Posts Tagged ‘time’

Time For a Change #22: Putting Time on Your Side!

by William Reed on August 9, 2012

The Game of Go originated 2500 years ago in Ancient China as a strategy game in which players alternately place white and black stones on the cross points of lines on the board, in an effort to encircle and capture both stones and territory. Strategy is a matter of both calculation and intuition. The rules are simple, the strategy not so. The game favors the player who takes the long view, and players places stones strategically far enough apart to build bridges, that later in the game connect groups and surround the opponent’s stones like a net. Less experienced players overbuild to secure small corners and sections, only to choke on their own over-saturation. The term used by Go players is securing breathing space. Time is on the side of the strategic player.

The game can be a metaphor for how you play the stones in your life, how you secure breathing space in your domain. The first thing in playing your resources is to realize how lucky you are to have opportunities to be in the game in the first place. It is staggering to consider the circumstances of all of your ancestors meeting, reproducing, and surviving, each one of them laying the foundations of your birth and existence. And yet here you are! That is worth remembering once in a while when you think about how to best use and leverage your time.

Time for a Change

Reading through inspirational quotes on change, its remarkable how often the emphasis is on taking a chance. Wayne Gretzy said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Another word that comes up often is courage. Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” Another recurring theme is the importance of getting started! A proverb has it that “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

So what are you waiting for? Opportunity knocks once, not twice. If you want to create change the best time, often the only time to act is now.

Some people say that time flies, but this is partly a reflection on missed opportunity. The chance shoots past before you can catch it. Another perspective is that time flows like a river. It can carry you along or sweep you away, depending on how you navigate it.

It is remarkable how people are able to find time for that which is important to them. This is called making time, as opposed to killing or wasting time. The point is that no matter how busy you are, you do have time on your hands. Twenty-four hours of it, every day of your life.

Perspectives on Timing and Timelines

It is helpful to gain a flexible perspective on time, rather than just attempting to schedule it in the conventional way. The Japanese characters for 呼吸 (kokyū) have the meaning of both breathing and timing. This probably originates in the way in which people coordinate their efforts to lift a heavy object, or use their breathing to coordinate body movements in sport or dance.

Timing is a matter of rhythm too. It is easier to move with the beat in music than against it. Rhythm creates its own energy. Soldiers are taught to break step crossing a wooden bridge, so that the rhythm of marching doesn’t set up a dangerous sway that can cause the bridge to collapse.

Synchronicity is the simultaneous occurrence of seemingly related events that have no apparent causal relation, a coincidence in time. Things are more deeply connected than we may realize. The Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that, “Hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones.”

Whereas timing, rhythm, and synchronicity relate more to occurrences in the present, it can also be useful to look at past events on a timeline. Beedocs is brilliant software for the Mac OS X which enables you to plot events in your life, or in history on a 3D timeline. Even if you don’t have a Mac, it is worth watching the tutorials and videos on the site showing how events look plotted in 3D on a diagonal wall.

It is interesting to look at historical timelines, although they only provide a thin slice of linear events of a particular type, like a musical score for one instrument. Timelines showing parallel or simultaneous events in different areas are more interesting, like an orchestral musical score for many instruments.

Time Out

Our lives are so ruled by calendars and clocks that we may feel lost without them! They are useful and necessary for conducting life in a society that depends on coordinating schedules. However, be sure to take time out in your personal life to take breaks, cat naps to refresh and reset, and time away from your desk or computer to mingle with people or enjoy nature. The cost of not doing this is finding yourself out of time and off track, wondering where it all went.

The Power of Ritual

If you want to get results over time, there is power in perseverance, and in the repetition of ritual. Albert Einstein said that,“The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” This is an analogy for the way in which results magnify through repetition. Our days are marked by the repeating cycles of the sun and moon, and what a difference when this is reinforced with the repetition of rituals.

I explored The Power of Ritual in a series of blog posts at www.entrepreneurscreativeedge.com/power-of-ritual/. Here you can read about the power of Wax On Wax Off, Master Miyagi’s ritual for Daniel in The Karate Kid, as well as the power of perseverance in achieving mastery in music and the martial arts.

