Agile Processes–Iteration Process Group, External Stakeholders Engagement Knowledge Area

In going through John Stenbeck’s book “Introducing Agile Project Management”, I saw on p. 48 of Chapter 2 “Introducing Agile Project Management” a familiar sight: an “Agile Project Management Processes Grid”, like the processes matrix I was used to for traditional project management from the PMBOK Guide.   This is my second year leading a study group for those aiming to take the PMP exam, and I always stress how important it is to memorize the 47 processes that are divided up into a “processes matrix”, with the 5 process groups in columns and the 10 knowledge areas in rows.   When you know that matrix backwards and forwards to the point that you can recreate within 10 minutes on a blank sheet of paper, then you know it to the point that it can actually help you with situational questions that are asking “what should you do next?”   If you know what process you are in NOW based on what situation is being described in the situation, it’s a simple matter of looking at the matrix and finding out what process happens NEXT.

Similarities and Differences between the Traditional and Agile PM Processes Grids

Another thing that looked familiar was the fact that there were 5 process groups in the Agile Project Management Processes Grid.   They are fairly close to the ones in traditional PM–here is a list of the 5 process groups in Agile with the traditional PM equivalent taken from the PMBOK Guide listed in parentheses immediately afterwards

  1. Initiate (Initiating)
  2. Plan (Planning)
  3. Iterate (Executing)
  4. Control (Monitoring & Controlling)
  5. Close (Closing)

However, when you get to the rows, there you start to see the difference between the Agile Project Management Processes Grid and the Traditional Project Management Processes Matrix.   There are 10 knowledge areas in PMI’s formulation of PM processes as found in the PMBOK Guide on p. 61.   On p. 48 on John Stenbeck’s book there are 7 knowledge areas, which are listed below, with my interpretation of which knowledge area (or areas) they correspond to most closely in the traditional PM processes as set forth by PMI.

  1. External Stakeholders Engagement (Stakeholder)
  2. Value-Driven Delivery (Scope, Quality)
  3. Adaptive Planning (Time, Cost)
  4. Team Performance (Human Resources)
  5. Risk Management (Risk)
  6. Communication (Communication)
  7. Continuous Improvement (Quality)

The two knowledge areas in traditional PM listed in the PMBOK Guide that I could not find an equivalent for in Agile were “Integration Management” and “Procurements Management”.   My guess is much of the “integration” that is going on in traditional PM projects is probably being spread across many knowledge areas in Agile; procurements management is an optional knowledge area even in traditional PM because not all projects require vendors or contractors.

The next HUGE difference is the number of processes in Agile:  87 as opposed to 47.   Now this is a daunting task to memorize this number of processes, so the best way to go about it is to memorize them block by block, and today’s post will introduce the 4 processes in the first block of the Agile Project Management Processes Grid, those that are in the Initiate process group (the first column in the grid) and in the External Stakeholders Engagement knowledge and skill area (the first row in the grid).   In the next subsequent 4 posts, I will go into depth on each of these processes.

Processes in the Initiate Process Group, External Stakeholders Engagement

  1. Process 1.1–Stakeholders Identification
  2. Process 1.2–Vision Statement
  3. Process 1.3–Project Data Sheet
  4. Process 1.4–Active Listening

Before I go into a quick introduction to these 4 processes, the first thing I wanted to say right off the bat was I thought it was interesting that the knowledge area dealing with Stakeholders is the LAST knowledge area in traditional PM according to PMI, but it is the FIRST knowledge area in Agile PM.   That tells you a lot about the focus in Agile on the stakeholder, because after all, that is the source of your requirements for the product that is the reason for your project’s existence.

Process 1.1–Stakeholders Identification

This process actually consists of two parts–identifying stakeholders and building stakeholder engagement.

Identifying stakeholders does not just mean listing who they are, but also classifying them in terms of whether they are favorable stakeholders (project champions), neutral, or opposing stakeholders.   There are a series of questions to be answered that can help in this classification.   Once the stakeholders have been identified in the sense of what their relationship to the project will be, the process of engaging the stakeholders can begin.

Building stakeholder engagement is, like everything in Agile, an iterative process.   John Stenbeck says that traditional PM often conceives of the convergence on the solution as a “stair-step process” that is linear, whereas in the real world, the convergence on the solution is an oscillation that goes back and forth with smaller and smaller wavelength until the solution is reached.

