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The Difference Between Focus and Tunnel Vision




tunnel-vision-01‘One more click, save the file and then close it.’ This is what I thought and did.  Or so I thought.  Because, did I really?  A few moments later my computer gave me the error message, “file upload not possible”.  Oops. What happened?
The last two hours my team and I were working on a project plan for the next six weeks.  It was a really creative and productive meeting.  Spirits were high. Not only could we reflect on our past accomplishments of the last three weeks.  We also had a clear picture of what we wanted to achieve the next couple of weeks.  In order to save time, we captured all planned work packages in an Excel file on a big screen for everyone to follow.  Once our session was finished I did some minor cosmetic changes to the file, saved it (or thought I did) and then closed it.  But, things did not go as planned. – Soon I found out that not only was the file not uploaded to our server, but it was nowhere to be found on my local computer.  If you ever worked on a file for a long time and then had to find out that the work of the past hour or so was erased, well, let’s put it this way: it does not make you happy.  So, this is where I was yesterday.  When I realized the dilemma I called our local IT support and asked for help.  Gee, I had no idea how these folks can be so calm and patient in moments like these.  They listened, asked some questions, guided me through some procedures on my computer.  And then – nothing.  The file could not be found.  Sh…t.  Furor and frustration grew in me rapidly.  ‘How was this possible?! I saved the file before I closed it.’ The next 2 hours I continued sorting through all the files I touched yesterday.  Time stood still.  The more I searched the more my frustration vanished.  And was replaced by resignation.

What does this story have to do with ‘focus’?  A lot.  In the moment of ‘crises’, if you want to call the described dilemma, I completely concentrated on this one file, the product of two hours of work.  I tried everything technically possible to retrieve it.  And I lost time for other, more productive and creative things.  When it became clear that the file was lost, I should have stopped looking for it.  This is hard at times, very difficult indeed. Facing the unquestionable truth often is.  And yet, it may be the only thing to do.
What I mixed was ‘focus’ and ‘tunnel vision’.
The only thing I could think of was this one file, the energy it absorbed to create it and the frustration I felt when I was afraid that I lost this piece of work.  I did not look left or right.  As a result, I did not only lose the file I also relinquished valuable time for other things.  The 2-3 hours I spent searching for the file could have been used to re-do the work.  As a matter of fact it would have taken me probably only around 45 to 60 minutes.  I may not have been happy about this extra work.  But possibly even improving it.  And I could have done something else afterwards.  Learn from my technical incapabilities and move on.

Learning to focus

clarityToo often when we focus on something we completely phase out our surroundings.  Losing sight of the bigger picture.  We are trapped in our tunnel vision.  We think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But actually it may only be a remnant of our imagination.  When you want to or need to focus, do so with a peripheral vision.  Relax, breathe, become aware of what’s happening around you, then start your work.  But not without closing your eyes, ears and senses for your surroundings. Be present and focused at the same time. It is not a contradiction; it is a help and path to a fuller awareness, concentration, more productive and meaningful work and happiness.

So, what happened with my lost file?  I never found it again. Luckily I had a printout of the table my team and I were working on.  Retyping the file we actually found a number of mistakes, shortcomings and gaps we did not recognize earlier.  We corrected them in no time and after less than an hour we had a new, corrected and actually better project plan.

Posted in: Centeredness, Miscellaneous

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Higher Education – Investment or Waste?


Tonight I attended the Open Forum Davos session “Higher Education – Investment or Waste”.

My opinion?

It was a very good session.  No, it was excellent.  a) because the speakers were very knowledgeable and presented different perspectives  and b) because it was  interactive  with a long q&a session.  The latter I did not expect and was thus pleasantly surprised. (I even had the chance to pose my own question; check the video at 1:05)

Bottom line?

Higher Education – Investment or Waste?  Yes, of course, it depends.  HOWEVER, if you look at the exploding costs of higher education  you can get serious doubts if this can still be a good investment.  Fact is, that higher education doesn’t guarantee you a job afterwards.  And, due to the outrageously high tuition costs in some countries, it becomes increasingly difficult for “normal” parents to send their kids to college.  Hence, while I would not go so far and consider higher education a “waste” I believe that we must not continue to downward spiral of exploding costs.

Possible solutions:

  • online universities / courses
  • subsidized education (ok, but then vocational training ought to be subsidized, too) ensuring universal access to higher education (provided entry criteria are met by student candidates)
  • more cost efficient universities
  • peer teaching, group learning thus cutting down salary costs
  • invest in primary and scondary education without burning our kids (yes, our children still need their free time, believe it or not)
  • invest in alternative education models
  • invest in vocational training; after all, who says that everybody has to go to a university to succeed?!

