Gallup Positivity Survey Shocker … Material Wealth Does Not Buy Happiness!

Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton in their 2010 paper, “High Income Improves Evaluation of Life But Not Emotional Well-being”, concluded from an analysis of 450,000 responses of Americans to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index “that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being”.

A newly published Gallup survey that measured positive emotions in 148 countries and areas in 2011 supported this conclusion. They asked the following five basic questions; Did you feel well-rested yesterday? Were you treated with respect all day yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?

They found that Latin Americans were the most positive in general. Panama was 1st overall with 85% of Panamanians polled (despite ranking only 90th on a GDP per capita basis globally) responding yes to all five questions. They were followed closely by Paraguay, El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica. Singaporeans are the least positive worldwide with just 46% answering yes to all five despite ranking 5th on a GDP per capita basis and were out ranked by war torn countries such as Iraq at 50% and Afghanistan at 55%. 80% of Canadians (11th overall) and 76% of Americans (curiously 33rd place, the same as the Chinese) while 74% of French, German and Finnish (the same as impoverished Somaliland) responded yes to all five.

While the Gallup poll may skewed by what critics claim is a cultural bias of Latin Americans and others to avoid negative statements regardless of what one really believes or thinks, Jon Clifton, a partner at Gallup, said skeptics shouldn’t “undervalue the expression of positive emotion as an important phenomenon in and of itself” and that “those expressions are a reality, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to quantify. I think there is higher positive emotionality in these countries.”

What are common traits of the top scoring societies? A proclivity to focus on family, friends and quality of life with a level of relative material well-being and the perception of personal security.

Happy New Year!

Your Telescope and Your Magnifying Glass

Telescope out to see what is on your horizon; real or imagined. Where are your going, where could you be going? What new opportunities may presenting themselves, what icebergs to avoid?

Then pull back and pull out your magnifying glass to focus and execute the details at hand. Telescope out and magnify in close; a constant cycle of exploration, adjustment and execution in your journey.

Be a Great Communicator

It does not matter how beautifully crafted your code is nor how detailed and carefully thought out your plan is. If you cannot communicate in a way that your listener or reader understands and embraces then none of it really matters.

A great communicator makes the complicated simple, the mountain a molehill, a threat an opportunity, the difficult do-able.  What needs to said and what needs to omitted. Who needs to know and who does not. When is the right time or when nothing needs to be said.

Choose wisely how you communicate. Orally in person, by phone or video. Written by twitter, texting or email. One-on-one in private or from one-to-many in a group. Synchronous (an open, sharing conversation) or asynchronous (a memo to all, an announcement). Permanent (remember everything written is preserved by someone, somewhere in this brave new world) or ephemeral (subject to our malleable, less than precise memories which is often a good thing). Each is suitable and appropriate for a certain circumstance; clearly consider which is right for your circumstance.

Communication is craft and art that is honed through observation, education, experimentation and experience. Communicating is the last mile. It is not the message sent but the message received. Be a great communicator.

Believing is not an Option

In 1970, the ill-fated American Apollo 13 lunar landing mission suffered an oxygen tank explosion that crippled the critical service module and stranded the crew in orbit around the moon with no way home back to Earth. Through the ingenuity and determination of the astronauts and Mission Control back on the ground in Houston and with only the material, tools and skills available on their the severely damaged Apollo 13 space craft, repairs were successfully  made. A creative, alternative approach back to earth was plotted and the crew were returned with out further incident.

The Apollo 13 incident, with it’s life and death consequences, is an extreme outlier but starkly illustrates the ideal that “failure is not an option”. While those words were a Hollywood creation and were never actually uttered, Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick responded when asked in an interview by the script writers, Al Reinart and Bill Broyles, “Weren’t there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?” :

  “No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them. We never panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution”.

They believed that the goal of returning the crew safely was possible despite extremely limited resources and options. What would have the outcome been had they felt that the goal was impossible because of those staggering odds against their success? When you are the leader and bad things happen, all eyes are on you. How will you react? If you believe the goal is impossible, then you will absolutely fail. If you believe that the goal is possible, then you have a chance of success. Both sides of the same coin are infectious; optimism on one side and pessimism one the other. Pessimism is self-fulfilling. Optimism opens the door to possible success.

