Win-Win Relationships with Consultants (and everyone else)

In my career I have had many experiences working with consulting firms and individuals and I have repeatedly witnessed some in my organization treating these relationships with a “they are only consultants” as is if they are slave labor, thus giving little or no respect. When pondering this type of behavior, my thoughts created many questions regarding the client-consultant relationship. Explore your relationships by reading on.

  • Why is it that people and organizations feel that they can “beat up” on the consultants? What kind of archaic and arcane thinking is that? What is it? It does not work and I propose requires more effort to work from this view. and delivers less than desirable results.
  • Are relationships with our vendors and partners one-sided? Is there give-and-take? Is there active listening going on? Do you agree that successful (productive) relationships are based on trust and a shared vision of the future? If so, these relationships take time and need to be developed just like any other.
  • If the first two bullets resonate, where to begin. What about the contractual agreement? Doesn’t this solidify details and expectations? If not, ask your consultant any flavor of the following:
    • “What is the definition of success? What would be the best, most ideal outcome for the project, or agreement, or contract?” After the agreement is signed and you begin the work, ask the question again, I guarantee you will get a more relaxed and beneficial answer. This is where the trust truly begins.
    • “How are you (the individual, not the company) measured for success? How will your boss, your company view success?”
    • “What has worked in the past? Tell me about the best customer you have worked with?”
  • Of equal importance and value and to make this a two-way conversation, the other side of asking your consultants all these questions, is for the consultant to clearly understand your responses to the same questions and clearly understand the goals.
  • Help them be the best they can be. Prior to engaging, the consultants presented a host of services/solutions to help you achieve your stated objectives; makes sense to put them in the best position to deliver – right?
  • Remove obstacles. Make it “easy” for them to deliver on their expertise. If they need another power cord, go get it, they need a database update, get it done, they need a decision, make it happen.
  • At the end of the day, the project or the agreement, if you have answered, and/or addressed the questions above, you will have developed a relationship that enables your consultant to succeed, and there success is your success!
  • In projects, while some elements are possibly subjective, items like time and budget should be well defined so there is no question and strict accountability can be put in place.
  • First impressions are real. Upon engaging in a new relationship with a consultant you are establishing the foundation for the future. Not only do first impressions represent a relationship between individuals, but also between individuals and organizations, or between organizations.
    • What kind of impact can a first impression have? I recall a particular experience in which I entered a corporate office of a prospective client and while awaiting for my appointment with a senior manager I observed and listened as the front-desk administrator had several in-person and over the phone engagements with co-workers where I heard at least twice some utterance similar to, “…they are only a consultant…”. That spoke volumes to me. I knew that this short-sighted perspective (BTW – this was reinforced when I met my contact) was not going to lead to a positive long-lasting relationship, and I was right as the work went away not too far into the future.
  • Getting to know each other. Remember when you moved in with your fiance, boyfriend, girlfriend, college roommate? Remember the awkwardness of learning when to use the bathroom, replacing grocery items, how loud to play music, etc. This was that “getting to know you” phase of a new relationship. Instead of experiencing these awkward activities, why not address both of your expectations, desires and requirements, etc. right from the start? If you sense that you are not on the same page, you have questions, you have doubts; don’t wait and engage right away in the dialog about concerns and questions. Add to this conversation the when and how to communicate (phone, email, meetings), introductions to others (who are the stakeholders)…. And, who is doing what; updating project plans, writing status reports, etc. How and what will be done when there is a disagreement and finally remembering to put the seat down (kidding on this last one!).

This all makes sense – right? If so, you are ready for a “win-win” relationship with your consultants.

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Pain is my Prayer

There are many times in which one might pray for someone in pain. During one long and arduous training ride over several sections of road between New Hampshire and Massachusetts in preparation for the annual Pan Mass Challenge – my prayer was my pain.

Pain is Prayer” has become one of my mantras while pushing hard.

