If I Were to Go

It would be so hard if I died tonight. I just logged into our US Bank account and realized you do not have our login name. Nor our our password. If I died tomorrow, you would have no way of getting into our account to pay the water, electric or even the house payment. How would life go on for you?

However, if you were to pass tonight on your way home from work, as I have dreamed for the last 13 years and wondered how someone who works nights and drives home in the wee hours of the morning could avoid a fatal crash is beyond me, it would be devastating to lose the father of my children and a person I once loved enough to marry and never had enough authenticity to say enough is enough when things turned a bit sour and I stayed anyway. It was the first of many compromises to a marriage I only entered into in order to help someone I cared about. Did I love him? No. I cared enough about him, and was interested in him enough, to say yes to his initial question–“Will you marry me?” The absence of a ring, the kneeling down on a knee, the lack of a card, these things should have revealed the early signs of a failed marriage before they even began. But I refused to see that it would never be enough for me. I wanted it to be enough; I pretended it was enough; But no matter the effort, it fell short. That hurts the most, the realization that your marriage has failed and you have done nothing to try to save it.


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In Response to Forgiveness

A friend of mine and I were biking on Saturday and as we neared the end of a 3 hour stint, we chatted briefly about forgiveness.
I figured that when we talked on Saturday that it is a complicated story with many layers and that it wouldn’t be linear. Healing takes us forward, backwards and around in circles in order for us to discover our road forward! I think the one thing that struck me the most was your learning how to forgive yourself. We are always hardest on ourselves and you grew up caring for those around you, accommodating feelings, knowing love was conditional. Your ability to disconnect and draw strong boundaries—we can talk when you want to be supportive or— you will have to leave no—is a testament to your spirit and your intuition/spirit/universe on what you needed to survive and overcome the trauma your body suffered from this second attempt on the physical, emotional and spiritual level!
It reaffirms my own theory that you are in the exact spot you need to be in right this moment—and all the things—good and bad that happened along the way—pushed, pulled and maybe dragged you to that one moment on Lake and Minnehaha when I brought up the On Being podcast.
I’m so grateful for your wisdom, your friendship and laughter, along with the intensity of purpose for health and happiness. You had me at Team Wild!
Excited to be on this journey with you as an observer, participator and hopefully influencer!
We have many things in common and trauma is a big one that, from what I have seen so far, has influenced you but not defined you!
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Arting at DuNord

I take an afternoon and show up at arts and crafts. Art intimidates me and I’m always afraid I will do it wrong. We are working on reverse impressions with cardboard circles and paper plates, plants and cut out letters. I choose a delicate fern, a maple and pine tree. My words are Peace and Joy. I paint my wafer with blues, purples, reds and a little yellow. Stipple it like a famous artist. Lay my leaves down and the letters. Flip it and press it into the paper. As I wait to lift off the design and see the image, I wonder where I will frame this and what meaning it will bring to our home. We have a home well lived in and neglected. Fingerprints on doors and crayon marks on walls. Almost no art hangs on these walls as the running of boys through the hall and dining room have knocked down and broken many frames. As I play peek a boo with the image coming to light, I love the background colors. Then Joy comes to light, leaves of white and distinct species. And when Peace is exposed, the e is missing. It is so pretty and my heart expands. But how do you live with no e in peace? We laugh and look for the e under the table and on the chair. It is simply gone. I stare at it and others comment. We joke about the Walker pulling their offer. And slowly the idea of flawed peace comes to mind. Even with the greatest intentions Peace can be flawed. And maybe how we create peace in the simple moments when life isn’t perfect is exactly how we find joy.

