Rush: What Drives You?

I recently watched Rush, the Ron Howard directed movie about two fierce race car drivers in the 1970’s. The biographical movie focuses on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, whose rivalry started in Formula Three racing and continued into Formula One. I’m no movie critic, but the movie is a must watch as far as I’m concerned, whether you’re a racing fan or not. The dynamics between the two drivers is a wonderful study in competition and what drives (no pun intended) people to succeed.

I began to think about what motivates individuals, as well as companies, to strive to be the best in their field. Hunt and Lauda drove each other to be world champion drivers. Whether they liked each other or not, they had nothing but respect when it came to being on the course. As Lauda said, “On the track Hunt was a tough competitor. “There are good drivers and bad ones and then there are the really talented ones who are difficult to beat and James was one of them. We respected each other very much because in the old days, to drive 300 kilometers an hour side by side towards a corner, if someone makes a mistake, one or both are killed. Hunt was someone you could rely on to be really precise.”
The same motivation exists for companies. At Steelray, we want to be best in our field and we are driven by competition. We are always looking to create ‘leapfrog’ design and functionality in our products. We want to be known as the company to turn to for viewing, analyzing and understanding project data.

In Rush, both drivers start out in Formula Three and eventually move up to Formula One. This is similar to playing minor league baseball and moving up to the major leagues. There are many companies that are considered tier two or three contractors, and their motivation is grow to be a prime contractor, or play ball at the major league level. But what motivates a company to grow to be a prime contractor? Do they look at their competitors and want to leapfrog them in terms of functionality? Can they create a better product for less money? Are they driven by revenue? My guess is that they look at a competitor and say ‘We can deliver a better product than they can.’
Think about what drives you. Is it someone at work that you respect but want to get the next promotion before them? Do you want to be known as the subject matter expert, the person people go to for answers? I believe that personal competition is a wonderful thing – as long as the respect is shown.

How to Respond to HeartBleed

I’ve done a good bit of reading on the major security vulnerability called “HeartBleed.”  Without going into the technical details, I can tell you two things: it is truly a major breach, and it’s likely that your usernames and passwords are out there for the taking by hackers and organized crime.  You’re probably going to see a deluge of emails about it from your banks, your email provider, and many websites that hold your security data.  Some of the press will over-sensationalize the event, and some will minimize the impact; whatever makes news.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but you should all change all of your passwords, and the sooner the better.


If you’re like a lot of people, your passwords aren’t that tough to guess; a variant on English words or names, not long enough. That little trick you use where you substitute numbers for letters isn’t going to cut it anymore.  Password cracking software tries that trick as well.  I’ve always heard the best passwords use an acronym that is easy to remember, like “My first grade teacher was Mrs. Golden.” (mfgtwmg)  And while that is better than what most people do, it’s not very effective to choose one or two of those and then use them everywhere.

The problem with using the same few passwords everywhere is that your security system is equal to the weakest link. How do `you know that the website you logged onto once several years ago wasn’t written by a 15 year old as a math project?  It’s the Internet; you cannot know who to trust.

The time has come to grow up.  Use a password generator to come with tough passwords like “y3+U#”_TTB[6L_N”, and never use the same password twice.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I will never remember a password like that!” and “You are  %$#@*& crazy if you think I am typing that in. Ever.

Yeah, yeah, me too.  The good news is that you hardly ever have to type passwords in.  Password managers will do that for you, and when they don’t, there’s always copy/paste.

Last year I started using a free tool called LastPass.  LastPass is a password manager.  If you haven’t used it or a similar product, it’s time you did.  Use LastPass to generate really good passwords for you, and LastPass will fill them in for you on web forms.  And, in cases where LastPass doesn’t fill in a password automatically, you can open the LastPass vault and copy/paste the password yourself.  No typing.  It’s all there in the toolbar of your web browser.

I have no affiliation with LastPass; I’m just a satisfied user.  I’ll also mention that LastPass used extra layers of security, so their data was never vulnerable to HeartBleed.

You’ll only have to remember one strong password – the one that unlocks LastPass.  Make that a good one, and you’re a lot safer going forward.