I recognize that many people suffer from the ravages of cancer, or other life challenges, either directly or indirectly. In the case of cancer patients they endure and battle through multiple chemo therapy and radiation sessions and the consequences of these body altering activities. Then, there are the family members and/or supporters who live with the stress of watching their loved ones.

On this day, my internal voice screamed, “I care; I care a lot!” My spirit goes out to every person and their families. I was pushing myself very hard and I thought; this is for Jack, this is for Helen and Joe, this is for “Bumpa” and everyone else on my “helmet“. Then, on the PMC weekend and I would push harder. I hold this belief that my exertion has a, call it a “cosmic connection” to helping others. It is a spiritual connection. I feel that the energy I give is an energy that can be used to help others.

When I prepare for the PMC I have several “prayer” moments.

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Not enough time to exercise, then just “HIIT” it!

HIIT is ‘High Intensity Intervals Training‘.

This exercise regimen is not a new fad; however, its profile has received a lot of press recently due to its short(er) time duration engagement proposition and to the uninformed, an association with CrossFit; the latter being a branded form of multi-disciplinary exercises.

I actually heard someone say after seeing a short video report story on HIIT, “That’s all!” I thought, “Yea, but you would not be able to handle that level of effort“.

Another way to look at this form of exercise/conditioning is from a quality-versus-quantity perspective. Depending on the HIIT model you follow the level of effort during a session will have your body screaming and begging you to stop and you will be done between 15-20 minutes. However, the results are solid. For those wanting for facts and are into the science (and consider yourself to be “older”), then check out Martin J. Gibala, PhD’s “Intermittent exercise and insulin sensitivity in older individuals: It’s a HIIT” article. Of note from this paper are the following two points to consider.

  • “…may serve as a timeefficient substitute or compliment to commonly recommended moderateintensity continuous training for improving cardio metabolic health…”
  • “…efficacy of timeefficient interval training protocol to improve
    insulin sensitivity and cardio respiratory fitness in older individuals…”

My view of “High Intensity Interval Training” (HIIT) begins by looking at the words from the acronym.

High Intensity. I propose that ‘high intensity’ is relative to a person’s present health and fitness level. For the person who has not seen their belt buckle since high school, then vigorous walking may be intense. Even for the conditioned athlete going all-out for short time intervals will be taxing. The immersion into these efforts is painful – I know.

Intervals. This component of HIIT is the attraction for many; it refers to the timing aspect of engaging within the exercise regime. Forever, individuals have had as their number one reason for not exercising is a lack of time. HIIT’s proposed value is that you can achieve results in a less amount of time.

While there are variety of routines available today and many gyms, or clubs, offer such programs, for the out-of-shape individual I implore you to get a physical exam, or talk with your doc (there, that PSA warning is out of the way). Now, where to begin. Start with your own personal HIIT session and follow this suggestion.

  1. Warm-up! Swing your arms, twist your body, walk, cycle, just move easy-to-moderately for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Go Hard! What does “hard” mean? You will know it when it happens. Depending on your form of exercise (walking briskly, cycling like a cyclone, or running away from a tiger) push hard for 1 minute (for those who are using technology or know themselves well this will be a 80-90% effort), your heart is pounding in your chest, you are sweating, your breathing is labored, and more!
  3. Recovery. My god, that was hard! So, take 2-2.5 minutes and recover, by slowing your preferred exercise so you can swallow your heart and oxygen, and you can feel your extremities again.
  4. Repeat! Yes, repeat steps 2 and 3 for 3-5 more times.
  5. Chill. Continue walking or cycling for an easy 3-5 minutes.

Total HIIT Time: Approximately 15-25 minutes. Now that wasn’t too bad; was it?

Once again, the above suggested session is for those who have been away for a while. For those with fitness backgrounds and want to try HIIT, the above session still works with the following considerations.

  1. Warm-up is moderate and increases slightly towards first hard interval.
  2. Hard should be in the 90-95% range.
  3. For recovery, target between 1.5-2 minutes.

