The black art of “project rescues” explained

In my career I have focussed a lot of energy and time on “project rescues” – the bigger the problem, the more hostile the stakeholders, the worse the management controls, the greater the lack of belief, the more complex it becomes to disentangle the situation, the stronger the blame game … yes, you get the picture.

I know so many Project Managers who simply bail out when they see a project going wrong, or if they’re brought in to fix a situation up that’s gone to poo then they won’t go anywhere near these situations. They don’t want to deal with someone else’s stuff up. They think they’re going to fail too. They’re scared it’s going to destroy their career. “Too much risk” they mutter, and slink off, Gollum-like, into the darkness. Continue reading


Filed under Business, The Different Company

Important people doing important stuff that no-one else could possibly understand? No, I don’t think so.

Hmmm … see the similarity here?

So, Dear Reader, what do skyscrapers, space shuttles and soothsayers have in common?

Well, mention delivering change or project management and every organisation you talk to has a horror story to tell.

Many would even have you believe that it’s some sophisticated, difficult and dangerous black art practised by highly educated and well-trained soothsayers carrying project charters, GANTT charts and detailed schedules. They’re all building skyscrapers, launching space shuttles and merging banks.

Run away! Run away now!

Yet successful project and change management is really not difficult.

In truth, delivering change is a simple and largely predictable process and successful change is the intelligent application of that process – no matter how tough or complex the project seems.

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Chanting naked in the bush… err, maybe not

Stop. Take stock. Move forward.

How long has it been since you stopped and took a couple of deep breaths, pondered your navel, and performed a stock-take on life? Can you still locate your navel? See anything below it?

I know I haven’t done such a stock-take for more than a decade and, I’m sure, probably far longer. If you take a look at my work history ( you’ll see I’ve been self-employed, either as a contractor or a business owner, for basically the past 18 years. And that’s been a whole heap of work.

Like many, I’ve ridden the feast vs famine tides. I’ve lived a life that, on reflection, was far more in tactical mode than strategic – get the next contract, find someone to deliver an outcome, keep paying the bills, and try to steal a few days here and there to call a holiday. All the while knowing there was so much more to do and so little spare capacity to deliver it.

Heck, I planned to take six months off in 2001 after my first daughter was born, but my good mate Stocko had me at a seminar on the Gold Coast the day I left work – only to then spend the next six months, not with my new daughter, but working on creating a new business. Then factor in my life’s other noises: an acrimonious relationship with the ex; two pre-teen daughters; and, step-fatherhood. There’s a lot of sh*t going on!

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Filed under Business, Everything else, Philanthropy, The Different Company, Uncategorized

Something a little bit different…

There are times when something, somewhere, triggers some of your deepest emotions. I’ve written before of some of my life changing events. Yesterday, something as simple as a poem, read by my wife, touched me at the deepest level. So please, grab a glass of wine, sit down with the one you love, and read this out loud…


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Forget good to great. This is the best stuff I’ve read in a long time – what makes an employee truly remarkable.

Look for people to work with who aren’t just great, they’re remarkable.

This is a great article covering what makes an employee truly remarkable. And I reckon for employee you could substitute “business consultant”, too.

I wish I’d written it myself, but as I didn’t, the next best I can do is reproduce it, and praise Jeff Haden for his insights. You’ll find a link to his business at the bottom.

Remarkable people? These are the people The Different Co will employ. These are the people we want to work with. If you haven’t got enough of these people around you helping you then perhaps you should call us. +613 9077 5372.

Dammit, these are the people we are! Enjoy.

8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees

Great employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders and great followers: they possess a wide range of easily-defined – but hard to find – qualities.

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Three Life Changing Things (aka things that make you go “hmmm”) – Number three

Er. Not to put too fine a point on it, I met my wife

So now, without further adieu, the third instalment in my three seemingly un-related and life-changing events. I met my wife – yes, that was the event that started it all for me.

Firstly, don’t panic. This is not some namby pamby story of how I met Vanessa, fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after surrounded by roses, eating chocolate and drinking red wine – hmmm, excuse me for a moment, time to pour a glass.

Pause. Gentle gurgling sounds of cabernet sauvignon hitting crystal.

Ahh, now where were we? That’s right, well, meeting V was life changing for me, yes. But something you want to read about in excruciating, cheek-blushing detail? Er, no. Probably not. No, this is about the work Vanessa was doing when we met and how finding out about it, and being inevitably drawn into it, changed my life.

“I honestly didn’t do it, Guv. Stand on me.”

Vanessa was the Project Director for the University of Melbourne’s Innocence Project (UoMIP)

I’m sure you’ve heard of Innocence Projects – and if you haven’t, you need to – so I won’t go into great detail – except to say they investigate claims of wrongful conviction (see for the original US-based project).

