Today We Saw the Face of God–a documentary on the January 2010 Haiti Earthquake

On January 24, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake of magnitude of 7.0 struck 25 km west of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.   A non-profit group called Little by Little had just finished a medical mission in Haiti at a clinic sponsored by Mountain Top Ministries.   They had gone back to the house they were staying in and preparing for their trip back to the United States the following day.

All of a sudden, they heard a sound that one of them described as a sound like an 18-wheeler careening of the road and coming straight for the house they were staying in.     Then the ground started shaking, and outside the trees were swaying violently as if caught in a severe windstorm, although the sky above was clear blue.    They realized they were experiencing an earthquake, but one more violent than those even from Haiti had ever remembered experiencing.    The house they were in was intact, but they decided to try to go to the clinic they had just finished working at to see if it people needed help.

And then, an hour or so later, reports came in to the clinic that they were desperately needed in the capital of Port-au-Prince.    Their experiences during the next 8 hours form the basis of a documentary by Mercedes Kane.    She is a filmmaker who graduated from Governors State University in University Park, who when talking to her sister-in-law who had been one of the members of that medical mission, thought that it would make a great subject of a documentary.   She went to a screening of the film at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Park Forest tonight (August 24, 2013), and she stayed for a question and answer session afterwards.

The film is based on the experiences of the medical mission team as seen through the eyes of those who experienced it, especially Sue Walsh, who wrote a book about the experience called Walking in Broken Shoes.    The title of the movie comes from one point, where in the midst of witness tremendous human suffering at the hospital, Sue Walsh remembered something that one of the pastors had said in a sermon that he gave to the Little by Little team just before they left for Haiti.   He compelled them to use their faith to see in the eyes of the sufferers they were going to help “the face of God” that would help them treat those people with grace, love, and humility.

The most moving part for me came at the end of the movie when Sue Walsh describes collapsing in a bed at the end of the most gruelling 8-hour shift of her entire life, when her clothing was still covered in the viscera of the people she had been desperately trying to help.    She felt a strange calm, almost like that of a mother for a newborn baby, whose clothing may be covered in fluids from the baby’s own body, and reacting to the experience not in disgust, but with a sense of being physically bonded to the baby in a way almost impossible to describe.    She was now bonded to the Haitian people in a similar visceral way that would make the earthquake a life-altering experience for her and others on the team.

The film had a profound impact on the audience at the screening as well, and the film was followed by a half-hour of questions from the audience about how she came to make the film, and why she thought it was important to make it.

I recalled reading stories about the earthquake brought out the worst in some people in Haiti, as looting and violence broke out in several places in the struggle for scarce resources.   So it was important to revisit the history that event and show how it could bring out the “better angels of our nature”, among the volunteers from the United States who went to Haiti to help the Haitian people help themselves, and of course among the Haitians themselves.

I thank the Unitarian Universalist Church of Park Forest for hosting the screening, and for Mercedes Kane for spending the time to answer questions from the audience.    You cannot NOT be moved by this film, and I heartily recommend that you watch out for the opportunity to see it in the months ahead as it goes into distribution.

Step up Your Toastmasters Game–Become an Assistant Area Governor

I have been asked by the Area Governor to become the Assistant Area Governor.   This is the second time I’ve been given this opportunity, and I had a one-word response to his request:  YES!

The reason is because I remember the last time I was an Assistant Area Governor, when I was in my previous Toastmasters club in Orange County, California, and I learned so much during the experience.    When I moved to Chicago at the beginning of the summer, and joined my new Toastmasters Club, I was searching around for a way to “step up my game” and become a larger part of not just my own club, but the surrounding area, division, and district.

I am writing this post to describe the 5 ways an Assistant Area Governor (or Assistant AG) can assist the Area Governor (or AG) and even more importantly, the 5 ways that an Assistant AG can gain from the experience.

A.   Five Ways an Assistant Area Governor can Help the AG

1.   Area Visits

An Assistant Area Governor can assist the AG with visiting the clubs in the area.   An AG must visit each of the clubs in his or her area, AND do what is called a Club Report for each of those clubs.   If you have 4 clubs, that means 4 visits, right?   Well, the time investment is greater than just 4 evenings spent at the area clubs–it means you have to write the club reports, and you have to sometimes follow up with each club to get all the information you need for the report.   In our Area, there are two NEW clubs being added to the 4 already there.    That means that the AG has 50% more club visits to do, so he felt he needed some help.    It was the fact that I had already been an Assistant AG before that made our AG think of asking me to become his assistant.   I will go with him to the club visits and help him with the reports.

