Monday, October 31, 2011

Fundamentals of Project Management by James P. Lewis - One thing that I think every athlete learns at a young age is the importance of fundamentals. I have tried to take that important lesson that I learned early in my hockey career and apply it in other aspects of my life. When I found out my first consulting project would be a project management role at Nike, I went to the local library and picked up Fundamentals of Project Management.

The book is relatively short, which I actually really appreciated. Fittingly, a book on fundamentals shouldn't be extremely long and wordy. I think the book does a great job succinctly laying out an overview of the basics of project management. The book not only delved into the classic project management tools and theories but it also covered topics like team engagement, leadership, and organizational culture,

I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who wants to read a good overview of project management or to anyone who wants to learn how they can hone their skills to better deliver projects on time, within budget, and within the desired performance parameters. Below are some of the notes I took while reading this book.


Chapter 1: An Overview of Project Management:
- A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to produce a unique product, service, or result.
- Repetitive =/ project
- Definite time, cost, scope, performance requirements
- "A problem scheduled for solution"
- Rule = people who do the work should plan it
- PM role is that of an enabler
- "Leadership is the art of getting others to want to do something that you believe should be done." - Lance Packard
- C=F(P,T,S)
- Project Life Cycle: Concept, Definition, Planning, Execution, Closeout
- Projects fail at the definition phase
- Steps in managing a project: 1. Define Problem 2. Develop Solution Options 3. Plan the Project 4. Execute the Plan 5. Monitor & Control 6. Close the Project
- 9 Knowledge Areas pg 20

Chapter 2: The Role of the Project Manager:
- The primary role of all PMs is to ensure all work is completed on time, within budget & scope, and at the correct performance levels
- Must understand mission and vision of the organization
- PM is about influencing people
- Scandinavian Airlines Story
- PM has responsibility but authority. Must use leadership and management to accomplish

Chapter 3: Planning the Project:
- Two barriers to good planning: 1. Prevailing Paradigms 2. The Nature of Human Beings
- Control is exercised by comparing  where you are to where you are supposed to be so that corrective action can be taken when there is a deviation
- No plan = no control
- To plan you must have strategy, tactics, & logistics
- Project plan is: problem statement - project mission statement - project objectives - project work requirements - exit criteria - end item specifications - WBS - schedules - required resources - control system - major contributors - risk areas
- Planning tips pg 42

Chapter 4: Developing A Mission, Vision, Goals, & Objectives for the Project:
- A problem is a gap
- Vision defines done
- Mission, vision, problem statement chart pg 47
- Mission of every PM is to satisfy the customers needs
- 1. What are we going to do? 2. For whom are we going to do it?
- Objectives: what is our desired outcome? How will we know when we achieve it?
- Risk analysis pg 53

Chapter 5: Using The Work Breakdown Structure:
- WBS developed before schedule
- Break work down to a level sufficient to achieve estimating accuracy
- Assign responsibility for each part
- You cannot give a time/cost estimate without considering who will be performing the task
- Base on historical data
- Beware of Parkinson's law and variation
- List assumptions, +- numbers, things that may skew the estimate

Chapter 6: Scheduling Project Work:
- Critical pat determines the longest series of activities that can't be done in parallel
- Unless resource allocation is handled properly schedules are next to useless
- Schedule at a level you can manage
- Diagram what is possible then deal with resource constraints

Chapter 7: Producing a Workable Schedule:
- Harder to catch up than to stay on target

Chapter 8: Project Control & Evaluation:
- Having authority is no guarantee people will do your bidding. In the end people have to do it willingly
- Give people responsibility & control over what they are supposed to accomplish
- Self control needs 1. Clear definition of goal 2. Personal plan of how to do work 3. Skills & resources 4. Feedback on progress from the work 5. Clear definition of authority to take action & deviate from the plan
- If control systems do not result in action then the system is ineffective
- The simpler the status report the better

Chapter 9: Project Control Using Earned Value Analysis:
- There are only 4 responses to deviation from the plan: 1. Cancel the project 2. Ignore the deviation 3. Take corrective action 4. Revise the plan
- One of the hardest things to do is actually measure progress
- Variance formulas pg 118

Chapter 10: Managing The Project Team:
- Project management tools are necessary but not sufficient
- If you can't manage people you can't manage a project
- Have the team participate in planning to promote teamwork
- Getting the team organized: 1. Define what must be done using WBS, problem definition, etc. 2. Determine staffing requirements 3. Recruit the team 4. Complete your project plan with participation of the team
- Rules for developing commitment pg 138

Chapter 11: How To Make Project Management Work In Your Company:
- Leadership must show interest
- Reward good project management
- Train the team
- Plan small wins for people

Chapter 12: Project Management For Everyone:
- Tools should only be used when they give you an advantage

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Checking For Charity 2011

Checking For Charity recently closed out our books for 2011 and in our third year of existence we continued our upward trend in charitable distributions and in the size and professionalism of our tournament. I am very proud to announce that the 3rd Annual Checking For Charity Tournament distributed nearly $28,000.00 to 20 unique charities! Below are the distributions and charities that were involved in our tournament back in August.