LastPass also supports fingerprint readers, so keep that in mind the next time you purchase a laptop;  they’re a very inexpensive add-on on a lot of models. I rarely have to type in my LastPass password; I just swipe my finger.

The Change in What We Need to Know

In a recent article on Yahoo News, several college students at American University were unable to name one U.S. Senator when asked. I guess the point of the article was to shock us at how stupid U.S. students are, how the U.S. educational system is failing our youth, how apathetic our youth is regarding politics and government, or all of those things.

I’m coming to their defense.

Montana State v Michigan StateIn the age of Google and Wikipedia, what we need to know has changed. Any one of those students could have pulled out their smart phone and pulled up a list of every U.S. Senator in under 20 seconds. What they need to know is which button to press to call up Siri or Google Voice Search. A generation ago, we had encyclopedias, giant atlases, The World Almanac, etc. What we couldn’t memorize necessitated a trip to the local library. Today, all of those things fit into the palm of our hand. Why should they memorize these things?

Today’s college students have unprecedented technical skills. They might not know a million facts, but they know how and where to find the answers. They’ll take sophisticated tools like photo and video editing tools that one generation ago required highly trained professionals to use and produce work that is hard to differentiate from work done by true professionals. And: they know how to publish their output so it can be seen by potentially millions of people.

During my college years, I can remember the older generation complaining about how apathetic we were and uninterested in the world around us, how television was rotting our brains, and how they worried for the future of the country. I hear the same things today. The one thing I know for sure is that the cycle will continue.

Relax, it’s all okay.

The Best Guide to Project Management

I’m not sure when it happened, but it happened. The best guide to project management, in my opinion, is probably not what you’d give as your first answer. If you must know my answer, skip to the end. If you want to guess, keep reading.

Is the resource available from a project management author, training company, or publisher? No.

Is it aligned with PMI or PRINCE2? Both, as well as Critical Chain, Event Chain, Agile, Lean, Extreme, etc.

Is it static or dynamic? There have been thousands of revisions, usually several per week.

Is it peer reviewed, or one person’s opinion? Peer-reviewed. There have been thousands of contributors.

Is it free or do you have to pay for it? It’s free.

Online or book? Online.

Have you guessed yet? I’m referring to the Wikipedia page on Project Management.

As a resource, it’s free, fairly objective, industry-agnostic, and comprehensive. With one click, it allows you to dive deeper into specific subjects, and many of those topics allow you to dive even deeper.

The language tends to be simpler and easier to understand than guides like PMI’s PMBOK.

Have you checked it out lately? Have you checked it out at all? Do you agree or disagree with me on this?

2014 Atlanta, GA Snow-pocalypse

In Atlanta, all major roadways shut down after a snow storm swept through, freezing all roads in its path. This was the scene as i walked down I-75 the morning after.

This truck driver was preparing his truck for the long drive ahead:

This is what I-75 looked like from above:

There were many stories of people who simply abandoned their vehicles and walked home.

A police officer checking cars to make sure everyone was okay:

Just chasing dreams:

Don’t attempt this kind of photo at home:

After sitting on the highway for over 24 hours, brushing your teeth next to your car was a normal sight:

The view on I-75 South:


Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2

I recently purchased Microsoft’s latest tablet, the Surface Pro 2.  Despite decent reviews from the media, I find myself justifying the purchase to the Apple and Android fanatics when they see me using the device.  I hear the same comments from people: “Why is Microsoft persisting in trying to make a tablet?” and “I thought they killed that thing!”

And: on the surface (pardon the pun), I can understand their initial reaction.  It’s definitely not the best tablet.  It’s big, bulky, and heavy.  It’s definitely not the best laptop.  It’s small, and the keyboard falls short of, say, my Thinkpad.

And yet . . . I absolutely love this thing.  Why? It’s actually a decent tablet and a decent laptop.  It’s fast, has great resolution, long battery life, and it allows me to give killer demos of our viewer for Microsoft Project, our schedule analytics tool.  It even runs Javelin, our new cost and schedule analytics tool.  Javelin is pretty graphics-intensive and can push the hardware to its limit.   The Surface Pro 2 runs Windows 8.1, and until I used Windows 8 on a tablet, I didn’t fully “get it.”

