5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 2: Organizational Culture and Organizational Communications


The second chapter of the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide deals with the “ecology” of a project and how it fits into the context of an organization.  The first two topics in the chapter, Organizational Culture and Organizational Communications, are relatively short, and in my experience, do not have as many questions as the subject of Organizational Management (the following topic), but the topics are nonetheless important.

This post will cover them both.

1. Organizational Culture

The organizational structure is to the organizational culture what hardware is to software. The organizational culture is shaped by the common experiences of the members of the organization. As these members become more diversified in terms of what culture they come from, they will end up necessarily affecting the organizational culture. The theme that the 5th Edition stresses is that of globalization or organizational culture.

The organizational culture becomes one of the most common inputs to any project management process in the form of an Enterprise Environmental Factor, or EEF. This topic of an EEF is discussed later in the chapter, but you can see that an organization’s culture or “software” will have an influence on the way a project is done.

In particular, the organization’s culture can include the following

  • Shared visions, mission, values, beliefs, and expectations;
  • Regulations, policies, methods, and procedures;
  • Motivation and reward systems;
  • Risk tolerance;
  • View of leadership, hierarchy, and authority relationships;
  • Code of conduct, work ethic, and work hours; and
  • Operating environments.

2. Organizational Communications

The theme of globalization is also stressed as a factor in organizational communications, along with the increasing importance of electronic communications, including the phenomenon of virtual teams. If you combine international communications and virtual teams, you can have many challenges to an organization’s communications, some of which are addressed in the following post summarizing a webinar put on by the Economist.

https://4squareviews.com/2012/10/03/working-together-how-to-manage-virtual-teams-across-borders-an-economist-webinar/

Because of the increasing complexity of communications on a project, having a communication plan is more vital than ever, and that is the subject of the Communications Management knowledge area.

Tomorrow’s post will deal with the “hardware” side of organizations, that of organizational structures, and their affect on project management.

History of Christianity: Lecture Two—The Greco-Roman Context of Early Christianity


This is a summary of the second part of twenty-four in the course on the New Testament presented by The Teaching Company. The lectures in this course are by Prof. Bart D. Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His expertise is in the Greco-Roman cultural environment of early Christianity and the textual criticism of the New Testament. For those who are interested in purchasing this course and listening to the complete lectures, please go to http://www.thegreatcourses.com.

Bart Ehrman has taught courses at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1988. He says the New Testament is the most revered, and yet most unknown book of Western Civilization. This course is designed for those who want to know more about the New Testament using an academic approach.

This second lecture will cover the Greco-Roman cultural and religious context in which early Christianity developed. The Jewish cultural context will be discussed in the third lecture.

1. The Relationship between Context and Meaning

The importance for understanding the historical context of early Christianity is in order to understand what the text of the New Testament meant to the early Christians themselves. If you misunderstand the context, you may end up inadvertently misunderstanding or changing the meaning of the text.

One way to illustrate this issue of the relationship between context and meaning is to examine the phrase “I love this course.” What is the context of that phrase? Depending on whether it is said in a classroom, a golf course, or a restaurant, the phrase will mean different things. And if it said in a sarcastic tone, it actually means the opposite of what the literal meaning says.

Even a gesture can have different meanings depending on the context: if you see someone with their arm stretched out over their head with their index finger pointed upwards, what could that mean? Is it a spectator at an air show (“wow, look at that!”), an athlete at a basketball court (“we’re number one!”), a Pentecostal at a revival meeting (“there’s one way to Heaven”), or a second grader (“I have to go to the bathroom”)?

So the context also determines the meaning of a gesture.

2. Historical Context of Early Christianity

In a similar way, you need to ask what the context of a historical document is in order to understand it. What was the context within which Jesus lived and the books of the New Testament were written?

Prof. Ehrman says that a true understanding of the historical context of the New Testament would take 24 lectures in and of itself, but he will in this lecture at least sketch out some remarks about the religious environment of the Greco-Roman world.

There are three key terms which Prof. Ehrman needs to define: “Greco-Roman world”, “paganism”, and “cult.”

3. Greco-Roman World

They are referring to the lands around the Mediterranean from roughly the time of Alexander the Great who lived around 300 BC to the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine who lived around 300 AD. Alexander the Great was born in 356 BC, the son of Phillip of Macedon, who was the ruler of Macedonia. After Phillip’s assassination, Alexander took over and engaged in a military campaign in which he conquered most of the Mediterranean area from his native land Macedonia down into Greece, and then further east to Egypt, Palestine, and Persia. As a youth, Alexander had studied under the Greek philosopher Aristotle, from whom he acquired an appreciation for Greek culture. As we conquered the lands around the Mediterranean, Alexander promoted the adoption of Greek culture in these various lands. He encouraged the creation of Greek institutions, the adoption of the Greek language, and tried to propagate Greek culturally. He did this in order to unify the various areas he had conquered under one common Greek culture.

This becomes important for the study of the New Testament because it was written in Greek. The Greek word for Greece is Hellas (Ἑλλάς), and so the “Hellenistic world” refers to the area which had adopted Greek culture. The Romans eventually conquered these lands a few centuries after the conquest of Alexander. Rome was originally a kingdom, but by the time of Jesus, it had been ruled as a Republic for over 500 years, and had just become an Empire ruled by the Emperor rather than the Senate. In the 1st century AD had been a time of great upheaval in the Roman world, including the assassination of Julius Caesar, whose adopted son Octavian (originally his nephew) after avenging Caesar’s death brought about an era of peace and prosperity throughout the Empire, and became the first Emperor called Caesar Augustus. Under Augustus, the Roman empire stretched from England to the West to Syria in the East, from North Africa in the South to the states of modern-day Western Europe in the North. These areas were forced to pay tribute to Rome in exchange for protection by the Roman army from invasion from outside these areas.