A Division: 
TeamCharityAmount Distributed
Team Badski's WarriorsHomes For Our Troops $1,008.00
Selects Hockey Ed Snyder Youth Hockey Foundation $1,303.40
Lubers Children's Make A Wish Foundation $1,008.00
RAI - Team Orner Alicia Rose "Victorious" Foundation $1,121.00
Macho Madness Angels On Earth Foundation $1,121.00
Pirates M.A.B. Memorial Foundation $1,008.00
Dunphy A Cole McFarland Scholarship $1,008.00
Newmania Endometriosis Foundation $1,419.20
B Division:
TeamCharityAmount Distributed
Hawks Preeclampsia Foundation $1,008.00
Dunphy B The United Way of Camden County $1,303.40
Sunday Danglers Preeclampsia Foundation $1,121.00
Mt. Laurel Moose Alicia Rose "Victorious Foundation $1,008.00
Snyder Hockey Loungers Ed Snyder Youth Hockey Foundation $1,008.00
Ice-O-Topes Greg T Dalesio Memorial Foundation $1,008.00
Team M.S. National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation $1,008.00
Dangle Pies American Cancer Society $1,419.20
L.V.I.Ed Snyder Youth Hockey Foundation $1,121.00 

C Division:
TeamCharityAmount Distributed
Toad Slam Breastfest Philly $1,121.00
Patriots CHESPA $1,419.20
N.C. Chiefs American Heart Association $1,008.00
Charros Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation $1,303.40
Aqua Corp Aqua Corps $818.00*
The Boogeymen Defending The Blueline $1,008.00
Tele-Q Children's Cancer Research Center $1,121.00
NFCA National Foundation For Celiac Awareness $1,008.00

I couldn't be happier with how our tournament turned out and with our amazing board. Our continued growth is a testament to their efforts. Our growth has ushered in some new challenges as well and has renewed my focus on making Checking For Charity the best it can be. Below are some thoughts and lessons learned from our third and best event ever.

1. Leadership Still Matters - As you can tell from the content and the frequency of my posts over the last year, my life has been through a lot of ups and downs. The adversity and transitions I endured over the past year undoubted impacted my ability to effectively lead the Checking For Charity movement. When I look at the areas of our tournament that did not go well it is very easy for me to trace those struggles back to a lack of leadership on my part. Not an easy pill to swallow but one that has ultimately renewed my commitment to optimizing and growing Checking For Charity.

2. We Raised The Bar On Everything.....Including Expenses - Growth comes with a cost, and in the last year our cost......was costs! Our tournament was bigger and better in every way. We grew and improved every major metric we track from charitable distributions to teams and divisions in the tournament. Unfortunately our expenses began to increase at a greater rate than the money we raised for charity. That fact tells me two things. First off, it tells me that our model has reached a plateau in terms of the size we can make a single event. Secondly, it tells me that we need to focus less on growing an individual event and more on optimizing what we do well. In short we need to find our sweet spot and work on getting better results with less effort invested.

3. Ethos - Our group thrives on an open and collaborative team environment. We rely on unsolicited innovative ideas from our board and more importantly on the ingenuity of the board to bring those ideas to life. While that culture is great for continuous growth and empowering everyone to come up with great ideas, it can send the efforts of the organization in a lot of different directions. The last year made me realize that we need to focus in on who we are, what we are all about, and exactly who we are serving as an organization. We need to focus on our ethos.

4. Great Ideas Need Great Execution - As I discussed briefly above, we have a culture where all ideas are welcome. Our entire concept has been formed by individuals that have brought forth great ideas that the team ultimately rallied around. This year was no exception. Our tourney was bigger and better than ever, but there were some aspects that did not go as smoothly as we all would have liked. An idea, no matter how great it is, is just an idea until it actually gets executed. That is where the value of great idea is realized.