Download a PDF summary of this article in a TIMES MANDALA, and use it to review and refresh your view of time as force which is on your side, a multiplier of your resources, and a fascinating phenomenon in life.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Imperfection is a fact of life. How does a project manager address it? There is a Buddhist concept that just might help – Wabi-sabi. It is very common in Japanese design aesthetics. It is based on acceptance of transience and imperfection. Imagine a beautiful vase develops a crack. One could try and fix it and attempt to restore it to its original state. With wabi-sabi a more interesting approach can be taken.

Think of the crack being filled with gold. What impact would that have? Can you see how there would be the elements of the original design merging with the transformation that has taken place? In one way, there is a new vase. In another, the original is still there.

We can pull this over into personal development. We all have flaws. What would happen if we decided to do something with them, to transform them rather than trying to erase them? Character develops. This also applies to team building.

Leaving team members to resolve their conflicts can be a source of great, positive energy. There is a cost associated with it but the benefit is worth the price. What am I getting at? Think of two team members having conflict. One common way to “deal” with it is through avoidance, i.e., keep the team members apart. This is like putting a Band-Aid on the vase. It really doesn’t work and the environment worsens because the tail called avoidance starts wagging the dog called the project.

On the flip side, think of when people have stayed in the conflict and worked to understand themselves and develop a comprehensive work plan. Synergies appear. Are the team members perfect — no. Have they created a space where they can be more in touch with who they are and get more from the situation — yes!

There are some underpinnings to this process, the most important of which is the desire on each person’s part to explore and see if there is a way to work with others to create a more empathetic environment. It can be scary and, if there really is a crack that needs addressed, it probably should be. People do drop out of this process and suffering results. For those who stay with it, though, a door opens to greater growth and accomplishment. All that experience and wisdom is brought together in a new way to create a better team!

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Developing an understanding of the project terrain and all its complexities can be daunting. This is especially true as a consultant since value needs to be shown for each hour spent. There is a trade-off needed between understanding EVERYTHING, making decisions, and moving on in order to be efficient. What to do? The answer is, “Keep it simple.” So how does one go about doing that?

The way that works for me is determining what principles are at work and trusting they will guide me. So what does that mean? The 9 areas of project management as espoused by PMI® can help. I use them all the time for troubled projects. Just ask, “Is there clarity regarding:

  • Scope
  • Time
  • Budget
  • Communications
  • Human Resources
  • Procurement
  • Quality
  • Risk
  • Integration”

Simple “yes” or “no” answers suffice. Then ask, “Are these 9 components interlocked in an interdependent way?”

Where you see “no” for either question points to the path that needs to be followed in getting to the crux of the matter. For me, this is where meditation comes into play. By letting go and allowing the two above-mentioned questions dance before my minds eye the fulcrum question in the situation will show itself. This leads to another fulcrum question…and another…and another until a clear picture is generated of what is going on which leads to determining what is needed to improve the situation. By the way, “fulcrum question” refers to pivotal questions that show whether or not principles are at play, if they are the right ones, and if they are interlocked.

For example, whenever talking with a particular senior manager I’d leave his office with an unsettled feeling. (This is where faith comes into play.) I’d have the urge to dissect what he said but when I indulged that urge I only got more confused and frustrated. By letting go and asking, “What principles are relevant to his situation?” and trusting what my gut said the fulcrum question(s) surfaced. Sometimes it would feel like someone else was creating it because it arose from my gut rather than my brain.

It is very much like the old detective series, “Columbo,” in that repeated asking about the 9 areas of project management surfaced the dodginess he was using to manipulate situations.

This practice of having faith in the principles leads to another valuable behavior – becoming aware of whom to talk with next. With the questionable manager it might have been a peer or subordinate or even an outside customer.

