The Welch Company
440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111 2496
June 19, 1997
Project Management Institute
Northern California Chapter
Asilomar Conference, Monterey, California
Give Me Men to Match My Mountains
By Rod Welch
This challenge greets all who pass through the majestic halls on entering the
Court of Appeals in Sacramento, California. It is a call to arms for the
strength of character that preserves the blessings of liberty for a free
Our chapter faces a microcosm of the larger challenge in staying the
course to preserve hard won lessons learned by the men who blazed the trail and
founded PMI so that we, in our time, could advance project management. This
year the Chapter has again faltered in failing to sponsor a professional event
at Asilomar. Suddenly two (2) out the last three (3) years we have failed to
present a conference, which has, up until now (1995), been held annually since
1975. Conferences are "projects" and so it is troublesome that an organization
for advancing project management is unable to manage its most important
project. PMI membership has more than doubled the past few years, yet we seem
to have less leadership. Let's then take stock of antithetical trends. What
can we learn from failure that enables us to be prepared for even bigger
"mountains" yet to climb? Does the last Asilomar Conference offer case study
ideas that lead to a better future?
Search for "Truth"
for the July 1996 Asilomar conference began at a PMI dinner meeting in
May 1995 when Bill DeHart, Stan Watson and Ahmet Taspinar discussed forming a
team to manage Asilomar for 1996 on the theme of communication. Ahmet felt
the conference should aid members in using the Project Management Body of
Knowledge (PMBOK). Since
is the driving force of management,
and since projects require proactive management to align
the work with objectives, requirements and commitments, everyone agreed that
communication is an appropriate theme for the Asilomar Conference next year.
This theme arose from a prior dinner meeting the month before on April 12, 1995
when Joel Koppleman, CEO and founder of Primavera Software, gave a presentation
on Magic Dates. Mr. Koppleman related how completion and cost
for a project to create a version of their CPM scheduling program to run
under the Windows operating system wound up exceeding
original estimates. He was disappointed
by repeated failures to meet revised estimates for completion and cost
over the life of the project. Repeated extensions of project completion gave
rise to the title of Mr. Koppleman's talk: Magic Dates. During Q&A Mr.
Koppleman said the project would have been more successful if he had hired
project managers who tell the "truth."
Later in July this view was echoed by
another prominent IT entrepreneur who planned to eliminate the project manager
role entirely at his firm because they
...lie, harass and cover up.
Clearly, telling the truth is a challenge in projects, as in jurisprudence
indicated by the quote above the Court of Appeals,
building in Sacramento, per above.
How can we empower project managers to climb the "mountains" of endless
information in time to discover a "truth" that avoids error, loss, conflict and
the wrath and torment of people removed far from the scene in time and
distance and personal experience?
Consideration was given to using the line from the movie Cool Hand
Luke when the warden addresses inmates on difficulties the Paul Newman
character had following prison procedures: "What we have here is a...
Failure to Communicate!
Asilomar would show that communication is the heart of all communities
and so technology must support leadership in aligning people through
communication, as prescribed in the PMBOK procedures.
Information Highway Makes "Truth" a Perilous Journey
At the May 1995 PMI dinner meeting, Bill, Stan and Ahmet considered ways to
present this sensitive subject constructively. It was decided in subsequent
working sessions to posit that the Information Highway makes
"truth" a moving
based on an article slated to be published by PMnetwork in May of 1996,
a month before this event was planned for Asilomar.
This avoids the moral odor of good versus evil by pointing instead to
a positive path of "discovery."
In court, the scales of justice carefully
weigh testimony to discover truth. But, a courtroom is blessed with a static
record; discussion covers only settled events. Project managers need a
different tool because they face a dynamic record where truth is a moving
target. Events move too quickly for the ponderous scales, that work so well in
court, to discover truth on the Information Highway. How then can technology
help the busy mind keep up in this dynamic environment so that truth can be
discovered early enough to avoid mistakes that cause delays and extra cost?
Might the answer result in a "happier truth to tell" with less stress and
anxiety for CEOs and everybody in the organizational food chain?