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Filed under Philanthropy

Three Life Changing Things (aka things that make you go “hmmm”) – Number two

Scavenging on rubbish tip

You know what he needs right now? That’s right, a bloody good steak and a glass of red wine.

A regular business lunch

In my last post I described the most recent of my three seemingly unrelated life-changing events: moving house. Well, this is the second instalment – the impact on my life of a regular “networking” lunch.

A few years ago I was helping a software development house with their go-to-market strategy – they had developed and successfully patented some really cool artificial intelligence technology. A friend suggested I come along to a small networking lunch of (mainly) businessmen to spruik about the opportunity. So off we went to the wonderful Stefan’s Charcoal Grill in Balwyn (

As is often the case at these type of events, the newbies (that was me) are introduced and then you get to say a few things about what you do. I waxed lyrical about artificial intelligence, spread of activation cognitive theories and codeless programming.  Polite smiles greeted my efforts. No one understood a word … but no one really seemed to mind, overmuch.

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Three Life Changing Things (aka things that make you go “hmmm”) – Number one

I moved house

In my post ‘What’s the point?’ I mentioned three seemingly unrelated life-changing events: I met my wife, I started attending a regular business lunch, and I moved house.

The safety of the ’burbs

Until a few years ago Vanessa (my wife – and subject of a future post ‘Three life changing things, number three’) and I were living in Melbourne’s eastern ’burbs. Each weekday we’d jump in the Merc – with its lounge-chair-style comfort, sound-proofing and double-glazed windows – safely cocooned for the hour-long commute to work. I’d drop V off at the Dept of Justice then head to Southbank, park the car and take the elevator to my office in the IBM Tower. We’d each spend the day with high-powered, successful people doing high-powered important stuff before heading back home to the ’burbs again.

Stuff the commuting

But all this commuting on top of our long working week was wearing us both down. We decided it was time to say “goodbye” to the commute and “hello” to a stroll; we ditched the house and took up inner-city apartment living. Our one-hour drive to and from work each day had become a five minute walk – in fact, if I started playing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ on the iPod as I left home, it would still be playing as I opened the office door! Great huh?

Who are all these street people?

Sometimes, we need to get out of the car and closer to the streets to see the truth.

But one very big thing had changed – we were no longer cocooned. Walk out of our building, turn right and, more often than not, 20 metres from our front door-step there’d be a beggar sitting on the pavement with his dog and an up-turned hat with a few coins in it. Around the corner on Collins Street there’d be a woman selling magazines from a shopping-cart and another guy would walk up and ask for money. An IT geeky-looking guy would be sitting out the front of 7-Eleven with his hat on the pavement in front him.

Who are these people? Beggars at the ‘Paris’ end of town? Living rough? This is Australia for Christ’s sake [or insert preferred deity here] – we have the dole, and emergency accommodation! But they were everywhere. It didn’t make sense, or so I thought. But there seems to be a large gap between what services we believe there are against how effective they really are.

They’re real people, man

So I started paying a little more attention. Then I started saying “G’day”. And asking “How’s your day?” I wasn’t just randomly handing out money – I started to engage, and importantly, I realised these people are just like you and me. They’d just been dealt a bad hand or were down on their luck. It could happen to any one of us.

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What’s the point? I mean, REALLY – what’s the point?

Sooner or later in life, and often several times, most of us will mutter the words: “What’s the point?”

Initially it’s “what’s the point of doing such and such?” But later in life, it often becomes “what is THE point?”

What drives you to ask the question is as varied as the answer you give. For me, it kinda snuck up on me – no big-bang, crisis-style crying-out-loud “WHAT’S THE BLOODY POINT?”, but rather a growing realisation that I was somehow missing the point. Whatever it was.

OK, I’ve always done my little bit to help others. We all do. Nothing huge: a raffle ticket here, a donation there, even a charity ball now and again. (Which is always a tad embarrassing with my two left feet on the dance floor!)

Time to give

Sometimes, it’s just time.

Like most, I’ve done enough to maintain my perception of myself as not a bad bloke, and I’m pretty sure that most others would agree, and those who don’t … well, we needn’t go there.

I always said that in a few years time I’d start really giving back. But, like losing a few pounds around the waistline or cleaning up the study, I’ve never really got around to it. “I’m sure I’ll get around to it one day” I would say to myself  – just need to pay off the mortgage; get the kids through school; buy a yacht, and save for that apparently endless European driving holiday, belting around the Alps in a Ferrari. (I’m still going to do that one, but it’s another story.)

But, over the past several years, a few things have changed. I met my wife, I started attending a regular business lunch, and I moved house.

These three seemingly unrelated life-changing events, which I’ll share with you in more detail in future blogs, led to me forming friendships with some of the most inspirational people I have ever met, and some of the most vulnerable, too.

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