Monday, September 16, 2013

Ja-Who-I Window?

The Johari Window:  Knowns and Unknowns

Made infamous by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield's "Unknown Unknowns" quote:

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know..."

Uhhh.... Do you know what he's talking about??

Sounds like a lot of gibberish, but it's actually very sound logic that's better explained using the "Johari Window".

One of the primary goals of project management is communication.  And a big part of achieving that is making sure information is 'de-siloed', or clearly spread ACROSS departments and 'silos' of organizations.

Take a look a the graphic above with Four Quadrants:  Open, Hidden, Blind, Unknown.

Open:  The upper left window "Open" (shaded in yellow) is where we want information to be.  If everyone knows about it, they we'll all make better decisions together.

Hidden:  That's information I have that others don't.  That's dangerous to others, because they may make a decision with incomplete information because I have not shared it.  The goal of that information is to move it "up" into the open window by sharing it with others

Blind:  That's information that I don't have, but others do.  That's dangerous to me, because I make a poor decision because I don't have important information that someone else has.  The goal of Blind is to move it to the left, also into the "Open" quadrant by others sharing the information they have with the team.

Unknown:  Of the four quadrants, this is the ONLY area we can't do anything about.  Things like natural disasters, terrorist strikes, etc. fall into this category and there's not as much as we can do about them, except in the most general sense like disaster recovery planning, etc.

Bottom Line:  A cohesive team is constantly working and ever diligent to move "Blind" and "Hidden" facts and information up and to the left into the "Open" quadrant so everyone on the team is working from a complete set of facts and making sound decisions.

Put it into Practice:  What are you doing as a project manager or team member in your organization to move out of the "Blind" and "Hidden" into the "Open"?

Until next time...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another Shot at Maturity...?

Although the blog asking the question "How Mature is Project Management" was asked more than 4 months ago, I'm still receiving responses from impassioned Project Managers from around the world.

Here's a sampling from the "LinkedIn" site, please feel free to add your comments as well.

Until next time...

Project Management is evolutionary.

PM has been around since the ancient Egyptians built their pyramids. As time has progressed and we gained more tools (PERT, project scheduling software, etc.) what it takes to 'efficiently' practice/execute project management has evolved. So too, as the needs of the job have changed such as compliance and work place personnel issues (that Egyptian PM didn't need to deal with unions or counsel low performers on a documented improvement track). Being a 'well rounded' PM now includes a lot more than it used to. Just peruse the table of contents in the PMBOK.

I believe that because our tools, techniques, and the demands of the job change so too does our definition. We are also becoming specialized in areas such as government, health care, manufacturing and construction (your Egyptian predecessors would be proud). So our definition evolves with our changing environment. I think our profession maturing and adapting to demands all the time.

This is a good thing. I doubt the definition of a buggy whip manufacturer has changed much since the 18th century.

--Brian Turner, Deloitte Consulting

Not sure what you mean by "mature." Usually, it refers to the expected ratio of what's currently known and understood to everything there is in the field to know and understand.

By that definition, I'd consider the field to be well into its adulthood. Most of the issues that come up in projects have nothing to do with gaps in what's been published and available on the subject of project management. They have to do with practitioner and stakeholder failures to master their roles in the process; poorly chosen analysis and design methodologies; insufficient budget ... issues that are very real, but that don't reflect on the question of what is known.

A lot of this discussion seems to have centered on the ratio of "art" (I'd call it "street-smarts") to "science" (I'd call this part "book-learning"). Because there are all those pesky human beings involved whenever there's a project to manage, I'd say this is a stable 50/50 or thereabouts and isn't going to change. So if more science = more mature, the field will never progress beyond its adolescence.

--Robert Lewis, IT Catalytics

Having managed large projects in corporate America and now managing projects in the Academic world, provides some insight into how you might measure maturity. It is my belief that project management as a whole may be mature; however, if the industry, or organization using the processes does not embrace them completely, it requires a project manager that is capable of situational project management.

To explain this in more detail: Successful project management stems from a resourceful, innovative project manager who can adapt the theories and practices to the organization. As one individual stated above, there is a need for evolution. I'm not so sure that it is the practices or the processes, but more the project managers adapting those elements to the situations, the organizations, and the needs of the projects.