2.  Area Speech Contests

The Area Speech Contest is more complicated than the Club Speech Contest because you need to organize the venue. coordinate the schedule with all of the clubs in your area that are doing their own speech contests, and you need to staff the contest with judges, timers, contestants, contest masters, not to mention those who run the registration desk or set up refreshments.   For those Areas that using the speech contest as a fundraiser, you must also set up an opportunity drawing (raffle).     An Assistant AG can help the AG set up and run the Area Speech Contest.

3.   Division Council

If the Area has an Area-wide meeting with the AG, president and VP Education of all the clubs in the area, then the Assistant AG can help with this.

4.  District Executive Committee

The District Executive Committee meets once a month to discuss district-wide issues, and all AGs and Division Governors are invited.   An Assistant AG can assist by going to these DEC meetings and helping discuss the issues affecting the area and then disseminating any information gained from the District Officers.

5.   Club Mentoring

If there are new clubs in the area, they need to be guided in the first six months of their existence, and this task falls on the Area Governor.   An Assistant Area Governor can assist with this.

So that outlines what an Assistant AG can do for the AG.   But what does the Assistant get out of the experience?

B.   Five Ways an Assistant AG can Gain

The main reason why an Assistant AG can gain is by preparing oneself for becoming an AG in the following year.   How does this work?

1.  Preparation for AG role–knowing the area clubs

An Area Governor who already knows the clubs in his area, and all the prominent officers of those clubs, is going to have an easier time assisting them with what they need because a) he or she will already be familiar with their needs and b) he or she will already be familiar with the officers who will need to make use of any assistance provided.

2.  Preparation for AG role–knowing division, district

An Area Governor who already knows the officers in the division and district will be able to spend time from the first day of his or her office solving problems, rather than developing relationships with those who are in a position to help solve them.

3.  Preparation for AG role–contest master

By assisting with the Area Contest, all of the lessons learned as an Assistant AG will mean that the contest will go REALLY smoothly when he or she takes over the AG role.

4.   Club mentoring

Because the AG knows of all the new clubs forming in the area, he or she can steer an opportunity to the Assistant AG to charter, sponsor, or mentor one of the new clubs.   This is an important milestone and one of the most difficult and time-consuming projects that one often takes as the last step in becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster or DTM , the pinnacle of completion of both the public speaking and leaderships tracks in the Toastmaster Educational program.

5.   Networking

If you are looking for a new job, or what to be prepared if you have to look for a new job in the future, then the contacts you make as an Assistant AG at the club, area, division, and district level will be invaluable for you in establishing yourself as a brand that will add value to any prospective company you want to work for.

In these ways, you get as much as an Assistant AG as you give to the AG by assisting him of her in his role.   If you are interesting in stepping up your Toastmasters game beyond your home club, then definitely ask your Area Governor if he or she needs an assistant!


5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 12: Procurement Management Plan

1.  Introduction

It should come as no surprise that the output of process 12.1 Plan Procurement Management is the Procurement Management Plan.  The purpose of this post is to outline the various elements in the plan.  They are listed in the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide as a sort of laundry-list in bullet point format, but I felt it would be better to understand the contents of the plan by grouping each element with what knowledge area it most closely relates to, or whether the element has to do with Enterprise Environmental Factors (external to organization) or Operational Process Assets (internal to organization).

