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Archive for the ‘Zen’ Category

On November 1, 2012 I had the privilege to speak at and attend the 2012 Synergy Projec Management Event in London, UK.  It was a fabulous conference with more than 500 people attending.  Considering that there were “only” about 850 people attending the PMI Global Congres EMEA in Marseile this May, the Synergy numbers are outstanding and speak for themselves.  There were a number of factors which made this event very special (compared to PMI GC EMEA):

  • focused on 1 day
  • diverse speakers with presentation topics not so much about technical project management skills but project management in action; speakers helped the audience to think outside the box
  • venue: the Indigo2 at the O2 arena is really impressive
  • organization

My own presentation “Project Management and Zen: Achieving a Work-Life Balance” was very well received, too.  As promised I am making the presentation available to the general public under the Creative Commons agreement.  Feel free to download the ppt-file, use it, spread the message, and please share your stories.

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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.

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Today’s projects become increasingly complex and a test of our leadership. What do you recommend to master this increasing complexity and to show your leadership skills at the same time?

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. In simple, easy to understand language it outlines avenues to find our lost individual and project identity, overcome burdens and master challenges, reduce complexity and guide us to personal success.

My latest presentation on the very topic is now available on Slideshare.

This presentation introduces 10 Zen insights and translates them into the language of project management. It thus 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.

In a nutshell, the 10 insights are the following:

1. Identity:
You have to understand, accept and embrace the actual motivation of your project.

2. Timeliness in a time-sensitive world
We must not be became slaves of time pressure.  Instead we have to ensure a creative freedom and solve problems from the distance

3. The power of vision
Projects are NOT just about SMART project objectives.  As a matter of fact, SMART project objectives without a vision kills creativity, risks results and may lead to failure.

4. Overcoming Angst and the need for action
In situations of severe stress, don’t fall into the trap of rapid action or even blaming others. Instead, relax and take responsibility for your situation.

5. Invidiualism and hierarchy
Instead of being manipulated by others, this principle encourages us to personalize our projects and thus project success.

6. Leadership and motivation
Leadership and motivation go hand in hand.  We have unleash guiding energies in our team and develop a solution- and reults orientation in our team.

7. Simplicity
There is no law that complex problems require complex and complicated solutions.  Less is more.  This is a reminder not to get lost in the jungle of details and keep the eye on the vision of our project.

8. Truth and illusion
Let’s face it, perceptions are more important than facts.  It is futile to look for a simple truth.  After all a simple truth is no more than an assumption which may be false altogether.

9. Team play
Every project is about people, it is about teamwork.  Let’s nurture collaboration and enjoy the game of projects

10. Passion
If everyone on the team understands the WHY of the project, everyone can identify him/herself with the project.  The project becomes a part of them.  This passion sets the individual and the whole team free, resulting in team synergy and team magic.

Let me know if you are interested to hear / read more about it.

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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!

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To those of us who are used to empowerment, may it be that we empower people and organizations or that we are empowered by others, it may have become the natural way to conduct daily business.  On the other side, to those who are used to a more “traditional” management style (managing top-down), empowerment may look like an esoteric phenomenon.  Having to transition to empowering management and leadership style is hence even more disquieting to them.  But why?

Knowing the power and the rewards of empowering people and organizations it can be hard to comprehend when you are faced with opposition to transitioning to empowering.  I have witnessed this transition in several occasions when I advised clients how to introduce agile software development frameworks thus shifting the organization to a more customer-focused and business driven IT organization.  Software development is one of the most innovative areas you can work in.  Hence, it is even more surprising to observe that lots of people working in this area are actually skeptical of trying new approaches.  It goes like, “I am innovative, so don’t tell me that I have to change the way I am working.”  Funny and scary at the same time.  One of the most prominent reservation is that people with line responsibility, i.e., having disciplinary authority over other employees, think that transitioning to an empowerment management and leadership style will diminish their responsibility and sphere of influence.  Fact is:  just the opposite is the case.  Empowering your own subordinates yields more power and influence than traditional management and leadership styles.  How come?  By empowering your subordinates you promote performance.  You are no longer sidetracked by micromanagement.  You share the necessary information and supply the required resources so that they can do their job.  You define the desired outcome; then let go, i.e., let them organize how they work.  For it is the result you are interested in.  In most cases, this procedure is less time-consuming and less strenuous than micromanaging.  You get more for less work.  This by itself is a valuable benefit.

So what about decreased responsibility on your part?  The truth is that your responsibilities increase when you empower people and organizations.  You have to ensure that the empowerees have the information, tools, resources needed to their job.  You remove impediments and thus level the path to successful deliveries.  This is a huge responsibility.  The way you handle this provides you with more influence and authority.  By building your team you simultaneously build a foundation for “power” and control.  Not in the negative sense, but in a positive and empowering way.  You control the success of those you empower by the mere act of empowering them.  You build a structure that promotes performance and yields greater returns in less time.

