Project Management Articles > Kimberly Wiefling

Kimberly Wiefling

Kimberly M. WieflingWiefling Consulting, a scrappy global business leadership and project management consulting practice enabling companies to tackle the impossible and get at LEAST partial credit! A physicist by education, she worked at HP for ten years in technical leadership and project management roles. From there she journeyed to the wild and crazy world of Silicon Valley startups just a tad before the bust of 2001—when she helped run an entire company into the ground as VP of Program Management for a Xerox Parc spin-off that was eventually purchased by Google.

Kimberly is an instructor for UC Santa Cruz Extension's Onsite Training Department, and also facilitates an active blog on The Art of Project Management in cooperation with the program. She holds an M.S. in Physics from Case (in her words, the perfect preparation for her specialty of "tackling the impossible") and teaches leadership and project management around the world, from Armenia to Tokyo to the Silicon Valley in California. Kimberly is the executive editor of The Scrappy Guides® book series, and her radio show "The Scrappy Dialogues" airs occasionally on her web site. In 2007 she published Scrappy Project Management: The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces (along with a hysterical video documenting the final phase of completing the book). You can reach her via email at

Feedback ≠ Criticism -- Tips & Tools to Do It Right
If "feedback" is just an opportunity to tell someone how or why they are wrong, well, here are some tips and tools to do it better.
Establishing a culture of appreciation is an important part of our work together. After all, if we don't tell our teammates what they're doing right they might stop doing it!
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The Continuing Epidemic of Disengaged Employees
Can we all just STOP checking email for one gosh-darned minute and contemplate the REAL work of a manager?
What's preventing business leaders all over our world from adopting what is clearly common sense, not to mention in the long-term best interests of customers, shareholders, and employees?
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Mission Control for Planet Earth - The Ultimate Terrestrial Project
Is it possible to develop a Mission Control for the biggest project on Earth? SIMCenter may have the answer.
I must admit that I've secretly had my heart set on transforming all of Planet Earth for the better ever since 1995, when Barbara Fittipaldi asked me, "What's the purpose of your life?"
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Political Correctness: Social Grease for Your Diverse Project Team
Applying the Japanese concept of omotenashi can help people feel more at home, and more productive, on your project team.
These are incredibly diverse groups of people, but somehow it all works! Why? Certainly NOT because people openly and honestly share their true feelings about each other.
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Walk a Mile in Another Flawed Human Being's Shoes
Developing empathy means seeing the world from the vantage point of your (sometimes irritating, often beleaguered) colleagues.
I began to wonder what would happen if we could read our colleagues' minds. Would we develop more empathy for each other if we experienced the world from their perspective?
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Choosing Leaders: What If We Selected Project Managers the Way We Elect a US President?
What would it look like if we vetted and chose Project Managers using various approaches and situations we've witnessed during this campaign?
Although I might appear quite cynical, I do have high hopes for the future of both project managers and political leadership.
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Cooperation is Selfish! How to Influence People and Lead Your Team Without Control or Coercion
When your project is on the ropes and your team is mired in politics, what's a rational person to do?
Surprising, the results clearly demonstrated that a simple cooperative strategy outperformed all others. That strategy was called "Tit For Tat."
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Want a More Innovative Project Team? Learn from Silicon Valley!
To build more innovative team environments, take a page or three from one of the most innovative areas of the world.
Business leaders around the world are crying out for innovation, but here I stumble over it every time I so much as walk to my mailbox. It's in the air we breathe.
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iWant a GPS for My Project Team!
We can map our way around an unfamiliar city, why not a project?
My recent GPS-guided experiences have got me thinking about how incredibly helpful it would be to have some kind of all-knowing, all-seeing GPS for my projects.
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Holacracy Doesn't Mean Chaos! Designing Dysfunctionality Out of Our Organizations
Power doesn't necessarily belong in management, unless you mean the people actually managing the work.
