If this makes you angry, you are probably a loser. Never fear. If you want it, change is only a harrowing, painful journey of reflection, self-awareness and action away. Of course, a tender loser and a smug winner are equally repugnant.

From the student-facing side of a training course name toblerone at Aberdeen Drilling School, July 2013:

The winner is always part of the answer
The loser is always part of the problem
The winner always has a program
The loser always has an excuse
The winner says ‘let me do it for you’
The loser says ‘that’s not my job’
When a winner makes a mistake, he says, ‘I was wrong’
When a loser makes a mistake, he says, ‘it wasn’t my fault’
A winner says ‘I’m good, but not as good as I could be’
A loser says ‘I’m not as bad as a lot of other people’
A winner feels responsible for more than his job
A loser says, ‘I only work here’
The winner sees an answer in every problem
The loser sees a problem in every answer
The winner says ‘it may be difficult but it’s possible’
The loser says ‘it may be possible, but it’s too difficult’
A winner listens
A loser waits for his turn to talk


AuthorI.B. Simpson

Human skills, as in skills relating to dealing with self and others, or as David Fraser puts it, Relationship Mastery, (named after his book on the subject), are a nebulous, tacit grouping of hard to define, hard to explain knowledge. Or are they?

I recently co-presented a PMI event regarding project management in schools. David Fraser was the keynote speaker, and below are the notes I took during his talk.

Being very interested in how to understand and develop myself and others, his talk struck a chord with me; and so I am currently reading his book to investigate further.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

(Please feel free to share yours in the comments section of this post.)

It’s getting to that time of year where many of us will be in a post-Christmas, post-gluttonous, dazed shellshock. Where we turn our greedy eye from the pickings of Christmas’ carcass for a brief, weary stare into the near-future. For this post I give a tip of the Santa hat to Koralatov who led me to the Hacker News post on 2013 Learning that inspired me to write this.

These resolutions I am about to make; how can I stop myself forsaking them? How can they be achieved? Let’s move forward with the mindset that these resolutions are all centred around learning and developing new skills.

Forming a resolution

When setting any learning objectives I would recommend putting them to the test:

  1. Why do you want to learn it? How will it benefit you, and what will you use your new skill for, e.g., to write a book, communicate with foreign friends, or type super-fast without having to backspace every few words to correct a spelling mistake.
  2. How long will it take to learn?
  3. When will you make the time to learn it?
  4. These (one, two, and three) can be consolidated into the following question: Are your learning objectives all SMART, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound [or variations thereof]?

If your early learning objectives can’t be made to at least survive the above probing, I would suggest they be reworked or binned. The fact that every resolution you publicly announce will remain a fairly permanent testament to your future integrity invites a haunting guilt (or potentially valuable lesson) if you fail; and a prideful joy if you succeed.

My 2013 Resolutions

As an example, my 2013 personal resolutions are published below, and I invite you to do the same in the comments of this post, bookmark it and visit any time to share your progress/completion. I will be posting my updates and linking back to this post.

  1. For fun and to improve my computing skills: Learn how to use my Raspberry Pi effectively (learn linux), and put it to use at least once a month.
  2. To communicate with my in-laws better: Learn enough Farsi (Modern Persian) to have a conversation and understand the meaning of overheard conversation.
  3. To become a more effective typist: Learn to touch-type (for real) at least 70wpm with >95% accuracy by July 2013.
  4. Become a better cook: Write down, practice and commit to memory at least 20 recipes that can make-up a staple repetoir.
  5. To ultimately design and knit my own jumper: Learn the basics of knitting and knit at least five different items by June.
  6. To ultimately make my own stoneware: Learn and practice ceramics. Buy all equipment by June to begin after knitting and finishing Project Management degree.
 2013 Resolutions Gantt Chart (Milestone and Summary View)

2013 Resolutions Gantt Chart (Milestone and Summary View)

Today I learned that the so-called ‘Iron Triangle’ was invented by Dr. Martin Barnes. Therefore it should really be called the Barnes Triangle. There is an interview of him in the APM ‘magazine’ project [254] - the voice of project management - 11.2012 . I wonder why the namesake didn’t stick, as it has done with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Henry Gantt’s Gantt Chart.

The interview with Dr. Barnes was videoed and is currently (18th December 2012) available to watch (free) on the homepage of The PM Channel, as is the PMI Synergi 2011 presentation by yours truly on Project Management in SchoolsProject Management Learning in Schools (which you would have to pay to access, but is free to PMI UK Chapter members).

The problem being that there are lots of variations in the names for each element of the iron triangle, and the centre of the triangle (usually seen as time, cost, and scope with quality in the centre). The Barnes triangle has the elements time, cost, and performance, with risk in the centre. I prefer the Barnes triangle, especially as a visual metaphor where one element or ‘side’ of the triangle erodes or breaks through mismanagement and risks escape.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

Paul Naybour’s post on Combining APM, PMI and PRINCE2 into a holistic approach to project management presents a sensible discussion on the virtues and vices of only considering one approach. There are heated debates all over the world regarding which, if any, PM qualifications are valuable. PM Careers deftly surmises:

[L]ike most things in life, the greater the effort, the greater the reward […] If you are serious about your career and being the best Project Manager possible, why wouldn’t you invest some time in understanding as much about your subject as possible?”

This is very much aligned with my opinion and actions. I am completing a Masters Degree in Project Management through RGU (online distance learning over three or four academic years); I hold and maintain my PMP® credential; have attended part of a PRINCE2 course and passed the Foundation Exam (unfortunately I could not attend the whole week to also sit the Practitioner paper due to work commitments, but I will return to it); and as part of my MSc course I sat an invigilated exam which was a replica of the APMP exam, but not party to AMPG marking.