 

Posted in: Miscellaneous, WEF

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What I have learned about leadership as a ski-instructor


It is the heat of the summer and I am thinking of skiing?! Well, yes, why not.  I am thinking of skiing lots of time, regardless of the season.  Why?  Because it is one of my dearest passions.  Hence, there is no such thing as season-based thinking.  But there is another reason why I bring up skiing. It is through my many years as a ski-instructor that I have learned a LOT about leadership.  Let me share with you why, how and what elements I find critical in and for effective leadership:

Passion

I have been a passionate skier and snowboarder for as long as I can remember.  Sharing this passion in the form of teaching skiing and snowboarding is rewarding and fund.  My clients as well as other skiers can see and feel my passion which is contagious and thus can help them to improve their skiing.

P1090337Fun

Well, do I have to add anything.  Of course, I love skiing and teaching because it is FUN.

Empowering people

Sharing my experience and expertise with others gives me the tickles.  I cannot micromanage my clients, do a move for them.  I can show them, encourage them and help them build their own skills set through a progression of exercises.  But they have to do it.

Listening

A good instructor is a good listener.  And not only verbal listening.  You have to be able to read the body and emotional language of your clients.

Motivation – Vision – Goals

Good ski instructors can quickly find out what motivates their clients to come to a ski “lesson”, what their vision is and what their goals are.  They may not always be feasible.  But that’s not the point.  Understanding what drives your clients is a foundation for a joyful day and building a good learning environment.

Roadmap, planning

Yes, as a ski instructor you do plan your lesson.  The longer you have taught the more experience you have, the bigger the bag of tricks you bring a long.  At the same you know that it is futile to plan every single detail of your lesson.  It is not about the lesson plan a ski instructor may have, it is about the client.  And they are on vacation and may change their plans of the day.  If in this case you stick to your plan, you lose your client.  Hence, a plan is a good orientation if you stay flexible.  This brings me to the next point …

Let it happen

Learning how to ski cannot be accomplished in a class room.  You have to go outside and do it.  For the ski instructor this means you have to give your clients the chance to practice, practice, practice and ski, ski, ski.  Don’t try to control your clients. Let it happen and go with the flow.

Playing

Teaching is fun and rewarding. But it is not limited to instructing.  Playing, i.e., skiing, is and always has to be a central part of your successful lesson.

Frustration

I would have to lie if I claim that every single ski lesson is a bliss.  This is not the case.  There are days when things just don’t go as planned, everything is off track.  Frustration looms and it is just a bad day.  This is important, too, for you appreciate the normal and better days even more.

Corporate identity

I have worked at many ski resorts for quite a few companies.  Teaching skiing is always fun, no doubt.  And yet, it makes a big difference if you can also identify yourself with the mission of the company you work for.  At Vail Ski Resorts one of the corporate mottos is “Making vacation dreams come true”.  During the onboarding workshops prior to my first (of nine) seasons at Vail we were explained that it is expected from us to live by this motto.  Well, this wasn’t difficult at all.  “Making vacation dreams come true” means that as a ski instructor you go the extra mile to make a ski lesson a memorable experience to your cllient.  And whenever they have fun and enjoy themselves, you do, too.  Things flow freely.  Big smiles.

Sharpen your saw / continuous improvement

Being a fully certified ski does not mean that I have stopped training.  The opposite is the case.  Formally, every ski instructor has to attend 2-3 days of training every other year.  Personally, I am always looking for good training opportunities.  These can be formal trainings or skiing with peers and asking them for feedback.  If you want to stay on the cutting edge you have to do something about it.  This means that you always have to sharpen your saw.

Precaution and preparation

Skiing is an outdoor activity.  Weather in the mountains can change within minutes.  There may be a blue sky in the morning and a severe snow storm in the afternoon.  Good ski instructors take necessary precaution for themselves and their client.

Enjoying the environment

When was the last time you explained to a client “Welcome to my office!” and the client looked at you with awe and said “I wish I could spend some more time here.”  My office when I teach skiing = the mountains and the great outdoors.  They are not “my” office.  I may use the space.  And I am grateful for it.

Identity

Sometimes I wonder what it is that I love so much about skiing and teaching skiing.  Good question.  I believe it that the fact that teaching skiing gives me the opportunity to integrate passion and thus happiness with my work.  It is all one at one point.