5. Cost Benefit Analysis, Money & Effort - Next year I would really like to take a hard look at cost benefit analysis for each proposed idea. Our tournaments are centered on two main principles. We raise as much money and awareness for charity as possible while putting on the most competitive and professional hockey events. These pillars of our success are not always pulling in the same direction and we must keep focus on balancing the two. In order to do that we need to take a harder look at the impact that each part of our business model is providing towards both those goals. We could put on the best tournament in the world and use up all the funds that we raised or we could put on a bare bones event and distribute a bit more in charitable donations. Neither end state is what we are about. We need to analyze the money, and more importantly the effort, that must be invested to carry out our team's great ideas to see if those ideas are worth pursuing or not.

6. Project Centric Approach - In order to continually improve, grow, and carry out our mission we need to transition to a project centric approach to managing the implementation of our tournament. This last year our board put in more time and effort than ever before. That effort resulted in a better tournament and increased proceeds to our represented charities. However, I am not sure that the increased efforts of the board resulted in the same magnitude of returns as in years past. The numbers don't lie and our time invested and tournament expenses have started to rise at a quicker rate than the size and proceeds of our tournament. We are all volunteers and I do not view that trajectory as sustainable. I need every one of the board members we have and I want them to want to be a part of our organization for the long haul. This is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and I would hate to have anyone burn out. We need to engage more volunteers and in order to do that we must give them a tangible project to carry out, lead, and make their own. The board will then seek to take on more of an advisory role. A work breakdown of what really makes up our tournament will enable us to do that and will allow us to more effectively manage the planning and execution of the event. It will also lay out a scalable model for us to expand to the west coast and beyond. This will be my focus over the coming months.

Please continue to check out as we will be launching a new and much improved website shortly. If you would like to get involved please do not hesitate to contact me or reach out to us on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review: A Place of Yes by Betheny Frankel

A Place of Yes by Betheny Frankel is not necessarily the first book I would grab off the shelf. In fact, I am sure I will lose some man points amongst my friends for openly admitting that I read the book. To be honest I don't really care. Betheny is awesome. She has made some of the "wifey shows" that I am dragged into watching bearable. She is the embodiment of the American dream and she is hilarious. So when my wife downloaded her book on my Kindle and I freed up some bandwidth from my reading queue I gave it a shot. 

There are a few things that drew me to reading her book and those same things are actually what allow me to relate to Betheny. I am referring to her entrepreneurial spirit and her ability/willingness to persevere through adversity. Rising from a challenging childhood and an unfulfilling early adulthood, Betheny was resilient and refused to settle. Traits I admire the older I get. She took some big risks, worked hard, and eventually sold the Skinny Girl margarita company for a reported $200+ million. People often lose sight of those accomplishments amidst her reality TV career but it is those accomplishments that gave her book credibility in my mind.

The book reads like a classic self help book, ten steps and all, which makes her life story and lessons a bit more tangible. But the real value for me wasn't necessarily realized in the ten steps. I found her personal trials and tribulations to be the most interesting and inspiring. I guess I just digest life lessons in story format a lot better than a textbook read. I think I may move on to some biographies in my next round of books as I really like the context that formula provides. 

The book isn't the best I have ever read, and to be honest I am probably not the target market either, but the book had some good lessons and I enjoyed it. If you are interested to read a real rags to riches story and to reinforce some good life lessons then check out her book. Below are some notes and quotes that I captured during my read. 


 Introduction: Who I am, what this book is about, and what you need to know before you begin:
- This book is about stop saying no and start saying yes to your own life
- Life is easier when you settle for less than your dreams, but good enough is not good enough for me
- Each chapter in the book tackles a rule
- 10 rules: Rule 1 Break the Chain, Rule 2 Find Your Truth, Rule 3 Act On It, Rule 4 Everything's Your Business, Rule 5 All Roads Lead To Rome, Rule 6 Go For Yours, Rule 7 Separate From The Pack, Rule 8 Own It, Rule 9 Come Together, and Rule 10 Celebrate
- A place of yes is not just being an optimist its an "it will happen because I will make it happen" kind of attitude
- Its not where you are all the time but its the place you go back to. Your home. The real you.
- Coming from a place of yes is about getting down to business. Its active not passive. Yes gives you something to do. A mission, a purpose, a goal.
- Noise is your inner doubt that holds you back and voice is what is good for you and what is right

