Going Last Can Also Be Fun!

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

I have been on the road since May promoting our most recent book, Executive Transitions 2- Leveraging Experience For Future Success! with speeches in the States, Europe, and South America.

My traveling companions are CNN and BBC, while following the news I have also been focusing on the 50-year commemoration of Woodstock.  I remember the “Live Action News” being broadcast at the time of the event as well as the movie when it first came out.

One of my recollections from the movie, and a lesson learned transitioned to my speaking engagements is “no way do you want to go last”!  I remember Jimi Hendrix insisted on going last, as the wont of most musicians, and played on a Monday morning to about 1/3 of the concert attendees and many vendors picking up the garbage.

For those of you who give speeches and presentations, you know the best “slot” is the Keynote, or on a Panel with people who don’t argue with your data set or point of view.

Last is not a desired spot as you are often presenting to a smaller group whom if attending are holding the handles to their luggage ready to bolt for the airport.

I did learn a trick that has helped when circumstances dictate that last is your slot.

I was home in Boston, during a time when a National Association was holding their annual meeting.  Coincidentally I was at their hotel for another meeting when a friend who was on the Association Board came up to me with the words, “Tom, our closing speaker can’t get out of Chicago due to weather, can you speak”.  The man is a good friend, and so I agreed, reluctantly!

My intro was an apology, “I am sorry to be your back up speaker and even more sorry that Steven Tyler from Aerosmith was unavailable: but if you all stay to the end I will lead you all in singing Dream On”.  They stayed, we sang, much to the surprise of the hotel staff the harmonies didn’t suck!

I had a more recent experience where due to a delayed flight my slot was bumped to last.  The audience was kind enough to stay, albeit with their carry-ons close by their side.

In my apologetic opening I suggested if they could bear to stay through the speech I would lead the group in the Queen song We Are The Champions!   Surprisingly they did stay, most likely out of curiosity.  I did lead the group in the song, including the clapping foot stopping opening.

Never let it be said that a group of Industrial Psychologists can’t sing in harmony or eschew playing air guitar!

Preference is just that…. it is ones comfort zone, circumstances oftentimes are uncontrollable, unless one adapts.

I have been speaking and presenting on various topics for decades, and have learned that audiences, clients, colleagues, and peers with few exceptions want to hear what you have to say, and appreciative of your effort in sharing insights.

As advice I would however, pick a song, practice your air guitar, be flexible and hold all in the ready to avoid the Woodstock moment of smaller audience and a lot of garbage.


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Pilobolus – A Collaborative Nirvana

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

The Below Blog Was First Published in April 2014.  The Pilobolus Dance Ensemble Continues To Enthrall Audiences As They Approach Their 50hh Year!-Given the need for Collaboration as a necessity vs. option DPC thought it was an opportune time to re-forward.

The term Pilobolus refers to a fungus whose spores propel with extraordinary speed, accuracy, and strength…..it is also a creative Dance company founded by Dartmouth College students in the 1970s!

The Dance Company has survived and prospered on a global scale for 45 years incorporating innovation, education, and creativity!

My wife and I attend many Dance company presentations from Ballet through Modern platforms.  Yet the recent performance of this troupe in Boston was unlike any we have ever seen.

The degree of collaborative precision and feats of strength were magnificent to behold.

The 6 dancers are incredibly strong, and flexible. Your emotions range from envious wondering how come you’re 3 times a month visit to the gym for 30 minutes does not have a similar outcome.  In addition, but certainly not least you sit in wonder questioning whether or not their skeletal frameworks are calcium or silly putty based.

Unusual for us, we decided to stay to participate in the cast post performance Q&A.

The conclusion we drew, and the derived lessons learned for commercial enterprises were three-fold.

  1. Each member of the company was encouraged to contribute to the choreography process regardless of tenure, or role….it is not a “leader led only” organization
  2. Each member of the company felt a degree of ownership due to this approach therefore raising their already high level of accountability for and proficiency in the performance
  3. The mutuality of respect and encouragement raises the level of creative input, excitement and innovation

This feedback from the Company was unambiguous in respect to the above creating a “community” or “family” feeling.

How they approach their craft has many lessons learned for commercial enterprise leaders! The scary truth based upon Discussion Partners advisory experience is for the most part global leaders are slow learners as it relateds to collaboration.