The Romans did not have their army situated throughout the Empire, however. Rather they were situated on the frontiers to guard against invasion. Whereas most of the Empire enjoyed a long period (250 years) of peace and prosperity called the Pax Romana, there were often wars on the periphery of the Empire, including one in Palestine itself which led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Seen Greek had already been established throughout much of the Empire, the Romans encouraged the use of Greek as the lingua franca among the provinces rather than insisting on the promotion of Latin.

There was also a common coinage throughout the Empire which encouraged trade and commerce, and roads which made travel relatively easy. These benefits were then transferred later to Christianity, because Christians could take advantage of the situation to propagate their faith. Despite having been formed within the Roman empire, however, Christianity did not have an effect on the empire at large until several centuries later.

4. Pagans

The first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity was Emperor Constantine, who ruled in the 4th century AD. Prior to that, everyone in the Roman world except for Jews and Christians adhered to local state religions or cults. These non-Jews and non-Christians are referred to as “pagans” by modern scholars, without any derogatory connotation. It refers to an adherent of a polytheistic religions found throughout the empire, many of which were cults.

5. Cults

Cults is another word which is used by historians that does not necessarily have a derogatory connotation that the word has today to mean that a group is dangerous. The word “cult” comes from the Latin words “cultus deorum”, meaning “the care of the gods.” They are concerned with caring for the needs of the gods, primarily through sacrifices and prayers. The cults of the Roman world can be contrasted with what we call religion today. For most people today, it makes sense to say there is “one God”, but that notion was considered nonsense for many ancient Romans who were polytheists.

6. Contrasts Between Ancient and Modern Religions

i. Polytheism vs. Monotheism

The gods included the Greek-Roman pantheon of the great gods such as Jupiter, Mars, or Venus. But there were local deities that protected cities and towns, or even specific roads or rivers. The family had their own gods that protected the hearth and the health of its various members.

2. Tolerance vs. Exclusivity

The modern concept of religion conceives that if one religion is true, another must be false, but the ancients didn’t see things this way. There was no reason to think any one god was superior to others, and therefore Roman religion was more tolerant of other religions than modern ones. The only exception to this principle of tolerance was when it came to the state gods, which Romans insisted that the local populace venerate as well as their own, often at major state festivals. Refusal to worship them was seen as a political offense. Christians refused to participate in the state cults, and were the exceptions among subjects of the Roman empire.

3. Periodic vs. Constant Observance

Ancient religions were also periodic in their worship of the gods. It was not a matter of continual or daily devotion, but rather of periodic performance of sacrifices at set times. Most gods in the ancient world were completely uninterested in how people lived their daily lives. Ancient people were of course considered about ethics, but they considered it as a matter of philosophy rather than of religion. Religion consisted of ritual sacrifice and prayer.

4. Ritual practices vs. Beliefs

Modern religion is a matter of beliefs, whereas for the ancients it was more important to engage in ritual practices. In the ancient world, it was not what you believed about the gods, but how you worshipped them in cultic or ritualistic acts that was most important.

5. This World vs. The Afterlife

Most people think of modern religion as a way to guarantee that one will not spend a unpleasant afterlife, or as “fire insurance,” as Prof. Ehrman humorously refers to it. The ancients didn’t belief in the afterlife for the most part, based on studies of inscriptions on tombstones, etc. They believed that when you died, that was the end of the story. Why would you bother to be religious in the ancient world? It was not a matter of securing the afterlife, but rather the favor of the gods in the here and now. They lived life close to the edge, without modern irrigation or transportation, technology or medicine. The average Roman woman would have to bear 5 children in order to keep the population constant. By worshiping the gods, you could win favor in battle and in love, and you could keep healthy and grow healthy crops.

6. Human-Divine Continuum vs. Human-Divine Separation

In the ancient world, there was kind of a hierarchy between humans on the one hand and divine beings on the other that formed a pyramid, within Zeus or Jupiter at the top, but several orders of divine beings in between. Under the Olympian gods, there were the state gods, and then the local gods, and the family gods. However, underneath all of the gods was a layer of divine men, like Hercules, who were born of the union of a god and a mortal, and who were more powerful than normal men.

Fig. 1 The Human-Divine Continuum

Here’s a summary of the various contrasts between Ancient and Modern Religions to serve as a reminder of how conceptually different they are.

7. Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana

An individual we know about who lived about 2,000 years ago was a remarkable person. Before his birth, his mother had a visitant from Heaven telling her that her son would not be a normal human being, but rather the son of God. His birth was accompanied by miraculous signs. As a child, he was quite a prodigy, impressing the religious leaders of his own day. As an adult, he went on an itinerant teaching ministry where he went from village to town trying to convince people that they give up the material things of life and focus on the spiritual. He acquired a number of followers, many of whom were convinced he was not mortal, but divine. He did miracles to help them believe, such as healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead. At the end of his life, his enemies decided to bring him up on charges before the Roman authorities. Even after he left this world, his followers continued to belief in him. Some even thought they saw him after he ascended to Heaven where he appeared to them to tell them there was a life after death. Some of them later wrote books about him.

