Migrating From Squarespace

Squarespace is a great platform for photographers and other creative people.  I’ve had this site hosted on Squarespace for years, but today I decided to pull the trigger on moving the site away from Squarespace.  The choice was made largely out of a desire to reduce the costs and gain more control over the website.

You’ll notice here that the site is now hosted by WordPress.  I could have saved quite a bit of money by hosting it myself, but chose not to do this.  Self hosted solutions put all the requirements in my lap to maintain the site and ensure it stays current and secure.  I’m more of a fan of letting someone else do the work of protecting the site in case of an attack, so self-hosting wasn’t what I was looking for.

The migration process was smooth.  Squarespace had an export feature.  WordPress had an import feature.  I’ll give credit to both sites for being rather classy.  It’ll take Google a while to populate my links on the new site, but for the most part the work is done.

Another neat thing is that WordPress has a single app for android that does what three apps were doing for Squarespace.  They also have an app (although it’s just the website) for Ubuntu.

Squarespace still has a home, but for my simple blog I was able to find a home elsewhere.

Apply Your Core Knowledge

Everyone knows something and in order to know something they must have studied what they know.  There’s a wide variety of ways people acquire information and knowledge.  I work with some extraordinarily smart individuals and some of them hate reading.  They find themselves suffering through the four-page zone.  I have another friend of mine who’s a helicopter pilot and is terrific with advanced mathematics but finds himself performing best as a tactile learner.  He’s in his 30’s and always carrying his fidget spinner.

All of these people are high performers.  But sometimes their quirks appear to be their Achilles heel.  As life forces us to get stretched outside of our comfort zones it can be easy to hyper-focus on the problems in front of us instead of focusing on the formulas we’ve used for years to overcome similar problems.  I’ve recently found myself coaching people through this sort of situation and my starting point in the conversation is to ask them about their hobbies.

Hobbies are different than our academics.  All too often necessity has forced us to use multiple-choice tests in academic settings.  They’re a great format for getting people to pass because you’re giving them choice that includes the single right answer.  They’re also terrible because they’ve programmed us to believe in life that we’re looking for a single right answer.  Those who believe in the single right answer syndrome have never had someone they love asks them if an outfit makes them look fat.

The outward expression of our hobbies varies, but the inward process is very much the same.  At first glance, every hobby appears to be a study in that particular discipline.  This isn’t an untrue statement, but it’s not a complete one.  More importantly, a study of a hobby is the study of oneself.  To the individual practicing a particular discipline, the hobby will reveal certain things about themselves that they enjoy learning.

Golf is an apt example.  It involves a very brief interaction with the ball and a metal striking surface of a club.  The contact occurs over a very small surface area and yet the ball can fly towards its target and land over 200 yards later.  The mechanics are amazing, but it’s also a fascinating field to study oneself.  The discipline involved to learn to adjust one’s muscle coordination to impact the angle and speed of impact of the ball.  Golf is not just a study of physics and strategy, it’s also very much a study of oneself.

LARPing will strike most individuals as a bit of an odd past time, but it’s not too far off from the same motivation that has turned Halloween into one of the most popular holidays.  Those who participate in LARPing find themselves developing skills in crafting costumes and writing out scenarios for your characters.  Unlike a book where the reader is only a passive participant, LARPing requires the participant to explore their own emotions and problem-solving skills when faced with the obstacles of the scenario.  While it shouldn’t replace reading, it should be easily recognized as a scenario-driven activity that trains its members.  Its environment may be fantasy, but its exploration of the human condition is very real.

From a leadership perspective, you don’t have to enjoy the same hobbies, but you need to well versed in what’s respectable about each one.

It’s been interesting to see this same thing play out in the home as well.  My oldest boy loves Minecraft and will spend hours watching videos about how to play and build complex things.  Every few months I try to have a conversation with him about his learning patterns for the game and get him to realize that if he applies those same learning patterns to other subjects in his life he’ll be just as successful.

