Timothy Johnson Photo in Header

Take a Flying Leap

It's "Leap Day," folks!

That one day that appears every four years to extend February even longer than this month deserves. I'm not sure why Leap Day couldn't appear in nicer month, like June when it's warm but not too hot. Or how about October, when the fall foliage is so pleasant? But NO, it's in February. When the weather is cold and slushy at worst; indecisive, at best.

Tavern_Parking_SignSometimes, like the month of February, we really do want some people to just go away, to take a flying leap, as it were. Sometimes, we create rules and procedures or post signs to keep those people away. I found such an instance the other morning when I was going to get my morning bagle. The Tavern is a restaurant here in town that makes one of the best "slider" pizzas anywhere. They're located in a busy strip mall near a very popular deli (not to mention my favorite bagel/muffin spot). I can understand why they posted this sign. The parking over the lunch hour can be downright attrocious. I've had to play parking lot vulture more than once, and I'm sure some of the parking angst has spilled over to their lot.


I've heard a lot of grousing about their sign, and I can understand why. The tone pretty much has all the charm of a porcupine in a barbed wire coat. In trying to accomplish something, they're creating some undesirable consequences; namely, people who might be otherwise be customers do not wish to eat there.

I've talked on this blog before about being engaging with our accomplishments. We want to create the conversation and curiosity to draw others in, not push them away. Granted, there will always be those undesirables we wish to keep away from our accomplishments (or I wouldn't have a job as an office politics consultant). Still, in our efforts to keep away the "undesirables," are we creating messages (rules, policies, etc.) which send the desirable stakeholders away as well? Do we just consider them collateral damage?

Just some thoughts as we wrap up the month.

Farm Land For Sale... Sort of

Farmland 2Well, we're coming to the end of settling my mom's estate. Almost all of the assets have been distributed. My sister is buying my childhood home (a fact which thrills me greatly, as I can't imagine a stranger living in that house).

One of the last things to address is the sale of some farmland my mom owned a couple of counties away. It goes up for auction on Thursday. It may not seem like much, but I guess this sale has been bothering me more than anything. I've never really wanted to sell the land, but all my reasons for hanging onto it are completely emotional and none are very rational.

Farmland 3The reasons to sell the land are pretty sound. I don't have time to be a land owner. It's an hour away and who has time to travel there periodically? There's that constantly nagging voice reminding me I have two kids to put through college some day. My funds are better used on more practical things than buying out my siblings' shares. The list goes on. And on. And on.

Farmland 4But then there's the romantic, adventurous, sentimental side of me. This land was tenant farmed by my grandfather before he purchased it. My mother inherited it from her parents when they passed. We hung out there quite a bit as children. I walked quite a few of those 80 acres, across fields and through timber. I seem to recall a failed overnight camping excursion when I was about 10 or 11.

Farmland 5Added to my angst is my creative side. A lot of people who will show up for the auction on Thursday are farmers who will use this as farmland or grazing land. They will look at its CSR measurements and decide what it's worth. What nobody at the auction will think about are the gently rolling hills that still make me pause and admire how the beauty of the countryside. The bidders probably won't see how cool it would be to build a log cabin on top of the hill overlooking the lake at Mormon Trail State Park directly to the south. (Oh, did I forget to mention the historic significance of this area when the Mormons trekked from Illinois to Utah?) The auction attendees have no concept of planting anything other than corn or beans - say, a vineyard perhaps? - in this agricultural mecca.

Farmland 1It's probably that last paragraph which has caused my mopey-ness of late. The people buying this land - MY heritage - are only looking at what it IS, no what it COULD BE. I guess my dreams and fantasies and ambitions are just that: mine. Given land prices these days, I'm confident we'll fetch a good price for it, and soon my obligations as executor of my parents' estate will be complete. My kids will have a decent college fund. I'll have a little more for retirement and perhaps a home improvement project or two more. And rationality will win out over romance.

Farmland 6But as one who spends semester after semester teaching my students to following their dreams, to create new realities, and to imagine what could be, I'll admit to feeling like this auction is a bit of a cop-out... like I'm selling out to the "safe and rational" voices in our collective heads, the ones I challenge regularly, the ones I tell my students to challenge, the ones I tell my clients to challenge. I'm probably being too hard on myself. Someone will buy the land. They'll till it. They'll graze cattle on it. And it will stay farmland, which is probably what needs to happen. (But a part of me wishes somebody buys the land who has a true vision of what it could be... wouldn't that be cool?)

If you're that one true visionary, here is the link to the auction next Thursday. I hope you're the high bidder.

The Triple Constraint They DON'T Teach You In Project Management School

Generally as a consultant, clients hire me because of my experience with project management and accomplishment; however, that doesn't keep me from getting questioned about my technique from time to time.

"Why are you doing that?" or "Why aren't you doing this?" are questions I field on occasion. In my "younger days," I was irritated and even offended by such questions. Nowadays, not so much... it all just rolls off. So what happened to loosen me up? I figured out the triple constaint they DON'T teach you in project management school.

You have probably heard of the triple constraint of project management. It's that trade-off among the schedule, the resources, and the performance that optimizes a project according to the stakeholder wishes (i.e., what your loudest executive wants).


But there's a triple constraint project managers don't learn in a classroom. We learn it on the fly, and generally the ones who "get it" are those who have had the privilege of working in multiple companies. One one side of the equation is Rigor - how much structure is applied to the project. It ranges from flying by the seat of your pants to a military death march of project deliverables, following every template and rule to the letter. On another side of the triangle is Culture - the "personality" of the organization and how well it adapts, adopts, adjusts. Finally is Ability - a combination of the knowledge and skills of the organization to perform everything to be done AND the maturity to prioritize and intuit.

These three - rigor, culture, ability - are in a perpectual volley match. An experienced project manager will size up the trade-offs needed to complete the project. You try to do too much (rigor) in an immature (ability) organization with an unyielding culture and... oops. Try to do too little in an organization with the skills to grow but an inability to prioritize and... oops again.

So when a client asks me why I do (or don't do) something they learned in project management class, I smile a little smile and give them that look that says, "Trust me. I've been down this road before." I'll keep pushing and challenging my clients to grow, but I'm going to meet them where they are. Learning to do this means more success in the future.

Like What You're Reading? Buy A Book

subscribe to feed

  • Click the button for the free RSS feed. (What is RSS?)

    Or get the feed in your email. Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

Follow Me!

Search Carpe Factum

  • Google

    carpe factum
Powered by TypePad