If you are new to the concept of empowerment this may sound like a fairy tale.  I encourage you to give it a try, say, 3-4 weeks, and then see what happens.  Tell your people about your plans, involve them and seek advice from the outside facilitating this experiment.  Remove yourself from the equation in that you shift your focus from micromanaging and controlling to empowering your people and organization.  If the outcomes are suboptimal you can still go back to your own traditional management style.  But before you do, give those whom you empowered a chance to talk about their experiences, too.  This experiment costs little if anything.  This way you have nothing to lose.  A safe bet with huge potential returns.  Give it a try!

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I invite you to my new webinar “Ethics and Project Success” which I will be conducting for the Ethics in Project Management Community of Practice of PMI on December 21, 2011 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM Local Time (UTC +0100) (1 hour), i.e., 12 noon EST.  What will it be about?  Let me share with you the abstract:

We all need and thrive for project success. But what does it take to get there? There is no doubt that good project management is a critical success factor. But is it really sufficient? I don’t think so. I claim that effective project management needs to have a solid foundation in holistic leadership. This leadership is embedded in strong project management skills, personal leadership, teamwork, and last but not least, a solid understanding and honest practice of the four codes of ethics, namely: respect, honesty, fairness, and responsibility.
Based on my own experience having managed projects of all sizes, from a few to 24000 person days effort in various industries, I identify 5 team leadership principles that put the code of ethics into the context of high-performance teams. They include building a common project vision, nurturing team collaboration, promoting team performance, cultivating team learning, and ensuring team delivery. These 5 principles combined with the 4 codes of ethics encompass the core of effective and holistic team leadership. The webinar will present these principles and show how they can help build and manage a performing and winning team, thus building project success.

Visit http://tinyurl.com/c27grmq to register for this free webinar.

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If project success is the opposite of project failure, what does failure mean?  How do you define it?  What does it encompass and how do you feel about it? – These are not fake questions.  They are serious and they are meant to be answered.  For, if success is the driving force in our projects, we should be able to describe what the opposite of success is about.   Is it so that the fear of failure moves us to action?  Can we start a project and act without being discontent with a situation?

I have come to the understanding that without an imbalance in a present situation it is very, very difficult to proceed and virtually impossible to motivate others to follow you.  There needs to be a creative tension between the status quo and the desired outcome.  And, you and those who follow you or vice versa need to understand the purpose of the journey, need to be able to identify themselves with the cause.  I want to go a step further and state that it is not sufficient if this identification is purely on the rational level.  Instead, you need to be able to relate to it on an emotional and sometimes even deeper level, let’s call it a “spiritual” level.

In order to develop this creative tension you need to understand the cause(s) of the present situation and the desired state.  Why are you dissatisfied with the status quo?  Who is affected by it and how?  What happens if nothing changes? Then juxtapose those questions with the following:  what is the ideal, desired state you want to be in?  Why?  Who benefits from it and how?
Once you have come up with responses which satisfy you and those around you, proceed to the next question: what does it take to get to the desired state?

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Today’s projects become increasingly complex.  We are faced with endless challenges, have to juggle thousands of different and often conflicting expectations and desires, have to meet deadlines, deliver on time, exercise pressure on those people who do not or cannot deliver as expected – or vice versa, feel the pressure other people put on us.  In situations like these it is easy to be overwhelmed.  We are stressed, tired, in a bad mood, frustrated and maybe just burned out.  The “team” does not deserve the word “team” as daily work is characterized by a low morale, disruptive arguments and a negative group atmosphere.  The individual and team miseries are reflected in the poor delivery quality and missing or incomplete project results.

In situations like these what we thrive for simple and effective resolutions.  What we need is either the help and advice from someone from outside who can guide us through this chaos or an inspiration how to do so by ourselves.

The philosophy of Zen offers many insights which achieve this.  In simple, easy to understand language it outlines avenues to find our lost individual and project identity, overcome burdens and master challenges, reduce complexity and guide us to personal success.

The question is how Zen guidelines can be applied in a project setting.  These days I am preparing a lecture which answers this question.  I will introduce 10 Zen insights and translate them into the language of project management.  Specifically:

1.              Project identity:

  • The need and value of understanding, accepting and embracing our past, present and future: Project motivation and vision
  • Know, accept and embrace your project purpose

2.              Timeliness in a time-sensitive world

  • Creative freedom and solving problems from the distance

3.              The power of vision

  • How SMART project objectives without a vision kills creativity, risks results and may lead to failure
  • The need for open goals
  • New goal setting

4.              Overcoming Angst and the need for action

  • Relax
  • Take responsibility vs. blame others

5.              Individualism and hierarchy

  • External and internal success
  • Personalize project success

6.              Leadership and motivation

  • Unleash guiding energies
  • Solution-orientation

7.              Simplicity

  • Lost in the jungle of details
  • Reducing complexity

8.              Truth and illusion

  • Perceptions are more important than facts
  • A simple truth is no more than an assumption

9.              Team play

  • Enjoy the game of projects

10.           Passion

  • The fire which sets you free
  • Talents, passion and longing

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.

I will elaborate on each of these insights in my upcoming blog posts.  So, stay tuned.

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