The point of all this is to trust the principles you believe are relevant. If you are mistaken it will surface soon enough and a change in the principle set can be made. Practicing this simple faith while not necessarily knowing everything will guide you to the right questions, conclusions and options both as to determining what is going on and possible options for improving the situation.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Time For a Change #12: Get More Done in Less Time

by William Reed on April 26, 2012

Rethinking Time

The characters in Japanese for the word time (時間 jikan) literally mean time-interval, or space of time. This is an interesting perspective, because it joins two concepts that in English are treated as separate things. Einstein spoke of space-time in the context of the Principle of Relativity, but that branch of Physics is still beyond the average person’s comprehension. For most people, time is something more closely associated with the clock and the calendar.

Consequently, when people think about how to get more done in less time, they usually focus on how to work faster or more efficiently, as if productivity against the clock was the ultimate objective measure. The production line mentality still holds sway over the way many people experience time. It is high time that we rethink that proposition.

From one perspective, time matters a lot. You may have noticed that time seems to fly faster as you get older. I remember commenting to a friend on my 16th birthday that the year seemed to have gone by quickly. My friend’s father, who must have been in his 50s, overheard me say that and said to us, “Boys, when you get to be my age, the decades just fly by.” The usual explanation for this is that one year is a smaller fraction of the whole for a 50 year old than for a 5 year old. Nevertheless, as time goes by you tend to appreciate how much it matters. Whether or not time is on your side depends a lot on how well you appreciate and use time. If you look back on what has gone well in your life, you realize that timing is everything.

From another perspective, time doesn’t matter much at all. It isn’t the quantity of time that you spend with people so much as the quality that you remember. The way we experience time is a lot more relative than the way it is measured in minutes and hours. If you are having fun and deeply engaged then 8 hours can pass very quickly, whereas if you are stuck in a boring job the minutes seem like hours.

Synchronicity is the phenomenon in which things occur simultaneously that cannot be explained with any apparent connection. A person suddenly mentions a thing that you were just thinking about. A friend calls you just as you pick up the phone to call them. A discovery or invention is made by two people at the same time living in different countries, despite having no apparent connection or communication between them. We are connected in mysterious ways that are  not bound by time and space.

The art of getting things done

If you want to get more done in less time, a good strategy is actually to do less, but to focus on doing the things that matter most. This is the thinking behind the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities. Manage the things that make a difference, and you will see that small efforts can produce big results.

If you focus too much on perfection your work will never be done. Better to focus on the process, leaving yourself room to breathe. It is not worth sacrificing your days for the sake of filling up all of the time you have with work.

The oriental game of Go has a fascinating strategy that can apply to life as well. Black and white stones are placed on the intersections of vertical and horizontal lines on the Go board, the purpose being to surround territory by surrounding and capturing the opponent’s stones, while maintaining breathing space for your own stones. Go strategy involves playing the whole board and connecting your stone groups across the board. If you play too tightly by concentrating on one of the corners, you end up missing the big picture and losing the game. The connections are not obvious until the mid-game, except to the experienced eye, which sees time in terms of space, not in local logical steps.

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell refers to the “10,000 hour rule,” which applies in many endeavors from sports to music, whereby world class success seems to depend in part on quantity, not years of practice but the number of hours of deep practice, focused, intentional, quality practice time. Such people not only practice, but also perform more consistently in a Flow state, described in Flow Psychology as a state of full immersion and joy in the task. One of the characteristics of being in Flow is a distortion of the sense of time. Hours can pass like minutes, making you wonder where did the time go? Time can also slow down, in sports when the ball seems to travel in slow motion. It is accompanied by a feeling of spontaneous joy, and freedom from the clock. People in the Flow state are also more likely to be successful, and get better results.

Common sense

Voltaire said that “Common sense is not so common.” It is therefore worth reviewing a few common sense approaches when it comes to getting more done in less time.

  • Eliminate. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Shorten your To Do List, and just focus on those things that matter most. Don’t get caught up in trying to do a task more efficiently, without first asking if it is the right task. Free your mind by striving first to be more effective.
  • Outsource. Trying to do everything yourself is not only futile, it is downright foolish. Just because you can is not always the best reason that you should do something yourself. Look for ways to free up your time by paying or training someone else to do the task for you. Instead of yielding to the seductive lure of routine, look for shortcuts that can save you time.
  • Right Tools. A good craftsperson is very particular about their tools. One of the most effective ways to get more done in less time is to select the right tools, and leverage them to accomplish more. Whatever your trade, tools save you time.

