Thursday, December 3, 2020


I'm coming late to this topic I guess, but a couple of friends have recently been dragooned into participation in 'leadership' training by their employers.

The courses, from what I was told, were high on affect and light on actionable content.

So, what would be the 'actionable content' on leadership?

I find John Adair's triad of Team, Individual and Task useful, and Jans' model of  Representing (role model), Relating (the 'supportive' people manager) and Running (the team). Good in an Army context, but needs to be broken down into civilian life.

So, what is 'leadership' and what are its dimensions.

Firstly, 'leading' is one of the activities of a manager. A manager has formal authority to manage a business or activity unit to achieve its mission. This covers people, purpose and production.

One of the limbs to the manager's activity is influencing people to confidently achieve their goals. How?

1. Managing the context: this involves providing information, judgement and advocacy for the unit to direct and guide staff to understand the strategy and deliver the mission.

2. Coaching staff: ensuring the right match between job and person, with a good (this varies greatly) mix of relevant challenge and routine maintenance at the limits, with the core job well defined and connected to the mission with clarity and sufficient precision to enable goals to be achieved (providing necessary resources is a component of managing, along side the 'leading' component).

3. Managed genuineness. This doesn't mean a warts and all expose. We are talking context-relevant genuineness. Honest and sufficiently open with staff and colleagues, to enable frank (and polite) conversations that honour others and self to produce mission outcomes.

What 'leaders' don't say:

  • 'don't bring me problems, bring me solutions' [sometimes you need to work up an approach with the person to help them come to new experiences]
  • 'you've got to step up' [if 'stepping up' is not happening, check your own behaviour and demonstrated attitude]
  • 'it's your baby, you fix it' [no, a team exists for mutual effectiveness, use the team both to build capability and support development - sometimes its a team of two: the manager and the staff member]

Finally, the core job of the leader: drive out fear. One of Demings 14 rules.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Manage the 'inner' stakeholders

Stakeholder management, like most things in popular literature, is often reduced to a set of rules of thumb. Often good as far as it goes, but there are some stakeholders that need extra care.

I call them the inner stakeholders.

Who are they, and how do you find them?


First, find the project sponsor. That's probably easy, but not always. The real sponsor.

Next find who the sponsor has dependency or supply relationships with.

That's them, then. These are the 'inner' stakeholders.

Because of their relationship with the sponsor, they have a stake in the project in some way. Maybe even a way they don't see or fully appreciate.

It's your job as the PM to find out what their stake is and how they conceive it.

You need to meet them and ask about the links to the project, and the links to the things and people, functions and customers, the project is linked to. The relationship of the 'stake' to the 'holder' can be a second or third-order relationship, and those relationships might then have similar links to other inner stakeholders. They all need to be found, named, and analyzed.

This is the group you need to get in a room and identify the interconnections and how their influence can be useful to the project (and therefore to them). A 'rich picture' can help do this.

Then keep them updated. Maybe weekly sometimes, maybe monthly or quarterly at others.

But keep them updated somehow, and keep your sponsor in the loop as an ally, a facilitator and a power and information broker.

No matter what. Do it.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Projects are for people

Thirty years ago I was involved in a resort project north of Sydney, overlooking a vast expanse of water. It was about 200 rooms, offered mooring for about 100 boats, included a couple of restaurants on the top level of the main building, one large enough for large functions, an 'oyster bar' to the north and a more family orientated 'Brooklyn Room' restaurant at water level.

It didn't get approval. The claim was it represented 'over-development. It was at the edge of about 20 square kilometres of bay, hundreds of hectares of virtually untouched bushland, probably hundreds of kilometres of undeveloped bush water-front. Over development?

It would have provided jobs for as many of the Brooklyn township as wanted them, provided professional opportunities in hospitality and catering, facilities management and marina services. But, forget the people who might get jobs, the people who would enjoy the resort - ranging from families to young couples to the wealthy. Forget the economic multiplier for the local economy, forget the supplier businesses in the locale. No, forget all that.

It was 'over' development, according to some planner and a local government that just liked the word 'over', I guess.

It didn't get built.

Recently a small restaurant opened on the site. It provides a small number of jobs, caters for a modest number of patrons, has a small economic footprint. Nearby is a yard for all to look down on containing uncapped waste bins, scavenger birds, waste on the ground (no paving), and tired very pedestrian outdoor areas.

Access is by a road with crumbling pavement edges and dusty shoulders (muddy in wet weather).

It could have been great, but I guess the locals put their own selfish objectives ('just leave us alone') ahead of the enjoyment and jobs for the northern outskirts of Sydney.

Development is about people. It only works if it provides value for people. Every development frustrated by bureaucratic obstruction is a blow against people, because the developer only makes a dollar if he or she meets the needs of people.

Resort site today

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Safe balustrades

A balustrade should not be confused with a hand rail. They have different functions.

