Jul 222015

Trade-in values: 1995 Alfa 145 – R50,000; 2002 BMW Z3 3.0l Roadster – R40,000

Against a brand new Fiat Panda 1.2

Those are the best values I’ll get for my two aging vehicles but suddenly the Panda is R10k more with paint and on-road fees and it’s R10k less than really needed for the BMW, which means suddenly what was an excellent deal – a new car for another R50k – has now become a R70k spend which doesn’t feel as good.

Right now they are all running. Right now there are other bills and education fees to pay. Right now spending another R70k just doesn’t feel right.

So, no matter how good the R90k trade for both vehicles is [indeed perhaps a never-to-be-repeated offer?] it’s just not money we’re going to spend on an other car right now.

Hope it’s a good decision :-/

And the lessons relearned – liabilities are yours forever! No matter how good the story, how great the sales pitch, they always think they smell blood in the water and, with a pretty, friendly smile, thrust the knife and give a twist for good measure. Be very, very careful what you commit resources to in life. Liabilities, once yours, remain yours forever…..unless you are willing to give them away. What was that about “You’re only as free as the stuff you’re able to walk away from”?

Apr 172014
The unseen costs of your 9-5 job

The unseen costs of your 9-5 job

Sure, owning a car is expensive and if you want it to last it needs maintenance. But there are more cost effective ways of doing it than relying on the official agents. I think that will be the last visit to the dealer for routine maintenance. In future it will be either my own labour or that of a trusted independent workshop.Isuzu 195000km

One of the keys to validating the ER-Plan is a proper understanding of which expenses are a necessity for your chosen lifestyle and which are really just there because of the way life is at present.

That brings me to a niggling thought that  just won’t leave me lately. The Isuzu, while filling a future ER dream of 4×4 touring off the beaten path, is currently not put to that use and is expensive overkill for the present home-to-office commute. Expensive to maintain, expensive to fuel up. In a sense this is tantamount to ‘pre-purchasing the RV or the golf club membership’ prior to retirement. Maybe not the way to go, especially with a machine that has a very good chance of wearing out / failing before there’s ever the time to realise that travel goal ? Yet, now that it’s done, does it make sense to sell it and get something else? I’m not so sure.

Gut-feel tells me it’s always cheaper to keep and maintain the vehicle you currently own rather than giving in to the temptation to get something different. Besides, I still hold to the belief that an old 70’s gas guzzler is greener than a new hybrid because the hole for the former has already bee dug in the earth. I’ll need to follow this up with a detailed xls calc [such an engineer I’m told], but I think I know what the outcome will be. Deep down it’s just this irrational emotional urge to buy a ‘new’ car and it’s the tricky bits looking for rationalisations to justify this.

Our present life and future vision is what it is, what we’ve chosen it to be. Take the yacht as a similar example, or even Glencairn. It’s also ‘pre-paying the future’ dream. Is it the wisest strategy? In terms of some of the ER-thought out there it’s ridiculous. Rather used the value in the boat to bring your ER-date closer. On the other hand, I am me if I’m making any sense here. I’m human and just like all humans everywhere, I have irrational personal quirks when viewed against the popular ‘science’ of ER’ing.

The yacht is a big part of me, my lifestyle, the way I want to live. For me, what purpose is served to spend the next 5 years without Ocean Blue in my life? It’s not a sacrifice I choose to make and I believe that where I am now is the best balance for me between my interests and my need to pump the stash to step off. When I do step off then I want no debt on Glencairn and so we’re compelled to get it behind us now, using the space in the current mortgage facility to access ‘cheap’ money.

Easily rationalised for the sweet little boat and the dream pad by the sea but requiring a bit more mental gymnastics to apply to the Isuzu me’thinks.

Anyhow, in terms of road transport, my current philosophy is “if it aint broke then don’t fix it”. While it’s reliable and not emotionally draining I’ll stick with and be happy with what I have – ‘Suzi and ZR7 – here’s to many more miles together.

Mar 172012

In the project and corporate team context, some individuals are ‘more valuable’ than others. This is not a radical, politically incorrect thought. It’s a common belief and is really just the “Right seat on the right bus” theory stated perhaps a little more bluntly.

 So what makes some team members ‘more valuable’ than others? In a nutshell –

 Commitment and Accountability

 One shows Commitment and Accountability by ….

 Making and Keeping Promises

 In this instant, information age, it’s all too easy to be pressured into making too many commitments, to say ‘Yes!’ to everything that comes your way. Don’t! Be selective in what you take onto your plate, then make big promises and consistently deliver on them! That’s the way to get noticed in the team, the organisation, the world.

 We live in a vague world. And it gets vaguer all the time. There are so many waffle words, so many equivocations, so many ways to sort of say what we kind of intend to possibly do…    In this environment, the power of the specific, measurable and useful promise made and kept is difficult to overstate. And if you can do it regularly, on time and without a fuss, we will notice.Seth Godin

 Project teams need committed individuals like this. Choose your battles wisely and consistently run hard. Never Jog!

Oct 042011

The radio news this morning had a piece on the recent violent storms and tornados of yesterday where one person was killed, numerous others injured and homes destroyed. Some politician, visiting the scene of the devastation is horrified to find that the RDP houses that collapsed were not built to code.

So here’s a guess at what happened.

Building contractor secures order to build houses, to code. Small, basic houses to be sure, but definitely to code. Houses are slapped together as fast and as cheaply as possible. What idiot specified double external walls anyway? The people need these houses yesterday and anyway, the Gravy on the Gravy-Train is damn expensive. Those new Range Rovers don’t pay for themselves you know.