Posted in: Empowerment, Happiness, Leadership, Miscellaneous

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Zen of Self-Organizing Teams


Zen has been, is and most likely always will be one of the most influential, inspiring philosophies, perspectives of life.  Self-organizing teams on the other side seem to be a rather modern phenomenon, some people believe.  What does Zen and self-organizing teams have in common?.  Well, I don’t want to answer this question in depth at this time. However, what I can offer are two presentations I have uploaded to Slideshare.net which deal with Zen and Self-Organizing Teams.

Project Management and Zen

Today’s projects become increasingly complex and a test of our leadership. The question is how we can master this increasing complexity? Individuals in the team and the whole team need orientation and guidance or an inspiration how to do so by themselves. Personally, I have found that the philosophy of Zen offers many insights which can help us achieves this. This presentation introduces 10 Zen insights and translates them into the language of project management. It shows how to apply Zen insights in a project setting. Zen can help inspire us personally and how to interact effectively with our team, customers and stakeholders. Applying Zen in projects makes it easier to build teams, perform on a high level and deliver results which delight our customers and teams alike. It thus helps us and the team to evolve into a performing unit and excel.

Note: I have published this presentation under the Creative Commons agreement which allows you download the PPT-file for free and re-use it for your own purposes as long as you acknowledge the copyrights.

The Power and Illusion of Self-Organizing Teams

Teams and teamwork are the heart and soul of every project. This is especially true for agile teams. It is not the individual performance or accomplishment that counts but that of the team. Just like in team sports the team succeeds and fails together. The Agile Manifesto puts the team at the center of interaction. It states, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” But what does “self-organizing” mean? Does “self-organizing” mean that team building is no longer necessary and that instead the teams do this by themselves? And, if teams are self-organizing why do so many teams and projects still fail?

I will give this presentation at the PMI Global Congress North America 2012 on October 21, 2012 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Posted in: Agile, Centeredness, Keynotes, Miscellaneous, Project Management

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Excellent Knowledge Base for QA Leadership and Practitioners


BQA Knowledge Base is a go-to repository of whitepapers, presentations, and articles intended to keep QA leadership and practitioners ahead of the game. Use the sorting tool in the right column to find the topic you seek.

Recent whitepapers include:

Soon my own whitepaper on Outline of Best Practice Requirements Management will be posted there, too.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Posted in: Guest Blogs, Miscellaneous, Project Management

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Book Review: A Guide to Project Recovery


Projects become more prevalent.  Not surprisingly the art of project management becomes more popular.  Unfortunately this does not imply that the more projects there are the more successful they are.  As a matter of fact a significant percentage of projects fail or do not yield the desired results.  While in recent years the number of successful projects are on the rise, it is scary how slow this process has been.  Todd Williams’ book  “Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure (2011) is a welcome and much needed aid to help rescue and re-align struggling and failing projects.  It is a very valuable resource for anyone working in a project management.  Regardless whether or not the own project is on its way to glory or doom.

Williams embraces a holistic approach to project management.  He explains the need and value of existing project management tools that help rescue the project management.  And he goes beyond the mere listing of tools.  In the Introduction of the book he stresses four key factors that are critical in rescuing a problematic project: (1) The answers to a problem in or with a project are in the team. (2) A strong team can surmount most problems. (3) Stay involved with the team. (4) Objective data is your friend, providing the key way out of any situation.  By emphasizing the value of the team Williams goes beyond a mechanical “Abhandlung” of a recipe book for project rescues.  He explains in simple, plain and thus easy to understand language why most answers to problems in and with a project are rooted in the team.  A project is not made up of resources but human beings interacting in a social environment, building communities and network.  As complex and complicated this network is, it contains an endless number of potential traps and opportunities at the same time.

Having set up the foundation of his approach to rescuing projects Williams outlines 5 steps to recover struggling projects:

The first step is to realize that a problem exists.  As simple as this sounds this may actually be the most difficult step of all.  The key is that the awareness of a problem is not limited to the operational level of a project but that management has to acknowledge this fact and expresses an interest in resolving the issue, helping the team to become successful.

The second step to project recovery is an audit of the project.  The term “audit” has a negative connotation to many project practitioners.  This must not be the case if all audits would follow the guidelines Williams describes in his book.  He starts analyzing the human role in a project, followed by reviewing the scope on a red project, determining timeline constraints and examining technology’s effect on the project.

