THE WELCH COMPANY
440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111-2496
415 781 5700
April 19, 1996
03 00069 96041901
Mr. Jim Pennypacker
40 Colonial Square
Sylva, NC 28779
PMI Asilomar Conference, Jul 12 - 14, 1996
Leadership and Technology, Partnership for the Future
your call on Mar 26
about the New World Order... paper, here are observations
on the Asilomar event PMI is sponsoring in July. Overall, the Asilomar theme
on leadership and technology gives PMI an important voice in shaping the
skills, roles and tools needed to compete and win in the global economy of the
21st century. This entails change. Sherrill McDonald and Ahmet Taspinar, who
lead the Asilomar team, have fashioned an agenda that meets this challenge with
courage and wisdom.
The April 1996 issue of PMNETwork makes a strong case that project
managers have the skills and role to reengineer the future of enterprise
by adding critical value across the entire landscape of organizational life.
Adding value through sound practices of project management for creativity,
communication, command and control is the right prescription
to stem the contagion of downsizing currently
taking an ugly toll on lives, productivity and earnings.
This opportunity, however, stands in stark contrast with the reality
the cover of the April 1, 1996 issue of Fortune magazine showing a
project manager, who has been laid off, and the accompanying article that
reports 60% of businesses plan more
downsizing over the next year. How will PMI redress the rising tide of
fashion that argues, far from making reengineering an effective instrument for
productivity and earnings, that
project managers are squarely in the cross-hairs of
downsizing and right-sizing advocates, who are finding willing ears in
the executive suite for buying a $3,000 personal computer and providing
a "free" email address, and expecting an executive to perform the skills
and apply the experience of many $80,000 project managers.
Simplistic arithmetic that multiplies 4 or 5 times $80,000 and then subtracts
$3,000 is finding a gullible, if understandably willing, audience in the
executive suite for "reengineering" that retains high-priced executives, while
cutting millions of dollars from the payroll. This magic occurs simply by
classifying project managers as "middle-management." That is all the
imagination required to eliminate, with the stroke of a pen on an org chart,
critical skills and experience essential for managing complex projects that
generate vital earnings. These "voodoo economics," popular in an earlier era
of our body politic, have now risen from the dead to drive massive layoffs of
project managers contemplated in the Fortune article? Two anecdotes galvanize
this challenge to the nation and the world economy, as well as for those who
have invested their trust, time and money to acquire skills promulgated and
advocated by PMI.
The PMI NCC chapter's Project of the Year award was reviewed at the January
1996 monthly meeting. Following an insightful presentation on using the PMBOK
and ISO quality processes, the two leaders responsible for this success
reported they were being "reengineered" out of a job. Second, at the April 12,
1995 monthly PMI NCC meeting, the CEO of a popular PM software program reported
significant cost and schedule delays on a project to upgrade the program.
When asked why the world's leading planning tools were inadequate, and what
leaders should do in addition to automating cost and schedule control, the
reply was to hire project managers who...
tell the truth!
The NWO article calls for
leadership with a broader vision. ..
The Asilomar Conference answers that call.
Asilomar will present Stephen Covey's ideas (also reviewed in the April 1996
issue of PMNETwork on p. 26). Mr. Covey says seek first to understand and
diagnose, then prescribe. Leaders rushing to adopt the quick fix of downsizing
should come to Asilomar. Failed leadership cannot recover by cutting off what
Peter Drucker calls the primary force that makes resources productive, the
manager, but rather should reengineer management to work smarter, called out by
PMBOK and ISO criteria. Of course many companies are in such dire straits they
see no choice but to implode: to shrink back to a size that fits their vision,
their ideas, i.e., their management capacity. They can learn at Asilomar how
to grow their knowledge so they can grow more jobs and income by transcending
the ignorance, fear and denial causing the current implosion of management.
The NWO article seeks to
understand this implosion with the observation that the
human mind is creating a world
for which it is not well suited where the
current state of the leadership - technology equation, summarily called, the
"Information Highway," moves too fast to use sound management practices, like
PMBOK, Covey, ISO, consistently. We all know that "haste makes waste," but
don't realize that most mistakes are hidden from the conscious mind by the
dynamics of a busy day. Mistakes spawned in haste take root in the fertile soil
of neglect, politics, hubris; and, then propagate like a virus to infect every
fiber of an organization, sapping its strength, as seen by the Project of the
.. So, too, leaders who feel their people don't tell the truth when asked
for the "bottom line" in 25 words or 30 seconds, should come to Asilomar.
