Tag Archives: PMP

OH WOW! What I learned at the Pacific Northwest’s premier Supply Chain, Technology, and Management Conference

If you attend conferences, you know how stimulating it feels when smart people who are creating the future get together to share their ideas. That happened to me just last week when I was a speaker at #CONNECT 2019!, a gathering of 240 leaders in the world’s most dynamic environment for supply chain innovation —the Pacific Northwest.

My prior supply chain knowledge was limited, but it’s pretty fascinating stuff that is revolutionizing how we live.

Supply chain technology brings together advances in robotics, AI, automation, machine learning, blockchain, computational analytics, 3-D printing, IoT (Internet of Things) and multiple other disciplines to create new possibilities.

Here are a couple of fascinating examples the keynoters shared that I wouldn’t have imagined.

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Todd Rawlings, a Microsoft inventor, digital transformation architect and Azure R&D leader, showed how AI and cloud technologies are transforming everything from education to agriculture.

His most surprising statement:

Underwater data centers are the future of the cloud! That’s right. Future data centers will be submerged in the oceans.

Here’s why: Servers and computers throw off lots of heat, and keeping Microsoft server rooms around the world cool consumes a terawatt of energy every day.

Since 80% of the world’s population lives within 12 miles of the ocean, why not put the server rooms under water, just offshore?

The prototype Todd shared look something like a giant Oscar Meyer Weiner with fins. Fins on the outer surface will capture energy from the constantly-moving water under the surface, and will disperse excess heat into the ocean (and hopefully won’t cook nearby fish.)

Gerald Jackson, VP of Digital Product Management at GE Digital, explained how the IoT and AI are transforming industrial supply chains and making possible innovative Circular Economy Supply Chain models which create a sustainable and prosperous 21st century.

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GE’s aircraft engine division’s business model was once about selling engines and spare parts, now it is becoming a service-provider which takes over the engine repair and maintenance the airlines used to do themselves.




The IoT makes it possible to create “digital twins” for physical assets with moving parts. A digital twin is an electronic representation of what is going on in complex machines, like aircraft engines.

Here’s how it works:

The thousands of sensors embedded in aircraft engines can transmit real time operational data about how it’s performing while the plane is airborne. In other words, the engine tells you when it needs parts.

The ground-based digital twin models what is going on inside the engine. Digital networks can tell what part of a flying airplane needs fixing, so the right parts can be 3-D printed and ready to install when the plane lands. That can reduce or eliminate warehouses full of expensive parts and create numerous efficiencies. Talk about a game changer!

My own presentation on Strategic Project Management recognizes that making transformations like this happen is done through projects.

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Today, everyone needs a core set of project skills to operate in this fast-changing environment.  Everyone needs to develop the mindset and skill set to design and implement projects that intersect multiple technologies.

Not everybody needs to be a certified Project Manager, but every professional need the ability to understand the big picture WHY, connect dots across boundaries, and bring together people from diverse disciplines into a coherent project team that produces the WHAT and HOW. Doing so requires a strategic mindset and skillset, and my life mission is teaching people just how to do that.

The future is already here. Buckle up, prepare yourself, and enjoy the ride.


Terry Schmidt is a business strategist and author of Strategic Project Management Made Simple, and chief honcho at ManagementPro.com.

Eight Times You MUST Reset Your Strategy

Last week I taught Strategic Thinking & Planning for Leaders at the UCLA Extension’s Technical Management Program, for the 65th time over the last 30+ years.

My students were managers, group leaders, technologists, and project managers who kept me on my toes by asking provocative questions. One question was “when and how often should you update your strategy?

I call this a strategy reset, a focused and well-facilitated conversation among key players aimed at keeping their strategy relevant and projects on-point.  This involves tackling troubling issues, making tough decisions, and putting new initiatives into play.

When I first started teaching, my answer to the WHEN question would have been calendar-based: develop your strategy annually, update it quarterly.  That still makes sense, but in these fast-paced times, some issues just can’t wait so I recommend a situation-based reset whenever:

1. There’s a big fat problem. You need to create solutions to current problems and prevent those emerging on the horizon. Kill the monsters while they are small, don’t than let them grow strong enough to devour you.

2. The business environment has changed. It’s a new ball gameDisruptive technology, a smart start up, or other nasty surprises demand a timely and thoughtful response.

3. New leaders have come on board. They bring their own perspectives, vision, and blind spots. Integrate their vision with current reality.

4. Mediocrity is creeping in. You’ve become stagnant. Something is not working, maybe many things. If you aren’t moving at the speed of change, you are falling behind.

5. You’ve lost focus. An old Indian proverb reminds that a man who chases two rabbits will lose both. Concentrate on doing what you do best, leveraging your competitive advantages.

6. Confusion exists. If goals are vague, responsibilities unclear, and morale sinking, it’s time to look at root causes and reboot.

