Archive for project management

the closer we get to the goal, the more motivated we become

"One’s motivation to reach a goal increases as one’s distance from the goal decreases," Heidi Grant Halverson writes in HBR.

It’s the Goal Looms Larger Effect: The closer you are to a goal, the more it dominates your thinking and receives more of your ever-more-scarce attention–which is why mice closer to cheese or salespeople close to sales goals or reporters closer to deadline suddenly get so dedicated.

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craft a scary story

“Success leads to complacency. “Your job is to create paranoia about what is coming around the corner. You’ve got scare the bejeezus out of everyone.”

As a leader, compliment the vision with a little fear to spice it up, and keep a sense of urgency.

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outcomes, PAM

“What managers really need is for people to “do whatever it takes in the conditions encountered” to get required results. This is most likely to occur when people are assigned clear, significant outcomes, they have autonomy to make decisions that impact their results, they have a chance to grow and develop their skills, and they have success that is captured by documented results.”

PAM … Purpose, Autonomy & Mastery

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quality needs four things

To achieve quality in something requires;

  • quality people
  • insightful thinking
  • great execution on details
  • just enough time

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if you can’t do it tomorrow…. you won’t be able to do it next week

“Yes . . . Damn!” effect, as it’s been dubbed by Gal Zauberman and John G. Lynch Jr., who are professors of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Colorado at Boulder, respectively. This occurs when we agree to a future commitment in the belief that we’ll have more free time later than we do now — and then, when it comes due, discover we still don’t have time for it.


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directly responsible individual

Apple’s term for the owner of something – who is the directly responsible individual DRI.

This concept helps to drive accountability, and combat diffusion of responsibility

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what’s the difference between a janitor and the VP?

Reasons, situations and excuses all matter in some jobs, and are acceptable at certain seniority levels. Achieving goals, regardless of the situation matters more and more with seniority.

“Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when has asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: the locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. “When you’re the janitor”, Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, “ reasons matter.” He continues: “Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.” That “Rubicon, “ he has said “ is crossed when you become a VP.”

quote from Fortune on Apple

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calm despair

A calm despair… is the essence of wisdom

“Above all, we must abolish hope in the heart of man. A calm despair, without angry convulsions, without reproaches to Heaven, is the essence of wisdom.

Alfred Victor Vigny

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clear view or short distance?

Folk wisdom:
“Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.”

Which is good advice when looking in to the future, trendwatching or forecasting.

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diffusion of responsibility

“Diffusion of responsibility is a social phenomenon which tends to occur in groups of people above a certain critical size when responsibility is not explicitly assigned.”

This can be a problem in large meetings or discussion forums. Issues are identified, and action might even be suggested. Unless someone specifically takes ownership for an action, everyone might assume someone else is doing it.

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vision indecision


Indecision or inconsistency about a product’s core vision is at the route of most project problems.

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victory conditions = effective goals

Many board games have clear victory conditions that encourage you to play (& maximize) within the rules to achieve a specific goal. They offer an end point in what might otherwise be an endless treadmill.

Goals offer the same end point in projects. If you don’t have a goal, you won’t know when to stop. If you don’t have a well thought through goal, you might use the opportunities that occur to achieve an outcome that isn’t required.

With investments, if you don’t have a goal set, you don’t know when to stop and take the benefit (or minimize the loss) of that investment. Holding on to investments might pay off, and it might not… a goal focuses your attention on making a decision.

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integrity, trust yourself

lizard food

Integrity [ɪnˈtɛgrɪtɪ]

1. adherence to moral principles; honesty

2. the quality of being unimpaired; soundness

3. unity; wholeness

Achieving dreams requires you to have a dream, to have an intention to do it and the integrity to take action.

Intention is easy, everyone can have ideas and create best laid plans.

Taking action is harder, it exposes you to the risk of failure. You need integrity to hold yourself true to achieving the dream. You need to trust yourself to be able to achieve the dream.

A dream that you have no intention of starting, or you don’t have the integrity to follow through and pursue should be dropped or it will become food for the lizard brain.

Feeding the lizard brain will stall you from achieving your dreams and drag you down.

Have the integrity to take action.

(Intention + integrity = manifestation of dreams : Marcia Wieder
Lizard brain : Seth Godin)

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understanding goals

Dreams - Goals - Tasks


A dream is big, demanding and aspirational.  It is the why that provides the purpose behind activity. It is not something that you can directly do.

Projects needs a dream, a vision to inspire and a purpose to guide all activity.


Goals are the tangible outcome of actions, on a journey to achieving a dream. A goal should be framed in terms of achievement and outcome, rather than actions that need performing. It is the result not an action.

Setting goals is critical to delivery of projects. A goal communicates the destination & benefit and not the specific steps required to achieve the goal. Goals should be demanding enough to challenge & stretch, more than slack – offering no challenge, and without being too extreme & straining. (Slack – Stretch - Strain)

Goals are empowering, they leave autonomy in the route chosen to achieving them. They are the building blocks of project management and successful delivery.