I was a terrible student in high school.  Now I have a Masters in IT & Project Management.  During my 18 months finishing up my bachelor’s at Utah State University I was awarded the Man of the Year award.  What changed?  My parents would attribute it to becoming more mature, but having lived through it the reason seems to be a bit more tangible.  Once I was out of school I had time to think about how I liked to learn.  In college, I chose classes that would allow me to apply my techniques for learning and be successful.  

Now, it’s easier to do new and hard things because instead of following someone else’s prescription for learning I can apply my own.  I know it’s effective and I know it’s fun.  When it needs mentors I know how to find them.

When you take the time to look at the things that are part of your core, that you love to learn take the time to look at how you learn those things.  The how is more likely going to be your method for all your learning and if you can take the time to write it down you might just see how easy it is to follow.

Cost-Effective Mentoring

We’ve all had mentors growing up but don’t often think about our own transitions to becoming a mentor.  When freshly stepping into any role there can be a lot of wasted effort.  In this post, I’d like to share a couple of insights to help make that transition smoother.

Learn About A Person’s Past Mentors

In both jobs I work at I get to interview candidates for available positions. One of my favorite questions to write is “We’ve all had mentors to help us grow in life, can you tell me about a valued mentor, and how they impacted your life?”  I love the question because it’s so universal.  We ask it of all the candidates and the responses are perfectly helpful to make an informed decision.

First, it’s important to remember that the job interview’s purpose is to close the gap between what you already know about an applicant from their resume/LinkedIn etc. to what you don’t know.  The questions are supposed to be revealing enough to close that knowledge gap.   In response to this question, an applicant will usually tell about a time when they were humbled and overcame the obstacle in their life.  In their narrative, they usually reveal the situation, the challenge, the mentor’s attributes, and the plan of action to overcome the obstacle.  This provides me with several key insights to distinguish the applicant among the others applying.

Firstly, I get to understand what work environments they’ve been in in the past.  Secondly, I get to see what sort of situations they’ve found challenging.  Then I get to learn what type of mentorship they respond to and how much effort they put into overcoming the challenge.  Calling someone a mentor who does the work for you isn’t mentorship.  Mentorship is the process to increase the person’s capacity to overcome their own struggles.

We don’t often choose when we enter the mentorship role.  It’s one of those things in life that’s thrust upon us.  How do you know you’re mentoring?  When someone asks for help and you’re the person who responds.

Know How to Read People & Ask Questions

That request for help will sometimes be overt and other times it’ll appear in a person’s body language.  You can see people physically struggling with their responsibilities.  Whether they need external help or not asking them what’s going on will help them communicate their challenges so they can create their own solutions.  This is probably the most cost-effective mentoring situation.  Too bad that’s not the only way life happens.

It’s Not Your Job To Do The Work

I’ve seen plenty of young mentors be asked for help and want to help and end up doing the work for the person needing the assistance.  While there is a time and a place to step down and be a catalyst, that style of response can become a slippery slope that doesn’t lead to the person being more capable going forward.  Generally, it leads to burn out. 

You’re Always Mentoring

Jacqueline Van Pelt, PMP recently shared some of the insights she’s garnered from her mentors over the years.  One of them was the idea that each interaction with people is like training a horse.  Either you’re training them or their training you, but there’s never not a moment where training doesn’t occur.

Develop Your Style

Since every situation involves some amount of learning and from different levels, mentoring is likely occurring from multiple levels as well.  This means that everyone has or will be a mentor.  It’s not a rare occurrence.  It’s a common one.  The lack of mentoring isn’t for a lack of possibilities.  In my opinion, it’s because we aren’t taking the time to develop our style.

Like anything else developing one’s mentorship style follows the same learning pattern as many other things in life.  You need to increase your awareness of the subject, evaluate the available information, and incorporate the parts that allow us to improve.  Some part of this process should feel like you’re doing it the hard way.

My own style has developed the hard way over many years.  I can see mentoring opportunities on a daily basis and leverage them to help others confidently move to the next step in their development.  Somewhere along the way I’ve moved past the point where I just help them through their challenge.  Now, when I interact with others I work to help them through their challenge in a way to make it memorable for when they need to mentor the next generation.

