Everything you needed to know about Project Management …

Everything you needed to know about Project Management …

… you probably learned while riding on a one speed bike without hand brakes.


Well, just about everything.


Recently I was transported back to my childhood while riding on a bike that lacked handbrakes and multiple speeds. It took a couple of minutes to remember that stopping required pedaling backwards, but after that initial awkwardness I was amazed at all that immediately came back.


So many actions were instinctual:

1.    A slight elevation ahead and automatically your body was standing atop those pedals to build momentum.

2.    A blind curve ahead? Pedal backwards, slow down, and gain control of the bike.

3.    A sharp curve? Swing out and use much space as possible on the outer part of the path to get as much room as possible to not wipeout.

4.    Crossing over a narrow bridge? Too risky to be peddling away – build momentum ahead of time to coast so that the required control and narrow body could be maintained. The same principle applied if someone was approaching on the slim path.

5.    Most importantly, a key lesson instantly came back: breathe through your nose and keep that mouth shut so that you don’t swallow a bug!


As this biking transported me back to my childhood, it dawned on me that all the skills that returned had taught me some of the most important principles of project management over four decades ago.


1.    Look like there is a mountain of work ahead? It’s too late to peddle fast once you’re on that slope, you must start peddling harder before you reach the beginning of the incline. You must anticipate the elevation and work harder when it’s actually still manageable.

2.    Not sure of what’s ahead around the blind corner? Better slow down until you have more information.

3.    Figure out ways to avert disaster.

4.    Think that you’re coming up to a sticky or tricky patch? Come across someone you’ve never worked with before? This is not a place to have your knees and arms waving about wildly.  You want to glide through this area with as much elegance and ease as possible.

5.    There are many times in business settings it’s better to keep your mouth shut.


Once you’ve navigated over a route a few times, it’s amazing how quickly your mind remembers the tricks to anticipate how best to traverse the terrain. The efficiencies accumulate.


Then when you can coast for those few moments, you feel the breeze, cool off, take some deep breaths, and survey the ground you’ve covered. You’re still working but at a pace that allows you to recover so that you can tackle the next obstacle with even more assurance and skill.

Are you late to the game?

Are you late to the game?

We were pretty late to the game. 

A sports-mad 21-year-old kept recommending this show about soccer … so you’re a bit skeptical.

But once the friend that actually went to a Premier League match with you decades ago, tells you that you MUST watch it, you actually do.

Luckily we binged shortly before the Emmy’s so were all caught up and understood why Ted Lasso deserved all the raves. 

You can experience this series on so many levels.  If you like football, or programs about sports and coaching, it is great entertainment.  It also proves that once again, sports remain a wonderful arena for Management 101. If you’ve lived or traveled overseas and tried to adapt to a different culture, there are some overt and some subtle chuckles. Given the international nature of the sport, the team that Ted takes on is a perfect example of how complex global organizations are: not only are there personalities to manage, but personalities layered with national … proclivities. 

What all the characters and story lines underscore is that there is no one perfect way to motivate everyone, and that the best coaches and managers take the time and the effort to understand how best to inspire the individuals on their team. With so many leadership lessons from Lasso, some beat me to it.  Late to the game, I tip my hats to them, and share their insights   Read more here and here.

The agility in Ted Lasso is not just on the pitch.  If you scan a few articles, you will discover that the lines between creators, writers, and producers blur.  Brett Goldstein, who received the Emmy for best supporting actor, began as writer and ended up auditioning for a role.  Not unlike the sport at its center, the show scores because the ensemble relies on assists.  When teammates are generous with each other, they are willing to make that extra pass, to get a better line, to set up for a surer goal, and a better ending. 

Charting a Course

Charting a Course

Recently, sitting on deck on a gloriously sunny day, gazing across the beautifully calm water, my mind wandered back to grade school math.  Probably the grade school math we all dreaded the most: the story problem.


Because it dawned on me that the captain probably didn’t have to do much of that story problem math that day.  You remember the problem:  a boat must cross a river Y wide, the current is traveling at X, how does Timmy aim his boat to reach the dock on the other side?

Why did we all hate these sorts of problems so much? Perhaps because in the diagram, or in life, we were always so sure about where that dock was on the other side.  Both sides were stationary, we were sure of where they were.  But a moving body of water? A current that could change speed, or course, or pull you under without warning?  And what if you did all the math, and then somewhere in the middle of the crossing, it all changed? 

Upon reflection, those story problems were great preparation for life.  They made us weed through the words for the pertinent facts.  How often were we reminded to go back and use our solutions to check our work?  These problems reinforced that things were not static; they would not remain in place.  We needed to reassess, recalculate, and rethink.


In today’s current labor markets – and yes there are many, even in one location – the currents are irregular indeed.  Many skippers are scared to undertake a journey of understanding, to even test the waters, but test them you must.  Maybe your Great Resignation won’t be because of compensation, maybe it will be because of limited career growth opportunities within your organization, or lack of flexible work arrangements. Maybe your compensation is just fine near the shore, but away from the shore, the currents have shifted suddenly, and you haven’t ventured out that way to investigate?  Your organization needs to know which way the current is flowing.