Okay, so this is suppose to save time and get results. Someone might say, “I get it, 15-25 minutes; but overall, how many times per week?” Reports will suggest 2-4 times per week. I suggest that the number of times per week is based on two considerations; 1) How a HIIT aligns with your training goals? and, 2) How hard are you pushing in a HIIT session? Personally, I find 1-2 times per week has been beneficial and complimentary.

Got 15-20 minutes? Are you ready to HIIT it? Want more? If so, you might find Dr. Martin Gibala’s “The One-Minute Workout” to be of value. OneMinWorkout


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Review: Fitbit Charger 2


I got a hand-me-down; from my daughter. I thought it was the other way around, especially since dad is supposed to be the fitness nut in the family.

In the early 80’s I used a Polar HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) in my fitness training as I am always researching and testing health and fitness products, fads, trends, etc. The Polar HRM was a good tool, however I moved onto the next thing and ever since then I have just continued researching and reviewing the evolution of these technologies without actually using one.

My first week with this unit was vanilla, I put it on and barely paid attention to it. My goal was to look at this wearable from both a novice and experienced fitness enthusiast’s perspective.

To get started, I needed to sync with my iPhone; that was fast and easy. Next, I downloaded the app; that was fast and easy. Check, check for those considering investing in this health/fitness tool.

My daughter changed from one of the rubber straps to a leather one. I liked the leather one, but I knew that my activity level would require my getting an athletic (rubber) band. First note, accessories on Fitbit website are more expensive than other sources e.g. Fitbit Sportsband $29.95, I purchased one for $5.99 through an Amazon reseller. After several weeks my band is doing quite fine.

Being far-sighted I was concerned that I would not be able to see the small display, however I am pleased to report (to the older generation) that the white text on black background presents a clear visual.

Not sure if it is the age of this hand-me-down piece, or the actual sensitivity, but the tap navigation on the unit is not as responsive as that on my other touch electronics; so, no judgment here.

Online dashboard provides plenty of information for a novice to a seasoned health and fitness buff. However, for the experienced individual you may be looking for more info, for example, in addition to seeing average heart rate I would like to see average low and highs.

Things I like and you will to:

  • Clear readable display.
  • Easy setup.
  • Good mobile app.
  • Good web dashboard.
  • Plenty of configurations to help both the novice and seasoned individuals.

Features I would like:

  • Edit workouts for those times when you forget to hit stop
  • HRM Zones notifications. When moving from ‘Fat Burn’ to ‘Cardio’ to ‘Peak’ zones, I would like to be notified. The notifications should be user configurable and offer visual, audible and/ vibration.
  • HRM Analysis. At present, the dashboard shows average for workout and total minutes in the zones, however, I would like to see the totals divided into periods, for example; if total in the cardio zone was 20 minutes, I would like to see how many times and for what lengths led to this total.

My conclusion; anything that helps people pursue, or maintain, their health and fitness is good and the Fitbit Charge 2 does this and more.


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Say yes to, “Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll”


The song, the chant, the mantra of “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” is from a past generation – right? Well, let me offer this view and suggest we need more of each.

Sex is healthy, creates life and is fun. Do I need to say anything more?

Drugs are good for you. Look what Aspirin and Ibuprofen do for headaches and muscle pain. Where would cancer patients be without medications such as Avastin and Trastuzumab?

Who said, “…long live rock…” had it right. (Did you catch that? “[The] Who” said…). Rock-n-roll is music, great music! Better than TV. C’mon! What about the Beatles, Ray Charles, Led Zepplin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Aerosmith, Chuck Berry, Nirvana, Aretha Franklin, Black Sabbath, B.B. King, Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Bruce Springsteen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chet Atkins, and the king – Elvis!

And, many more!


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PMC 2013 Recap

The entire weekend was blur and one of the best I have had with the PMC. Its always hard to call something the best, so I might rephrase and just say it was one to remember. This being my 15th year I truly wanted it to be memorable and it was. I had the best training preparation than any other year. I was ready to ride hard and with passion. Passion is something I have lots of, each and every year.