So . . . if, like me, you’ve heard nothing but hating on Microsoft tablets, my advice is to try one out and make up your own mind.

I’m glad I did.


What Does Project Management Mean to Me? A Project Manager’s Sermon

Project Management Flash Blog 2013

This article is posted as part of the first ever Project Management Flash Blog

This post is published as part of a first ever project management related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. 70+ bloggers from at least 13 countries have written articles as part of this event. The complete list of all participating blogs is found here.  After reading mine, please check them out.

I’ll start this “sermon” with a question for you: suppose you were hiring a leader and a team for your next project, and you had to choose between these two options:

A)     Great leader, mediocre team

B)      Mediocre leader, great team

Which choice would you make?

I started my project management career as part of the “B” answer.  I was still attending college, working as a programmer in a makeshift office in the basement of a camera store.  My boss (the owner of the company) sold point of sale and accounting software which existed mostly in his head, and when he made a sale, he would sketch for us a rough idea of what the screens should look like, and those sketches served as our design documents.   He spent the bulk of his time hustling for more sales, and would rarely check on us to see how the software development was progressing.  This was okay; the developers worked very well together and we produced high quality code fairly quickly.

Looking back, I can see that we were a great team with a mediocre leader.  He scoffed at us for staying in college and studying computer science, saying real education was gained in the workplace.  In hindsight, I can see that there was a project management “system” in place, albeit a horrible one.  I probably learned as much from him as anyone, even if it was lessons on how not to lead.  Of course, with no real purpose or direction, the company was never successful and made no significant impact on the world.  Our “projects” led us nowhere.  It was my first experience working hard on something with nothing to look forward to and very little to show for my efforts.

After my college graduation, I got serious about software development and decided to attend graduate school and get a Master’s degree in Computer Science.  Over the course of my studies, I fell in love with 3-D graphics and operating systems, and after my graduation in late 1986 I jumped at the chance to take a job where I got to work on operating system internals (Unix) after graduation.

Fate had other plans for me.  For whatever reason, I was given an assignment to develop a project management application to be used in-house by the Software Development department.  I was given a set of requirements and asked to develop software that met those requirements.  Essentially, the managers wanted a tool to schedule people on projects and balance things so every project had enough people and no one person was over-scheduled.

I was also told to research the commercially available project management applications, and soon I had in my possession a copy of Microsoft Project Version 3 for MS-DOS and MacProject version 1.  Although we ended up using the software I wrote (called balance), I played with both commercial applications enough to get hooked on project management.  Later in my career, I ended up writing the world’s first viewer for Microsoft Project.

27 years later, I’m still hooked on project management.

The reasons are very simple:

  • I believe that project management, when done right, transforms an organization.
  • When applied on a project with a powerful vision, project management can change the world.
  • For all of the volumes of books about PM processes, best practices, and methodologies, great project management begins and ends with great project managers.

Few things are more challenging and more satisfying than helping people become great project managers.  I started my own project management software company 13 years ago with this purpose:  making great project managers.  Great project managers are often great leaders and coaches, and this brings me to my favorite quote about a coach.

Don Shula, former coach of pro football’s Miami Dolphins, holds the record for the most career wins and is considered one of the greatest coaches of all time.  Bum Philips was the coach of the league’s Houston Oilers (before they moved to Nashville and changed their name to the Tennessee Titans).  This is what Coach Philips, born and raised in the state of Texas, had to say about Coach Shula: “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”  I’ll translate that from “Texan:”   he’ll coach his team against your team and win, and he’ll coach your team against his team and win.

If you see truth in the quote, I can predict how you answered my question at the beginning of this sermon.

I love that quote for two reasons.  First, I grew up watching Shula’s Dolphins win against opponents who were sometimes bigger and faster but never better coached.  Second, it illustrates the power, influence, and importance of coaching and leadership in an organization.  For the all the humble praise great leaders bestow upon their teams, I know how big a role the leader plays in their team’s success.

