The Agony of Managing Christmas



Dear Agony Aunt,

Lacking the Gantt Chart structure that governs my life as a Project Manager throughout the year, come holiday season I struggle to apply the same order to our Christmas lunch menu. This year is chaos, since among the 12 guests we have two vegetarians, two gluten-free, one anaphylaxis, one vegan and a toothless aunt who consumes only pureed solids through a straw. Any advice?


Dear Anonymous,

Christmas is no time to depart from your winning ways. There are plenty of online project management resources solely designed to manage your Christmas menu. At my place, nothing happens unless it’s in the Gantt Chart. One time, our  family sat immobile and starving for a week since the predecessor task for lunch (food shopping) was incomplete and in amber. Apply your project management skills to event management and have a great Christmas!

Agony Aunt.

Certus3 Helps to Achieve Asciano’s Initial Move to the Cloud

151125-Certus3-News-1400x800px_Cloud Computing

Asciano, Australia’s national rail freight and cargo port operator has recently completed a major IT Transformation Program, aimed at moving key IT infrastructure and applications to the virtual cloud environment.

Asciano “has achieved the initial platform from which further cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) enhancements can be made,” explained Sarah McCullough, Program Gemini’s former Business Program Manager and current Asciano IT Customer Experience Manager.

The program, spanning almost three years found its origins in the leading edge IT Strategy led by Asciano’s forward-thinking CIO, Kelvin McGrath, who sought to achieve multiple aims by moving in the ‘As a Service’ direction:

“The achievement of economies of scale and the need to reduce spending on nearing end-of-life technology infrastructure topped the list of aims, closely followed by the need to set Asciano’s path to future IT sustainability and improved accessibility for its internal and external customers.”

As the program’s implementation partner, Certus3, partnered with Asciano and its private cloud solution provider, Fujitsu, to:

  • deliver and embed IT Service Management (ITSM) protocols and processes to support the ongoing development of a managed service relationship with cloud partner Fujitsu
  • deliver more than 4800 new cloud desktops complete with hardware to more than 130 sites across Australia
  • migrate 6700 employee mailboxes to the cloud
  • merge two legacy email systems into one new enterprise-wide standard
  • recreate eight legacy business-critical enterprise systems in the cloud environment
  • replace existing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems with a single cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) application
  • stabilise Pacific National’s transport management system, through the migration to the cloud of five integrated applications, five servers and the data warehouse

“The completion of Asciano’s first major cloud-focused foundation-building program of work, led by our CIO, was made possible by a team of great people, including Certus3 and its team of expert PMs.


Simo Popovac, Michael Devlin, Simon Toll and the extended team demonstrated a firm commitment to delivering our project on-time, within the defined budget and to a high level of quality. ” said Ms McCullough.

The Agony of Charisma


Dear Agony Aunt,

Can charisma be learned? Too often on projects I work with uninspiring men who believe they’ve inherited a charisma gene when in fact what they really need is a charisma transplant.  How can that delusion be corrected?

Cheers, Anonymous.

Dear Anonymous,

Some men do believe that charisma is “God given”, along with the capacity to pack a dishwasher, mow grass, and successfully navigate from place A to place B in a car. Charisma is a positive force of personality and can be a great asset for project leaders, regardless of gender. Charisma can indeed be learned and development starts with empathy, authenticity and clear communication. Speak to your Business Transition Team for more guidance.

Agony Aunt.

Charisma – a Key Influence in Business



Charisma is a quality that many of us in the project community often mistake for ‘charm’, but a person’s charisma can influence whether we choose to engage with them – or not.

Charisma can help enable influence and inspiration – gold for any Project Head or Business Transition/Change Manager looking to distinguish them self as a leader, rather than merely a manager.

Often associated with movie stars, sports people, populist politicians and dictators, charisma is actually identity-neutral and can be developed by anyone.

Charisma as a leadership competency

Sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) pioneered research into charisma as a leadership capability, defining charismatic leaders as those who can inspire, motivate and attract followers.

Contemporary studies  have shown that the full spectrum of personality types, notably including introverts, can demonstrate charismatic behaviour. Indeed, sociologists appear near to arriving at consensus on the set of characteristics common to charismatic people.

