Travelling again



After a few weeks of (what feels like) solitary confinement at home, sorting out the building alterations and generally shouting at workers that are delivering shoddy workmanship, I’m ready to try anything to get as far away as possible from the local scene.

And as things would have it there is a trip to Accra, Ghana, on the cards. Looking forward, actually. West Africa is rich in projects although mostly mining and minerals, and also rich in delegates with interesting stories to tell about their projects. Easy flight too, only 4 or 5 hours out of Johannesburg. Its going to be an awesome trip.

To my regular readers, I apologise. I know I have been very slack and I have not written as regularly as you are used to. Circumstances, sorry. Its no excuse, but sometimes life takes priority over pleasure. A lot has happened and I will start writing about it soon with lots of snippets and digestive bits.

So when I get to Ghana I will post some photos, just be patient!


Are we there yet?

Amazing Pyramid Geometry

Amazing Pyramid Geometry

“Rome wasn’t built in one day” my mother used to say. And neither were the pyramids, I’m sure. Or any other worthwhile project.

But how do you know it will be built at all? Or when it will be completed? How can you keep your enthusiasm, your motivation going while the going gets rough?

It is an important question for me, because I spent the last 3 months building a dwelling for myself. Oh the trauma of dealing with builders! I will be making regular contributions to this forum as soon as I recover from my emotional pain! But seriously, I learnt a heck of a lot about project management from doing this one small project, and I want to share that knowledge. I’ll break it down into small digestable bites.

To start my series I commented on my social media recently as follows:  “The year is 10% complete – have you achieved 10% of your goals already?” It was a loaded question and it drew a lot of responses! Basically I was fooling around with the idea that we have burned 36 days of the year already, and that if we continue along this line we will reach 360 days or 3600 days with the same result. Essentially:

    If you keep on doing
    what you have always done
    You will keep on getting
    what you’ve always gotten

So the real question is not how much time I’ve spent. In isolation, it is meaningless and not a good indicator of progress. The better question might be: What have I delivered already, against a list of what I should have delivered.

The best example of how “time” and “progress” relates comes from the comedian Jerry Seinfeld who said: You can measure distance by time. “How far away is it?” “Oh about 20 minutes.”

Now that gives a lot more useful information. And so does “Earned Value” when used in Project Management monitoring and control. Watch this space for some ideas on Earned value soon.

Plans for 2011

Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball

As I’m writing this, it is the morning of the 3rd January 2011. It is a new year lying ahead, full of promises and potential. Many people have made New Years Resolutions that they have already broken, other’s haven’t even started working and are still on vacation or travelling. Schools are only due to open in a week. And most people are making New Years Resolutions. Will they happen? How will we know we managed our resolutions?

And I’m left wondering about success. Why is it that sometimes people are successful, and sometimes not? Well, to be honest, what is success? Oh, and in whose opinion were they successful, or not? Is success the end in itself, or just a temporary pause on the way?

And is success associated with happiness? With feeling good? Feeling good about yourself? Or what about the other people that are not feeling so good about you feeling good? Or is it things (objects; toys; earthly possessions) that make you happy? Owning, dominating, winning? Is it necessary to be happy to be successful?

What will make you happy then? What is happiness? What, very specifically, will make you happy? Are you devoting energy and time and resources to get those feelings of happiness that will make you successful. Oh, is it the other way around?

Personally I have a strong suspicion (I am by no means an expert!) that gazing into a crystal ball to predict the future is not going to bring happiness or success or love or whatever it is that you are craving. Neither will cheating or stealing for that matter, nor will owning lots of goodies or winning. When somebody wins, the other party loses and there can be no happiness.

I think happiness and success are very internally focused. It comes from inside. And it is not associated with getting or receiving or owning or winning, but definitely intimately linked to giving, sharing and encouraging. It is outward bound, away from you, it is losing (so to speak).

I’m going to make two quite sweeping statements. The first is that achieving a goal, any set goal, makes us happy. Of course, to know that you achieved the goal is important, so putting some measurements in place to let you know when you reach that end point will be helpful.

The second statement is that we feel happy when that goal is helping somebody else, making them reach their goal.

So the two summary words are: Do it, for somebody else.

My goodness, I think I’ve just defined the job role of a project manager! Are we a happy bunch or what!

Happy Chinese New year 2011

Happy Chinse New Year

Happy Chinse New Year

It getting harder and harder to keep track of everything that is happening around us. When I was little (?) we had a calendar on the fridge door, and there were only a few things to remember because we kind of kept to one religion and one family.

Nowadays you have a multicultural, multinational, extended family scenario and if it weren’t for Outlook (oh yes, more – or less – of that later) I would be dead meat.

So anyways, the Chinese year of the Rabbit starts on 3 February 2011 (today) and it is the year 4709 by Chinese calculations. Their calendar has been around ten times longer than our Gregorian jobbie. It uses different events to mark the passage of time and feels a little bit more in keeping with nature although that could be simply because they choose animals to symbolise the periods. You can read more at this blog.

So, to all my Chinese friends out there, here’s wishing you and yours a fabulous year ahead. Thank you for bringing some interesting new perspective into our lives.