I’ve seen great teams fail miserably under mediocre leadership.  No vision.  No common objective.  No credible plan.  I’ve also seen a great leader turn average teams and make them great.  I’ll choose

(A)   Great leader, mediocre team

every time, because great leaders build great teams, but I’ve never seen the opposite happen.

So, what does Project Management mean to me?  Very simply, it gave me my professional purpose: making better project managers.

Why do I care?  Great project leaders make great projects.  Great project management makes the difference between victory and mediocrity, between making history and wasting time and money, between just doing your job vs. fighting for a cause.   Nothing else in my professional life has been as satisfying as leading successful projects and being on successful project teams. If you’ve been a member of or led a successful project team, I think you’ll agree with me.

Can I get an “Amen?”

The First Project Management Flash Blog

flashmobThis Tuesday (or Wednesday in certain parts of the world), the world’s first project management flash blog is taking place. At the same time, over 70 bloggers (including me) will post an article on the same topic: What Does Project Management Means to Me? A Sermon.  We’re using the #PMFlashBlog tag to make us easier to find.

The flash blog is the brainchild of Shim Marom, a (you guessed it) project management blogger from Down Under.  The articles will be posted at 0100 hours GMT on September 25th, 2013 (in Atlanta time, that’s 8PM Tuesday night).

One of the bloggers (Henny Portman) created a world map showing the “who” and the “where” which is pretty cool!

I hope you’ll check out our article and the others as well. I can’t wait to see what I come up with. :)  Here’s the list of participants:

pmFlashBlog Twitter Names

Shim Marom pmFlashBlog Twitter Names

Shim Marom | 70 items | 3925 views

Twitter accounts of participants in the first ever Project Management Flash Blog *Following the release date (25th Sep) the list will be updated again and Twitter users who have not released a #pmFlashBlog related post will be removed.

Follow List
Embed List
  1. 1. Cheri Essner, PMP (CheriEssner) on Twitter

    Cheri Essner, PMP (CheriEssner) on Twitter

    The latest from Cheri Essner, PMP (@CheriEssner). Cheri Essner, PMP & founder of Team building is my passion & I share my experiences of renewing empowerment to take U from Me to We!. Toronto, Ontario Canada

  2. 2. Chris O'Halloran (strikinggroup) on Twitter

    Chris O'Halloran (strikinggroup) on Twitter

    The latest from Chris O'Halloran (@strikinggroup). Expert Project Managers, offering bespoke project management services on behalf of our clients. Each project is tailored to the needs of your business. Brisbane, Sydney, Shanghai

  3. 3. Henny Portman (HennyPortman) on Twitter

    Henny Portman (HennyPortman) on Twitter

    The latest from Henny Portman (@HennyPortman).

  4. 4. Adrian Fittolani (adfit11) on Twitter

    Adrian Fittolani (adfit11) on Twitter

    The latest from Adrian Fittolani (@adfit11). Program manager, Agilist, Runner, Father, Richmond supporter, Lover, Fighter, Amateur mechanic, Kids sport taxi service. Not necessarily in that order. Melbourne, Australia

  5. 5. Adriana Girdler, PMP (AdrianaGirdler) on Twitter

    Adriana Girdler, PMP (AdrianaGirdler) on Twitter

    The latest from Adriana Girdler, PMP (@AdrianaGirdler). President CSD & AGIC, Speaker, Author, Efficientologist, Intuitive~ Holistic practitioner of business effectiveness, positive change & inspiring leadership. Toronto Area

  6. 6. Allen Ruddock (ARRAPM) on Twitter

    Allen Ruddock (ARRAPM) on Twitter

    The latest from Allen Ruddock (@ARRAPM). Passionate about my family, good food and excellence in project & programme management. Keen Nordic walker. On a sensible health kick so I can enjoy good food,. Guildford, Surrey, UK

  7. 7. Angel Berniz (angelberniz) on Twitter

    Angel Berniz (angelberniz) on Twitter

    The latest from Angel Berniz (@angelberniz). Executive Advisor, Best Practices Expert, Author, Speaker, Influencer. Making Business work!

