Project Management

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The world of project management through the monocles of culture, design, business, technology, politics, social, education, philosophy and music.

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Dog and Pony Show

Risky Business of Einstein

Hello Heisenberg!

Be A Good Patient

The Missing Piece

PowerPoint Concussion

Categories: Design

I know project managers are not salespeople and we do not need to do the dog and pony show in front of our customers (oops!) stakeholders. However, we still need to be spectacular in our presentations if we want to convey our message and garner others’ buy-ins. At the end of the day, it still depends on how well we sell our story. And yes, a good presentation needs a story to back it up. Many people have this false belief that quantity means quality. However, a good presentation does not necessary need to be lengthy. Keep it short as long as it conveys your message. Refrain from using too many words which tends to bore the audience. Let the pictures do the talking.

There is a key difference between presentation slides and articles which many people are confused. People tend to use the same style for writing articles to prepare the slides. This usually results in too much text being squeezed into the miserable 10 by 7.5 inches landscape space. This is absolutely wrong. Do you expect to read through the slides during the presentation or, worse still, your audience to read them for you? Presentation slides are meant to engage the audience and not to put them to sleep with massive chunks of text. If you genuinely need to go into details, it would be better to keep a separate set of supplementary slides that you may share with the audience after the presentation. Stick to the main purpose of your presentation slides – to engage the audience. Stop puttinging them on a drip of alphabets.

I don’t claim to be an expert in presentation, but I have seen enough of poorly prepared slides to be able to tell what a good one should look like. Typically, I will go with these four simple steps,

  1. Introduce Problem: Your audience needs to know why they are there for the presentation. They won’t be there is there isn’t a problem. Show them the problem and make sure they accept it.
  2. Instill Fear: Once your audience has accepted the problem, the next step is to let them know the consequences if they do not deal with the problem soon enough. Paint a picture of the most horrible nightmare to them.
  3. Propose Solution: After the nightmare, it is time for the entrance of the star of the night – the solution. You need to slide this in appropriately so that it does not look like a hard sell. It has to look like a natural progression.
  4. Visualize Outcome: Nothing is better than to wrap up your presentation by showing your audience what awaits them at the end of the tunnel. Make sure they drool over the end result that you are showing.

It doesn’t make sense if I just talk about how to prepare a good deck of presentation slides without showing some examples. Now, let me walk the talk with a few slides below to sum up what we have just discussed.


 Introduce Problem













Instill Fear













Propose Solution




































Visualize Outcome












Posted on: October 28, 2012 02:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

An ASCII Art Anecdote

Categories: Design

For those of you who have gone through the era of Bulletin Board System (BBS), the picture on the left would have struck a nostalgic chord in you. It is a pity for the latecomers (Gen Y & Z) who have missed the funs before the age of Internet. For the sake of the rest who have no clue what I am talking about, this is ASCII art. In those days where we were limited to CGA/VGA graphic displays (forget about 3D), ASCII art is one of the few text-based graphic design techniques that consists of pictures pieced together from the printable characters defined by the ASCII Standard. The simplicity and ease-of-display of this technique lead to its proliferation in bulletin board systems, newsgroups, IRCs and emails in the 1970s and 1980s. If you have yet to be mesmerized by the beauty of ASCII art, take a look at the ASCII-based Star Wars movie below and get inspired. The psychedelic effect created by some of those great ASCII art pieces reflects, in its purest sense, the ingenious creativity of what people can do when they are bounded by environmental constraints – Creatio Ex Nihilo!

It is exactly this same spirit that a productive and successful project team should have. So, stop grieving over budget cuts and headcount shrinks. Work with and work over your constraints. Do not let the constraints cloud over your creativity. It is always the ability to continue to excel in the toughest situation that separates the bests from the mediocrities. Show your boss that you and your team, too, can be creative.

Posted on: July 10, 2011 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

A Portrait of PMBOK

Categories: Design

Whenever someone asks me what PMBOK is, I always find myself spending a long time and having difficulty to explain to the person the concept of PMBOK in a short and digestible way. I have been thinking – "Is there a way that I can describe or paint a nicer picture of PMBOK?" This has inspired me to a little experiment. With some trial and error, the outcome of the experiment is a surprisingly cool portrait that not only illustrates PMBOK visually but also describes it in words that reflect the key concepts of what it is. The words in the portrait were taken from the article 'Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide' that gives an overview of PMBOK and the size of each word maps directly to the number of times it appears in the article relatively. Hence, it is not surprising to see some common and important words like "PROJECT", "MANAGEMENT" and "PROCESS" etc. appearing larger than the rest of the words. In a way, this looks like a digital DNA of PMBOK, isn't it? I hereby proudly present you – A Portrait of PMBOK!

Click here to download the high resolution copy of the PMBOK portrait

Click here to download the high resolution copy of the PMBOK portrait.

Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Question on Simplicity

Categories: Design

What is Simplicity? We have heard about the 'KISS' design principle (an overly abused cliché). For those who have not, the KISS principle states that simplicity should be a key goal in design, and that unnecessary complexity should be avoided. Edward De Bono published a book with the same title ('Simplicity') emphasizing the importance of keeping things simpler in this increasingly complex world. The great Albert Einstein once said – "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction". However, he also warned that "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler". No doubt, being simple is important, but the key question is how simple we can go without trading off important details? I will leave this question for you to work on (read about Occam's razor if you are interested).

Simplicity is a common design requirement that appears in most projects and many project managers are spending huge amount of effort, time and money trying to meet this requirement. But are all these effort, time and money spent justifiable for the gain achieved with a ‘simple design’? Are we overdoing it? What should be the baseline? I have seen people splurging thousands of dollars just to simplify a process in a system that is only used by one user (the administrator) once or twice a year. My advice to all project managers is – do not get trapped and follow the ‘KISS’ design principle blindly. Do your due diligence evaluation and ROI assessment on whether a design should be further simplified and know when and where to stop.

Before we wrap this up, let's take a look at the picture above. It summarizes all that I have talked about in one simple picture. Are you able to get it?

Posted on: March 11, 2011 03:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The beauty of imperfection, the elegance of the missing piece.

Categories: Design

LaoTzu once said,

"Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;

It is the center hole that makes it useful.

Shape clay into a vessel;

It is the space within that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows for a room;

It is the holes which make it useful.

Therefore benefit comes from what is there;

Usefulness from what is not there."


Here is the Chinese original version,

In other words, a masterpiece is made up of what are that included and what are that excluded. Imperfection leaves rooms for improvement, while the missing piece evokes imagination and creativity to fill the gap. Take a look at the image below. What do you see?


So next time when the users have requested you to add this and that into the requirement list that will eventually blow up the scope, do not just focus on what should be included. Take a step back and give some serious thoughts on what should be excluded as well. Sometimes, excluding certain things can make the world a whole lot better.

Posted on: February 24, 2011 08:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Bad artists always admire each other's work."

- Oscar Wilde