It's odd that a Winter Dance always brings back so many warm memories. Blake easily remembers his first Winter Dance, the fine friendships, the decorations, the refreshments, and prizes. His school had arranged for a big barn to be converted into a dance floor.
It had a big fireplace along one wall that heated the whole thing just fine. Oh and then there was a band, decorations, and chaperones. You know when you think about it, someone had put a lot of work into the planning and organizing of that dance.
Blake didn’t want anything less for his school, and this year his class was responsible for the Winter Dance. The Dance was such an important event he felt he should check in with the Wizard for some advice. After all, if you had a Wizard for a friend, wouldn’t you? Besides, it was that special time of year and Blake hadn’t visited with the Wizard for some time, and owed him a visit.
Blake found the Wizard in a splendid mode, sitting comfortably in his chair, with Christmas slippers and snacking on cinnamon cookies. What luck! So Blake explained to Mr. Wizard just how important the Winter Dance was to his school and his students. When Blake finished explaining, the Wizard sat quietly in his chair nibbling on his cookie. Blake thought it best not to interrupt him in his thoughts. One time when Blake was younger, he’d interrupted Mr. Wizard and had to spend a week living as a worm. Not even a green worm, but one of those long brown things. No, Blake could wait.
Mr. Wizard finally asked if Blake knew what a Work Breakdown Structure was. Blake wasn’t aware of such a thing. This reply sent the Wizard off into his own world again. After a time past, and Mr. Wizard came back; he had a big smile on his face.
“You’re in luck,” said Mr. Wizard, “Another member of the Royal Society of Lizard Wizards has had some experience with the pmNERDS’ Center of Excellence. She indicates that you must accomplish these three wizard tasks:
- Join the Center
- Participate in the Project Planning Essentials course, and
- Talk with a member who has been successful planning Winter Dances.
These tasks certainly seemed simple enough; Blake should be able to do this. However, Mr. Wizard cautioned Blake, “You don’t know what challenges each of these tasks will involve. You don’t know what fierce magical demons will get in your way, or how deadly they may become. You don’t know how long each task will take, or how much it will cost. My advice is to be very careful.”
Blake had a lot to consider, and if he was going to embark on such a dangerous journey of this magnitude, he owed it to his girlfriend to talk with her about it. He thanked the Wizard, wished him a Merry Christmas and headed out to see his girlfriend.
Along the way, he couldn’t help but feel grateful for such a friend as Mr. Wizard. The wizard didn’t need to help Blake, and he was grateful for any advice his friend might have given. And this was certainly good advice.
As he walked, snowflakes floated down and seemed to lightly dance across his nose. It was the season of romance on every corner, and as he walked to his girlfriend’s house, his heart became fuller and fuller. He was so lucky to have such an understanding girlfriend. At last, he found himself knocking at her door. There was a delicate movement on the other side. She must be home! The door opened into a warm Christmas embrace. Blake went in and shut the whole world out. Everything was alright when he was with her.
That is until he told her of the three wizard tasks he had to perform for an unknown Wizard. "How do you know what kind of people these members are? What if they steal your identity? How long will this course take? How is the course relevant to planning a Winter Dance?" The flood of questions had begun. Thirty minutes later, poor Blake was still getting bombarded by questions; questions that he realized he didn’t have answers to.
Finally, Blake was able to calm her down, wipe the tears out of her eyes, and respond. “Look,” he said. “I don’t have the answers you want. This much I do know. First of all, my class should put on the best dance possible. A dance they can remember the rest of their lives. Secondly, I don’t want to be the reason we don’t deliver on such a very important assignment. Now thirdly, and this might be the most important, is that I love you, and won’t do anything that will put you or me in harm’s way.”
That usually would do it, but somehow she was still able to resist his arguments.
So Blake continued. He told her he would go very slowly and only do one wizard task at a time. Then it occurred to him, "You could go with me every step of the way. We can take this journey together, and when were done, you could work with me on the dance as well." It was as if he’d planned it this way the whole time. Everything changed; she smiled, became enthusiastic, and wanted to get started right away.
It was getting late and becoming colder outside. Yes, the snow was beginning to come down harder as well. After saying their goodbye, Blake and his girlfriend determined to start the very next morning because it was Saturday.
