More PM Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote

Wile E. Coyote & Road RunnerA few years ago, Josh Nankivel published a short, tongue-in-cheek essay about the project management lessons we could learn from Wile E. Coyote. I think most of us are familiar with the pathetic cartoon character, his fanatical pursuit of the Road Runner, and his perpetually cataclysmic failures. Josh posted several maxims that should resonate with anyone who spent a few Saturday mornings in front of the television. I thought it was an interesting place to get some inspiration, and the idea stayed with me.

“A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” – George Santayana

So, with a tip of the hat to Josh, the late Chuck Jones, and Carnivorous Vulgaris himself, here are a few observations made across far too many of my Saturday mornings:

  • Innovation requires you to do things you don’t really understand.
  • There are usually excellent reasons why some things have never been done before.
  • Failure does not respect confidence.
  • When operating near a cliff, avoid stretch goals.
  • It’s safer to fly than it is to land. Corollary: Navigation matters, a lot.
  • Business cards are not particularly objective.
  • Acme Tornado KitA good vendor should be treasured, and a bad vendor should be discarded.
  • Persistence is only admirable briefly. Before you can learn from your failures, you have to acknowledge them.
  • Complicated solutions have more ways to fail.
  • If you won’t read the instructions, at least read the warnings.
  • Don’t use a prototype in production.
  • The faster your target moves, the less chance you have of hitting it.
  • You don’t have to build a restaurant in order to have lunch.
  • There’s no safe way to operate an anvil near a cliff. Corollary: Everything falls faster than an anvil.
  • You don’t actually start to fall until you realize you’ve walked off the cliff.
  • Before you inspect the dynamite, remember to disconnect the wires.

And from the Road Runner:

  • Vegetarians don’t have to chase their food.
  • Follow your nature.
  • Stay on the road.
  • A short, simple vocabulary communicates more effectively (beep, beep!).

All images copyright Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.

New PM Articles for the Week of October 20 – 26

Balloon LandingNew project management articles published on the web during the week of October 20 – 26. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Samad Aidane notes that the project kickoff is not the place to “sell” the project to the stakeholders – that should have already been done.
  • Peter Saddington shares a video on how our assumptions and biases prevent us from being objective. Just four minutes, safe for work.
  • Elizabeth Harrin has some advice for project managers asked to manage an internal project with little or no spending authority.
  • Jerry Manas investigates the resource management and capacity planning choices we make when responding to increasing demand.
  • Glen Alleman points out the logical fallacies in anecdotal evidence, and applies Carl Sagan’s bullshit detector.
  • Gary Nelson returns from a wilderness first aid course with the observation that medical emergencies have many of the same attributes as projects.
  • John Goodpasture reminds us that exposure to risk is cumulative: “The risk that at least one thing will fail is way more than the risk that any one thing will fail.”
  • Kevin Coleman lays out the potential impact of a security breach, and the aftermath.
  • Janani Dumbleton tells how to kick off a data governance initiative.
  • Sean Williams begins a series on improving federal acquisition decisions through comprehensive financial analysis.
  • Nick Pisano continues his criticism of how organizations misuse Excel as an analytical “filler” between specialized applications.
  • Allen Ruddock sings the praises of Sharepoint as a project management tool.
  • Kerry Wills zooms in on three “course corrections” that can keep a project on track.

Agile Methods

  • Mike Cohn begins a series on two approaches to sprint planning: velocity-driven and commitment-driven.
  • Sondra Ashmore and Kristin Runyan conclude their series extracted from their new testbook, “Introduction to Agile Methods.”
  • Sandeep Lad fleshes out the definition of “servant leader.”


  • Paul Ritchie shares some insights into how the best influencers convince the CEO.
  • Martin Webster shares an infographic that ties together employee engagement, stress, and leadership.
  • Shoaib Ahmed invokes Frederick Herzberg, who linked employee dissatisfaction to “hygiene factors” and employee satisfaction to achievement.
  • Johanna Rothman recounts an anecdote that illustrates the potential blowback from executive-dictated culture change.
  • Pam Stanton recalls an instance where a visionary leader ran into problems by not focusing on execution.
  • Coert Visser gives us the executive summary of “Rethinking Positive Thinking,” by Gabriele Oettingen.

Professional Development

  • Bruce Harpham explores networking, in three dimensions.
  • Don Kim eyes with skepticism a claim that PMI-ACP credentialed project managers are the highest paid – especially coming from a training provider.
  • Geoff Crane shares the slide deck from his keynote on emotional intelligence, “Why Smart People Fail,” presented at the PMI Durham Highlands monthly meeting.


Join Me at the Conscious Software Development Telesummit

Successfully creating custom software for your organization is incredibly difficult – over 70% of all projects struggle or fail outright. You’ve probably seen some of these all-too-common issues:

  • Deploying late
  • Finishing over budget
  • Missing or buggy features
  • Requirements scope creep
  • Team miscommunication and conflict
  • “Shelfware” that is just not adopted by users
  • Projects not aligned to the organization’s strategy

And software projects can be a headache to hire for, manage, and architect well. But you can you start improving the odds of success, through a combination of awareness and choice.

The Conscious Software Development Telesummit

ConsciousnessJoin me at the Conscious Software Development Telesummit, to be conducted from November 10th through the 21st, 2014. It’s easy to participate: just register for the summit for free, using your EMail. You’ll be able to download and listen to interviews conducted with more than twenty experts on software, team relations, strategy, project management, deployment and more. You’ll discover things that you don’t know that you don’t know about creating successful projects, building teams, and managing your software portfolio. This elite group of software superstars, best selling authors, popular podcasters, outstanding bloggers, and celebrity coaches are imparting decades of experience, wisdom, and some very generous free resources to help you begin making progress immediately.

This unique panel of experts is all unified under one vision; to empower you with practical understanding of how you can put their knowledge to use, bring consciousness to your software challenges and transform your work for the better. The subject of my interview, “The Zombie Apocalypse is Not an HR Product: How to Hire, Retain, and Develop the Living,” is just one topic among many designed for the IT manager and practitioner. Browse the list of speakers, and you’ll see many familiar names from my weekly round-ups.

Listen Offline!

You can listen to these MP3 interview recordings whenever and wherever you have the  time. Join other leading CIOs, VPs of Development, project managers, architects, stakeholders, end user champions, and all those want to bring more awareness and choice to the complex art of software creation. And I’m not just one of the speakers – I plan to listen to every one of these interviews!