However, you’ve probably never read these books, and you probably don’t know who Prof. Ehrman is referring to. He’s not referring to Jesus, but to Apollonius of Tyana, a pagan philosopher, a worshiper of the Greek gods. He lived at about the same time as Jesus, first century CE. They knew about Jesus, but thought that he was a magician, that he practiced magic and was really a hoax. The followers of Jesus thought the same about the followers of Apollonius of Tyana. We have other stories, like those of Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana, who were born supernaturally, who performed miracles, who delivered supernatural teachings, and who ascended into heaven. Why? Because these people didn’t believe that there was unbridgeable chasm between the gods and humans, but rather there was commerce between the divine and the human realm. These stories about divine men like Apollonius may sound unusual to us; we are only familiar with the story of Jesus. But in the ancient world, there were lots of stories told of this sort. People in the ancient world were able to make sense of the story of Jesus because they were already familiar with the stories of divine men who had commerce with the divine realm.

8. Conclusion

We have seen the importance of establishing the historical context for Jesus and his followers, including those followers who went on to write the books of the New Testament. It is important to understand the emergence of the Christian religion in this context of other religions of the Greco-Roman world which were for the most part polytheistic and tolerant of one another. These other religions focus on cultic acts of sacrifices and prayers to the gods rather than on doctrines. They were religions that focused on the effect of gods on the life in the here and now rather than on the afterlife. And they thought there were divine humans who lived among us.

Fig. 2. Contrasts between Ancient and Modern Religion

Ancient Modern
1. Polytheistic Monotheistic
2. Tolerant (syncretic) Exclusive
3. Periodic observance Constant observance
4. Ritual practices Beliefs
5. This World The Afterlife
6. Human-Divine continuum Human-Divine separation

The most important religion for understanding the context of early Christianity, however, is not one of the Greco-Roman religions, but Judaism, which is the subject of the next lecture in this series.

Project Management Institute of Orange County—The First Combined PMP/CAPM Workshop


All day I’ve been working on the combined PMP/CAPM Workshop that the Orange County, California chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI-OC) is putting on starting this Saturday and continuing for 7 consecutive weeks in total.

Today was the launch of the workshop, and as a member of the PMP/CAPM Workshop Committee at PMI-OC I was happy that the first workshop that took place this morning went forward without too many glitches.   This afternoon I dealt with a lot of the paperwork in getting student rosters updated, preparing instructor materials to be sent out, etc.

But the reason why I’m writing this post is to explain why this workshop is different than all the ones that PMI-OC has done in the past: it’s because this workshop is the first combined PMP/CAPM workshop. In the past the workshop was put on solely for those preparing for the Project Management Professional or PMP certification exam. But in the past six months, PMI has been aware of the increasing demand for the Certified Associate in Project Management or CAPM certification.  The CAPM certification is for those who either do not have any project management experience and want to become project managers, or for those who have some experience but not quite enough to qualify for the PMP exam.

There was some internal debate within PMI-OC about the two options: to create a separate CAPM workshop in parallel to the PMP workshop, or to do a combined PMP/CAPM workshop. For reasons of shared resources, among others, a combined PMP/CAPM workshop was the route chosen by PMI-OC for this next workshop. However, how would the PMP and CAPM students work together, especially in study groups?   That was one of my main concerns going forward.

Since one of my roles in the workshop besides being instructor liaison is to help the students in the class form study groups, my concern was whether there should be separate PMP and CAPM study groups. Would the CAPM students be overwhelmed by dealing with PMP-level questions, or would the PMP students feel bored or held back by questions from the CAPM-level students? I was thinking about this issue, but then a fellow member of the committee asked me, “well, why don’t you just ask the CAPM students?”

I did, and two of them said they wanted to be in the PMP study groups because they would learn things from those who were actually practicing project managers. That was an answer that was good to hear, but not totally unexpected. What I didn’t expect was that two of the PMP students said they were looking forward to having a CAPM student in their study groups because they would ask good questions, and they wouldn’t have the problem PMP students often have of comparing what they do at work in a certain knowledge area with what the PMBOK® recommends. The CAPM students are “clean slates” in that regard and won’t be facing any mental confusion about “well, we don’t do it at that way where I work!” That was an answer I hadn’t expected it, and I thought it was interesting enough to do a post about it.

The CAPM and PMP students therefore chose to be in the same study session, and we only divided the students up by geographical area, not by “scope” in terms of what exam they were studying for.

I’m looking forward to monitoring the student groups to see how it turns out. Plus I intend to ask the instructors how the Q&A sessions change with having the CAPM students around. Should be an interesting workshop…

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 2 (Organizational Influences and Project Life Cycle) overview


The first chapter of the PMBOK® Guide dealt with some basic definitions of a project; chapter 2 starts to expand the understanding of a project into its “ecology” or environment within an organization. In section 2.1, the relationship between a functional manager and a project manager is shown to differ depending on the type of structure an organization has. It is important to know these various structures and the kind of power a project manager has relative to a functional manager in each type of structure.

Section 2.2 goes on to discuss the subject of stakeholders and how they are important in the managing of the project. This topic of stakeholders is of paramount importance for the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide; this is evidenced by the fact that there is now a whole new knowledge area (Chapter 13) devoted to the topic.

Section 2.3 goes into detail about the different roles within a project team, and how a team is supposed to work together to achieve the goal of completing the project.

Finally, the last section 2.4 discusses the various types of project life cycles, that is, the various ways the phases of a project can be organized depending on the type of project, and in some cases, the type of application area the project is in. For example, many IT projects nowadays utilize an adaptive or agile methodology, and this is described as a constrast to the traditional or waterfall methodology.