No regrets

A Catholic Priest once commented that of the many last rites he had performed for dying people, most of them expressed far more regret for what they did not do in life, than what they had done. Their primary regret was for a life not fully lived, dreams left unattended, words left unsaid.

If you want to live life with no regrets, it is important to attend to your dreams and work on your chosen goals. Your dream calls to you constantly, if you can just free yourself from the illusions of time which pull you away from it. When you are selecting your tools, be sure to consider GOALSCAPE as the tool of tools, because it helps you gain perspective and focus on those things which matter most.

Download a TIME MANDALA as a reminder of the attitudes and approaches that can help you get more done in less time.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Is the lifeblood of your project sucked dry by project vampires? You know the type, e.g., belligerent bosses, unreasonable customers, passive-aggressive subject matter experts (SMEs). This is a challenge that a good leader must learn how to handle if any success is to be gained.  There are three solutions for dealing with them. Before getting to those, though, a little background will help. It boils down to one word, “Powerlessness.” You might be wondering, “How does that relate to leadership?” The answer is simple and is based on another word, “Humility.”

Humility is simply knowing where the boundaries are. In this case it means knowing what one can (power) and cannot (powerlessness) do. It is essential in avoiding over-reaching as well as making sure one is reaching as far as possible.

One of the single biggest mistakes Project Managers can make is lacking awareness of where that boundary lies. There is a wimpiness associated with not reaching as far as possible and hubris with reaching too far. The process of seeking that boundary and skirting it can be a source of torture for a Project Manager. So what to do?

Frankly, this is where I meditate. Taking time each day to sit with the torture created by not knowing where the boundary lies. When ego dissolves the line appears. On or around that line the three options sit:

  1. Power-based behavior. Look to see which resources have yet to be explored that will stop the vampire, e.g., disciplinary activities for SMEs under-performing, gaining support from powerful stakeholders who can help reel in the unreasonable customer;
  2. Powerless-based behaviors (1). Here is were I made up a term call, “The vampiric calculation.” It’s quite simple. The rate at which new energy is created is compared to the rate at which it is being sucked out of the team and myself. I consciously bring this up with the team and we look to see how much we can accomplish skirting the line between power and powerlessness;
  3. Powerless-based behaviors (2). This is the really tough one. It’s when exhaustion sets in after manically trying to please the vampire. Working with the team and after all efforts to turn things around have been made we calculate how, exactly we will abandon ship so to speak to keep our sanity. This doesn’t mean responsibilities are abandoned. Rather, it means we pull together to keep each other’s spirits up as the torture from the vampire continues.  Gallows humor is one of the most common forms of pulling together. Being careful is critical. The humor can morph into cynicism very quickly, which increases the rate at which energy is drained.

A better way is finding activities to stay intact. Personally, meditation, exercise, cooking for friends and family along with an occasional Lagavulin scotch and a good cigar help me quite a bit. You probably have your own list. Put it to use. It helps stay in touch with the real powers and supports a realistic attitude displayed by a student I once had. His boss was calling him in for the umpteenth time to chew him out. The student accepted his boss could do this but also skirted the boundary mentioned. He did this by saying, “Could you speed this up. I have to get back to the team, there’s work to do.”

By taking care of oneself and being free of preoccupation something close to a miracle just might occur. A path may start showing that relates to item “1.” mentioned above.  I want to avoid being Pollyannaish.  That path may or may not be there. The only way to see it, though, is to decide what you’ll do in the presence of  a vampire rather than passively let things happen.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Ever feel lied to? Is it hard to put your finger on what, exactly, is wrong with what is being said or done? It can feel like you are trapped inside an Escher drawing. What to do?

My suggestion is, “Go with it!” If that is what is happening, then call it what it is. Let the team members and stakeholders know (in a calm voice, of course) that their closed arguments just don’t add up. And just how is this done without sounding like a loon yourself? Once again, it is one of those “reads easy, does hard” situations.