The five principles that DPC reinforces when speaking or facilitating on the topic of Collaboration were present in abundance during the performance.

  1. Clarity Regarding Roles
  2. Exhaustive Preparation
  3. Mutual Trust
  4. Creative Input Encouraged Regardless of Tenure
  5. Shared Mindset for Success Delineation

What the experience also underscored is that in collaborative processes, EGO IS THE ENEMY!!

If not why are we so challenged in the commercial sector to achieve collaboration beyond lip service and generous self-serving interpretations of the word?

What was most compelling in the Pilobolus experience is for Collaboration to be achieved their shared mindset was, egos must be minimized, engagement maximized, respect optimized, and mutual trust epitomized.

Among many of life’s mysteries, one that hopefully we can resolve soon, and Pilobolus has, is how to translate the abstract thinking as to how Collaboration can be achieved moving it to reality from aspiration.

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Facing the Reality of Reality!

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

It has been a difficult period for tolerance in the United States.  It’s apparent our political landscape is anti-immigration to the point of building a wall across the US southern border even when the consequence is a government shutdown and restraints on sufficient labor to address business opportunities.

In the US we are still reeling from the Charleston shooting and Charlottesville white supremacist march, the reactions to which have aggravated the racial tensions.  Religious intolerance is visible as well in the US with the Pittsburgh Synagogue bombings and assault on the Mosques in New Zealand.

Police reactions to racial relations are strained and satirized by comedians venturing:  “The only way to avoid being shot is a) don’t wear a hoodie; b) don’t be big . . . and don’t be black.” Somehow, we think this is funny!

It is easy to be cynical when we hear the words “black lives matter” and respond: “all lives matter.” Yet our reality is much different. The progress of the #Me Too Movement does not appear to have made much of a difference in racial relations.

Years ago, there was a TV series called LA Law which some of you are old enough to remember, if not there is always Hulu.

In one episode defense lawyers compel a judge to recuse himself from a trial of a black defendant and presented him with statistical evidence of his decisions and sentencing outcomes being blatantly racist.

If presented with such evidence, one would expect the character (or in real life someone who feels they are open minded) to be defensive.

In this episode, the judge did the right thing and recused himself. He was self-aware enough to know he was not self-aware.

We are all intolerant to a degree. This trait is not part of our DNA but a learned behavior. The question before any individual believing himself to be racially tolerant is twofold:  a) how do you know if your self-image of tolerance is delusional; and b) what do you do if faced with your subconscious intolerance?

We were fortunate to find an executive who was willing to share his experiences. What is of particular interest is this executive previously held Congressional office and was known as an advocate for tolerance on all levels.

Executive Interview
During my formative years I was privileged.  Consequently, my personal philosophy and points of view about race relations, immigration and other issues were based on reading, discussions, not experience.

I always thought of myself as tolerant regarding people who were different whether it was race, political orientation, sexual preference, etc.

Unfortunately, I was wrong….

I was giving a speech out of state and got lost on the way back to the airport.

This was in the days before I-Phones. Lost meant lost.  I had an associate with me who was driving the rental car.

We wandered into a distressed neighborhood and stopped to get our bearings.  I noticed three young men of color not far away whom were clearly aware of our presence.  We were unsettled.  They started walking toward us; and in an attempt to drive away, we crashed the car.

They kept coming . . . actually now running. When they got to us, they said: “Are you guys ok?” “Do you need some help?”  They could not have been nicer. They got us to the airport, arranged for a rental car company. They were great.

Flying back home, I could not help thinking about how scared I was and why.  Clearly it was the neighborhood, the circumstances and more importantly, the three young men being black.

I asked myself this question: Even in a rough neighborhood, if they were white, dressed in khakis wearing IZod shirts, would I have reacted the same way?  

Clearly not….

What also got my attention was when I relayed what happened to others. Their response was disheartening as they commented: “I would have been scared too.” Also, “you got lucky.”

When I look back on that event, I realized that even with a narrow definition of the word, I am a racist.  It shook my self-image and now I try to be mindful of ‘who I am, not who I thought I was’.

The question before me at that time and now is to channel this awareness, minimizing the damage it can cause and maybe even using the awareness to do some good.

The openness of the Congressman was refreshing. His candor allows for the derivation of forceful questions:

  • We are all intolerant of some things or many things, but how do we address challenges to our self-image when confronted?
  • When we are confronted with our true beliefs or tendencies, we can behave in one of two ways:  Ignore it or attempt to channel it in appropriate ways. But how do we respond?