Process 1.2–Vision Statement

Although the tool is called “Vision Statement”, the closest tool I could find in John Stenbeck’s book to this description is the “Product Vision Box”.

Taking the place of the project charter in traditional project management, which contains a high-level description of the product that is being proposed to be created by the project, there are a group of tools which are used in Agile to convey to the customer what they can expect from the project.   The first tool is a Product Vision Box which conveys this in a combination of graphic images and narrative content.

Process 1.3–Project Data Sheet

The second tool used to communicate the vision of what the product will be is called the Product Data Sheet (PDS), which is a one-page summary of the key objectives of the project, the capabilities that the product will have, and any additional information needed to understand the purpose of the project.

These tools are also used in the Communication knowledge area, but they are included separately as tools under the “External Stakeholders Engagement” knowledge area in the Initiate process group because these tools are especially useful in the initial dialogue with stakeholders.    It gives them something tangible to react to, with the Product Vision Box being obviously a more visual tool than the project data sheet.

Process 1.4–Active Listening

Have you ever seen an interview on TV by someone who is not quite skilled enough as an interviewer?   They will ask a question, the person will answer, the interviewer will say, “right” in a neutral voice, and then continue on with the next question.  They are focused on their list of questions, and the unenthusiastic response to the answer shows that they are not actively listening to it.   They are passively listening to it, and are interested only in when it ends, so they know that is their cue to tell the next question.

You cannot be a passive listener on an agile project; you must be an active listener.   In the case of the interviewer, if you have a series of questions you’ve written down, and the person responds with an answer that takes the interview in another direction, well then you respond to the person’s answer and make it seem like a conversation, which is what it should be.

Active listening in an agile framework means focusing on the stakeholder you are speaking to in order to craft your message specifically in a way that is going to be more meaningful to them, and then listening and making sure you understand what the stakeholder means.   This may mean paraphrasing what they are saying to you to make that you have really gotten the message they are sending you.

Although this last tool seems perfectly suited in the Communication knowledge area, it is nevertheless in the Stakeholders knowledge area because it is particularly important when speaking to stakeholders (and I would add, to management and team members as well).

The next post will cover the first process, Process 1.1 Stakeholders Identification, in more depth.

The Agile Process Map–Initiating Process Group

In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, in the second chapter called “Introducing Agile Project Management”, he tries to strip down the essentials of what constitutes agile project management into something he calls the “Agile Process Map”.    In the third chapter, on “Initiating Projects”, he explains that portion of the overall agile process that deals with the initiating process group, the first of five process groups which include

  • Initiate
  • Plan
  • Iterate
  • Control
  • Close

The Agile Process Map

First of all, let us review the overall agile process map, which at a macro level flows from the first steady state to a transition state and then to a second steady state.
Steady State Graphic

Steady State #1

Here are the elements that comprise Steady State #1, labeled whether they are people or documents (“artifacts” in the language of agile)

  • Product Owner (person):   this person receives, analyzes, and prioritizes product features required for a successful solution to the requirements given by the customer
  • Product Backlog (artifact):  this is where the product features are listed by the Product Owner
  • Iteration Backlog (artifact):   this is where the product features are chosen out of the Product Backlog that the Team will work on during the iteration.
  • Team (persons):   this is the group of people that will take the features listed in the Iteration Backlog and develop them during the next Iteration.

The reason why this is referred to as the Steady State #1 is because the list of product features in the Iteration Backlog does not change during the iteration.

The Product Backlog

Essentially the initiating process group takes you to point of developing Steady State #1.   You take input from stakeholders and set priorities according to their values.   In order to accomplish this, you need to engage stakeholders in to have them articulate those values.   The output of this stakeholder engagement process is the PRODUCT BACKLOG.   The product backlog represents the vision for the entire product as decided by the customer/proxy (aka the Product Owner in the language of Scrum).   This is a “living document”, which means it is continually being improved as new insights are gained.

