Category: Room for reflection

A space for the reflective practitioner, inspired by Donald Schön.

Thought of the year

2017 felt as a year of resilience testing more than before. Constant demands. Changing circumstances. It brought the knowledge of thyself and others to a new level. Humanity was put to test. Relationships evolved. All these are precious gifts of knowledge.

Thank you, 2017!

2018, let’s make the most of it and continue to thrive!

Inspired by “Those leaders with strong self-knowledge – who have a clear understanding of their skills and shortcomings, their frustrations, and their core principles – are more likely to sustain those needed reserves of resilience to thrive through adversity and change.” Ron Carucci, The Better you know Yourself, the More Resilient You’ll Be, Harvard Business Review.


Why involve civil society in projects?

This week I was one of speakers at an international meeting on civil society involvement in projects. There were lots of inspirational speakers from both sides of the story. 

Will retain for now an advice from Goran Forbici, Director of the Centre for information service, cooperation and development of NGOs, Slovenia:

“Imagine four housewifes in your neighbourhood. One has a chocolate, the second – 2 eggs,  the third  – some butter and sugar, the forth – some flour. With the exception of chocolate, there is little use of ingredients by themselves. But together they can make a chocolate cake.”

I would replace “housewifes” with neighbours, any neighbors. 

If you are not a chocolate-lover, replace it with fruit or another preferred  ingredient. The process and the end-result is what matters most. 

So, next time i am asked why involve the civil society in project design and implementation, i’ll make sure i have all the ingredients in my bag. I might look like a housewife just back from the market, but the result matters in this case, not the impression i might make.  

The “how” in the equation on the involvement of civil society   in projects is a topic for another post. TBContinued. 

The future is here. The future is here?

The title “Are Chatbots the Next Project Managers?” of a linkedin post drew my attention. “For now, project managers can remain calm as their roles are safe, but they should be weary of chatbots slowly stealing their jobs from right under their nose.”

The article seems to imply that project managers’ job is to chat, a function that can be replaced by chatbots. I wish my job would be about mastering the skill of chatting only. Light chatting, water cooler conversation, coffee room chat….  I’ll maybe try doing that. Chat for a week and then look at the project’s dashboard and show it to the project sponsor and board.

The above article also brings some good news as well: AI replaces professions with a high degree of professionalisation. “In fact, as time goes by, it becomes easier and easier to replace humans with computer algorithms, not merely because the algorithms are getting smarter, but also because humans are professionalizing. Ancient hunter-gatherers mastered a very wide variety of skills in order to survive, which is why it would be immensely difficult to design a robotic hunter-gatherer. Such a robot would have to know how to prepare spear points from flint stones, find edible mushrooms in a forest, track down a mammoth, coordinate a charge with a dozen other hunters and use medicinal herbs to bandage any wounds. ” from

That shows that project managers are not in danger of loosing jobs to AI, given the variety of skills they need to master and apply. Not as physically intense as those of an ancient hunter, but still. One more study shows that “workers who successfully combine mathematical and interpersonal skills in the knowledge-based economies of the future should find many rewarding and lucrative opportunities.” for instance, negotiating with a difficult client and delivering for a financial and performance audit are project manager’s duties, which go right into this categories.

Still, no time to rest on laurels, while chatbots deliver and develop. The only way to keep a job and to continue to love what you do is to keep learning. People smarter than me know it and do it.

See my talk with Alex/Siri today

A resilient project manager

Resilience is a top ability programme managers i talk to value in project managers.

I have been reading quite a lot recently on resilience*. My findings are nothing new perhaps. Yet, we all need reminders, from time to time.

Nurturing your resilience is multi-dimensional. It requires discipline. No one can do it for you. You have to be in charge. You have to be and act as your own resilience project manager.

Some say resilience is a muscle. Sheryl Sanderg, for instance: “You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself” (advice offered by Sheryl Sandberg to graduating students at the University of California). Some genetics though may work into your favour. It’s the grand daugther of war and famine survivors speaking here.

I believe resilience is an inner source fuelled by care for the body, the mind and the soul. Ideally, all three need to be in balance. Since everyone’s resilience is unique, take time to identify what works for you. As a project manager, apply your resources management skills to make sure you keep your supplies up-to-date and up-to-needs.

If you do not know where to start to take care of your body and mind, imagine it is a baby you look after. A baby needs enough sleep, appropriate food, comfort and care. Learning to listen to your body is like keeping a project on a critical path and watching the scoreboard for anything going red.

We’ve always known that quality sleep is good for your brain, but recent research from the University of Rochester demonstrates exactly how so. The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake.  As a breastfeeding mother, full time project employee and long distance master degree student at the same time, I can’t say enough about the importance of good quality sleep to improving mood, focus, and self-control. A good quality sleep ensures that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your energy, attention, and memory – your key resources to manage a project – are all reduced when you don’t get enough quality sleep.

“We are what we eat”. So we better know more about it. Investing in books in nutrition and/or an appointment with a nutritionist works for me. I also balance my diet with two vegan days per week. It’s also something my grandmother used to do and her resilience is worth a golden medal. Science offers more and more insight into how our well being is affected by what we do. See for example the Ted Talk How the food you eat affects your brain Each body is unique and learning what kind of and how much food it needs it’s a journey for each to take.

Projects can get pretty emotional at times. Tensions are high. Interests are at stake. Things do not go as planned. Disappointments lead to emotions. Of different kinds. It’s to be expected and many other professions face similar upheavals. In such situations, I find answers in Daniel Goleman research on emotional intelligence. See more In fact, every social interaction creates emotion. I know that my reaction would lead to the team members’ reactions. “Teams are emotional incubators’ sais Vanessa Druskat, Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert and consultant on group emotional intelligence. Teams’ emotions create a chain of reactions among sponsors, clients and stakeholders. Once aware about how the social brain works, the triggers become more manageable for an increased collaboration.

nils-muiznieksLast but not least, humour and the ability to laugh about yourself is a savour. Here is the 14th Dalai Lama, taking time out of his serious and profound speech to the Council of Europe on the need for greater compassion, ethics, morality and self discipline, to laugh and joke with Nils Muižnieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights … and then tickle him .

If you believe in the value of fun in projects, see also “The Project Manager who smiled” by Bob Taylor

For a project manager’s resilience to work, it might be ‘Eat, Pray, Love” or ‘Sleep, Eat, Laugh”. Up to you to figure it out. With kindness to yourself and care for others.

* “Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure” by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan on

“How Resilience Works” by Diane Coutu on