Category Archives: Thoughts & Musings

Personal thoughts and musings on a variety of subjects

Just for the record – Climate science pre-dates the UN and modern China!

Global Temperature

Global Temperature

In developing a theory to explain the ice ages, Svante August Arrhenius (1859 – 1927), a Nobel-Prize winning Swedish scientist developed the formula that is still used to predict the effect of greenhouse gasses.

In 1896, he was the first to use basic principles of physical chemistry to estimate the extent to which increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) will increase Earth’s surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. These calculations led him to conclude that human-caused CO2 emissions, from fossil-fuel burning and other combustion processes, are large enough to cause global warming. 120 years later some idiots still seem to think the concept is a ‘hoax’.

Even earlier, French scientist Claude Pouillet made the first estimate of the solar constant in 1838 and concluded the temperature experienced on the earth’s surface was much higher than could be explained by the sun’s radiation alone and suggested the atmosphere must provide some form of insulation. Arrhenius confirmed this hypothesis and identified the primary cause of the warming effect.

Ethics and sustainability

Building ethics and sustainability into a project does not limit its success; in fact the reverse is often true. London’s Crossrail project is turning into an outstandingly successful project despite numerous challenges including finding hundreds of skeletal remains from the Black Death in the excavation for one of its major stations.  One can only hope Melbourne’s Metrorail project to construct a similar heavy rail tunnel under the CBD is as successful.

One factor in the Crossrail success has been the focus of the UK government on developing the skills needed to manage major infrastructure projects focused on the Major Projects Authority. This multi-year investment links proactive oversight and reporting, with research, support and training designed to create an organic capability to make major projects work (more on this later). Another is being prepared to ‘think outside of the square’ to solve major challenges – the focus of this post.

The challenge faced by Crossrail (and to a lesser extent Metrorail) is what to do with millions of tonnes of excavated materials when your project is situated under a major city??  The Crossrail solution has been innovative and coincidentally focused on restoring the environment of my youth.

Wallasea Island unloading wharf

Wallasea Island unloading wharf

Tidal marshlands may not be the scenery of choice for many but the marshes do have a fascination for those of us who grew up playing in and around them. My home and Charles Dickens 150 years earlier were the North Kent marshes.

Pip at the start of Great Expectations: “Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea…”  and elsewhere “The dark flat wilderness, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it… the low leaden line of the river… and the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, the sea…”

The landscape is not quite as bleak as it was (but still comes close in winter). The marshes have been drained and there are hops and orchards where there would once have been a windswept wilderness. But the Kent that Dickens knew can still be glimpsed if you know where to look, including the graves where Pip was first confronted by Magwitch in St. James’ churchyard at Cooling.

Seals at Wallasea Island

Seals at Wallasea

However, what may be seen as less than desirable real-estate to people not born on or near the marshes is essential habitat for a vast range of migratory birds and native wildlife.  Unfortunately, in the 150 years since Dickens, the draining, farming and urbanisation of the lands around the Thames and Medway estuaries has destroyed much of this valuable habitat. But the tide is turning.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has been on the campaign trail for the last 30 years to re-establish the marshlands in North Kent and Essex.  One of their earlier successes was to convert the industrial landscape of the Cliffe marshes (my home village) into Cliffe Pools.

Cliffe Pools before the RSPB project

Cliffe Pools before the RSPB project

The chalk hills and clay marshes were home to whiting works from the early 1700s and Portland cement works from 1866. Several years after the last of the factories finally closed, the flooded quarries used to dredge clay and some of the former industrial sites were brought by the RSPB and are now a steadily improving wildlife reserve.

Cliffe Pools after the RSPB project

Cliffe Pools after the RSPB project

On the other side of the Thames, the RSPB and Crossrail have combined in to create a new marshland on a massively larger scale.  Wallasea Island in Essex is an on-going project that has used 3 million tonnes of clay from the Crossrail excavations to start the transformation of drained farmland into coastal wetlands and marshes.  Another 10 million tonnes will be required to complete future stages of the project.  The drained farmland was several meters below the high tide level, protected by sea walls (and under increasing threat from rising sea levels); coastal marshes need to be a bit above sea level. Massive amounts of fill were required for the ‘wild coast project’.