Self-awareness is an asset; self-respect, an aspiration; self-direction, in a positive way, an obligation even when it challenges who you really are as a person.

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Even Monkeys Fall Out of Trees

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Given the geo-political dynamics of 2018, 2019 portends to continue to be a roller coaster ride!The dynamics of 2019 make it hard to be sanguine regarding the future.  Geo-politically, economically, and commercially, it is a struggle to maintain a degree of certainty.

DPC has been fortunate for five years to work closely with a large global consumer products company. In a conversation with one of their Tokyo based executives he referenced the Japanese saying “even Monkeys fall out of trees”!

The saying is prophetic for many reasons, among which is relevance to the turbulence forecasted for this year.

When you contemplate the saying, your intuitive reaction is to think, “poor Monkey”, while conjecturing “what does the Monkey do now”?

There are a number of options:

  1. NFL Penalty – this is when the Monkey becomes a drama student insisting “what me” similar to the Oscar performances one sees among penalized Defensive players
  2. Woe Is Me – this is when the Monkey looks for an audience who embraces their self pity
  3. Blaming The Tree – whereby somehow the tree moved without informing the Monkey
  4. Paralyzing Indecision – “not sure trees are for me, maybe I should learn to swim”

A Monkey being a Monkey, they realize the tree is their home and the most conducive environment for their success.

However, what becomes the new post fall reality, do they wear a parachute, strap themselves to the tree, or accept the ambiguities of existence while exercising an abundance of caution?

As we progress further into 2019, accepting the ambiguity associated with the turbulence leaves two avenues for pursuit.   One can play it safe, or accept risk and go for it!

2019 will compel us to metaphorically self assess, what type of Monkey do I want to be?

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Building the Bench It Takes Years To Get it Right!

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

Given the geo-political dynamics of 2018, 2019 portends to continue to be a roller coaster ride!

As we entered 2019 and updated our “resolutions” from new to carry forward, my colleagues at Discussion Partners and I would strongly urge an elevation of, and renewed attentiveness to, Succession and Continuity planning as a priority!

Notwithstanding preexisting protocols we are suggesting this review encompass the most generous interpretation of processes concomitant with experimental and disruptive solution sets.

Our recommendation is driven by results of a recent completed study DPC conducted with 1800 C-Suite participants.  The survey was on the topic of envisioned enterprise challenges. 91% of those surveyed indicated “the ability to attract, motivate, and retain top talent” as their #1 concern.

Discussion Partner’s has been conducting this annual Pulse survey since our founding in 2007.  The intensity of the above concern while always “on the list” was never #1until 2018. The rationales expressed in the anecdotal justifications are compelling inclusive of envisioned shifting demographics, new worker expectations, disruption of organization models, competitive pressures, globalization, and ineffective human capital practices.

Our recommendation is further reinforced by a review of the recent literature on this topic.

  1. The historically low US Unemployment Rate
  2. The strategic imperative for Talent depth to be an asset vs. liability referenced in consolidated research on Leadership Succession/Continuity most recently series of articles in McKinsey Insights, HBR and Sloan Management Review
  3. The Point of View that has emerged from our 2018 Advisory work that 2019 represents an opportunity to use a “Disruptive Organization Model” for Talent processes overall and Leadership matters in particular

As further justification for this Recommendation the following foundation is provided.

  • Noel Tichy in his recent book Succession asserts that without proactive planning on how to fill, and inventory of talent well in advance of leadership, and/or key role “vacancies”, the chance of success is below 50% for replacement personnel
  • Ram Charan in his book The Attackers Advantage and HBR articles offers the following (paraphrased) –Leaders (Directors, Owners, CEO’s) who excel at selection are willing to expand the lens in how they look at the capabilities of reporting levels beyond performance track record to the 2 to 3 interwoven predictive behaviors that will be necessary for success
  • The following 2018 data points are from various sources (Booz Allen, McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Hedrick & Struggles, Korn Ferry and Saratoga Institute)
    • Team Building and Empathy are as important as Performance for promoting enterprise success (often stated infrequently realized)
    • 55% of the Fortune 500 Boards of Directors have expressed dissatisfaction with the Succession Planning processes of their enterprises including the CEO replacement approach
    • A study of the 2500 largest companies on the planet indicate that inefficient Succession Planning on average results in $1.8B losses during transition
    • Underperformance does not incent change 45% below peer group by sector correlates to only 7% probability in change of leadership
    • 39% of the Fortune 1000 Boards indicate “no viable candidate” to replace the CEO compelling a similar % undertaking external hires which Charan stipulates as “highly unlikely to be successful”