Let go of focusing on the outside world. Go within…and drag all that insanity with you. Let people talk. Listen. Absorb without judgment. The tools needed to spot inconsistency are already in your toolbox. Stop thinking and, as Obi Wan told Luke, “use the force.” This force is there all the time. It is called integrity.

I’ve had more than one CEO (but not many), as well as other stakeholders and team members, lie to me on a consistent basis. If challenged, they would say they were simply testing me, wanting to see if I knew my stuff. Which is fine if it stopped there. The problem is when they saw my ignorance or naiveté as a license to stay with the distortion and go on with whatever their (hidden) agenda was.

This may sound a bit paranoid. It isn’t. We all actually do it to some extent. That “extent” is determined by how much we lust after or want to avoid something. Ever fudge 15 minutes on billable hours? For guys, what do you say in response to, “Honey, do I look fat in this dress?”

Those situations to which I am referring to here, though, are the systematic ones. The situations where there is a conscious effort to paint a complete picture that is closed in scope but relies on fabrications. When this occurs the details fail to match up. And this is where the solution lies!

Pay attention to those details without getting swamped by them. The way to do that is by watching behaviors and seeing in what direction outcomes go based on believing what is told. See where that trail of bread crumbs leads. When you get that picture, go back and look at the details again.

Again, trust your judgment. Once you can draw a bead on some of the inconsistencies, i.e., articulate them, keep up the process. The details, upon which you need to focus, validate, look to see if they exist, are mutually inconsistent, etc., will become apparent. It’s as if they begin to phosphoresce.

As you confront (in a respectful, business-like manner) the situation there will be a natural repeating of the illusion. You’ll be asked to stare more closely at it, as with Enron when reporters where getting close to the truth. You might even be told you just don’t get it, that you need to mature and get up to speed in order to see the truth. It can be especially tempting when the person creating the illusion has power.

The fact is, if you work to stay with the inner truth there will be a calm out of which grows the ability to sum (no matter how many thousands or millions of dollars have been spent) the situation in 3 words, “It’s an illusion.” At that point, you can do the best project management possible.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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We, at Active Garage had run this promotion for the free eBook earlier in the year and we are running this again, now. If you find yourself wondering that if the eBook has been available for free download since then, why are we saying we are “running the promotion again”? Valid point.

Here’s why.

The author of the eBook, Mark McGuinness, is opening doors to folks interested in Creative Success, once again, for his amazingly valuable course “The Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap”, for a limited period and seats are limited.

Before you go ahead with making a decision of if this course if for you or not, I would suggest reviewing the blog I had written in January about what being Creative means and who this book (and subsequently, the course) is for (yes, it is not for everyone… ).

There are some great success stories form real folks who have taken this course and produced magical results by directly applying what they have learnt from the course. For instance, there is:

Since the course is now open for only a limited time, you could also directly go to the opt-in page to check it out and register.

To your Continued Success…

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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Flexible Focus #67: A-Chart vs B-Chart

by William Reed on September 1, 2011

In this series we have introduced two levels of focus for the Mandala Chart, the 9 frame A-Chart 3X3 Matrix and the 64 frame B-Chart 8X8 Matrix, developed by Matsumura Yasuo, the founder of the Mandala Chart Method. You might compare them to two different levels of magnification in a telescope or a microscope, where the shift of focus instantly transports you to a new world. Only in this case the same lens can take you to either the microscopic or the telescopic view, in any mindscape you can imagine.

Moreover, like the longitude and latitude lines we impose on the earth for navigation, the Chart can help you get your bearings and understand the relationship of the parts to the whole. Without this you are like a mariner set adrift at sea without compass, map, or sextant. No wonder so many people are lost in life.

The difference with the Mandala Chart is that instead of a GPS (Global Positioning System), it serves as an LPS (Life Positioning System).

Lessons in Flexible Focus

Most people have great difficulty with flexible focus, perhaps because they lack such a tool. The history of civilization is filled with fascinating examples of people who were unable to see or appreciate new points of view. Sadly, the response has all too often been destructive, leading on a mass scale to war and genocide at one extreme, and intolerance and redundancy at the other.

