April 2018 - Tips and Discussions


    Quote:"Those who tell the stories rule the world” – Native American Proverb

    -  Toastmaster International's "90 Tips From 90 Years"

    25. Ask a thought-provoking question. Capture the audience’s attention by asking a question they may not know the answer to. For example, “Do you know why the sky is blue? It’s a question many kids ask their parents as kids, and I’m honestly not sure I could explain it without a Google search. But I do know what will turn the sky from blue to grey, and that’s pollution.”

    Let's go hit the Rock.

    UH Basketball Coach Kelvin Samson tells his assistants this after every staff meeting. This comes from a story told by Jacob A. Riis, "A stonecutter hammers away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.  Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two. It was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."

    Remember: “Regular planning is critical for any operation, but preparedness and persistence are even more important than the best plan”.

    5 Words to Make You More Persuasive

    Clarity, Brevity, Context, Impact, Value

    1.       If it is not clear, the Audience will not be persuaded.
    2.       If your audience is waiting for you to get to the point, the audience will not be persuaded.
    3.       If the relevance to the audience is not obvious, the audience will not be persuaded.
    4.       If there is no impact, and the audience cannot remember what you said, they will not be persuaded.
    5.       If there is no value, and the speaker only communicates from his/her own perspective, the audience will not be persuaded.

    Is Your Voice Being Counted?

    Try these methods (Insteads) for interrupting politely. 

    •         Instead of cutting someone off, say: Please excuse me, or Let me interrupt for just a moment.
    •         Instead of correcting someone, try saying: I understand your concern or viewpoint, but perhaps we can look at it differently.
    •         Instead of totally ignoring what someone is saying, acknowledge or expand on it: As Brian just said, we can do this . . . or What do you think if we also did such and such?
    •         Instead of not responding or not speaking up because you aren’t sure what to say, look for opportunities to ask a question or to clarify, which will help you be heard.
    •         Instead of burying your head in your notes or your phone, make eye contact with the person leading the meeting or gently hold up a hand to signal you’d like to say something.


    -“5 Words” Excerpted from Toastmaster magazine, March 2018, authored by Dean Brenner; www.TheLatimerGroup.com

    -“Insteads” Excerpted from Toastmaster magazine, March 2018, authored by Karen Friedman, author of Shut Up and Say Something


    You can learn more about telling your stories at a Project Management Toastmasters Club! 

    Project Management Toastmasters clubs are open to all, but members are predominately professional project managers. Houston Area Project Management Toastmasters Clubs are sponsored by PMI Houston and aligned with the goals of PMI International.   Certified PMPs receive Professional Development Units (PDUs) for participation. 

    Project Management Planning

    Keith Willeford, PMI Houston Content Writer

    I have recently been tasked with developing a global software implementation plan for a very large corporation.  I will not write this plan alone, but the job is nonetheless daunting.  In a fit of desperation, I have found myself flipping through old military publications looking for help.  Most of my attention has been directed to Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 5 (MCDP 5), appropriately titled “Planning.”  

    What follows are some of the more interesting passages from this brief document.  Consider it a book report, if you will.  I will interject my own thoughts where I can, considering the ways military planning can be applied to project management.  First, let’s start with the military definition of planning:

    Planning is the art and science of envisioning a desired future and laying out effective ways of bringing it about… Planning involves projecting our thoughts forward in time and space to influence events before they occur rather than merely responding to events as they occur.  (MCDP 5, 3-4)

    So far so good.  We plan as project managers in order to shape events on our projects.  In the case of my current project, we are attempting to guide the software implementation efforts of several far-flung and vastly different business units.  However, there is no way I can anticipate every circumstance these businesses will encounter.  And, you may recall from a previous article the Helmuth von Moltke quote, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”  So what am I even doing?

    In that previous article, I brought up the von Moltke quote to make the case for “project manager’s intent.”  But what I now find interesting is the way the functions of planning are described by the Marine Corps.  According to MCDP 5, the key functions of planning are:

    •         Plans direct and coordinate action
    •         Planning develops a shared situational awareness
    •         Planning generates expectations
    •         Planning supports the exercise of initiative
    •         Planning shapes the thinking of planners (15-17)

    What’s interesting to me is the lack of emphasis on absolute control.  Obviously, military planners do expect to exercise control over their forces.  However, there is an explicit admission that the planning process is iterative, and the plans themselves subject to change.  Consider this passage: “…we can also think of planning as anticipatory decisionmaking – tentative decisions made before the need to act… a plan is a system of interrelated decisions subject to revision, and decisions are plans put into effect.”  (14).

    Okay, I’m starting to feel a little bit better about this whole thing.  We don’t have to have all the answers, nor control every organizational action.  We do, however, need to provide the framework for achieving our desired goals.  What will that look like?  Consider the following guidance:

    Each plan should have a desired outcome, which includes the intent (purpose) for achieving that outcome. (48)

    Every plan includes the actions intended to achieve the desired outcome. (49)

    A plan should include some control process by which we can supervise execution. (49)

    When it comes to simplicity and complexity, the needs of executors and planners may sometimes be in conflict.  Given time to plan, planners may naturally tend to develop increasingly complex plans with numerous decision points, branches, or phases… However, the needs of execution are usually better served by simplicity. (53)

    The object of planning… is to provide the maximum degree of freedom for future action. (79)

    As valuable as plans may be, the process of planning matters more because of the learning and shared understanding that result… Consequently, “planning cannot be done to or for an organization; it must be done by it. (84)

    Effective planners do not so much plan for others as they facilitate others’ planning for themselves by providing the necessary guidance, context, and resources. (84)

    Participatory planning requires open sharing of information throughout the organization.  It cannot be done in isolation. (84)

    Directives should convey the minimum amount of instruction necessary for effective execution. (89)

    If I could have re-typed all 92 pages of the book, I might have done just that.  But by now, everyone probably has sufficient food for thought.  Over the next month, I will attempt to incorporate this guidance into my own implementation plan. 

    The good news: I’m off the hook for trying to anticipate all variables and write a complex plan to address each one.  The bad news: in some ways the job is more difficult – we need to distill the plan down to the minimum instruction necessary, and still ensure project success.  Does anyone have best practices for eliminating flowery and redundant corporate speech?