2.  Elements of the Procurement Management Plan

Knowledge Area
1. Integration Project constraints and assumptions that could affect planned procurements
2. Scope Direction to sellers on developing and maintaining work breakdown structure (WBS)
3. Format for procurement statement of work (SOW) to be put in contract
4. Time Coordination of procurement with project scheduling
5. Handling long lead times to purchase certain items from sellers and coordinating extra time needed with project schedule
6. Linking make-or-buy decision with Estimate Activity Resources and Develop Schedule processes
7. Setting scheduled dates for delivery and acceptance of contract deliverables
8. Cost Whether independent estimates will be used as evaluation criteria
9. Quality Performance criteria for acceptance of deliverables
10. Human Resources Roles and responsibilities for project management team coordination with the organization’s procurement or purchasing department
11. Communications Coordination of procurement with performance reporting
12.. Risk Risk management issues related to procurement
13. Requirements for performance bonds or insurance contracts to mitigate project risk
14. Procurements Types of contracts to be used (fixed price, cost-reimbursable, or time & material)
15. Identifying pre-qualified sellers
16. Procurement metrics to be used in evaluating sellers and managing contracts
17. Management of multiple suppliers
18. Stakeholder Include sellers as one of stakeholder groups to be managed
19. EEFs Industry or professional organization information resources regarding potential sellers
20. OPAs Standardized procurement documents

Most of the knowledge areas were represented in the items listed by the PMBOK® Guide as elements of the Procurement Management Plan; I added some elements for those knowledge areas that were missing such as Quality Management (quality metrics to be used as performance criteria in final acceptance or rejection of deliverables), Stakeholder Management (including suppliers as stakeholder group to be managed), and EEFs (industry or professional organization information resources regarding potential sellers).

3.  Conclusion

You can see from the Procurement Management Plan that all of the knowledge areas of the project management plan are addressed.   This is understandable since, from the seller’s point of view, the production of the procurement for the buyer is a project in and of itself.    The task of the buyer is to coordinate the seller’s “project” (the procurement) with the buyer’s project (the creation of the product, service, or result) for which the procurement from the seller will be used.

The next post will discuss another key output of the Procurement Management Plan, the Procurement Statement of Work.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 12: Make-or-Buy Analysis

1.  Introduction

Chapter 12 of the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide covers Procurement Management, and the first process 12.1 Plan Procurement Management has as its main output the Procurement Management Plan, which sets out the guidelines, policies, and procedures for conducting, monitoring and controlling, and then closing the procurement process.

The very first tool & technique of the process 12.1 Plan Procurement Management is the Make-or-Buy Analysis.  If the decision is made to do all the project work in-house, as opposed to purchasing some components of the project work from outside sources, then there will be no procurements.  In a way, you can say that the knowledge area of Procurement Management is the only optional knowledge area in that it is conceivable to have projects that do not require procurement management during the course of the project.

But even so, in the planning stage, it is necessary to plan for the possibility of procurements unless it is absolutely certain from the scope of the project that they are not going to be needed.  How do you know whether the possibility becomes a certainty?  Through the Make-or-Buy Analysis.

2.  Make-or-Buy Analysis:  Direct and indirect costs

The costs of producing the component of the product in-house are compared to the costs of having the component produced from outside sources.  PMI stresses the important point, however, that both direct and indirect costs must be considered.  The direct costs are those of making or acquiring the product, and the indirect costs are the support costs for the product.

For example, if you buy a software package from a company, you need to consider the support that this software package will require, in terms of training for the team members who will use it, the necessity for upgrades, and the “help desk” required for team members who have questions regarding its usage.

Another indirect cost is the cost incurred if the quality of the component does not conform to specifications, either those set by the company (i.e., some components lie outside the control limits) or worse, those set by governmental regulations (i.e., some components lie outside the specification limits).  These costs of non-conformance may include

  •  the costs of scrapping the non-conforming components or repairing them  or the warranty and product liability costs if the non-conforming components are caught in the inspection process
  • the costs of warranty or product liability claims and/or lawsuits if the non-conforming components are not caught in the inspection process and are passed on to the consumer

For this reason, a high-risk component (such as the airbags in an automobile) might be best left to a company that has specialized knowledge in producing them.  In a way, procuring high-risk components rather than producing them in-house is one form of risk response called risk transfer (purchasing insurance is yet another form of risk transfer).

3.  Make-or-Buy Analysis:  Purchase vs. Lease

If a company decides to buy a product rather than make it in-house, then another level of decision must be made, whether to purchase the product, result, or service outright or whether to lease it from the seller.

4.  Make-or-Buy Analysis:  Cost Risk

In describing the make-or-buy analysis, PMI uses the phrase “risk sharing between the buyer and seller”.  In order to avoid confusion between this kind of risk, and the risk I mentioned in paragraph 2 as one of the possible indirect costs associated with purchasing a product from a seller, let me refer to this first type of risk as “cost risk”.