Racism clings to a single and arbitrary view of other people, as if to say that one frame in the square is right, and all of the others are wrong. The only perceptions that are allowed in this limited view are those which reinforce the bigotry. The two sides are reduced to a black and white view that allows no room for color. Against that background read the fascinating research, Genetic Studies Show that Race is Not a Scientific Concept. The genes which affect our external appearance amount to a mere 0.01%. Under the skin we are 99.99% the same.

While hindsight is 20/20, foresight appears to be almost legally blind, particularly among experts and people at the top of their field. This has been true in the fast evolving world of computers, where people have made some embarrassingly short-sighted predictions, such as the Chairman of Digital Equipment Corporation saying in 1977 that,

“There is no reason that anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer in the invention of radio, was thought by some to be mentally unstable for suggesting that voice could be transmitted through the air over great distances. Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962 saying that,

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

Read some of the laughable bad predictions experts have made in the past. And yet predictably even ten years from now people will laugh at what today passes for common sense. So it has always been.

Why Stop at 64 Frames?

Clearly the Universe doesn’t stop at 64, so why should the Mandala Chart stop there? Theoretically you can drill down forever, but you will find that the deeper you go the more you return to the 3X3 Matrix view at that level. Mentally, it is similar to the process of juggling. It is easy to toss one ball between two hands, but more of a challenge to toss two three balls between the right and left hand. Only a handful of professional jugglers can to juggle as many as many as 8 or 9 balls at a time. Apparently in juggling the human limit breaks down quickly past the number 8.

The I Ching, or ancient Chinese Book of Changes, also starts with 8 Trigrams, which are combined into 64 Hexagrams, reflecting the same structure of the Mandala Chart. Wealth Dynamics, which is based in part on the I Ching, is also based on 8 Wealth Profiles, which combine into 64 possible partnership patterns. And of course the Mandala itself stems from the Buddhist description of consciousness, using the same number of frames. Apparently as in juggling, our consciousness reaches its limits past that number, and tends to revert back to the simpler Matrix view when pushed past the limit.

A-Chart eMandala

B-Chart eMandala

There are also time limits in working with the Mandala Chart. An A-Chart can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to fill out carefully, and a B-Chart Mandala can take up to 90 minutes. Beyond that it becomes impractical from the time management perspective. Nevertheless, in contrast to the unidimensional view of inflexible focus, a 2×2 Matrix or 3×3 Matrix already has 4 to 8 more degrees of freedom, and is well worth taking the time to explore.

As an exercise in expanding your awareness of the many dimensions to a task, try taking the time to complete a B-Chart Mandala. A good place to start is with the Template for a 100 Year Life Span. It is easier to do when the subject is you.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #61: The Art of Folding Time

by William Reed on July 14, 2011

Anatomy of a Fan

One of the best representations of flexible focus in Japanese culture is the folding fan, invented in Japan between the 6th and 8th centuries. The folding fan can open as a fan, or fold for easy storage. Its radial form is symbolic of opening out to new possibilities, of victory, and of good fortune. It is a product of the same culture which invented origami, the art of paper folding, the quintessential art of Folding the Square.

The anatomy of a folding fan is work of genius. It is both simple and complex, an enigma of Japanese design. It fits in the fingers as an organic extension of the hand. It was used in Japanese dance, and could double as a weapon for the samurai. The range of designs and materials available make it a perfect product for infinite variations on a common theme. Moreover, the art of folding has been applied in Japan to everything from umbrellas, bicycles, eyeglasses, to keyboards, as well as clothing, and even the joints of the human body in the martial arts.

Folding Time

The Mandala Chart can free you from the tyranny of living by the illusory objectivity of the clock and the calendar. While these devices are useful for organizing logistics in life, they serve as a poor measure of experience and imagination. One of the characteristics of the Wonderful World of Flow is a distorted sense of time.

Einstein explained the relativity of time in layman’s terms to a journalist saying, “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour.”