7. Pressure is growing. Customers, senior management, or your upset boss expect more from your operation. You feel the burn. Time to deliver results.

8. Your plan has gone stale. Like home-made bread, plans have a half-life and decay over time. Turn up the oven to 425 degrees, and to bake something fresh.

So that’s the When and Why. For the How, register for my upcoming free Solutions Training. I’ll share the best approaches I’ve learned and taught in Fortune 100s, fast-growing private companies, government agencies, and research laboratories.


Terry Schmidt is a business strategist and author of Strategic Project Management Made Simple, and chief honcho at ManagementPro.com.

Are you a Frustrated and Overworked Project Manager?

For over 30 years now I’ve trained and worked with project managers in Fortune 100s, government agencies, research institutions and fast-growing businesses all over the world. I believe that project managers like you are the unsung heroes of our time because we are responsible for 90% of the positive changes in the world.

But I’m upset. In the last two years, I’ve noticed a huge problem for project managers and teams. And it’s getting worse. While the pressure to deliver successful projects is increasing, so are the obstacles in our way.

Let me candidly ask you – ever had a day when your project was/is a nightmare of frustration?

  • Can’t get stakeholders on the same page?
  • Nasty problems suddenly arise?
  • Your team is busy … but not productive?
  • Blindsided by impossible deadlines?
  • The goals are constantly changing?
  • Endless and unproductive meetings?
  • You get blamed for failure when it’s not fault?

If so you are not alone.

That drives me crazy, and I’m on the hunt for solutions to help you do your work better, protect your job, and advance your company and your career. I am fully committed to finding practical solutions that let you get home on time for dinner with your family for a change, instead of having to work late into the evening and on weekends fixing problems that should never have occurred in the first place.

But first I need to know what’s bothering you the most.

So help me out. I’m doing a 2-question survey to identify the main problems you are having and to offer practical solutions. It’ll only take 2 minutes and I’ll share the results with you and my suggested solutions. Go here now.

I am so sick and tired of seeing smart and committed men and women battling obstacles that shouldn’t even be there. Aren’t you? Share your frustration now.


Terry Schmidt is a business strategist and author of Strategic Project Management Made Simple, and chief honcho at ManagementPro.com. He helps people of all backgrounds to transform their ability to get great results faster and smoother.  Check out the video lesson titled THE PROJECT SUPER HERO SYSTEM to discover the #1 preventable reason most projects fail before they even start. (This lesson will be taken down in 48 hours, so see it now.)

Outfox Murphy’s Law by Managing Your Project Assumptions — or Else!

After NASA’s $125 million Mars Orbiter crashed during the landing phase, a later analysis showed that the spacecraft builders worked in the metric system. NASA assumed, but for some reason failed to verify, that the builders were using the English measurement system of feet and inches. Thus, the Orbiter’s computer contained bogus data and the mission failed.

And when “Company XYZ’s” strategic plan crashed during execution, a review showed that the core strategic planning team defined the future vision and set vague goals without much stakeholder involvement. They assumed, but failed to obtain, that there would be strong support those affected by their plans. This assumption was bogus and their strategy failed.

Whether you are shooting for Mars or aiming someplace closer, many missions that matter crash on the hard rocks of reality when an implicit but unmanaged assumption went awry.

Murphy and his infamous law dwell in the murky mess of invalid assumptions — those conditions which must exist for the strategy to be valid. The graveyard of failed strategic plans is littered with undefined, unexamined, and untested assumptions such as:

  • Top management support is etched in stone on this one.
  • Everyone is in the loop and on-board for the entire ride.
  • We have a good balanced scorecard and that should be sufficient.
  • No use wasting too much ink because we all know plans change.

Assumptions Matter

Invalid assumptions are the soft underbelly of achieving strategic goals. When bad things happen to good strategies, erroneous assumptions are often to blame.

Every strategy and project plan rests on assumptions—whether or not they are acknowledged or verified.

The best strategic thinkers, planners, and change agents take the time to identify, examine, and validate their underlying assumptions. Faulty assumptions act as invisible beds of quicksand, eager to suck good intentions under. How do you surface the most relevant ones?

There are two levels at which assumptions analysis can help planners to reality-base their work. One level concerns assumptions made about the implications of trends and factors that show up during an environmental scan.

There’s an old story about two European shoe salesmen sent to adjacent regions of Africa to study sales potential. The first reported back that since no one wore shoes, there was zero sales potential. The second reported that since no one wore shoes, the potential was infinite. Both salesmen noted the same underlying facts, but reached diametrically opposed conclusions. These contrasting conclusions reveal very different mental models and assumption at play. This phenomenon can also occur during strategic planning and among strategic planner as well, because we seldom bother to make explicit our implicit assumptions.