The Iteration Backlog:  Step 1–Soft Commitment

From the PRODUCT BACKLOG, the next process is selecting a portion of the product backlog for the ITERATION BACKLOG.   It is the product owner who describes what can and should be included in the iteration.   The product owner takes the user stories and assigns a size to them based on those stories that have high priority.   The product owner also should develop a definition of done for each story that includes acceptance criteria.  Based on a mutual understanding of what the product owner sets forth in the iteration backlog, the team makes a soft commitment to a specific set of features for the iteration backlog.

The Iteration Backlog:  Step 2–Hard Commitment

After the soft commitment completed in step 1, the team discusses how to create the deliverables, decomposes the user stories (the equivalent of “work packages” in traditional project management) into tasks, and performs an detailed estimate of each task in terms of how long it will take.   Once the team has finalized their analysis and agrees that they can succeed, they make a hard commitment to the specific set of features that will be delivered to the Product Owner at the end of the iteration.

This is the portion of the overall agile process map that takes place during the initiating process group.

The next post will list the agile project management processes that come under the 7 knowledge areas in the initiating process group.   Please note the difference between the overall agile process, which shows how the entire project flows, and the 87 individual agile PM processes, which are essentially the detailed tools and techniques you use in the overall agile process.

IIBA Chicago–Discussion on Professional Development for Business Analysts

I was invited to the IIBA Chicago chapter monthly dinner meeting to participate in a panel discussion that we hope will open up into a Q&A session from the audience.

The purpose of the discussion is to show how people like me who have entered the profession of business analysis or project management have used chapter resources to help is with our professional development.

Maria Astidillo was also invited. She and I are not business analysts but project managers who just happen to be Directors at the PMI Chicagoland chapter, but we are not going in our official capacity (she is Director of Association Outreach and I am Director of Certification), but as professionals who have used volunteering for the chapter, among other things, as a way of accelerating our career path.

The idea for the discussion panel came from David DeWitt, the current President of IIBA Chicago chapter, and we have been planning this event for some months now.

Before I headed up to the event, I wanted to pen this post as an introduction to the discussion, which I will record in this post upon my return.

Project Initiation–Traditional vs. Agile Project Management

In the third chapter called “Initiating Projects” of his book “PMI-ACP Exam Prep PLUS Desk Reference”, John Stenbeck starts the discussion of the first process group called “Initiation” by making a quick comparison of this process group between traditional project management and agile project management.

Similarities between Initiation in Traditional vs. Agile Project Management

Before discussing the differences, John Stenbeck mentions the similarities.   First of all, he stresses the importance of project initiation for both traditional vs. agile project management.    Planning is about being efficient in reaching the goal of the project, initiating is about being effective in reaching the goal.    To put it another way, planning is about climbing the ladder to get to the top of the wall; initiating is about choosing the right wall to climb.

In terms of processes, stakeholder identification is a process common to both traditional and agile project management.    PMI has addressed the increasing importance of stakeholder engagement in the traditional PM framework by making stakeholder engagement a new knowledge area unto itself with the publishing of the 5th Edition PMBOK Guide at the end of 2012.

Differences between Initiation in Traditional vs. Agile Project Management

If you think of the three triple constraints of scope, time and cost, traditional project management focuses on scope, and then figures out in the planning stage how much time and cost it will take to achieve that scope.    In agile project management, on the other hand, it is time which is usually focuses on as the chief constraint, and then in the planning stage one figures out how much value can be added in any given stretch of time.

Given this different approach to the triple constraints right from the start, the details of the initiating process group start to diverge right from the start between traditional and agile project management.

Given the Agile Process Map that was described in the last post, the portion of that map that comes under the initiating process group will be discussed in the next post.   After that overall process is described, I will start to go into detail about the individual project management processes that make up that overall agile process.

The Agile Process Map

In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, in the second chapter called “Introducing Agile Project Management”, he tries to strip down the essentials of what constitutes agile project management into something he calls the “Agile Process Map”.

The Agile Process Map

The agile process flows at a macro level from the first steady state to a transition state and then to a second steady state.
Steady State Graphic
When I thought of this general process, I thought of a “Turing machine”, a mathematical model for an idealized computing device that consists of a paper tape which is divided into squares going through a read/write head.    When a square of the paper tape goes through the read/write head, it registers a “0” or “1”, and then the paper tape moves one step forward, with the next square being read by the machine.    The reading of the first square is like the “steady state” described in the graphic above, and then there is a transition state to the next square, which is read during the next “steady state” of the operation of the Turing machine.