Rule 1: Break The Chain:
- "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'" - Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady
- Everyone has noise that stems from childhood
- First step is breaking the link between what your family thinks of you and what you think of yourself. Who you are now doesn't have to be a product of your past.
- You must look back and recognize how your childhood has affected your life
- Don't get hung up on whether or not it was normal. There is no normal.
- Describes a rough childhood and how it impacted her

Rule 2: Find Your Truth:
-  "Accept no one's definition of your life, define yourself." - Harvey Fierstein, actor
- When you make a decision based on fear it never works out
- "We welcome passion, for the mind is briefly let off duty." - Mignon McLaughlin, journalist
- "Just because you made a mistake doesn't mean you are a mistake." - Georgette Mosbacher, cosmetics CEO and author
- "Diamonds are only chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs." Minnie Richard Smith, poet
- Every 9 year old boy wants to pitch for the yankees
- Don't give up on your dreams
- "Waiting, done at really high speeds, will frequently look like something else." - Carrie Fisher, actress and author

Rule 3: Act On It:
- "Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." - William Jennings Bryan, politician
- Focus on the general direction. You can't know how things are all going to play out but don't let that hold you back.
- Work hard, learn, do your best, and have fun!
- Action breeds confidence and courage
- "A man's errors are his portals of discovery" - James Joyce, novelist

Rule 4: Everything's Your Business:
- Treat everything you choose to do with as much importance as if your career depended on it
- "You make it to heaven, or you make it to hell, by your actions." - George Harrison, musician
- "Decide what you want, and decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work." - H.L. Hunt, entrepreneur and oil tycoon
- "A brand is a living entity and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures." - Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Walt Disney Company
- Don't let the world tell you what is or isn't a good idea
- "There are two types of people: the ones who give you 50 reasons it can't be done...and the ones who just do it." - Hoda Koth, host of the Today Show
- "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field" - Vince Lombardi, former Green Bay Packers football coach - Awesome quote!
- "The defining factor in success is never resources, it's resourcefulness." - Anthony Robbins, author and motivational speaker

Rule 5: All Roads Lead To Rome:
- "You have got to jump off cliffs, all the time, and build your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury, author
- The wrong thing can lead you to what is right
- "Don't make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you." - Maya Angelou, poet and author
- "The restaurant business is trying on a daily basis. You must be committed to facing challenges that seem impossible. But when its the moment of truth I just tell my team "Yes we can make this happen." That's how you separate yourself from the pack." - Bobby Flay, celebrity chef, restauranteur, Iron Chef, and cookbook author 
- "Winning isn't everything, but the will to win is everything." - Vince Lombardi. football coach
- Diamond scam story

Rule 6: Go For Yours:
- "Hell is the place for people who did not live their lives according to the best of what was in them." - Harriet Rubin, author and media consultant
-  "I don't have to be enemies with someone to be competitors with them." - Jackie Joyner Kersee, Olympic gold medalist
- There is a big difference between ambition and desperation
- Be yourself and have no regrets because something better may be right around the corner
- A great idea is worth about a nickel and making it work is hard
- "I've got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end." - Larry Bird, former NBA player
- "Losing is the price we pay for living. It is also the source of much growth and pain."  - Judith Viorst, author
- "Your opponent, in the end, is never really the player on the other side of the net, or the swimmer in the next lane, or the team on the other side of the field, or even the bar you must high jump. Your opponent is yourself, your negative internal voices, your level of determination." 
- She learned that when she really goes for what she wants she wins even when she loses

Rule 7: Separate From The Pack:
- "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different." - Coco Chanel, French Fashion designer
- "It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are." - e.e. cummings, poet 
- If you live your life trying to make others happy you will lose touch with what makes you happy
- Its not about being different it is about being yourself
- "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." - Judy Garland, actress
- "Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." - Brian Tracy, author and business consultant

Rule 8: Own It:
- "Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people." - Spencer Johnson, business author
- "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end there it is." - Winston Churchill, former prime minister of the UK
- "I believe in me. If I don't nobody else will." - Charles Barkley, former NBA basketball player
- "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." - William Shakespeare, playwright
- "True love stories never have endings." - Richard Bach, author

Rule 9: Come Together:
- To come together with others you have to know who you are
- "The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stats in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime." - Babe Ruth, Major League baseball player
- You don't have to understand others you just have to respect that their normal is different than yours
- "I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion." - Mia Hamm - professional soccer player

Rule 10: Celebrate:
- Celebrate what you want to see more of
- Celebrate your life. If you're not happy then what's the point?