Nikki Owen, of the Executive Faculty at UK’s Henley Business School, has offered a blueprint for leaders to improve their natural charisma and unlock team engagement. “The Charisma Model”  targets development and measurement of five competencies for charisma effectiveness:

1. High Self-Esteem – self-confidence, inner-calm, self-reliance, independence. Charismatic people have high self-esteem – which conveys confidence and authenticity. When you have high self-esteem you are relaxed about exposing your authentic self.

2. A Driving Force – purpose, personal values, principles. Charismatic people have an underlying sense of purpose, a set of values – principles important to them – which drive their decisions and actions.

3. Sensory Awareness – empathy, emotional intelligence (EQ). Charismatic people are aware of their own feelings and the feelings and moods of others. They are in touch with their emotions and are uninhibited about showing them, making their communication compelling.

4. A Vision – visualization, belief, a mental picture, a positive attitude towards an aim. Charismatic people have a strong vision of what they want. To imagine and believe the aim – to see it happening in your mind. This creates strong intent that others can feel, and often see and hear too.

5. High Energy – passion, enthusiasm, commitment, determination. Exhibiting high personal positive energy builds and maintains a positive energetic response in others. Positive energy makes others feel good, become energised, feel valued and productive.

Developing charisma

The significance of training and experience in effective emotional communication cannot be overstated when learning charisma since each of these three words combine to form an important underpinning principle:

  •  Effective – engaging, relevantly targeted, inspiring, confident
  • Emotional – passionate, empathic, two-way (the charismatic person feels and reflects the feelings of others)
  • Communication – beyond words alone (body language and expressive style are crucial) underpinning this is self- confidence and belief in respect of the purpose and area/audience being engaged

Charisma development & the Certus3 Business Transition Model

The Certus3 Business Transition Model incorporates strategies and activities that support the development of the abovementioned ‘charisma competencies’ for change leaders.

Wouldn’t your life be easier, if you could inspire, motivate and excite the people in your life?

For more information on charisma competency development contact Certus3’s Business Transition Lead, Mel Young.

The Agony of Tapping into Emotional Intelligence


Dear Agony Aunt,

I’m an effective program manager and meet all my stage gates. I’m always on budget and the Finance guys love me. But I feel alienated from the project team. They love regular pub dinners but I’m not into that. What to do


Dear Anonymous,

I’ve been there! You need to balance your technical performance with team-member sentiment. Take tome to associate yourself with their own personal journey. EQ is hard work but very satisfying. Clint Eastwood managed the transition, from his early ruthless Dirty Harry to the benevolent William Munny in Unforgiven. If I’m struggling with issues I turn to the business transition team for advise – you should too.

Agony Aunt.

Emotional Intelligence: A Contemporary ‘Must Have’ for Change Leaders



In his first interview as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called out ‘emotional intelligence’ – also known as ‘Emotional Quotient’ (EQ) – as his defining characteristic. Anyone embarking on large-scale transformation should heed his remarks.

In isolation, good IQ (‘Intelligence Quotient’} and sound EQ are commonly accepted to be desirable capabilities. But the right alchemy of both is fast becoming a requirement for contemporary change leaders.

EQ is not the opposite of IQ. We need to understand how they work together. Deficiencies in either space can be detrimental to advancement. That’s why Australia’s new Prime Minister has sought to supplement his high IQ credentials with EQ commitment before promoting his change agenda.

Turnbull said: “The important thing is to have the emotional intelligence and the empathy and the imagination that enables you to walk in somebody else’s shoes.

To be able to sit down with them on a train or in the street, hear their story, and have the imagination to understand how they feel. Emotional intelligence is probably the most important asset for – certainly for anyone in my line of work.”

One assumes the ‘ability to relate to everyday Australians’ would be part and parcel of the Prime Ministerial brief. But let’s not go there. Instead let’s explore what EQ means as a differentiator for Leadership.

EQ has been the focus of much executive research, particularly in the U.S. A recent study conducted at the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) on derailed executives, “The rising stars who flamed out” discovered that each member of the ‘derailed group’ exhibited an ‘interpersonal flaw’ and not, as many would have expected, a technical one.

The research carried out on top executives in the U.S and Europe uncovered several flaws, including – poor working relations, authoritarianism, ambition and ‘prone to conflict with upper management’. Such flaws, not surprisingly, fell firmly within the emotional frame.

When it comes to the field of Change Management, or Business Transition as described within the Certus3 and Blue Seed Consulting change frameworks, EQ is king. We have Change and Business Transition Managers with the ability to manage personal responses to change while at the same time building resilience to it and creating exceptional change outcomes.

“Emotional intelligence is a critical tool in business. After years labelled a discretionary “soft skill”, two decades of scientific and business research has demonstrated the value of emotional intelligence for leaders and anyone whose job involves influencing and engaging people.” Langley Group

Isn’t EQ what’s expected of all leaders today (and tomorrow)?

The higher a leader rises in an organisation the more emotional intelligence matters particularly as they begin to face increasing levels of uncertainty, volatility and complexity.

Emotional intelligence was originally defined by Salovey and Mayer (1990) as the ability of an individual to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions; to discriminate among the positive and negative effects of emotion; and to use emotional information to guide one’s thinking and actions.

The great news is that emotional intelligence, unlike IQ, can be developed over time in order to improve performance. Emotional Intelligence forms the suite of soft skills such as empathy and listening, which are ranked highest among the competencies of successful global leaders and C-Suite executives.

Benefits are two-fold: they support higher levels of employee engagement, which translates to happy customers and greater business results; plus they give leaders themselves greater self-awareness, understanding of others, personal resilience, decision-making abilities and the capacity to influence others.

Many HR reps will tell you IQ gets you in the door but a good grasp on your emotional side provides the yellow brick road to promotion.

We’d suggest that a balanced blend of both IQ and EQ will now get (and keep) you in the door, especially during times of change.

“Emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head – it is the unique intersection of both.” David Caruso

From preschools to corporations to the hallways of the nation’s leadership, people are plugging into their “touchy-feely” side which, once derided, is proving to be a major contemporary key to success in business and in life.

For more information on Emotional Intelligence check out:

Footnote: Salovey, P & Mayer, J 1990, ‘Emotional intelligence’, Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9, 185-211.

The Agony of Scheduling


Dear Agony Aunt,

I’ve never really understood program scheduling and consequently the projects I manage get chaotic and invariably run over time and budget. What can I do?


Dear Anonymous,

Divergent views on program scheduling mirror cultural approaches to international relations. It took a nightly disciplined focus for a resurgent Germany to re-arm itself in just 20 years between the wars, under the nose of a notoriously laissez-faire France that was distracted turning its champagne bottles to augment the fermentation process. Start by balancing your project objectives and the reality of delivering your program and you’re half-way to formulating a sound schedule.

Agony Aunt.

The Art of Scheduling


By Gabe Lopata

Some major projects are fated to fail due to shortfalls in the planning phase, so in this post I thought we’d look at what a good schedule looks like and how it can increase the likelihood of your project succeeding.

A schedule comes from the program’s scope of work and ensures the designated direction is followed without deviation. While schedules for agile projects tend to have a horizon of only weeks (known as “sprints”), waterfall programs plan for the life of a project.

Creating a project plan is no walk in the park – at times it can feel like you’re in the middle of a prolonged bi-lateral free trade negotiation. It’s taken 10 years for Australia to secure a deal with China but the longer-term benefits of that deal for exporters dwarf the effort spent on settling the arrangement.

So too with project scheduling, which you should approach from both top down (strategic objective) and bottom up (practical needs) perspectives in the same way as a negotiation, with each party providing insights and logic until the balance between strategy and practicality meet in the middle.

The top down schedule is often referred to as the Driver Plan since it’s the point of origin for planning and combines the thinking of both senior management and the business owner as described in the strategic objective of the project.

The development of a schedule goes through much iteration, with the pathway becoming clearer as information is added cumulatively. This being so you should make the effort to manage and time the act of ‘iterating’ at logical points.

A logical time to stop for some R & R, (Refining and Re-baselining) in the context of a SDLC, would be at the point that separates high level design and detailed design. Not only is R & R good for one’s constitution but it helps immeasurably with critical activities such as effective cost and contingency forecasting.

Here’s some tips to help you make a better project plan:

  • First, be clear about the project scope
  • Always plan with a view of strategic top-down and practical bottom-up
  • Be aware of dependencies between tasks
  • Be realistic when allocating time and resources against tasks
  • Accompany the plan with change management considerations designed to address key change impacts
  • Make sure team members, team leaders and end users are consulted along the way, understand their role, and are committed in the program’s success

Ongoing evaluation of actual performance against scheduled activity is essential in hitting project milestones. The Certus3 Phase Domain Model can assess if the right level of deliverables are available within the project. It can also assess how a program is currently performing, and is likely to perform, into the future based on the completion level of deliverables.


Established in 2007, Certus3 assists organisations manage large-scale programs of work involving wide reaching organisational change. Offering program delivery and program management consulting services, the team’s growing client portfolio includes successful Australian corporations like Woolworths, Perpetual, Asciano and Myer.


Insights360™ is a survey-based diagnostic tool that guarantees early risk and issue detection for senior executives in charge of large and complex programs of work. The proprietary tool is used by program managers and senior executives interested in understanding the ‘true’ status of their projects.


Melinda Young
Certus3 PR & Communications
M: 0430 433 989
T: @MelCertus3

Greg Searson, Asciano IT PMO Leader Rates Insights360



Certus3’s Insights360™ has more than delivered for Asciano, providing the organisation with ‘real’ insights into the projects they are undertaking.”

What do you mean by ‘real’ insights?

“The differences that exist between the officially reported project status, as put together by the Project Manager, and the informal project status is vast. Insights360™ enables the layers of traditional project reporting to be peeled back, exposing the ‘real’ status, commonly understood but never officially declared.

A review of Asciano’s projects showed that status updates did not provide a ‘real’ view of progress and consequently were not a good indicator of project health and future success.”

Why is it important to understand the ‘real’ project status?

“An understanding of the causal links between attitudes, behaviours, project progress and future outcomes is crucial in either rescuing a project in-flight, or protecting one from failure in its infancy.

Insights360™ gives valuable time back to those responsible for project management – time to prevent risks or repair issues before their impacts leave an indelible impression. This was certainly our experience.

With a minimum amount of effort the tool enabled us to provide a comprehensive view of project success, our distance from it and an indication of the areas we needed to zero in on in order to achieve success.

In addition to protecting projects from failure the tool also highlights well managed projects and can be used to establish benchmarks and perform periodic project health checks.”

How often has Asciano used Insights360™?

“Asciano has leveraged the insights provided by the tool in many of its recent and most notable projects:

Project Gemini, a cloud-based managed service solution migration for its infrastructure and applications

Patrick Terminal Operating System (TOS) Project, a newly designed system responsible for all aspects of day-to-day terminal ports and stevedoring operations

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System Project, currently in its scoping and business case development phase.

The repeated employment of Insights360™, has created a pattern, unplanned initially, but one that has unofficially become part of our stage-gating process and one that is well positioned to become an official pre-requisite to any silver or gold stage gate milestones in the future.”

What aspect of the tool do you find most helpful?

“The relationship that the tool establishes between behaviours and factors that determine project success or failure, such as scope, solution, schedule, stakeholders, team, budget, benefits, issues and risks is invaluable.

Being a data-driven decision-maker, I appreciate the statistical basis of the tool and find comfort in the logical back-end.

Other helpful aspects include ease of use, it’s available online and so can be completed at any time and from virtually any device, it’s anonymous, fast, and not particularly expensive – all important traits and helpful selling points when attempting to gain executive buy-in.”

Would you use Insights360™ for another project in the future?



Insights360™ is a survey-based diagnostic tool that guarantees early risk and issue detection for senior executives in charge of large and complex programs of work. The proprietary tool is used by program managers and senior executives interested in understanding the ‘true’ status of their projects.



Melinda Young
Certus3 PR & Communications
M: 0430 433 989
T: @MelCertus3

Agony Aunt – The Agony of Accountability


Dear Agony Aunt,

“Accountability” is sadly absent from the project I’m working on. No one is taking responsibility for their actions and timelines are slipping as a result. How can this situation change?


Dear Anonymous,

History shines on this that assume accountability for their actions. US President Hary Truman famously said the buck stopped with him, Richard Nixon was impeached for passing the buck while George W Bush retired on all the bucks he made while in office. Accountability needs to be documented for individuals and enshrined in project governance controls. Request this from your leader and communicate it to the team. Then stick a ‘Buck Stops with Me’ Post-It note to your colleagues’ desk. And if all else fails paint a bullseye on everyone’s back and leave a bow and arrow in the kitchen.

Agony Aunt.