CYCOPEDE: Erinaceous

Do you ever have a conversation that’s been difficult because no matter how hard you try you can only see the person as being prickly?  Of course, we know that the right thing to do in those circumstances is to step away from the conversation and re-engage later.  The hard part is that usually, we’re so passionate about what we’re discussing that stepping away is hard to do.  This is one of those times where you can win and the dictionary can help.

Just accuse the person your talking to of being erinaceous.  The word is obscure enough it will likely get their attention and in their moment of being caught off guard by your superior vocabulary you can suggest that the conversation pause until both parties look up the word and agree to not be so erinaceous.

What does erinaceous mean?  It’s a delightful sounding word (Erin-A-she -us) that means “like a hedgehog.”  With such a lovely sounding and apt description, it makes you wonder why this word isn’t used more often to describe people’s behavior online?

Questioning Value

The obvious thing to do isn’t always the right thing and the right thing to do isn’t always obvious. As we get working and busy our minds are often so focused on the task we’re doing that we forget how what we’re doing connects to adding value. For a brief time in life, I had the job of a dishwasher at a brick oven pizzeria. It was a pretty mechanical job. Sort, load or scrub, dry and stack. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I had no idea what I was doing but knew everything about the tasks I was performing.

It’s easy for all of us regardless of our station to fall into this trap. Thankfully it’s also simple for us to pull ourselves out of it. Ask yourself the question: How do your actions add value to the organization’s stakeholders?

Let’s use the dishwasher for this exercise. It’s a pretty low-level job. Probably didn’t have much impact right?

Who were the stakeholders for a dishwasher and how did I add value? Well, there’s the cooks who needed the clean pots, the wait staff who needed clean cups and plates, and the customers who wanted to eat without the worry of getting sick. OK, so that’s cooks, wait staff, and customers. That’s pretty much everyone.

Too bad I didn’t see it when I had the job. Night after night of working my brain got trapped thinking that the only place in the world was the back corner of that restaurant. I never thought of my impact because I’d gotten so focused on what I did I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. Sort, load or scrub, dry and stack.

I was just doing the work, got frustrated, and quit because I didn’t see the value in the work that I was doing. If you see someone frustrated you don’t have to confront their attitude, just ask them questions that help them see the value they bring to the organization. Our society is pretty used to responding to the “what do you do question.” So, it’s not too much of a stretch to take that response and start a conversation about adding value.

So many negative feelings go away when we see how valuable our efforts truly are.

Group Dynamics In Dynamic Environments

According to the Encyclopedia of management, “group dynamics refers to the attitudinal and behavioral characteristics of a group” (Helms, 2009,  p. 354).  This definition allows us to dissect the subject in two broad categories namely, attitudes and behaviors.  These two categories aren’t exclusive as attitudes certainly impact behavior.  Similarly, other group members’ behavior can impact the attitude of group members.  The four factors I would like to discuss in this answer are trust, physical means of communicating, similarities between group members and differences between group members.

Pinto described trust for teams as “the team’s comfort level with each individual member” (Pinto, 2015, p. 193).  As this comfort level increases so does the productivity of the group.  According to Hoover and Donovan, trust and perceived trust impacts an individual’s decision to join a group (Hoover & Donovan, 2008, p. 189).  In my experience trust is the foundation of a good team.  It begins with attitude and reinforced with group member behaviors.

For years the technology that was used to communicate was seen as a vehicle and not an actor.  In The Computerization of Work the authors argue that technology functions as an agent and as an agent it acts (Taylor, 2001).  Technology’s action or inaction can have a direct impact on the behaviors and attitudes of group members.  If the conferencing application isn’t working trust of the system can be impacted and the trust of group member who suggested the technology significantly reduced.

Similarities between group members impact the behavior and attitudes of the group as well.  Group members with a shared history can pull from a greater library of experiences in group communication that can impact other group members.  A team with this dynamic stands as the single biggest piece of evidence the against popular understanding of Tuckman’s Developmental Sequence in Small Groups (Tuckman, 1965).  The popularized versions of that model (forming, storming, norming, and performing) doesn’t accommodate the introduction of new group members even though Tuckman used the idea of family dynamics (where members appear over time) seven times in his research.  This is due to his research being focused on teams in the military that have a definite start date.  Without this static starting line the theory has less value and for teams with fluid start dates among team members it can impact their progression and effectiveness.