Day Zero – Friday

Starting on Friday, Bob Fortin, fellow FOTCR (Fellowship of the Chain Ring) member, started from my house in Bedford and made our way to Sturbridge; depending on route would be about an 80-100 mile “warm up” to the PMC weekend. After 5 years of doing this ‘Day Zero‘ ride, you would think I know my way, but each year seems to have one or two slight “variations”. The bottom line, we made it and achieved our objective of riding safely, while preserving energy for the upcoming two days. We arrived at Sturbridge and everything becomes routine from that point. Get bike checked (for another time there is short story here about a “toasted rear cassette and chain”), register and get wrist band, go through the swag shop, shower, rest and then begin preparation for the next day by consuming large quantities of food and beverage (my favorite being one of our prime sponsors, Harpoon Brewery’s IPA). From here, I am to bed early because tomorrow’s 5:30am start comes quickly, and I make it quicker by the following.

Day One – Saturday

For the past handful of years I like to get myself positioned as close to the front of the ‘Fast’ corral (there are 3, fast, medium, slow to manage the thousands of riders). This year, I arose at 3:30am, walked outside, I retrieved my bike and proceeded to the corral. By the way, yes, people are up and getting everything prepared for the day. As I walk to the corral, it is empty, I pause, I wonder if I should put my bike there. I continue. There at the very front was another bike. I was the second bike there and would be in the front row! I wonder how early the other guy got there. I walked back to our room but stopped in the large expo hall where food would be. I picked up a coffee, a muffin, a banana and a yogurt and returned to the room. My friends were still in bed, so I quietly sat myself down in the darkened room and reflected on the upcoming day and the reasons I was there. This would be one of the first times that I silently said to myself, this ride is for Tom Chew and Hank (my friend with esophageal cancer), along with a couple of others from my list of 95 “reasons”. My slumbering friends stir and begin to rise and begin our prep routines and get ready to go. I am ready!

By now the fast corral is filled and the medium one is half filled. The activity is in full swing. The energy is amazing in this pre-sunrise gathering. I make it to my “front row” space. I meet “rider #1” along with the other crazy people who arose early to have some real estate at the front of the hoards. A few words from Billy Starr (PMC founder, organizer, leader), followed by a beautiful rendition of the national anthem and we are off. People settle in pretty quickly and I do mean quickly. Given I am not riding with any of my friends (including Bob, Dave, Bud, Jim, Meg) I am looking to the pace and rhythm of others to settle in and I do connect and the pace is strong right away (probably in the low 20mphs). We turn and encounter the first substantial climb, no problem for me. This thins out the groups a little. Then an amazing downhill. I shout out, “On your left, on your left!” as I go screaming by. I go into the first rest area, quickly connect with  volunteer, top off water bottles (doing good hydration), and off again. I connect with a good size group and now we are cruising (high 20’s, low 30mphs). The remainder of the day and the total 109 miles were solid and strong. I was good on the hills, maintained well in the groups, rode strong when solo and cruised into our host overnight location, the Mass Maritime Academy (MMA) in Bourne, in about 5:47 averaging 18.7mph – good day!

The remainder of Saturday is also routine; park bike, sign up for 15 minute massage, make it to dorm room, shower, rest a little and then begin to consume large amounts of food and beverage (and yes Harpoon IPAs are one of the beverages). Nice being strong as the amount of riders coming into MMA is minimal initially, but changes quickly as the masses arrive. My friends all show up and they perform the similar routine. We have a usual spot near the very, very large food tent, next to an open area where several music bands will entertain us for the remainder of the day. A few more tasks, then back to the room early for Day Two, Sunday and the 80 miles to Provincetown.