Focus all of your attention on understand the right goals, when you are planning.


Tasks are smaller steps, the actions and the activities that get you to a goal.

Tasks are what you do, work itself and should get all of the attention during execution.

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should vs want, can you resist?

Procrastination… a present bias and an empathy gap

“Thinking about thinking, this is the key. In the struggle between should versus want, some people have figured out something crucial – want never goes away.

Procrastination is all about choosing want over should because you don’t have a plan for those times when you can expect to be tempted.

You are really bad at predicting your future mental states. In addition, you are terrible at choosing between now or later. Later is murky place where anything could go wrong.”

and a great way to think about getting productive

“Capable psychonauts who think about thinking, about states of mind, about set and setting, can get things done not because they have more will power, more drive, but because they know productivity is a game of cat and mouse versus a childish primal human predilection for pleasure and novelty which can never be excised from the soul. Your effort is better spent outsmarting yourself than making empty promises through plugging dates into a calendar or setting deadlines for push ups.”

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12 axioms for life?

Zurich Axioms by Max Gunther – great advice from Wall Street that can be applied to a number of walks of life.

The First Major Axiom on Risk

Worry is not a sickness but a sign of health. If you are not worried, you are not risking enough.

Minor 1 : Always play for meaningful stakes.
Minor 2 : Resist the allure of diversification

The Second Major Axiom on Greed

Always take a profit too soon.

Minor 3 : Decide in advance what gain you want from a venture, and when you get it, get out.

The Third Major Axiom on Hope

When the ship starts to sink, don’t pray. Jump.

Minor 4 : Accept small loses cheerfully as a fact of life. Expect to experience several while you are awaiting a large gain.

The Fourth Major Axiom on Forecasts

Human behaviour cannot be predicted. Distrust anyone who claims to know the future, however dimly.

The Fifth Major Axiom on Patterns

Chaos is not dangerous until it begins to look orderly.

Minor 5 : Beware the historians trap.
Minor 6 : Beware the chartist’s illusion.
Minor 7 : Beware the Correlations and Causality Delusions.
Minor 8 : Beware the gambler’s fallacy.

The Sixth Major Axiom on Mobility

Avoid putting down roots. They impede motion.

Minor 9 : Do not become trapped in a souring venture because of sentiments like loyalty and nostalgia.
Minor 10 : Never hesitate to abandon a venture if something more attractive comes in to view.

The Seventh Major Axiom on Intuition

A hunch can be trusted if it can be explained.

Minor 11 :Never confuse a hunch with hope.

The Eighth Major Axiom on Religion and the Occult

It is unlikely that god’s plan for the universe includes making you rich.

Minor 12 : If astrology worked all astrologers would be rich.
Minor 13 : A superstition need not be exorcised. It can be enjoyed, provided that it is kept in its place.

The Ninth Major Axiom on Optimism and Pessimism

Optimism means expecting the best, but confidence means knowing how you will handle the worst. Never make a move if you are merely optimistic.

The Tenth Major Axiom on Consensus

Disregard the majority opinion. It is probably wrong.

Minor 14 : Never follow speculative fads. Often the best time to buy something is when nobody else wants it.

The Eleventh Major Axiom on Stubbornness

If it doesn’t pay off the first time, forget it.

Minor 15 : Never try to save a bad investment by ‘averaging down’

The Twelfth Major Axiom on Planning

Long range plans engender the dangerous belief that the future is under control. It is important never to take you own long range plans or other people’s seriously.

Minor 16 : Shun long term investments

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complexity kills

Complexity kills. Complexity sucks the life out of users, developers and IT.  Complexity makes products difficult to plan, build, test and use.  Complexity introduces security challenges.  Complexity causes administrator frustration.

And as time goes on and as software products mature – even with the best of intent – complexity is inescapable.”

Ray Ozzie, dawn of a new day

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goals follow dreams


“Let’s not get confused at the difference between a goal and a dream. A goal is something measurable, trackable, and is built on analytics. Goals have realistic timelines, are measured by weighing the data, the risks, and the current assets. They are essential to success, but they follow dreams. A dream is bigger–it has no boundaries, rules, or past history. It’s focused on transforming business as we know it, and approaching from a direction never pursued–or at least never attained. In dreams, we seek the outstanding change–not just within the products we create but in the results those products inspire.”

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bright spots

As part of a retrospective or post mortem process, look for the bright spots of success and look for ways to emulate.

You can stuck in a loop of over analyzing what has gone wrong, and then being confronted with too much to deal with. You can’t fix world peace in 1 single initiative, focus on achievable chunks.

Find the Bright Spots” chapter 2 in SWITCH How to change things when change is hard by Chip and Dan Heath

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self-referencing time-related adage…

Hofstadter’s Law – “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”

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