Fig. 1 PMBOK® Guide Chapter 2

Section

Title

2.1 Organizational Influences on Project Management
2.2 Project Stakeholders and Governance
2.3 Project Team
2.4 Project Life Cycle

Together, these sections describe a how project work fits within an organization, how stakeholders within and without the organization can affect the project, how a project team is supposed to work together, and how a project life cycle is related to the phases of a development of a product. Next week I will start on posts related to section 2.1.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 1: The Role of the Project Manager


The last topic in Chapter 1 of the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide is that of the role of the project manager. This topic covers a couple of points.

1. Role of the Project Manager within the Organization

The high-level (C-level) management is the group that figures out and implements the overall business strategy for an organization. The levels of management under them are the functional managers who take care of specific business units (accounting, human resources, IT, etc.), and then there are the operations managers and project managers, who take of the day-to-day operations and special projects, respectively, that the organization engages in. (Under “project management”, we are conceptually including the levels of projects/programs/portfolios.)

This is a general understanding of the relationship between these management roles; the relationship between a functional manager and a project manager is given a much more thorough treatment in Chapter 2.

2. Role of the Project Manager within the Project Team
There are several competencies that you need to have as a project manager. Some are directed related to being a project manager, and some are more general and fall into the category of what you would have to be a manager of any kind.

Competency

Explanation

1. Knowledge What do you know about project management on theoretical basis?
2. Performance What do you know about project management on practical basis?
3. Personal What do you know about how to lead a project?

I put the top two categories of competency in a different shade of green than the bottom one because the top two are specifically project management related, but the leadership skills in the third one could apply to leading ANY endeavor, whether it’s a project or not.

There are also a set of interpersonal skills that PMBOK® Guide lists. Rather than reproduce the list, let me just also reiterate the point that these interpersonal skills are also part of what it takes to be an effective leader, and could thus apply to any management position, let alone project management.

The reason why I’m making this point in the post is because some questions will give a list of skills, and ask which are project management skills. Some of them will be of the general variety that are in the list of interpersonal skills mentioned in the above paragraph, but some of them will require knowledge specifically of project management. If you get confused by this question, remember that it really means “which skills in the list are specifically project management skills” and it should be clearer which item is the answer.

The next post will give a brief introduction to Chapter 2 of the PMBOK® Guide.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 1: The Relationship between Project Management and Operations Management


In the very first post on Chapter 1, I talked about the conceptual differences between a project and operational work. Here’s a summary of those differences.

Duration Creates
Project Temporary (starts and ends) Unique product, service, or result, or improvement in existing product or service
Operational Work Ongoing (repetitive) Repetitive product (mass production) or service

In reality, an organization will have both going at the same time, and the subject of this post covers the important topic of the relationships between the two of them.    Note that the PMBOK® Guide does not include details about operations management because it is considered out of the scope of the book.

1. Intersection of projects and operations work

Let’s say you are an automobile manufacturer who wants to design and build a new car for mass production. The car will need to be designed, and then a prototype will be built which will then be tested in order to see if it can meet various government safety and environmental standards. Although the concept of the life cycle of a project is actually covered in Chapter 2 rather than this chapter, you can intuitively see that the design can be logically split into two different phases, designing the prototype and then testing it.  You could into fact take these two phases and split them into what is essentially two different projects. However you divide up the project work, once the car is designed and tested, the results of the project of the car design then are passed over to the operations group, which will then mass produce the automobile on the assembly line. So the sequence could be represented as follows, with design and test being considered two projects or two phases of a single project (colored in blue), and then mass production being operational work (colored in green).

.

There are other possible ways for a project and operational work to intersect. A project, for example, could take place DURING the course of operational work, as when a Six Sigma Project is carried out which is designed to reduce defects that occur in the course of ongoing operations, so that the old operations work is improved in the process.

No matter the point at which they intersect, the important thing for an organization to be aware of is that there needs to be a coordinated transfer between the results of a project and the operational work which will take over that result and produce it on a massive scale and over a long period of time, in the case of a new product, or will take over that result and use it to improve ongoing operations, as in the case of a Six Sigma project.

2. Operational Stakeholders in Project Management

Because of the transfer mentioned above at the intersection of projects and operations, project managers need to include those from the operations section of the organization as stakeholders in their projects, because they will have to ultimately live with the results of the project the manager is working on. The complete list of potential stakeholders in operations is given in the PMBOK® Guide, Chapter 1, section 1.5.1.2. The important thing is that you are aware of the reason WHY they are included.

3. Business Plan and Strategic Considerations

Projects and operational work both have in common the fact that they must both respond to external strategic considerations (e.g., responding to market demand) and internal business needs (i.e., “the bottom line”). In this respect, they are both effected by changes in circumstances outside or within the organization.

The conclusion is that an organization needs to make sure that its project work and its ongoing operations work are complementary and work together to achieve the organization’s aims and goals.

The next and final post regarding chapter 1 will be on the role and responsibilities of a project manager.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 1: The Project Management Office or PMO


This is a topic which caused confusion in our study group for the following reason: when I asked people what their Project Management Office or PMO did in their organization, I got three different answers.  One person said their PMO directed all the projects, another person said their PMO audited all of their projects to see if they were following the proper methodology, and the third one said their PMO was just a document control center. This caused quite a bit of discussion as to what should be the “true” function of a PMO. To see which one was correct, I looked at the PMBOK® Guide, and guess what? They ALL were correct.

According to the definition in the PMBOK® Guide,

“Project Management Office (PMO). An organization structure that standardizes the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.”

This is the common feature of a PMO no matter what organization it is in. However, PMOs fall in three broad categories based on the degree of control over which the PMO has over individual projects. The following figure shows the three different types of PMO, with the rightward direction representing an increasing amount of control.