The insights gained from the audit analyzed in the third step.  They are the ingredients for planning the actual project recovery.  To me this part of the book is the most valuable one.  Not because the author develops a clean and clear outline effective approaches to analyzing audit data but because he explains how they fit in with the core statement of the book, that a strong team is one of the critical success factors for project recovery.  Doing so he stresses that project recovery is not a mechanical task, following a checklist and applying sane project management techniques.  Instead he explains that it takes leadership and oversight, a deep understanding of the heart and soul of a project.  Acknowledging the fact that more and more projects do not follow the traditional, sequential waterfall approach, Todd Williams gives an overview of other project management frameworks and methodologies, namely Agile and Critical Chain.  He then compares them with respect change management needs, customer relationship, estimations, project constraints, subcontractor relations, and team structure.

The fourth step to project recovery is to propose workable resolutions.  This is when the recovery manager presents the insights from the audit analysis and concluding mitigations and negotiates the next concrete steps with the project sponsor and stakeholders.  Williams stresses the importance of staying focused on project recovery and not getting sidetracked by distractions such as maintenance and other conflicting projects.

Last but not least, the fifth step involves the actual execution of the recovery plan.

As hard, tedious, frustrating and rewarding project recoveries can be one of the key questions is what project managers can learn from past mistakes and successful recoveries.  This is covered in the final part of the book entitled “Doing it Right the First Time: Avoiding Problems that Lead to Red Projects”.  It shows that project failure often starts at the very beginning of the project.  It can be prevented by properly defining a project’s initiations, assembling the right team, properly dealing with risk and implementing effective change management.

While the book may be most interesting to those who are facing or have faced problem projects I hope that novice project managers read this book, too.  It will help them avoid common mistakes and set up a good and solid structure for project success.  And in case troubles arise this book will help them guide projects to safer havens.

Posted in: Book Recommendations, Miscellaneous, Project failure, Project Management

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A New Business Paradigm


Last night I had the chance to talk with Kim Page, author of the upcoming book “From Corporate to Conscious“, about the new business paradigm moving to a more holistic and conscious leadership style. The conversation can be listened to at http://bit.ly/secSwx.

I was and am very excited about the opportunity to speak with the Quantum Scene’s Kim Page who takes a look at business from an entirely different perspective; A CONSCIOUS perspective.  This is no new abstract idea or academic exercise.  It is a shift back to our true human nature.  It can help make our business world a better place to live and work in.
It can be questioned whether or not this is actually a new paradigm.  From the strictest point of view this may not be the case because a conscious perspective strings a cord we are, or ought to be, familiar with in our daily life.  Fact is that we have moved away from our inner core.  The result is that we have been creating a business world which is often entirely driven by greed and glutiny.  The call for a conscious perspective is a reminder that business is about exchanging goods and services, i.e., serving each other.

Why not keep this new paradigm in mind as we enter the new year 2012?!  Let’s live this new paradigm and make a difference in our own daily life and influence others.  Happy New Year!

Posted in: Centeredness, Empowerment, Leadership, Miscellaneous, Project Management

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2011 – Going Strong – A Review of a Great Year


The big and typical question you ask yourself at the end of the year how the past 12 months were, how you faired.  This year it is a simple question to answer: yes, it was a great year!  Or, shall I say another great year.  Most of my consulting this year was for an internet service provider in Karlsruhe.  Not only did were these consulting engagements challenging and intellectually rewarding it was and is convenient to our family for it is only a 35 minutes commute from Heidelberg to Karlsruhe.  One of the main reasons I am very grateful for this consulting opportunity.

Next to consulting I have been giving seminars, webinars, podcasts, presentations and interviews on numerous topics such as leadership, collaboration, learning project organizations, ethics, agile product development, team building, innovation, project management, and empowerment.  The main conferences I attended and spoke at were the PMI Global Congresses in Dublin and Dallas and the NASA Project Management Challenge in Long Beach, CA.  Wonderful events.  I can encourage every professional project managers to attend at least one of these conferences.  The learning is exceptional as are networking opportunities.

One of the major milestones in 2011 was the founding of i-Sparks I founded this summer.  i-Sparks is an open online innovation and learning community that facilitates innovation across entire systems. It provides a platform for people and institutions to discover, develop, and test new ways of operating and to put their ideas to work.  i-Sparks aims at every person or institution which is motivated to understand the root causes of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, to rethink how people and institutions live and operate, and thus to create opportunities for redesigning business models and social change protocols, working more collaboratively across groups, institutions and sectors.