How does this differ from regular risk?  To answer that question, let’s go to the textbook definition of risk:  an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives.  If one of the project objectives is considered producing the overall product within the allotted budget, then the cost of purchasing a component of the product from a seller has a cost risk, i.e., the risk that the actual final cost of the component may differ from what the initial budgeted cost is for that component.  And this is where the contract type comes in.  In a previous post, I outlined the three types of procurement contract, a) fixed cost, b) cost-reimbursable, and c) time & material contracts.

In fixed cost contracts, the cost risk is borne by the seller, since if the final cost of the component differ from the initial budgeted cost, then the seller is only paid the initial budgeted amount, and the seller will end up producing the component at a loss.

In cost reimbursable contracts, the cost risk is borne by the buyer, since if the final costs of the component differ from the initial budgeted costs, then the buyer pays the seller the final costs.  The seller will end up producing the component at a profit, but the buyer is now over budget on the project.

The “uncertain event or condition” in this case has an effect on the cost objective of the project.  However, there are other types of risk to the project, for example, the risk that the schedule objective (the deadline) or the quality objective (meeting all technical requirements) that need to be considered in the make-or-buy analysis.  There are ways of modifying the fixed cost or cost reimbursable contract so that not just the cost risk, but the overall risk is shared more equally between the seller and buyer.  This is done by offering fees, awards, or other incentives for the seller to produce the product not just within the budgeted amount, but on time and in conformance with the buyer’s scope requirements.

5.  Conclusion

The three most important concepts to remember when it comes to the make-or-buy analysis are the following:

  •  to compare the cost of making the component in-house vs. purchasing the component from outside the company, you need to consider both the direct costs and the indirect costs (cost of ongoing support for the component, cost of nonconforming quality, etc.)
  • if the make-or-buy analysis leans towards “buy” rather than “make”, the type of procurement contract will depend on how the risk is to be shared between the buyer and seller; fees, awards, or incentives can be specified in the procurement contract as ways to make the risk sharing more equal between the two parties
  • in considering the risk, you need to take into account the cost risk (risk to the cost objective of the project, i.e., whether the final cost of the component will exceed the initial budgeted cost for that component), as well as the other types of risk (such as risk to the schedule, scope, and specified level of quality).

The other tools & techniques of process 12.1 Plan Procurement Management include expert judgment, market research, and possibly informational exchange meetings with potential bidders.

The output of process 12.1 Plan Procurement Management is the Procurement Management Plan, and the next post will outline the various elements that this plan entails, and how these elements relate to the other 9 knowledge areas involved in project management.

Organizing your Toastmasters Club Speech Contest-5 Lessons Learned

Tonight we had the Fall Speech Contest at our local Toastmasters Club. Some things worked out well, but there some glitches as well. I wanted to write down 5 lessons learned from this recent contest which will help us next time around.

1. Send out instructions for major roles early

I composed step-by-step directions for each of the roles, including the contestants. That worked out well. However, the major roles such as chief judge were sent by e-mail only this afternoon and people need more time to absorb the information. Next time: send it at least one week in advance.

2. Enlist help from visitors from other clubs if necessary

We had several club members not show up, which left us shot-handed. But we decided to enlist the help of those who were visiting from other clubs, and that worked out well. So in the future, we should start visiting other clubs as well to ensure that we will have visitors from other clubs in the future when we may need them again.

3. Appreciate those participants from other clubs
I had Certificates of Appreciation made for our contestants, but not for the helpers from other clubs I mentioned in the last paragraph. Luckily I had an extra blank certificate printed up just on case I needed it, which I gave to the test speaker. In the future, I’ll print out several extra certificates and give them to those whose help we enlisted.

4. Have extra dialogue ready
There are times when the contest flow stalls, for example when the judges are not ready with their ballots yet. In those cases, rather than observe a “minute of silence” which is not interesting to experience as a guest, it is best to have some jokes or conversational tidbits ready to fill in those spaces.

5. Print extra agendas
Because it was a club contest night, there were more visitors than we normally would get. That’s a good thing! However, that also meant we almost ran out of meeting agendas, which are important for a visitor to receive in order to follow what’s going on. Next time, I’ll have extras printed up!