Day Two – Sunday

We start at 5:30am again. This is not a mass start. Riders can leave when desired. Up and over the Bourne Bridge; quite a beautiful view as the sun is coming up over the canal and the horizon. We circle around then onto the Canal Trail and it is “pedal to the metal” time. The section of the trail we are on covers about 5 miles and we push – I love it! Myself and one of my friends, Jim, pull the entire way, usually in the 22-24mph range. After the trail, we are on a roller coaster road that if you are strong enough can speed down one-side and make it over the next rise. The first segment goes by quickly. The next segment goes fast as well. Jim and I are riding together swapping off a strong pace. At the next break, Jim indicates that he is not going to keep this pace all day and he will await our other friends. I push on; my goal is to cover the distance in under 4 hours, I’ve got work to do.

My pace continues to be solid, however, during this leg, I am primarily riding alone. This was one of the short-comings of starting up front. If you are not solidly connected with a group then you are riding alone and having to be the best engine you can be, or want to be. We arrive to the last stop. I top off my water bottles and grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (my typical nutrition along with peanut butter and bananas during this event). I know the upcoming stretch through the dunes is open and usually involves headwinds followed by a couple more dune climbs. I assess, I am on target, but feel marginally about it. As I prepare to depart I recognize a large team that appears to be leaving soon. I think, if I connect with them this will help. I overhear them talking about being ready to go. I wait a moment, then I realize that they are a large group so they will catch me in no time so I leave.

I am now on the openness of Route 6. I am doing fine, except I am alone. “where are they?” I ride on. A quick side road (which is a rough road), then back onto Route 6, “where are they?” Route 6 is more open. Water on the left and headwinds. I am getting tired. I am starting to do more and more self-talk. “Don’t leave anything Larry! This is for Hank and Tom. Stay steady. I ride for many”

“Will I make my goal?” I push on. I am low on energy, but still staying steady with mechanics. A pace line shows up (not that team). I hope that I can grab on. There pace is not over-the-top and I am able to easily get into the 3rd position, oh that helps. After about another 2 miles, we take a right off of Route 6 and the group breaks apart. This is a normal spot for many riders to regroup with their teams and friends to ride the remaining miles to the finish. The lead rider continues and I follow. He is a good 100 yards ahead and I tell myself to keep him within range. Energy is OK, but I am running low. The rider ahead looks over his shoulder; most likely to check the condition of the group. I push forward in a short time I join him. This final stretch has a couple of short hills. At this point in the day, these small mounds feel like big hills. I am able to rotate with this guy in a red jersey. I am confident I will make my timed goal, but I do not want to let up.

“What’s your name?”


“I’m Larry”

“So, I can brag to my friends, how old are you?”


I feel real good to know I am riding with a young one, and holding my own. 

“I’m 55. I am glad you came along. I was slowing down. The headwinds and solo riding were getting to me.”

“Yea, I could tell that the group had some older riders, so I figured if I help today, maybe some day in the future someone will help me.”

“Thanks Matt!”

We ride on. Rounding the bend there is the finish. The family and friends gathered on the side of the road cheer and offer congratulations. I check my time. I am going to easily make it. I am feeling great. I cruise to the finish and as I have done for my previous PMC finishes, I do the sign of the cross and blow a kiss to the sky. This is for you dad and mom. This is for you Hank, Tom and all the others on my helmet.

A volunteer scans the bar code on my wristband. I am done. My time 3:47 – yea! Volunteers offer cold water. More congrats from volunteers and rider supporters. A volunteer asks if I want my picture taken, sure!

I feel like cancer got its ass kicked this weekend. My soul is cleansed.


I’ve made a personal commitment to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge and raise $5,000 in support of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Please donate to my PMC ride at one of the following links:

Click here to make $25 donation

Click here to make a $50 donation

Click here to make a $100 donation

Click here to make a $250 donation

Click here to make a $500 donation

Click here to make a $1,000 donation

Click here to make a donation of any other amount

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Courage – “Time to Saddle Up”


Many, many of us have faced those life situations or questions  in which the outlook, or answer, looks dim and your gut is screaming for yesterday.

