Mar 202015

The world is full of “rules”, full of agendas, full of unspoken pressure to conform.

A direct “Do things my way” is typically quite confrontational and so most sheep resort to various other means to try and create conformity. A frown, silence, hints and insinuations. Peer pressure is a well used one, the art of conformity.

We don’t like you behaviour, your hair, your jeans. We all wear corporate black trousers, white collared shirts. You want to fit in here? Well read the signs……

Granted, some people will deny this exists. Some people will be better at dismissing all of this as a pure figment of the imagination but let’s not kid ourselves that it doesn’t exist. You leave the sheep pen at 15h30 while the rest of the flock are still slaving away in endless, uncoordinated panic and very soon you’ll feel the disapproving atmosphere. It’ll seldom be directly communicated but will certainly be clear in pointed comments [apparently made in jest], raised eyebrows and misguided dislike.

Which of all this intangible “feeling” is important is up to the individual to decide. Most comes from low-ranking sheep but the top-dogs are also not disinclined to have a go. Almost all of it is insinuated rather than directly communicated with openness, integrity and honesty.

Some theory advocates that humans have this instinctual need for acceptance in the group, a consequence of our caveman past where [so the theory goes] to be ostracised almost certainly meant death. I’m not too sure I totally agree with that. Just as today you find independent individuals I’m pretty certain you found lone cavemen skilled and adapted to living life on their own terms.

I’m pretty sure there was a caveman or two saying “Stop hounding me! Stop telling me what to do! Stop pushing your party agendas on me! Stop, Stop, STOP!!” And when they wouldn’t I’m pretty sure he left the cave for a better life on his terms. Sometimes you just need to stand up and say “Leave me alone!

You can live your life fearlessly and “free” only by choice. If there’s not enough bravery in the flock to communicate desires directly then why should one even consider that they might exist in the first place?


Apr 182014

I’m astounded by people giving me advice about sailing and yachting. Not that I couldn’t use a bit of advice and guidance now and again mind you. But nevertheless positively astounded.

Why you may ask?

Well, the advice generally comes third- or fourth-hand, on hearsay, from people who don’t sail nor care for and maintain a yacht.

You must go and live there because that’s the only place in South Africa where your house and your yacht can be in the same location“. “You must keep the boat there“. “You must [or must not] sail here“. “The wind in the cape is too strong so you must keep your boat in Durban“. And so it goes. Anecdotal re-telling of other people’s adventures and mishaps.

I don’t mind the retelling of the stores so much as the fact that they often seem to carry more weight in the mind of the re-teller than my actual South Atlantic experience. It’s one thing to listen to someone and form an opinion  based on the telling. It’s quite another to actually put yourself out there and live the actual experience. So give some credit for that world.

Does it bug me, this ‘not being heard’? Not so much any more. Well sometimes just a little bit, sometimes, when it’s a subject close to my heart.

Main thing is; be careful whose advice you take on board. When someone says you absolutely must do this or that or the other all they are really doing is voicing their own values and beliefs. Listen to them by all means but live your own convictions.


May 182012

One of my current projects has most of the actual work done by a single, external company.

Problem is, in ‘real’ life, this company is a client of ours, purchasing a significant total of product each year. Now, in this scenario, they are a vendor, supplying services and products back into my project.

This turns the question to ‘motivational’ techniques and leverage one might normally use to get a slow-performing subcontractor to shift gear. What to do when this party is ‘too busy’ to provide a decently detailed Gantt, ‘too busy’ to provide regular feedback and project status updates, ‘too busy’ because they are building and installing ? It’s not that they are unwilling to talk if one phones them up, it’s just that nothing is forthcoming without direct intervention and prodding and even then, nothing committed to writing by their project manager.

I’ve held regular discussion and documented the agreements. I’ve held regular project status review meetings and minuted the agreed actions and dates – and yet nothing seems to work.

On top of all this, the input documentation from the end-user side is somewhat [ok – lets say significantly] lacking in terms of accuracy and quantities, which means that we are months behind on original promised schedule with the ugly spectre of penalties looming on the final handover deadline.

So am I paranoid to be concerned about this? Maybe Yes. Maybe No !

Bottom line – nothing beats one-on-one communication. No-one is out to “get” anyone else. Everyone is just doing the best they can. Out of all the PMBoK knowledge areas “Communication Management” probably carries a greater weighting than any other. Speak to you sub-contractors and suppliers, engage with them verbally, in person and on the phone. Forget about eMail and faxes, letters and formal correspondence as a first option. Engage one-on-one.

If that doesn’t work and you can honestly say you’ve tried in person, then, and only then, resort to formal, legal, written threats !!

Mar 032012

A key part of a Project Manager’s life is communication and as such, I’m always on the look-out for new and innovative ways to bypass the corporate “death-by-Powerpoint” standard and find new ways of conveying important information.

This morning I’ve been playing with an online animation and video production tool called and my first attempt shows some promise for the medium I think…..

This clip was totally free to make. The ending is a bit abrupt because anything longer than 2 minutes and you have to purchase GoAnimate credits. You can also use these to further expand characters, actions and scenes.

Really useful and cool!