Henk-Jan’s soundtrack to 2018: 11-20 September

The first ten contributions in September to Henk-Jan’s soundtrack to 2018 in Spotify. A retrospective of the past 10 days.

Tuesday 11 September: Emmaline – Save Me

Freshly baked by the Aussie Emmaline.

Wednesday 12 September: Roosevelt – Getaway

Smooth synth pop in Getaway , the latest single by Roosevelt.

Thursday 13 September: Markus Schulz & Sebu Simonian

Need some strength? Markus Schulz & Sebu Simonian encourage you to climb on their shoulders.

Friday 14 September: Lauren Daigle – You Say

You Say is the new single from Look Up Child, the new Lauren Daigle record. This night I published my album review.

Saturday 15 September: Wild Nothing – Partners in Motion

Time to walk on….as partners in motion with Wild Nothing.

Sunday 16 September: Prefab Sprout – The Ice Maiden

The brand new cover by Color Theory of English pop band Prefab Sprout‘s The Ice Maiden led me to discover the original from the 1990 Jordan: The Comeback album.

Monday 17 September: Paul van Dyk & Plumb: Music Rescues Me

Another fine collaboration between DJ / producer Paul van Dyk and singer Plumb.

Tuesday 18 September: Unheilig & Sotiria – Hallo Leben

New single by German act Unheilig and Eisblume singer Sotiria Schenk.

Wednesday 19 September: Psalmen voor nu: Psalm 37: Compleet gelukkig

This very first evening with the small group of our church reading, studying, and learning from the book of Psalms, Psalm 37 is in the spotlights. This Dutch rocking version of the words showcases in eleven minutes song all the thoughts diaplayed in #37.

Thursday 20 September: Bob Moses – Back Down

Back down? Don’t think so.

PMI Netherlands Summit 2018 explores the importance of the human factor in project management (part 2)

For the seventh time, the PMI Netherlands Chapter is hosting its yearly summit. The 2018 edition is all about the human factor in project management. In this second blog I summarize yesterday’s afternoon program. For the morning program summary, read my previous blog.

Jan Willem Vernhout – Practical insights for the complexity of the human factor

Jan Willem Vernhout (CoThink) drew lessons from Deepak Chopra’s self-help booklet The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams. Last weekend he was in the audience of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists who visited the Netherlands to enlighten the seeking souls, as Volkskrant summarized the eventJan Willem Verhout keeps it simpleAs humans we jump to conclusions. Our brains (system 1, Daniel Kahnemann labeled that part) are wired to take shortcuts. Closed questions to seek confirmation for our assumptions and beliefs belong in that section. Sometimes it’s better to first observe, listen in silence. Trust is key among stakeholders, team work, and communications. Trust as (credibility + reliability + intimacy) / self-orientation teaches that less self-orientation has a huge leverage on the trust level in a group. It’s not about you, it’s about the other.

Less well-thought was the presented mixture of project management stakes and Scrum-like roles. The many Scrum masters in the audience, quite surprising at a project management conference, took it for granted to be labeled as process facilitators and equaled to former project management professionals. Quoting from Ben Tiggelaar, “Behavior is what you can role-model” Jan Willem left us with a thought to chew on. Behavior is the output of processing factors like environment, tools, support, role-models, expectations, a rather strange, unbalanced mix) with feelings as consequence. I’m not sure whether behavioral sciences exactly teach it that way and can back it up with research. Build trust with dialogues sounds more convincing. A quick tour in the compartmentalized ‘Whole Brain Thinking’ concept coined by William Herrman (1922-1999) without any critics, although this model and the questionnaire is far from obvious and scientifically proven (read e.g. the Dutch Skepsis article) gave me the impression of yet another tool to put people in boxes, label them with colors and jump to conclusions. A circle made round….unsuccessfully. Fortunately, there’s coffee!

