Bidder 70: A Story of Environmental Activism


At the Unitarian Universalist church in Park Forest, every month there is a movie night, where there is a movie chosen from various topics such as environmental issues, food and nutrition, or political issues both internal and global.

One of the last movies to be shown for 2013 was shown in October and that was Bidder 70.   Federal land was essentially being gifted to energy and mining industries by the Bush Administration without any appropriate environmental impact study.   A college student named Tim DeChristopher went to the essentially illegal auction of federal land in 2008 and decided to be a cog in the wheel by bidding $1.7 million for a parcel of 22,000 acres on which he had no intention to drill, and of course no intention of paying for.   It was an act of civil disobedience for which he ended up going to federal prison for which he ended up serving 21 months in federal prison.

The purpose of the film was to explain Tim DeChristopher’s motivations for doing what he did, and to show this act of civil disobedience not only affected others, but how it affected his own life’s journey after he left prison.

1.  Environmental awareness

Tim DeChristopher went to school in Utah, but grew up in West Virginia, where he saw his hometown and others like it destroyed by mountaintop removal mining.    This led him to be aware of the government’s role, not in protecting the welfare of all its citizens, but in protecting the interests of corporations in the extractive industries of coal, oil, and natural gas extraction.

My own personal view is that the government does a role in protecting certain rights of corporations, such as property rights, but when the government takes resources from the public commonwealth and then gives them over to corporations without sufficient compensation for a) the value of those resources or b) the costs borne by the commonwealth due to the environmental impact of extracting, refining, or (in the case of greenhouse gases) of consuming those resources, then the government is no longer taking a neutral, balanced role but is forming a partnership with those corporations at the expense of the commonwealth.

In the case of the illegal auction cited above, it had become common practice for the Bureau of Land Management to take volunteers from the oil and gas industry to process those permits for land going to auction.    When Tim DeChristopher tried to introduce a “necessity defense” at his trial, the Judge refused to let the jury know that the reason he did the illegal act of fraud was to expose a bidding process which was itself illegal.

2.   The Accidental Activist

One thing I learned in the film that was not reported in the media coverage at the time was the fact that Tim had no intention of going to the auction to participate in it illegally.   What happened was, he went to attend the auction as a spectator, but someone who was organizing the auction apparently thought from his short haircut that he was one of the bidders, and they just assumed that he was a bidder, and was designated “Bidder 70”, which is where the title of the film comes from.   He then had to think on the spot and decided to go along with the ruse.    When he saw that parcels of land were being given over for much less than they were worth, he made the next leap of faith and decided to bid on them in an attempt to prevent their sale.

So in terms of the outward unfolding of events, it appears he was an “accidental activist,” but when you listen to Tim DeChristopher’s story, it was as if his whole life had been leading up to that point.    In any case, when it came to light that he was not in fact a legitimate bidder, he was arrested for fraud.

3.   The Aftermath

The real world result, however, was that because of DeChristopher’s actions, national attention was paid to the illegal government auction of public land leases in a “fire sale” during the last days of the Busy administration.    According to the 02/05/2009 article in the New York Times, this led to the cancellation of the leases for drilling on 77 parcels of public land in Utah.

4.   The Trial

According to Tim DeChristopher, it was important for him to highlight the fact that what he did, at least in his own mind, was an act of civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice being done by the Bush Administration.    In his closing statement, he said, “You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine alone.”   I think Henry Thoreau would have been proud.

5.   The Transformation

After leaving federal prison in April 2013, Tim DeChristopher stated his intention to enter Harvard Divinity School and become … a Unitarian Universalist minister.   That was particularly poignant for us sitting there at a Unitarian Universalist church watching the film.

The film to me showed what motivates someone to do something which is technically illegal, but which serves a just cause.   Who decides what is just and what is legal?    “Just” is a conviction based on personal principles but “legal” is a concept that is constructed by the society at large.    The larger principle of the American Revolution that the government was created with the consent of the governed justified, for those participating in it, the fact that it was, from the standpoint of the British government, tantamount to treasonous rebellion.

If our government has forgotten its own rebellious beginnings, let them remember the words of John Adams, who wrote in a letter dated 10/12/1755 to his classmate Nathan Webb: “If we look into history, we shall find some nations rising from contemptible beginnings and spreading their influence, until the whole globe is subjected to their ways. When they have reached the summit of grandeur, some minute and unsuspected cause commonly affects their ruin, and the empire of the world is transferred to some other place.”

 

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Step 6: Memorizing Inputs & Outputs (Communications Management Part 2)


1. Introduction

In this next series of posts on memorizing the processes, we move on to the final step 6, which is memorizing the INPUTS & OUTPUTS associated with each of the 47 processes.   In order to breakdown the memorization into more bite-size chunks, I am breaking down the processes in the 10 knowledge areas into 2 or 3 posts each.

This post covers chapter 10 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Communications Knowledge Area. This knowledge area contains 3 processes, one of which is in the Planning Process Group, the second of which is in the Executing Process Group, and the last of which is in the Monitoring & Controlling Group.

