiths, over at, provided a succinct summary of the findings from recent research claiming that mindfulness impairs task motivation.

Employees who practice mindfulness meditation are less motivated, having realized the futility of their jobs.

His conclusion – Beware those corporate mindfulness workshops unless your organization has a compelling purpose!

There are some serious issues with the research methodology used (meditation is not a one-and-done deal and the tasks they had them do in the lab were out of context, nevermind pointless), but I also don’t think the conclusion is entirely wrong.

What do you want people “motivated” to do for you? Why?

There IS a danger that your people will realize that their work for you is not helping either themselves OR a greater good.

There is a danger that they will see the task you are asking them to do to be as pointless as it actually is.

The highlights of the findings from ScienceDirect (direct quote):

  • State mindfulness impaired motivation to complete cognitive and performance tasks.
  • State mindfulness had no overall effect (good or bad) for performance on the same tasks.
  • Weakened future focus and arousal serially mediated demotivating effect.
  • Mindfulness enabled people to detach from stressors, which improved task focus.
  • Detachment and task focus help explain why mindfulness does not alter performance.

My personal conclusions on these findings:

  • Detaching from a future outcome is a good thing
  • Detaching from surroundings that will distract you is a good thing
  • Ability to focus on a task is a good thing
  • Questioning why you are doing the task in the first place is a good thing

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The First Step to Strengthen Your Foundations


The one thing that we can do to strengthen our foundations.

When I sleep well:

  • I make better food choices
  • I am more inclined to exercise or, if I force myself, I’m less likely to dog my workouts
  • I am better at practicing positive interpersonal skills
  • I have more resilience when things don’t go as planned
  • I have the energy to get things done
  • I feel I make better decisions overall.

I’m not alone.

In case you need the research:

Our culture, however, expects a 24/7 “always on.” attitude.  How many executives, business leaders, and other “successful” people tout how they can function on little sleep?

Sleep deprivation, however, has disastrous consequences:

The one thing that I feel will improve our working lives and make our workplaces more humane is prioritizing our personal sleep health.

And avoiding any manager who claims that they don’t need sleep.



Thursday, August 02, 2018

A Plea from Your Best Employees

Dear Senior Executive / CEO:

We understand that you have tremendous pressures put on you.

And that’s just the stuff we know about.

This is a plea from us to you – the executive.  We have determined that there are 5 steps you can take to help you be a better leader and to help you retain us, as your best employees. We recommend following these recommendations in order. At least, give this a try for a quarter.

1.Take care of yourself. 

We need you to model this. We need you to understand the value of self-care at a very deep level.  We need you to be healthy.

This may be the hardest step.  We understand that there are many barriers and pressures.

But for your health and ours – please take care of yourself.  The other 4 steps won’t happen as effectively without it.

2. Be mindful as you engage with others – particularly your employees.

We are the people helping you succeed. And, if you have taken care of yourself, it will be easier for you to model the behavior that leads to an innovative and positive corporate culture.  That culture (built on the foundation of your actions and behavior) retains and attracts the employees you wish to have in your organization.

3. Deeply listen to your front-line employees.

They hold the key to your success and the success of your organization. They hold the most accurate insight about your customer. You will also find that, as you listen, you are building trust, getting more accurate information, and gaining influence – among other benefits.

4. Develop a vision that we can all get behind.

One that goes beyond making your numbers this quarter. If you follow the first three recommendations, creating that vision and having your employees get behind you in that vision will be easier because you have developed the personal and interpersonal foundation for success.  That vision will help us help you succeed.

5. Provide a framework that allows us to make decisions ourselves.

If you let us help you develop that framework, give us your support and guidance, and help to create an environment that provides some safety to make mistakes, you will have a more innovative and agile organization that will help you better serve your customers, grow your organization and provide your shareholders with consistent, longer-term returns.  By giving us the framework to make decisions, we won’t be bothering you or your direct-reports over small, day-to-day stuff. This will give you the time to do the deep work that will help move all of us forward.

We feel that your success and the success of the organization depends on you executing these 5 steps.

We want to be engaged. We want to do good work. We want to do that work towards making your compelling vision a reality.

Thanks for listening and, if you really want to try this, let us know how we can support you.


Your best employees.


Further Resources

The Spark, The Flame, and The Torch

Real Influence

Tara Brach – The Capacity for Deep Listening (8 minutes)


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Meaningful Flow Lab – Status Report August 1, 2018

Cross-posted to Medium.

This is a call for feedback and an introduction to where I am headed with this lab.

I feel like I’m taking a risk — showing my work in progress. That’s what labs are for, right?

In the presentation, I’m covering:

  • My why
  • My desired future
  • The existing tools, thinking, and technologies that might help
  • A working hypothesis
  • A potential change management model (first draft)
  • The project plan and release schedule (current)

If you would like to help, chat, or send a comment, please fill out the form below. I will get back to you within 24 hours.