Over the ensuing weeks and months, Ahmet led the team in formulating a vision,
strategies and tactics. At a meeting on June 8, 1995, he observed that
project management is easy when people use the PMBOK,
and so the team decided to
illustrate this insight by using the PMBOK to manage Asilomar. This idea was
furthered in September when Ahmet pared the team down to a lean group of
professionals striving to make Asilomar an instrument to improve skills and
bring credit to the chapter and PMI. "Lean" management was chronicled by
Jeremy Rifkin in his masterful book The End of Work that explains how the
Japanese model spread to the US in the mid-90s, eliminating millions of
unproductive middle-managers because new technologies in email, fax, celluar
phones and voicemail enable fewer managers to do more work. Ahmet, Sherrill
McDonald, Bill DeHart and many others on the new "lean" team worked tirelessly
to shape an agenda.
Executives Must Contribute to the Dialog on Better Project Management
Several related factors were recognized in planning Asilomar. One was the need
for attendance of people who could contribute meaningfully to a discussion of
first principles. A solution to a vexing problem for CEOs implies that CEOs
and executives should attend Asilomar under the continual learning imperative.
Including this group would in turn raise the value of the conference for the
membership by showing how to ask questions that constructively challenge ideas
and methods advanced by the speakers. To achieve this attendance goal, it was
essential to have quality speakers, a well planned, coordinated agenda, and an
out-reach program to invite executives to attend Asilomar.
New Ideas Require Cross-Functional Speakers
Ahmet's Asilomar team had the talent to develop the agenda, but getting quality
speakers costs money. 49er Football executive and former head coach,
was willing to be the opening speaker on leadership in a fast paced
environment. He would be a draw to increase attendance.
appeared on television and written widely on stress that impairs human memory,
would be a draw.
was the center piece of presenting a theory of knowledge from
cognitive science that bridges the gap between
technology and our notion of "truth," as the
"mountain" Mr. Koppleman and others want to climb. Landauer's
books and prominence, as
a member of presidential counsels on useful technology, would make him a draw.
General Henry J. Hatch
agreed to close the conference by challenging the membership to
take up arms using the new methods learned at the Conference. General Hatch's
as Commander of the Corps of Engineers and now Vice President of Fluor Daniel
Corporation would draw attendance. Thus, the theme, agenda and speakers were
geared to provide sufficient attendance to defray speaker expense.
A strategy was formulated to announce the agenda and speakers at PMI dinner
meetings beginning in December, so people could start planning to attend
Asilomar in July, and could encourage colleagues to join. An advertising
campaign was planned in PMI publications to present pre-conference articles and
quotes from speakers to alert PMI national membership about attending Asilomar
to hear a solution to the problem that extends back to at least the pharaohs
and the pyramids. A quote from Andy Grove, CEO of Intel, was prepared to
further promote attendance.
The team was lucky when it was announced the PMI National Board would be at
Asilomar the same weekend as the chapter's Conference. The prestige of PMI
national leadership would be an additional attendance draw, and so remarks were
planned to assist the president in supporting the conference. The PMI
Communications Editor would be attending, as part of the National Board, and so
could write an article about how technology can empower leadership to discover
truth on the Information Highway. The stars seemed aligned to make Asilomar a
A preliminary agenda was prepared to accomplish Ahmet's charge for vision,
strategies and tactics.
Leadership & Technology - Partnership for Change
Technology has produced an Information Highway. The Internet, email, voice
mail, pagers, cell phones, networks, all produce a constant stream of
information from calls, meetings and documents. However, technology has not
produced better decisions, productivity nor earnings because effective
communication requires connecting information with objectives and meaning to
create understanding, i.e., "knowledge." This requires intelligence which
computers do not have. The result is that leadership today is disconnected
from the team and from the details of daily work because there isn't enough
time to analyse and align communications, nor to prepare for meetings and to
follow up. Everyone's talking, but nobody's listening. It's too noisy! These
conditions make "truth" a constant casualty. The Associated Press on Feb 4,
1996, reported managers are wasting up to 70% of the day, a colossal failure of
leadership. Reengineering is the "quick fix" to remain competitive in a global
economy, but actually compounds the problem of "haste makes waste"! As
technology shrinks time and distance, leadership is imploding under a sea of
details, starved for the connections (intelligence) that convert information
into useful knowledge. We have good people, but we need a better partnership
between leadership and technology.