Gertjan Schuiling – Moments of truths

Gertjan Schuiling explains his action based researchGertjan Schuiling (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) shares the intermediate results of the action research project taken up with RoyalHaskoningDHV. The working assumption is that project management practitioners can better have a co-researcher role in people related challenges, the so-called ‘insider researcher approach’. A list of 169 people related challenges in the projects these practitioners are managing for RoyalHaskoningDHV was collected.

From six theoretical concepts, two resonated the best with the group of researchers. First, Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar Schein. The professor explains the concepts in this video.

Secondly, the felt difficulty to intervene (‘handelingsverlegenheid‘) as investigated by Lia Mulder et al in social sciences. Important is the difference between research and inquiry. Psychologist John Dewey is one to consider here. Inquiry-based learning sessions where practitioners interview peers that bring in a story and slowly add their own experience lead to moments of truths, a memorable moment where the practitioner feels difficulty to intervene. Overcoming these barriers, get better results through enhanced competencies of project managers, improving models of dealing with people-related challenges and hopefully an improved action theory worthy a Ph.D. thesis comes out of this work in progress.

Gertjan Schuiling expects something in between the one size fits all approach, as ING CEO Ralph Hamers produced for his sales staff in the past and 169 approaches for each of the collected people-related challenges. To some in the audience, the inquiry-based approach sounds like the intervision technique, but this is actually more than that.

Dion Kotteman – Nothing as hard as soft controls

Dion Kotteman keynoteDion Kotteman (author of popular project management books like Ga toch leidinggeven! Een manifest tegen overmatig coachen and De projectsaboteur) considers soft controls as the collection of knowledge, behavior, experience, competencies, attitude, and ability. The performance of these soft controls has a huge impact on the project success or failure rate. Grandios gescheitert: Misslungene Projekte der Menschheitsgeschichte by Bernd Ingmar Gutberlet may be on your to-read shelf soon, way more original than the ever disputable CHAOS reports of the Standish Group that appear in Kotteman’s presentation too. And yes, critical questions from the audience on the parameters used, the everlasting 30% success rate (a natural boundary?), the changing environment between the 1990s and 2010s, and the flawed comparison between ‘waterfall’ and ‘agile’ projects, that at least have to be corrected for project size. One attendant showed the conclusions in the Project Management Magazine that agile projects are even 30 percent more expensive than traditional projects. Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Underneath the lists in the CHAOS report or the PRINCE2 manual on reasons why project fail, mostly hard controls, it could well be the case that soft controls are lacking or weakly implemented. But there’s Humberto Eco’s On Ugliness. Project failures are intriguing, interesting. Politically correct: we can learn from our mistakes. There wouldn’t be seminars and congresses on project management if indeed all projects would be examples of beauty, successful according to every subjective definition you have.

Another point Kotteman wanted to make is the human desire for sabotage and manipulation, since only 1% is honest and 1% is corrupt. Thus 98% of all people decide based on the situation. Their moral standards or ethics can be bent. Face reality as a project manager. If your project is running into problems, then turn to the pit stop. Actually stopping a project is not a failure. Incorporate soft controls and measure these in addition to the rest of the project management toolkit sounds easy, but will be a tough job tomorrow. Good luck, fellow project managers!

I didn’t attend the final keynote by Bill Richardson and wrap-up by Thomas Swaak due to my personal agenda.

PMI Netherlands Summit 2018 explores the importance of the human factor in project management (part 1)

For the seventh time, the PMI Netherlands Chapter is hosting its yearly summit. The 2018 edition is all about the human factor in project management. As one participant said early in the morning: “It sounds like objectifying humans, where it’s not supposed to.” Humans err, repeatedly. And so, I’m not surprised as a third-time blogger for CKC Seminars organizing this event for PMI Netherlands to have my name badge printed on the spot since the staff forgot to do that upfront and collect my program preferences. Welcome to the real world! In this first blog I summarize the morning program.