Working quickly and accurately are antithetical.
Only the right technology combined with strong leadership can bridge this
historical dilemma, fueled by the compression of time and distance, which today
comprises an Information Highway of mistakes, losses and downsizing.
In this environment, truth needs an ally.
Asilomar will present the legal case showing CEOs cannot remember the "truth"
any better than anybody else. They cry out from the witness stand: "There
wasn't enough time to check the PMBOK, the contract, the letter, the schedule,
the meeting notes, so I went with what seemed right at the time." These macro
dynamics at the senior and organizational level have their roots in the office
each day. Professional communication specialists, often psychologists, are
called in to separate "warring" parties and teach communications. Much of this
effort is focused on dialog and listening skills.
Cognitive science, however, provides a theory of induced learning that links
micro-communication problems among individuals in the office each day, i.e.,
telling the "truth," with the macro world of organizational losses that lead to
lawsuits, failures and downsizing. Belief about the true state of affairs is a
biological state that varies in the human mind from moment to moment, day to
day, depending upon the speed and context of information flow. Humans make
mistakes of induction every day all day long.
Writing preserves and leverages information so, as dynamics change, original
understanding can be accurately recovered. Over thousands of years, business
methods have evolved so "truth" is maintained through shared meaning and common
commitment. Asilomar can make the case for what the PMBOK calls "Communication
Management," using the construction industry to show the process of effective
communication in a high risk environment which is fast becoming the norm in the
New World Order.
The Information Highway, however, causes executives to feel there isn't enough
time to use reading and writing.
Conversation seems fast and easy, and doesn't leave a paper trail for lawyers
Executives like summaries with verbal assurances that details are linked to the
summary. But details are not linked to summary, except in the minds of people
rushing from one meeting to the next; so, belief drifts off the truth, and
organizations drift into trouble, rushing to join the Information Highway of
more meetings, cellular phones, fax and email, which is an even worse form of
loose, stream-of-conscous communication.
mountains of information pile up,
like using a huge backhoe but without any
trucks to haul the dirt away, so eventually, the entire project simply
Information piling up from email on personal computers, notebooks, servers and
the Web is being sold by corporate saviors, gurus and experts as strategic
"Business Systems" (BS) for firing people under high sounding schemes for
reengineering, TQM, downsizing, rightsizing and similar euphamisms for
eliminating people, who have the experience that converts information into
useful knowledge for improving productivity and earnings, and relying instead
on cheaper, inexperienced help that sows the seeds of conflict, crisis and
calamity, when boom, once again, falls of its own weight into tragic loss.
Without a breakthrough technology to augment human experience for generating
critical knowledge, any solution that leaves fewer people, especially who are
inexperienced, as occurs when project managers are replaced with team leaders,
who, in turn, are chasing more information is a formula for constant error
and acrimony about truth, i.e., continual bumbling rather than learning. When
this "BS" strategy collapses in wrenching loss, failure and cover-up,
downsizing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: "Vision Statements" lack vision;
psychologists become corporate gurus; lawyers and accountants displace
marketing, engineering and operations as dominant forces.
This makes "truth" a mystery called
it has no ally.
The NWO article describes technology to solve the information/time challenge,
so that people can discover and fix mistakes before they cause harm, through a
new management science of
that supplements cost and
schedule control. The Information Highway has so changed the character of
management work that new skills, roles, and tools are needed to process
information. We need a "trucking system" to move mountains of information
before it piles up too high to see our Vision and Mission statements prepared
in the TQM meeting.
The constant growth of information to process by people with limited span of
attention, requires a "metric" to ensure communications are accurately aligned
and linked into a body of knowledge that empowers everyone to act on the
"truth." The Asilomar theme on the partnership between leadership and
technology can explore the opportunity to re-deploy the growing legions of
displaced managers to perform this new role with the help of new technology.
Many of these displaced managers are over 40 and so have the life experience
that is essential to fulfill this new role to empower leadership.