The situations may be as perilous as being off the trail in the woods and darkness is starting to cloak everything around you, or you are in the middle of a race (pick your sport) you are pushing as hard as you can, so hard in fact that you fear your heart will explode any second, or how about that request from your boss to meet later that day, and you know sales are not good and the company is struggling, and you think here it comes.

What do you do?

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway” – John Wayne

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Review: “Ultra High”

60 hours in 1 hour 10 minutes!

Compliments to directors and film teams that can take epic, many hour, or many days event and deliver a compelling and engaging story within 1-2 hours. In this case, I recently watched a feature length documentary film, “Ultra High“, about a 137-mile mountain marathon in the Himalayas of India and it delivered a 60+ hours in 1 hour 10 minutes!

As an adrenaline junkie, pain purveyor and event director/manager, I was engaged from the first scene to the next and the time flew by, for me, that is. Watching the film I pondered how these athletes, during this competition, had competed for hours, many, many, many hours (they had to finish under 60 hours!). And! They were crossing mountain passes and  peaks up to 18,300 feet! C’mon!

UltraHigh3Six runners toed the starting line for the challenge. Supported by their crews, they put one foot in front of the other and faced HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema), hypothermia, exhaustion and ‘traffic’, (yes, there were vehicles on the crazy rock-strewn, partially paved roads).

I thought this would be a film about survival, which it was, but the director, Barry Walton, also delivers a race film story. From the starting line, Ray Sanchez looking to breakUltraHigh the course record, moves out well ahead of the other competitors. As the story develops, trailing behind is Sharon Gayner, an asthmatic,who has sites on first place. I will leave the finish for your viewing pleasure.

Being someone who has managed and been a race director, each event presents many details to be prepared for, or respond to. “Ultra High” captured the logistical challenges that all managers/directors face, such as communications, safety, and traffic.; all above 10,000 feet. Barry Walton does not place the spotlight or emphasize these challenges however to those who have managed events they will recognize selective scenes.

If you like watching epic events like the Tour de France, or Hawaiian World Championship Ironman Triathlon, then you will enjoy this film.


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Pat the Patriot sat in the corner


With the 2018 AFC Championship Game to be played tomorrow, Sunday, January 21, thought it was time I finished this post from last year. Hopefully, “Pat” can stay on my head tomorrow.


I was on the edge of my seat, I paced the room, I jumped, I yelled, I took deep breaths and I did all of this multiple times during Super Bowl LI. It was not a pretty picture. The New England Patriots were well behind, some would say, “…they were getting crushed”.

Another dropped pass, I shouted, “Can anyone catch the f&cking ball?!”

I grabbed my hat off my head and threw it at the wall!PatPatriotHat

According to some voodoo algorithm, the Patriots, at this point in the game, the odds were 99.8% that they would lose.

Lying on the floor, Pat the Patriot (old logo) on the front of my hat faced the corner of the room. I stood and took one step to retrieve my head gear. Something just happened. A pass completion to Amendola, followed by a 15-yard scramble by Brady and then a 5-yard TD pass to James White. But, Gostkowski boofs the extra-point and gets called for penalty on an onside attempt; take a breath, stand up, pace. But, something really did just happened.

Pat the Patriot remained in the corner the rest of the game.

Holding penalty by the Falcons, Matt Ryan sacked, and they are out of field goal range. Patriots get ball and the game goes into 4th quarter and the score is 28-9; can they come back? Gostkowski gets redemption hitting a 33-yard field goal. Two scores (16 points) to tie. But, that is two touchdowns and “two-two point conversions”. Time is running out, but something is happening.

Edge of seat, hands run across face, stand up, breath, breath.

Injury to Falcons offensive lineman, replacement comes in, Pats D take full advantage and a sack of Ryan and fumble. The “Yeah!” chorus goes up! But, Brady is sacked on the next play. A muffled, depressing “c’mon” from the Patriots nation drowns out the “yeahs”.

Fingers work feverishly on my phone as I am communicated with friends across town and across the country.

Six minutes left in the game, score is 28-12. Breath. Breath. Breath.