Thomas Swaak kicks off

Thomas Swaak in opening keynoteSpeaking of objectifying, Thomas Swaak (Philips, chairing this Summit again) shares a story of a post-project toast with “significant others” and “day dates”, politically correct lingo where we used to have spouses, partners or introducées. And what’s the “human factor” anyway? Aha, it’s the collection of feelings, emotion, attitude, etc. Descriptive character traits, behaviors as the superficial ones, spirituality as a container for ethics, values, and beliefs, among religions like Buddhism where Swaak himself explicitly affiliates with. Ingredients for bias, noise, interpretation, jumping to conclusions, and a plethora of effects, both positive and negative.

Silver bullets from Thomas Swaak keynoteImportant as a project team to bond on a personal and professional level. Share life, engage with each other, avoid talking about content first. Similar things are essential to stakeholder engagement. Next to a financial budget, there’s a human fuel budget, if a project is fueled by people. Swaak busted several myths like: “We are all professionals here.”, “Grown-ups don’t cry” and “Soft stuff takes too much time.” Our Western culture often hinders us to open up and expose our vulnerability. Think of Brené Brown’s books on vulnerability.

Regarding self-care and team care Thomas Swaak shortly shared some insights he gained from  Thomas M. Skovholt’s The Resilient Practitioner: Burnout Prevention and Self-Care Strategies for Counselors, Therapists, Teachers, and Health Professionals and 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson.

Six silver bullets (lessons learned, takeaways) to wrap up, passing the deadline left the impression of a presentation not rehearsed well.

Patrick van Veen – All about monkey business

Patrick van Veen on behaviours of apes and humansPatrick van Veen (Apemanagement) left the insurance company he worked for and joined forces at the Apenheul, an ape zoo in Apeldoorn, to observe various primates. The experiences were used in his book Help, my boss is an ape! where this biologist shares behavioral observations of people in changing organizations. Rituals e.g. sex, grooming or handshakes, are important to solve conflicts and lower stress levels in order to survive in a group that lives together 24/7. As humans, we’re lucky to change social structures every couple of hours. Think of family, colleagues, project team, travelers, sports team, etc.

Understand why people do things (Steven Covey). Being able to recognize yourself, some apes and all humans have this ability, is problematic. Why? You can start manipulating. People are not honest. Don’t trust surveys.

As humans, we should focus on stress reduction instead of happiness. Stressors like workload, time pressure, and the risk of burnout are things we as project managers influence. Fear of loss, giving up our love babies, which may be our own stapler, the table at the window or the parking spot, have remarkable counterparts among apes.

The main role of project managers then should be to facilitate an infrastructure (environment, workspace, culture, atmosphere, etc.) in which people feel safe and can be productive. Happiness then is a possible consequence, not exactly a by-product. The fittest will survive.

Robert Bierwolf & Pieter Frijns – From control to a learning perspective

Pieter Frijns explains Gate Review Method Dutch ApproachRobert Bierwolf & Pieter Frijns tweaked the OGC Gate Review Process for a Dutch approach. Instead of a control mechanism, they turned it into a preventive mechanism along control and reporting mechanism in the umbrella of project and program management controls used at the Dutch ministry of interior. Peer reviews by fellow project and program managers at decisive points in the staged regular methods like PRINCE2 or MSP, add value the senior responsible owners of costly change initiatives, because lessons to be learned in a future stage are not only reported to the senior responsible owner, but also follow-up later to see whether appropriate actions were implemented, and lessons actually applied.

Some hundreds of project and program managers have been trained to become a reviewer. The Gate Reviews are not mandatory. Learning can not become mandatory. If, however, learning is taken seriously, ministers now are explicit stakeholders in the change initiatives, where project deliverables are turned into outcomes and benefits. The men are proud of their Bureau Gateway.

The extensive Q&A session for a small group, however, was not the intended workshop. With more than ten people leaving the room after several minutes, missing a clear start and context, Pieter Frijns arriving late, this session lacked the facilitation skills needed to keep the audience engaged and live up to expectations set in the program flyer.

