Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: August 2017

Lessons Learned from Hurricane Harvey


As I sit and write this blog from the comfort of my home here in San Antonio, Texas, I know that we are fortunate. Hurricane Harvey brought plenty of rain and winds to the Alamo City, but it moved northeast quickly.

Report from my Daughter

My daughter Kaitlin accepted a job at the Houston Marriott Marquis this past summer after graduating from K-State. Only a couple months on the job, she’s been exposed to crisis management. On Friday, August 25, she was among 200 employees that the Marquis management team asked to stay throughout the weekend to take care of stranded guests. Harvey was supposed to move along rapidly, but we now know that it has stalled over the fourth largest city in the nation.

Because of the significant flooding, the hotel workers and guests are staying put for the foreseeable future. I’m thankful that Kaitlin is safe at the hotel, but I know this is not the case for many Texans. The images we’re seeing are unbelievable, and the worst might still be on its way. Even the Marquis is experiencing problems, as you can see by the flooding of the in the loading dock.

Impact on Projects

Can you imagine the thousands of projects affected by hurricane? Both Houston George Bush and Hobby are closed for business. This means that project team members are unable to travel to Houston, and other impacted Texas cities. The project participants that are in these cities are unable to get any meaningful work done. While I suppose planning can take place, there’s zero execution.

From a risk management perspective, Hurricane Harvey is a Known-Unknown. In other words, the risk is known, but project planners were unsure when and if it would affect their projects. Now that the exposure has occurred, it’s time to implement the contingency plan. The project managers must do whatever possible to mitigate the damage.

There are some who might argue that the hurricane is an Unknown-Unknown. In other words, this type of risk is completely unexpected. However, given that Houston is in the line of fire for these types of weather phenomena, I believe the best risk classification is Known-Unknown.

Why does it matter how this weather risk is labeled? If we know that something might happen, we can have a contingency plan in place. This means that we have the resources needed to get back on track as quickly as possible. Given that we have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan completed, the contingency steps are known, and we can get to work. Of course, since the project management plan included this risk, the schedule had wiggle room, which means the project deliverable date is still on track.

As you read these comments, I’m sure you’re thinking that planners must be superhuman to account for this type of disaster. However, my guess is that experienced project managers included this type of weather disaster in their planning process. The problem with Harvey, though, is that the impact is turning out to be at a level similar to Katrina, which is tough to predict.

Getting back to what matters the most … that is, the people who are suffering. We have the opportunity to help these individuals in our own way, so let’s step up to the plate and do our part.

Getting Over the Fear of Failure

Getting Over the Fear of Failure

There are far too many people who are afraid they will fall short. In some cases, we avoid posting for a job because it will place us in the line of fire. I know of many situations where people stick with a profession they do not like mostly because they fear falling short of expectations. As a business owner, friends and colleagues tell me they want to someday start their own business, but they find it hard to leave the comfort of a steady paycheck.

Get a Plan

The best advice I can provide to someone who fears failure is to develop a plan. This roadmap doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should have enough details. It’s important that we know the destination. Once we have the vision in mind, we will know what it takes to get there. It’s obvious that something of value will be challenging, but it’s far easier to hit a target when we are 100% committed to realizing it.

When building the plan, it’s essential that you are prepared for something going awry. Therefore, ensure that there are contingencies in place, which means that a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D, and so on, are included. For example, when taking on a new job, I recommend that you add new skills, such as project management training. If the new position is short-lived, you now have qualifications that enhance the chances of landing an employment opportunity that is right for you.

Know When to Take a Step Back

We’ve all been in the situation where we are too close to a situation. For example, there are times when I was stuck in a rut, and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get back on track. There were countless times when I woke up in the middle of the night because the pressure wouldn’t let me sleep. I knew there was an answer to my problems, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I was confident in my skills and motivation, but I needed a breakthrough.

