Project Management

The Lazy Project Manager

Peter Taylor is the author of two best-selling books on ‘Productive Laziness’ – ‘The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager’. In the last 4 years he has focused on writing and lecturing with over 200 presentations around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’. His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance. More information can be found at – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

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Buttered Toast, Cats, and Risk Management

The buttered cat paradox is a common joke based on the tongue-in-cheek combination of two pieces of wisdom:

  • The first is that cats always land on their feet.
  • And the second is that buttered toast always lands buttered side down.

Now consider what would happen if the piece of buttered toast was attached, butter side up of course, to the back of a cat and then the cat was dropped from a large height. Some people suggest that the following will occur. As the cat falls towards the ground, it will slow down and start to rotate, eventually reaching a steady state of hovering a short distance from the ground while rotating at high speed as both the buttered side of the toast and the cat’s feet attempt to land on the ground.

This idea appeared on the British panel game QI, as well as talking about the idea, they also brought up other questions regarding the paradox. These included ‘Would it still work if you used margarine?’, ‘Would it still work if you used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter?’, and ‘What if the toast was covered in something that was not butter, but the cat thought it was butter?’, the idea being that it would act like a placebo.

The supposed phenomenon was first observed in the New York Monthly Magazine, which published the following poem in 1835:

I never had a slice of bread,

Particularly large and wide,

That did not fall upon the floor,

And always on the buttered side!

A study by the BBC's television series Q.E.D. found that when toast is thrown in the air, it lands butter-side down just one-half of the time (as would be predicted by chance)] However, several scientific studies have proven that when toast is dropped from a table it does fall butter-side down at least 62% of the time.

Why is this?

Well when toast falls out of a hand, it does so at an angle. The toast then rotates. Given that tables are usually between two to six feet there is enough time for the toast to rotate about one-half of a turn, and so it lands upside down relative to its original position. Since the original position is butter-side up then the toast lands butter-side down.

Now ignoring the paradox and concentrating on the simple piece of buttered toast dropping from your hand you could address this ‘risk’ in two ways. The first being that you rip out all of your kitchen fixings and tables and then re-install new ones that are at least 10 feet off the ground. This will result in any future toast drops have a 50/50 chance of turning sufficiently to end up buttered side up – a saving of 12% of cases using the Q.E.D. experiment results.

But this would be pretty costly and impractical.

Alternatively you could just be more careful when you eat buttered toast. Sit down. Don’t rush. Have the butter and toast on the table together. This would potentially deliver greater end results regarding a significant reduction in dropped buttered toast in the first instance and therefore the percentage of cases where the toast falls buttered side down would be irrelevant. Risk management needs to be relevant, appropriate and reasonable.

Besides, cats hate having toast stuck to their backs!

Posted on: May 31, 2015 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Rockstar PM

Music is a very personal matter; as I write this I am listening to the band Golden Earring playing ‘Radar Love’ (perhaps the finest pop/rock single ever produced… see you are already disagreeing with me, it is a personal choice after all, I know that).

But, musical taste aside, if you take a fairly typical four piece pop/rock band it commonly consists of a drummer, a bass player, a lead guitarist and a vocalist.

  • The drummer provides a steady beat and emphasises the other instruments and vocals, perhaps with the occasional solo where they have full control of the flow and style of the music being played. The drummer can be very influential within a band.
  • The bass player has the crucial role in the band and the group members depend on the bassist's subtle lead. If the guitarist or drummer makes a mistake it can easily going unnoticed but if the bassist makes a mistake, everyone will instantly know that something is wrong.
  • The lead guitarist is one of the most important contributors in a band, whether they just add in riffs here and there or play mesmerising guitar solos. There is an added attraction to the role in that they are typically second only to the lead vocalist when it comes to fame, spotlight, and all that comes with that.
  • Finally the lead vocalist is the most often the main focus of the audience’s attention. This is due partly to the fact that the front person is interpreting the lyrics which make up the story of the song and partly due to the singers charisma.

Now consider your style as a project manager, which one are you?

  • A ‘drummer’ offering a steady backbeat to keep the rhythm of the project on track?
  • A ‘bassist’ keeping the team together ensuring that no mistakes are made?
  • A ‘lead guitarist’ adding in inspirational leadership moments and creativity?
  • A ‘vocalist’ interpreting the vision of the project and being the figurehead?

Or perhaps you play more than one role…

And maybe I should have add that the project sponsor is perhaps more like the band manager/impresario, although one person added ‘sadly I think the project sponsor can sometimes be more like the cynical (NME?) musical journalist...!’.

Another contributor to the discussion proposed that the project manager was the ‘roadie’ making sure that all aspects from start to end perform successfully.

And finally a few wise words from a further commentator ‘the conductor is like the project manager - he doesn't need to be able to play all the instruments - just to get the best out of the performers - the band/orchestra/project team’.


Radar Love – Golden Earring -

Posted on: May 28, 2015 03:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

"The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage."

- Mark Russell