Posted by: kerrywills | October 31, 2014

Reply to All – Abbott & Costello Style

This is a scenario based on a recent incident at my workplace that many people can relate to. An individual posted a note to a company-wide distribution list asking to be removed. Then other people replied to all (the entire company) saying not to do it (but doing it themselves as well). There was a recent Unit Way charity Talent Show where a colleague and I re-enacted this reply to all thread but in the form of an Abbott & Costello “Who’s on First” format. The transcription is below along with a link to the video .


Kerry: Hey Winthrop, I have this new employee and I am trying to get them added to a distribution list which includes the entire company on it.
Winthrop: Well I am sure that you know who this person is so please tell me their name
Kerry: Oh sure, his name is “All” and I think he sent you an email, asking to be added…
Winthrop: Well I do remember Replying to All, sending out a note to the distribution list asking for him to be added.
Kerry: Wait you did Reply to All for the entire distribution list?
Winthrop: Yes I did Reply to All.
Kerry: You did a Reply to All!? What were you thinking?
Winthrop: What do you mean? I was trying to do the right thing, hence Reply to All.
Kerry: While well intended, that was a highly questionable decision. What happened after that?
Winthrop: Well then a bunch of other people also sent a Reply, to All.
Kerry: Like who?
Winthrop: Well I saw notes from… Say Again.
 Kerry: Say Again?
 Winthrop: Yes.
Kerry: Who?
Winthrop: Say Again.
Kerry: What?
Winthrop: Not What, Who, Say Again.
Kerry: Wait, Say Again
Winthrop: Yup. That’s what I said; I also saw several emails from Say Again.
Kerry: So let me try to understand; first you did a Reply to All and then there were others who did a Reply to All and… Say Again (?).
Winthrop: Right and they also included CC in the email.
Kerry: CC?
Winthrop: Yes, works over in Distribution and is very good at over-communicating. Feels like this is all they do really. Are you familiar with CC and the capabilities he brings to the organization? You must be.
Kerry: So who else did CC loop in?
Winthrop: Nobody, because even if he wanted to Reply to All, it is impossible.
Kerry: Why so?
Winthrop: He’s in email jail.
Kerry: Ok I think I understand now
Winthrop: Things were somewhat under control, until the rash of emails sent to Unsubscribe; asking for people to stop Replying to All.
Kerry: Did other people agree with Unsubscribe?
Winthrop: Say Again.
Kerry: I said did other people agree with Unsubscribe?
Winthrop: Yes, Say Again.
Kerry: You heard me.
Winthrop: I know.
Kerry: Really!?
Winthrop: Yes, Say Again. See.
Kerry: CC?
Winthrop: Not CC, Say Again. See?
Kerry: Ok, then how did he get removed from the e-mail conversation?
Winthrop: Unsubscribe.
Kerry: Right, I know he wanted to be removed but who removed him?
Kerry & Winthrop: One, two: Say Again.
Kerry: And now for some reason I haven’t received any e-mails for the past 27 hours.
Winthrop: Did you check with our customer support technician, Out of Office?
Kerry: Out of Office?
Winthrop: Yes
Kerry: Where is he now?
Winthrop: Out of Office.
Kerry: I know, but what is his name?
Winthrop: Out of Office.
Kerry: Winthrop, I think you are out to lunch. Anyway, how do you know where this person is?
Winthrop: Out of Office email.
Kerry: Super. Thank you. I know just what to do next.
Winthrop: Great. What is that?
Kerry: I’ll simply Reply to All, plus CC and Unsubscribe.


SEE THE VIDEO of the performance

Posted by: kerrywills | October 24, 2014

Course Correcting

Projects can be very volatile with frequent changes and surprises. Those that read this blog know that I am a big proponent of constant diligence and monitoring. This allows PMs to stay close to insights and understand trends as they form. Once these trends get recognized I believe it is important to take the right action or ‘course correct’ so the project stays on track to meet its commitments. This could mean a few things..

  • Change people – While I don’t believe that anyone intentionally wants to do poorly, I believe in “fit” and sometimes people are just not in the right roles. I often wind up shifting around people to get more focus in certain areas or improve the strength of a certain team.
  • Revisit scope – Scope tends to grow on projects and the team may need to revisit the scope and prioritize what is important. This is especially needed as projects get into the later stages of development and realize that they ‘bit off more than they can chew’
  • Reconsider milestones – I hate moving dates because I view them as commitments, but the facts may support this needing to happen.


All of the items listed above require courage. It is easy to keep a resource in the same role and much harder to restructure in the middle of a program. It is also easy to assume that the scope and scheduled can be met, but the reality may be something different…and it is our jobs to present the facts with support evidence to make the decisions and thus ‘course correct’ to a better outcome.


Posted by: kerrywills | October 17, 2014

Adding a New Tool to my toolbox

I have been working on large programs for nearly twenty years and have added to my ‘toolbox’ over time with such skills as Project Planning, Earned Value and Risk Management. I have recently added a new ‘tool’ to my toolbox which is superstition. The program that I am on now is very large and complex and seems to constantly have problems. I find myself becoming more superstitious each day. For example,when we are testing a capability and blocking defects get fixed, I don’t want to get too excited and therefore somehow ‘jinx’ it into not working. Or I don’t want to suggest we are past an issue just to have it come back again.



What I do know is that luck is not really something that can be used on projects. Ignoring problems does not make them go away and, in fact, probably makes them worse by the time they do get realized. So the key is staying on top of risks and issues before they become problems.

That being said, if having a lucky clover or other items will help make progress I am not above trying them either!

Posted by: kerrywills | October 10, 2014

Attitude vs Aptitude

I have been on several projects now where there are project resources who are very talented in their particular field but who have a pessimistic and almost toxic impact on the team morale. These are the people who know a system or business area very well and therefore everyone comes to them for information. Because of this they get a sense of entitlement which makes them believe that they can act however they want and say whatever they want. Examples I have seen in my own career include…

  • Aggression towards vendor partners
  • Aggression towards other team members
  • Flagrant comments about management and other team members
  • Negative attitude about the project goals


I suspect that because they are viewed as critical resources that management glosses over the attitude and doesn’t make a strong stand. My view is that, on my projects, I take attitude over aptitude any day. I would much rather have an optimistic resource who views themselves as part of the team than an expert who makes the project horrible for everyone who has to work with them. I have been on projects where I have rolled off talented people because their attitude was toxic and causing problems for the entire team. Obviously the issue needs to be identified and brought to that person’s attention, but if the attitude does not change then I believe action is required.

Posted by: kerrywills | October 3, 2014

A Word from our Sponsors…

I am taking a break this week to do some shameless plugging for my Project Management materials and upcoming activities…

  • On October 16th I will be presenting my case study of Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Westchester, NY (Link)
  • My Webinars on Consulting Approach and the Kilimanjaro Case Study can also be found on the ITMPI library
  • My second book, Applying Guiding Principles of Effective Program Delivery has been out for a little over one year and focuses on HOW to manage programs using Consultative Skills
  • My first book, Essential Project Management Skills was published four years ago and is still very much relevant today as PMs need to have more entrepreneurial and consultative skills
  • I will be bringing back one of my favorite presentations, The PM Kung Fu Theater, via a webinar on 6/16/15 so be on the look out. It creatively ties our profession to the classic Kung Fu movies of the 1970s


Ok, now back to your regularly scheduled blogging

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