Risk Responses

February 11, 2014  |  No Comments

On managing the risks, Sun Tzu says…

The highest form of generalship is to thwart the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field, and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

ConfusedA Project Manager hears…

“Develop options and actions to reduce threats to the project objectives and enhance opportunities. As part of planning risk responses, a project manager must identify strategies for positive risks or opportunities as well as strategies for negative risks or threats. It is best is to nullify  the risks either by mitigating them or by converting them into opportunities, though there are other options like using the contingencies, risk transfer, however, the worst options are not to face the risk or trying to mitigate a risk that can neither be mitigated nor be managed using contingencies.”

Flexibility and Water

February 8, 2014  |  No Comments

Sun TzuWhile discussing Weak and Strong Points in The Art of War, Sun Tzu has stated,

Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe he is facing.

The shape of water is used as a perfect analogy, not only from a strategic and military standpoint, but also from the perspective of day to day life of a project manager. As the changes happen during the course of the project. A project manager has to monitor the status of the project and he must be flexible to change plans as needed to drive the project’s success. When this culture imbibed in the team and team members are skilled to identify the potential changes to the existing plans, it becomes a strength of the team and in turn of the organization’.

We can build many strengths in our teams. Having such a strength, that focuses on where plans might need tweaks and changes on almost continuous basis, is of strategic benefit.

Isn’t it what agility is also about?

Sun Tzu on Agility

February 2, 2014  |  No Comments

In 2002, I started my journey of methodology implementation and in process, learned several of them.

Each complementing and sometime competing with the other highlighting their own USPs.

In the years that followed, I began to see overwhelming similarities rather than the differences. The agile methodologies were becoming popular with increasing adoption of technology as a tool to solve business problems. Even today we see that the agile is referred to the most modern way of delivering a project. However I think, against the popular notion, agile is not a new concept. It is our insistence on limiting ourselves to the modern knowledge that often leads us to ignore the ancient wisdom and to not draw any lessons or inspiration from it.

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu has said that,

One should modify one’s plans according to the favorability of circumstance.

This is a very powerful idea in the agile world, where flexibility is the major advantage one can draw on in modern products and application development.

When we keep the outcome in perspective, it doesn’t matter which methodology we adopt, what matters is how honestly and responsibly we have been able to adopt it in our projects. Of course, the tools and methods for adopting agile are going to be different for each application area.

Breaking Teams

January 31, 2014  |  No Comments

Sun TzuTeams, like an army in the wars, are crucial for the project’s success. In fact teams are the back bone of today’s organizations. Sun Tzu has emphasized on keeping the moral of the army  higher to ensure victory in a war. Same is needed in the organizations to achieve incredible results in projects and strategic initiatives.

About the teams, in The Art of War, Sun Tzu says:
There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:

  • By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.
  • By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldiers’ minds.
  • By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.

In the project management world it is a recipe to break the team and invite project failure directly. A project manager hears,

  • Do not assign tasks that can not be completed by the project team. This will cause them to disobey you and eventually, when the tasks are assigned irresponsibly, disobeying the project manager becomes a habit, consequently leads to project being off track.
  • Do not try to manage the team without empathetic attitude. An effort to manage people with ignorance about their work conditions, situations and dependencies, leads to a feeling of resentment.
  • Do not assign tasks based on personal choices. The tasks must be assigned based on the available skills and the problem at hand. The team’s confidence in the leadership of the project and the organization weakens to a great degree when such decisions are taken without any sense of right or wrong.

Delegation in projects

January 23, 2014  |  2 Comments


Delegation is an essential part of a manager’s job simply because the manager cannot do all the work by himself. In fact, delegation is an important skill which requires the manager to identify which tasks can be delegated to others in the team. In addition, the manager should also select individuals from the team who possess the right level of knowledge, skills and attitude to perform a delegated task well.

Delegating is a balancing act. While it is important to delegate tasks to subordinates which they can perform well, managers should be aware that eventually they will be held responsible for the performance of their subordinates. Some managers become mistakenly obsessed with micromanaging their team members and spelling out each and every detail for their subordinates. This defeats the purpose of delegating because the manager is still not using his time productively. The manager should therefore issue clear instructions and performance standards for the delegated task to the employees and then give them enough freedom and independence to make decisions on their own. In this way, delegating can become a sound exercise in staff development.

You should often assess if you are delegating enough, identify the stumbling blocks, what to delegate, whom to delegate, planning and controlling the delegated tasks. Subscribe to Minimal PM for tips on how to delegate.

Subordinates are likely to appreciate the added responsibility and find their jobs to be more enriching and rewarding.  When done well, delegating can help the manager to improve the productivity and efficiency of the team. Team members are also likely to feel more empowered and experience greater self-confidence. The manager can spend more time on strategic tasks. The following tips can help managers delegate more effectively.