--Linda Evans, Professor of Project Management, University of the Pacific

In my humble opinion, IT project management is more of an art. The PMI and technology have provided some tools, but it is the individual's talent rather than the tools that make for successful projects. Consequently, project management will continuously evolve. Managing a COBOL project in the 80's was different than an ERP project in the 90's or today, which is different again for the other types of projects today. There will never be a maturation, only an evolution.

--Norm Brumbergs, Infosys

In my opinion, there are elements of art and elements of science. It is definitely not a pure science (Do to the fact that it does not use the scientific method purely, ej. observation, experimentation, hypothesis, etc). It is an art because there are so many subjective variables, each company and project and different and each PM is different.

How mature is it? Its tools have evolved, the method has evolved and administration is evolving continuously. To me the answer is relative, compared to what to itself? to other disciplines? It has come a long way, but advancing o never ending road. Thats what makes it interesting!!

--Vincent Arreola, Consultant

If you look at the place where project management priciples got started. Departement of Defense. If you have any experience in DOD, you see it is very mature and is made to be flexible for software and hardware. You would see that is has been around since the 1950's. Maybe a little earlier.

Now, if you refer to the dynamically changing software and IT development methodologies, honestly, the basic methodologis have been modified to fit business policy and goals. From the claisic waterfal to Agile to Scrum, and other variations, they all use the basic PjM methodologies, but with iterations, modified gates, focus on feature delivery. But most of these are reflections of the plan that reflects the business goals of the organization.

--From Jeff MacQueen, PMP

Project Management to me is a exactly what the definition says. It is the application of knowledge, tools & techniques to meet the project objectives. This is supported by the progressive ellaboration concept which makes it evdient that this application has to improve as the project progresses through the various process groups and respective processes.
Ironically, we all have experienced in the real world that we as project & program managers have to make several adjustments to the theoritical project managemnt and create a working project managment methodology which depends on the culture of the organisation & the geographiy where the project is been undertaken.

--From Prashant Dalvi, IT Project Manager

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Adventures in Consulting - An Unexpected Risk?

(Part of the "Adventures in Consulting" series, please see previous posts for more info).

So you think you want to be a freelancer...?

Don't get me wrong -- there are some great advantages of being a self-employed consultant. I've been doing it for more than 15 years now, so I can assure you of that.

However, besides the more obvious risks like not having an assured paycheck, having to pay your own health insurance, losing 15% to employee matching, etc., here's another risk you might not have thought about...

What about if you want to eventually return to full-time work? You might end up with (as they said in the movie 'Office Space') a case of the "Muundays"

Take a long and hard look at this issue before making the jump to freelancing. Once you make that jump, then a few years later go and talk to a company about returning to full time work, expect to answer multiple questions about why in the world you'd want to come back to the full-time world. Expect polite accusations that you're only doing it until some new business idea takes off, some new client signs up for your services, etc.

You may face a situation where you are just as qualified (or more qualified) than the other people that are interviewing for the job, but many potential employers will count it against you that you ventured off of the corporate ladder and it may be tougher to get back on than you thought.

Just something to add to your list of things to consider.

Until next time...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How do you PDU?

The Project Management Institute suggests 12 ways to earn PDU's...

Their suggestions are pretty general and generic.

Submit a comment to this blog and let me know how YOU like to earn your PDU's, and then I'll take the results and create a new reference on OMS' Project Management Resources page.

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Adventures in Consulting: On-Site Travel Expenses and Your Hourly Rate

If your a freelancer, chances are you'll have to work on a 'time and materials' basis on occasion.

For me, that is my preferred method, because it gives me some assurance that my client won't take a fix-bid quote and 'scope creep' me into the poor house. Of course, if you can give your client a clear set of requirements and some sort of a 'cap' (not to exceed hours) then everyone has a stake in the game and it's fair for everyone.

Some of the work I do requires me to be on-site. Sometimes that's just because the customer wants to see what they're paying for, but also because co-location can really help communication and project progress.

If the customer is willing to pay my hourly rate + travel, then I just invoice them for actual travel costs, and they reimburse me. (Don't forget to add the per diem cost for 'meals and incidental expenses' from the IRS.)
But a little more tricky issue is what to do when the customer wants to pay an 'all inclusive' hourly rate? That puts more risk on you, the consultant, to absorb the travel costs, etc.

Fortunately, through trial and error, I've found a great formula, and it's pretty straight forward:

Travel cost
+ On-site cost
/ 8 hours/day
= Hourly On-site Travel

1. Travel costs: First, determine whether you want to drive or fly to the location, and how often you'll return home. If driving, use the standard IRS driving rate (currently 58.5 cents/mile), if flying, log onto Travelocity, or Orbitz, or one of those sites and get an estimate of what a ticket will typically cost you. Take the $ per trip and multiply that by the number of times per month you'll return home, then divide by 4.2 to get a weekly number, then divide by 40 to get an hourly equivalent:

Trips per month cost
/ 4.2 weeks in a month
/ 40 hours in a week
= Travel Costs per hour estimate

2. On-site costs: Probably the easiest way to calculate other costs for being on site is the IRS per diem rates. Simply look up the city you'll be staying in, and take the Per Diem rate and divide it by 8 hours/day to get an hourly eqivalent:

IRS Per Diem (daily) Rate
/ 8 hours per day
= On-site hourly estimate

Now you have a good idea of what it will cost you just to be get there and be on-site. Add that to your hourly rate (what you want to make per hour), and you have your billable rate!

Tip: Clients and recruiters don't always consider all of this info when they negotiate a rate with you. I have found most people to be reasonable when I show them this information and it's turned out to be a great tool in successful rate negotiation.

Until next time...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Manhattan Project

Thanks to friend of the blog, Constantine Kortesis, for this contribution. It sure made me think...

The following excerpt is from

"Despite its official founding in August, the Manhattan Project really began on September 17, 1942 when Col. Leslie Richard Groves was notified at 10:30 a.m. by Gen. Brehon Somervell that his assignment overseas had been cancelled. Groves, an experienced manager who had just overseen the collosal construction of the Pentagon, seized immediate and decisive control. In just two days he resolved issues that had dragged on for months under Compton. On September 18 Groves ordered the purchase of 1250 tons of high quality Belgian Congo uranium ore stored on Staten Island, and the next day purchased 52000 acres of land to be the future site of Oak Ridge. Groves was promoted to Brigadier General on September 23. By September 26 Groves had secured access to the highest emergency procurement priority then in existence (AAA).

The era of weak, indecisive leadership was over.

Groves' pushy, even overbearing, demeanor won him few friends among the scientists on the Manhattan Project (in particular a special enmity developed between Groves and [scientist Leo Szilard]). Many detested him at the time, considering him a boor and a buffoon. It was only after the war that many scientists began to appreciate how crucial his organizational and managerial genius was to the MED [Manhattan Engineers District, aka Manhattan Project]. "

The Army clearly recognized that in order for projects to succeed, project managers need real power and authority and that must be visible power and authority. Project Management has existed for thousands of years. The recent trend of relegating project management to what often appears to be a clerical timekeeping and book keeping function is something new. I believe that this is due to pressure from government agencies that require contractors to have established formal project management systems and to achieve CMMI certifications or ratings of at least level 2. Within the past decade, corporations such as General Motors have been requiring their suppliers to follow formal project management processes.

A shortcoming of the CMMI evaluation process is that it does not measure results. It only looks at documented processes. The evaluation process does not assess the quality of leadership. In that sense, the maturity of Project Management is not the issue. The real issue is the maturity of the company in its adoption of Project Management principles.

I find the notion of Project Managers grovelling and begging for resources, project sponsors, charters and reasonable schedules to be both detestable and laughable. Organizations that expect low-level project managers to accomplish miracles without adequate objectives and resources are doomed to fail. Organizations that do not respect and appropriately compensate the profession of Project Management are doomed to poor performance.

- Contributed by Constantine Kortesis - Thanks!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Previous Food for Thought...

At the heart of every large project is a small project trying to get out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Politics, Sex and .... Project Management?

There's an old saying. "Never discuss politics, sex or religion in polite company."

On the other hand, we all agree on many things. The earth is round (well, slightly spherical, actually), the sun rises in the east and sets in the west (actually the earth revolves around the sun), and the sky is blue (it really only appears blue to us).