What to do?
When critical challenges arise the American spirit takes the field with energy
and vision. Stephen Covey says seek first to understand then prescribe.
Asilomar will seek to understand the demands of leadership in a faster paced
world, then prescribe technology to redress the time/information continuum.
Skills will be identified that convert the problem of endless information into
a new opportunity for everyone to create the knowledge and ideas that build a
better world. Let's use the PMBOK to form a new partnership to create what we
What's our vision?
Changing to "automated knowledge" by integrating time and information is the
next step in the march of civilization.
What's our strategy?
New standards in the PMBOK and ISO show this "step" provides new leadership
skills that raise personal and organizational productivity to compete and win
in a global economy. The partnership of new skills and technology forms a new
science of Communication Metrics. Strong leadership must guide cultural change
to take the steps that add value to people and organizations seeking to avoid
the spiral of implosion from archaic business practices being overwhelmed on
the Information Highway. The Asilomar Conference will define the skills and
technology that fulfill the vision of a quantum leap into the 21st century
through effective leadership.
A G E N D A
July 12, 1996, Friday Evening
0400 Introductory social event
0645 Ahmet convenes Asilomar and introduces Lois Zells, as moderator.
0700 PMI National Board will be introduced to set the vision of change at
0730 Lois Zells will introduce elements of the conference (incorporate
Sherrill's bullets), and introduce Bill Walsh.
[We need to visit with Lois about the agenda and get a sense
if she can do this role based on NWO paper, and whether she
will be available. Otherwise Rodger Bush might work. We
need to investigate a variety of options for the moderator.
This is a critical task. If Zells can do it, this is a good
opportunity for her.]
0745 Bill Walsh
Leadership in the Fast Lane
...will explain how professional football is a metaphor for the
Insp growing pace of business life that requires a new kind of
leadership. Innovation, skill and preparation are the critical
pillars to meet the challenge of sound judgement and superior
performance under fire, that lift the "game" to a new plateau.
0930 Lois Zells will close the evening with the observation:
Gee, the pace of modern life is speeding up too -- maybe the
risk of error in business is increasing -- maybe we can use
some of Bill's ideas about good decision making in football, at
the office. Is there any way we can help high priced
executives perform their assignments better? Instead of
cannibalizing the team, maybe we need to help everybody work
Tomorrow the Conference will take up this objective. Let's
sleep on it.
July 13, 1996 - Saturday
Segment "A" - the problem
0800 General Hank Hatch
Prepare to Succeed
...former Chief Engineer of the Corps of Engineers, who
introduced Project Management at the Corps, and now Vice
Insp President of Fluor Daniel, will define the fundamental
challenges of leadership that technology can and must address,
begins with the simple idea:
...why are managers wasting 70% of their day in
unproductive meetings. Can technology help them prepare to
succeed instead of overwhelm them with doubt and minutia.
0815 Lois Zells introduces the speaker slate and provides an
overview of the days inquiry.
0830 Dr. Maynard Brusman
Reengineer the Information Highway for Better Profits:
Helping people through effective leadership and
...will show how technology and reengineering hamper leadership
due to poor communication, stress and conflict. The
experiences and ideas of conferees will be used to show how key
ideas by Stephen Covey on personal effectiveness, and basic
teamwork are ignored because there isn't enough time. Fewer
people chasing more information from constant meetings, calls
and email, requires better leadership in the fast lane of the
Information Highway. Dr. Brusman offers new insights from the
field of psychology to restore common sense and common values
through shared commitment in the workplace. He will set an
agenda for technology to restore effective leadership?
0915 David Buoncristiani
Dialog, Documents and Human Memory, a Legal
Perspective: "There wasn't enough time to check the
contract, the CPM, the letter, the regulation, the
...will describe how "metrics" in the law reveal failures of
human memory that result in costly communication failures
Info within and between organizations. Ideas about partnering will
Ent. be explained in relation to accountability. Being prepared
means better meetings, fewer lawyers, leading to a new model of
management practice to support leadership, preserve
organizational memory and secure hard won earnings.