There is still an organizational structure and an org chart. There are still clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the positions in the org chart. The difference is that these roles, responsibilities and positions are NOT permanently associated with any one individual's name.
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Doing Your “Best”? Please Do It on Someone Else's Project!
Don't take this the wrong way, but your projects deserve better than just “doing your best.”
I used to want to live my life with no regrets, but lately I've come to realize that this is impossible. At best we get to choose our regrets.
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It's Worse Than I Thought! The Global Scarcity of Rational Human Beings
Are you kidding yourself about your project? Probably! Take this short quiz and find out how well you really understand your behavior.
In my most cynical moments I view much of the dysfunctionality I've witnessed in individuals, teams, and organizations as springing from automatic, largely unconscious behaviors.
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Don't Press Send!
Have you ever wished for a telepathic email connection? These truer-than-life email possibilities prove we might be better off without it.
Even if what we say is "the truth" as we perceive it, it's best not to have the narration from our "dark side" in writing where it can come back to haunt us.
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A Tale of Two Failures – Relationships Last Longer than the Company
How do you know when it's time to politely excuse yourself from a sinking ship?
If you knew that your organization was doomed to fail, would you rather go out of business quickly or take the slow path to death?
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Scrappy Design Thinking: Simple Rules, Practical Tools
So Design Thinking sounds great, but how is it done? Kimberly explains her Scrappy approach.
Here I'll share an approach that integrates key elements of design thinking with a Scrappy Project Management® style. Using this approach will generate new possibilities that you'd never discover using traditional problem-centric approaches.
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What is Design Thinking?
Kimberly provides an overview of Design Thinking: an elegantly simple methodology shrouded in complicated jargon.
"Design Thinking" describes an incredibly powerful set of process and tools that are extremely useful in designing innovative products and services, and indispensable to anyone facing seemingly insurmountable challenges.
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Why Don't People Talk in Elevators?
Is your physical environment setting your team up for success?
One of the many fascinating things I've learned is that our work environments strongly influence our behavior. Of course this is something we intuitively know, but I always prefer to have "common sense" supported with solid research.
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Mindset Toolkit – Expanding Possibilities by Transforming Ourselves
12 tools you can use to transform Feelings, Actions, Communication, Thinking in yourself and others, and a handy chart to help you remember them.
I've distilled the essential human skills into a "mindset toolkit" that makes these sometimes-fluffy ideas succinct and accessible. The 12 heuristics below have helped me transform Feelings, Actions, Communication and Thinking (F.A.C.T.) in myself, my colleagues, and the thousands of people who have survived what I am now calling my "workshocks" (workshop seemed too tame a word).
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Danger! Project Horror Story Ahead! (Hardhats Recommended)
Do you recognize any of these project-undermining characters?
I've become weary of projects that are clearly designed to fail. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat might be fun if the very people sending us into battle weren't the architects of those salivating fangs.
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The 7 Deadly Sins of Global Business Leadership Development Programs
If your company is planning or implementing a leadership program, make sure you aren't committing one of these ROI-suppressing sins.
Everyone I work with these days wants to grow "global leaders," even if they can't explain exactly what that means. Unfortunately, predictable and avoidable pitfalls reduce the effectiveness of many global leadership development programs.
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The Stories We Tell: Creating and Perpetuating Your Corporate DNA
Mapping your organization's DNA by telling stories: three powerful exercises.
Recently, several of my clients have become extremely interested in exploring what they call their "corporate DNA." At first I resisted, because I was concerned that this metaphor implied that they were incapable of changing.
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Kindness: An Essential Skill When Working with Humans
When did you last say something nice to a colleague?
It's not that I demand less of my collaborators, it's just that I'm more compassionate in how I go about getting my ridiculously high expectations met.
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Discipline: The Relatively Boring Key to the Door of Success
Any project manager knows the value of discipline. But what exactly is it?