At present we are working on a first prototype which we plan to launch this coming spring.  Stay tuned and follow us on our website www.i-sparks.com.

Business is only one element in our life though it absorbs most of it these days.  Luckily there are the welcome breaks called vacation.  Have a look at my online photo albums for impressions of Long Beach,

Vail,

Vals

and South Tyrol.

So, what about next year?  The outlook is more than promising.  It is funny that lots of people talk about an economic crisis.  Unemployment is at a record low in southern Germany, economic growth is strong, the overall atmosphere and outlook are positive.  And yet other European countries and their economies are struggling.  There are numerous reasons for this imbalance.  I don’t want to start this debate.  What is worrying however is that people, i.e., European politicians and so-called experts, continue to talk about the dawn of another recession in Germany.  This, of course, can have an impact – psychologically.  Rationally and ethically, this chitchat is not comprehensible.  Let’s see what next year will bring.  I am optimistic and hope you too share this enthusiasm.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Posted in: Agile, Book, Empowerment, innovation, Keynotes, Leadership, Miscellaneous, Project Management, TJEP company

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The 2011 PMI Global Congress North America in Dallas – Part 3 – Take-Aways from Sessions on Leadership, Project Winners, the Learning Project Organization, and the future PMO


This is the third part of my impressions of the 2011 PMI Global Congress North America in Dallas.  Part 1 talks about the conference setup.  Part 2 covers my lessons learned from sessions on sustainability, ethics, innovation, and Agile.

In this 3rd part I am talking about my takeaways from sessions about Leadership, Project Winners, the Learning Project Organization, and the future PMO.  Happy reading!

Leadership

Slides of my own session “SFT02 – The 5 Team Leadership Principles for Project Success – Part of Leadership Community Track” are available for download as well as on Slideshare.  Both Links are available on my blog.

Michael O’Brochta’s session “PRJ09 – Leadership Essentials for Project Management ProfessionalsPart of Leadership Community Track

What else can I say about any of Michael’s sessions?  You have to attend them.  They are and Michael is AWESOME.

Here are some of my tweets and insights I took away from this exceptional session:

  • Servant leadership: how can I help? What can I do to help?
  • Powerful leadership styles: collaboration, trust, empathy, ethical use of power
  • Situational leadership: participating, selling, telling, delegating
  • Transformational leadership behavior: inspiring change beyond self-interest
  • PMP + Leadership = Success
Thomas Juli and Michael O'Brochta

Thomas Juli and Michael O'Brochta

Lazy Project Managers

Peter Taylor’s session “ISS09 – The Lazy Project Manager Salutes the Project Superstars

Peter Taylor explains why we should think of us as superstars.  Why?  Because project management is – or shall we say, ought to be – more prevalent than most of think.

One of my tweets during this great session was:

  • Famous historical project managers: Leonardo da Vinci, Henry Ford, Nelson Mandela

The Learning Project Organization

Slides of my second presentation “ISS13 – The Learning Project Organization Part of Learning, Education & Development Community Track” can be downloaded from my blog at  or viewed on Slideshare.

The Future PMO

What I have said about Michael O’Brochta applies to Jack Duggal, too.  His sessions fall in the category “Must attend”.  In Dallas Jack talked about “Reinventing the PMO for the Next Decade”.

My tweets during this session included:

  • A high degree of compliance (80% and more) to project management processes did not correlate to project success, according to a recent study by Jack Duggal.
  • Today’s project environment: Dynamic and changing, ambiguous and uncertain, non-linear, complex, emerging
  • Bob Dylan: If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying.
  • The focus of the future PMO will and has to change:
From focus on … to focus on …
Service & support Ownership & accountability
Delivery Adoption and usability
Delivery-oriented governance Business-oriented governance
Delivery of projects & deliverables Benefits revitalization and value
Configuration-oriented change management Change leadership
Dealing with the pain of the day Holistic, balanced and adaptive approach

… what about the other sessions?

There were so many sessions I wanted to attend.  Often it has been very difficult to make a choice.  Luckily there are papers and presentations to download from the Congress’ websites.

Future Congresses

Oh yes, there will be many Congresses to come. And I hope that I too can participate in them.

So, tell me and all other readers what you have experienced in Dallas.  What were your highlights?  What did you miss?  And what did you take away from the Congress?

Posted in: Agile, Empowerment, innovation, Keynotes, Leadership, Miscellaneous, Project Management, Uncategorized

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