The spring contest should go even more smoothly if I keep these five lessons in mind!,

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 12: Cost-reimbursable procurement contracts

1.  Introduction

In the process 12.1 Plan Procurement Management, the organization looks to the company policies, procedures, and guidelines regarding the types of procurement contract that would be available and decides which type of contract would be best for the particular project at hand.  More than one type may be used, depending on the procurement involved.

In a previous post, I described the three basic types of procurement contract: a) the fixed price, b) the cost-reimbursable, and c) time & material.  The purpose of this post is to describe the various sub-types of the second type of contract, the cost-reimbursable procurement contract.  In general, this type of contract is used under two conditions:

  • The scope of the project is not precisely defined at the start, and will need to be altered in the course of the project
  • The project has high risks

Below is a summary of the three sub-types of procurement contract that fall under the general type called “cost-reimbursable” contracts.  In all three sub-types, the seller is reimbursed for all allowable or legitimate costs for performing the contract work.

Fig. 1  Cost-reimbursable Procurement Contract Subtypes

Cost-Reimbursable Contract Subtype Description Fee to seller is determined by …
1. Cost Plus Fixed Fee (CPFF) Seller receives a fixed-fee payment for completed work Fixed percentage of initial estimated project costs, and does not change.
2. Cost Plus Incentive Fee (CPIF) Seller receives an incentive fee for completed work; final costs over the initial estimated project costs are shared by buyer and seller based on negotiated cost-sharing formula. Incentive fee is fixed amount; but this may added to or subtracted from based on whether final costs are under or over the target costs (based on the original initial estimated project costs).
3. Cost Plus Award Fee (CPAF) Seller receives an award for achieving performance criteria agreed upon beforehand. Award is fixed amount as specified in contract, based on performance of seller.

Let’s take each of these contract sub-types in turn.

2.  Cost Plus Fixed Fee (CPFF)

The cost-reimbursable contract normally favors the seller, because all costs plus an agreed-upon profit margin are reimbursed by the buyer.  This type of contract protects the seller in the case that more work is required to handle an increased scope, so that the seller will not have to produce the product at a loss.  In general, the buyer is protected by the fact that only legitimate or allowable costs are reimbursed.  In this type of contract, the buyer will normally scrutinize the seller’s account of what the costs are to make sure of this.

By adding fees as incentives, however, the buyer also gives additional incentive for the seller to produce a quality product within the time frame and budget target that the buyer requires.  In this first subtype called the Cost Plus Fixed-Fee or CPFF contract, there is a fixed fee added to the costs IF the seller completes the work as specified by the buyer.  Normally, this is not vary depending on performance criteria (like in the Cost Plus Award Fee contract mentioned below), but is given simply if the work is completed.  The fixed fee is usually some percentage of the initial estimated project costs.  If the scope remains the same, and the project costs on the part of the seller increase, then the seller will still get the production costs covered, but the fixed fee will still be calculated as a percentage of the INITIAL estimated project costs, and so will decrease percentage-wise as the project costs increase.

Of course, if the project scope changes, then the fixed fee will be calculated as a percentage of the NEW estimate of the project costs based on the increased scope of the project.

3.  Cost Plus Incentive Fee (CPIF)

In this type of cost-reimbursable contract, the seller gets reimbursed for all allowable costs (as usual with this type of contract), but then there is an incentive fee which is awarded IF the seller meets certain performance criteria, for example, getting the product completed by a certain deadline.  There is another mechanism of control in this type of contract, and that is the fact that if the final costs differ from the initial estimated project costs, then the overage (or the difference between the final costs and the initial estimated project costs) is split between the buyer and seller according to a cost-sharing formula that is negotiated and agreed upon in the contract.  For example, let’s say that the initial estimated project costs are $50,000, and the cost-sharing formula is 80/20, with the buyer’s percentage typically being stated first and the seller’s percentage typically being stated last.  Let’s also say that there is a $10,000 incentive fee for the seller IF the product is completed by a certain deadline.

How much will the seller be paid by the buyer if a) the product is completed by the deadline, and b) the final costs are $70,000?  The initial estimated project costs of $50,000 would be paid to the seller.  In addition, the seller would receive $10,000 as an incentive fee for completing the project by the deadline.  So far the seller would receive $50,000 (for the initial estimated project costs) plus $10,000 as an incentive fee, or $60,000.  However, since the seller’s final costs were $70,000, which is $20,000 OVER the initial estimated project costs of $50,000, a certain portion of that $20,000 is going to be borne by the seller.  How much?  Well, that’s where the cost-sharing formula comes in.  Since the cost-sharing formula is 80/20, that means the seller’s percentage is going to be 20% of whatever the overage is, in this case, 20% X $20,000 = $4,000.  So that $4,000 cost is borne by the seller, and 80% X $20,000 = $16,000 is paid by the buyer.  So the buyer pays the seller the following:

  • $50,000 (initial estimated project costs) +
  • $10,000 (incentive fee for on-time completion of project) +
  • $16,000 (80% of $20,000 overage paid by the buyer) –
  • $4,000 (20% of $20,000 overage paid by the seller)

which comes out to $72,000, which is like being paid for the $70,000 worth of final costs, with  only $2,000 extra for completing the project on time, because a portion of the incentive fee was eaten up by a portion of the overage costs that the seller had to absorb.  PMI loves to ask questions about this type of contract subtype on the PMP exam, by the way.

4.  Cost Plus Award Fee (CPAF)

In this type of cost-reimbursable contract, besides being paid for the usual legitimate or allowable costs, there is an award given to the seller based on performance criteria.  It differs from the cost plus fixed fee or CPFF contract in that the CPFF contract pays a fixed fee on the basis of whether the seller completes the project.  The CPAF, on the other hand, requires that the seller complete the project AND achieve certain agreed-upon performance criteria (like getting the product completed by a deadline).  The performance criteria requirement makes it somewhat like the cost plus incentive or CPIF contract, which also takes performance criteria into account, but it differs from the CPIF contract in that CPAF contract gives an award that is a fixed amount, not a incentive that can increase or decrease depending on the final costs of the project.

5.  Conclusion

In all three cases, however, the idea behind the fixed fee (CPFF), the incentive fee (CPIF), or the award fee (CPAF) is the same:  it gives additional incentive for the seller to complete the project not only within the initial estimated project amount, but also to complete it within the other major constraints specified by the buyer, either in terms of a deadline or other performance criteria set forth by the buyer.

However, even in the case of a contract where there is a fixed fee or award, the amount can change IF the scope of the project is required by the buyer, necessitating more work on the part of the seller.

The last type of contract, Time & Material (T&M), only has one type, and that is payment per unit of resources supplied by the seller, so there is no need to expand further on that third category of procurement contracts.

The next post will go into detail on the first tool & technique of the 12.1 Plan Procurement Management process, that of the Make-or-Buy Analysis.

Integral Theory and Project Management–the Concept of A Holon (tenet #2)

1.   Introduction

In his magnum opus Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality, Ken Wilber lays out the 20 fundamental tenets that he postulates for holons, which are entities that are at once a) wholes that are composed of parts, and b) parts that comprise larger wholes.  This concept of a holon is fruitful in that it bridges the divide in the history of philosophy between theories that postulate the primacy of the many vs. those that postulates the primacy of the one.

Ken Wilber, in his book A Brief Theory of Everything explicates the 20 tenets of holons in a format that is easier to read and understand, meant for people who are looking for an introduction to his other philosophical works.  In this post, I go through the second of these 20 tenets regarding the concept of a holon, and show how it can be applied to the practice of project management.

2.   Tenet #2:  Holons share two horizontal drives, agency and communion, and two vertical drives, self-transcendence and self-dissolution.

a.  Horizontal drives:  agency and communion

The horizontal drives are drives that relate to a holon’s interaction with other holons on the same level.  A holon is a whole and tries to preserve or maintain its integrity as a whole in the face of environmental pressures, including other holons, which would otherwise destroy it or break it up.  It tries to be autonomous in the face of these external pressures, and this is the drive of agency.

One of the phrases that describes evolution is “survival of the fittest”.  In the context of that phrase, the “fittest” organisms are the ones that maintain their integrity in the face of environmental pressures.  But the thing about evolution is that, in order to survive, an organism must not only be fit, but it must also fit into its environment.  So besides being “survival of the fittest”, it is also “survival of the fitting”.  A holon is a whole that must fit together with other wholes, and this is the drive of community.