Crossrail solved their problem of ‘what to do with millions of tonnes of excavated spoil’ by shipping the materials to Wallasea Island and working with the RSPB to transform the area. A win-win outcome Crossrail were able to use costal shipping to remove the clay from London minimising road haulage and carbon emissions, and they avoided tipping costs from commercial landfill sites. 80% of the materials were transported by water or rail on a tonne per kilometer basis. The RSPB got a head start on a major project to reinstate a major area of coastal marshland and 1000s of birds are getting a new home.

E+S-5

When completed in 2025, the project will have created 148 hectares of mudflats, 192 hectares of saltmarsh, and 76 acres of shallow saline lagoons.

Wallasea Island is a work in progress, but with at least two major tunnelling projects in London still to come, the Thames Tideway sewage scheme and Crossrail2, and the infrastructure in place to take the excavated spoil completion of this project seems likely.

E+S-6

What is of importance form the perspective of this post is the Crossrail project is 65% complete and on time and on budget – being environmentally friendly and effective are not incompatible!  It will be interesting to see what the Metrorail project does with its excavated spoil.

The100 Most Inspiring People in Project Management

RecognitionTimeCamp, the developers of TimeCamp online time tracking software that measures time spent on projects and tasks has created a list of the 100 Most Inspiring People in Project Management; congratulations to many friends and colleagues who’ve made the list.

While we’re not sure of the process used to develop the list (the links are mainly to Twitter), it’s great to see Lynda at #12!  And it’s good to know her work promoting stakeholder engagement, effective communication and team development is being recognised globally.

A New Force in ADR.

leadr-IAMA

At the beginning of 2015, Australia’s two major organisations focused on delivering ADR services merged.  LEDAR was the larger of the two with a strong emphasis on mediation and conciliation.  IAMA (Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators Australia) was the older body with a history based in Arbitration and Expert Determination, more recently expanded to include Adjudication and Mediation.

Merger talks had occupied the latter part of 2014, culminating in a large majority of the members of both organisations approving the merger which was formalised by the merger and then the hard work of integration began…… A ‘working name’ of LEADR&IAMA was adopted for the merged entity until a process to define a new brand image for the organisation could be worked through.

As readers of this blog will now one of our major themes is stakeholder engagement, change management and communication.  I must say, for an organisation that largely consists of lawyers, augments with engineers, builders and assorted mediators from many disciplines the path to a new name and brand image has been remarkably well managed.

For any organisation, its name and logo are cornerstones of presenting professionally and connecting business, government and the broader community with its members. Dispute resolution through any of the options offered by the merged entity is no different. But rather than jumping to a ‘name’, the board took its members on a journey to find a name that will enable the organisation to promote excellence in dispute resolution and provide an identity for members, the organisation and current and future clients. Professional help was engaged from Uberbrand to help on the journey.

The Board began by brainstorming and collecting 34 different potential names, some contributed by members (including a couple from me). When reviewed, the 34 names varied in their relevance, their effectiveness in conveying the function and purpose of the organisation and their potential appeal to members, the public and allow an appropriate domain name (URL) to be registered.

The next step was a survey of the joint membership looking at opportunities, values and services and growth opportunities. The survey encouraged involvement in the process as well as helping derive a consensus.

From all of this input, the Board members distilled core features of the organisation as follows:

Our members

  • Have extraordinary depth and range of experience and expertise
  • Work across the full suite of dispute resolution types
  • Have reputation, influence and status
  • Are highly professional

Our values

  • Integrity
  • Innovation
  • Excellence
  • Collaboration
  • Diversity

Our methods

  • We champion the practice of dispute resolution
  • We support members
  • We promote excellence in dispute resolution

Our purpose

  • Through our members, we provide people with the means to resolve disputes

Our aspiration

  • For people to think of the members of our organisation
  • For resolution to be embedded in the way that people settle disputes, manage conflicts, make decisions and grow collaborative relationships

From all of this the new name and logo emerged:

Resolution-Institute_Logo_Horizontal_RGB

The name Resolution Institute was chosen for the following reasons:

  • the name as a whole, focuses current and future users of dispute resolution to think highly of our members, and conveys the gravitas of both resolution and of the people, our members, who practise dispute resolution
  • it contributes to ‘resolution’ being fundamental to the way people settle disputes, manage conflicts, make decisions and grow collaborative relationships
  • the word “institute”  encompasses different features of the organisation. Its meanings include, an organisation that is established to promote a cause and also that delivers educational programs. The Board noticed that it is also sometimes used by not-for-profit organisations which have a membership base. In addition, the word “institute” connotes gravitas. For these reasons, the Board chose this word, rather than others such as “association”, “society” or “council”.

