Project Management and Investments
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  • How to become very successful

    Posted on August 12th, 2009 Peter Tjernström No comments

    If you’re a very successful person, you’d probably like to think of yourself as a gifted but self-made and hard-working individual. In his latest book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell takes a slightly different view and describes, by looking at e.g. differences in circumstances and timing, how social factors interact with sufficiently intelligent, devoted and hard-working people to make them exceptional, to make them the outliers.

    UK cover version

    UK cover version

    In a nation where the idea of the American Dream still prevails, this book has ignited some heated discussions. It often seems like readers have interpreted Gladwell as giving the social factors too much weight. My interpretation of Gladwell’s point of view is that while there are many who possess the intellect, skills (not always the ones we think of) and devotion to become true outliers, not everyone can become one. These are necessary but not sufficient criteria. The circumstances and timing also have to be such that the skill set and devotion pays off. A person with Bill Gates’ skills and build wouldn’t have particularly successful if born in a medieval village in Scandinavia when the Viking leaders were raiding and fighting for power.

    Read the book, it’s full of insight and can alter your view of the world. Here are some comments from Malcom Gladwell himslef and from others.

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  • Peter Schiff: After two years of rally, the deluge of hyperinflation

    Posted on May 21st, 2009 Peter Tjernström 2 comments

    All professional investors are asking themselves the same question right now: “Is the recent surge on the stock markets world wide just a bear market rally or does it mark the end of the financial crisis?”.

    According to Peter Schiff, the financial crisis is far from over. In fact, the worst is yet to come, but first everyone will party on President Obama’s stimulus for two years.

    Peter Schiff, President & Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, is according to himself one of the few non-biased investment advisors to have correctly called the current bear market in U.S. dollar denominated assets before it began.

    Peter Schiff

    Peter Schiff

    As a result of his accurate forecasts on the U.S. stock market, economy, real estate, the mortgage meltdown, credit crunch, subprime debacle, commodities, gold and the dollar, he is becoming increasingly more renowned in the U.S. and world wide. His best selling book, “Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse”, was published by Wiley & Sons in February of 2007.

    It shall also be said that it seems like Mr Schiff has been unable to turn these predictions into investment returns for his clients. Allegedly, his strategy also caused huge losses in 2008. It is difficult to understand why he, if certain of the crash, didn’t centre his strategy around shorting U.S. stocks.

    In a recently published article, Mr Schiff argues that the Bernanke/Obama massive stimulus will buy us a two year rush before the hangover sets in. According to him, we were already suffering from the doping injected by Greenspan/Bush in 2001, which “prevented a much needed recession and bought us seven years of artificial growth”. The multi-trillion dollar bill was due 2008.

    He argues that inflation can sometimes look like growth but “it is no more capable of creating wealth than a hall of mirrors is capable of creating people.”

    I do agree with him that the massive stimulus is a punishment for those holding cash and that these people need to seek more inflation-secure assets, such as common stock. As long as money is virtually free, it is burning in the pocket and asset market bubbles are inevitable.

    In Swedish context, I have noticed few critical comments about the very-low-interest-rate-immense-stimulus strategy. Two articles (one recent) in SvD denote exceptions.

    But if Mr Schiff is right about all this, even about the 2 years, you as an investor have no choice but to follow the trend and invest in the stock market or even in property. You just have to know when to exit.

    Mr Schiff’s article in full.

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  • Malcom Gladwell insight into Recruitment and Productivity

    Posted on April 13th, 2009 Peter Tjernström 3 comments

    In an essay titled Annals of education – Most likely to suceed published in the New Yorker, Malcom Gladwell, famous author of the entertaining and sharp-wittedly written book The tipping point, brings up two topics about skills and professions relevant to any manager:

    1. No prediction possible: There are certain jobs where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they’ll do once they’re hired.

    2. Differences in productivity: An economist at Stanford estimates that one particular student’s actual learning in one school year can, depending only on the teacher’s teaching skills, vary between half a year’s and a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year.

    The example used to illustrate the first point is about drafting quarterbacks for the NFL. There is appaerently no correlation between when a quarterback was picked in the draft—that is, how highly he was rated on the basis of his college performance—and how well he later played in the pros. The reason for this, argues the author, is that the pro game is a completely different one. NFL teams can’t run the common college offence tactic called the spread, which simplifies the quarterback’s decision-making, because the pro defenders are so much faster. This will put the talented quarterback in very different, and much more stressful, position once he enters the NFL.

    This is a very interesting aspect also when you consider recruiting for project management positions. You can be 100% certian that sooner or later your PM will be put in a position where he or she will experience a lot of stress. Both of the immediate kind, (in meetings with for example important stakeholders or an external customer), and the more lingering or dwelling kind. Yet there is no way that you can determine or predict how a person will react under stress. Any question regarding this matter during the job interview is also in vain. You can be sure that the applicant’s answer won’tu provide you with any relevant guidence, simply because no one applying for a PM job will descibe to you how badly they react under stress. This is why assessment centres are so popular.

    But unless you have the benefit of knowing someone who has previoulsy worked with the applicant during stressful times, you just have to accept the fact that some things just aren’t predictable and go by your instict in this case. After all, you weren’t hired because you can make predictions for the future based on numbers from the past, but because you can select and develop the right people. Right?

    The topic of productivity variation is also very related to PM work. Based on experience from product development enviornments, I’d say that even when comparing developers with what appears to be similar experience, (same education, same number of years in the profession, seemingly similar tasks), the difference in productivity can easily reach a factor of five. Meaning that the more productive developer does in one day what takes the other guy one week. In some cases, this can even reach a factor of ten and software development is where these extreme case are found.

    It’s easy to understand that when salary differences for the same job at the same workplace never can reach even a factor of two, it is crucial to recruit and retain the more productive employees.

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  • Who is managing your most important project?

    Posted on March 30th, 2009 Peter Tjernström No comments

    The world is in the middle of the toughest economic downturn in decades. Company spending and investment is being slashed everywhere. As a businessman, chief executive of a Fortune 500 company or a self-made entrepreneur, you are probably thinking about which projects you really can afford moving forward.

    You should also be asking yourself: Who is managing my most important project? What challenges must this person be able to overcome? And what are the  required qualifications and skills to make that project a success?

    As for the challenges, I am rather convinced that you will end up with a list similar to this one (at least if your company is of the bigger kind):

    First of all, your most important project is critical for your business. Since it is critical for your business many people are interested in the status, and hence the project manager (PM) has to be able to deal with all sorts of important internal and possibly external stakeholders.

    If you’re operating in a global environment, the project is inevitably spread over many sites and involves people of many different cultures. Hence, your PM can’t be afraid of travelling, he or she does not only need to have language skills, he or she must also be able to interpret messages depending on the cultural background of the messenger.  Of course your most important projects carries many high risks, and yes, it just happens to be on a tight schedule.  Does this sound familiar? That’s great! We can help you with your project!

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