Tag Archives: projects

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.

No alt text provided for this image

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.

No alt text provided for this image

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.

No alt text provided for this image

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.

Test Your Core Values: Are they Meaningless Fluff or Powerful Stuff?

I recently facilitated an off-site planning retreat for top managers in an underperforming technical department in a division of a Fortune 500 company. They needed a fresh start and invited me to help them revise their strategy, establish metrics, and launch key initiatives. But…

Prescribing a solution without first diagnosing the problem is malpractice, whether in medicine or management consulting.  Just as a doctor begins by measuring the vital signs —blood pressure, heart beat, and temperature– I began by determining consensus around vision, mission, and values.

Too many organizations treat these guiding principles are little more than ”wall art”, colorful posters which decorate hallways and conference rooms. But leaders in high-performing companies have discovered how to make them powerful management tools which align head and heart.


Here is a simple process you can use to test whether your team shares consensus around the vision and mission. This “secret sauce” process works well with 6 to 30 persons from a senior management team, an intact work unit, a project team, or other groupings.

Start by handing out two blank 3 x 5 cards and have each person write down their organization’s vision and mission on one card, and values on another from memory (without glancing around for clues).  Then collect the cards, give them a good shuffle and distribute them randomly.

Going around the room, have each person read out the vision and mission statements on the card they receive. If the statements are reasonably close, congratulations. But if they diverge, or if a recent reorganization or major market shift has occurred, begin by crafting brand new statements. (My next article in this series describes how to do that.)

In less than two hours, this tech group developed vision and mission statements that resonated with all. After a well-earned break, we then turned to values.

Ask yourself…


When it comes to your corporate values, do people consistently walk the talk, or do they usually stumble the mumble?

The tech group members next swapped the 3×5 cards people wrote their values on and again shared. People recalled most of them but acknowledged that in practice, these values were mostly given lip service.

If an official set of core values currently exists, you can test their potency by determining…

1.Can people recite their essence?

2. Do people really believe in them?

3. Do people reference them in daily work?

4. Do customers embrace similar values?

5. Do they translate into measurable behaviors?

The group recalled most of them, but acknowledged that values were mostly given lip service.

At the risk of committing heresy , try this surprisingly simple process which my clients love because it brings values alive. I call it localizing your values.

Localizing your values means custom-creating a value set which optimizes group performance. Corporate values tend to be too broad and general. The values which make an effective Engineering Department differ from the optimum value set of Legal, R&D, HR, and other departments. One size does not fit all.


Here’s an easy way to get the ball rolling. Brainstorm a list of answers to the following question:

What values would be present if we were living our mission, doing great work, advancing our careers, serving our customers, making money, and having fun?

Plenty of ideas spilled out which I captured on a whiteboard. After some rewording, massaging and combining, we ended up with an emotionally engaging set that all rallied around.

(Check out this brief video entitled Refresh Your Core Values which explains how to facilitate this process with large groups.)

The energy in the room was running high because the group now had a sense of shared purpose. People were excited and united. With this foundation in place, we then moved on to develop a smarter strategy, define metrics, and launch key initiatives.

While it’s still too early to report measurable results, the process galvanized the team and the retreat concluded with renewed energy, commitment, caring, and confidence.


Blizzard Entertainment is an industry leader in massive multi-player online role-playing games. This 4,000 person company offers a stellar example of how the best firms put values to practical and profitable use.

Several years ago, Blizzard co-founder Frank Pearce invited me to facilitate a leadership session to develop their mission and values, a task they had failed to accomplish in several previous attempts.

In what was an engaging and high-energy approach befitting their fast-paced culture, we identified 8 core values. They included gameplay first; commit to quality; play nice, play fair, and my favorite — embrace your inner geek.

Everyone there was impressed by what we accomplished during the fast-paced workshop, but what impressed me is what happened after.

Blizzard literally puts their values at the very center of their company. Their central campus courtyard proudly features a 12-foot-high cast bronze statue of a favorite game character. A giant compass surrounds this statue, and at each of the 8 compass points, one of their core values is engraved in a bronze plaque set into the ground. (The video Blizzard Entertainment – Putting Your Values Front & Center! visually walks you through their values and explains how they apply them.)

Blizzard employees take these values seriously. They consciously refer to them in daily work and when making key decisions. When Blizzard interviews a potential hire, they ask which value most resonates with them and why. Because everyone from the CEO to game designers to customer service reps embrace and live these values, their retention rates lead the industry and the company continues to produce award-winning games and events.


Be honest with yourself. Do the values your group practices make you eager to go to work each day? Do they promote a high-performance, collaborative culture where people perform at their best and the company thrives? Or have they gone stale?

When would now be a good time to give them an upgrade?


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.)