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40 is not the new 50

I let my son take the wheel in my new Honda Odyssey. It’s white and decked out. I’m trying to hide my nervousness by writing this poem and listening to Michelle Obama reading from her memoir, Becoming. He drives a little too fast on the road leading out of school and takes a corner a little too fast–though all 4 wheels stay on the road. I tell him that 50 is not the new 40. I tell him I’m nervous and our backseat driver, Freddie’s younger brother, pipes up with, You are always nervous. I remove my hands from under my legs to prevent me from using them as brakes on the front dash and let them relax on my thighs. As he moves into traffic on the freeway, I sense he is going faster than he should be going. You are going to fast, I say quietly trying not to starve him as I know that is the quickest way to cause an accident. I’m just keeping up with traffic, he replies. However, I quietly remind him, it is not a defense in traffic court. Its successful and I get him to slow down to 60. I’m never going to get comfortable with this, my boy driving, so all I can do is quietly keep reminding him of how to do things right, drive the right speed and watch out for others. We arrive home in one piece and I can breathe a little easier. This is never going to get easy for me, however, if I can sit calmly while instructing, I know I can at least have influence on him.

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The Problem When You Make Your Children’s Lives Your Own

Last weekend my son and I spent the weekend at a hockey tournament. It started out well with their first win against a solid team. We spent the rest of the day at the hotel swimming, napping, watching movies. For lunch we ordered pizza and everyone brought something to share. We broke bread like a family should.

As hockey parents, we spend so much time together taking our children to practice, watching games, letting them skate and getting them together on holidays and weekends, that these people become an inner circle of friends. In the midst of all this time and settling in, I forgot about the importance of pursuing my own work and letting my son pursue his. I watched my life shrink slightly with friendships drifting away and incredibly busy friends tending to their growing families. Instead of pursuing new friendships and concentrating on the important ones I still had left, I unconsciously started living my life as if my son were the only part of my life. I essentially forgot who I was–a writer.

So instead of spending time writing poetry, reading novels, studying for the PMP exam that my job depends upon, I spent time talking with parents at the arena. Chatting about nothing in particular. Falling into a sense that it was okay to  air my frustration that my son made a team with many challenges–challenges that ranged from boys who couldn’t skate, to the aggressiveness of a boy who lacked a mind/body connection and lashed out with his stick at almost every chance he could get. My son had tried out as goalie and ended up having to skate as a player as the other goalie can’t skate out and there were not enough players on the team. This team was like the Bad News Bears.

And so the season progressed and the boys improved. Barely at first but significantly at the end where even the opportunity to win a game came into play and land in tournament that allowed them to sport a trophy. That wasn’t really in the cards for these players at the beginning of the season.

And so my son bragged a little about being the top scorer. He sometimes brags a lot about his talent. It gets on a lot of people’s nerves, even coaches, even parents, and especially the players. He does have some talent. He has a knack for skating the puck down and scoring on break-aways. He was also one of three captains. He stepped up to his position with grace. Pushing his teammates hard during practice, telling them when they did good work and when they needed to work harder. It’s not an easy task to step into that role. The coach encouraged him. Pushed him hard seeing his potential as a leader and a better hockey player. The players gave him a hard time about this. Refused to listen to him until he pushed hard to get them into action. My son wanted to work hard and he wanted his team to follow him. His frustration palpitated the air at times as he would plead with the coach to let him step down.

In the midst of all this, I got too involved. Spoke too much. Let myself get carried away with my own feelings of my son not making the team he wanted to make. My own frustration of him not being able to be coached like he would have been had he made a better team. When you make the A-team, everything is faster, the drills more calculated, the strategy more in-depth, the expectations of all the team mates. My son’s coach spent his time dealing with boys who wouldn’t or couldn’t listen, who would slash his own players as they passed him during drills, and players who just didn’t show up to practice regularly. In the beginning I held out hope–I truly believed the coach could bridge the gap, but even during one of the first practices, the coach had the boys executing a somewhat complicated drill and my son collided hard with another boy not paying attention. They both hit the ice hard and the coach jumped right on top of my son to make sure he didn’t move until it was clear there was no danger. It ended with a trip to the ER to make sure he was okay and it ended future practices focused on only the basics. Not ideal for a player with improvement on his mind.