Let’s go to the next level in abstraction and talk about what each of the states consist of that are referred to in the above diagram.

Steady State #1

Here are the elements that comprise Steady State #1, labeled whether they are people or documents (“artifacts” in the language of agile)

  • Product Owner (person):   this person receives, analyzes, and prioritizes product features required for a successful solution to the requirements given by the customer
  • Product Backlog (artifact):  this is where the product features are listed by the Product Owner
  • Iteration Backlog (artifact):   this is where the product features are chosen out of the Product Backlog that the Team will work on during the iteration.
  • Team (persons):   this is the group of people that will take the features listed in the Iteration Backlog and develop them during the next Iteration.

The reason why this is referred to as the Steady State #1 is because the list of product features in the Iteration Backlog does not change during the iteration.

Transition State

In the Transition State, there are two constants:

  • the duration of the iteration
  • the goal of the iteration, which is to take the features listed in the Iteration Backlog and develop them towards a potentially shippable product increment, which is a deliverable that adds value to the feature that is recognized by the customer.

Everything else in the Transition State is in a constant state of change.   Here’s how the team shapes its daily meetings to synchronize and plan the activities during the Transition State:

1.Each day when the team meets, each member briefly explains what they have done since the last meeting, what they will do before the next meeting, and what impediments are interfering with their ability to be productive.

2. The team uses the information in the above meeting to self-manage the team’s daily activities:

  • each member makes reasonable progress towards the agreed-upon iteration goal; by having daily results that are measurable, external controls are unnecessary because each member holds other members accountable for achieving progress towards the goal
  • each member synchronizes hand offs of work to other members as needed
  • each member rallies to the support of other members who need assistance
  • each member meets with the Product Owner as needed to clarify questions or concerns about features they are working on

Steady State #2

  • The team has a review meeting to go over the work done on the Iteration Backlog to make sure it meets the definition of being complete.
  • The team has a retrospective meeting  which focuses on the process and not the product to see how the process of creating value can be improved.

Then the Product Owner adjusts the Product Backlog, takes those features needed to be done in the next iteration and puts them on the Iteration Backlog, and you have new Steady State #1, after which the above cycle continues.

Now that is an overview of the agile process.    The rest of the book goes through the individual agile project management processes, of which there are 87, divided into 5 process groups and 7 knowledge areas.

This concludes the material in chapter 2, “Introducing Agile Project Management.”   In the rest of the chapters, the processes are introduced by process group as follows:

Chapter 3:  Initiating Projects

Chapters 4 through 6:   Planning Projects

Chapter 7:   Iterating Projects

Chapters 8 and 9:   Controlling Projects

Chapter 10:  Closing Projects

There is an eleventh chapter on how to pass the exam.

The next post will start on the material in chapter 3, “Initiating Projects.”

Stakeholders in my Father’s Life

Yesterday our family had a funeral for my father, John P. Rowley, who had passed away earlier in the week.   We ended up having a wake for the immediate and extended family on Friday evening, and then for my father’s various colleagues, friends, acquaintances, we had a visitation on Saturday afternoon.

One of the regrets I have had is that I never wrote down my father’s stories from the various stages of his life from childhood, to when he was a soldier during the Korean War, and then afterwards as he started his career as a journalist and then ended up having two additional careers, one as a public relations manager for the United Way group of charities in Chicago, and in retirement as head of a charity called NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill).   As a family man, he ended up having five children, of whom I am the second in order.    The stories he would tell, especially those of his early life before I even existed, were the ones that I grew more and more interested in as time went on.

At the funeral however, the people that came in to pay their respects to my father and his family didn’t come in linear order based on what chapter of my father’s life it was when they met him and interacted with him.    There were people from all of his 89 years who came and went throughout the wake and then the visitation.


As I was thinking about the wonderful pageant of people who paraded through the funeral parlor this weekend, I realized it was probably easier to describe their interactions with my father not as a series of chapters, but as a series of concentric circles representing what part of my father’s life they had interaction with.   The above diagram is an adaptation of one I use when teaching about project management to represent the various levels of stakeholders of a project.    A stakeholder is one who can impact a project or one who can be impacted by the results of a project.    If you take my father’s life as a “project” In a loose way, then the stakeholders of the project known as my father’s life fall into several categories.    It’s in describing these that you end up getting a fuller, more dimensional picture of my father than the linear description of his life found in the funeral notice which I posted in the previous post.