DPC’s conclusion “Succession Planning takes years not months” leads us to recommend the following steps:

  1. Senior level stakeholder interviews focused on “beyond task proficiency” what are the essential differentiating qualities that will be needed for success
  2. Comparative Inventory of Leaders (broad based) and high potentials in relationship to these attributes
  3. Embed into developmental and hiring strategies the lessons learned from this exercise
  4. Creation of a Critical Constituency Depth Chart whereby the following is highlighted
    1. Identification of 1 ready now replacement
    2. Identification of 2 possible replacements
    3. Identification of external Search capabilities to be deployed in emergencies and/or lack of “ready now” sense of urgency
    4. Assignment of non-senior leaders a “personal growth and development task” similar to the GE “popcorn stand” to provide additional evaluative foundation

 The New England Patriots have a mantra of “do your job” promoted by Coach Belichick. 8 Super Bowl appearances and 1 upcoming indicates the validity of this philosophy.  DPC’s above suggestions represent process steps that should be presently underway and if not, a sense of urgency should exist.  DPC would substitute the words “do the job you should have been doing all along”!

 Additionally we would embed the following questions:

I.      What skills sets will we need beyond domain proficiency to have a                         sustainable growth oriented enterprise?
II.    How does our current population of Leaders and Future Leaders                           compare to these desired attributes?
III.  How can we develop and/or hire sufficient numbers of people to address           deficiencies in the above?
IV.  What is the true nature of our Leadership bench in respect to Readiness?
V.    What is our contingency plan to be deployed if necessary?

From whatever vantage point you occupy, 2019 will be dynamic.  As a suggestion, borrowing a title from a previous book by Dr. Tichy on the topic of leadership Control Your Destiny-Or Somebody Else Will!



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Executive Transitions – Meaningful vs Relevant

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

2019 is a transition year for many Boomer Executives whom will be reaching the milestone age of 65!

Granted the “70’s something” Stones, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney are still touring and Robert Redford at 82 is still a box office draw.

Regardless the magical age of 65 remains a threshold, as it was the age when most of our parents left the work force.  At the time however, after they got their gold watch, took a cruise, there was not much meaning or life left based upon actuarial tables and cultural norms.

Discussion Partner’s launched our Transition Advisory Service offering in 2013 after the publication of our book, Executive Transitions – Plotting The Opportunity!

Since that time we have worked with now over 500 executives in a variety of sectors on creating the “soft landing” for the company derived from and organized Succession Plan and executive via a structured approach for thinking about “what’s next”.  Our experience over the last five years will be summarized in our next book due out in May tentatively entitled Executive Transitions – Looking Forward In The Rear-view Mirror!

Recently, in our client work DPC Advisors have been struck by the level of satisfaction differentiation between Meaningful endeavors and their contribution to feelings of Relevance.

DPC Advisors have concluded that Meaningful endeavors independent of their seriousness of purpose nor value contributions are in and of themselves insufficient unless they also foster a feeling of Relevance.  The concept of Relevance is when the Executive also feels that their effort is contemporary and appropriate to the times.

This is not a suggestion that one focus is more important than the other; moreover fulfillment via Meaningful work is achievable and embraced by Executives. However DPC’s conclusion is that there also needs to be a focus on contemporary or Relevant work to optimize a feeling of continued sense of self.

There are two areas we suggest be considered as the journey begins!

Securing Relevance During Transition

Regardless of age, enterprise tenure, or post departure endeavors, DPC in our client work has found that there are three common denominators that if front of mind, contribute to a feeling of connectivity.

We have labeled the “top 3” as Next Generation Engagement Drivers as follows:

  1. Edgy – the ability to engage in activities that challenge intellectual curiosity via continued acquisition of knowledge and adjunct expertise
  2. Control – the ability to have as much as possible total control over calendar and focus of activities
  3. Purpose – the ability to continue to promote personal brand and be recognized as a domain “expert” regardless of future setting via engagement in contemporary activities

Many executives “can’t wait” to get started on the next phase of life while others are somewhat fearful.  Both constituencies need to be mindful that the tenure of one’s life as Dr. Lynda Gratton in her most recent book The 100 Year Life, is elongated requiring us to be sensitive to the nuances associated with how, and where we spend our post-transition time.

The position take by DPC via our research and client work is that the more organized the pre-departure thinking, and awareness of possible outcomes the more likely the executive will be comfortable with “what’s next”!

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Scoping IT Federal Projects – Fear the Russian Winter

December 29, 2018
by Guest Author, Michael Casey, PMP, MPA, ITIL, V3

“Truth is ever to be found in Simplicity, and not in the Multiplicity and Confusion of things.”

– Sir Isaac Newton
Inventor of Calculus[1]


Grappling with Details in Federal Program Management
Memo as Foundation Document
Interpretation of Memo “Subject: Mission Critical Business System Identification”

Large Scale Government IT Deployment and the Russian Winter
Change, Simplicity and the “Multiplicity of Confusion”


Grappling with Details in Federal Program Management


I am an experienced IT manager who has been certified and recertified. I’ve worked for leading financial institutions as well as leaders in manufacturing and commercial service industries. For the past ten months I have been working for a defense contractor, supporting a US Armed Service Branch in its attempt to consolidate common IT services for divisions currently using separate installations of Enterprise Resource Management (ERP).

This is an ambitious goal; ERPs, whether SAP or in this case, Oracle, are notoriously difficult implementations characterized by cost and schedule overruns, even in the best of circumstances. What makes matters more difficult is when scope is not clearly defined, and, when assumptions on what may be provided in advance of core development are also not clear.

For this branch, direction was given that goes against a predominate trend – cloud hosting. That is, the three largest ERPs were directed to leverage infrastructure and common IT services to be provided in physical data centers. This entailed physical infrastructure (systems, network and services) not yet built nor vendor software installed, configured and deployed to required levels, also not defined.

As with large private institutions, the branch has a “PMO” – or multiple PMOs – governing the selection and management of programs and projects.

The premise here is that there is a military example when faced with similar challenges from 20th century military history. Currently, there is little opportunity for different divisions to fall back and retool by saying “mistakes were made.” Directions of branch affiliated division organizations have been pursued and one division, in particular, which supports infrastructure, needs to take a position to guide the rest of the loosely branch affiliated program.

Memo as Foundation Document

An Undersecretary’s directive, a memo from Branch leadership, prescribed actions to be taken by application and infrastructure leadership meeting to improve ERP deployment. This action was to identify core “…systems” which must be “operated and maintained” to continue the warfighting mission. The memo identified the Defense Business systems (DBSs) to be supported by systems. The memo sought to establish the “application baseline requirement” to:

  • Validate “… requirement for operations, licenses, maintenance, hosting and sustainment,,,”
  • Request “analysis… aligned to “… CIO… policy” requiring compliance with the common computing baseline.
    • Outcome of analysis should be a “high level set of tasks and associated cost and schedule for migrating these systems to the common

The memo presents features of an infrastructure to “encompass core systems” with branch-wide data… and “information delivery… to our customers”. It includes a sentence in the passive voice entreating, presumably, different leadership groups to “request resources requirements for this analysis”.

Interpretation of Memo “Subject: Mission Critical Business System Identification”

The memo – in and of itself – does not meet the criteria for a foundation document – e.g., Program or Project Scope Statement and / or Charter – as identified by at least one global project management organization[2]. Additionally, extensive studies over several years have indicated that to serve as a viable program or project the obligation exists to trace viability, in all aspects or measures, from definition to user acceptance.[3] In this particular scenario, the “user” is the Military Branch which is, collectively, a division of the Department of Defense created to serve the Chief Executive of the United States, who is directly accountable to the American people[4].

For effective program and / project management, any material change – cost, schedule, quality – to a program / project is subject to governance as agreed to, and delineated with, approved Scope and Charter documents. The latter foundation document is needed to specify how change – comprehensive, not isolated nor tangentially linked – is to be realized. This memo does not portend to do this; it is, more appropriately, a “call to arms,” without identification of the penultimate systems and technical features for fulfilling the goal: ERP for identified Mission Critical Business Systems.

