Chris Croft's Personal Blog

August 13, 2012

The Olympics – POD or POA?

Were you inspired by the Olympics?

They certainly were brilliant – the organisation, the crowds, the stunning opening ceremony, and of course the performance of the athletes – what amazing people they are, yet also strangely ordinary people – just people like us, who are somehow doing amazing things.

So many thoughts swirling in my mind about it…
Do I want to be like those athletes? If not a track cyclist, then at least a gold-medal-standard trainer! Do I want to be the best in the world? Do I need to be? Do I have the talent, the ability? Or the motivation? Would it make me happy?

I think the question is: What should a normal person do having seen the Olympics and been inspired by them?

Let’s take it apart a little:

Reasons for Post-Olympic-Depression

• It’s been really easy and fun just putting the TV on and wallowing in the spectacle
• Our normal lives and all their problems have been suspended for two weeks
• Now it’s back to reality
• We hope that the Olympics and their after-effects will somehow improve the country and our lives, but of course they won’t. Reality is still there.
• “I’ll never have a body like Tom Daley or Chris Hoy or Usain Bolt, and I’ll never get a medal in anything or be cheered on by an 80,000 crowd. I’m a failure compared to them”.

Reasons for Post-Olympic-Achievement

• “I can see that ordinary people can achieve their dreams if they are prepared to do the work”
• All it needs is a small step to get onto the Spiral of Achievement: motivation leads to effort which leads to results which leads to more motivation which leads to more effort which leads to more results which…… and the Olympic Effect just might be enough to get people to take this first step.

Are the Olympians ordinary, just like you and me, or not?

Well, with the possible exception of the godlike Usain Bolt, my belief is that they are ordinary people who had the luck to get onto the Spiral of Achievement, and then, perhaps with the help of others or through their own strength of will, had the strength to persist and keep doing the work to get there. And to reach the very top that work is very considerable. Did you see the video of Chris Hoy training, to the point where he collapsed off his bike and lay on the ground in lactic acid agony, groaning in the foetal position, while they just put a blanket over him and left him to recover. THAT’s doing the work! If you tell any successful person they are lucky they have every right to be annoyed – they have done the work!

It’s possible that to be the best in the whole world you need great talent as well as doing the work, but seeing interviews with the boxer from Hull, the canoe medallist, the Taekwondo and judo winners, and the rowers, I got the distinct feeling that they were ordinary people who had just really really focussed and then done the work. And certainly, if you wanted to be very good at something, as opposed to the best in the world, then it’s really not about talent, it’s about work. Anyone, including you (yes you reading this) really can do anything you want if you’re prepared to do the work.

I used to think that the challenge was to find the thing that you have a talent for. But maybe the
challenge isn’t to find the thing that you’ve got a talent for, but to find the thing that you enjoy enough to then be motivated to do the work required. If you have a talent but you don’t enjoy it then you’ll never do the work and so you won’t succeed.

So maybe the legacy of the Olympics will be that lots of people will take that first step onto the Achievement Spiral and find that they can get results. All that undiscovered talent! Maybe there is a future Usain Bolt living in Hull! However I suspect that

1 -the greatest evil of all, laziness, will again triumph and most people will plan to do something and then not bother, (like all those people who join the gymn in January and then stop going by February) and also that

2 – most people won’t make the leap from Sport to Everything Else. Why not decide to be really good at computers or music or languages or selling or…..? They are all the same, they just require you to do the work. But will people realise this?

I do hope that all over the UK people decide to be better at all sorts of things, and they get onto the Achievement Spiral as a result of the Olympics.

But then I think about Victoria Pendleton (or Queen Victoria as some commentators amusingly called her) – who is retiring from cycling, saying that she doesn’t enjoy it any more. She’s the best in the world, how can she not?? And I think the answer is that she is paying such a massive price to be the best in the world that it outweighs the happiness. Quite right Victoria, you’ve achieved enough, and you deserve to have some fun! We all remember Steve Redgrave saying after Sydney “If anyone sees me getting into a boat again would they please shoot me” and then within 2 weeks he declared himself in for Athens. It’s great to see him enjoying himself now, he’s more than earned it!

So, bearing in mind that you can achieve anything if you do the work, but you want to avoid the Pendleton Factor, here is my overall conclusion from the Olympics:

1. Set yourself at least one goal, based on something you enjoy doing – don’t worry about talent. It doesn’t have to be in sport, it can be anything you like.

2. Make your goal large enough to be exciting, but not so large that in order to achieve it you’ll have to give up the rest of the things that make you happy. So Olympic gold is probably out! (e.g. to be able to run 5k in 45 minutes, or to play in a band in your local pub, or to speak good enough Italian to joke with locals, or to be good enough at tennis to hit the ball hard and it still goes in).

3. Focus reasonably strongly on achieving your goals – this means giving up some things and fighting against the demon laziness. Focus strongly but not obsessively. Obsessive focus will reduce your overall happiness.

Onwards and Upwards like a lightning bolt (imagine me assuming the position in front of my flip chart)



August 7, 2012

What should be in your assignment answer?

