Monthly Archives: December 2014

Meet Shell Supported Project Management Community in Qatar

Dec 31 2014   10:41PM GMT

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Project management

Under the banner of Shell Social Investment there is something excellent happening in Qatar where it is supporting multi-dimensional development of project management enthusiasts. All this is done through Tafawoq Project Management of Excellence. This is formed in collaboration with Qatar Petroleum (QP), Qatar Shell and Hamad Bin Khalifa University with a target of keeping Qatar National Vision 2030 intact by continuously supporting the delivery of capital investment projects of the country.


Tafawoq has been developed clearly in alignment with the basic principles of Shell Project Academy. Shell’s Project Academy model in turn is an outcome of Global Leadership of Shell in Project Management. The success story of Shell’s Project Academy is unbeatable. Tafawoq’s course in Essentials of Project Management is quite prestigious and well acclaimed in Qatar. Tafawoq engages project community of the country by organizing various meaningful community events on a regular basis.


There is a consistent growth in the membership of Tafawoq and so is the project professionals across Qatar.

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Quality Assurance and Project Management

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The LiquidPlanner Blog: 21 Project Management Resolutions for the New Year

PM Resolutions

Resolutions, goals, intentions, missions—whatever you call yours, the blue sky of a fresh new year is the time to set your mind on achievements and career themes. Here are 21 ideas for taking your skills, your job and your team to the next level. Go get ‘em, tiger!

  1. Be a more effective delegator.
  2. Focus on applying more of your natural strengths to your project work.
  3. Help build the strengths of your team members.
  4. Have more effective meetings.
  5. Start making ranged estimates on projects and tasks. Get the team on board, too.
  6. Read more books that enhance your career, hone skills and motivate you.
  7. Improve conflict management skills.
  8. Create a personal mission and vision statement—something that will support and enhance your career goals.
  9. Prioritize your work more efficiently.
  10. Learn how to use your project management tool more effectively.
  11. Find ways to increase the level of happiness at work—for you and your team.
  12. Write down the worst mistakes and snafus of the year and then write down what you learned from them.
  13. Create a more agile work environment.
  14. Improve your risk management skills.
  15. Improve your resource management skills.
  16. Help your team be more successful.
  17. Mentor someone—within our outside of your organization.
  18. Be vigilant about your team tracking their time.
  19. Be a more organized project manager.
  20. Be more focused.
  21. Improve your leadership skills.

Tell us your career resolutions and goals, in Comments.

Related stories:

9 Ways to Set Yourself Up for the Best Year of Your Career
How to Create a Personal Mission and Vision Statement for the Year
9 Ways to Up Your Project Management Game

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21 Project Management Resolutions for the New Year
Here are 21 resolutions for taking your skills, your job and your team to the next level in the new year.
21 Project Management Resolutions for the New Year was last modified: December 31st, 2014 by Tatyana Sussex

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5 Must-Have Skills for Project Managers

December 31, 2014 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Best Practices

5 Must-Have Skills for Project Managers
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

A project manager is the driving force behind a project. Project managers need to be able to look at the big picture of a project and seamlessly adapt to any changes that arise as it progresses. At the same time, they must manage the daily operations of the project and make sure everyone is doing their part. The effectiveness of a project manager can determine whether or not a project is successfully completed on time and on budget.

So what makes a good project manager? Here are the top 5 skills all successful project managers possess:

  1. Communication – When it comes to managing a project, communication is key. Even if a project has the best resources and most advanced technologies, project managers can’t lead it to success if they don’t have strong communication skills. PMs have to be able to communicate well with stakeholders and team members. Through communication, PMs can discover any issues or risks that may be arising and manage them before they spiral out of control.
  2. Team Building – Another important trait PMs must have is team building. Projects can be drawn out and long, inflicting stress on team members along the way. The PM needs to be able to hold the team together and motivate members to work together to accomplish the project’s objective.

  3. Leadership – The project manager is the project’s leader, so he/she must possess strong leadership skills. PMs have to lead stakeholders to a successful outcome, while capitalizing on the talents and skills of team members to reach that outcome. To complete a project successfully, the team has to work as cohesive unit and all parties involved have to be on the same page. It’s the job of the PM to use his/her leadership skills to effectively manage and oversee all aspects of the project.

  4. Problem Solving – In an ideal world, projects will be completed on time and on budget, with no major problems arising along the way. But, clearly that is not the case. Projects are always subject to change as they progress, and project managers must quickly adapt to these changes. When problems arise on the project, PMs need to be able to come up with immediate solutions.