Brady hits Amendola for TD!!

Scream, shout, pump fist. Something real is happening. But, hold on.

Julio Jones, aside from the season’s MVP Matt Ryan, he is a Falcons weapon that must be accounted for. Despite absolute blanket coverage, Jones makes an absurd catch and the Falcons are within field goal range.

Less than 4 minutes to go. Rub head, stare at screen, look at hat in corner. Pick it up?

The next series of plays; a Ryan sack, a holding penalty and an incomplete pass and the ball is now on Patriots 43-yard line – out of field goal range.

Two-and-half minutes left. Slap seat, rub head, sigh, gasp, edge of seat.

The “Edelman Catch”! Unbelievable! Three Falcon defensive players, pirouetting bodies, and a bobbling ball inches (probably 1-2 at most) from the ground.

A couple of plays later, a minute to go – touchdown run by White!!

Pump fist, shout, scream, high-fives, flurry of text messages. Two-point conversion. The game will go into overtime.

Patriots win the toss. The two best under-pressure quarterbacks in the NFL are Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Patriots Nation feels confident. Four plays later, the New England Patriots are World Champions!

I did not pick up my hat till the next morning.

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How does a project manager talk on the topic of project management?

A CIO from within my company from a different business unit and outside our region asked if I could speak to his IT team on project management.

Nice to be asked to speak on this topic, however, given the ginormous nature of what project management is, or can be to an organization, I thought “Where do I start?”

What follows in this (albeit lengthy) article is a reflection of my experience to tackle this vast topic within the span of a one-to-two hour meeting. My hope is that the sharing of my experience will help you if you find yourself in a consultative role.

My first thought was to treat this request as a project and, at a minimum, determine the scope and time I would have to fulfill the request. In framing it this way, next I wanted to know what he really wanted me to speak to (Scope). What topics did he consider to be project management? To answer this question, I did not want to use project management terminology (Scope, Time, Risks, etc.). I wanted to hear in his words. I would do the translation later. How much time would he allow for his team (Time)? How formal, or informal, onsite or on a call, structured or unstructured (I was thinking of what resources I would need to pull this together)?

I had some thoughts on how to proceed but also recognized it was important to have a shared view with this sponsor. I arranged for an initial call as I wanted answers to my questions, his support and my “charter” to move forward. We scheduled a call.

Layer 1

At the start he said, “I am spending too much time trying to keep them (IT team) on task.” During the call, his responses to my inquiries and the initial input provided me with created the following perception of what I would be taking on to address this topic.

  • The C-level sponsor spoke of how the IT team was having trouble getting out of its own way.
  • The team has a large number of projects on their plate, but are not particularly adept operationally to allocate resources, and distribute among the portfolio of projects.
  • Time frames were not being met and in some cases developed to move forward with projects.
  • Ongoing initiatives were sometimes reaching a crises level before he had any awareness.
  • He expressed how his view was that they needed more project management discipline and standards.

Layer 2

Good starting point, I thought. Hearing his frustration, I asked what would be a desired list of topic areas to cover. This was my attempt to further refine the ‘scope’ of the presentation. His responses led me to create the following list. The items in parenthesis illustrate how I was interpreting the list and moving towards creating an agenda.

  • Developing and understanding scope of work (Scope)
  • Allocating resources and estimating workloads (Resource Management)
  • Setting milestones and deliverables (Timing and plans)
  • What should be accomplished at project status meetings (Communications)
  • Holding to task and getting work done (Executing the project)

Layer 3

We continued the conversation, I investigated and questioned further in search of a next level of clarification. Project managers know it’s all about the details, so I delved further with two-to-three additional questions on each of the threads. Here were my follow up questions and/or thoughts that we explored.