John Fanning – Ezekiel

      No Comments on John Fanning – Ezekiel

In seven days 99-year old Ezekiel Yusuf Moran reflects on his life as to hand down the Essene tradition to his grandson, Daniel. Jewish life in provincial France, French resistance service during World War II, Ezekiel survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, before entering a long quest for spiritual fulfillment that brings him to both Meccah and India. The underlying motive is to come to terms with the Essene tradition, the Jewish branch you may know from the Dead Sea Scrolls, although the sect is portrayed as the Masonic cult. Jewish heritage is stripped to a non-religious family tie, Roman Catholic Church lend ideas about Christianity, Islam contributed less to the religious potpourri that’s topped off with yoga postures and meditation until reaching enlightenment. Ezekiel became a homeopath. What in the end is worth passing on? John Fanning portrayed a wandering soul coming of age in Ezekiel.

About the author

My next two releases will be the Irish coming of age novel, A Brave Man Dead, and the noir mystery A Murder of Crows. I’m presently writing the second and third novels of what is becoming a historical trilogy, the first of which was Ezekiel. When I’m not writing, I run La Muse, an artists and writers retreat, with my wife Kerry. We live in the south of France.

I received a free ebook version from publisher La Muse Books  in exchange for my personal, unbiased review.

Gezien: Padmaavat: war in the name of beauty

Op Amazon Prime Video trof ik onlangs de Indiase film Padmaavat, eerder Padmavati geheten naar de Rajput koningin Rani Padmini in Chittor, Mewar. De 162 minuten lange historische dramafilm met overigens een beste bak fictie werd geregisseerd door Sanjay Leela Bhansali die ook de epische muziek produceerde. De verhaallijn volgt het gedicht Padmavat (1540) van Malik Muhammad Jayasi over moed, liefde en de strijd om macht met een flinke scheut oorlog in de naam van religie (moslims, hindoes) in de 14e eeuw. In de 5.1 surround mix is de filmmuziek bij de breedbeeld opnamen van binnenplaatsen van paleizen, tropische wouden en tochten door de binnenlanden een genot voor je zintuigen. Schoonheid van vrouwen en macht en rijkdom maakt mannen ambitieus, ontrouw en listig. Er wordt flink gemoord, naar parels gezocht en eer verdedigd. Als je de volgende Alexander de Grote wilt zijn, je mentor stimuleert dat en je god(en) lijken je goedgezind, dank wijkt er veel. A War in the name of beauty. Danger? What danger?!

En dan kan Jauhar, de hindoe praktijk van collectieve zelfmoord, een oplossing zijn om zichzelf te beschermen. Dat is exact wat er in 1303 door de vrouwen in het fort van Chittorgarh in Rajasthan gebeurde, toen het leger van de Khalji dynastie uit het Sultanaat van Delhi naderde. Bij de huishoudelijke mededelingen voorafgaand aan de eerste scene waarschuwt de filmmaker om vooral geen aan het Jauhar verwante Sati (weduweverbranding) te gaan doen, een soort don’t try this at home. Liefde tot de dood ons scheidt…

De universele strijd tussen goed en kwaad door hitsige mannen en moedige vrouwen heeft in Padmaavat wel karikaturen. De moslims zijn de jaloerse, ontrouwe slechterikken, de Rajputs de trefzekere, knappe kerels die voor een uitdaging gaan tot hun laatste ademtocht. Deze mythevorming zien we ook bij de collectieve zelfmoord van Cleopatra VII (ja, die van het bad met ezelinnenmelk) toen Octavianus Egypte aanviel in 30 voor Christus, van Joodse Zeloten op de burcht Massada bij de Dode Zee om zich niet te hoeven overgeven aan de Romeinen in 73, of de dans van Zalongo waar 57 vrouwen en kinderen dansend en zingend zich van een rots in het Griekse Preveza stortten om te ontkomen aan oprukkende Albanese moslims in 1803. Kantelpunten in de geschiedenis, zoals in Padmaavat, toegeschreven aan een vrouw die zelf nadenkt en beslissingen neemt tussen met testosteron opgepompt manvolk.

Zie ook: