Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Category Archives: Consultants

Observations of Great Teamwork from Cirque Du Soleil

ImageLast weekend I attended the Cirque Du Soleil show, Amaluna. While most of the audience was mesmerized by the beauty and awesomeness of the feats, I was mesmerized by the demonstration of what great teamwork can accomplish. Here is a quick run-down of my observations on the benefits of great teamwork.

Trust in Others

The troupe is truly putting their lives in each other’s hands. With high-flying acrobatics and water stunts, the impact of something going wrong can truly be life threatening. It takes a huge amount of confidence to entrust your life into your co-workers hands, but the results are astounding.  When thinking of who needs to trust whom, it goes beyond other performers who are putting their safety at risk, but also the engineers and riggers.

What could you accomplish in your current project if you had that much faith and trust in your teammates? Would the project have better flow and less resistance? Do you give your teammates the trust they deserve? We are each experts in our own rights of our own domain. Trust in that and keep conversations on using the various areas of expertise to achieving the goals of the project. Identify underlying issues to deal with the root cause to address team members you believe not to be trustworthy.

Slips happen…recovery gracefully!

Don’t think for a second that every show goes off without a hitch. I saw a couple of “slips” (some obvious, others not) and am sure I missed many more. What keeps the show amazing is the graceful recovery. The most obvious slip I noticed, the performer just kept going and tried again. She succeeded and the audience was amazed. Other slips were covered by their team performers adjusting their movements to minimize the impact on the show, the performers, and keep the show entertaining for the crowd.

We often experience slips in projects. Maybe there is a slip in schedule, defects in code, or risks that turn into issues. It is okay. Our project plans help us decide the graceful recovery in advance. There may be an unforeseen issue that affects the project. The issue is what is it is. Focus on the graceful recovery in support of the project. Refer to point number one and trust that your teammates will contribute to the graceful recovery.

Here is a quick side note. The music in Amaluna was live. It would be very difficult to recovery gracefully if reliant on a soundtrack that prevented needed corrections.

Be Trustworthy

Bad things happen when you are not trustworthy. A performer in Amaluna would not feel safe to give a 100% on feat where their safety was in my hands and I’m not trustworthy. I may lose opportunities to perform. The show would lose a great deal of awesomeness with the troupe not trusting in each other to give 100%. Signing up to perform a feat that one is not ready for, performing when physically compromised, or not being reliable in showing up for rehearsal could destroy valuable trust and compromise the show.

Are you trustworthy when it comes to your projects? Do you make meetings on time, participate fairly, complete assignments as agreed? Do you refrain from gossip, always give honest status on the project, and help your teammate recover from their slips? The person who can do this with integrity, consistently will be a very important contributor to the project. Only when all teammates, including yourself, are trustworthy will you have the level of trust needed to pull off amazing acts. It is the rare project that is delivered on time, on budget, and with promised scope that brings value to the business…a truly amazing feat.

Here is a short promo video of Amaluna to amaze you. A fourth secret follows.

Amaluna Promo Video

A fourth observation? Yes, risk management. Telling you this is admitting to what a nerd I truly am.  The video shows the scene with the contortionist in the water splashing all around. My mind realized that water on stage could be deadly to those that follow her act. Brilliant risk management is at work here.

  1. Large cloths blanked the stage around the bowl.
  2. After they moved the bowl and blankets, they had performers performing wiping the stage down with towels
  3. The next act was the high wire, not conducted directly on stage but the high wire with cushions below
  4. Then intermission

Four strategies to mitigate the risk of water on the stage endangering the performers.

Please share your stories and thoughts on what makes for amazing teamwork.

Photo by Cirque du Soleil at

Document Your Project History

How often have you been called upon to remember past projects? Are you prepared to respond to “tell me about your favorite project and why it was your favorite”?  If you are pursuing professional certification, a new job, or promotion, be ready for this question. If your brain is like mine, it is an overflowing file cabinet with some of the best material buried in the back corner. It is not always easy to access the things you have done in the past, especially when new projects are always sitting on the forefront of the mind. As a result, you will likely shortchange yourself by relying on the more accessible recent experiences that may be less relevant in the context of the position. Perhaps you come up short on needed hours experience for that professional certification because you had forgotten about that part time project you worked on when in a different position. There is a remedy for this. That is your Project Portfolio History.