The advice that worked for me is to take a step back from the problem. It was necessary to disengage from the situation. I was trying to solve the problem by doing the same thing each time. I could work hard each day, but the results were going to be the same. I finally decided to get away from the situation for a few days, which allowed me time to consider other options. Interestingly, the answer to one of my key obstacles was presented to me years earlier, but I wasn’t ready to listen to the advice. With an open mind, I went back to the advice from a business associate, and gave it a try. Within a month or so, I was out of the rut, and the business began to prosper.

For some people, the answer comes easier and faster. For me, it took longer to identify. However, the many mistakes that I made along the way confirmed the approaches that wouldn’t work. Today, I still face a ton of challenges, but I’m doing a better job learning to overcome them.

My recommendation to you is to press ahead, even when the challenge seems insurmountable. There is a way to realize success, but the solution might be super-difficult. That’s fine … know that the energy used to overcome obstacles will prepare you for even tougher challenges down the road.

He Asked, “Is That Your Newspaper?”

While waiting at the American Express Centurion Lounge in San Francisco (SFO), I observed an interesting situation that I would like to share with you. I had about 2 hours before my flight, so I had a chance to have a quick breakfast at the lounge. This Amex location is a bit small, which means that it is often crowded, and this morning was no exception.

The Situation
After waiting a few minutes, I found a small table in one of the rooms where I could sit down, check email, and enjoy my breakfast. Right next to me was a gentleman sitting on a recliner. He was busy reading messages on his iPhone, and was also having a coffee. The seat next to this traveler became open (yes, another recliner), and an older gentleman quickly made his way to it. He put his bag on the chair, and proceeded to get some breakfast.

However, before going too far, he noticed a newspaper sitting on the other man’s table, and he asked, “Sir, is that your newspaper?” In a split-second, the man tersely responded, “Yes, it is!” The older man acknowledged the response, and walked away.

My Observation
Given that I was just a few feet away, I observed the entire situation. I understand it’s probably not a big deal, but I was concerned regarding how the man with the newspaper responded to the older gentlemen. I thought it was inconsiderate.

Here are responses that would have been nicer …

“I’m almost done with the newspaper, so give me a few minutes, and you can have it.”
“I’m reading the Sports page. Would you like to read the other sections?”
“Which section would you like to read?”

I do understand that the newspaper belongs to this individual. However, I believe that we should do what is possible to show respect for others. The older gentleman probably wasn’t bothered by the response, but I thought it was less than professional.

Why Does It Matter?
I have a feeling that when we’re rude to strangers, we are probably even more rude with people that we know. The individual with the newspaper had every right to refuse sharing the item with someone else. However, there is a more tactful manner that could have been used.

There’s no doubt that I learned from watching this situation. The next time that someone approaches me about a newspaper or something of the sort, I will do my best to be nice. I will acknowledge the person, and share when possible. The point is not so much about giving up something that we own. The real takeaway here is that we take the time to listen to other people. We might not able to share something with them, but the way we respond is important.

After observing this event, I knew that I wanted to let you know about it. It’s a small thing, but one that has an important message. If you remember, Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Now that I think about it … the Golden Rule could have been the title of this blog.

Scenario on Collecting Requirements from Customer


John (Project Manager): Hi, Mindy! How’s work coming along?

Mindy (Customer): Hey, John! The work is busy as usual. It’s good to see that your team will handle our latest project.

John: No doubt! Will you tell me more about the expectations?

Mindy: For the past 10 years, we’ve used the Blackboard learning management system (LMS) here at Beacon Intercontinental University. While we’ve had good success with this LMS, we are having a tough time justifying the expense, given that more affordable solutions are in the market. The president of the university is adamant that we move to an open-source option. In this case, Moodle.

John: We’ve worked with other clients, both universities and corporate, that like Moodle because it’s a user-friendly solution. It’s also free!

Mindy: The word “free” is liked around here (laughing).

John: Will you please let me know how many students will use the new LMS? Are they both from the undergraduate and graduate schools? What about faculty members and administrators? I also know that you guys have a law school … will they also use Moodle?