1. My Father as Family Man

Of course, my father started life as the child of his own father, and the fact that he had an older sister and a younger brother shaped the course of his life.    His sister Mary and he were very intelligent and very good in school, and they both had a lifelong love of learning that never let them.    My father’s father died in my father’s childhood, and so in a way my father always had an awareness of the absence of his father, as if he had been, in his own way, abandoned by him.    This made him determined to stick around and be supportive of his own children.     Interesting enough, my mother had also been abandoned by one of her parents, in her case her mother, who left what we might call today an abusive relationship when the children were about junior high or high school age.    Again, like my father, this made her determined to stick around and be supportive of her own children, and my brothers, my sister and I were the beneficiaries of this determination.    My father’s mother ended up being embittered by the straitened circumstances that her husband’s death left them in, and here again, my father decided not to be like his parent, and ended up having a cheerful disposition which also remained with him to the end of his days.    Here, too, I can say we were the positive beneficiaries of this personality trait of my father’s.     When my older brother and I lost our jobs in 2010 in the midst of the economic recession that choked off the careers of many people here in the U.S. at that time, we were determined to get back into the work force, and we were both successful.    I know I can speak for my brother in saying that we credit this success to a large extent to that basic disposition of determination and positivity that we inherited from our father.

2. My Father as a Professional

My father had three careers, from 1948-1968 as a newspaper reporter, which he preferred to the more modern term of “journalist.”   He had a curiosity about the cultures, peoples, and countries of the world which never left him.   In the last year of his life, he discovered a program called “International Mysteries”, on one of the obscure international channels that came with our cable TV package, which showcased a new mystery story every Sunday evening from a different country in Europe.   It was his way of vicariously traveling, and he enjoyed the program tremendously.

As a reporter, he was very cynical about politicians, but very tenderhearted and compassionate towards ordinary people, as evidenced by his next two careers working with charities.    He left the Sun-Times newspaper in 1968 around the time that Rupert Murdoch bought the paper, because he saw the “handwriting on the wall” about what direction the paper was going to be taken, namely, sharply to the right.   However, he found a new career in public relations.   As he explained to me, “in a crisis, I know how to handle reporters because I was one once myself!”   After a brief stint in an educational publishing company called Science Research Associates, he joined the United Way of Chicago and worked there from 1972-1992.    He loved helping charities manage their resources and leverage the media to get the word out about the work they were doing to serve people in the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

And finally, after he retired from United Way, he started exploring working with various charities as a volunteer, and finally ended up working for the South Suburbs of Chicago chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, an advocacy group that supports those who have a mentally ill or family members who are caring for someone who has a mental illness.    He ended up being the President of the local chapter of that organization and retired from that position in 2007.

At the funeral, no one from his first career as a reporter was there at the funeral, but those who knew him in his second career as a public relations manager for United Way, and his third “career” as a public relations manager and then President of NAMI of Chicago South Suburbs, came to the funeral and it was gratifying to hear their stories and their gratitude for my Dad’s stewardship of those organizations.

3. My Father as a Citizen

In World War II, my father tried to enter the Army in 1944 when he turned 18, but was turned down by the medical board as “4F” because of the medical condition of having a perforated eardrum, which left my father more highly prone to infections.   He moved to Washington, D.C. and decided to help the war effort by working in the Department of the Navy.   Now in 1950, during the Korean War, he was called up but his ear condition but no longer an impediment to service in the army due to advances in handling infections through the use of sulfa drugs.   However, the fact that he knew German to a certain extent by having studied it in his last year in high school, meant that he was sent to Germany rather than to Korea.    His favorite line for serving his army service was “I fought Communism from the basement of a Bierstude in Berlin.”    Actually, he served as the public relations department of the army due to his two years of experience at the Sun Times newspaper in Chicago as a reporter.   He was always interested in books, TV programs, and films about World War II.   He felt proud of his service in the Army, but he felt a little abashed at the fact that he never played a large part in either World War II or the Korean War due to circumstances beyond his control.