  8. 8. Anya Faingersh (AnyaWorkSmart) on Twitter

    Anya Faingersh (AnyaWorkSmart) on Twitter

    The latest from Anya Faingersh (@AnyaWorkSmart). Instead of telling others 'told you so!', helps them to succeed.

  9. 9. Barry Hodge (BarryHodge) on Twitter

    Barry Hodge (BarryHodge) on Twitter

    The latest from Barry Hodge (@BarryHodge). A Project Manager who loves Formula 1 & Plymouth Argyle. I tweet about my passion of #projectmanagement #pmot and the great work my colleagues do @bromfordgroup

  10. 10. Bernardo Tirado, PMP (thePMObox) on Twitter

    Bernardo Tirado, PMP (thePMObox) on Twitter

    The latest from Bernardo Tirado, PMP (@thePMObox). Industrial Psychologist | Six Sigma Blackbelt | Certified PMP | Author : Speaker : Trainer : Consultant : former Professor. New York City

  11. 11. Steelray Software (steelray) on Twitter

    Steelray Software (steelray) on Twitter

    The latest from Steelray Software (@steelray). We make better project managers. We also make business intelligence software for project management. Atlanta, Georgia, USA

  12. 12. (ProjectTips) on Twitter (ProjectTips) on Twitter

    The latest from (@ProjectTips). Project Management Software + FREE Tips & Resources. USA

  13. 13. Carlos J. Pampliega (CJPampliega) on Twitter

    Carlos J. Pampliega (CJPampliega) on Twitter

    The latest from Carlos J. Pampliega (@CJPampliega). Architect & Project Manager Professional, PMP. Seeking Excellence by Design. Interim Management

  14. 14. Cesar Abeid, PMP (PM4TM) on Twitter

    Cesar Abeid, PMP (PM4TM) on Twitter

    The latest from Cesar Abeid, PMP (@PM4TM). Host of the Project Management for the Masses Podcast. Life is a project. You are the manager. Check out the podcast at Canada

  15. 15. Colleen Garton (ColleenGarton) on Twitter

    Colleen Garton (ColleenGarton) on Twitter

    The latest from Colleen Garton (@ColleenGarton). Virtual & project management expert. Author: Fundamentals of Technology Project Management & Managing Without Walls. Speaker. Trainer. Management Consultant. Dunedin, FL

  16. 16. The Practicing IT PM (PracticingITPM) on Twitter

    The Practicing IT PM (PracticingITPM) on Twitter

    The latest from The Practicing IT PM (@PracticingITPM). Every Sunday evening, I post a 'best of' reading list w/links to project management blog posts and articles published on the web during the week. - Dave Gordon. Las Vegas

  17. 17. Deanne Earle (UnlikeBefore) on Twitter

    Deanne Earle (UnlikeBefore) on Twitter

    The latest from Deanne Earle (@UnlikeBefore). Programme, Project & Change management; delivers business value from technology change projects in Medium & Large Co's. Likes Execs & Co's that give a damn. Italy | Where Clients Are

  18. 18. Don Kim (pmation) on Twitter

    Don Kim (pmation) on Twitter

    The latest from Don Kim (@pmation). Project solutions realized: PM thinker, writer, educator and practitioner of Sherman Oaks, CA

  19. 19. Elizabeth Harrin (pm4girls) on Twitter

    Elizabeth Harrin (pm4girls) on Twitter

    The latest from Elizabeth Harrin (@pm4girls). Author of Social Media for Project Managers & Customer-Centric Project Management, business writer, Director of @otobosgroup. London

  20. 20. Francis Hooke (QualProjDeliver) on Twitter

    Francis Hooke (QualProjDeliver) on Twitter

    The latest from Francis Hooke (@QualProjDeliver). Quality Project Delivery Ltd provides expert project management consultancy and training services to clients. London

  21. 21. Glen B. Alleman (galleman) on Twitter

    Glen B. Alleman (galleman) on Twitter

    The latest from Glen B. Alleman (@galleman). Program Planning and Controls leader, Aerospace, Defense, and Federal, Denver Colorado. Started in embedded control systems ended in large Program Management. Niwot Colorado