132. What We Teach

“When we teach a child to make good decisions, we benefit from a lifetime of good decisions.

When we teach a child to love to learn, the amount of learning will become limitless.

When we teach a child to deal with a changing world, she will never become obsolete.

When we are brave enough to teach a child to question authority, even ours, we insulate ourselves from those who would use their authority to work against each of us.

And when we give students the desire to make things, even choices, we create a world filled with makers.”

Seth Godin, “Stop Stealing Dreams

Ninety-eight thought-provoking, insightful pages. Go … download, read, discuss, act.

Beyond Project Management to Project Leadership

We are only in the second month of the new year and I have already had three conversations on a topic that I sadly continue to discuss year in and year out; why is it so many IT projects fail?

Most recent studies show that only about one in three projects are considered successful and even many of those have the quality of “declaring victory” and moving on in spite of evidence to the contrary. The generally reported reasons are:

  • weak executive sponsorship and involvement,
  • vague or incorrect requirements,
  • unrealistic schedule,
  • poor scope management,
  • team break-down,
  • lack of user participation,
  • inadequate or incomplete testing.

All these reasons are widely known and accepted. Anecdotally and interestingly, the majority of IT projects in recent years have required that the project manager is Project Management Institute (PMI) PMP certified with the implicit assurance that projects lead by certified managers are aware of and able to avoid these pitfalls. Project mangers with a PMP  are educated and certified in the PMI’s PMBOK guide which cover their principles of project management and project management processes. In my opinion, the PMBOK is a solid body of work that focuses completely on the process of managing a project but falls completely short on the subject of project leadership. It is telling that leadership was only explicitly acknowledged as an important project management skill in the 4th and latest edition of the PMBOK for the first time and only in a brief paragraph buried in an appendix.

The PMBOK exemplifies what Donald Schon in the “The Reflective Practitioner” touches on;  “the inadequacy of established management theory and technique to deal with the increasingly critical task of managing complexity” where “professional knowledge is mismatched to the changing situations of professional practice – the complexity, uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflicts which are increasingly perceived as central to the world of professional practice”.  PMP certification, while demonstrating that the holder is acquainted with the PMI’s “body of knowledge” regarding project management, does not imply that said individual can effectively apply this particular body of knowledge in the real world nor does it ensure that this project manager is capable and willing to deal with the uncertainties, complexities, vulgarities of a project at the human level.

By definition projects are unique. By nature, they are very human endeavours. Projects are often foggy, untidy affairs staffed with less than a perfect team. This is lost on many who plan and staff projects. They believe that projects are deterministic, predictable, cookie cutter affairs and as such require managers of process and not leaders of people. We all have encountered the clip-board toting project manager with low to zero emotional intelligence, checking and measuring against “The Plan”. They hold meetings straight out of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where all is fine and nothing is amiss, hole up it their office fiddling with software tools that “manage” the project, and carefully craft meaningless status reports right up until the project hits the wall (to none’s surprise except perhaps to the few that actually read the status reports and took them  at face value).

Reliance only on process and certification will most likely result in a failed project. A successful project is the result of an effective and efficient team effort. The success of that effort is more assured with a true leader at it’s helm; an individual that is a communicator and motivator, a person that instills confidence and enthusiasm, and by their integrity and credibility has the mutual respect of all involved. As an industry, we need to make the requirement of these qualities in our project managers the first and foremost visible priority and place process knowledge in the back seat as a given core competency.


Seth Godin wrote in his book Linchpin about a village in China named Dafen. Apparently a third, maybe more, of all the oil paintings produced in the world are painted in this village. They follow step-by-step procedures; pushing out massive quantities of reproductions and derivatives of original art. They are most certainly skilled, proficient painters. But no one would claim that they are artists. In the words of Seth, they follow a map.

People who follow maps are going to get paid less and less and work harder and harder, because the world is full people who can follow a map. And as our increasing globalized world gets smaller and smaller, access by employers and customers to people who can follow a maps get easier and easier, cheaper and cheaper.

At the same time we are at beginning of the next great revolution driven by digital technology effecting massive change every area of human endevour. The manner and ease of how people conduct their daily affairs locally, regionally and globally is changing rapidly and permanently. This recession aside, the world has reached a level and distribution of wealth never seen before. It is those that can navigate the world without a map, those that are creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial, that will flourish in the decades to come.