Figure 1. Three Types of PMO

PMO Type

Degree of Control

Description

1.

Supporting

Low

Consultative role for projects. Supplies templates, best practices, training, access to lessons learned on previous projects.

2.

Controlling

Moderate

Support and compliance role for projects. Supplies templates, best practices, etc. and assures compliance through audits.

3.

Directive

High

Managing role to projects. Supplies templates, best practices, assures compliance through audits, and directs completion of projects.

You will notice that some of the duties overlap, so the best representation of these three categories would be the following, with the innermost circle representing what Supportive PMOs do in providing templates and best practices, the middle circle representing what Controlling PMOs do in assuring that projects comply with those templates and best practices, and the outermost circle representing what Directive PMOs do in utilizing templates and best practices to direct projects to their successful conclusion.

If you keep these relationships in mind between the potential functions that an PMO can serve, then you will do well on questions involving the PMO. Just remember, which function a PMO will have is up to the organization, and as my three colleagues from our study group showed, each organization may decide differently what that function should be.

The next topic is that of the relationship between the project and the organization structure. This is really the introduction to a topic which is covered much more thoroughly in Chapter 2 when this relationship is described in detail with respect to different kinds of organizations.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 1: Projects, Strategic Plan and Business Need


5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 1: Projects, Strategic Planning and Business Value

1. Strategic Plan

In order to be initiated, projects have to have a reason for being carried out, a reason that is both internal and external to the organization. The reason that is external to the organization in most cases is the strategic plan which the project is a part of.

According to the PMBOK® Guide, here are the reasons for a project being initiated:

Strategic Consideration

Example of Project

1. Market demand Building more fuel-efficient cars in response to higher gasoline prices.
2. Strategic opportunity/

business need

Training company creates new Scrum Master certification preparation program in response to increasing demand.
3. Social need NGO creates infrastructure projects in developing countries
4. Environmental

consideration

Company creates electric car-share service to reduce air pollution
5. Customer request Electric utility creates new substation to serve new industrial park
6. Technological advance Advances in computer memory cause company to create smaller laptop
7. Legal requirement Establishing guidelines for proper handling of toxic materials.

To those I would add “industry standards” such as ISO standards, which may not be a legal requirement, but which may represent “best practices” for an industry and could be the reason for performing Six Sigma projects to reduce defects.

So the above “strategic considerations” are actually the external motivating factors out there in the world of business, government, or the society at large which create some sort of a need which the business will fulfill by doing a project. This is important, because if that need goes away, the project may go away as well. For example, if a project is initiated as a result of a customer request (strategic consideration #5 in the above chart), it can also be cancelled due to a request from that same customer.

2. Business Need

The second reason for being of a project is the proverbial “bottom line”, i.e., it needs to add value to the company either in terms of something tangible like monetary value, or something intangible such as brand recognition. This internal reason for being or business need has to be there as well. This is important for a similar reason as the strategic (external) consideration: if it goes away, so may the project. If a project is no longer profitable, because of excessive delays in executing it, or excessive increases in the required budget, it may be cancelled because the company will lose less money writing it off as an incomplete project than it would be seeing it through to the finish.

The external reason for the project (i.e. the strategic plan), and the internal reason for the project (i.e. the business need), are essential to understand in order to get the project initiated. The business need, the strategic plan, and a description of the product scope (i.e., what the product is designed to do) together make up the Statement of Work which can be considered the “seed” of the project. When you tie all these elements of the statement of work together, you are making the business case for the project.

Fig. 1 Elements of the Statement of Work

So you should always be aware for your project what the business need and strategic plan are; because if circumstances change that cause a change in either of these two, it can directly affect the continued existence of your project.

The next topic will be that of the role of the Project Management Office, which some organizations use to oversee projects within their organization.

Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition—Lecture 1: The Problems and Scope of Philosophy


This is a summary of the first lecture in a series of lectures on the history of Western Philosophy put on by the Teaching Company. I wanted to preserve these summaries from the 2nd edition of this course because it is out of print; the Teaching Company now publishes the 3rd edition of the course which you can obtain at www.thegreatcourses.com.

This first lecture on the problems and scope of philosophy is presented by Prof. Michael Segrue, who is a Prof. of History at Ave Maria University.

1. The terminology of philosophy—nine terms to understand

The word philosophy comes from two Greek words, the “φιληο” (phileo) meaning “to love” or “to befriend” and “σοφία” (sophia) meaning “wisdom. Philosophy is true to its etymological roots, because it is indeed a love of wisdom or a passion for knowledge which goes beyond practical or utilitarian concerns.

The philosophical tradition of the West is a more or less coherent philosophical tradition with a common set of problems or issues under consideration, and a similar set of technical vocabulary which we use to discuss philosophical topics. Let’s start by considering this series of technical terms now in order to avoid confusion later on.

The first term is that of physics. By physics, we mean a theory of nature; it’s our way of explaining the world around us which we perceive through our senses. It’s the world which ranges from the familiar objects and their components which can be perceived through many senses (tables, chairs), to the larger, faraway objects which we can only perceive through our sense of vision (stars, planets). Physics also encompasses the theory of time and space in which these objects exist.

The second term is that of metaphysics. Metaphysics derives from the Greek
words μετά (metá) (“beyond”, “upon” or “after”) and φυσικά (physiká) (“physics” or “nature”). It is the description of entities which exist independently of space and time such as ideas, or spiritual entities such as angels or God (if you are a religious believers) that are outside of our immediate, everyday experience. It is the inquiry and consideration of things that outside of the realm of nature, which is the domain of physics.