I created my Project Portfolio History when applying from Professional Project Manager Certification from the Project Management Institute.  It was a necessary step for completing the application, but I quickly saw a multitude of uses for this listing. The list includes:

  • Project Title
  • Start Month
  • End Month
  • Number of Months
  • Organization
  • Project Description
  • Role
  • Responsibilities


Customize your Project Portfolio History to meet your specific needs. You may add a column for percentage of work time spent on the project, the project sponsor, team members, project methodology…whatever makes sense to you.  This is your reference and a supplement to your resume, not a replacement. You may opt to share with recruiters in which case it might make sense to keep a “private” version in addition to the “public” version with the private including key words or signals that you want to remember without sharing. My private version has notes to remind me of my favorite projects, least favorite projects, projects where I learned the most, and many of those other common asks when discussing your project past.

The project description should help describe each project and what made each unique. What technologies and methodologies where used? What was the team structure? Who were the users of the solution and how the accessed it? You do not need to answer each of these questions – rather you are looking for what about this project sets it apart from others.

This document has helped me in describing experience in resumes, cover letters, and in interviews, as well as document hours for both the PMP and the Certified Business Analyst Professional (CBAP®) certification.  I use it when customizing my resume to the job I am submitting for, developing my cover letter, review prior to an interview for a fresh look, and I even request to keep the document out and handy during an interview. I have yet to be refused to have my “cheat sheet” handy. Recruiters and interviewers have requested a copy. Remember to have a public version available. One recruiter I worked with said, “This is great! Every project professional should have this.” Start putting your together today. I have linked a Project Portfolio History template so you can get started on yours today. Start with your current project and work backwards. You can always add rows to fill in gaps if you miss something along the way.

Please share your experiences with this or a similar document by commenting on this post.

Rescue the Problem Project Book and Study Guide Reviews

I am pleased to announce that I have published reviews for both Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure
by Todd C. Williams and A Learning Guide For “Rescue The Problem Project” (pduOTD Primer Series) by Martin Chernenkoff.

Click the links above to find full reviews and purchase your own copies!

Secrets to More Subscribers, Readers, and Referrals from Your Email Marketing Campaign

“Social media is the word-of-mouth on steroids.” Dana Pethia

Yesterday I attended a Small Business Event hosted by Constant Contact and the Thurston Chamber. I had signed up specifically to hear Dana Pethia and to learn more about Constant Contact as an email service for Professional Project Services and a couple of professional organizations that I support. What I came away with was also a wealth of best practices in email and social media marketing to share with my consultant and small business friends.

Having an email list allows you to send information to those that have indicated an interest. Email is a way to establish a relationship with the customer and let them know your services, accomplishments, and ways you can help them. It keeps you visible so that they remember you and your services. Email has an added benefit of being easy to forward making it easier for subscribers to refer you to their friends. An email service makes establishing, maintaining, and distributing to your email subscribers easy and efficient.

Get subscribers

  • Ask! 57% of customers will fill out a card for email alerts
  • Offer information in exchange for subscription (an article, presentation, coupon)
  • Use a QR code to point smart phone users to an email sign-up form
  • Provide a “text to join” option
  • Include a link to sign up in your business email signature
  • Add an email sign-up link to your social media account profiles
  • Establish email segments to allow customers to sign up for specific topics that interest them
  • Do not ask for more than five bits of information on the sign-up form
  • Establish and share a privacy policy indicating you will not share or sell email addresses
  • Let people know what they will get and how often
  • Provide a previous sample to show potential customer what they will receive

Get Readers

  • The From line should show that the email is from you or your business, not an email service
  • The Subject line should provide incentive to open email. Not summarize all that is in the newsletter
  • Use links to point to online content. Do not fill the email body up with too much information
  • Use formatting, pictures, and white spaces (how about a relevant cartoon or video) to make your email visually appealing and easy to read

Get Referrals

  • Share your email online archive across all of your social media sites so to make it easy for your connections broadcast
  • Include a share bar (tool for the reader to share your information) in your emails to make it easy for readers to forward
  • Ask subscribers to share your content
  • Offer discounts or incentives for customers that provide referrals

This is timely information as I start thinking about my next monthly newsletter. I now have some improvements and changes to make. In the meantime, please join my email list to get my monthly newsletter, discounts, and goodies. Thank you!

See the event flyer for more information on sponsors and speakers of this great event.


Disclaimer: The workshop was hosted by Constant Contact. There are other services available that provide similar functionality including MailChimp, AWeber, Your Mailing List Provider, and more. This is not intended to be a specific endorsement of Constant Contact.

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