No Oxygen at the Top – Project Management Challenges at the Everest of Organizations

bth_everestIf you’ve ever been inside of a tin of sardines you will have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to ride the subways of Tokyo during rush hour – only in the subway the sardines are still alive. Even though we are packed together with greater intimacy than most sexual encounters, my inscrutable Japanese companions manage to wear a mask of serenity and composure. Most of my fellow riders have their eyes fixed on their mobile phones, looking up train schedules, checking email, texting their pals, or doing a little shopping on-line. These 21st century urban dwellers use their phones for everything! (I’m told that the average mobile phone purchase in Japan is over $50!) My phone works there, but it costs a bundle per minute, something approaching the cost of a college education, so I tend not to use it much. Instead, I’m looking around to see if anyone else notices that those of us fortunate enough to have a seat have our faces at crotch-level with the people standing.Continue reading

There is No "I" in TEAM

teamcircle.jpgThomas Edison, when asked why he had a team of twenty-one assistants “If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.”  Another rather amusing fellow I know said “There is no “I” in TEAM, but there is an “I” in WIN!”  Whatever your philosophy, working in a team is challenging, especially when separated by distance and time zones.  Team work requires taking into account the views of others with whom you may not agree, and working with people who may seem irritating, stubborn, or just plain sociopathic at times.  And there is always some level of conflict, which most people don’t enjoy (although some people argue for sport!), so the road of “journey shared” can be a bit rocky at times.Here are some survival tips based on my 20 years of working in teams:

AVOID TEAM WORK!

–          Well, only if you don’t NEED a team, of course!  If you can accomplish the goals without investing your time and energy into building a team, avoid working in a team.  Teams should only be used to accomplish what cannot be accomplished alone.  If you are playing a game that only a team can win, you’d better have a team!

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go with others.” – African Proverb

CHOOSE TEAMMATES CAREFULLY

–          OK, we don’t always have a choice of who’s on our team.  But, your individual success will be tied to the success of the team, so when you do have a choice, be selective in choosing teammates.  Personality clashes and lack of shared values are a recipe for lots of angst and very little progress.  I’ve quit plenty of teams, and even jobs, to escape torturous teammates.  Life is just too short!Continue reading

The Power of Negative Thinking – Engineering Management in Reverse

img_1274.JPGMost of my work revolves around the power of creating breakthroughs through extreme optimism and hideously positive thinking for which “hyperbole” simply isn’t a big enough word. I frequently rant and rave about the hazards of know-it-alls who poo-poo every idea and wield their negativity like a scythe, cutting down anything new or imaginative in its path. But the popularity of negative thinking is undeniable, and, like most veteran business leaders, I’m a pro at it. I was reminded of this when I recently received a note from a guy I used to work for at HP who, after reading my book, mused “It seems a bit cynical. Is that intentional?” Jumpin’ Geezus on a pogo stick! Yes, of course it’s intentional! Any human being who’s been a manager in the corporate world for more than a couple of hours and hasn’t become a tad cynical simply hasn’t been paying attention.

Negativity for its own sake is an annoyance at best, and a soul-sucking experience similar to what I imagine a psychic vampire would produce. But in the right hands, it’s a weapon of mass construction, freeing the mind of half-hidden dark thoughts, and an on-ramp to the superhighway of results in your business. Jump in, strap in and hold on ‘cause we’re going to take the curves up on two wheels.

Negative Thinking is Easier, I’m Positive!
Perhaps due to some quirk of evolution and slight survival advantage (my apologies to the creationists out there), human beings seem to find it easier to think of things from a negative perspective. Don’t believe anything I say, of course; check it out for yourself.
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