To start the day off right, Blake brought some chocolate milk and cake donuts in the morning. Together, they were ready to attempt wizard task 1. Now, what was it? Oh yes, ‘join the center.’ They gathered their credit cards, three months worth of pay stubs, birth certificates, drivers license, and social security cards. They hunted for diplomas, and certificates. Everything they might need for membership. Blake did not exactly know what he would need.
They held each other's hand as they began the web search for something called ‘pmNERDS Center of Excellence.’ Working on wizard tasks can be scary, and they knew they should keep their eyes open. Anything could happen. But no magical monsters appeared. The Center was found on the first search. Blake sheepishly smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and selected the login button in the top upper right corner. A login page was presented, with an invitation to join if they weren't already members.
That's what the other Wizard had said, "Join the Center." On the web page, it said it was free. Every nerve in his body was tingling, something bad was going to happen, everything was too easy. On the other hand, he had no choice; they had to continue forward. Blake took a long look in his girlfriend's eyes; she was as scared as he was.
You know, she had the kind of eyes a fellow could get lost in ... oh yea, "Join the Center." So Blake selected the ‘Create a new account’ option. The form asked for his name and email address; he was sent an email verification and was able to get in.
Wow, that was quick. In less than 3 minutes, they had found the site, and joined the Center. The Wizard task number one was complete. Nothing happened out of the ordinary while his girlfriend was joining either. They were now the two newest members of the Center of Excellence.
Blake said, “Task two must be where the real ordeal begins, ‘Participate in the course’.” Normally by now, Blake would be in all kinds of trouble. It was his girlfriend who found the course. The section topics were interesting and seemed relevant to planning any project. After reviewing the section on how to use the different features of the course, they both were ready to jump in. They read the first section, used the hyperlinks to find words in the glossary, and discovered a few papers in the Wiki that went into more detail for them. Blake's girlfriend couldn't believe that they had as much time as they wanted to complete it. She figured that Mr. Wizard must be a powerful wizard indeed. Blake became engaged in a live chat with a course participant from Australia and another from South Africa who had both created project plans for Jr. High School dances. They pointed out the need for chaperones, parking lot attendants, and tickets. He hadn't thought about security at all. Their help came in real handy when he was learning about building the WBS.
They were amazed at how easy they could get pretty good estimates for the tasks just by following some of the simple methods taught in the course. They found a great forum on resource assignments, and getting the right person, with the right skill, on the right task, at the right time.
Well, with the help of many people, they were able to plan the entire dance. They had advertising and even volunteer drivers shuttling kids to and from the dance. What more, getting the budget approved was never easier, because the principle understood exactly on what and when the spending would happen. It seemed the entire community was engaged in this dance. It all just happened so naturally.
Then, about a month before the dance, Blake was reviewing some of the course material, when he noticed someone had commented on a forum he had posted. The thread was long, and he hadn't noticed it before. A Russian teacher had suggested a partnership with his class, and as sister schools share live video feeds, between the two school dances to make it a little more multi-cultural.
Well, the dance was a great success. Everyone said it was the best planned and coordinated event the community or school had ever seen.
Now, as for Blake and his girlfriend, well they still can be seen mentoring new people in project planning within the Center of Excellence.
But wait a minute! Where is the part where Blake runs out needing help from his Wizard friend? Where is our favorite part about “Drizzle Drazzle Druzzle Drone, Time for this one to come home?” You might well ask.
Well, when it comes to pmNERDS training, not even Blake needs magic. Merry Christmas!
With a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, Val began working in the Aerospace and Defense, Telecommunications, and Electronics industries doing Predictive performance modeling, simulation, and animation. Later he would gain experience in Project, Product, Program and Portfolio Management. He leveraged this experience as Director of Global Marketing at Telelogic and while serving as Fellow at Ryma Technologies. He worked as a consultant in Enterprise Work Management for Workfront. He is the father of six kids and has been in Boy Scouting for 20 years. He has been an active evangelist for Integrated PM since 2009.
As a columnist at the Innovation Spark, Val writes a column about the issues and practices of Integrated PM leveraging the format of a 1960s cartoon, "Mr. Wizard and Tooter the Turtle".Website: www.linkedin.com/in/vworkman
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