I am splitting the discussion of the Inputs & Outputs into two different posts, the first covering the first two processes, and the second one covering the last of the three processes.   This post will cover Process 10.3 Control Communication.

2. Review of processes 10.1 and 10.2 together with ITTOs (Inputs, Tools & Techniques, Outputs)

Process 10.3 Control Communications

Process Name Tools & Techniques Inputs Outputs
10.3 Control Communications 1. Information management systems

2. Expert judgment

3. Meetings

1. Project management plan

2. Project communications

3. Issue log

4. Work performance data

5. OPAs

1. Work performance information

2. Change requests

3. Project management plan updates

4. Project documents updates

5. OPAs updates

3.  Outputs of process 10.3 Control Communications

4.  Inputs of process 10.3 Control Communications

The Gratitude Journal: A Gateway to Optimism


“If we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average.” Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor is a psychologist who is the CEO of Good Think, Inc. He gave a talk about positive psychology at a TED talk  in May 2011.  I outline his talk below which he concludes with a methodology on how to press the “reset” button for your mindset so that you are more optimistic.    One of the methods includes writing three things you are grateful for, so I thought it would be appropriate to post this on Thanksgiving Day.   However, the method goes far beyond simple gratitude…

1. Escaping the law of the average

Social scientists make pronouncements about trends based on averages within populations, but people have to realize that when you are dealing with the potential for individual happiness or creativity, you need to escape the “law of the average”. When psychologists strive to make people “normal”, then if they succeed, people will continue to remain merely average.

I can illustrate Shawn Achor’s point with a story.  A friend of mine who was taking economics in graduate school, and I saw him one day in a coffee shop looking a little glum. “What’s wrong?” I asked him. “Oh, it sounds silly, but I’m a little bummed. My statistics professor said that up to 50% of us in the class would end up doing below average on the test.”

Intellectually, he knew that this was of course true because it hinges on the technical definition of the word “average”. However, it was the implication that he had only a 1 out of 2 chance of escaping mediocrity that was a challenge to his self-esteem.

2. Studying outliers

Shawn Achor has studied those individuals who have higher than average potential to find out what their secret is in order to be see if some of those secrets can be passed on to the rest.  Instead of a psychology model that tries to drag everybody down towards being average by making them “normal”, he wants to have a positive psychology model that moves everyone’s average up.

3. Changing the lens

We view the world through the lens of the media, which selectively captures negative events and brings them to our attention, with the news hour occasionally ending in a positive story. This has an effect on us where we start to assume a false picture of the world where that same ratio of negative events to positive events is replicated throughout the world.

4. External circumstance does not determine inner attitude

Shawn Achor related how the students he counseled at Harvard University should have been happy to be at such an elite school, but they sought counseling because they concentrated on the negatives of the workload, peer pressure, etc. He realized that no matter how good the outer circumstances, there were some people who have a negative attitude internally. He found that the external circumstances only account for 10% of a person’s happiness over the long term; the other 90% are determined by the way in which that person views the world.

In the work environment, he found that only 25% of job successes are predicted by a person’s intelligence level. The other 75% are accounted for by your optimism levels, your social support levels, and your ability to see stress as a challenge rather than as a threat.

5. How can you change your mindset?
Here’s the kernel of what Shawn Achor came to talk about. Most schools and workplaces have the mindset “if you work hard, you will be successful. If you are successful, then you will be happier.”  This theory of motivation is backwards.  If you have a success, then the workplace or school simply changes the goalposts and you have to achieve even better success the next time. If happiness is thought to be on the other side of success, your brain never gets there, it pushes happiness over the cognitive horizon.   Just remember that one of the definitions of a horizon is “an imaginary line that gets farther away from you the closer you get to it.”

The problem with this method of motivation is that our brains work in the opposite order:  if you raise a person’s happiness in the presentthen their brain experiences a happiness advantage, meaning that performs better than if it is negative, neutral, or stressed.  Every business outcome improves for an employee who has this happiness advantage: people are 31% more productive, they produce 37% more sales, doctors are 19% more accurate at diagnosis, etc.  So if our brain is more positive in the present, than it becomes more successful.

If people do the following 21 days in a row, it can rewire their brains to be more optimistic and therefore more successful.

  Activity Explanation
1 3 Gratitudes Write 3 new things you are grateful for each day
2 Journaling positive experience … in a journal, along with one positive experience you have had in the last 24 hours.
3 Exercise 15-20 minutes of vigorous exercise, 3-6 days a week.
4 Meditation 15 minutes of meditation, 1-2 times per day.
5 Random Acts of Kindness Write down one random act of kindness you have done in the past 24 hours to someone you did not know.
6 Lessons Learned Write down how you will take a negative experience you have had in the past 24 hours and turn it into a learning opportunity for the future.