A hand rail is a support, at convenient hand height, to assist someone to safely use stairs or ramps.

A balustrade is a barrier to prevent falls from heights on balconies or stairs. The effective height for a balustrade is based on a person’s centre of gravity, not their hand height.

Balustrades also play a part in preventing the discomfort and feeling of danger that some people feel at height.

A hand rail is best positioned for most people between 700mm and 900mm above floor level, or step nosing.

A balustrade at a minimum should be 1100mm high, but preferably 1200mm. At heights above two stories the balustrade should be 1300mm high.

At 1200mm falls due to pivoting around a person’s centre of gravity should be impossible; at 1300mm falls due to other factors, including accidental or intentional collisions should be largely eliminated.

 The male 95% centre of gravity is about 1100mm, based on a height of 188cms.

Below is an illustration from Sutherland Council's rules about protective railing around swimming pools and at retaining walls.


These rules  pay attention to the reality of people's height and the implications for falls prevention of the centre of gravity.

I've another piece on this topic related to high rise commercial buildings.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Project as system

The ubiquitous model of the project is the static 'triad', either mine or the unhelpful 'time cost quality/scope' abstraction.

Projects are a set of flows of information and value (effort in terms of dollars). Below I attempt to demonstrate a model of this.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The real project triad

Projects are about investing to delivery a level of performance that produces value for the investor. Everything is about this, including all trade-offs during the course of the project. It means everything flexes about value.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Project Software: what does it need to be?

Microsoft project is not project management software. It is schedule and resource software. Same for Primavera and all the other scheduling packages.

Safran Risk is not project management software; although a very important package for understanding the risk implications of schedule.

What is project management software?

This is software that manages all the information flows, project configuration, and documentation with respect to delivery, investment and performance (the real world version of time, cost and quality).

Every piece of information in a project has a number of dimensions. I'll use a big campus development as an example. Think of a new air terminal.

It has numerous buildings, areas of paving, electronic, lighting, communication and sensor systems. It accommodates land side and air side vehicular traffic. It accommodates the flow of people, cargo, supplies and traffic.

The dimensions of each piece of information about the project are:

Location: in three dimensions. A latitude and longitude, and an altitude. These can be expressed in site and building zones (taking a ground plan perspective), and floor levels vertically. At the micro level, rooms are the location. Then there are groups of rooms and types of rooms. Groups are contiguous, types are logical (and could be discontiguous). Rooms are collected into buildings, on floors and in zones of buildings. Buildings are within precincts. Civil works have zones and are also in precincts.

Element: are the logical components of a project. Building projects fall into elements that follow a typical cost estimation breakdown: at the highest level these area underfloor, superstructure, weather envelope (roof and external envelope), site works. These further subdivide, depending on the complexity of the building: internal divisions, circulation shafts (stairs, lifts, ducts), fittings, services (electrical, communications, sensor, fire, HVAC, any industrial services), the external envelope has windows, doors, attachments, etc.

Elements are represented by Systems: these are the delivery vehicles of the project and break down into sub-systems, objects, assemblies, sub-assemblies and components (here we interface with the world of BIM). They are subsumed into system sets and systems of systems.

[An example of a system breakdown: Environmental system set, HVAC system of systems, air conditioning system, air handling sub-system, air filter object, filter assembly, filter frame sub-assembly, filter barrier component. If a smaller breakdown is needed, we can use component-parts.]

Materials are next, and vary from project to project. All projects need a materials dictionary that details each material specified and its use. Working schedules (e.g. the finishes schedule) can then refer to this dictionary).

Suppliers: the firms that supply components and materials, and

Operators: the firms that install, erect or place materials and components.

All these are brought together in the Work Breakdown Structure, shown in the construction drawings, described in the construction specification and performance criteria, delivered according to the schedule.

During the project, with its tempo dictated by the schedule, every piece of information, every issue, risk and question is 'tagged' with the relevant dimensions, and from each dimension the relevant information for that dimension's member is available.

The project team can check current outstanding issues related to, say, concrete sub-structure in the N-W zone of building Z for pouring by ConretePourers P/L. with a reference to the concrete for this location in the materials dictionary.

Nothing gets lost, all information can be tracked, and tied to the WBS and schedule, cross linked to the risk breakdown structure.

Nothing is buried in separate documents that have to be individually tracked, opened, read and copied from. Everything is linked to the 3D model of the building/s in terms of the schedule and WBS.


What software to support this?

Trimble's Prolog (it used to be Meridian's Prolog), or Primavera Expedition went some way, but I know of nothing at the moment that supports this type of functionality at the level of detail I want.

For my own work I tried using Zoot, which was good, particularly for indexing documents. Right now I'm experimenting with Infoqube, which replicates aspects of EccoPro, and bears some resemblance to Lotus Agenda, which I used decades ago.

Other packages I've tried are UltraRecall and, on the Mac, Devonthink.