While this is pure speculation on my part of course, it does however provide a fitting real-world example of the need for tight quality control on your projects. While not every sub-standard project deliverable may endanger lives at the end of the day, there is always an implied commitment to provide acceptable value to your stakeholders. If you cannot supply acceptable value and quality within the project Scope:Time:Cost framework then ethically you should probably decline to be involved.

Easier said than done I suppose, but food for thought nevertheless.

Jul 302011

One of the biggest challenges corporates (both large and small) face is that of executing strategy. The world is full innovative ideas and thoughts but seldom do the thinkers have the bandwidth or the ability to tranlate to tangible deliverables on the ground.

There is value in individuals and teams who understand both the executive suite and the frontline. Even more value in those that can get things done, marrying the 2 worlds.

What better place to be than a Project Management role, bridging the divide between the 2 worlds.

Apr 172011
  • And the winner is…!?

“Well I’m sure I don’t know dahling.” (said he, unashamedly stealing a line from Edna Mol in The Incredibles :-).

It’s been, up until now, a rainy dismal weekend in Johannesburg so I’ve put the time to good use reading ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell.

A fascinating read for sure. Summarised as follows:

  • No one, no matter how genius, gifted etc, does it on their own.
    • “Success” = f ( Talent, Hard Work, Opportunity, ability to risk or take the opportunity, Blind Luck )
  • World class is, in the beginning, not so much about being sooo much better than others, it’s about being good enough and then getting the opportunity to get in the hours
    • “World Class” = f ( >10,000 hours )
  • “Happiness @ work” = f ( Meaning; Effort vs Reward; Autonomy )
  • We are a product of our upbringing and culture more than we care to admit, often going back 300-400 years.
  • Once you have a certain level of skill, talent or proficiency, then it doesn’t really matter how much better or more talented you are than your peers. Then, all that matters is that you put in more effort / practice than they do.

He doesn’t attempt to address the philosophy of man’s happiness. This book is a pure study of the worlds “successful” people (eg Bill Gates). He doesn’t attempt to widen the defintion of “Success” to include happiness or quality of life.  Nearly all, no actually every single one, of his “success” stories involve people working 70-80 hour weeks for years on end to get to the level of “success” as regarded successful by the world. All the successes related corroborate the formulae above however. In the Bill Gates example, it’s not that he’s a superhuman. If you trace his history, you will see that his “success” contains all the above elements of luck, family background, hard work, opportunities taken etc.

Some will read this book and say “Cool, see. It’s not my fault I’m not successful like Bill Gates. Luck just didn’t favour me” or “my circumstances” or “my family did it to me” but, but, but……. That would really sound like the cop-out world we know – “As long as you can blame someone else its OK!”

Others will use it as a motivator to justify why they are addicted to work, to climbing the corporate ladder, to sacrificing “Life” striving for something better, even though they don’t really know what that “something” is.

So the question is “Do you have what it takes to meet the world’s definition of “world class” Project Manager? Would many would look at you and consider you abounding in or lacking in ambition and drive and qualities essential to grabbing the prize of “Best PM in the World” ?

So success is really an individual thing right? You’ve heard it said that only you can determine if you’re successful. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks? OK, so the answer is yes and no! The world has to value your contribution or else you will struggle to eat, but ultimately the definition of success lies with you right? Sure! But then again, if success can mean anything to anyone, then it really means nothing doesn’t it? The real question should be “Are you happy with the path you’re on? Are you living well in the world, contributing to others and community, engaging in pursuits that challenge and stimulate you?

So back to the topic at hand – How does one become the best PM in the World? The world is full of people doing what you do. Sure, you’re already differentiated from the diggers and heavy lifters by your degree and your PM experience, your PMP, but still, there are huge numbers of competitors in the PM game, like many other career fields. Millions of project managers! What makes you remarkable, head and shoulders above the rest?

The world is like this in every sphere of life. The information age – which maybe should be called the instant gratification age – is all about having everything now. You can have anything you want now, with the greatest of ease. But, you often have to settle for the same thing that millions of others have. And so I believe that there is a huge drive within us to be different. You see it with the person customising his ride, the guy wanting to have the best caravan, mountain bike, 4×4; no cost spared to just have the coolest and most radically different look. So maybe, in this day and age, you become remarkable by being different. Not being different in an obstinate in-your-face kind of way, like getting a tattoo on your forehead that reads “F%$& the System”. That’s more about notoriety than about being remarkably different. No, being different in a way that differentiates who you are and what you do from the mediocrity that surrounds us in this modern world. 

So often we’re in search of the holy grail, being the best, head and shoulders above the rest. I think we loose sight of the fact that being the best takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of hard work, the ability to bounce back from experiences that some call failures and of course, just a little luck. But consider this. Being the best is possibly only a goal, the end destination in a long >10,000 hour journey. There’s no point in one day being the best if all the years of practice and effort leave you broken and miserable. Maybe the road to being the best starts merely with being remarkable doing what you love today.  Not by telling people or yourself that you’re remarkable and better than the competition, but just by slowly, habitually doing more than the competition – adding more value than people expect on a consistent basis.

That is, I think, the journey to being ‘the best’. Being remarkable, consistently, each step of the journey! Will it pay off financially? Who knows. But certainly, whether it does make you the richest man in the world or not, whether it does win you the accolade, fame and fortune that goes with “Best PM in the World” or not, it definitely should help you to live well in the world, being happier each step of the way and adding remarkable value to those around you. And that maybe is priceless!?