The third term is ontology, which is a highly technical term in philosophy, but it could be simply defined as “speech about beings”. It is a branch of philosophy which allows us to analyze and think about the kind of existence that things have. We can say that God exists in a different way and on a different plane than everyday human beings. In addition, human beings have a set of rights that everyday objects don’t have. God, human beings, and physical objects are different kinds of beings; another more technical way of saying this is that they are all ontologically distinct classes of beings. They have a different status and a different hierarchy. There are different kinds of reasoning we need to apply to them, and differences in the way we apprehend them.

The fourth term is logic. Although this may be a little intimidating when you first encounter it in philosophy, but it is simply a system of rules for deriving true inferences. It says that if you start out with true premises, and follow the rules of logic, you will always draw true inferences. It’s not as complicated as you might have thought.

The fifth term is epistemology, which is another highly technical term in philosophy, comes from the Greek word ἐπιστήμη (epistēmē), meaning “knowledge, understanding”, and λόγος meaning “study of”). It is the speech or reasoning we use when discussing knowledge itself. We are thinking about knowledge or about thinking itself. What kinds of knowledge can we have of different types of things? Our knowledge of mathematics is different from our knowledge of scientific facts such as the boiling point of water, which in turn is different from our knowledge of right and wrong or our knowledge of the way governments ought to be organized. When philosophers engage in epistemology, what they are really trying to do is to clarify their own thoughts and those of other people to eliminate confusions that may have crept into their thinking by using a detailed analysis of how thinking works. It is a means for philosophers to be able to think clearly about various issues.

The sixth term is psychology. Epistemology is the philosophy of what is known, but psychology is philosophy of the knower, that is, the one who is doing the knowing. All of the philosophers of the Western philosophical tradition have a certain concept of the human mind or consciousness. Different philosophers have different concepts of the mind or psychology. Plato had one particular philosophy of mind, and he organized that philosophy of mind or the soul in relationship to the problem of how that mind apprehends mathematical knowledge. The philosophers of the 17th and 18th century on the other hand put together an alternative conception of philosophical psychology, which addressed their differing concerns with respect to epistemology which had to do with the rise of modern science.

Beyond the philosophy of mind, there are three related disciplines.

The seventh term is that of aesthetics, the theory of the beautiful. Is the beauty of an object within the object that is being observed or is it in the mind that perceives that beauty? What is the relationship between what it is perceived to be beautiful and that which we judge to be right or wrong? The branch of philosophy called aesthetics takes these various thoughts about beauty and tries to weave them into a harmonious whole.

The eighth term is that of ethics, which inquires into our judgments of what is right or wrong, over our certainty about what we ought or ought not do. What does it mean to engage in actions which are appropriate to a human being? How can we improve the way we behave? It discusses the part of human beings which are not necessarily the same as in animals, and are thus partially outside of the realm of nature. It discusses the choices of human beings, and the judges and values they use when making those choices.

The ninth term is that of politics or political theory¸ which is connected to the study of ethics, studies the city or society in which people live. Both ethics and politics investigate what is good or righteous, but on a different human scale. Ethics discusses what is good or righteous at the level of an individual, while political theory discusses what is good at the level of the society as a whole.

2. The Problems of Philosophy—Two Rivers, One Stream

The concerns addressed during the history of philosophy are remarkably small, as covered by the nine philosophical terms listed above, compared to the enormous diversity and richness of the traditions from which these philosophies emerged, and the vast amount of time over which they developed.

The history of philosophy goes back over thirty centuries, and to go back to the beginning of that history as the first lectures in this series will do, it will require an imaginative leap. The early philosophers in the ancient world of course did not have access to the technology we do, but more importantly didn’t bring many of the same presuppositions to the topic that we do. They lived in a world full of myths and imaginative stories which took the place of rational explanations for things.

If you are willing to make that intellectual and empathetic leap into the minds of the ancients, you will find it easier to absorb the contents of their philosophical debates.

The history of early philosophy can be seen through the answer to the question from ontology, “what is” or “what exists?” There are basically two answers to this question.

A. Nature only

This answers says that there is only the material world, and there is no supernatural or non-physical realm beyond it. As the pre-Socratics would have put it, there are only atoms and the void, and nothing else. The philosophers that believe in this answer to the ontological question “what exists” are those that belong to materialistic interpretations of the world and are called philosophical materialists or naturalists.

This philosophical tradition goes from the pre-Socratics all the way through to that of modern science in the Enlightenment.

B. Nature + something else

An alternative answer to the question “what exists” is that nature exists plus some other world or realm that is external to space and time. In the Western philosophical tradition, an example of this realm is Heaven, which for believing Christians, Jews, and Muslims contains God, the angels, and the souls of human beings that used to live in the material world.

In addition to the belief in Heaven in the Western religious tradition, there is the Greek philosophical tradition of belief in another world beyond that of immediate sense perception, and that is the created by Plato in the world of the Forms, which could be considered analogous to the Christian Heaven in the sense that its significance informs the various objects in our material world. It is a place of pure ideas and pure thought, that is purer than this world where things change and come into and out of existence.

The “two worlds” metaphysical approach goes from Plato all the way through to the tradition of the three Abrahamic faiths. This second world is of enormous significance and contains our source of virtue and moral standards, and justifies good actions.

These two answers to the question “what exists” are therefore, form the two major strata in the philosophical bedrock of the Western philosophical tradition. Which answer a philosopher chooses to this ontological question will inform that person’s views on other philosophical questions such as ethics, politics, and aesthetics, etc.