To say that the “Government is different” in defining and managing projects, itself, presents a muddled challenge.  It demands that we somehow accept that the “Government” is not subject to the need to express goals and objectives simply, to establish program baselines and manage change the way almost every other service in American is.  The memo references a CIO directive for example, which is likely not clear to more than a few. Regardless, it is the responsibility in any governance to trace impact of any and all modification to original project or program intent, to maintain accountability to stakeholders.

Specifically, the memo fails to describe the prerequisite infrastructure baseline state. Note italicized words and phrases above which demonstrate that the Undersecretary never intended to describe an end-to-end program or project. Ms. Thomas describes a “DBS infrastructure” in terms of only features or characteristics, leaving it to some other set of Military Branch entities or processes to interpret scope and governance of the overall program. However, she must have presumed that others within the Military Branch would handle that – to understand the need to collectively “plan, estimate, execute and control”[5] – in pursuit of the overall project objective – timely integration with initial ERP ownership, as identified. She had every right to anticipate, that she didn’t have to explicitly express an obvious dependency in support of the warfighting mission – you need to build before you can integrate, migrate or maintain. If a “build” requires technical vetting prior to deployment of an initial baseline then it needs integrated, not independent Scope Management. If vetting requires ongoing reevaluations, then it needs to be collectively evaluated for impact.

If the overall objective of the project is to build common services and infrastructure on a central platform to serve specific ERP owners – especially  while modifications to ERPs, themselves, has been ongoing – the project needs to be part of a collective set of related projects, the “ERP Program[6].”


It is in the best interests of the Military Branch is adopt an integrated program for planning, estimating, executing and controlling ERP deployments for the identified Mission Critical Business Systems, as previously identified by the Undersecretary. The observation, to date, is that this has not been the case. A collective Program Scope Statement and Charter should be the initial deliverables of the program. The “ERP Common Services” project should be collectively viewed as a separate dependency for overall program success. Since time is the one resource that cannot be recaptured in any endeavor, critical path activities to build infrastructure and cybersecurity should continue to the extent explicitly agreed to by managers identified within a Program Charter. An objective should be to deploy[7] the minimum accepted infrastructure, cybersecurity (and common services tools) while establishing the overall ERP Program, comprised of representatives of existing organizations and any others as deemed necessary by Military Branch management.

This would most likely be the simplest and most manageable approach, in the best interests of all concerned.

Large Scale Government IT Deployment and the Russian Winter

In Mein Kampf, and in subsequent speeches and communications within, Hitler demonstrated that he coveted the Eurasian heartland, much of which was part of Russian territories. He felt this land would be needed to support the Reich, once it was established and started to flourish. He also expressed what bordered on respect and admiration for England.

After Germany invaded Poland, and having dismissed prior appeasements and seizing Czechoslovakia, Hitler was confronted with the byproduct of European alliances that brought England into the escalating conflict. Seeing his dream for the Reich being threatened, Hitler signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Stalin in 1939, knowing full well Russia’s lands were what he ultimately coveted. But he had to now be concerned about England, of course, observing Napoleon’s failure to win on two fronts in the previous century.

England was fighting hard in these years, and, since the Allies ultimately won, we of course hear much about their bravery, as well we should.  But it is the strategic and tactical decisions facing Hitler – and what ultimately transpired – that is of interest to any program or project manager –particularly American ones – for the US influenced him greatly, long before Pearl Harbor. It is an example of continuing without a clear scope, a lack of appreciation for completing a core dependency in order to achieve overall success.

The Axis Powers, as we know, were comprised primarily of Germany, Italy and the Empire of Japan.

Historians have pointed out for decades that this alliance was not as strong as the Allies. Even though we have been accused of being “separated by a common language,” Great Britain and the US have obvious similarities in history, culture, government, etc. Germany and Japan, however, were as far apart as… the United States and Japan… in these important concerns, that guide decisions.

Japan was a developing economy in the Pacific. The US, from prior conflicts, with Spain, for example, dominated growth opportunities for Japan, such as the Philippines. Some historians have pointed out that it was this affinity to England, and not Japan, that directed FDR and military thinking during this time.[8] Of note, of course, is that Japanese officials were in Washington discussing options just hours about the December 7, 1941 attack. Was this a decoy, or desperate last ditch attempt to avoid war? Most think it’s the former but the degree to which that may be true is unclear.