The logo was chosen as it represents coming to a resolution from different starting points. The arcs, as parts of a circle, suggest inclusiveness and belonging. As well as resonating with our values:

  • the pattern of woven lines reflects collaboration
  • the colours represent diversity
  • the modern, forward movement conveys innovation
  • the clean crisp lines align with integrity, and
  • the blend of colours on a clear white background suggest excellence.

The dinner to celebrate IAMA’s 40th anniversary in a couple of weeks time will be an interesting transition celebrating 40 years of history (for me 30 years of membership), the passing of IAMA and the opening up of a new and interesting future in the development of ADR in Australia. There’s certainly a new and distinctive ‘brand’ in the marketplace.

The re-branding work has a way to go,  contact details:

Two passing thoughts

The first thought is around the intransigence of some people.  Whilst a stubborn willingness to ‘be successful’ at all costs can be a virtue, this determination has to be balanced with pragmatism.  The folly of a Pyrrhic victory has been recognised for millennia; but we still see leaders, managers and individuals who simply cannot see the virtue in compromise and ultimately knowing when its time to lose.

Don Quix Idiott

Our government’s ridiculous stand against renewable energy and a whole range of people’s opposition to the concept of climate change is one example. Another is the range of people opposing gay marriage and other largely unstoppable social trends based on their beliefs.

No one is suggesting the opponents to these social trends need to change their behaviours but by fighting to impose their doctrine on others, which is not accepted by a vast and growing majority, simply causes unnecessary pain and suffering all round.  Three key Christian doctrines are firstly ‘love thy neighbour (as they are)’, second set a good example (and encourage other to follow you), and third allow God to judge the ‘quick and the dead’ – mere mortals can never understand the ways of the Lord and cannot judge others. Notwithstanding these basic tenets of the Christian faith, watch a whole lot of people misuse Christianity to tell others how they should live their lives and then become bitter when the inevitable happens and they lose the ‘fight’ after causing a huge amount of unnecessary damage. The art of leadership is to commit you followers to fights they can win, and where winning is worth the cost.

The flip side of this proposition is great leaders and managers also know when to lose and how to lose gracefully. This was the theme of our paper: Know when to lose.

On a lighter subject, I turned 65 this week and the powers that determine UCT kindly decided to increase the duration of my birthday by an additional second, making the day one of the longest in the modern era.  I’m not sure I particularly noticed the extra second but it’s nice to know it was there.  If you are interested in the journey to precisely accurate calendars the story is at: The origin of calendars.

History of PM in Australia

Lessons-from-HistoryI’m pleased to announce the publication of the AIPM web portal outlining the history of project management in Australia and the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM). Hopefully the site, as launched today, will be the foundation for developing a comprehensive ‘living source’ of information on our history and the on-going development of AIPM and the project management profession.

I was able to contribute to this initiative in two ways, firstly Mosaic was one of the commercial sponsors who helped fund this important work, secondly after the passing of my friend, and inveterate hoarder, Brian Doyle, several years ago I inhered a large box of old paperwork stored by Brian over the decades (on the basis I have an abiding interest in the history of project management).

Once I was aware of the AIPM history project, a careful sorting of the papers uncovered many original documents from Brian’s time as the Founding Secretary of the then PMF (now AIPM).  I’m pleased to say these papers are now part of the AIPM archive.

Why does this matter??  My belief is no practice can evolve into a well rounded profession without a good understanding of its origins and development. Project Management is starting to emerge as a distinct profession and being aware of our history and the development of ‘modern project management’ is a key underpinning of that journey towards becoming a fully recognised profession, supported by a distinct academic discipline.

My hope is the other major institutions world-wide such as the APM (UK) and PMI (USA) follow suite and not only record their history and make it easily available, but also establish proper archives so these documents and interviews are retained for use by future researchers.

History is always an interpretation of information – current interpretations (including mine) are always subject to review and challenge and having access to first hand accounts and original documents will enable this process to continue into the future.

The AIPM’s newly minted web portal is at https://www.aipm.com.au/resources/history-of-pm-in-australia

My contributions towards documenting the broader sweep of project, and project controls, history is at: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PM-History.html

PMBOK Health Warning

Health Warning:  Do not attempt to read the PMBOK and drive!

Animal tests undertaken by Mosaic show that reading a single chapter of the PMBOK can induce a state ranging from drowsiness to deep sleep; with the effect on younger animals being significant.