Ask yourself, “What should we assume?” or “What are we assuming?” in such categories as:

  • Planning Team Members
  • Related Projects
  • Stakeholders Interests
  • Willingness to Change
  • Management Support
  • Customer Expectations
  • Technical Issues
  • Political Climate
  • Resource Availability
  • Competing Concerns

Three Steps for Managing Assumptions

Your own experience may confirm just how many strategic initiatives fall flat due to faulty, ill-formed, undefined or unexamined assumptions.

Assumptions always exist, whether or not we acknowledge or verify them. You need to get them out of your head and onto paper.

Try this simple three-step process to surface easily-overlooked potential deal beakers which deserve your attention.

Step 1. Identify Key Assumptions.

Get your core team together, or fly solo, and use these kick-off questions to surface underlying Assumptions:

  • What conditions must exist, and what factors must be true, for this effort to work?
  • How must the world cooperate with us?
  • What else must happen for this to succeed?
  • What else should we assume?

Step 2. Analyze and Test Them

Now you can analyze and test each with questions like these:

  • How important is this Assumption to strategy success or failure?
  • How valid or probable is this Assumption? What are the odds? How do we know?
  • If the Assumptions fails, what is the impact? Does it diminish level of accomplishment? Delay it? Destroy it?
  • What could cause this Assumption to not be valid?” (Note: This one triggers specific risk factors).

Use this first-cut analysis as a jumping-off point for more rigorous risk assessments using conventional risk management techniques.

Step 3. Act On Them

Now subject each assumptions to the following:

  • Is this a reasonable risk to take?
  • To what extent is it amenable to control? Can we manage it? Influence and nudge it? Or only monitor it?
  • How can we design our initiatives to minimize the impact of, or work around, risky Assumptions?
  • What contingency plans might have handy just in case?

Managing Assumptions requires making contingency plans and putting preventive solutions in place. For example, if it absolutely, positively must get there overnight, send identical packages by DHL, UPS and FedEx. If dark storms are brewing, do the organizational equivalent of nailing on plywood and getting a gasoline-powered pump before the hurricane hits! You get the idea.

Steering Assumptions In Your Direction

Question #3 of the 4 Cornerstone Questions helps surface and test your assumptions, so you can either deal with them before they crush your strategy, or monitor them and have a “Plan B” waiting in the wings

When you and your team become adept at managing assumptions, you’ll be better prepared to sail skillfully and courageously across the sea of change washing over us, rather than getting drowned by a strategic tsunami you didn’t see rolling in on the horizon.


To learn the 4 Cornerstone Questions that result in bullet-proof project plans, click here to register for my one hour Project Super Power System training at no cost.


Terry Schmidt is a business strategist, keynoter, author of Strategic Project Management Made Simple, and chief honcho at ManagementPro.com. He helps leaders at all levels to develop the skill set and mindset to accomplish outstanding results.

The #1 Preventable Reason Projects Fail Before they even Begin is…

Hopefully, something like this has never happened to you.

The big boss assigns you what could be a career make or break a project and asks for a plan on her desk in three days. The project is bigger than those you’ve done before and outside your mainstream expertise. You begin by jotting down some action items, then you walk the halls getting input from colleagues and put together a big task list.

You crank up your project software, put in the tasks, add a timeline, hit PRINT and voila, out comes a beautifully formatted Gantt chart. Mission accomplished!

You send it to the boss and get back an email saying “see me in ten minutes.” You walk into her office, expecting praise for producing such excellent work so quickly. But the look on her face spells trouble.

“What the heck is this? I asked for a PLAN, what you gave me is a SCHEDULE. This is just a big FAT to-do list. I don’t need glorified list makers, I need strategic thinkers!”

Guess what — you’ve just fallen into the dreaded FATTrap.

The impact of falling into the FATTrap is predictable — your project gets FRIED. Maybe your career gets fried as well.

Here are some indicators your plan suffers from the FATTrap syndrome:

  • Lots of tasks, but no clear connection between tasks and the deliverables they should produce.
  • Fuzzy deliverables – no clarity on what “done good enough” looks like
  • No distinction between the project being COMPLETE (deliverables in place) and the project being SUCCESSFUL (changed conditions resulting from deliverables)
  • Confusion in implementation, fingerpointing, delay, and wasted resources.

Look, it’s easy to fall into the FATTrap. It’s our default planning approach due to time pressure and lack of a simple planning language that gets everyone on the same page quickly. We want to get the plan done ASAP, get it off our plates, move onto something else.

And there is nothing wrong with task lists and Gantt charts – we need them for implementation. The problem is when they are developed out of sequence – before we have a clear understanding of the causal connections from activities to deliverables to the goals.

Gantt charts and other action plans answer the question How Do We Get There?, but skip over the 3 Cornerstone questions that MUST be answered first.