I was mad. And I voiced my opinion loudly. I didn’t go to the board of directors at that time as I knew there was little that could be done. It was too late in the season to shift him. I didn’t advocate for him. I whined and complained and I sometimes let my son overhear these conversations on accident. But in the midst of car rides home with tears flowing, it was hard to keep silent. I did what I could to support and build my son up. We had many conversations about life in general and how you never know why you are in the place you are in but it is the exact place you need to be. I would give him examples from my own life to help him power through the season. I think when he grows up, he might pull these stories out to help him through difficult times.

I hope my words didn’t fall on deaf ears. Regardless, these conversations meant something to me, especially as I continued to ignore my own needs to serve my son. I wanted people to like me. I talked too much about not enough important topics. I bored even myself. But I didn’t do anything about it. All I did was try harder to engage the other parents–which led to the reason I am even writing this post in the first place. I talked too much and fell into playing small in the world. I gossiped and laughed at other people’s children without even realizing I could be causing pain to their parents, or to the team.

It came to a head after the tournament came to an end. A mother, who I’d known for the last three years, was told by someone else that I was making fun of her son and the pajamas he was wearing. I am so embarrassed even to write this. Another parent and I had been eating breakfast and the parent was laughing about how this boy had come into her room to hang out wearing a cookie monster 1-piece pajama suit. She joked about how she’d called her boyfriend and sent him a picture saying–and he’s a hockey player. I’d thought it was a little weird and a little funny at the same time. I like this boy a lot. He is smart and funny and sweet all at the same time. I would never intentionally hurt him or his mother. This joking with my friend wasn’t meant to be hurtful, it was just me thinking something was cute and laughing about it.

We went and placed third in that tournament. We finished and headed out for the four hour drive home. We were all tired. And I waited in the car until my son finished dressing so we could hit the road. I had no idea the storm brewing inside the arena as gossip spread and rumors flew about this little scene at breakfast. Maybe if I had been aware, been paying attention, I could have addressed it right there. But it was too late for that. I was tired and wanted to leave. As I waited in the car, tempers flared unbeknownst to me and my son.

Without warning, the next night at practice, when I walked into the arena, this player’s mom verbally attacked me. She looked almost like she was joking–wagging her finger at me and yelling, “Shame on you. Shame on you.” And like I do in almost all situations where fear and nervousness take over, I laughed. She took that as an opening to slay a million dragons with her words. She was mean. She called my son a bully. She called me a liar, a fake. Screaming at the top of her lungs and pacing around me wagging her fingers. This mom is my height and weights at least 200 pounds more than me. I was frozen. I couldn’t talk. And my silence made her madder. When I tried to walk away, she moved in front of me so I wasn’t able to move. Not one parent said a word. They watched. And no one intervened. I think the rink manager might have however he was puttering with the Zamboni. I acknowledged her anger and tried to explain what happened. She refused to listen. Screamed louder and proceeded to attack my son and his friendships in horrible ways. Calling him a bully and the cause of the team’s losses. That he was mean and unkind. It felt surreal and I couldn’t get out of it.

I did nothing though. I moved away from her. I gathered my bag and left with my younger son so I could get him home. I felt sick and within a day, came down with the worst head cold I’d had in years. My physical body punishing the emotional one. I talked with the coach and had my son talk with the coach. I didn’t feel safe going back into the arena. I wasn’t sure what she would do. I’ve reworked out many scenarios in my mind on how this could have been different and played out better for both of us. Later that evening, my friend (and fellow hockey mom), called and asked me why I would let someone treat me that way. Why I didn’t slap her and stick up for myself. I wonder that myself. It isn’t how I respond to anger. If I’d yelled back or slapped her, I’m convinced she would have dragged me out of the arena by my hair and beat the crap out of me in the parking lot while parents watched from a distance. I wonder now if I’d been able to move through her anger and find my own compassion, I might have been able to penetrate her crazy rant with a, “I’m so sorry. It wasn’t my intention.” However, I was in fight or flight mode. I felt like when I was 9 playing outside after school and a bunch of kids chased me home. I ran so hard that day and made it into the house just as they were about to get me. I don’t know what would have happened if they’d caught me, if I would have survived that or not. But it has shaped my reaction to anger–I am a flight kind of gal and I will do everything I can to get to safety. And that is what I did. I fled the moment I could from that scene in the arena with my head low and heart aching.

I spent a week fretting over this scene and comforting my son who found out what was said by this parent about him from another friend who happened to have been late to practice and witnessed the entire incident. It kept me up for weeks after the event. Replaying the scene over and over like a skipped record and in the midst of this, I contracted the worst sore throat and head cold  that even the ruminating over the scene made my head hurt.

Even today, three years later, I continue to hash it out in my head, like a machete in a corn field. It’s plagued me even after the mom apologized a year later and explained she didn’t even remember what had happened. She’d had a breakdown and ended up in the hospital with complications to diabetes the very next week. What I realize now though is that the only reason I ended up in that situation was that I was not doing my own work. I’d hyper-focused in on my son and crafted his comings and goings into my own life instead of focusing on my own work, my own life. I swerved from the core of who I am and what I need to accomplish. I allowed myself to play small, to believe my life only mattered through what my sons did and accomplished.

It’s been hard to get here. A difficult path that I carved out and caused other people pain, including my son. I just wanted to be liked and I wanted to have fun. I wanted to connect in the worst way possible. I was desperate and I’m sure it was noticed in an irritating way, although no one ever said anything about it to me.

I am here now though. Lessons learned. The very lesson I tried to lecture my son about when he made this team so many years ago. Applying my own philosophy to this situation, I know I was in the right place at the right time for whatever reason. Was it painful, yes. Did I come to understand why I was there, yes. Is there anything I can do to avoid that in the future, yes. I can dig in here where I have been such a stranger and I can recreate myself again by concentrating on what is most important–creating a life that means something. And that is what I will do now. I’m finished licking my wounds and gathering support from others. I’ve put myself in this mother’s feet and have come to understand her complicated medical issues she was facing at the time. I took my lesson to heart the following year and spent less time at the arena, more time walking, reading and writing and spending time with people that understand mistakes are made and that our life’s purpose is to care for each other with compassion even when it is so much easier to judge.

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Best Practices for Project Management Part Two

Project management is about managing your projects to the best of your ability while balancing the expectations of the customers, shareholders and business owners. At times, projects can even impact the health and well-being of the company. That is a lot of weight the Project Manager carries on his or her shoulders. As a PM, I have heard the banter around getting it from both sides—the external client side, the internal side, and everyone in-between. It is no simple task to keep things on task for final delivery and on-budget while ensuring the client will be happy with the end product.

There are many articles at our fingertips that talk about best practices. When doing a recent search, Google came up with 11,500,000 results. That is a lot of information built around best practices and how to do it right. It also makes one realize how large the body of knowledge is around project management and best practices. There are tools, solutions and templates all available for those wanting to develop a best practice. Will it really help though? Are two people similar enough, with similar work habits, with projects that move through the process similar enough for all of those suggestions to help aid you in being a better project manager? To better help manage your project?

I think finding what works for you is the most important part of finding a best practice for project management. You need to keep in mind that the definition of “Best Practices” as found in Merriam-Webster is this: “A procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption.” And so overall, we know that using an established template is a best practice and will help keep us on track. Ensuring we follow the five areas of Project Management: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring, Closing ensures we capture the tasks that need to happen before we start. How we develop the plan, how we monitor, how we ensure we are meeting our financial goals, depends upon the person managing the project and his or her teammates.