3. The History of Philosophy—Two Strands, One Braid

Besides the conceptual relationships between the various schools of philosophy, there is the historical development of these schools to consider as well. Two geographical areas stand out as fundamental to the formation of the Western philosophical tradition, and those are Athens and Jerusalem, the tradition that comes from liberated rationality and human freedom, and the tradition that comes from piety and faith in God. These are the two strands of an intellectual braid which forms the history of Western philosophy, kind of like the intertwined snakes around the central staff in the symbol of the caduceus.

The traditions of Athens and Jerusalem form that kind of an intertwined legacy of the modern Western culture. The fundamental myths and conceptions of Western culture relating ethics to otherworldly metaphysics come out of Jerusalem, and the element of rationality and human-centered values comes out of Athens, the home of Socrates, the patron saint of rational inquiry. The Greek drive towards secular knowledge stands out in its time as unique among other traditions in the world that organized knowledge around myths.

4. The Role of logos in the Two Traditions

The two words to pay attention to in differentiating these two strands of philosophical history are logos and mythos. Logos (λόγος) is the Greek word for “reason”, and means rational discourse. The Socratic dialogues raise rational discourse to the level of an art form. An alternative conception of logos is the one in the New Testament. The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, and the Qur’an is written in Arabic; alone of the three sacred books of the Abrahamic tradition, the New Testament is the only one written in Greek, and it has the most affinities to Greek culture. The attempt to unify the two strands of Western culture from Athens and Jerusalem stemmed in large part from Christian intellectuals who by virtue of being able to read Greek had access to both traditions. Logos in the Biblical tradition does not mean “free, unfettered reason”, but rather means the “word of God” in the Book of John, meaning the authoritative, fundamental divine word of God. The fact that this same word is used by the two traditions to mean very different things has been the source of an endless amount of confusion and difficulties in the history of Western philosophy. But there is a point of connection between these traditions: perhaps there is something divine about free, unfettered human discourse.

5. The Role of Myth in the Two Traditions.

The second important word is that of mythos (μύθος) which is the Greek word for “story”. A myth is more than just a story, however, but it is an archetypal story that has universal applicability. Cast in the language of fiction, it nevertheless tells the truth. An example of such universal myths is the myth of Oedipus from Greek tragedy. These are not just rousing adventure stories, but rather they tell some universal truths about the human condition.

The tradition of Jerusalem also contains many myths, and one of Prof. Segrue’s favorites is that of Job, God’s faithful servant. The Book of Job is the highpoint of religious thinking in the Bible, in his opinion. He is the perfect example of religious piety, and because he is so obedient to God, God has blessed him with health, wealth, and a wonderful family. The Devil at some point makes an argument with God that the only reason why Job is obedient to God is in order to obtain the benefits which God has blessed him with; in other words, Job’s piety and obedience to God is really disguised self-interest. Therefore, the Devil argues to God, if you remove that blessing and curse him, Job will no longer be obedient to you. The Devil and the God therefore make a bet to see what Job will do.

God then sends down to Job a terrible series of catastrophes, his family is killed, his house and possessions are destroyed or lost, and then finally his health is destroyed by a series of diseases culminating in loathsome boils that cover his entire body. However, Job is completely faithful to God throughout this, the message being that we ought not to question God because he is so far above us as we are to earthworms. Job’s friends and his wife try to convince him otherwise, but he refuses to listen to them and instead is determined to steadfastly believe in God no matter what God sends his way.

A directly contrary myth from Greece is that of a man who does not
obey God, but rather disobeys him and that is the myth of Prometheus. He is not quite at the level of the gods, but aspires to be. He knows he his inferior to the gods, but nevertheless wants to improve himself and mankind to their fullest potential. He does not have humility and faith, but rather has pride and who shakes his fist in defiance at the gods, knowing full well that he will be punished for his act of disobedience but who doesn’t care.

Prometheus is a Titan who felt sorry for mankind because they didn’t have a lot of the advantages that others in the natural world had: they had no claws, or sharp teeth, or swiftness, or protective coloration. He liked human beings and, despite Zeus’ expressly forbidding him to bring man the divine spark of fire of the gods, Prometheus goes against Zeus in a way that parallels the Satanic will in Milton’s Paradise Lost which is responsible for the line “I would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven”. Prometheus is an important Greek myth because it expressed core Greek values. If you read the pantheon of gods as representing for the Greek imagination the forces of nature, Prometheus’ defiance of the gods is really the tale of the heroic taming of nature and blind chance. In Greek tragedy this defiance is called hubris, the overweening desire to become something more than what you were given at birth. This megalomaniacal pride is at the core of the Greek approach to the world.

The world of Job is a God-centered world, the world of Prometheus is a human-centered world. When we braid together the traditions of these two worlds, we have to ask ourselves which set of virtues we prefer to follow. The problem is that the human psyche is made up of a heterogeneous set of components, meaning that they are not all the same. There is a rational component, there is an emotional component, and there is a religious component built into our psyche or our mind. If we focus on one tradition to the exclusion of the other, we are locking ourselves into a partial worldview that is not satisfactory from a psychological as well as philosophical standpoint. Not all edifying philosophies start with the same assumptions and end up with the same conclusions. In fact, there are alternative assumptions and alternative conclusions which may well be contradictory among themselves, but when you start to contemplate them, you may be edified in different kinds of ways; it may improve different parts of your psyche. In other words, experiencing different kinds of thinking are good for you. Wittgenstein once said, “philosophical illnesses usually stem from a dietary deficiency,” meaning one’s intellectual diet may be deficient in examples. If we think about religious texts alone, we may be lacking in scientific or mathematical examples. Similarly, if we were extremely positivistic and organized our thinking solely around physics, mathematics, and formal logic, it may well be that questions of good and evil, and human destiny may escape us.