How does this apply in the case of a project manager?  First of all, let’s think of holons on the level of individual team members.  Each person will want to assert himself or herself on the project by contributing not just his or her own effort, but also his or her ideas on the project.  You want to encourage this tendency towards agency or wanting to make a mark on the project.  However, each person must also get along with his or her fellow team members.  So besides being willing to put forth one’s ideas when called for at a meeting or a brainstorming session, each person must also be willing to listen to other’s ideas as well.  In this way, communication is a two-way street.

Too much “me first” attitude on a project is harmful to group cohesion.  On the other hand, if people are not self-confident enough to give their ideas on the project, then the project may suffer because a person did not have the courage to speak up with an idea that might end up saving the day.  So each person has to be willing to assert oneself and yet co-exist with one’s team members.  A good project manager will be able to nurture both tendencies in the team members.

Now let’s think of the holon at the unit of the project itself.  A project manager must be willing to stand up and be assertive when asking for the resources needed from the organization in order to be able to complete the project.  This is done by showing that giving resources to me and my project will, in turn, be good for the organization as a whole by contributing to its strategic objectives, or to put it in less prosaic terms, “the bottom line.”  The argument can also be framed negatively:  any failure by those who control the organization’s resources to give the necessary resources to me and my project will result in a failed project, which will hurt the bottom line of the company, not to mention its internal morale and external reputation.

However, besides this tendency towards agency or self-preservation of the project on the part of the project manager must also be balanced by the other horizontal tendency of self-adaptation, or fitting in with all of the other projects that an organization has to fund.  In other words, if your project has exceeded its target by using less resources than were budgeted, then release those resources to the organization as soon as possible so that they can be used by other projects.  Periodic reviews of risks, for example, may reveal risks that did not occur at certain trigger points as was predicted, in which case the contingency reserves set aside for responses to those risks will no longer be needed by your project.  Let management know about these reserves that could be released from the project budget.  Management may not decide to use them on another project, and decide to keep them in your project budget for the duration of the project—but the fact that you have been actively searching for resources to be used by the organization should win you appreciation for the effort!

b.  Vertical drives—self-transcendence and self-dissolution

The horizontal drives deal with the interaction of holons with other holons at the same level.  The vertical drives show how holons either break down into subholons (holons at the next lowest level), or come together to form holons at the next highest level.

The standard biological example Ken Wilber cites is that of cells, which, when they do breakdown, break down into their component parts or molecules:  this is the process of self-dissolution.  Under the right conditions, molecules can also come together and form cells, which is the opposite process of self-transcendence.  Cells can do things that a mere collection of molecules cannot:  they have emergent properties which are lost if the cell breaks down into molecules again.

A project is a collection of project team members that can accomplish more than those team members could do on their own:  that is the magic of projects that you can accomplish not just more not just in degree, but in kind than you could by merely collecting the individual efforts of individuals.  Your job as a project manager is to create the magic of a project that is greater than the some of its parts or team members.

Now, if a project is dissolved, in that the project closes or is shut down prematurely, the project itself is over, and the team members, including the project manager, exist as individuals once again, perhaps to be reconstituted in a different combination for another project.  Because a project is more than just the collection of the individuals working on it, it is important to capture the collective wisdom of the group so that it can be used by the organization again on future projects.  This is where documents that contain lessons learned come in.

Now the new project may be so new that none of the lessons learned apply, but many projects are similar to other previous projects done by the company or perhaps done by another company in the same industry, and so the lessons learned from a previous project become the distilled essence or wisdom of the group working on that project, which can save the newly-reconstituted group working on the new project a lot of time by not having to reinvent the wheel.  It’s kind of like the “project DNA” which gets passed from project to project.

3.  Conclusion

Knowing about the horizontal tendencies of self-preservation (agency) and self-adaptation (community) of holons can help a project manager both manage the team members on his or her own project, but also manage that project’s place within the larger organization.

Knowing that a project is more than the sum of its parts can help give a project manager the proper respect for the collective wisdom of the group, and thus give that project manager the incentive to record that perspective for use on future projects.

Next week, I will discuss tenet #3 of a holon.