Recently I submitted a project we worked on for a Collaboration Award because of how well we all worked together to achieve the goal. We all came together to ensure we could launch the project on time and on budget and to achieve the ultimate results of savings for our clients and members, as well as for UHC. We collaborated across the entire organization and while we all had individual goals to meet, we also had the ultimate goal of bringing this product to market. The best practices employed were:

  1. Planning the work by using a project template
  2. We created a planning roadmap once the project was defined
  3. We spelled out clearly what our roles were and how our procedures would be employed to run the meetings
  4. We managed our work flows and monitored to ensure timely implementation and financial acumen
  5. We looked for warning signs and at one point needed to re-visit the scope due to a legal snafu with our clients
  6. We went to leadership for approval when our scope changed and our timing was pushed out due to the change
  7. We also kept track of our scope and fought against adding to our scope
  8. We also identified risks upfront and continued to ask at every meeting if any new risks posed threats to our project
  9. We also continued to identify risks throughout the project to help keep it on track and prevent scope creep
  10. Lastly, we resolved issues that came up as quickly as we could to ensure success

These top ten items work for me. It is a natural work flow that helps me to manage projects and keep them on track while delivering a quality product to my client. I wonder what other project managers think of this and if it is different, what their top ten list is?




  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/best%20practice
  2. https://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-best-practices-for-successful-project-management/
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Hazel’s Memorial

Hazel, my neighbor for thirty years or so, died back in June. Here is a memorial I wrote for her:

Hazel had nine lives. I personally saved two of them. In 2003, I’d bought a cookbook on Macrobiotic Cooking and was intent on learning how to cook healthy and heal my life. I’m not sure how Hazel had found this out. We talked on a regular basis while we mowed our lawns or shoveled our walks. I admired her fierce independence—she could do anything. While I was resting to catch my breath after a particularly hard, wet, continual snow, she was out there flipping it off her sidewalk as if she were waltzing to a silent speaker. Nature wrapped her in comfort—from her garden beds she built in the front yard (and shared her Japanese Irises with me), to her patio and walkway out to her garage—and was a source of power to her even until the very end. I talked with Bill shortly after she went into Hospice and he was out taking photos for her of her purple irises. She loved her garden.

She called me one afternoon many years ago. Her voice creaked with pain. She asked if I had any food I could bring her. At the time, several years into this new cooking phase, I’d also started cooking for other people who were sick. I would prepare foods from my garden and the co-op and as they simmered on the stove, I would pray over the pots asking God to bring healing in whatever form possible to the person I was delivering the meals to. Hazel knew I had been doing this. I’d been laid off from a job I hadn’t liked much and this idea had popped into my head. She’d encouraged me to follow what held the most meaning for me.

When that call came, I’d been simmering Miso soup on the stove. I told her I’d bring it right over. At her door, I handed her the steaming bowl of soup and told her if she needed more, to call. I prayed for her to heal and thought our block would never be the same without her. Days later, she summoned me to her front door. She held my hand and said, “I would have died without this,” and she handed me my bowl back and hugged me tight. This happened one other time with rice (which was all she was able to eat at the time). Simple tasks that gave her life and comfort during times that were excruciatingly painful and torturous for her.

Hazel, as we all know, was amazing. She faced everything head on. She was fierce and proud. She called me over when she found out she was going to die. She told me that she didn’t want people to be sad for her. That her life had been so full and she was so grateful for our friendship. She told me I could only have five minutes to cry and then I would have to wipe off the tears and get back to life and its duties.

My husband, sons and I shoveled for her during this brutal time she faced. It might have caused her more pain not being able to clear her walk and driveway and she was so grateful for our help. When she told me how she wanted to stay clear in her mind and not take the heavy narcotics, I thought—just take the drugs—I only wanted her to feel relief, to get real sleep, to breathe deep. She found her relief in all of us, in all of the work she produced, in the students she taught, the books she read and wrote. I’m sure all of us think we could have done more, however in Hazel’s eyes, we did exactly what we needed to do right when we needed to do it. She loved us for that. And she asked for nothing in return. I loved her like a mom and feel her spirit around me, especially when I am doing simple tasks like gardening or cooking. I miss her. I send her off with my love and blessing.


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Best Practices for Project Management


There are pros and cons to advocating for best practices in project management. The entire Project Management Institute prides itself on the standards they have developed and promoted ensuring a standard for a qualified project manager. They have study tools and guides, classes and work books, in order to help emerging and experienced project managers become certified as a project manager. PMI was founded in 1969 and delivers value for more than 2.9 million professionals working in nearly every country in the world through global advocacy, collaboration, education and research (PMI.org/about).

