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Leadership in a complex world

Today I have (re-)learned a lesson of complexity theory with respect to vision, the critical success factor of any effective leader according to my belief and experiences:

(1) “A vision without a system is as bad as a system without a vision.”
(2) “Simple rules can support a complex system.  Build a “good enough” vision.”

What does this imply for effective leadership?  The 3 principles (build vision, nurture collaboration, promote learning) still hold true.  With respect to the first element, building vision, an effective leader is skilled to build this “good enough” vision.  Note though that defining “simple” rules can be much harder than setting up a complex system of rules and regulations.  A good vision provides guidance, it is as strong as it is simple, i.e., simple to understand and simple to follow.

Thanks to Tom Johns, PhD, PE, PMP, MAPM, the founder and chairman of Business Management Consultants (www.bmc-online.com) for pointing out these valuable insights of complexity theory.
I am looking forward to attend his session “The Art of Project Management Complexity” at the upcoming PMI Global Congress in Denver.

Posted in: Leadership, PMI Congress Denver 10'08, Sociocybernetics

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Denver in the making

Just a few more days till the PMI Global Congress 2008 in Denver.  Final preparations are ongoing.  By now all white papers and presentations at the Congress have been made available by PMI to all Congress attendants.  This facilitates preparation a great deal.  Have a look at the sessions I plan to attend in Denver.  I posted them a few days earlier, check out the category “PMI Congress Denver 10’08”.

In addition to the Congress I plan to host a get-together for a few presenters where we can reflect the keynote speech by Colin Powell and talk about our understandings of effective leadership.  Stay tuned.

Posted in: PMI Congress Denver 10'08

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Sessions in Denver

At present I plan to attend and participate in the following sessions in Denver:





8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Standards Program Working Session


8.15 – 9.30

ADV10 • Project Management Center of Excellence: The Cornerstone of Business Transformation


10:00 – 11:15

ADV23 • The Art of Project Management® and Complexity


12:45 – 14:00

GOV03 • Presentation by NASA


14:30 -15:45

ADV24 • How to Find WOW! Projects


16:00 – 17:15

ADV13 • Guidelines to Create a Culture to Promote Successful Use of Virtual Teams


8:15 – 9:30

ADV12 • Re-aligning Project Objectives and Stakeholders’ Expectations in a Project Behind Schedule


10.00 – 11.15

TRN22 • Project Leadership: The Next Step in Project Management on the Way to a Master Project Manager TM


12:45 – 14:00

PMT03 • Delivering Successful Projects …Every Time


14:30 -15:45

ADV16 • How To Get Executives To Act For Project Success


16:00 -17:15

ADV06 • Create Clear Project Requirements – Differentiate “Whats” from “Hows”

I will let you know how the sessions were in upcoming posts after the conference.

Posted in: PMI Congress Denver 10'08

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does a word still count?

… it depends.

My philosphy is that it should.  For example, in case of promises, commitments for a new project.  This has happend to me lately.  Unfortunately, the client could not back his verbal approval of a proposal of mine with a written email or alike.  In times of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) this proved to be difficult.  Procurement or controlling have to formerly approve every single proposal.  Now, this is not new.  But why does this need to take so long.  There is a good reason for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and we needed it.  The downside is that well too often it has slowed down business significantly because it has increased the workload of procurement and controlling departments significantly.  In addition, controlling and procurement departments may not have the business understanding to approve project proposals.  And it should not be necessary because other departments make these decisions.  Not so with SOX.

In my case, I believed in a commitment given to me which was not yet in writing.  I stopped my acquisition activities for other projects.  This was a costly mistake.  For 3 weeks later I am still waiting for the final written confirmation that I can start the new engagement.

Lesson learnedWhen it comes to contractual work, a word is good but worth nothing unless it is in writing and formally approved by the relevant departments (controlling, procurement, etc.).  Do not interrupt business development activities until you have actually started the new engagement.