  5. Time Management – PMs are often juggling several tasks at one time, so they need to have strong time management skills to ensure they are all completed on time. There are many apps and software available to help project managers keep track of their schedules and to-do-lists. But, managing time effectively goes beyond an application. PMs need to stay positive and motivated and not get stressed out where there’s a lot of work to accomplish.

Does your organization’s project manager possess these critical skills? If you’re a project manager, do you have what it takes to successfully lead a project? Find out by taking a project management assessment. Project management assessments help you identify your strengths and need-attention areas. After taking an assessment you can take a project management training course to enhance your skills and become a fool-proof project manager.

Ben Snyder is the CEO of Systemation, (, a project management, business analysis, and agile development training and consulting company that has been training professionals since 1959. Systemation is a results-driven training and consulting company that maximizes the project-related performance of individuals and organizations. Known for instilling highly practical, immediately usable processes and techniques, Systemation has proven to be an innovative agent of business transformation for many government entities and Fortune 2000 companies, including Verizon Wireless, Barclays Bank, Mattel, The Travelers Companies, Bridgestone, Amgen, Wellpoint and Whirlpool.

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Project Management Articles – PM Hut

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Your Project Needs a Budget and Other Things

There is a notion that all you need for successful project management is a Budget. This is the notion put forth by some in the #NoEstimates community and repeated in a recent Harvard Business Review post of nearly the same title. This article raises several important questions, but misses the notion of project management as a control system.

As well it has several odd points.

  • Breaking down projects to 1 to 3 days chunks is very domain dependent. It’s a common mistake for agile and actually agile tools providers to assume that such a fine grained decomposition is even possible. The 44 day rule is applicable to our space and defense programs. Which says, the work for any tangible deliverable can only cross one accounting period – 44 days in duration. The principle is 
    • How long are you willing to wait before you find out you’re late
    • In A&D that’s 44 days, even with agile development processes. The development cycles for enterprise class projects like GPS III OCX (Ground Systems) are not the same is 5 people in the same room with the customer building the web site for the warehouse. 
    • In Agile that’s 1 to 3 days – assuming the work can actually be broken down to that small of chunks. Patching 54 SQL servers with the current update may take 8 days – now what?
  • The notion that budgets are only needed for strategic decisions, ignores the very principle of microeconomics of software development. Value at Risk is the primary driver of how decisions are made. What are you willing to loose?
    • The Budget is a target to steer toward.
    • The actual costs to date and the estimated cost to complete and the estimated cost at completion are the management information needed to make decisions.
    • Budget alone and accumulation to date are open loop control.
  • The budget question for strategic decisions must be proceed by estimated cost and estimated benefit.
    • Then you can ask do we have the capital for this project?
    • Starting with the budget isn’t the basis of delivering the needed capabilities.
    • Defining those capabilities, estimating their cost – with the requisite variance, risk adjustments, and confidence intervals – can then reveal how much you need to budget for the work.
    • Value can only be determined if we know the cost of that value. So estimating that cost provides information for determining if we actually can afford the value we seek.
    • This is basic microeconomics – opportunity cost assessment of our spend.
  • The variances in the estimates in some of the tables in the article are wildly wide. This would indicate lack of basic understanding of the problem and would not be found in any mature shop where estimating is a profession.
  • Any statment of completing at or below a value requires we know the Probability Distribution Function of that estimator (the number we’re trying to estimate).
    • This is core probabilitic forecasting processes.
    • The approaches in sofwtare development for making these estimates is well devloped, with mature and affordable tools, books, and papers.

Here’s the core problem

The budget is an end of project – a target. It is – or should be if we’re going to stay in business – a goal for the project to stay under. Anyone going over budget where I work, needs to have a good reason – and there are many good reason – so pick one. But they still need to have justification. 

But the budget tells you NOTHING about your performance along the way. It’s like saying …

Our goal is to drive to Los Angeles from Denver (1,200 miles) with our two small children (we did this long ago) and not having any feedback about when we’re going to arrive.

So when they ask when are we going to get there dad, my answer can’t be, it’s 1,200 miles from Denver to LA.

That’d be a nonsense answer to our children, just like it’s a nonsense to the adults paying for our work. The actual answer is it’s 1,200 miles from Denver to LA, we’ve made it to Grand Junction (on the Utah Colorado border) in about 8 hours, and we’re going to spend the night in Las Vegas and then go on to LA the next day

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 5.20.11 PM
That tells the kids in the back seat of the Suburban absolutely nothing. It’s meaningless to know just the budget and not the progress toward that budget in units of measure meaningful to the person asking the question. And most importantly what is our Estimate to Complete (ETC) and the resulting Estimate At Completion (EAC)

So when it is asked how much is this going to cost? Or when will we be done? Then that’s only one half the process. That establishes the end point of the path along the way to actually arriving at the destination.