1015 Professor Tom Landauer,
Why computers don't help as much as you think, and
what to do about it: the "Law of the Microcosm."
...former Director of the Cognitive Science Research Group at
Bellcore, will report on studies cited in his book, "The
Trouble with Computers," showing the Information Highway
impedes leadership due to miss-understanding, confusion and
Info misstatements seen as "lies", unless properly deployed. He
Ent. offers a scientific basis for PMBOK and ISO criteria to align
communications, from recent work on "Plato's Problem," that
points the way to useful automation for leaders. These
insights connect the trauma of communication breakdowns, with
conflict, law suits, losses, failures and reengineering which
today's leaders can transcend through a better partnership with
1115 Panel - Lois Zells will moderate a panel where the three
speakers will be joined by Rod Welch, Morris Jones and David
Vannier to question and dialog among one another about
findings, ideas and recommendations. Two members from the
audience will begin the questioning, and 15 minutes will be
allotted at the conclusion of the panel for further audience
Segment "B" - solutions
0130 Lois Zells introduces the speaker slate and provides an
overview of the inquiry as moderator.
0145 Turner Construction
Strong Leadership Requires PMBOK and ISO Criteria to
Meet the Challenge of High Risk Projects
...presents a panel of speakers to set out the cultural
moorings that evolved careful communications to save time and
improve income for high risk projects. Understanding and
Info follow up are critical to successful leadership when
information flows faster. A world at risk by technology that
spreads mistakes like a virus as time and distance are
compressed, demands the investment of skills and technology to
avoid error, to ensure understanding. High risk means leaders
must "be prepared" to succeed.
0230 Morris Jones
Competing to Win in a Global Economy: New Needs, New
Roles, New Skills for Effective Leadership
...Senior VP with Chips & Technologies will map the evolution
in strategic management under reengineering scenarios that
respond to increased risks of a global economy, and require
Info better tools and cultural change for effective leadership. A
Ent. new role and skill set will be suggested and designed with
input from, and interaction with, PMI's audience of "experts"
on what skills and support managers need to be successful in
the age of the Information Highway. The audience will help
design a better, more secure, future.
0400 David Vannier
Technology and People, a Commitment to Progress
...Director of Mobile Architecture at Intel will explain how
improvements in automation over the next 10 years will make
practical the new science of Communication Metrics to enable
Info consistent use of management practices called out by ISO,
Ent PMBOK, Covey, Drucker and others. Intel will demonstrate how
future technology can become a better partner to make
leadership more effective in the hyper-paced world of the 21st
[Hopefully, David will announce a series of studies to
investigate and test through pilot programs, as recommended
by Dr. Landauer, the technology for Communication Metrics;
they will lead by offering an example for others to follow.]
0445 Panel - Lois Zells will moderate a panel where the three
speakers will be joined by Rod Welch and Tom Landauer to
challenge one another about findings, ideas and
recommendations. Two members from the audience will begin the
questioning, and 15 minutes will be allotted at the conclusion
of the panel for further audience questions.
[We have the flexibility to dispense with this panel, if
membership attention seems to have wained at this point.
Actually, we could just do it the next day, after we do the
current state of the art.]
0600 Social Hour
[What might be done is dispense with the morning panel.
Have Turner do that spot, so this time period can be used
for the social hour before dinner.]
[Or, we could break precedent and have the social hour at 0800p
July 14, 1996 - Sunday Morning
0800 Panel - Three executives will demonstrate the current state of
the art for using computers to support leadership. Morris Jones
Info will demonstrate Echo Pro. Ross Armstrong with IBM Credit
Ent Corporation will demonstrate Lotus Organizer and
_________________________ will demonstrate ________________.
0900 Panel - Lois Zells will moderate a panel where Tom Landauer,
Rod Welch Morris Jones, Dave Vannier, Bill DeHart, Wayne Wetzel
and Sterling Jensen, will review findings on leadership and
Info technology. Sterling will first relate how Telematics
developed his role as Communications Manager. Wayne Wetzel
will explain how this role was used at DNRC, using automated
tools shown by Intel. Tom Landauer will challenge David
Vannier on how Intel's future technology will be more useful
than current offerings. Morris Jones will query the
practicality of Communication Metrics for busy leaders who work
by conversation. Bill DeHart will ask who is going to do all
the work left over from reengineering?