The most successful companies share just three characteristics: 1) Fanatic discipline, 2) Calibrated creativity, and 3) Productive paranoia. While creativity and paranoia play a big part in my life, let's just focus on fanatic discipline in this particular rant.
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Ranking Employees by Performance: A Seriously Flawed Common Practice
Kimberly builds a compelling case against forced stack ranking.
One of the most distasteful duties I've performed as a project leader was to rank the people on my team, from best to worst performing, during an annual appraisal process. This is akin to ranking the usefulness of different kinds of music.
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Working Remotely... Face-to-Face!
Virtual teams have a lot of useful tools to lean on, but the most useful may be face-to-face meetings.
Globalization in today's business world is rapid and inescapable. As a result, many projects these days involve geographically dispersed teams comprised of members from a wide variety of countries and cultures.
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Which Dog Will You Feed? Choosing Our Reality
Perception really is reality -- or, at least, it can be.
In 1995 I decided to embrace optimism as a strategy for creating possibilities. It wasn't a rational choice, it was an intuitive leap of faith.
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No, We Can't Be Like Steve!
Learning from one of the world's most admired leaders.
In my endless pursuit of becoming the kind of leader I admire, and helping others do the same, I review scads of research on what makes leaders admirable.
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Too Tired to Care? Regain Your Perspective with 5 Proven Practices
If you're too tired to care, you've lost valuable perspective.
This is a place that a project leader cannot afford to end up. And yet, in the demanding, deadline-driven project environment, it's all too easy to exhaust ourselves to the point that we're ineffective.
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Creativity in Business—It's Going to Get Weird!
You think that's weird? You're just getting started.
Every company I consult with considers innovation an essential ingredient in success. Creativity is the root of innovation, and this book is a very practical guide to increasing creativity in ourselves and others. But it requires a suspension of disbelief.
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Et Tu, Brute? The Obsolescence of Power
How are powerful project leaders viewed? Maybe it depends on who you ask.
Traditional sources of power are obsolete in the 21st century business world -- or at least I hope they are.
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Project Leadership Lessons from a Heart-wrenching Tragedy
In the aftermath of tragedy, Kimberly searches for lessons we can apply to future projects, in work and in life.
This was not an event that I perceived as happening to "strangers," people distant from me. No, at that moment, with so many ties to people living in Japan, I strongly felt that this was happening to "us."
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Avoiding Stone Age Practices in the Age of the Internet
Is your team collaborating as efficiently as they should be? Remember to plan for effective communication.
In spite of common sense, again and again I encounter companies repeating tragically avoidable mistakes, hamstringing themselves with the same ludicrous errors their competitors (fortunately) are also making.
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Give Thanks If You're Not Miserable at Work… Most People Are!
Kimberly waxes emphatic on the desperate need for improved trust and out-and-out happiness in the workplace, and how you can get the wheel turning.
Just stop reading for a minute and look around the office at your co-workers. According to this study, nine out of ten don't trust you! As I project manager, I hope you haven't done anything to deserve that, but we'll talk about that later.
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Changing the Cultural Cement in Which Your Project Swims
If you're willing to take on the challenge of cultural change, there is hope (and a long list of business reasons) for doing so.
Kimberly distills the lessons of a lifetime of study on company culture and simple, successful ways you can transform the behaviors that keep your project stuck in the mud.
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Suppressing Your Femnine Side May Be Bad for Business
In fields where women are often under-represented, so-called feminine leadership styles may be worth big bucks to the bottom line.
About 15 years ago, the wife of a coworker was listening to me describe the challenges I faced as a project manager. "You're not using your feminine power!" she suddenly pronounced. My first reaction was, "Use my feminine power? I sure hope not!"
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Overcoming "Last Century" Thinking: Powerful Metaphors for What Happens in the Real World
Kimberly Wiefling explores holism, nonlinearity, and emergence, and suggests how these modern perspectives on reality can give us a new perspective on our teams and projects.