Well... you get the idea.

Many aspects of project management do not seem to fit into the 'earth is round' category.
What is the evidence? Here's just a few casual observations:
1. A PM on a popular professional networking site recently asked the question,
"Does anyone really know what project management actually is?"
Simple question, right? Nope! This has been the most popular 'discussion' (read: debate) on that networking site since it was launched about a month ago. This discussion/debate has more than 3x the comments then the #2 debate. And to add to the point, the #2 discussion is "There are no IT Projects".
This is a networking site for professionals in the industry, and it seems we're not sure if the earth is round or flat at this point.
2. A best selling author, and one of Microsoft's leading PM's, Scott Burkun, in his book said...
"Few people agree on how to plan projects...It's not surprising then that the planning-related books in the corner of my office disagree heavily with each other...But more distressing than their disagreements is that these books fail to acknowledge the the other approaches even exist."

I'm adding project management to my list of things you shouldn't bring up in polite conversation. Seems it's a sure way to start an argument, at least if you're talking to a PM.

So, for me, this drives the question, just how mature is the art/discipline of project management? Most would agree that being a PM is at least as much 'art' as it is 'science', but all of this disagreement reminds me of the Christmas rush over the Tickle me Elmo doll, or Wii video game -- everyone is pushing and shoving, and there's not a lot of cooperation going on.

What do you think?

Until next time...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Previous Food for Thought...

"Right answers to wrong questions are just as wrong as wrong answers to right questions."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Danger in the Comfort Zone (Recommended Reading)


Back in the 80's, when I went to college, I had to work nights so I could afford to go to school during the day. Lots of 60+ hour weeks working swing shift at a trucking company + trying to handle a full load of Economics and Business Administration work was a huge challenge. I'm glad that young people can muster up that kind of energy, because I don't think I could do it now that I'm in my 40's.

Early on in my college life, there was a woman in one of my classes who was doing basically the same thing I was; working nights to pay for college during the day. We commiserated because we were the two people constantly trying not to fall asleep in class -- not because we'd been out partying all night -- but because of working late.

I ran into that same woman as a junior or senior, and I still looked like the cat dragged something in. But, to my surprise, she looked well rested, groomed and tanned.

So I asked her what she was up to, and she, in a nutshell said she had the answer. She decided to get pregnant, have the baby, and then have the state welfare system help her pay for her housing and education. She said it was a lot easier than what we had been trying to do.

Many people I talk to have a similar story they've either heard about or experienced in their lives. This book addresses the entitlement mentality, and more importantly the 'curve' that we need to be on that is a balance of fear and extreme insecurity on one end, and entitlement on the other. The ideal is to be between those two extremes in our lives.

A great read, and not only will you see the trend in our society around us, but I know I learned a little about myself as well. I hope you can read this book and have the same experience.

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So You Want To Be A Freelance Consultant?...

Just today, the Gallup® poll posted an article with this title:
"Self Employed Workers Clock the Most Hours Each Week"
They asked, "In a typical week, how many hours do you work?"
  • less than 35 hours/week
  • 35-44 hours/week
  • more than 44 hours/week
And they grouped the answers based on what kind of job you have:
  • Self-employed
  • Private Business/Company
  • Government Employee
  • Non-Profit
Q: Who puts in the most overtime?
A: Self-employed people
  • About half (49%) of 'self-employed' people work more than 44 hours/week
  • More than a third (38%) Private Business & Government workers work more than 44 hours each week
  • Less than a third (30%) of Non-Profit workers regularly work more than 44 hours/week
Very interesting article, especially if you're thinking about making a change thinking that being self-employed will be 'easier' than working at a standard 'full time' job. I'm not saying that it's all bad, but being the President, CEO, Sales Department, Bookkeeper and Head Custodian can add up to some frequent early mornings and late nights.

Don't say I didnt' warn you...

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Secrets of Consulting (Recommended Reading)

A friend from church recommended this book to me. I thought, "I've been doing this for 15 years, why do I need to read someone else's impressions of what it's like to be a consultant?". But my friend is a MIT grad, and a pretty good guy, so I ordered a copy on the internet.