Covey's habit #7 calls for keeping a daily journal of thoughts, experiences,
insights, as a means to sharpen mental acuity. Communication Metrics, described
in the New World Order paper, applies this idea through technology to
electronically link prior events, thoughts, and documents with current activity
so it is available when CEO's customers and colleagues need the "truth." The
PMBOK calls this "aligning people through communications," section 2.4.1; ISO
10006 calls it "traceability to original sources," e.g., section 126.96.36.199, that
supports" continual learning," section 7 throughout. Thinkers from Aristotle to
Aquinas, Disrali, Covey, have long recognized that superior learning skill is a
key characteristic of great leaders who leverage impoverished information with
vast experience in order to formulate new ideas.
.. Asilomar is fortunate to have Intel Corporation presenting its plans for
future technology. Intel's CEO, Andy Grove, is famous for keeping track of
understandings and sending "Andy Grams" following up on action items from
meetings. General Vernon Walters, former NATO Commander, and a leadership aide
for presidents over the past quarter century, is legendary for preparing
detailed notes of what is said at meetings and how it relates to prior events,
without having taken notes during the meetings.
While few have the tenacity of an Andy Grove or the mental powers of a General
Walters, Asilomar can show that technology to support these factors of success
forms a stronger partnership with leadership, that can solve the scourge of
downsizing. The idea is simple: more communication means we need more
alignment, more attention to traceability, to continual learning. We need
technology that supports good habits, and leaders with vision and courage to
use the technology that makes everybody more productive, so earnings go up.
This need is clear from the Associated Press story on February 4, 1996,
reporting that managers are wasting up to 70% of the day in unproductive
meetings because attendees are not prepared, there is no agenda, discussions
ramble and there is no follow up. This waste impairs earnings. People who
waste time are not needed in their present job. They need a job that invests
time in what is needed: doing the analysis that converts information from
endless meetings, calls and email, into useful knowledge, and ensuring timely
follow up. The Information Highway creates an unlimited need for these skills.
Reengineering management to apply these skills that increase earnings is the
central challenge of leadership for the 21st century.
Johanna Neuman's new book "Lights, Camera, War," traces the stormy love-hate
relationship between leadership and technology from the Gutenberg printing
press, to the telegraph, hailed as the "Information Highway" of its day, to the
present-day worry about horrific mistakes and miscalculation by leaders under
siege by a national mood whipped into mob mentality from a constant stream of
information, much like the modern project environment. Ms. Neuman makes this
case on page 20 and 21 in her book, and notes on page 24 that each new
communication technology unleashes a dilemma calling on leaders to "...change
their habits, to adjust to a new speed or a new imperative, to hurry their
decisions... But technology has also been a gift to those who learned to
exploit its blessings..." Asilomar explores how to make the Information
Highway a blessing for project leaders.
Taxpayers of course enable political leaders to make the adjustments called out
by Ms. Neuman for applying technology usefully. The president's team that
has grown to meet the growth in information because they
know that, like "turning straw into gold," information is only of value after
it is converted into knowledge, and this takes intelligence. The National
Security Advisor, the CIA and other agencies assemble and analyze daily events
to ensure adequate understanding, accuracy, alignment with policies,
commitments and objectives.
Business leaders don't have taxpayers to finance changing habits and trying new
methods. Hiring a lot of people to analyze information is expensive, especially
when hard pressed by foreign competitors in a global economy who have a lower
wage base. As a result, many businesses are being run over on the Information
Highway. They are scurrying to stay ahead of their mistakes by the quick fix of
downsizing. They call it "getting leaner and meaner."
The NWO article offers a different strategy: get smarter -- reengineer the
practice of management using technology that lifts the process of doing
knowledge work, i. e., think, remember and communicate. This will empower
CEOs, managers and everybody to know the truth, and that will ensure a...
happier truth to tell
Asilomar's agenda, calling for a better partnership between leadership and
technology, offers the prospect of getting the analysis done that converts
information into knowledge, and in the bargain put people to work applying the
sound management practices of Covey, PMBOK and ISO every day. Consistent use
of good practices is the cultural imperative of the New World Order that can
lift civilization to a new plateau. Anyway, that is how I see the nexus
between the NWO article and the Asilomar agenda.