PMBOK-Health-2

Similar effects have been observed from exposure to PMP training materials in the office……

PMBOK-Health-3

As a result of these and other ‘real world’ observations, we recommend any prolonged exposure to the PMBOK and any associated training materials be restricted to either the safety of your own home, or a carefully controlled classroom environment under the supervision of a qualified trainer.

Notes:

  1. No cats were injured during this study.
  2. Dr. Lynda Bourne is currently part of the PMI core team developing the 6th Edition of the PMBOK, due for publication in Dec. 2016.
  3. We have designed our courses to minimise the effects identified in this study.
    1. For more on our classroom training see:  http://www.mosaicproject.com.au/
    2. For more on our Mentored email training see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-Mentored.html
  4. Apart from Note 2, this post is simply a gratuitous excuse to publish some really cute cat pictures sourced from: http://pulptastic.com/29-photos-cats-sleeping-weirdest-places-positions/  we hope you enjoy the other 26 pictures.
  5. This post was originally published in 2014  – it seemed too good to ignore on the 1st April 🙂

Take the time to be creative

Smell the dasiesOne of the most overlooked aspects of creativity and learning is simply taking the time needed to reflect and think.  Professor Manfred Kets De Vries suggests that the fast paced, continuous access, instant response culture we operate in is eroding people’s ability to reflect and create innovative solutions to problems.  The pressure to ‘just finish this’ or ‘find out about (and hit Google on your smart phone)’ is usually too great to resist. But working quicker and harder is not necessarily working smarter.

De Vries believes that deliberately slowing down  and setting aside regular periods of ‘constructively doing nothing’ may be the best thing  you can do to induce a state of mind that nurtures imagination, creativity, and improves your mental well-being, by giving ideas time to mature.

“Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous” – Confucius

Business may be all pervasive, almost everyone seems glued to their PDA and feels compelled to respond to virtually every email received instantaneously but being busy and being effective are not the same thing unless you work in a customer service or support role!

If you are in a management, problem solving, or creative role a significant part of your job is developing new ideas or concepts that have been though through  and optimised. This requires thinking time.  But is creatively doing nothing really acceptable? Most of us feel guilty if we don’t have something to do, and we get a buzz when we feel really busy. And these busy behaviours generate their own reward by stimulating the brain to shoot dopamine into the bloodstream giving us a rush that can make stopping being busy so much harder. It really is nice to feel wanted, busy and in demand.

The problem with being busy is that if you don’t allow yourself periods of uninterrupted, freely associated, thought then personal growth, insight and creativity are less likely to emerge. And taking the time to ‘smell the daisies’ has multiple benefits……

The world of multitasking and hyperactivity helps us to delude ourselves that we are productive. The reality is that social media is reactive and not very original. It contracts creativity and can impact mental health. If we don’t know how to calibrate the balance between action and reflection we may become a casualty of information overload and psychological burnout.

Similarly, in many contemporary organisations work addicts are encouraged and rewarded; the behaviour is superficially useful to the organisation. Unfortunately, a workaholic environment can contribute to serious personal and mental health problems including low morale, depression, and above average absenteeism. The most effective knowledge workers are those who can both act and reflect, which means unplugging themselves from the compulsion to keep busy.

Deliberately doing nothing creates valuable opportunities for unconscious thought processes. Unconscious thought excels at integrating and associating information; we are less constrained by conventional associations and more likely to generate novel ideas. As well as being good for our mental health, doing nothing may turn out to be the best way to resolve complex problems.  Italian painter Giorgio Vasari summed it up well when he said “Men of genius sometimes accomplish most when they work least”.

Some of the ways you can create time for reflection include:

  1. Maintaining your relationships. We all need meaningful contact with people to feel fully alive. Maintaining our relationships needs interaction, engagement and time out from work. Conversation is also a powerful stimulant for creativity (just make sure you have a notebook handy).
  2. Saying No. Being able to say no is a key skill. Simply saying no to unimportant requests can free up time for more important things (see more on personal time management).
  3. Managing your sleep habits. In a perfect world we should all sleep around eight hours a night. Good sleep is essential for personal growth and creativity.

The challenge with taking time out to be creative is the good ideas always come ‘from nowhere’, usually at the most inappropriate moments (eg, in the shower). If this happens to you, you are not alone; from Archimedes in his bath, to Newton in his Lincolnshire garden (but no ‘apple’), brilliant ideas just seem to just appear. So the final element in creatively doing nothing is being able to trap your ideas when they surface.