So Prof. Segrue pleads for the listeners to this series not to have the courage of your own convictions, but the courage to call those convictions into question, to ask yourself “what if I was wrong?” and “how would I know if I was wrong?” If you sincerely apply yourself to the tradition of both Athens and Jerusalem, you will maximize your ability to absorb what the entire intellectual tradition of Western Philosophy can offer you. If you don’t make the attempt to extend the reach of your assumptions and your conclusions, at least make the imaginative leap to think about what it might be like to believe in an alternative set of assumptions and conclusions. What would the pluses and minuses be?

An example of intellectual honesty would be if we were contemplating a certain philosophical issue; let’s call it issue XYZ. What would count as evidence for this proposition or against it? Are you willing to look for evidence in favor of both what you believe and what you do not believe? The intellectual honesty you bring to this discussion will determine how much you will get out of these philosophical works. After you absorb the message of both Athens and Jerusalem, it will be up to you whether that changes you in the world of action.

The next set of lectures in this series will start at the beginning of the Western intellectual tradition of philosophy with the pre-Socratic philosophers. They are the earliest examples of the Greek drive to create secular knowledge. We are indebted to these Greek proto-physicists for the foundations of science that were developed during the Renaissance and afterwards. The skeptical, rational element of the Greek tradition that was born at the time of the pre-Socratic philosophers has remained a vital part of the Western intellectual tradition and is very much alive in the present day.

Effective Leadership at #Toastmasters International–a talk by Past International President Alfred Herzing


Today at Chapman University the Leadership and Communication Education or LACE training was given for the Founder’s District of Toastmasters International. Most of the sessions were devoted specifically to training club officers for their respective offices in their clubs. However, one of the added values you get by attending LACE training is the opportunity to go to additional presentations given by prominent members of the Toastmasters International community. At today’s LACE training, Alfred Herzing, a Past International President of Toastmasters International, gave a presentation on Effective Leadership and this blog post gives an outline of his talk.

Alfred Herzing explained that ever since he has been in Toastmasters International, he has been promoting its value in developing the leadership potential of its members. In today’s talk, he wanted to go over some of the aspects of being an effective leader, to use Toastmasters International as an example of how you can develop those skills, and to give some indications of how those skills can be used in the business world.

The six aspects of being an effective leader are:

1. Create Vision

The vision you first need to create should contain the high-level objectives you want to obtain. It cannot be some vague idea of yours like “I will leave this organization in better shape than it was when I got here.” What in the world does that mean? In Toastmasters, there is something called a Distinguished Club Program which outlines 10 goals for each club to perform in the categories of a) education, b) membership, and c) organization over the course of one year.

2. Develop Plan

Like any project, there are the major constraints of a) scope, b) time, and c) budget. The Distinguished Club Program has the major constraint of a) scope in the form of the 10 goals that need to be performed, and b) time in the form of the 1 year that they have to be performed in; the budget is not a major consideration, however, being that Toastmasters is a non-profit organization.

The Distinguished Club Program puts forth the following goals for each club:

Category

Goal

1. Education Earn 2 Competent Communicator Awards
2. Earn 2 more Competent Communicator Awards
3. Earn 2 Advanced Communicator Awards
4. Earn 2 more Advanced Communicator Awards
5. Earn 2 Leadership Awards
6. Earn 2 more Leadership Awards
7. Membership Gain 4 new members
8. Gain 4 more new members
9. Organization Have 4 out of 7 club officers trained
10. Send in club officer list, club dues in a timely manner

There are awards for the clubs that meet half or more of these goals:

Number of goals obtained

Level of Award

5

President’s Distinguished Club

7

Select Distinguished Club

9

Distinguished Club

Each club needs to create its own Club Success Plan which outlines how the club will fulfill each of the 10 goals mentioned above, in particular, who in the club will earn the Educational Awards needed for goals 1 through 6.

This is an example of a club officer going from Creating a Vision (having an excellent club) to Developing a Plan that is specific.

3. Share Goals

The club officers need to communicate the plan to achieve the club vision with the club members themselves.

4. Obtain Buy-In

The plan should be communicated in such a way as to obtain the buy-in of the club members. They need to believe that they will benefit from it and that their efforts as will not only benefit themselves individually but will help the club as a whole.

5. Delegate Smartly

Delegating does not mean dumping responsibility. It requires you to

  • Assess strengths of specific members,
  • Make assignments specific, measurable
  • Cast assignments in language of opportunity, not as a burden (“I picked you because I thought you would do well with this”)
  • If response to assignment is “no”, then listen to objections and try to overcome them (perhaps giving the person reassurance, additional resources, etc.)
  • Follow up, and track progress, but don’t micromanage

6. Resolve Conflicts

Conflicts will naturally arise in a group, and they can be healthy for an organization if handled well. They can arise because of:

  • Ego or control issues
  • Unclear goals or differing goals
  • Different perspectives or paradigms

Here are some of the ways to resolve these issues:

  • Discuss conflict with team and act as a mediator between conflicting members
  • Reinforce higher vision of overall goal
  • If one member is transgressing ground rules of behavior, then address that person in private
  • Don’t be afraid to remove toxic member from group

In the end, you should realize that to be a leader is like the description of the President of the United States being a public servant. You are there to serve the members of the group and to lead them by facilitating their achievements of club goals.