Google+ hip, hype or banned by Luddites


Yes I have been one of the chosen few to be given an invite to try out Google+ or Google Plus. Please note you it is still in trial stages so you may not be able to it yet, but you can take the tour.

I won’t bore you with techno babble, the future of Facebook, the demise of Twitter or any other such nerdy nonsense.

But what I did find is an application that is ideal for those of us in construction.

Two of the core areas of Google plus are “circles” and “hangout”. Yes I know they sound very hipster and twee but what they allow you to do is to have a circle of colleagues, site managers, subcontractors, consultants, the PCG, which you determine and set up. Also, you can have up to 11 people on video link at the same time, high quality and completely free. The software determines who is talking and the main view then goes to that person.

Frame-breakers, or Luddites, smashing a loom. ...

The really interesting question will be for the Luddites who manage head offices and are scared the cadets maybe spending too much time twittering etc. You know the type of people who will waste their own time checking up on people who get paid less than a quarter of the manager’s pay.

Google+ will in time,  be on everyone’s desktop and the social network and business network will become seamless. Just as our mobiles and emails keep coming outside office hours, weekends and holidays, the working day is not stretched it is all-consuming.

I bet most architects and designers will be up and running Google+ by the end of this month, but some builders might get their by 2020.

Irritating Manerisms

Has anybody ever taken you to one side and brought to your attention certain mannerisms which they find irritating. Now as readers will be aware like all project managers, I have no faults, am perfect in every way, suffer from a surfeit of modesty and could not possibly have irritating mannerisms.

Seriously though I am well aware of my shortcomings, but mannerisms?  You may ask what is this defect? Is it some sort of anti social behavior? Do I invade people’s space or suffer from severe halitosis?  No, I tend to perch my spectacles on the end of my nose and look at people over the top of them. I did not realize I was doing this until it was pointed out to me. The reason I do it is I need the specs to read only, so if I want to concentrate on someone ie see them I peer over the top.

I have been told that this disconcerts staff, makes consultants nervous and is a precursor to refusing subcontractor variations. Therefore, some may say it is a good mannerism, but in the cozy political correct business world of today we cannot have conflict within the “stakeholders” as we are all on the same page etc etc.

What absolute nonsense.  My job is to safeguard my employer’s wallet and if those who want to get into that wallet are irritated by my mannerisms – tough.

I don’t do it on purpose, for affect or with malice aforethought, so if anybody else has noticed any other irritating mannerisms please let me know.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Trajan's Column - Roman Soldiers Building a Fo...

All the successful project managers I have known have had a common thread. They have certain traits that distinguish them from other PMs or other members of the project team.

I decided to hit the keyboard on the subject as I have been talking with perspective employers about the next project. Invariably the question they all ask is what are your strengths? (easy peasy) but you know what is next – what are your weaknesses?

Now I have hire many staff over the years from Project Directors on $2billion projects to site clerks, and I have asked the same questions. The hard part is divorcing the kind of person you want as the employer and deciding on the right person for the project. I have hired people who could be the most difficult, recalcitrant and plain bloody minded but they were right for the job. I have also hired people that I thought at interview were marvelous people, and they were, but you would not put them in charge of a free bar.

Now when I am asked about my strengths I admit that I trot out the normal stuff. I will use one word for each: team, relationships, example, foresight, leadership, tenacious, focussed, driven, professional, experience etc etc. I usually add a few others that satisfied clients have used about some completed projects: the shark, hit-the-ground-running, and my favorite which I was described as by a very influential Arab developer – Mr Wolf

So how to respond to the “Weakness” question. You need to be honest. I have had people become more humble than Uriah Heap and advise them to try social work not project management. I have had some who have no weaknesses (next candidate please). The secret is be prepared for the question as it always gets asked.

But returning to the common thread and PM’s traits there is one weakness that does surface in many of us. That is we take over a team member’s critical tasks sometimes if that person is struggling. Yes as good leaders we know that people make mistakes and we council, train, “mother hen” them. We don’t let them go under. But the response during the interview is usually on the lines:

“some people may see it as a weakness but when a team member is struggling with a critical task I go out of my way to help them achieve the goal they are striving for”

My response is as Mr Wolf “I solve problems”

The NFN – National Fax Network

Image via Wikipedia

The fax machine is almost a piece of history, like all office technologies it became ubiquitous, reached it zenith in the late nineties and has now become amalgamated in semi trailer cab size photocopiers.

Interestingly faxes were around before telephones but this is not a history lesson. It is a post about the redundancy of technology and a what if question.

What if Ms Gillard had been around in the late eighties, the time when I the company I had started out with installed their first fax machine. It was 1988 and the typists had gone to be replaced by Word Perfect and so had the comptometer people as we were now using Lotus 123 (backslash, w,c enter etc). Ms Gillard could have given every pensioner a fax machine and rolled out fax lines to everyone. We all would have been able to send letters to each other instantly, had built in answer phones, and our very own photocopier.

But it was not all sweetness and light. Some of still remember the panic of the early nineties when we realized the fax thermal image paper was fading, quick invent cheap laser fax machines. And there was the argument about the legality of faxes in contracts etc. But we did not know any better as we were at the cutting edge of technology or so we thought.