I am currently testing my belief that project management learning in schools would be beneficial for everyone, providing the key to unlocking and developing many life skills. Since April 2011, I have led and collaborated with other leaders in the conducting of several pilots with local primary and secondary schools, and continue to do so. My thesis and subsequent related papers are the tactics I use to form a body of discussion, evidence and literature towards fulfilling the aims of a vision that came to me in a dream during the winter of 2010.

With Paul Muad'Dib as my imaginary mentor, for reasons best explained by reading Ben Thomson’s explicit and uproarious proclamation of Paul Maud'Dib as Badass of the Week; along with real-life mentors, colleagues, and friends; a thirst for knowledge; and a compulsion to share and help society: I am confident in succeeding here and encouraging others to do so to.

Do you want to know more?

The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from Dune, by Frank Herbert, via Dawn Ardent:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Fear is an internal force that acts against your best intentions. It cannot be killed, but it can be fought, on a daily basis. Fear wields arms such as procrastination, laziness and depression that will thrash wildly to stop you from doing what you know to be necessary, or what you truly love. Fear is out to get you; to dominate and suppress you; to break your commitments and promises.

But fear comes from within. So why is it part of us? A scum that cannot be skimmed or conquered. It is perhaps a necessary byproduct of our perception, critical thinking and decision making functions. Fear may be a basic and primal survival mechanism. Definitely, it has borne me through some difficult times (via a state of unthinking autopilot).

Surviving and living are very different. The former requires submission to fear and a miserable, hollow life. The latter requires a control of fear, and —I think— a curiosity and thirst for new experiences and challenges. Living is growing. Surviving is entropy and death.

When you feel the desperate, smothering blackness of fear all around you, recall the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear. Think it, say it, shout it, scream it out. Whatever it takes. Then do something about it.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

The best time to influence a project is at the beginning. As the project is executed, changes take more effort -in every aspect-, impacting the Iron Triangle (cost, time and scope ).

And so it is with knowledge: If you could know at age 11 what you know now, you’d be better prepared for the world, and more able to hit the ground running.

Being taught and comprehending the concepts of Project Management at age 11 would be a boon to anyone.

Imagine applying that knowledge to the following: studying for exams; getting involved in the community; evaluating how to spend your pocket money; better still, evaluating how to make more pocket money.

Then imagine having the tools and techniques to successfully do all of this and more at your command.

I wish I had been taught project management skills at that age. But what can I do? Well…I can help to bring this knowledge to children by delivering a teaching pack with lesson plans and all the information to every school in Scotland, through the Curriculum for Excellence.

I am developing this project right now, and if you would like to get involved, either in helping build this, or if you are in the education system and would like to support this cause, then please contact me.

Project Management is a Life Skill.

AuthorI.B. Simpson

Everett Bogue is a professional writer of books and Letters. His work includes:

  • Augmented Reality [2011] (book)
  • Minimalist Business [2010] (book)
  • How to Create a Movement [2010] (book, now free)
  • Far Beyond The Stars [2009–2011] (blog)

Here is the interview with Everett Bogue. Thanks to Everett for his time and responses.

Iain Simpson: You don’t have any rigidly defined structure to your life; no mortgage payments, no traditional job or accompanying schedule so you can dedicate as much time as you want to your projects. With lots of unstructured time, it’s always tempting to put things off, and a lot of people find it easier to stay focussed with limited time to work in. This is especially true of larger projects. When you work on larger projects like your books how do you manage your time and objectives?

Everett Bogue: How do I manage unstructured time? That's a great question. It goes back to what you mentioned in the beginning of the question. I've made the conscious decision to watch the obligations that I create in my life: no house, no car, I untethered from my day job.

This leaves me with a nearly completely open schedule to do anything that I want to do.

With every empty space I create, something else fills the vacuum. The trick is to watch what I'm filling that space with. If I've eliminated a distraction, am I filling empty space with another distraction?

There's no clear path to the end goal here. I'm never done with the writing or the books. Both are constantly evolving as I move through the world.

What I do is hit publish when the time is right. For larger book projects, I've set deadlines in the past. The current book doesn't have an end point yet ??" because I'm not convinced books will ever be done. We're living in the age of post-artifact publishing.

IS: What techniques do you use to eliminate waste (unproductive time) from your workflow?

EB: My #1 technique is not working when nothing is coming. If I'm not writing anything important, I'll turn off the computer and go enjoy the summer sun. I'll take a walk. I'll go to a yoga class.

After I've been out in the world, the work comes easily. There is little waste.

IS: For smaller, single-objective projects, like your Letters and blog posts, do you employ any different project and time management techniques?

EB: First I write, I don't worry about whether I'll publish or not. I'll write for 40 or an hour.

Then I look at what I've written, and I ask: is this anything?

If yes, I go through every single line and ask: “why?” of every single line.

Once I see there aren't any obvious questions, I'm ready to publish.

IS: How do you typically conceive and execute projects specifically, what if any planning do you do in advance of starting them?

EB: It's impossible for me to know what a finished project will look like when I start, so I don't pretend to know. I go in with a flashlight, exploring what every edge looks like. The planning is that I know my work has to happen every day. At a certain point I look back at what I've done and say “oh, I've created something great.” and hit publish.

IS: Any other good advice on time and project management for those thinking of taking the plunge into freeform, schedule-free living?

EB: The hardest element, for me, is continually untethering from distractions. It's so tempting to fill empty time with TV, with Instagr.am, Twitter, or booze. Everything that isn't the work is a distraction. Yes, it's so much easier to get endlessly distracted.

AuthorI.B. Simpson