How much of this could Hitler know or sense, prior to breaking his agreement with Stalin? Was he powerless in having Japan delay before engaging the US? Why would he make the same mistake Napoleon made? At least Hitler was spared the effects his error and died before witnessing his egregious tactics while Napoleon had the rest of his life in exile to ponder it.

We know what contributed greatly to killing both of their visions: the bitter Russian winter. If nothing else, the Russian winter caused Time and Resource Management variances that crippled France and Germany, respectively, in these 19th and 20th century conflicts   The Russian people and their culture, after an insanely disproportionate sacrifice, were protected by nature as well an enemy’s hubris.

As every American should remember, the Russians, despite their revolution were on the Allied side in WWII.  It is technology, starting in 1945, that underscores why Russia can no longer rely on nature to aid in her protection. It could also help explain her suspicion, motives and tactics with the West… but that’s a topic for another day.

What’s relevant is that, Hitler, in particular, ignored the true dependency and impediment to his vision of global domination with the Reich: Britain. This reality is supported by a balanced view supported by project management. Notably, Scope and Time Management.

With his Non-Aggression Pact signed with Stalin in 1939, Hitler was already engaged with bombing England. However, he didn’t invade. Why not? Did he attack Russia, Operation Barbarossa, because he feared the window shrinking to seize Russian lands? How much did he know of the Japanese impatience with the US? Did he know how imminent their attack was? Considering key dates – December 7, 1941 and June 6, 1944 – Hitler may have had about that amount of time 2.5 years to cripple / conquer / colonize England and spare his vision prior to the most effective European mobilization of the US, “the sleeping giant.[9]

In short, Hitler made a tactical change management decision – attack Russia – that ignored a basic dependency – Britain, and later the US, would exhaust his attention and resources in the West to the detriment of his overall goal.

It’s, of course, incredibly insensitive to discuss losses from the largest conflict in human history to any IT implementation of any kind in any context. I do so, respectfully, to emphasize a project management parallel:

  • If neutralizing England was not in Scope for the Third Reich wasn’t it destined to fail?
  • If deploying a common Infrastructure is not sufficiently in Scope for a large scale ERP Deployment isn’t it destined to fail?

Change, Simplicity and the “Multiplicity of Confusion”


Newton is considered to be the father of Calculus, the Mathematics of Change. Differential and integral calculus branches combine to provide “fundamental notions of convergence of infinite sequences and infinite series to a well-defined limit.[10]” While program and project manager’s hope that “sequences” and “series” are not infinite, they can often seem so in trying to define, wrestle with modifications along the way, and ultimately deliver on a project, the “well-defined limit.” Newton – a marked genius from late in the European period known as the Enlightenment – was, by most accounts, a pious and direct man. Ironically, for this analogy of course, he was English.

Operation Barbarossa represented a decision point for Hitler. His failure to consider a core dependency – neutralizing Britain – underscores that he failed with correctly interpreting “convergence of infinite sequences and infinite series to a well-defined limit.”

And the world is a better place, of course, because of his failure to assess the impact, the “sequence,” of the Russian winter on his fate. As the victors surmise, he was also handicapped by “confusion.”

Newton would likely have counseled him to Simplify, to define clearly what the Axis was collectively trying to do. They would have likely have failed ultimately, anyway. However, Newton’s voice could not be heard to help those Russian and German soldiers – nor the millions of peasants in the plains and city dwellers on the eastern front.  They suffered greatly and paid the ultimate price – perhaps – for one, prosaic reason… an excuse?

Axis leaders, despite being educated men, didn’t speak Newton’s language.

Those who manage large projects with complex variables of time, cost and opportunity have an obligation to continually evauluate Scope – to Simplify – and avoid “confusion”.

Especially when using other people’s money, with or without the consequences of war.

[1] The Mathematical Study of Change

[2] Project Management Institute, Newtown, Pennsylvania

[3] Jiang, J. J., Chen, E., & Klein, G. (2002). The importance of building a foundation for user involvement in information system projects. Project Management Journal, 33(1), 20–26.”

[4] Article II, Constitution of the United States of America.

[5] Core Project Phases as  per the Project Management Institute

[6] “A program is a set of interrelated projects.” Project Management Institute

[7] “Install, configure and customize”

[8] The Eagle Against The Sun: The American War With Japan, Ronald Spector, 1985

[9] Isoroku Yamamoto, Naval Marshall Empire of Japan, Attributed but not affirmed.

[10] Wikipedia


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