Here Shawn gives an explanation of these 5 factors; I have added a sixth factor which I explain below

1. Writing down the 3 gratitudes changes you mind so that it starts scanning the world for the positives rather than the negatives. It doesn’t change the ratio of positives to negatives in the outside world, but it does change which factors you focus on as being the most significant.

2. Writing about a positive experience you’ve had in the past 24 hours allows you relive it.

3. Exercise teaches your brain that behavior matters.

4. Meditation allows you to detach from the cultural pattern of ADHD which we are creating through the constant attempts at multitasking, and increases the ability of the brain to focus on the task at hand.

5. You can write in your journal about a random act of kindness which you performed in the last 24 hours for someone, meaning that you did it without consideration of being paid back by the person whom you helped.  Alternately, perform a conscious act of kindness by sending a note of support to someone in your social support network.

6. To these activities, I have added a sixth of my own to Shawn’s list, which is to take a negative experience which you had in the past 24 hours, and created some lessons learned from it so that you will experience it in the future not as a threat, but as an opportunity to overcome a challenge.

I have to tell you that Shawn Achor’s method WORKS! I did try it for 21 days and found that I do see live in a more positive way than I did a month ago. The interesting thing for me was that, at first I thought I was just changing the way things were appearing for me, that is, the same ratio of negatives to positives happened out there in the external world, but I was gradually starting to focus on the positives.  The negatives were seen as less and less threatening and more and more as opportunities.

However, by the end of the 21-day period, I was starting to experience more and more positives on the outside. I think that the positive attitude I took with me while networking, for example, automatically drew people towards me and made them more helpful to me than they would have previously precisely BECAUSE I had a positive attitude.  So it does change your interior “weather” first, but that sunnier internal weather will gradually become reflected in your exterior circumstances.  I don’t know if it will work for everybody, but I recommend that you at least try it, because you have literally nothing to lose, and we could all stand to win a little more, right?

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Step 6: Memorizing Inputs & Outputs (Communications Management Part 1)


1. Introduction

In this next series of posts on memorizing the processes, we move on to the final step 6, which is memorizing the INPUTS & OUTPUTS associated with each of the 47 processes.   In order to breakdown the memorization into more bite-size chunks, I am breaking down the processes in the 10 knowledge areas into 2 or 3 posts each.

This post covers chapter 10 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Communications Knowledge Area. This knowledge area contains 3 processes, one of which is in the Planning Process Group, the second of which is in the Executing Process Group, and the last of which is in the Monitoring & Controlling Group.

I am splitting the discussion of the Inputs & Outputs into two different posts, the first covering the first two processes, and the second one covering the last of the three processes.   This post will cover Processes 10.1 Plan Communications Management and 10.2 Manage Communications.

2. Review of processes 10.1 and 10.2 together with ITTOs (Inputs, Tools & Techniques, Outputs)

Process 10.1 Plan Communications Management

Process 10.2 Manage Communications

Process Name Tools & Techniques Inputs Outputs
10.1 Plan Communications Management 1. Communications requirements analysis

2. Communication technology

3. Communication models

4. Communication methods

5. Meetings

1. Project Management Plan

2. Stakeholder Register

3. EEFs

4. OPAs

1. Communications management plan

2. Project documents updates

10.2 Manage Communications 1. Communication technology

2. Communication models

3. Communication methods

4. Information management systems

5. Performance reporting

1. Communications management plan

2. Work performance reports

3. EEFs

4. OPAs

1. Project communications

2. Project management plan updates

3. Project documents updates

4. OPAs updates

3.  Outputs of processes 10.1 Plan Communications Management and 10.2 Manage Communications

4.  Inputs of processes 10.1 Plan Communications Management and 10.2 Manage Communications

 

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Step 6: Memorizing Inputs & Outputs (HR Management Part 2)


1. Introduction

In this next series of posts on memorizing the processes, we move on to the final step 6, which is memorizing the INPUTS & OUTPUTS associated with each of the 47 processes.   In order to breakdown the memorization into more bite-size chunks, I am breaking down the processes in the 10 knowledge areas into 2 or 3 posts each.

This post covers chapter 9 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Human Resource (HR) Knowledge Area. This knowledge area contains 4 processes, one of which is in the Planning Process Group, and the last three of which are in the Executing Process Group.   Alone of all the knowledge areas, HR is the only one NOT to have a process in the Monitoring & Controlling Group.

I am splitting the discussion of the Inputs & Outputs into two different posts, each one covering two of the processes.   This post will cover Processes 9.3 Develop Project Team and 9.4 Manage Project Team.