When I first studied how the world worked I learned that light was a wave, atoms were made of particles called protons, neutrons and electrons, and you could take apart a clock to figure out how it worked. But as my education progressed, I learned that the world was a bit more complicated than the simple models I'd been taught.
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Catalytic Events – Effortless Ways to Change Behavior for the Better
What if we could create catalytic mechanisms that automatically, permanently, and effortlessly eliminated some or all of our recurring project problems?
The reason I'm so drawn to catalytic mechanisms is because they are effective, self-maintaining, and permanent ways to immediately change behavior, and require little or no further effort once they are in place and operating.
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Kollaboration Is Killing Me
What does it take to get people to appreciate and use a wiki? (No, seriously, what does it take?)
If you are struggling to harness the hydra of the group genius in your project team, I'm sure you'll be able to relate to some of what I've experienced with these three wiki experiments. It's just a tad painful, but press on if you're curious.
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The Where, Who, and When of Risk Management
There's more to risk management than what could go wrong.
Just thinking about risk from the standpoint of What threatens the all-too-often nebulous and ill-defined goals of a project just isn't going to cut it. We need to explore the Who, When and Where of project risk.
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Clarity — The Cure for Muddy Thinking
Is your project stuck in the mud? Here's how to steer yourself clear of it.
Muddy thinking is jeopardizing far too many people's success, and your project may be getting stuck in some of this mud. Here's my approach to thinking and acting with clarity in order to steer clear of the morass.
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Eat Your Spinach. It's Good for You: Having the Unpleasant Conversations You'd Rather Avoid
What unresolved performance situation is tapping you on the shoulder? Time to stop stalling and tackle it head on.
When performance is consistently "adequate," you owe it to your project, your team, yourself, and the person in question to have an open and honest dialogue about it. Otherwise, you simply feed the conspiracy of low standards that is the norm in many organizations.
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Here It Comes Again! Coping with the Worldwide Economic Mood Disorder and Other Recurring Problems
You can't solve a problem if you don't know what it's going to look like. So instead, figure out how to spot it and deal with it before it's fully grown.
While a lot of projects experience recurrent problems that are predictable and avoidable, some aren't. When prevention and avoidance aren't an option, it's best to have a strategy for rapidly identifying and dealing with them.
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Don't Try This Alone! Whacky for Wikis and Crazy for Collaboration
Kimberly Wiefling reviews her experiences with a few of the 21st century collaboration tools you may want to consider for your project efforts.
It seems to me that this should be a topic near and dear to every project leader’s heart. After all, this is what we spend much of our working lives doing—steadfastly facilitating collaboration in the pursuit of often seemingly impossible goals outside of the reach of a single human being.
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The Power of Negative Thinking – Project Management in Reverse
Kimberly urges us to embrace the dark side, unleash our inner cynics, and use their power for good in our projects.
In the right hands, [negativity is] a weapon of mass construction, freeing the mind of half-hidden dark thoughts, and an on-ramp to the superhighway of results in your project.
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The Project Leader's Guide to Steering Clear of Karmic Debt
Does a deadline-obsessed profession have any truck with a philosophy centered on accepting things the way they are?
When a friend suggested that I might benefit from meditation, and generally taking a more "Zen" approach to project management, I had my doubts. How in the world was I going to get anything done while being tranquil?!!
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Increased Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork Through Snack Foods
How some careful observation and a bag of candy can give you a better insight into the people you're working with and what they bring to the team.
There's no guarantee that a bunch of high EQ people will form a high EQ team (witness the US presidential campaign), but it's a good start.
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Being a Great Project Leader with a Mortgage and Kids in College
It's possible to be an effective project leader even if you need to keep your job. It's just not quite as easy.
In my experience, a project leader must often operate in an environment where the very people who sign their paychecks are also the biggest obstacles to success. But some people have asked what can be done if they DO rely on their job for the little niceties of life, like food, shelter, electricity and running water.