But if she had done the rollout it would have been an obvious mistake, email killed off letters and pdfs/scanning killed off fax machines.

Only a couple of months ago a very bright 22 year old commenced work with me. For some vague reason he had to fax a document to someone whose pc was down. The young bright spark had never used a fax and thought that nobody had them assuming everyone was like him on twitter, facebook, with ipad and iphone.

So the question is will the NBN which will take 9.5 years (their numbers not mine) assuming no delays, be redundant when it is fully rolled out. If it was such a good idea where is Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Bill Gate? They are not interested, mind you they were not interested in pink bats and solar panels.

Give us the resources to do the job

The picture explains what the project managers...
Image via Wikipedia

Construction project managers have similar issues the world over, no matter the size or complexity of the projects they manage – resources. The way it should work is a budget is given to the PM to manage, he is responsible so let him get on with it.

But in many companies project teams are invariably understaffed, under funded, and micro managed by head office bean counters.

For example, the chief accountant discovers coloured photocopies discarded by the photocopier shared by 30 staff and is apoplectic with rage. “These cost 18 cents each, use black and white only” he screams, but when asked to get an IT person in to change the default network setting it just never happens. The change setting is simple but it is the levels of security to go through that are the issue. We cannot have project managers who deliver multi million dollar buildings changing print settings, that spells the end of civilization as we know it.

Thousands of dollars are spent on document management systems, we move to cloud storage, and expect our concrete subcontractor to not only download and print the drawings, but to join the project electronic communication merry go round. But ask for a part time document controller and you are sure to be disappointed. Then someone has the shear temerity to point out that with electronic issuing of drawings nobody is actually reviewing the drawing changes. Thousands of dollars of design changes are being left unclaimed. Who is responsible, yes the project manager, but if they had the resources…………………

Oh No – Not More School Construction

Having spent the last 16 months building 16 schools (God bless you Miss Gillard and your BER) I vowed never to get involved in another school. This may be a touch premature as last night I was contacted by one of my Arab friends regarding building schools in the Middle East. Of course, having spent considerable time in that part of the world my response was a littered with broken Arabic  a touch of French and a liberal sprinkling of the de riguer combination of Mafi Mushkila and Inshalla ( No problem and God Willing). In other words lots of enthusiasm but no actual commitment. In the world of Arab negotiations you need to dance around the issues several times before you get down to brass tacks. Talk about the health of the family, the world cup, mobile phone reception in Dubai, property prices in Doha, but don’t ask about specific female family members, Isreal or Syria, and never put the guy on the spot to make an immediate decision.

There are a couple of differences building schools over there and Gillard’s pathetic BER.  Firstly they know what they want,  secondly the consultants (architects, engineers) are an integral part of the construction team,  and finally they hire the best companies.

OK they have plenty of money but they spend it much more wisely than the government do in Australia. But where they beat us hand down is their governments have vision and they do not need to worry about elections!!

Depressed Employees

I came across an application called “Storify”.  If you are new to blogging it is a very easy way to access support info for your blog. Unfortunately you cannot paste the code onto

My recent blogs have been about employment so I have been exploring some of the issues that may be a barrier and cause good candidates to be unsuccessful with their job application.

I have hired people who have had depression and what is interesting is that those who have sought advice and done something about their depression have turned out to be excellent employees. If you know what makes you tick you are on the way to understanding how the rest of the team ticks.

I signed up for Storify and the following link is my first attempt.

Just click the following link to view:

Depressed Employees

If you do suffer from depression or you even think you might you should talk to your doctor, a friend, a loved one. You are not on your own.

What are employers looking for?

A recruitment agency shop window near Holborn,...
Image via Wikipedia

Enough has been said about employment consultants. What about the people who pay their fees – the employers.

Now I should declare that I have been in the past hiring for employers and seeking employment. Never at exactly the same time but the two tasks have sometimes been converging.

OK we can talk about teams, visions, future growth, seat warming etc etc, but employers simply want to know if the candidate can do the job, will they fit in and will their cost be outweighed by the profit increase by them being employed. Or these three basic traits:

  • Ability
  • Compatability
  • Profitability

It is as simple as that, and when you appoint somebody who has fantastic ability, the best qualifications, who is bound to help the bottom line but has the inter personal skills of a misanthropic slug, you have problems. Then there is the gregarious type who gets on with everybody, is well qualified but should be at the CSIRO as they have no appreciation of profit then the project sails along into a very red sunset.

To get all three traits in one person may mean compromising on one to some extent. I once promoted a site manager to manage a project, nothing too big about AU$8 million. He had the ability and the personality but did not have the hard nosed profit background. So I gave him a very experienced (older) contract administrator to manage the dollars. The project went well and the site manager learnt from the administrator the facts of project profit.

Employers receive recommendations from employment consultants, all the leg work of reference checking etc is done prior to any interviews. Then there is the interview and if that goes well a further interview to finalize salary etc. The employer, therefore has met withe the candidate for a total of say ninety minutes, and on that basis they entrust him to deliver a project safely, on time and under budget. Therefore a lot rides on the interview, and that is where some of the best candidates fail.