  22. 22. Ian Webster (IanWebster) on Twitter

    Ian Webster (IanWebster) on Twitter

    The latest from Ian Webster (@IanWebster). United Kingdom

  23. 23. Ivan Rivera, PMP (irivera) on Twitter

    Ivan Rivera, PMP (irivera) on Twitter

    The latest from Ivan Rivera, PMP (@irivera). [ PMP ][ SCPM ][ MATI ] México

  24. 24. Jason Shaffner (jasonshaffner) on Twitter

    Jason Shaffner (jasonshaffner) on Twitter

    The latest from Jason Shaffner (@jasonshaffner). Leader of #highered ERP transformations. Busy implementing PeopleSoft Campus Solutions and OBIEE in Cambridge, Mass. Opinions are my own. Cambridge, Mass

  25. 25. John Bauer (jfbauer) on Twitter

    John Bauer (jfbauer) on Twitter

    The latest from John Bauer (@jfbauer). Cleveland, OH

View more lists from Shim Marom

Favorite Project Management Scheduling Application

So, I’m wondering what scheduling applications anyone reading this is using?  I know at least some of you are running Microsoft Project, but is there another one out there that you prefer?  I’ll start a list . . .


Project Scheduler Software

Brian Leach Project Scheduler Software

Brian Leach | 3 items | 515 views

A survey of scheduling software used by the contributors to this list.

Follow List
Embed List
  1. 1. Microsoft Project

    Microsoft Project

    One of the oldest, probably the most widely used.

  2. 2. Deltek Open Plan

    Deltek Open Plan

    Deltek Open Plan is an enterprise-class program management solution that offers cost & budget flexibility for small or large projects.

  3. 3. Primavera P6

    Primavera P6

    Primavera P6 Professional Project Management, the recognized standard for high-performance project management software, is designed to handle large-scale, highly sophisticated and multifaceted projects. It can be used to organize projects up to 100,000 activities, and it provides unlimited resources and an unlimited number of target plans.

View more lists from Brian Leach

Acting Your Way to Project Culture Change

A couple of weeks ago, I attended an interesting talk by David Marquet, a retired Captain of the U.S. Navy.  He mentioned a TED talk on body language given by social psychologist Amy Cuddy.  In the talk, Cuddy related how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect hormone levels in the brain and body and might even have an impact on our chances for success.


A few years ago, I was attending another talk, and the speaker that day asked a room full of people to stand up, stretch our arms out wide, look up, and smile for about a minute.  It was the same principle at work.  I know this is subjective, and I’m sure we all looked ridiculous, but I do believe that it made many of us (including me) feel better than we felt before the exercise.  It seems that your body can trick your brain into a changed state.  Of course, your brain is starting the process, so maybe it’s your brain tricking your brain into producing endorphins or other “happy” chemicals.  I don’t really care how it worked — it worked!

The reason that Marquet brought up this effect was because he successfully applied a similar principle to culture change in his organization.  In this case, it was the crew of a nuclear submarine.  He identified a change in culture that he wished to see, imagined what it would look like after that culture change happened, and immediately had people acting that way.

This got me thinking about the culture of project teams, and had me wondering whether the same principle might apply to help project teams perform better.  Think about this:  what aspects of the culture of your project team would you like to change?  Is everyone not on the same page? Is collecting status extremely difficult?  Are the estimates you receive way off base?

Once you’ve identified an aspect of the culture that you wish were different, imagine what it would look like after the issue was fixed.  How would people behave differently?  What would this new reality look like physically?  Once you have that pictured, how can you entice the team to act that out today?  What are the mechanisms that cause the new behaviors to happen?  The final step: change the policy or create the program to enable those mechanisms.

It takes a bit of faith to believe that it works, but if you need some convincing, why not try out the 60 second exercise I mentioned in the second paragraph and see if it works?

If you’re looking for an insightful read, I recommend David Marquet’s book (Turn the Ship Around!).  I’m enjoying it immensely.