The destination for the road trip is Disneyland for the two 12 year olds. For the project that destination is the need date, the budget, and the set of capabilities needed in the date and for the budget so the project can start earning it’s keep by fulfilling the capabilities that are Fit for Purpose and Fit for Use.

But along the way we need feedback that we’re actually going to arrive on budget, on time, on spec. Let me say now, that projects without deadlines, budgets, and needed capabilities can’t be very important to those paying for the project.

So What Do We Need for Project Management – Feedback?

We need measures of progress to plan. That’s nice. But we need to know what SHOULD the performance to plan be at this point in the project. In the driving example, what speed SHOULD we be going at to arrive at Grand Junction in time for lunch and a potty break?

The answer is the knowledge that Grand Junction is 118 miles from where we are now. Once we get past Eagle Colorado, the expected speed on I-70 is around 70MPH average we’ll be there in 1Hr 44 Minutes. Because that average has variance. Lots of variance. Google knows about this variance, because it has captured the time over distance numbers from all the cars driving on I-70 using their smart phones and can provide an estimated time of arrival from all that past performance.

If you didn’t know, this is how Google Maps makes the road lines RED when you look at your map. It’s from all the cars traveling on that route and their individual performance. Used to be there were sensors in the road. They stopped that and got it free from Google and their data scraping from the wirless providers.

OK, Back to Our Project Management Problem

We need a budget – the funds to cover our expenditures to produce the expected value at the end of the project – our spending goal. And a schedule and a set of capabilities to go along with that budget. And we need to know our progress to plan and the REQUIRED progress to plan to stay on plan. And the rerquired spend rate to arrive at the end at or below our budget and on or before the need date of those deliverable to produce the value. 

This is called Close Loop Control

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 5.59.03 PMWithout all three of these elements is called Open Loop Control. And don’t listen to anyone telling you otherwise, because they weren’t paying attention in the Control Systems Class in engineering school and they missed reading a book on control systems.

My favorite, since it was the text I used in grad school – 1st Edition, which I used to write the Root Locus solution – in FORTRAN 77 – for a position holding control loop for an orbiting vehicle. Where starting on page 7 it’s provides the reader with the core concepts of open and closed loop control. Let me bore you with some actual details about how control systems work for this book

Feedback Control Systems. A system that maintains a prescribed relationship
between the output and the reference input by comparing them and using the difference as a means of control is called a feedback control system.

An example would be a room temperature control system. By measuring the actual room temperature and comparing it with the reference temperature (desired temperature), the thermostat turns the heating or cooling equipment on or off in such a way as to ensure that the room temperature remains at a comfortable level regardless of outside conditions.

Closed-Loop Control Systems. Feedback control systems are often referred to as closed-loop control systems. In practice, the terms feedback control and closed-loop control are used interchangeably. In a closed-loop control system the actuating error signal, which is the difference between the input signal and the feedback signal (which may be the output signal itself or a function of the output signal and its derivatives and/or integrals), is fed to the controller so as to reduce the error and bring the output of the system to a desired value.The term closed-loop control always implies the use of feedback control action in order to reduce system error.

Open-Loop Control Systems. Those systems in which the output has no effect on the control action are called open-loop control systems. In other words, in an open loop control system the output is neither measured nor fed back for comparison with the input. One practical example is a washing machine. Soaking, washing, and rinsing in the washer operate on a time basis. The machine does not measure the output signal, that is, the cleanliness of the clothes.

In any open-loop control system, the output is not compared with the reference input. Thus, to each reference input there corresponds a fixed operating condition; as a result, the accuracy of the system depends on calibration. In the presence of disturbances, an open-loop control system will not perform the desired task. Open-loop control can be used, in practice, only if the relationship between the input and output is known and if there are neither internal nor external disturbances. Clearly, such systems are not feedback control systems. Note that any control system that operates on a time basis is open loop. For instance, traffic control by means of signals operated on a time basis is another example of open-loop control.

I’ve bolded and underlined the words above to make a point. Using the budget only and even with empirical data from past performance to linearly – since the underlying stochastic processes of the past are not used – to foecast the future is not Closed loop. It’s Open Loop

There is no error signal calculated from the current performance compared to the desired performance to determine what corrections are needed to arrive on-time, on-budget, with the needed capabilities in hand. Here’s a summary of these concepts.

So What Does This Mean In The End?

It means that budget alone is not enough.