Give your projects a fighting chance for success. Become a Project Super Hero with a reputation for delivering project results, not excuses. Plan them right – from the start.

To learn the 4 Cornerstone Questions that eliminate the FATTrap and result in bullet-proof project plans, click here to register for my one hour Project Super Power System training at no cost.


Terry Schmidt is a business strategist, keynoter, author of Strategic Project Management Made Simple, and chief honcho at ManagementPro.com. He helps leaders at all levels to develop the skill set and mindset to accomplish outstanding results.

My “Academy Award” speech was all about YOU!

When I took the podium to accept my award, I began just like those fancy Hollywood actors.

“I’d like to thank those who made in possible — my amazing students, the ten thousand managers, geeks, engineers, nuclear scientists, entrepreneurs, game designers, and other brainy folks who survived my unorthodox teaching style, and are now changing the world (except for a few of you slackers…. Just kidding). Let me share ten things…”

But first, full disclosure: this was not that hyped-up Oscar ceremony where you have to wear a tux and navigate the paparazzi. And there were no swag bags or wild after-parties.  I call it my Academy Award because the “2018 UCLA Extension Distinguished Instructor award” is way too long to be a title. My trophy was for the best instructor performance in the category of Engineering and Technology, chosen out of 2,000 total Extension instructors.

Some background: Since 1986, I have taught on campus or on-site short courses through UCLA Extension in my expertise areas — strategic thinking, strategic project management, personal reinvention, and career/life planning.

I love this gig because I every single person enrolls to better themselves, and I get to learn about industry issues and what’s not working, along with their personal hopes, fears, and dreams.

“Before they cut my mike short, here are the meta-messages I teach in parallel with the technical course content.”

1.    Stop competing with other people.

This sounds paradoxical to high achievers but If you play this game, you set yourself up for disappointment. There’s always somebody smarter, faster, better looking, or luckier than you. Focus on developing your very best potential. that’s a game you can win.

2.    Go for what you want!

Get clear about your goals. Write them down – think it and ink it. Diversify your goal portfolio with personal, family, financial, career, relationship, fun, toys, community, spiritual and whatever goals. Start with the rocking chair test… Imagine at age 95, looking back on a successful life, what would you be most proud of doing, being, and having?

3.    Manage Your Career Like a Business

Think like a one-person business enterprise, because you are.  Your company is your current customer, you deliver services, you have competition. Think like a business.  Start with a purpose statement, AKA your personal mission. Manage your functions– marketing, service delivery, finance, R&D (learning), human resources, technology — like the hotshot CEO you know yourself to be.

4.    Develop a distinctive edge

Sure, you’re a great systems engineer, but so are 50,000 others and you all look the same. Don’t be a commodity. Differentiate yourself. Stand out from the crowd by adding skills outside of your main domain. The systems engineer who also builds incredible teams will always be in demand. Make 30% of your learning outside of your main field. Hybridize yourself.

5.    Be your own best friend

It’s so easy to crap all over ourselves, especially after setbacks.  Hey, self, cut yourself some slack. Sure, do your best, but when it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up. Learn and get better.  When you F.A.I.L., spell it out right — First Attempt in Learning.

6.    Manage Your Internal Dialogue

Tune into your self-talk, and watch your h your wild Monkey Mind in action. Notice that most of the messages internally voice are self-putdowns, doubt and criticism? Think about it …if you spoke this way to your friends, you wouldn’t have any! Upgrade your internal messaging to be supportive and self-inspiring.

7.    Hang around with positive people

Are the people around you going for their dreams in life, or are they negative and cynical? Does your circle of friends and colleagues uplift and support you? And do you do the same for them? Build up a network of positive, cheerleading friends. Painful as it may seem, you may need to back away from the putter-downers and drama kings currently in your life. Wish them well, love them, but protect your spirit.

8.    Develop Your Super Powers

The world moves too fast to stagnate.  The pace of change requires we keep learning, stay agile, and manage our inner game. Walking the same trail creates a path, which becomes a rut, and then a grave.  There lies within each of us dormant qualities waiting to be discovered. Awaken them

9.    Help others to succeed achieve their goals

The best way to achieve your dreams is to help others reach theirs. When you do make a positive contribution to others, you empower yourself. Pay it forward because what goes around comes around.

10. Make Schmidt Happen!

Start taking action! The universe rewards action. Sitting back, waiting for the perfect time weakens your self-esteem muscles.  What can you do today that has a fast-forward ripple effect on your future?


To learn the Super Power strategies I teach, click here to register for my one hour Project Super Power System training at no cost.


Terry Schmidt is a business strategist, keynoter, and author of Strategic Project Management Made Simple, and chief honcho at ManagementPro.com. He helps leaders at all levels to develop the skill set and mindset to accomplish outstanding results.