Don’t Make a Monkey Out of Yourself

By Pamela A. Scott

This morning Mark and I were talking about the generation of folks coming out of college and in their 20s. I mentioned some young engineers I talked with at the ACEC/GA conference in June. I was just amazed at their enthusiasm and eagerness to get involved.

Mark repeated what he has said before: We hire them and beat the leadership and enthusiasm out of them over time. We wear them down until they look and act like us.

I would hate to see that happen to the folks I talked with. I would hate to see that happen to ACEC/GA Future Leaders program participants that I get to work with each year.

Our conversation reminded me of this tale.

Subject: Company Policy

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result – all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it. Learn More »

How Do You Herd The Proverbial Cats?

The project starts off great. Everything is going just as you have planned. There are no problems and no issues to report. Every task is on track and every Deliverable has been delivered.

But, a little more time passes and the project begins to stray a bit. There may be some dates that are missed and scope creep begins to enter into the picture. Expectations may have been missed or need to be reset as they are out of alignment with reality.  Next thing you know, what was starting off as a project that was under control now is suddenly out of control!

You can picture “the cats” heading for the hills. They are off their leashes and are heading straight for the fences. They are running away from you as fast as they can. So you may wonder, how can you get these “cats” back into the fence? How do you herd the proverbial cats?

There are three steps in order to get these cats back in the fence:

Get Everyone That Owns a Cat Together

These are stakeholders for the project. They could be functional managers or key resources that are working on deliverables where there has been some confusion. Get all of them on a call, in the same room or whatever it is going to take in order to get them together so they can hear each other’s perception of where they feel the project stands.

Ask Everyone if Someone Else’s “Cat” is in Their Yard

This cat could be something along the lines of a missed deliverable or perhaps there was incorrect communication.  Someone may be waiting on an audit or a decision to be made. Identify anything and everything that is holding up that person from moving forward, because somebody else’s problem is in their yard.

Ask Them if They Know Where Their Cats Are

Make sure that they are aware of the fact that nobody should be waiting on a deliverable from them either. At the end of this meeting everyone needs to have the same perception of reality about the project.

The fact that you have everybody together allows all parties to agree, disagree, or to ask for clarification where these issues, problems, and delays may be. You can begin to quickly reign in and herd those cats into their fences, get them back on their leashes and get them back  to work.

 NOTE: Be prepared to do this multiple times throughout the life-cycle of a project depending upon the complexity. These cats have a tendency to get away and head for the fences time and time again throughout the implementation of any project.

Why Teleconferences Leave You Feeling Empty

By David Ryback, Ph.D.

In this age of high-tech communication, we’re often challenged by the lack of nonverbal data that accompany more natural forms of communication. For example, one reason some of us occasionally find it difficult to communicate over the Internet is that we rely so heavily on facial and body expressions as well as eye contact that we feel somewhat lost when communicating by e-mail, especially when there’s a need for nonverbal cues in the communication. The insertion into e-mails of “emoticons,” little cartoon semblances of smiley faces or other facial expressions, is an attempt to compensate for this lack of eye contact.

We then come to the purpose of videoconferencing, but even that has its limitations. That’s why conference calls by phone seem so sterile. Even though some less verbal associates may be saying very little, there’s a great deal of comfort just seeing them sitting there attentively, in person. It’s also possible they may have something of value to contribute to the conference call but don’t feel comfortable interrupting the flow. A particular individual’s demeanor and facial expression cue us to invite such valuable contribution, which is otherwise lost in a conference call. It’s that aspect of nonverbal communication that makes face to face communication and relationship building so important.

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