It is time to solve for X.

Olympic Memories

Olympic Memories

Sadly, the necessities of adulting have kept me from watching The Olympics this summer.

My fascination started in the summer of 1972 –  all the flags, the flame, the whole concept of all of those countries coming together to compete.  Then in 1976, like the rest of the world, Nadia kept me glued to the TV.

My favorite movie, Chariots of Fire, is all about the 1924 Olympics.  Long before I could have ever imagined a career in HR, a story unfolded with great insights into how very different people could have the same goal: Olympic gold.

In reading a few of the articles about Simone Biles this past week, I was taken back to a scene in that movie; an aside moment after a very tense confrontation:

Duke of Sutherland: A sticky moment, George. 

Lord Birkenhead: Thank God for Lindsay. I thought the lad had us beaten. 

Duke of Sutherland: He did have us beaten, and thank God he did. 

Lord Birkenhead: I don’t quite follow you. 

Duke of Sutherland: The “lad”, as you call him, is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself. 

Lord Birkenhead: For his country’s sake, yes. 

Duke of Sutherland: No sake is worth that, least of all a guilty national pride.

While the rationale of Simone’s decision differed from Eric Liddell’s, the principle remains about understanding the source of someone’s talent, it is “a mere extension of his life, its force … We sought to sever [that] from himself.”

Returning to the 1924 Summer Olympics, it was hardly a time when people spoke of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Now imagine one of your most fantastic athletes says he will not “work” (compete) in his best event, his best chance at winning for your company (country) because it interferes with his core beliefs.  Do you accommodate and find a different task (event)? Or do you insist on treating everyone the same and risk severing people from what makes them unique? or tick? or from your team?

Our country has been catching up with a lot of the world during the Covid Pandemic.  Catching up in that many people have finally had time to reflect on the meaning of life, their life.  More on that next week. 

525,600 Minutes … how will you measure this year? AND the ones that follow?

525,600 Minutes … how will you measure this year? AND the ones that follow?

Our last blog shared insights on what activities will drive the workplace of the future. That concept of a workplace poses a huge challenge for many managers out there.

A recent podcast by GBH’s Innovation Lab addressed what organizations must build as they are dismantling cube space: management skills, competency assessments, and performance reviews to match the new workplace. Leaders having trouble coping with remote working will benefit from this program’s insights offered by experts, Professor Nicholas Bloom of Stanford and Liz Fosslein, head of content at Humu. Each organization will need to study and then tailor a return to work hybrid model that fits their organization.

Quite often when we start work on a compensation project, one of the first questions we ask is the state of the performance management program. Too often we get guilty looks followed by hemming and hawing. As Covid-19 began to shut down the world, CHRC probably had a better understanding than most as to why the majority of managers in the US would be very uncomfortable with a remote workplace. The reason many leaders fall back on MBWA (management by walking around) is either because their organization does not have a robust performance management system and/or they have never been trained to manage in the first place. 

At the end of the day, remote work is here to stay, and even when it is safe enough to return to large office buildings, hybrid remote and in-office work policies must be developed thoughtfully, in conjunction with robust performance management systems, versus being allowed to regress back to the routines of the MBWA practitioners. For those who thrive working remotely, if the majority of their coworkers return to the office, it could be detrimental to their career and could have a disparate impact on certain groups of employees who gravitate towards working from home. Professor Bloom is emphatic that organizations be prescriptive about “days the senior management are at home,” to ensure that people can be in the office to truly collaborate and innovate, not merely to posture and curry favor with the boss, and “to prevent a promotional advantage and stress everyone out.”

Office of the Future? One size does NOT fit all

Office of the Future? One size does NOT fit all

This past year has turned our idea of the workplace inside out, upside down, and cattywampus. While many look at this year as productivity lost or teamwork put on pause, there’s also much to be gained from rethinking the idea of the workplace. Are people really most productive while sitting in their cubicle all day—sans distractions? Distractions happen wherever you are. Distractions used to be colleagues talking about fantasy football picks, latest cat photos, or extended group lunches. Now distractions are crying babies, Instacart deliveries, or unstable Zoom connections. There is no evidence that productivity suffers if not in the office. 

Workplace should mean just that, the place in which you do your work. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a cubicle, your kid’s room that has the best Wi-Fi, a Starbucks patio, or on a conference call in line for a COVID-19 test.  The pandemic has forced most of us to figure out where we get our BEST work done. 

As this fantastic article mentions, organizations must shift from “who” should be in an office to “what” should happen in a shared space. Client phone calls, creative brainstorming, cold calling, brief writing, Excel spreadsheeting—as we reimagine what the workplace is, let’s focus more on the quality of work and less on where the work is being done. Technology has allowed us to rewrite the entire premise of the office. As we move into a new year—and a continuously morphing workplace—management skills, competency assessments, and performance reviews must evolve to match.