ProductivityIn summary, a walk around outside or time spent with your feet on the desk can be more productive than working through a lunch-break – now all you have to do is convince the boss.

For a different take on productive laziness see: http://www.thelazyprojectmanager.com/

Technology and management

As many readers of this blog know, I am interested in history focused on understanding how the professional discipline of project management has evolved over the years. But digging into the history of project management inevitable involves the history of management and the evolution of technology.  And one immutable fact is that every new technology and every new idea creates winners and losers. The new ‘thing’ is implemented using project management processes and overall society benefits. The current collection of ‘history papers’ are freely available for downloading at: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PM-History.html

One of the key papers is The Origins of modern PM, this paper takes a brief look (page 8 on) at the evolution of management theories .compared to the waves of innovation that drove the ‘industrial revolution’ and advancements in society through to the modern times.

Innovation2

Fighting advances in technology is pointless, as the Luddites discovered.  The origin of the name Luddite is uncertain, a popular theory is that the movement was named after Ned Ludd, a youth who allegedly smashed two stocking frames in 1779, and whose name had become emblematic of machine destroyers. What is certain is the Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labour-replacing machinery from 1811 to 1817. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work. What actually happened was the rise of the UK Midlands into an industrial powerhouse. There were winners, losers, and exploitation but overall the changes in society were to the general good.

What is not realised in the current debate around global warming and coal is that electricity produced in coal fires powers stations is a straightforward extension of steam power that came to dominance in the 1840s and is as inefficient as any other steam powered engines. What the electrical distribution system does is allow the energy derived from burning the coal to be transferred to remote locations ‘away from the fire’ for use as needed. It is convenient and electricity fuelled the next wave of innovation, but is also inefficient.

The typical thermal efficiency for utility-scale electrical generators is around 33% for coal fired plants, 66% of the energy in the coal is wasted Then an additional 30% to 40% of the power is then lost in the transmission from the power station to the consumers (mostly in local distribution, the main grid only loses between 5% and 8% of the power).  The net result only about 25% of the thermal value of the coal is available in your home or business!

This gross inefficiency is only affordable because the industry does not have to pay to clean up its pollution; most of the waste is simply discharged to the atmosphere. The raw material is not particularly safe either; around 5000 people per year are killed mining coal.

Much of the innovation driving the sustainability curve focuses on a changed paradigm. Generating energy close to where its needed using renewable energy sources. Solar hot water units generate hot water on your roof – no transmission losses. Solar voltaic cells do the same for electricity – managed properly its cost effective, for 6 months of the year we hardly need any power from the grid, winter is a different story……

Other innovations include various wind, and other generation processes that create power close to where its needed as well as renewable base load capabilities; all that is needed is the critical mass to make the technology cost effective (ie, cheap) and leadership for government to manage the changes and help the industries and people on the ‘losing’ side of the equation and plot a path into an exciting future, particularly for skilled project professionals.  As the Luddites discovered, fighting to defend a losing technology is a guaranteed way to ensure you lose.

Unfortunately, I’m still wondering when the Luddites in Canberra are going to realise the burning of coal to create pressurised steam is an invention of the 18th century, which largely replaced water power as the energy source of choice. And, that after 300 years the world is moving forward but Tony Abbot and a range of other backward looking ‘conservatives’ want to keep dragging us back into the past.

Australia needs leaders in Canberra and our State capitals, not Luddites – fighting to preserve 18th century power source in the 21st century is guaranteed to fail eventually. And what is going to be lost focusing on the past is the opportunities to gain from the emerging technologies, a lose-lose outcome.

A well planned and executed change paradigm exploits the strengths of existing capabilities, encourages the development of new innovations and manages the transition to the future whilst minimising the losses. This transition is good for project management but cannot happen without effective leadership.

PMI’s Voices on Project Management Blog has moved

PMI Voices BlogI’ve been a regular contributor to PMI’s Voices on Project Management blog for many years.  Its old home was hidden in the depths of www.pmi.org.  Following PMI’s purchase of www.projectmanagement.com (the old ‘Gantt Head’), the ‘voices’ have moved to join a number of other themed blogs on the site.

The site is open to everyone, you need to register to post comments and download, but reading is free and unrestricted.

My first post in this new location is Influence Without Authority. You can read the post at http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/11149/pmi  and then explore the rest of the site.