  • You need the intermediate targets – where SHOULD we be at this point in time of cost, schedule, and technical performance of our needed capabilities?
  • You need the measure of progress to plan in these units, not the passage of time or consumption of money.
  • You need the error signal between Plan versus Actual to take corrective actions, forecast the EAC and ETC and determine the probability of showing up as planned for the planned budget with the needed capabilities.

And since those planned performance and the needed performance are probabilitic variables, you need to estimate what performance and its variance, is needed to stay on plan or get back on plan.

You need the Estimate To Complete and the Estimate At Completion

to determine if the project is going to turn out as expected for those paying for your work. Anyone one suggesting otherwise needs to go back to there control systems class and reread the control systems book.

Now if you work in a domain where these things aren’t that important, or the value at risk is low enough sos those providing the money and waiting for the results don’t really care if you’re late, over budget, and deliver less than needed – then you can proceed to manage the project Open Loop – no one cares.

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Herding Cats

Productivity Quotes to Get You Motivated for a New Year

Even with the best intentions there are so many ways we thwart our efforts to be more productive. Even when we’re managing projects flawlessly, meeting delivery dates, exhibiting perfect team work, there always seems to be something we can refine. Productivity is part habit, science and art.Productivity tips for the well-intentioned.

To get you inspired, here are 12 productivity quotes for a fresh new year—from productivity experts to inventors and a martial arts legend. Don’t forget to give yourself a high-five for a job well done. Most of us are usually more productive then we give ourselves credit for.

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss 

“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.
– Franz Kafka

“To be successful you have to enjoy doing your best while at the same time contributing to something beyond yourself.”
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker
“There is no substitute for hard work.” –  Thomas Edison
“If you commit to giving more time than you have to spend, you will constantly be running from time debt collectors.” – Elizabeth Grace Saunders
If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee
 “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”  – David Allen
“The key to productivity is recognizing that you’ll never get everything done, but you certainly can get the most important things done.”
– Laura Vanderkam 
 “Never mistake motion for action.” –  Ernest Hemingway
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey
“Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.” – Walt Disney

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

Share your favorite productivity quote in Comments.

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How to Be Productive When You’re Overwhelmed
How to Be More Productive With Your Time: Q&A With Laura Vanderkam

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Productivity Quotes to Get You Motivated for a New Year
A variety of quotes on productivity from time management experts to inventors, philosophers and a martial arts hero.
Productivity Quotes to Get You Motivated for a New Year was last modified: December 29th, 2014 by Tatyana Sussex

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Scrum Breakfast: How many people do you need in your team?

How big should your team be? It depends on what your goal is. In my classes, I have been showing the relationship between project size, cost and calendar time forever, based on research I had read, but could no longer find. Well, I think I have found the source, a 2005 paper from Team Size can be the Key to a Successful Software Project.

How big should your team be? Well it depends on what your most important goal is:

  1. If you are trying to keep costs down, a team size of 3 people or less is optimal.
  2. If you are trying to get a result as quickly as possible, a team size of 5 to 7 people is optimal.
  3. If you are trying to hit a budget or deadline as accurately as possible, again a team size of 5 to 7 people is optimal.
  4. If you are trying to burn a large budget, team sizes of 9 and up are best. These effects appear to be exponential.
Is item 4 really a goal? Nevermind. Silly question.

I think this data explains the Guidewire approach of keeping teams between 3 and 6 people. In effect, this has them cycling between lowest cost and fastest delivery, which is probably a sweet spot to find yourself in.

OTOH – This study is largely based on waterfall projects. Does anyone have the data to create a similar study of agile projects?

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Microsoft Project 2013: Ruta Critica y Criterios para Vincular

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The Power and Hazards of Anecdotes: Part I


Anecdotes are short stories — sometimes just a single sentence. They’re powerful tools of persuasion, but they can also be dangerous, to both anecdote tellers and anecdote listeners.

An egg sandwich

An egg sandwich. The story of the invention of the sandwich is widely known. As the story goes, it was named after an English aristocrat, John Montagu (1718-1792), the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who ordered his valet to bring him meat between two slices of bread. The Earl was supposedly playing cards, and wanted to avoid both greasy fingers and using a fork. Whether or not the anecdote is true, it is certainly memorable.

One powerful tool of persuasion is the anecdote. Anecdotes are stories about specific incidents, or descriptions of specific situations. We use anecdotes to persuade because they represent a more general class of incidents or situations. For example, we might say, “One customer tried to follow those installation instructions, and it destroyed all her data files.” That’s an anecdote that suggests problems with the installation procedure.