4. My Father’s Worldview

My father was a lifelong Democrat politically and his worldview was definitely of an liberal and international bent, something which all of his children have inherited.    In fact, when I became 18 he gave me a copy of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, because he wanted to see my rebellious nature to be channeled into a constructive rather than destructive frame of mind.    The reason why he gave me that book was because he knew Prof. Alinsky at the University of Chicago where my father initiated but never completed Master’s level studies in Economics.    I know that if he hadn’t had so many children, he probably would have gone on to at least the Master’s level if not higher, because of his love of learning.   When I went on to get a Master’s Degree in Asian Studies from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1990, he made sure to be there at my graduation to tell me how proud he was that I had achieved what he had been unable to do in his own life.

The liberal and international views that he believed could be described as one which believed in the positive role of government to be the neutral arbiter of various groups in society, and on the world stage, where our country should lead by promoting international cooperation and diplomacy as tools that should be used first before the military option was tried.   He was increasingly cynical about politics towards the end of his life, although he remained optimistic about people’s ability to help others at the local level through organizations such as the charities he worked for during the last three decades of his life.

5. My Father’s Generation

Until the final week of his life, my father read a physical newspaper over breakfast and coffee, which shows that the habits of a lifetime were hard to break.   Although he did have a computer and used it for sending e-mails, looking up information, etc., he never liked reading books from a Kindle or getting his news from online blogs.   For him, a newspaper had a physical and mental weight to it that its digital version could never have in his eyes.   He was a “traditionalist” in that sense, if you want to give a label his generation that was born up until 1945.    However, unlike many his generation, he liked interacting with others in the next generations, and loved the fact that he was surrounded by neighbors who had kids.    He loved the “joyful noise” they made of playing or even sometimes fighting with each other or arguing with their parents, because it took him back to his life as a parent and his earlier life as a child.


In short, the various circles of stakeholders my father was a member of all made him a part of who he was.   He felt that it was the privilege of a lifetime to be who he was, when he was living, and where he was living, and this attitude of gratitude, that life is a gift, is something he took with him to the end.    And that is why I truly feel, from my perspective, that it was a privilege of a lifetime to be his son.

In Memoriam: John P. Rowley

My father passed away this Sunday, Saturday 27th, and I wrote yesterday about the preparations that the family was making for the wake that was being held yesterday evening.    Today is the day of the visitation and funeral service itself, so I thought I would put in my blog a copy of the notice we sent out to the newspapers and through the funeral home about the life my father lived.     Here’s the funeral notice itself.
John P Rowley

“John Perry Rowley, of Homewood, IL, died on September 27th at the age of 89, at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn. John is survived by his children John Lawrence Rowley, Jerome Francis Rowley, Ralph William Rowley and Nora Elizabeth Rowley. He is predeceased by his wife Dorothy Winifred Rowley (née Stift) and his youngest son James Patrick Rowley. He graduated from Subiaco Academy in 1944 as the Salutatorian, and he was then drafted into the US Army in 1950, where he served for two years in Germany in the Army’s Public Affairs group. After leaving the Army, he attended Loyola University where he studied Political Science. He met his future wife Dorothy in English class taught by Father Jerome, who ended up performing their wedding ceremony in 1953. He was a reporter for the Sun Times from 1948-1967, Information Manager for the educational publisher Science Research Associates from 1967-72, and was the Director of Public Affairs and Marketing for the United Way of Chicago from 1972-1992. After he retired, he was on the board of the AIDS Ministries of Chicago, and was President of the South Suburban chapter for NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill). He was a great storyteller and loved helping others. “

The picture we chose was of my father when he was a newspaper reporter for the Sun-Times back in 1948.    He started as a copy boy, and worked at the paper for almost 20 years.    He had three careers in his life, the first as a newspaper reporter, but then when Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun-Times my father saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to leave the paper while it was still the relatively liberal paper in the Chicago area.

His love of the journalism profession stayed with him throughout his life; although he adapted well to the computer age, he still read a physical newspaper every morning with his breakfast and coffee for the rest of his life,.  Although he supplemented his diet of current events with the occasional new program, the print medium of journalism remained his passion.    He used those skills as a newspaper reporter to work in the field of public relations in his second career as Public Affairs and Marketing for the United Way of Chicago, where he worked for the next twenty years of his life.    Through his work, he realized that the world of advertising and marketing could be used not just to sell products to consumers, but to provide services to the needy through the charities supported by the United Way.