While we experience the relativity of time, we seldom stop to think, what if it were possible to consciously fold or expand our experience of time through flexible focus, much in the way that we open or close a folding fan? This is not only possible with practice, but it is relatively easy to do. A good exercise for your eyes is to make a habit of looking at things far away, as well as up close. Many people settle into a myopic existence just for want of looking at things far away. The same thing can happen mentally if your mind’s eye settles for a fixed range of vision.

Carmine Gallo, author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, tells the story of a Disney executive charged with revitalizing the Disney Stores, who asked Steve Jobs for advice. Jobs’ responded in two words, “Dream Bigger.” Many people leave their mental fan folded and tucked away, and seldom open it out to dream bigger.

It is better to broaden your experience through curiosity, than to fall into a dull routine. If you simply measure your life by the calendar, without exercising your mental flexibility, you may find that the decades fly by and leave you behind.

Magic of Mindfulness

Thinking that you know will take you out of flow. I wrote on the Magic of Mindfulness in my Creative Career Path column about the work of Harvard Psychologist, Dr. Ellen J. Langer on Mindfulness, who has studied the effects of Mindfulness, as well as Mindlessness on the quality of our lives. Dr. Langer attributes mindlessness to three habits of mind: stereotyping rather than experiencing, acting from a single perspective, and doing things on auto-pilot.

This is another way of describing a lack of flexible focus, and the consequences can range from low self-image to casual cruelty. Fortunately, the cure is close at hand. Awaken your spirit of curiosity. Practice mindfulness in your movements. Pay closer attention to your experience, and show greater appreciation for what you have. Lend a helping hand to others in need. Open the fan.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Project Reality Check #15: The Requirements Game

by Gary Monti on March 29, 2011

Nailing down requirements is the number one complaint of project managers. Addressing this requires two skills: political adroitness and finding a balance point between exploring solutions and exploiting what is known and available. I’d like to share some from a workshop I provide on decision-making in uncertainty.

Political Adroitness

A mantra regarding project requirements goes something like this,

“Requirements are stated needs, expectations are unstated needs. Clients tend to judge based on expectations.”

For example, a common retail experience is a customer picking a $20 pan from a display that includes $200 triple-clad pans. The expectation frequently is quality-by-association. As you might guess, the customer ends up disappointed because food cooks unevenly, burns, and sticks to the pan. They return to the store angry that misrepresentation occurred and they want their money back, at a minimum, or demand the $200 pan at no extra charge, at the extreme.

When something similar occurs on a project the best way to deal with it is by leaning into the situation as quickly as possible. The longer the expectation is held, the greater potential for damage in the relationship. Do this is by offering possible “straw” scopes. These are scopes that fit within the time and money parameters established and meant as much for example as anything else. This can take several iterations.

Initially, the goal is getting the client to see the expectations just don’t match the time, money, and resource limits established. In other words, see if they will shift their view and do it in such a way the relationship stays intact. When acceptance of the need to shift sets in, then drive towards THE scope that appears to work.

The reason “appears” is used is simple. The scope has yet to be drilled down to clear requirements that can be turned into specifications. Which leads to another aspect of political adroitness – working with the team.

The team needs to be involved in creating the scoping alternatives because they are the ones ultimately shouldering the responsibility. As you might have already guessed, having a good working relationship with team leads and subject matter experts is critical. If these relationships are absent team members can simply say the requirements aren’t clear, take a passive-aggressive position, and leave the project manager hanging.

The Explore/Exploit Balance

In complexity theory the above falls under the “explore/exploit balance.” This is where the risk comes into play. Typically, there is insufficient time to explore all options. On the flip side, the team may run into conflict and severe limitations if they dive in based on using what has worked in the past. The solution is best when the customer, project manager, and the team all share the risk. In other words a balance is needed; one that is optimal and spreads the benefits equally with the difficulties.

To recap, it isn’t enough to simply say the client should be realistic and not expect a $20 pan to perform like a $200 one. The PM and team need to push as far as they can working with the client in developing a realistic solution – one that will save reputations, relationships, and pocket books as well as produce the desired deliverable.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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