After just a few pages, I kind of got the feeling I was back in my childhood, sitting on the sofa next to my grandpa and he was telling me some great stories. Only thing is, I'm a grown up now, and this guy was telling me interesting, entertaining stories about how to be a better consultant. (I don't recall ever having consulting conversations with my grandfather.)

This guy has not only 'been there and done that' in the consulting world, but he has a great approach to business and his stories are easy to remember and pretty humorous. Here's just a couple of the names:
  • "The Law of Raspberry Jam",
  • "The Lone Ranger Fantasy",
  • "The Potato Chip Principle".

They might sound silly, but they really are sound, effective consulting strategies.

Here's another example:
The First Law of Consulting: In spite of what your client may tell you, there's always a problem.
The Second Law of Consulting: No matter how it looks at first, it's always a people problem
The Third Law of Consulting: Never forget they're paying you by the hour, not by the solution.

As previously mentioned, I read A LOT of books, this one is clearly a 'must read' for anyone who's a full time consultant, part time consultant, or has been asked to give someone advice (even once) in their life from another person.

Read it for yourself, and tell me what you think...

Until next time...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Previous Food for Thought

"The less involved you are, the easier the project seems."

Or, if you're charging excessivly high billable hourly rates, then say it with a little more sophistication:

"Perceived complexity is inversely proportional to involvement"

Some Great PM Links

Thanks to John Sobieski, PMP, long time friend and fellow project manager for these resources (and good quote, too!)

"And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

Nicolo Machiavelli c.1505

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Classic...

If you haven't seen this before, click on the picture to enlarge -- you're in for a good laugh (or cry).

Recommended Read - Principle Centered Leadership

One of the great things about being a consultant is that you are constantly learning new things, especially if you're a technology consultant. If you like to read like I do, then ever better.

There are A LOT of business books out there, and I've read a ton of them. Probably the most impactful business book I've ever read is "Principle Centered Leadership" by Steven Covey. He's the same guy that wrote the very popular "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (also very good). There are a few key concepts that really changed the way I do business, and caused a remarkable growth and satisfaction in how I ran my consulting practice:
1. The abundance mentality: You don't have to fight over every scrap with everyone, there is enough to go around and if you focus on finding those opportunities and give great service, there will always be enough.
2. Building Trust is Key: The key to running a successful business is building trust. And trust has to be earned - with great service, going the extra mile, and doing the right thing, even if it's not the easy thing
3. Human Resource Accounting: In technology especially, we forget that the most important part of any project, process, company, etc. is the people. Take care of people, and they'll take care of you.
There are numerous other great points, and there's just no way I could cover them all in a single blog, so there's something to wet your whistle and hopefully motivate you to pick up a copy. I just looked on and there were new copies of the book for under $5.00.

Until next time...


This is my first post, not only on this blog page, but on any blog page ever, so let me give you a quick introduction and overview.

I've been an independent consultant and owner of OMS Consulting Partners, LLC for over 15 years (although the name has changed once or twice). We provide technology consulting services for the Retail, Telecom and Healthcare industries. Mostly we work with ERP systems (the systems that do most of the tracking of the business) that run on databases like Oracle, etc. We also teach a lot of people (over 6,500 at last count) how to use all this stuff, from MS Word to Visual Basic for Applications to PL/SQL, etc.

I've worked for lots of companies in lots of places including Australia, Canada and at last count, over 15 states in the US. Some of the companies you've probably heard of like Nextel/Sprint, Pier1 and La-Z-Boy, and others only if you happen to live in that area or be in that industry like Mercer Healthcare, Rotman's, Bedding companies like Mattress Firm or Mattress Warehouse, etc.

At any rate, I am also a recently ordained PMP certified project manager, and part of the agreement between us PMP's and the organization that gives us this title is that we have to 'give back' to the community. We're asked to do this by sharing our knowledge, experiences, best practices and recommendations to help expand the Project Management knowledge base and help others grow in their knowledge. I started by adding things to my company website, but the website was starting to look more like a blog, which got me thinking...

So, that's the purpose of this blog, is to humbly set out some of the very little that I know about anything, and see if it's possible someone could benefit from it. I hope that this information is useful to you.

In your service,

Jay Brummett, PMP
Owner and Lead Blogger, OMS Consulting Partners, LLC.