And when he retired in 1992, it wasn’t long before he made the transition to what I call his third career, that of working as Public Relations officer for the Chicago South Suburbs chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill after which he became the President from 1998 through 2007,, a span of almost a decade.    He would monitor the legislature for laws that would effect funding for treatment of those suffering from mental illness here in the state of Illinois, and would get the word out if funding cuts were being proposed.    Advocate groups including NAMI would sometimes rally and otherwise put pressure on politicians to reverse or at least reduce those cuts if possible.

One of the initiatives started under his tenure as President was a series of educational programs aimed at correctional facilities to give those who worked there practical guidance on how to deal with prisoners who exhibited symptoms of mental illness.    The thinking was that if would be the younger workers who would be more receptive to new information , but the reality of the program turned out to be that it was the “veterans” among the workers who were more receptive, because they had more experience with prisoners who exhibited symptoms of mental illness, and were therefore more grateful for any information that would help them defuse situations that could result in harm to themselves or other prisoners.

My Dad retired from his third career finally in 2008, and lived a comfortable retirement in Homewood, Illinois, together with youngest son James.    In 2013, I was in transition to a new career, and he asked me to come and stay with him temporarily as he underwent a risky heart valve operation.    After the initial exploratory operation, he suffered a mild stroke and I helped him as he went to a rehabilitation facility to recover his speech and motor skills.    His speech skills were the first to recover, because my Dad was a born storyteller and loved to engage in conversation.    His physical strength took a little longer, but when we took him home in the fall of 2013, I told him I had started to put roots down here in Chicago and decided to stay with him.    There were home health care aides who helped him from 9 AM to 8 PM, but I had the privilege of putting him to bed at night for the past two years.     The programs he enjoyed watching the most–besides the obligatory news programs–were International Mysteries that showed on MhZ channel and which showcased a mystery story from a different country in Europe each week.    He loved mysteries, detective novels, and spy stories throughout his life and these programs combined that interest of his with a bit of vicarious travel thrown in.   He also enjoyed science programs on Nova, the Discovery Channel and other learning channels.    Just the week before he had to go to the hospital with a gallbladder attack, he pointed out a program he wanted to watch on Nova about a new human species, Homo naledi, discovered by paleontologists in South Africa.    I ended up watching it with him and he sat in rapt attention as the program relayed the new discoveries being made.

I can say these past two years have been some of the happiest of my life, being able to share them with my father whose relatively limited physical mobility did not affect his mental mobility at all.    When he recovered from the stroke, he felt that every day of his life was a gift, and his cheerful good nature shown through to all of those who knew him.    This week I was cleaning out his room in preparation for today’s funeral and I started feeling light-hearted and began to sing to myself, anything from snippets of Broadway tunes to the theme of “Star Trek:   The Next Generation.”    I caught myself and had to laugh out loud:   my Dad used to sing to himself when he on the computer in his bedroom or wheeling himself into the kitchen for a bite to eat.    I think unconsciously I was entering the “Dad zone” while in his bedroom and that’s why I was suddenly singing to myself, something I don’t normally do.    Only my father, I reflected, was capable of cheering me up even after he was gone from this world.

He lived a full life which was so full that it continues to spill over into mine and that of the rest of my brothers and sister, even as we gather together with his various relatives, friends and acquaintances to celebrate it.    At some point in my life, I think it was in college, I performed the mental experiment of asking myself, if I had not been his son, and had been his same age and say, met him in college, would I have been his friend?    I didn’t hesitate to answer an enthusiastic “yes”:   we’ve shared the same outlook on the world in our curiosity about the people from other cultures and countries, and while I have not inherited his same cynicism about politics that was borne out of being a journalist, I have inherited his attitude of gratitude towards life, which is perhaps his greatest legacy to me.

In the end, I will miss my conversations with him, but I don’t his presence as much because it is, to a certain extent, still with me.   As I mentioned in his funeral notice, it was a privilege of a lifetime to be his son.


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