  • Developing and understanding scope of work
    • Are project proposals and/or charters presently used?
    • Are executive sponsors, business sponsors, champions and/or subject matter experts (SMEs) known to those who are managing projects?
  • Allocating resources and estimating workloads
    • Is there a presently recognized list of all available resources (individuals) for someone leading a project to pick from?
    • What tracking project management tracking tools, if any, are being used today?
  • Setting milestones and deliverables
    • Milestones and deliverables are set in the beginning of the project with buy-in from sponsor; was there an understanding and capture of these important items happening?
    • Once scope is known there will be the “planning” phase in which the project manager can research and prepare a plan that outlines milestones and deliverables. This plan (sometimes encompassed in a charter) is reviewed and signed off prior to kick-off. What are the more important items that you would like to have awareness on?
  • What should be accomplished at project status meetings?
    • This is an easy one. Once plan is established, a project status meeting should be specific to reporting on the agreed upon status elements, most importantly; time, scope, budget, milestones, followed by risks and next steps.
  • Holding to task and getting work done
    • This one is a little difficult given we work in an environment of doing more, with less; however, I believe that holding to task is based upon complete recognition of project statuses across the team (Project Manager, Executive Sponsor, Team Members, Stakeholders). Visibility is key.

Layer 4

The final item I reviewed with the CIO was to ask what kind of “voice” would most resonate with his team, meaning; would I speak from personal experience, or from well-established and accepted methodology, such as PMI?

The end-result of our phone dialog and follow up email exchanges moved this presentation from ginormous to enormous. I looked forward to talking the team. Like many other speakers/presenters I create outlines (and sometimes, completely written out narratives) in preparation for a meeting/presentation. Here are my cryptic notes.

  • Intro and establishing my voice:
    • I am here to share experiences and help you achieve your goals.
    • Life within the “system” (reference to our organization) and career experience.
    • No one is immune. The best project managers still encounter the challenges of adhering to scope, keeping within budget and timelines, communications, etc.
    • Small-to-big projects. Been there, done that.
    • Fundamentals apply across all projects.
    • The Magic Project Management Triangle: Time, Scope, Resources (e.g. people and money)
  • Let’s talk about the work (Scope)
    • Formal: Proposals and Charters. Getting it right in the beginning.
    • Informal (small) a Word doc or an email to summarize and capture intent.
    • Establishing the “flag”. The flag is the vision and becomes the foundation for all other work. The flag is your empowerment.
    • Sets expectations internally and externally across all stakeholders.
    • End-results, time, budget, communications, resources… the more you can get the better.
    • Ability to “translate” from business-to-tech speak, and back.
  • How to do it – the tools
    • There are many; MS Project, Excel, online tools (SmartSheet), etc.
    • Depends on formality and structure of organization
  • Importance of Milestones and Deliverables
    • Start with scope
    • Get confirmation from sponsors and stakeholders
    • Start with end and work backwards
  • Keeping You in the Know – Status Meetings
    • Importance of communications. There are thousands of styles and formats.
    • Establish your personality and voice.
    • Formality and structure of organization will guide.
    • Get agreement upfront on style, format, etc.
    • Difference between internal and external project meetings.
    • Difference between project staff and sponsor meetings
    • When to interject subjectivity (e.g. dealing with emotions) and objectivity (e.g. Time, Scope, Budget, Achievements, Risks, Upcoming, etc.)
  • Staying on track
    • The “flag”. Remember, this is your empowerment to make it happen, use it often, and definitely pull it out when stuck or being challenged.
    • The plan. A lot of good work into your plan so stay the course. Plans do change, but a majority (relative term) of the time, the details will remain the same.
    • With a little help from your sponsor. Getting stuck, being challenged? Your sponsor wants project to succeed, engage them, make them part of the team.
    • Frequency of Communications. Very rarely will you over-communicate. Establish a schedule, stick to it and if you question whether you need to send out something else, do it.


The CIO and team were engaged and responsive during the two-hour meeting, this was evident by their probing questions. Many times they raised present, or past situations, wanting to know how, or what could have been done.

My approach of peeling the layers away to ensure the CIO was getting what he wanted worked.

So, what do you think? Did I cover enough within my allotted time? What would you have done differently?

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