2.  Review of processes 9.3 and 9. 4 together with ITTOs (Inputs, Tools & Techniques, Outputs)

Process 9.3 Develop Project Team

Process 9.4 Manage Project Team

Process Name Tools & Techniques Inputs Outputs
9.3 Develop Project Team 1. Interpersonal skills

2. Training

3. Team-building activities

4. Ground rules

5. Colocation

6. Recognition and awards

7. Personnel assessment tools

1. Human resource management plan

2. Project staff assignments

3. Resource calendars

1. Team performance assessments

2. EEFs updates

9.4 Manage Project Team 1. Observation and conversation

2. Project performance appraisals

3. Conflict management

4. Interpersonal skills

1. Human resource management plan

2. Project staff assignments

3. Team performance assessments

4. Issue log

5. Work performance reports

6. OPAs

1. Change requests

2. Project management plan updates

3. Project documents updates

4. EEFs updates

5. OPAs updates

3.   Outputs of processes 9.3 Develop Project Team and 9.4 Manage Project Team

TO BE COMPLETED LATER TODAY

a. Team performance assessments (9.3 Develop Project Team)

b. EEFs updates (9.3 Develop Project Team)

c. Change requests (9.4 Manage Project Team)

d. Project management plan updates  (9.4 Manage Project Team)

e. Project documents updates  (9.4 Manage Project Team)

f. EEFs updates  (9.4 Manage Project Team)

g. OPAs updates  (9.4 Manage Project Team)

4.  Inputs of processes 9.3  Develop Project Team and 9.4 Manage Project Team

a. Human resource management plan (9.3 Develop Project Team)

b. Project staff assignments  (9.3 Develop Project Team)

c. Resource calendars  (9.3 Develop Project Team)

d. Human resource management plan (9.4 Manage Project Team)

e. Project staff assignments (9.4 Manage Project Team)

f. Team performance assessments (9.4 Manage Project Team)

g. Issue log (9.4 Manage Project Team)

h. Work performance reports (9.4 Manage Project Team)

i. OPAs (9.4 Manage Project Team)

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Step 6: Memorizing Inputs & Outputs (HR Management Part 1)


1. Introduction

In this next series of posts on memorizing the processes, we move on to the final step 6, which is memorizing the INPUTS & OUTPUTS associated with each of the 47 processes.   In order to breakdown the memorization into more bite-size chunks, I am breaking down the processes in the 10 knowledge areas into 2 or 3 posts each.

This post covers chapter 9 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Human Resource (HR) Knowledge Area. This knowledge area contains 4 processes, one of which is in the Planning Process Group, and the last three of which are in the Executing Process Group.   Alone of all the knowledge areas, HR is the only one NOT to have a process in the Monitoring & Controlling Group.

I am splitting the discussion of the Inputs & Outputs into two different posts, each one covering two of the processes.   This post will cover Processes 9.1 Plan Human Resource Management and 9.2 Acquire Project Team.

2.  Review of processes 9.1 and 9.2 together with ITTOs (Inputs, Tools & Techniques, Outputs)

Process 9.1 Plan Human Resource Management creates the plan that is the framework for all the other processes done in the Executing Progress group.   It identifies and documents

  • project roles and responsibilities
  • required skills
  • reporting relationships

and creates a staffing management plan.

Process 9.2 Acquire Project Team confirms the availability of human resources and obtains the team necessary to complete the project activities.

Process Name Tools & Techniques Inputs Outputs
9.1 Plan Human Resource Management 1. Organizational charts and position descriptions

2. Networking

3. Organizational theory

4. Expert judgment

5. Meetings

1. Project management plan

2. Activity resource requirements

3. EEFs

4. OPAs

1. Human Resource Management Plan
9.2 Acquire Project Team 1. Pre-assignment

2. Negotiation

3. Acquisition

4. Virtual teams

5. Multi-criteria decision analysis

1. Human Resource Management Plan

2. EEFs

3. OPAs

1. Project staff assignments

2. Resource calendars

3. Project management plan updates

3.  Outputs of process 9.1 Plan Human Resource Management and 9.2 Acquire Project Team

a.  Human Resource Management Plan (9.1 Plan Human Resource Management)

The process 9.1 Plan Human Resource Management has as its main output the Human Resource Management Plan, the main elements of which are:

  • Roles and responsibilities (includes the project role, authority level, responsibility, and competency)
  • Project organization charts (display of project team members and their reporting relationships)
  • Staffing management plan (describes when and how project team members will be acquired and for how long they will be needed on the project)

The last item on the list, staffing management plan, itself consists of several elements, including:

  • Staff acquisition (will the project team members come from within the organization or from external, contracted sources)
  • Resource calendars (identifies the working days and shifts on which each specific resource is available)
  • Staff release plan (determines the method and timing of releasing team members)
  • Training needs (if team members assigned to the project do not have the required competencies, a training plan can be developed as part of the project)
  • Recognition and rewards (contains clear criteria for rewards and a planned system for their use, based on activities and performance)
  • Compliance (strategies for complying with applicable government regulations, union contracts, and other established HR policies)
  • Safety (policies and procedures that protect team members from safety hazards)

b. Project staff assignments (9.2 Acquire Project Team)

This is the list of appropriate people assigned to the project team.

c. Resource calendars (9.2 Acquire Project Team)

Documents the time periods that each project team member is available to work on the project.

d. Project management plan updates (9.2 Acquire Project Team)

The human resource management plan and its subsidiary components, in particular the project organization chart and the staffing management plan, may be updated as a result of this process.

4.  Inputs of process 9.1 Plan Human Resource Management and 9.2 Acquire Project Team

a. Project management plan (9.2 Acquire Project Team)

The information needed from the other parts of the Project Management Plan in order to develop the Human Resource Plan includes the following:

  • Project life cycle and the processes that will be applied to each phase
  • How work will be executed to accomplish the project objectives
  • Change management plan that documents how changes will be monitored and controlled
  • Configuration management plan that documents how configuration management will be performed in order to make sure that the project team is working on the correct version of the project plan
  • How integrity of the project baselines (scope, schedule, and cost baselines) will be maintained
  • Needs and methods of communication among stakeholders

b. Activity resource requirements (9.2 Acquire Project Team)

The activity resource requirements help determine the human resource needs for the project.

c. EEFs (9.1 Plan Human Resource Management and 9.2 Acquire Project Team)

The EEFs used in process 9.1 Plan Human Resource Management are

  • Organizational culture and structure (functional, projectized, or matrix)
  • Existing human resources within the organization
  • Geographical dispersion of team members
  • Personnel administration policies
  • Marketplace conditions

The EEFs used in process 9.2 Acquire Project Team are

  • Existing information on human resources (availability, competency levels, prior experience, cost rate)
  • Personnel administration policies such as those that affect outsourcing
  • Organizational structure (functional, projectized, or matrix)
  • Colocation or multiple locations

d. OPAs ((9.1 Plan Human Resource Management and 9.2 Acquire Project Team)

The OPAs used in process 9.1 Plan Human Resource Management and 9.2 Acquire Project Team are

  • Organizational standard processes, policies, and role descriptions
  • Templates for organizational charts and position descriptions
  • Lessons learned on organizational structures that have worked in previous projects
  • Escalation procedures for handling issues within the team and within the performing organization

e.  Human Resource Management Plan (9.2 Acquire Project Team)

This output of the previous process 9.1 Plan Human Resource Management is the input of the following process 9.2 Acquire Project Team.   The most relevant elements of the HR Management Plan for this process are:

  • Roles and responsibilities (defines the positions, skills, and competencies that the project demands)
  • Project organization charts (indicates the number of people needed for the project)
  • Staffing management plans (indicates the time periods each project team member will be needed)

The next post will cover the inputs and outputs for the last two processes of the HR knowledge area, 9.3 Develop Project Team and 9.4 Manage Project Team.

Essential Integral, Lesson Three: Lines


1.   Introduction

Lines of development are capacities of the self such as cognition, emotions, morality, and faith. They are available to everyone, though each person differs in their degree of development in any given line. This lesson introduces the basic theoretical distinctions regarding lines, as well as how you can use them in analysis and how you can cultivate an awareness of each capacity.

 

to be continued

Iran and the West: The Outlook for Diplomacy–an EIU Webinar (updated)


On November 13, 2013, the Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored a webinar to discuss the negotiations underway between Iran and the Western powers regarding the future of Iran’s nuclear program.    The presenter was Edward Bell, an Economist correspondent covering Middle East and Asia.  

1.  Change in tone in Iran’s diplomatic posture

Back in July 2012 there was a real prospect of Iran blocking the Straits of Hormuz in response to economic sanctions imposed by the West.  The biggest change came as Hassan Rowhani, who campaigned as the non-hardline conservative candidate, was elected as President of Iran in June 2013.  The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has encouraged Mr. Rowhani to be flexible in his dealing with the West.  Khamenei’s backing has helped to quiet conservative forces at home in Iran during the negotiations.

Rowhani has appointed senior cabinet members with experience in dealing with west.  For example,

  •  Mohammad Javad Zarif, an Iranian diplomat and politician is the current minister of foreign affairs in the Rouhani administration.
  • Ali Akbar Salehi is an Iranian academic who is a graduate of MIT who has been made the head of the Atomic Energy Agency.
  • Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh is the Minister of Petroleum.

The biggest affect on negotiations has been that the negotiators have the full backing of the government.  As opposed to previous negotiations, where any proposal made to the Iranian negotiators would have to be taken back to Iran for discussion within the government, the current negotiators are able to make decisions on behalf of the government, which has meant more rapid progress in the negotiation process.

2.  Recent negotiations

  • In the first round in October, Iran proposes its “end game” for its nuclear capacity.  Both Iran and Western powers reported constructive discussion but no deal was made.
  • Second session in November was attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry.  The reports by the media were that a deal was close, but confusing reports emerged, first blaming the outcome on the French for halting development of Iran’s heavy water reactor.  Then the US blamed the Iranians.
  • However, the Iran and the IAEA issued a joint statement, with Tehran pledging greater transparency, which was joined in by other foreign ministers from Russia and China, and this led to a third round of talks scheduled for the weekend of November 23rd.

Update:   On the weekend of November 23rd, 2013, a tentative agreement was reached between the Western powers and Iran.   The New York Times has put together a graphic which outlines the details of the agreement.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/11/24/world/middleeast/Understanding-the-Deal-With-Iran.html?hp&_r=0

The most important feature of the agreement is that allows enrichment up to 5%, but the current stockpile of uranium enriched to 20% must be diluted.    In exchange, the US will relieve $6-$7 billion in sanctions, $4.2 billion of which is oil revenue frozen in foreign banks.    This is not a “grand bargain resolution”, but a short-term deal that will build trust between both sides.  

Such a trust-building measure is sorely needed, because the Iran and the US have little track record of trust building in the past few decades.  However, Iran has a strategic interest in ensuring the success of the negotiations in that it wants to maintain the right to enrich uranium to provide fuel for a nuclear-power program.

On the West, there is dispute between the Western powers.  Israel will strongly opposed ANY nuclear program.  The French are not opposed to any nuclear power program, but they oppose the heavy water reactor now being build in Arak because of its potential to create plutonium-based weapons. 

3.  Iran-IAEA Joint Statement

After the second round of negotiations, the joint announcement between Iran and the IAEA, UN’s nuclear watchdog, is that IAEA has pledged to protect Iranian security concerns, so that sensitive information is not passed to foreign powers; in exchange, Iran would allow greater transparency, in particular with respect to on-site inspections.

4.  Potential Interim Deal

There could be an easing of sanctions on Iran’s economy.  Iran wants to enrich its uranium to the level of 19.5%, close to the 20% “weapons-usable” threshold.  Perhaps an agreement that would limit Iran to enrichment to 5%, or allow the outsourcing of enrichment, might be a deal that would allow the Iranians the “win” of being able to keep its uranium enrichment program, while at the same time calming some of the fears of Western powers of its ability to convert its nuclear-power program to a nuclear-weapons program.

5.  Regional Winners and Losers

What powers would be the winners if the Iranian nuclear talks reached fruition, and the economic sanctions were lifted?

  • Syria—Iran’s influence couldn’t be ignored in negotiations with the Assad regime
  • Turkey—could reignite its trade with Iran, which has resisted US and EU sanctions on Iran and has only complied under pressure (trade has been down 40% year-on-year in the first eight months of 2013)

What powers would be the losers?

  •  Most obvious loser would be Israel, which has remained steadfast in opposition to any deal with lifts sanctions.  The above-ground heavy water reactor facilities in Arak are most vulnerable to potential Israeli attack.
  • Saudi Arabia would no longer have a weakened adversary in the Middle East “Cold War”, and its Sunni clients would face opposition from Shia militant groups in the region such as Hezbollah.  It would also face increasing competition within OPEC because of increase production of crude oil (see section 6 on Economic Impact of Sanctions).

6.  Economic Impact of Sanctions

The sanctions have caused the economy to shrink, and it will not go back to pre-sanction levels (2011) until 2018.  But if the sanctions are lifted, non-oil exports could be carried out more easily, and this would improve Iran’s foreign currency levels.  The highest profile impact of the sanctions has been the reduction in the production of crude oil.  Back in 2007, Iran was producing 4 million barrels per day, and now it is only producing close to 2.5 million barrels per day.  This means that exports have been cut almost in half, although exports have been rising slowly as Asian economies that deal with Iran find ways to deal in their own currency.  For example, India is paying for oil with rupees.  China is paying for its oil is investing in Iranian petrochemicals in order to get around sanctions.  If sanctions are removed, the oil production could go from its current 2.5 mb/d to 3.5 mb/d by 2018.

There increase in production would lead to tensions in OPEC, which is currently dealing with the increasing production coming from Iraq.  Saudi Arabia is hoping that Iran’s oil production is also curtailed by the continuance of economic sanctions. 

One of the segments most effected by the imposition of sanctions is the currency.  The rial has been devalued twice since sanctions started.  Exchange rate was 12,000 rial to the dollar in 2012, and it is now at 25,000 to the dollar.  Central bank has the ability to maintain the rial at this level for quite some time.  Iran exports a lot besides crude oil.  Weakness of rial makes the non-oil exports more attractive in comparison.  The consumer prices have gone down.  The current 40% inflation will come down as the monetary authorities try to slow the growth in liquidity, and it will end up at 10% by 2018. 

Its market size and relative isolation still makes Iran attractive.  Iran is a solidly middle-class country, with an educated population which is well aware of international trends.  A lot of investment in infrastructure could be lucrative.

Looking outside of Iran, how could a breakthrough in nuclear negotiations impact oil prices?  An ease of tension would help remove the “political risk premium”, which was at evidence last year when there was a potential threat by Iran of a blockade of the Straits of Hormuz in retaliation for a threatened strike by Israel on its nuclear facilities. 

There has been a concern over how well Iranian oil production capacity was shut in by the sanctions.  Iran was holding a lot of its production was in floating storage, and able to maintain stable production levels for a while.  It has since had to shut down production.  If the shut down was done in a relatively clear-cut and professional way, Iran’s production could increase its production smoothly and rapidly if sanctions are lifted.