1015 General Henry Hatch
Ambassadors of Change: Preparing for the 21st Century
...the "Quantum Leap" into the future requires vision and
courage in overcoming ignorance, fear and denial of new ideas.
Insp General Hatch, will summarize what was learned, and challenge
attendees to become Ambassadors of Change to meet the demands
for better leadership in the 21st century through a better
partnership with technology.
1115 Ahmet Taspinar
Closing remarks & Follow Up
...Asilomar Project Manager, announce that findings of Asilomar
will be published by PMI Communications. Follow up review will
be presented in PMI monthly meetings over the next year. Intel
will report on results of its studies at Asilomar next year.
What went wrong?
The project manager was forced to be out of the country on business a good part
of the time when Asilomar leadership was needed. This reduced the time for
leadership to understand the Conference agenda and the need for key speakers.
It forced greater reliance on ad hoc input from outside event experts who were
unfamiliar with Conference planning, and it caused reliance on cursory analysis
using email, fax, celluar phones, voicemail, guess and gossip, rather than the
Plans to use "planning theater" sessions (advocated at the June 1990
Asilomar Conference) with Joan Knutson to facilitate educating Conference team
members were not carried out for unknown reasons, though likely related to the
Quotations for speakers were prepared and approved for release, as were
pre-event articles. These were submitted to PMI Communications, however,
nothing was published. There were no announcements at PMI dinner meetings that
Asilomar would present a solution to empower project managers to discover the
truth, so they could tell the truth to disconnected executives.
There was no out-reach inviting executives to attend in order to hear the
solution to their concerns about "telling the truth."
There was no pre-event assistance for the moderator to understand the
agenda; nor was the PMI National president prepared to address the agenda in a
short introduction at Asilomar.
Under this record, it appeared attendance goals would not be met, and so
speaker fees could not be paid. Team leadership was then forced to eliminate
key speakers and this eliminated presentations on cognitive science about
"truth" and "error" in the human mind, which is critical to understanding the
problem as a predicate to creating and using tools for better management.
Having fumbled the ball on advertising and out-reach, Hatch, Walsh,
Busman and Landauer who had the experience, ideas and credibility to move the
agenda forward, were benched. Replacements were found who fit the budget, but
they lacked grounding in key knowledge areas, they lacked the time to prepare,
and there was not enough time for the Asilomar team to develop a new
coordinated agenda. Despite having started planning in May 1995, it turned out
there was not enough time to prepare for the event in July 1996.
Papers were written for several speakers to explain "Concurrent
Discovery" and "Obstacles to Leadership" as defined in the PMBOK in relation to
the executive mindset that insists on managing by guess and gossip because
conversation is fast and easy, then blames others as the cause of failure.
However, these papers were not presented at the Conference and the ideas were
not addressed. In the end, no one had a clue what the Conference was about
relative to the original objective of empowering men to match the mountain of
telling the "truth."
Half of the speakers were partially prepared. As a result of event
orientation meetings, Dave Vannier with Intel, Morris Jones with Chips and
Technologies, David Buoncristiani with Thelin, Marrin, Johnson & Bridges, and
the team from Turner grasped the challenge of the Information Highway for
effective leadership, and were able to convey this in their remarks at the
Conference. No one, however, explained the solution, offered clues that might
lead to a solution, nor how the PMBOK could be used to accomplish it.
What went right?
PMI was given an opportunity to be an important voice in forging a better
partnership between leadership and technology in the 21st century, a goal that
has eluded leaders from Caesar, Napolean, Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower to
the present day.
"Concurrent Discovery" was formed to explain how technology makes
possible a new management science of Communication Metrics to overcome the
fragility of human memory so people can keep up with the moving target of
"Knowledge Space" analogous to "dimensional space" was defined to improve
CAD-CAM tools and work practices of design professionals; a skit was planned to
illustrate how "management details" can be organized, analysed and maintained
by Communication Managers" the way an architect manages "construction details"
to ensure alignment of the work with project requirements.