When I first joined UnitedHealth Group as a project manager with Optum, part of the criteria was to become a certified project manager. While I relish studying and enriching my mind, I resisted the philosophy of a “Certified Project Manager.” I remember arguing with myself as I watched videos on the five domains, Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling and Closing (PMI.org), that just because you have led 7500 hours of projects, taken 45 classes, and pass a test, it will make you a certified project manager that companies can rely on for weighing your credentials, means that you will be a great project manager. All I could think about was that an entire industry cropped up because companies wanted standards and best practices to ensure projects were managed on-time and on-budget. Companies need project managers to lead projects to close and to ensure resources are saved and valued.

What I learned later after I’d passed the exam and became a certified project manager is that it does help manage projects better when there is a formula to follow. Project management can also be looked at as a container to keep control over projects that can make or break a company. For example, over the last year, I have worked on two large projects that involved the entire enterprise and an outside vendor. Without the use of the best practice tools UHC employs (project plan, charter, scope, roles and responsibilities, etc.) I would never have been able to manage the project in a way that ensured on-time delivery and on-budget.

John Shedd wrote, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for,” (goodreads.com) meaning that the best practices should not just be implemented without due diligence of analysis and to ensure it works best for the organization. To blindly go into projects using the standard tools available without reviewing what might work best for the project and modify it by then can be counter-productive (tlnt.com). An example of this might be trying to find the best project plan/project playbook that works best with the project you are deploying. Across our enterprises, we have many iterations of the project playbook and some work better than others. At Optum, we used Microsoft Project and at my current role we use Excel. The tools available are the tools you use—if Project isn’t feasible (either because of cost or lack of users to share it with), than even though Project is a robust tool that provides excellent project management tools, as a PM, you might have to fall back on Excel to manage your projects.

Most importantly, as I mentioned above, I think the take-away here is that best practices and tools for project managers should be implemented when they make the most sense for the organization. The goal for every project manager is to complete the project within the constraints before them. If the tools that have been standardized hinder that effort, than it is the project manager’s responsibility to look for simpler solutions that will help with the success of the project—keeping in mind that role of the ship is to keep it afloat in the ocean. Anyone can tie the boat up in harbor—but once out in the ocean the tools are what will keep it on track and on schedule to deliver its goods to their destination.


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Ensuring Success Your First 90 Days on a New Job


Starting a new job is exciting and stressful at the same time. Depending on the role you take on, you could be moving into a job with greater responsibility and visibility. There is a wealth of knowledge from blog posts to published books on the critical strategies to achieve success in your new role. One book in particular, “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins talks specifically about how to create your footprint and make your mark within the first 90 days—and the downfall if you don’t. He believes this is a teachable skill and lays out a, “Standard Framework” for these leadership transitions based upon, what he calls, “Five fundamental propositions, “ten key challenges,” and a four-fold typology of situations that new hires find themselves in. His theories are balanced out with an easy to access practical steps you can take to ensure your transition is as successful as possible.

Watkins also talks in detail about values and culture which fits nicely in with working here at UnitedHealth Group. From the interview process through on-boarding, culture and UHG’s value statements are weaved into the new hire’s experience. On the hub, anyone can find the steps to follow when on-boarding new employees, Orient New Employees. This site outlines the steps a manager should take before the new-hire arrives and the new-hire’s first days on the job. One of the most critical tasks is orienting the employee to the culture and showing how everything done at UHG pivots on Our United Culture, mission statement and the five values: Integrity, Compassion, Relationships, Innovation and Performance. This loops us back to Watkins’ book and how his systematic approach to thinking about the role will help you keep your wits about you as you orient into UHG’s culture.

For the manager, having a detailed to-do list for each of the new hire’s milestones will help keep them on track for what needs to be completed and when. Towards the end of the 90 day orientation, the employee should have a clear map for meeting the expectations of the new role, as well as exceeding expectations for their functional area. Tasks might include the simple tasks such as setting up voicemail and getting your signature on your email completed to the mandatory and optional LearnSource class list. All of these can be found within the link above on orienting new employees. Success for your new position is truly found in your hands—your manager will guide you to the tools needed to step into the roll, but it will be up to you to embrace the role, the culture, the mission and the opportunity to learn that determines your success.


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Buffalo Range

The range in the distance looks like a buffalo laying dead

on its side. The strips of black make the orange of the dried

grass look like legs and a carved out belly. Its head, not

as easily as defined. But the legs. Oh. The legs. As if this

animal had roamed so many years searching out this one

spot with the grass prairie stretched out for miles and the sky

so big and round, it is as if you are the scene in a snow

globe, an orb that tilts the world slightly enough to see

how this range is now a buffalo who has come to lie

down in these golden fields and surrender everything

up to God. And the pink sky offers his soul a ladder to

climb to release all  he has seen, the pain of

the vanishing prairies, the melting glaciers, the fires

that threaten this very prairie. This is a scene that beckons

pardon from wanting to loosen the grip on this dear life

and move into the next. To lie down in this pasture

and rest your head on that warm buffalo’s belly.

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IT and Business Project Managers: Glaring or Subtle and is there a Difference?

When interviewing for a business project manager role for a large company many years ago, I did not quite understand the difference between an IT project manager and a business project manager. I literally thought they were the same, except I didn’t have the IT background to call myself an IT project manager. In the end, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know the IT part of managing projects, what mattered the most in this position was having a business side perspective in order to manage the customer and the actual IT analysts in order to deliver the product the client wanted.


The company had been having serious issues because they had migrated the client from an aging platform that allowed the client direct access to the IT folks to a more integrated system that now charged for those fixes the client was able to sneak in for free in the past. They really needed a manger to manage the client’s expectations and to manage budgets.

I pitched myself as a client-facing, energetic, strong communicator and one that was able to integrate all aspects of implementing projects while keeping timelines and budgets inline. At the time, I didn’t know there was a difference and I didn’t know that even though the company was looking for an IT project manager (or so they thought), they were really looking for someone to manage the business from all aspects of the project. Strategic thinking and planning entered into the conversation and they were sold.

I think if I had come to the interview with the language that I implemented “EPIC” at my previous role, they might not have been as interested. Although on the surface they were looking for the IT project manager, they wanted to see results and they wanted someone to come in with that mindset of changing the client’s behavior from ad-hoc changes under the table to one of transparency where budget, timing and data drove the decisions for both the client and the company. They wanted a project manager that clearly created a difference within the organization and the client.

The company, without knowing it, was moving in the direction of the Philosophy of Atern—there are eight core principles that support the Atern Philosophy. When a company and/or a project manager employs these eight principles, the demarcation line between IT and business project managers becomes almost non-existent because the focus of the PM changes from the mindset of a specific product/project being deployed to how it aligns with the business.

The eight Principles are as follows:

  1. Focus on the business need
  2. Deliver on time
  3. Collaborate
  4. Never compromise quality
  5. Build incrementally from firm foundations
  6. Develop iteratively
  7. Communicate continuously and clearly
  8. Demonstrate control

With these principles at hand, IT is no longer its own entity. IT is part of the business strategy to deliver quality on time and on budget through these eight Principles. So while I took the position as an IT implementation manager, I really was focused on ensuring the client’s needs were in line with the strategic focus of their company and our internal interests. We aligned ourselves and worked collaboratively as a team as we bridged the gaps that created serious issues and defaults within the client’s business. The client was in fear of losing business due to the inability of our company to report correctly on processed claims. By working closely with all departments that impacted this defect, we were able to utilize our IT to clearly identify and prioritize the projects in order to ensure both the client and our company’s goals were met.



Attidore, Dean (July 23, 2015). So is there a difference between a business and IT project manager. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/so-difference-between-business-project-manager-dean-attidore
(2008). DSDM Atern Handbook. Retrieved from https://www.agilebusiness.org/content/atern-principles

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