Oil sanctions have been particularly effective, one of West’s “trump cards.”   Iran hinging its future on gas exports, but it will take time to negotiate deals.   Gas exports are not subject to the same sanctions as oil exports, but Iran is not carrying out a lot of action here except for some deals with Oman.

7.  Questions & Answers

What are the prospects for division within Iran’s leadership on nuclear issue?

This characteristic had effected the relations between Ahmadinejad and Iranian clerics.  The interaction between President Roumani and the Ayatollah Khamenei are more united.  The Iranians don’t have to go back to Tehran to see what they are willing to negotiate at the table, for example. 

What are the regional political implications if Iran’s oil production rises dramatically? 

The effects would not occur in 2014 or 2015, but in the medium term, from 2016-2018.  It would intensify the Iranian-Saudi Arabian “cold war”.  If Iranians could increase oil production from 2.5 to 3.5 mb/d, it would be a significant improvement for them.  It much of this oil were being exported out of the country, the Iranian crude oil would be a viable alternative to Saudi crude oil, and it would set off tension within OPECs.  90 to 100/$ per day is the price which most governments are basing budget forecasts on.

If a nuclear deal is made, infrastructure investment opportunities are significant.  BP estimates that Iran has the world’s largest gas reserves which are not being used at capacity.  Turkey and a few former Soviet republics are places that Iran sells gas to.  If Iran developed LNG capacity, it would increase its export ability.  Patents by US companies would have to be used which would cause delays. 

If Iranians could realize real this oil/gas production potential, then exchanging the buy back system of contracts would offer more attractive terms to investors. 

If sanctions reduction would occur, how would effect Iranian investment abroad?  The Tehran stock exchange is one of best performing stock exchanges in the area because money can’t leave Iran.  The first port of call for investment from Iranians would be UAE (Dubai), other countries like Turkey, and parts of Iraq.  Oil sanctions and banking sanctions keep Iran out of international steering mechanisms.  These banking sanctions would be medium-term sanctions that would need to be relieved in the medium term.

How would the lifting of sanctions effect China and Japan which both rely on Iranian oil? 

Both China and Japan have maintained relations with Tehran.  They have an interest in maintaining good commercial relations with Tehran based on oil trade.  Both China and Japan have infrastructure in place to handle Iranian oil.  They have not put diplomatic pressure on France and US, however.  There is a solid Asian bias in Iranian trade, as China, Japan, India are main consumers of its petroleum products.

How would the lifting of sanctions effect Saudi Arabia?

If Iranian oil could come back out of the country, SA could maintain oil price by cutting down production.  Now that are pumping out as much as they can; if they had to cut down production, it would negatively impact their economy.  In terms of political status in region, if Iran were to engage in short-term negotiations over what’s going on Syria, you could have amplifications of tension in Iraq and Syria because of the “proxy war”.  However, Iran has been moderate in these negotiations.

What do you consider to be the greatest challenge towards potential agreement?

The biggest challenge is the West coming to grips with a nuclear Iran, that is an Iran having nuclear power but not nuclear arms.  Iran having a nuclear capacity that can be contained is something that US has to come to terms with.

More regionally, the biggest factor is there is not going to be any decrease in rhetoric from Israel.  That linkage is going to make it hard for Iranians to believe that threat of military force is gone.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Step 6: Memorizing Inputs & Outputs (Quality Management Part 3)


1. Introduction

In this next series of posts on memorizing the processes, we move on to the final step 6, which is memorizing the INPUTS & OUTPUTS associated with each of the 47 processes.   In order to breakdown the memorization into more bite-size chunks, I am breaking down the processes in the 10 knowledge areas into 2 or 3 posts each.

This post covers chapter 8 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Quality Knowledge Area. This knowledge area contains 3 processes, one of which is in the Planning Process Group, one of which is in the Executing Process Group and the last of which is in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

(I am splitting the discussion of the Inputs & Outputs into three different posts, each one covering one of the processes.   This post will cover Processes 8.3 Control Quality).

2.   Review of process 8.3 Control Quality

As a reminder, Control Quality  is the process of monitoring and recording results of executing the quality activities to assess performance and recommend necessary changes.   The difference between Quality Assurance and Quality Control is that Quality Assurance is designed to improve the quality of processes, whereas Quality Control is designed to improve the quality of the deliverables themselves.