Anecdotes derive their power from their repeatability and their passion.

Anecdotes confer leverage upon their tellers because those who hear the anecdotes can easily repeat the anecdotes to others. This enables the teller of the anecdote to persuade people who aren’t actually present for the telling. Anecdotes can thus go viral without computers or networks. And the people persuaded by anecdotes can clearly explain why they were persuaded, because anecdotes are memorable.
Some anecdotes are compelling because they convey emotion or passion. They can elicit empathy from those who hear them, as does the anecdote about the lost data files from anyone who has ever lost data. Telling a compelling anecdote can persuade powerfully.

Although anecdotes are powerful, they can also be hazardous to both anecdote tellers and anecdote listeners. As we listen to anecdotes we’re subject to a variety of so-called cognitive biases. The biases can distort our thinking as we interpret and evaluate the persuader’s message. Listeners can find themselves adopting views that aren’t in their interests. Similarly, if listeners make interpretations not intended by anecdote tellers, they might adopt views that aren’t consistent with the teller’s intentions.

Here is Part I of a catalog of cognitive biases that create these hazards.

Availability Heuristic
We tend to estimate the probability of events based on how easy it is to imagine those events occurring, Although anecdotes are powerful
tools of persuasion, they can also
be hazardous to both anecdote
tellers and anecdote listeners
rather than on serious estimates of likelihoods. Likewise, we gauge the plausibility of an assertion based on how easy it is to imagine the conditions that would make it valid. Anecdotes illustrating assertions can thus lead listeners to feel that the assertions are more likely to be true than they actually are. That’s one way in which the Availability Heuristic makes false rumors — which are often in the form of anecdotes — credible.
Focusing Illusion
The Focusing Illusion is our tendency to overvalue one aspect of a situation relative to its importance. For example, in the anecdote about the lost data files, the listener focuses on the fact that the loss occurred at the time of installing the new software. The anecdote says nothing about what else might have been happening at the time. Did another user have access to the files on the server? Did someone or something else delete the files? The anecdote’s form actually suppresses any thought of possible causes other than the installation.

We’ll continue next time exploring additional sources of distorted thinking associated with anecdotes used for persuasion. Next in this series  Go to top Top  
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The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen’s party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott’s party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here’s an upcoming date for this program:
Human-Centered Risk Management
Most Human-Centered Risk Managementof us can assess technological risks, but risks related to human behavior tend to resist our best efforts. This session provides a framework for evaluating risks related to the behavior of individuals, teams, organizations and people generally. Human-centered risk differs from technological or market risk, because objective evaluation requires acknowledging personal and organizational limitations and failures. Since some of those limitations and failures might apply to the people assessing the risks, or to their superiors, there’s a tendency to deny them or to explain them away. Our approach examines capability, organization, context, risk mitigation, and workplace politics. It has tools for guiding the assessment and management of human-centered risk, and we show how to extend these tools to suit your situation. You’ll learn how to identify sources of risk in human behavior; recognize systemic and individual barriers to acknowledging risk; assess the effects of organizational turbulence; determine the risk associated with inappropriate internal risk transfer; estimate the effects of team dysfunction, toxic conflict and turnover; and measure the impact of workplace politics. Read more about this program. Here’s an upcoming date for this program:
The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Risk Management for Leaders
On 14The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Risk Management for Leaders December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen’s party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott’s party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders and project managers, the story is fascinating. We’ll use the history of this event to explore lessons in risk management and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at risk management from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program. Here’s an upcoming date for this program:
The Politics of Meetings for People Who Hate Politics
ThereThe Politics of Meetings for People Who Hate Politics‘s a lot more to running an effective meeting than having the right room, the right equipment, and the right people. With meetings, the whole really is more than the sum of its parts. How the parts interact with each other and with external elements is as important as the parts themselves. And those interactions are the essence of politics for meetings. This program explores techniques for leading meetings that are based on understanding political interactions, and using that knowledge effectively to meet organizational goals. Read more about this program. Here’s an upcoming date for this program:
Cognitive Biases and Workplace Decision-Making
For mCognitive Biases and Workplace Decision-Makingost of us, making decisions is a large part of what we do at work. And we tend to believe that we make our decisions rationally, except possibly when stressed or hurried. That is a mistaken belief — very few of our decisions are purely rational. In this eye-opening yet entertaining program, Rick Brenner guides you through the fascinating world of cognitive biases, and he’ll give concrete tips to help you control the influence of cognitive biases. Read more about this program. Here’s an upcoming date for this program:

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Life at Work: People, Projects, Politics and Pressure