Posted in: Project Management

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Executing effective leadership

Responding to a comment on the 3 pillars of effective leadership and how to execute them I have written the following lines (see page and comments on the page “Leadership”):

This depends on the environment and the role and responsibility of the “leader”. If we are talking about a project manager the following elements are important.

(1) Building vision:

  • Vision document: Every project starts with a vision. Hence, the first step of any project is to ensure a common understanding of the project objectives. The results are documented in a “Vision Document”; the purpose of which is a) to describe the project objectives and b) to collect, analyze, and define high-level features of the solution. It focuses on key features of the solution which come from the top needs of the stakeholders and users. These will form the basis for the more detailed technical and contractual requirements detailed in a later step of the requirements management process.
  • Stakeholder interviews: In order to crete a vision document the project manager needs to meet and talk with all key stakeholders, understand their needs and expectations. Insights need to be documented.
  • Project objective workshop: Unless the project objectives are crystal clear and mutually understood and supported, conduct a project objective definition workshop. An example of a similar workshop is decribed in one of my articles (http://www.thomasjuli.com/Realigning_Project_Objectives_by_Thomas_Juli,Ph.D._v1.0.pdf) .
  • Team norming: A project leader is nothing without his / her team. A team norming addresses the project objectives, time frame, roles and responsibilities as well as expectations. It is recommended that the team norming is facilitated by a third person.

(2) Nurturing collaboration:

  • Conduct a team norming: Don’t start a project without one or you will fail. Develop a communication and escalation governance structure.
  • Team dynamics: Meet with your team daily. Identify issues AND risks, promote resolution finding on the team and individual levels.
  • Delegation: Only ineffective leaders try to do everything by themselves. Trust and empower your team.
  • Team dynamics: Every team goes through the famous four phases of team development (forming, storming, norming, performing). There is NO exception. Notice when you have entered the storming phase, because then it is time to revisit the results of the initial team norming and make modificiations where necessary.
  • Team events: Have fun! The absolute minimum should be team dinners once in awhile. Do something together where you don’t talk about work. Learn more about each other.

(3) Promoting learning:

  • Feedback: Create an open environment for constructive feedback. In my own projects I conduct feedback sessions on a weekly basis (what worked well last week, what do we need to do better).
  • Mistakes: Nobody is perfect. It is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. A good leader first seeks to understand why a mistake was made; the root cause needs to be understood. Then he/she may make suggestions how to avoid the mistake in the future.
  • Innovation: I stated that an effective leader or organization should reserve a minimum of 10% of work for learning, creativity, and innovation. This holds true in a project setting, too. Build it in your project schedule. It will pay off. Note though that this is not a time buffer. Instead, these 10% are for feedback sessions, normings, team events, reviews, etc. Also, don’t forget to account for training and vacation.

The list is by far not complete, but it is a start. Feedback is highly welcome and requested.

Posted in: Leadership, Project Management

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Empowering people and organizations through leadership

Welcome to the blog of Thomas Juli Empowerment Partners.  Feel free to comment on our posts on leadership, project management, empowerment, cooperation and any other topic related to our mission of empowering people and organizations through leadership.

Note that any resemblance to companies or organizations, people or projects are arbitray unless explicitly mentioned otherwise. If you are not registered with WordPress or do not want to, send your feeedback to info@thomasjuli.com.

Posted in: Uncategorized

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Book on networking

There are a lot of good books on “networking”.  One of the best books on this topic I have ever read was “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi.  Additional information about this book can be found at www.amazon.de, www.amazon.com or the official website of K. Ferrazzi www.nevereatalone.com.


Posted in: Book Recommendations

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Sociocybernetics is the quantitative study of social systems. As such it can be applied in daily management. For example, sociocybernetics may help find out what organizational framework one needs in order to achieve a desired outcome of two interacting parties (e.g., individuals, departments, companies).

My own research in sociocybernetics started in 1995 in Miami and culminated in my dissertation in 1997 in which I proved the viability of sociocybernetics in foreign policy analysis. For those interested in my past research and findings, have a look at my dissertation.

The Logic of Social Interactions in Foreign Policy

Posted in: Sociocybernetics

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