Differences between team members also impact the team’s dynamics.  This not only impacts the skills they can bring to the team that transfer to their behavior, but also the attitudes towards teams.  The persuasion techniques required to gather team members around a clear sense of mission may have to be more varied and engaging than if the team were more homogeneous.

Using the definition of team dynamics from the Encyclopedia of Management two broad categories of team dynamics were identified namely, attitudes and behaviors.  I chose to review four factors that impacted group dynamics and referenced several diverse sources to illustrate my argument.



Helms, M. M., & Gale (Firm). (2009). Encyclopedia of management. Detroit, MI: Gale Cengage.

Hoover, K. R., & Donovan, T. (2008). The elements of social scientific thinking.

Pinto, J. K. (2016).  Project Management: Achieving Competitive Advantage, (4th ed.). Boston, MA:  Pearson Education, Inc.

Taylor, J. R. (2001). The computerization of work: A communication perspective. Thousand Oaks [u.a., CA: Sage Publ.

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399. doi:10.1037/h0022100

The Lie of Earned Value Performance in Project Management

The four measures that serve as the basis for all earned value performance assessments and forecasts are Budget at Completion (BAC), Planned Value (PV), Earned Value (EV), and Actual Cost (AC).  Definitions for each of these terms can be found in the PMBOK.  My summary of each is as follows:

Budget at Completion:  This is everything that is projected to be spent in order to get the project done.  It is the upper limit for every project chart (unless you’re over budget and that sucks).

Planned Value:  This is the projected value of the project (based upon expenses) according to the baseline set forth by the project.  In short, it’s looking at the calendar for how much you should have spent by this point.

Earned Value:  This is the number of what the project’s spent based upon the work that’s done.  The way I remember this is that the name Earned Value derives from PMI’s idea that value is determined by the checklist, and this method calculates the amount of the checklist that’s completed in terms of dollars.

Actual Cost:  This is the number of what’s actually been spent in order to have the project proceed this far.  It’s the product of looking at the project’s actual expenses at the time of the analysis.

These metrics are used by project managers in waterfall systems to lie to their management and encourage a culture of micromanagement (especially if the project is behind schedule).  The real world examples of this facilitating a destructive cycle abound in the literature.  I’ll use the example that PMI published on Boeing’s 787 (references below).

These traditional tools can be helpful in answering questions about the status of a project.  That’s why they’re in the PMBOK, but the leadership this information is presented to must be taught what it means.  Eric Ries calls these calculations Vanity Metrics and they have no real value other than making an organization feel good or feel bad about its current circumstances.  Other than that they really don’t serve a purpose.  

Does an incomplete iPhone have any actual value?  Does an incomplete airliner have any actual value?  No.  They don’t.  So why do we calculate earned value?  There is no value from the project until the product is complete.  I really wish that PMI would re-name the EV term to IV.  It’s an invested value nothing has been earned yet.  I’d strongly recommend that a PM calculate this information for their own internal use (it’s nice to see the chart as it looks pretty), but beware of ever sharing it.  This chart has been known to facilitate the ugly beast of micromanagement in many organizations.  PMI should really put a warning in this chapter.


Shenhar, A.J., V. Holzmann, B. Melamed, and Y. Zhao. (2016). The challenge of innovation in highly complex projects: What can we learn from Boeing’s Dreamliner experience? Project Management Journal 47(2), p. 62-78.

Vega, G. (n.d.). Leadership implications in complex projects: The Boeing Dreamliner and Jim McNerney. Retrieved from PMI website: https://learn.umuc.edu/d2l/common/dialogs/quickLink/quickLink.d2l? ou=225860&type=coursefile&fileId=Leadership+implications+in+complex+projects+-+a+case+study+in+leadership+and+communications+management.pdf