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Wild Success in 2008 through Optimism and High Self-esteem
Projects are messy business and extremely challenging even for the most experienced leaders. Kimberly reminds us that, when we are in the midst of project challenges, we have plenty of company.
"In spite of much rhetoric on the subject, and the holy grail of the triple constraint, you cannot measure your entire worth as a project leader, or the success of your project, purely by whether they are on-time, on-budget, and feature-complete."
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Agile Methodologies: Age-old Ideas in Fancy New Clothes
Do exotic new names make age-old best practices easier to swallow? A scrappy project manager will happily oblige.
"... my marketing co-conspirators tell me that a lot hangs on a name. It occurred to me that the same may be true for integrated product development and world-class project management best practices."
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Attitude of Gratitude: Celebrate Project Success... and Some Failures, too!
If you live long enough you'll eventually complete a project successfully. What's the best way for you and your team to mark such an accomplishment?
Do your hard-working team members really need another T-shirt? Kimberly suggests over 20 creative project rewards, not one of which involves putting a company logo on anything.
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Does this Hat Look Good on Me?
Trying on de Bono's Six Hats can give your team a completely different outlook on your project.
De Bono was intensely frustrated with the whack-a-mole approach to creative thinking and problem solving. He created this straightforward and elegant tool to encourage a more disciplined and repeatable method of generating results.
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The Politics of Tuna Sandwiches and Matrix Organizations
"How can we manage projects more effectively in matrix organizations?" Why not make the organization more effective for the project manager!
I've never been a slave to the status quo, so when I am asked how project managers can be effective in a matrix organization, I'm not necessarily quick to answer. To me that question is like inquiring into the political affiliation of a tuna sandwich.
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Danger! Projects May Be Harmful to Mammals!
How good PMs can fight the mobocracy of a project gone horribly wrong. Hint: It involves not doing anything—at least, not yet.
I haven't quite put my finger on it, but something I've noticed about the human condition that retards our ability to be successful project managers. When we see someone else fail we assume that they're just stupid, but when we ourselves fail it's simply an honest mistake or bad luck.
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Lost in Translation: Crossing Cultural Gaps in Project Management
Is your project team globally challenged? Seven things you can do to build project relationships that transcend cultural differences (and significantly boost your chances of success).
As a project manager, it was difficult enough getting a bunch of people who were in the same room, spoke the same language and grew up in the same country to get on the same page. Now practically every project seems to be spread over two or three continents and four or more time zones. Welcome to project management in the 21st century global village!
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Why Schedules Are Always Late and What to Do About It
Five reasons your projects always seem to be late, and five things you can do to make this one different.
When is the very first moment that you know a project will be late? For most projects, it's day one. My first project management text book proclaimed "A well run project takes from 50 to 100% more time to complete than predicted, and poorly run projects require two to three times as long as planned."
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Being Heard Above the Communication Blizzard
Are your key project communications getting lost in the avalanche? Try these suggestions for climbing out of the drift.
Is there any project manager among us who doesn't have a big old stack of email in his in-basket, a giant pile of unread documents on his desk, and an incessantly flashing "message waiting" light on his voice mail? Paper information is typically "filed" geologically, heaped layer by layer upon the pile until critical project documents are found somewhere in the Mesozoic Era.
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Fearless Project Leadership
As the project leader, PMs absolutely MUST tell execs how it really is. Kimberly outlines how to do it, fearlessly.
From the project kick-off, where the project leader may not even be involved, to the attempted premature launch of a less-than-ready-to-ship product, projects run a higgily-piggily route. This real-world path rarely resembles the neat, tidy, well-defined process described in the PMBOK® Guide.
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Kimberly's book Scrappy Project Management is available now. Order direct from the publisher in paperback or as an eBook, or buy from Amazon if you prefer.

Read more about Scrappy Project Management in Kimberly's own words at the UC Santa Cruz Extension blog, The Art of Project Management.

Kimberly's Adventures in Japan
Kimberly leads a team of instructors teaching leadership and management in Japan.

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