"Be Prepared" emerged as a key factor of leadership based on pre-event
work with General Hatch, Bill Walsh, and Dave Buoncristiani, so that technology
can make the Information Highway a blessing rather than an obstacle.
Paradigm shift from "documents" to "automated knowledge stream," was
identified as a conceptual framework for the "Paperless Office."
"Executive Mindset" emerged as an obstacle to leadership, which is
compounded by the Information Highway, that inhibits implementation of the
"Leadership with Broader Vision" was formed to overcome the Information
Highway that inhibits understanding and follow up due to reliance on "Feel
Good" management that uses cursory analysis of understandings disconnected from
details because conversation seems fast and easy, and blaming others for not
telling the truth when results are not aligned with objectives, leading to the
abdication of leadership.
The Project Manger for Asilomar needs to be available to devote the time for
making critical decisions. When new ideas are to be introduced, this requires
investing more time for understanding to make informed decisions. If that is
not possible, as is often the case with volunteer endeavors, then someone who
has the time and the expertise to be effective should be assigned.
Breakthrough ideas require a critical mass of credible speakers to overcome the
barriers of ignorance, fear and denial that burden executives who are unable to
keep up with truth in the dynamic world of modern business. Credible speakers
cost money and this requires sufficient attendance to pay the bills. Attracting
people beyond zealots and those who have nothing interesting to do on a
weekend, requires advertising.
We have to invite executives to attend Asilomar and challenge them to be part
of the solution by discovering how to avoid being part of the problem. This
requires understanding on how "thinking" (cognition) works. It is complicated
and controversial with respect to the nexus between religion, science and
technology, but we have to begin working on it. If PMI does not do this, who
will perform this project?
Leaders do not have enough time on the Information Highway to read and write,
obviating the foundation of civilization predicated on knowledge acquisition
through traceability to original sources, and this gives rise to the need for
Communication Manager support.
Consistent use of PMBOK practices to align people through communication causes
anger, fear, frustration and denial among executives, which suggests a
Leadership Aide is needed to provide a psychological buffer analogous to a
caching system in computer memory management.
Effective advertising may be possible through PMI Communications. If not, then
PMI Communications needs examination with respect to its contribution to the
organization. This takes leadership.
Creating an effective agenda starts with a vision that must guide the team and
leadership in planning and making decisions. A key dimension of that vision
must always be anchored to the PMBOK, otherwise there is no rationale for the
document and the organization. Presentations must either show how to implement
and advance the PMBOK or recommend changes to improve it.
Speaker presentations must be coordinated for correlation with the vision. A
simple way to do this is to request papers from speakers in advance of their
remarks, and visit with each speaker on how their remarks relate to the ideas
being presented by others. Where speakers do not have time nor the skill to
prepare a paper, and yet remain important to the event, papers should prepared
for them that meet their approval, so members obtain a deliverable that can be
integrated into their work practice, if they so choose.
Assessment - the Mountain Remains
Under all the circumstances, the Conference turned out fairly well. Those who
attended reported in post-event interviews that they enjoyed the experience and
could not remember any new ideas that were presented, which is typical for
professional conferences. The decision not to pay honorarium may have been the
only option under Chapter precedent and the history of attendance at these
events. Decisions not to advertise and not to expand attendance may, also,
have been correct. Bill Walsh would certainly have lamented
Monday-Morning-Quarterbacking, had he spoken at Asilomar.
Equally, present practice of
managing by "guess and gossip" on the Information Highway frowns upon
"second-guessing" because there wasn't enough time for analysis of the
first-guess. The Chapter was therefore fortunate to have strong leadership who
made the hard calls aimed at avoiding a costly and embarrassing fiasco that
might have ensued had the original agenda been carried forward to present bold,
untried and controversial ideas on empowering people to discover "truth" so
there is a happier "truth" to tell.
It remains a mountain which men may yet match. Asilomar 1996 began the climb,
but was forced to turn back. Now, cancellation of Asilomar offers an entire
year to gather our strength for another try.