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training — Tags: , , , , , — chriscroft @ 3:13 pm

To pass you need to:

  • Quote theory and give references
  • Your opinion on the theory
  • Reflect on how the theory applies (or doesn’t!) to your work

To get a good / merit

  • The ideas must have been applied toyour work place
    (“I‘ve been and done it and it either worked or it didn’t”)

To get an excellent / distinction I’d be looking for

  • Evidence of extra research (reading, asking, observing)
  • Well written and laid out
  • Word count met or near

August 3, 2012

50 Shades of Project Management

Filed under: Books and Culture, Project Management — Tags: , — chriscroft @ 9:06 am

50 Shades of Project Management

Sally had an appointment to interview Roger Prodger, the famous project manager. “I hope he’s my type”, she giggled to her friend Jenny, though deep down she expected him to be boring.
“What IS your type?”, asked Jenny.
“Well, I always insist on a PID” Sally replied.
“What’s that?”
“A Powerful Influential Dominator of course” Sally tittered.

Arriving at Roger’s offices, Sally was impressed by the smooth granite entrance hall and the immaculately coiffured receptionist who looked down her nose at Sally. Could this be the PID she had dreamed of for so many years?

On entering Roger’s office Sally was stunned to see the most gorgeous man she had ever met – he was wearing a slightly-too-tight light grey suit, with an enticing glimpse of his brown wool/nylon blend socks just visible above his expensive leather brogues. Standing behind his granite desk he swung his Burton jacket off to reveal a light blue short-sleeved shirt, with epaulettes. He loosened his navy blue tie slightly and reached for one of the four biros in his breast pocket. “Welcome to Project S” he boomed in a powerful, masculine voice.
“What’s Project S?” she queried?
“Project Sally of course. Everything’s a project, didn’t you know?”

As soon as he saw her, Roger had decided that he would pass his wisdom on to her, and that she too would become one of the master race like him – a Project Manager. They would travel the beaches of the world, calculating resource requirements together and logging key events.

“But I’m not qualified – I don’t have the three qualities of pessimism, OCD, or assertiveness!”, she cried. “Don’t worry”, he breathed, “you’ll soon be just like me. I’ll make you into a measurably high quality project manager within a fixed time, to an achievable budget. Anything’s possible once you have a Gantt chart”. She felt electricity running through her bones at the thought!

“But first, a brief kick off meeting” he commanded masterfully. “Some things you need to know about me…..
1. I would like to invite you out on a date but I have a morbid fear of scope creep, so clearly visible briefs are essential at all times.
2. My deliverables are well defined within my work package.
3. I don’t enjoy feeling a little behind.
4. In order to perform optimally I need a predicted spend profile for the evening, with hourly milestones and a half way budgetary and progress review”.
“Oh I do like a man with a well-resourced timeline and a substantial issues log”, Sally cooed.

…Later, back at Roger Prodger’s house….

On the granite drive to his Grade 1 listed Tudor mansion, Sally tripped at the boundary gateway, but Roger was there to catch her in his strong arms. “Oh, you’re my Prince!” she quavered.

His face darkened: “No!” He stormed, suddenly angry. “I won’t have that filthy word mentioned in my house – I’m strictly an APM man – VERY strictly in fact, as you will no doubt find out…. in fact I don’t like anything that’s not PERT. I always like to evaluate and review my programmes. It’s because of my father. He was no ordinary man; some called him the Prince2 Of Darkness, and he used to make me read 100 page reports, he made everything much too complicated, and he used to stop me starting anything. That’s why I have a deep horror of the P word and why I, er, have issues with control….

Realising he’d lost her, he softened and said
“OK, let’s G.a.n.t.t. – if you’re ready?”
“Let’s grab a naughty time together”, he barked, slightly impatient at having to explain himself. Communication wasn’t his strong point, and he often spoke in TLAs.
“Are you…… Prepared?” she asked with some embarrassment.
“Yes of course”, he grunted “…preventative and protective”.
She marvelled at the rigour of his risk analysis.

He ushered her down the long marble corridor and she entered a large room through something called an Initiation Gateway.
“Welcome to my project management dungeon” Roger announced – there were whiteboards and post it notes on every wall, and at the far end, a flip chart with handcuffs.

“If you fail to identify the critical path I might get upset”, he murmured huskily in her ear, and she started to wonder if she was out of her depth.
“What have you got planned for me, she quavered?”
“Just a bit of critical path analysis followed by resource planning, he purred”.
“Single or multiple projects?”
“Multiple of course….”

…And the next few hours exceeded her wildest dreams. First he put on some seductive music – it seemed to be some kind of project management rap. Then he began his work…

His strong hands were a blur of marker pens and post-it’s.
It wasn’t till 3am that they finally collapsed together in a sweaty heap.
“How was it for you?”, she asked, as Roger lit a cigarette and updated his highlight review with a colour coded marker.
“Well, quality was 10% above specification, with good attention to the non critical tasks, but there was some slippage on the expected timescale”, he rasped.

Finally he asked
“So Sally – lessons learned??”
“Er….,” she hesitated
“If you can’t remember the twelve step process I might have to issue an exception report”, he smirked sternly.

End of Part 1…

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