Process Name Tools & Techniques Inputs Outputs
8.3 Control Quality 1. Seven basic quality tools

2. Statistical sampling

3. Inspection

4. Approved change requests review

1. Project management plan

2. Quality metrics

3. Quality checklists

4. Work performance data

5. Approved change requests

6. Deliverables

7. Project documents

8. OPAs

1. Quality control measurements

2. Validated changes

3. Verified deliverables

4. Work performance information

5. Change requests

6. Project management plan updates

7. Project documents updates

8. OPAs updates

3.  Outputs of process 8.3

a. Quality control measurements

These are the documented results of control quality activities.

b. Validated changes

Any changes that have approved must be validated to make sure they are implemented.   Note that the explanation in the PMBOK guide is incorrect and refers instead to validated deliverables (see paragraph below).

c. Verified deliverables

This process determines the correctness of deliverables.   These deliverables that have been internally verified in the Control Quality Process are then sent to the process 5.5 Validate Scope where they are validated by the customer and/or sponsor.

d. Work performance information

Work performance data is analyzed in context and integrated across knowledge areas so that it is useful for stakeholders.

e. Change requests

A change request may include defect repair, corrective action or preventive action and are analyzed and processes in the process 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control.

f. Project management plan updates

Both the following subsidiary management plans may be updated as a result of this process:

  • Quality Management Plan
  • Process Improvement Plan

g. Project documents updates

The project documents that may be updated include:

  • Quality standards
  • Agreements
  • Quality audit reports and change logs
  • Training plans and assessments of effectiveness
  • Process documentation, such as information obtained using the seven basic quality tools or the quality management tools

h. OPAs updates

  • Completed quality checklists
  • Lessons learned documentation

4.  Inputs of process 8.3

a. Project management plan

In particular, the quality management plan is used to control quality, as it describes how quality control will be performed within the project.

b. Quality metrics

Describes a project or product attribute and how it will be measured.

c. Quality checklists

These are structured lists that help to verify that the work of the project and its deliverables fulfill a set of requirements.

d. Work performance data

This can include planned vs. actual

  • technical performance
  • cost performance
  • schedule performance

e. Approved change requests

A change log update indicates that some changes are approved and some are not.   The implementation of approved change requests must be verified.

f. Deliverables

A deliverable is any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability that results in a validated deliverable required by the project.

g. Project documents

The project documents that may be used in the course of this process are:

  • Agreements
  • Quality audit reports and change logs supported with corrective action plans
  • Training plans and assessments of effectiveness
  • Process documentation such as those obtained using either the seven basic quality tools or the quality management and control tools (listed in the chart above as some of the tools & techniques used in this process)

h. OPAs

The OPAs that may influence this process are:

  • Organization’s quality standards and policies
  • Standard work guidelines
  • Issue and defect reporting procedures and communication policies

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Step 6: Memorizing Inputs & Outputs (Quality Management Part 2)


1. Introduction

In this next series of posts on memorizing the processes, we move on to the final step 6, which is memorizing the INPUTS & OUTPUTS associated with each of the 47 processes.   In order to breakdown the memorization into more bite-size chunks, I am breaking down the processes in the 10 knowledge areas into 2 or 3 posts each.

This post covers chapter 8 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Quality Knowledge Area. This knowledge area contains 3 processes, one of which is in the Planning Process Group, one of which is in the Executing Process Group and the last of which is in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

(I am splitting the discussion of the Inputs & Outputs into three different posts, each one covering one of the processes.   This post will cover Processes 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance).

2.   Review of process 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance

As a reminder, Perform Quality Assurance is the process of auditing the quality requirements and the results from quality measurements to ensure that appropriate quality standards and operational definitions are used.    The difference between Quality Assurance and Quality Control is that Quality Assurance is designed to improve the quality of processes, whereas Quality Control is designed to improve the quality of the deliverables themselves.

Process Name Tools & Techniques Inputs Outputs
8.2 Perform Quality Assurance 1. Quality management and control tools2. Quality audits

3. Process analysis

1. Quality management plan2. Process improvement plan

3. Quality metrics

4. Quality control measurements

5. Project documents

1. Change requests2. Project management plan updates

3. Project documents updates

4. OPAs updates

3.  Outputs of process 8.2

a. Change requests

What happens if the audit of the quality processes shows that improvements need to be made in order to make them conform to the organization’s standards?   That is when change requests are suggested, which are then analyzed in the process 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control.

b. Project management plan updates

The subsidiary management plans that may be updated as a result of this process are:

  • Quality management plan
  • Scope management plan
  • Schedule management plan
  • Cost management plan

c.  Project documents updates

The project documents that may be updated as a result of this process are:

  • Quality audit reports
  • Training plans (for quality processes)
  • Process documentation

d. OPAs updates

  • Organization’s quality standards
  • Quality management system

4.  Inputs of process 8.3

a. Quality management plan

This describes the quality assurance and continuous process improvement approaches for the project.

b. Process improvement plan

The project’s quality assurance activities should be supportive of and consistent with the performing organization’s process improvement plans.

c. Quality metrics

The quality metrics provide the attributes that should be measured and the allowable variations.

d. Quality control measurements

The quality control measurements are the results of the control quality activities.    They are used to analyze and evaluate the quality of the processes of the project against the standards of the performing organization.

e. Project documents

Project documents should be monitored within the context of a system of configuration management to make sure the correct versions of the documents are consistently adhered to.