Mindy: In the first phase, this LMS will be available for undergraduate and graduate students. Therefore, the number of student users is about 3,500. For these schools, we have 350 faculty and administrators. The law school will be part of the second phase, which will take place in Q4 of this year.

John: Will the LMS be used for only students taking online courses? What about the students who are enrolled in face-to-face sessions?

Mindy: Moodle will be used for both online and face-to-face students. We also teach courses in a hybrid modality, which means that students attend half of the classes online and half in the classroom. Regardless, it’s important that every student enrolled in the university has a username and password to Moodle.

John: What type of content is posted in the classroom? Will the faculty use audio and video files?

Mindy: That’s a good question! Yes … our faculty have excellent experience adding interactive media to the online classroom. They will, however, need training on Moodle. I suspect most of them will catch-on fast, but I’m certain the leadership team wants a training program in place.

John: In the past, we’ve had a 1-day training session for other clients. We can schedule several days to run the training, as this will allow faculty and administrators to pick a date that works for them. Do you have faculty who work remotely?

Mindy: Right! About 20% of our faculty members teach only online courses. Therefore, I will ask our technology folks to allow them to video conference into the training sessions. We might also consider paying for these individuals to travel here to the university for the training component. Let me think about that one and get back with you.

John: Great! Well … we’ve covered quite a bit so far, and I know there’s much more. I will share this information with my team to see what questions they have. At our next meeting, let’s get the tech folks involved. As you know, there’s a ton of technology that is part of this project, so it’s important to get their input.

Mindy: That’s a great idea! Call me to discuss a date and time that works for you.

John: For sure, Mindy! Talk to you soon!

How to Deliver a Project on Time


Project managers know that delivering a project late is problematic. In some cases, customers are willing to accept going over-budget, but behind schedule is tolerated much less. For example, let’s assume that our project is to prepare a venue for a global conference. We need to ensure that the meeting rooms have the proper arrangement, the audio/visual equipment is working right, the caterers are confirmed, and so on. As you can see, there’s little wiggle room here. If any part of this project is late, it will cause a cascading effect. We might be able to negotiate on the equipment and menu, but the convention is scheduled for a certain date, and all aspects that we control must be ready to go by Day 1.


Only Accept a Schedule We Can Meet 

It’s easy to accept new work when it’s offered, especially if the price is to our liking. However, the leadership team must ensure they have the resources to meet the requirements. The possibility of taking on the work and outsourcing as necessary is an option. However, be aware that risks are incurred when work is assigned to an external company. The bottom line is that our organization is fully accountable for the deliverable, even if we hire contractors to assist with the project.


The final decision about whether to accept any project should be made after getting feedback from project managers, departmental managers, subject matter experts (SMEs), and the people who will do the work. By getting feedback from these stakeholders, the leaders are more likely to make the right decision. The other important benefit of seeking guidance is that buy-in increases when key stakeholders participate in the decision-making process.

Create a Realistic Schedule

I was recently teaching a corporate class to a client in the financial industry, and I asked the following question: “What process do you use to create a project schedule.”  I was surprised that there were no comments by any of the participants. I asked the question again, and finally a response was provided: “We just start working on it, and deliver the work when we’re done.” From my training and consulting experience, I know that many project managers fail to create a schedule. Think about it … if we have no schedule, how do we know that the project is on track? The answer is that we don’t know, and we are merely delivering work when the customer, sponsor, executive, or manager wants to see how the project is coming along.

[poll id=”2″]

The project manager should work closely with the customer to know the due date for the product, service, or result. Once the requirements are collected from the stakeholders, the scope is defined. The next step is to create the work breakdown structure (WBS), which is a hierarchical representation of the project’s activities. The project is decomposed to the work package level. This decomposition process (i.e., dividing and subdividing) will ensure the work is clearly defined, which means that the right person (or company) can be assigned to do the right work at the right time.

Staying on schedule is difficult. The project team must be diligent along the way. When it’s obvious that the project is falling behind, the project manager must inform the customer. Of course, it’s imperative to have a contingency plan in place to get back on schedule. Remember that delivering on time is a must.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén