Archive for March, 2016

High Performing Business – Planning – Requirements

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP

The preliminary design requirements for the Year Round Food Production System in Haines, Alaska

The preliminary design requirements for the Year Round Food Production System in Haines, Alaska

I’m working on a really exciting project with Dylan Kasch, an Environmental Scientist and food security expert.  After graduating from UC Berkley and then riding his bike from California to New England he found his way to studying small-scale food production year round in cold climates – at an aquaponics farm in New Hampshire.  I got to know Dylan working with his mother Jody Kasch – she is the photographer and visual designer for Cheetah Learning.

In a conversation with Dylan a few weeks ago he shared with me his dream of creating a small scale year round food production facility in Antartica.  I asked him if he would be interested in helping me create something similar in Haines, Alaska -as my main goal for this year was to create a year round greenhouse operation at the Alaska Eagle Adventures facility in Haines.

Dylan got on it and found a grant for our specific project type.  He and I have been working on the design of the year round food production system in Haines.  It’s a fantastic project for the two of us – almost like the “perfect storm.”  My Mechanical Engineering Masters degree final project was on making more energy efficient buildings so I’ve been designing a very energy efficient greenhouse for our small scale aquaponics operation.  I also am tying it into another one of my passions – square foot gardening.  But I added in a new twist I’ve recently learned of – Keyhole gardens.  I’ve designed all the square foot beds another foot higher (better for my aging body) and included a compost bin in each bed family.   Dylan is working up the design of the aquaponics system and developing  the heating requirements.

It has been an exhilarating planning process as we are both learning from the other.  I had to design the greenhouse based on the requirements Dylan gave me for his Aquaponic system.  We went through several exploration iterations on the type of fish we were going to be using in the ponds. The ability to get them there was part of the selection criteria.

We’ve both been working on the preliminary designs, budgets, the timelines, the ongoing operations and maintenance plan.  The requirements have evolved as we have dug into the planning process with the key requirement – keep it small scale on the family backyard level. Our main goal with this is to demonstrate the feasibility, research what works best, and to teach others how to do the same.

Dylan experienced “food deserts” in his bike ride across the country – where it was impossible to get fresh produce.  Haines, Alaska, like most remote locations, gets it’s produce shipped up once a week – by then it’s already over a week old and who knows how old it was before it got on the barge? While I am adept at canning both fish and vegetables, and have a root cellar, being able to cost-effectively produce fresh vegetables and fish year round may be more than just a dream – we are seeing how we can make it a reality.

Two new insights to curing brain cancer

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

This is how Rick Simpson oil targets brain cancer cells.

This is how Rick Simpson oil targets brain cancer cells.

I have not written on the brain cancer topic now for almost five years.  But I’ve come across two new treatments that show much promise (and it’s effective for many other cancers besides just brain cancer).

The first is intravenous Vitamin C with DCA – you can learn more about it here –

The second is Rick Simpson Oil.  I’ve attached a picture of how this oil you can make yourself attacks cancer cells (not just brain cancer).   He has an extensive facebook page as well with a wide variety of ways people use it in their cancer treatment.

High Performing Business – Planning – Research

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

When I was an Air Force Officer, I was stationed at the Aeronautical Systems Division and worked in the office for Electronic Warfare and Countermeasures.  We were responsible for upgrading the electronic warfare systems on existing aircraft.   Part of our duties were to write Request for Proposals (RFP’s) for the new technology upgrades.  During the planning stages of these types of projects, we would research previous RFP’s.  We used this information to make sure we created a comprehensive RFP for the new system, or at least one that would satisfy our superiors.

I was thinking about the research elements of planning this morning as I embark on an idea I had to help a friend develop commercial markets for her photography.  I have no idea how to develop commercial markets for art.  We are in the very early planning stages of this project, so much research is required to even create the plan for marketing her artwork commercially. Yet most projects start out this way – when you need to research what is even involved in the planning elements.  But there is a time when the research is over and you just have to take a stab at what it is you are trying to do.  The more research you do, the more you move out of the dark and into the light of what is required, the more likely it is the project plan will be something that achieves it’s objectives.

There is no shame in not knowing.  The shame comes from not doing your research on what is required.   The same is true of what is required to become a Project Management Professional (PMP).  Do your research on what is required for becoming a PMP by downloading Cheetah’s Smartstart Guide for the PMP.

High Performing Business – Planning – Estimates

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Estimating the work required to complete a project is a skill that gets better with more practice.

Estimating the work required to complete a project is a skill that gets better with more practice.  Here is the result of the staging project for our office property we are selling in Portland.

Estimating is a crucial element of my project success.   It is the early assumptions made that set most projects in motion. I was thinking about this after the first weekend of my property in Portland being on the market. The first estimate that even started this was with observing very few properties were on the market in Portland (this was an estimate later confirmed by doing research into the current Portland real estate market).  I was initially considering renting out both units of the property I now use for my office as we are consolidating locations but after seeing the market forces happening, decided to test a different approach.

I learned it was a seller’s market with many properties selling for 25% over list price in the first week with multiple offers. Since we needed to do the work to put the property into a rent ready condition as temporary office space for visiting execs or people in the business start-up mode anyhow, why not see if we could capture the property buying frenzy happening right now?

This got me thinking about how important early project planning estimates are in the overall success of a project. I had two different estimates done by experts on the property. One by a property management company that gave me three ranges of possible rental rates for each unit based on comparable spaces in the area. The other by a realtor who gave me an initial listing price of the property based on comparable property values.   I then had to estimate what it would cost me to ready the property for putting it on the market. It needed interior refreshing on the paint, carpets cleaned, materials that had to be moved to our shipping facility in another state, and the outside landscaping refreshed. And we needed to get all this done in a week as sometimes these buying frenzied markets do not last that long.

When I get estimates from people to do work on properties, I’ve learned the more vague the job requirements, the more vague the estimate.  For example, I asked the painter to fix the dings in the walls, door jams, and the posts in the entry.   I got an initial estimate but was told – “the posts may need some extra work and it might make sense to repaint the hallways that are fairly dinged up.” So we set up a not to exceed material and labor budget with a bonus for completing the work quickly.   It took several phone calls to get a landscaper in post haste and he was able to accomplish his work at the requested budget in the time frame required.

I’ve found when contractors underbid their work they tend to put your projects on the “will get to when things are slow list” – especially if you are moving and they are not sure they can earn repeat business from you. So I made sure we budgeted sufficiently so our project would be on the top of their list.

With the estimates in hand,  I apply two different techniques to get a better feel for how to make sure I have the cash flow required.   The first technique is a variation of a military planning technique called PERT (Project Evaluation and Review Technique). This requires estimating task time – (p+4m+o)/6   where p = pessimistic estimate (longest time), o – optimistic estimate (least time), m = most likely estimate. When you have costs associated with labor hours, this is a good way to get a more accurate budget estimate.  I also used this to get a more statistically accurate estimate for the possible rental payment from the rent comps I received.

Another estimating technique I use is confidence limits – this is how confident is the person giving me the estimate. For example, the painter was 50% confident of the initial bid to fix the posts as there were several unknowns as to the level of repair required. This means the lowest possible bid would be 50% lower and the upper limit of the bid could be on and a half times as much.   (starting to sound like a fifth grade math problem). We came up with a work around solution that was actually far less than the original bid (this is what can happen with the confidence limits approach).

I improve my abilities at estimating on a continual basis by reviewing estimates after the fact to see how well I have actually done. I do this monthly on the company’s budgets – reviewing the previous months budget estimates to what we actually generated and spent. Then I adjust the next month’s budgets based on actuals. This helps me develop better instincts for running required projects.

You can learn more about how to do better estimating with a number of Cheetah Learning’s Project Management courses. To find the best course for you – contact a Cheetah Career counselor at 888-659-2013 or email ““.

High Performing Business – Planning – Kindness

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT


Expediency in completing projects is my main goal.  I find I can move fastest with kindness as the foundation.  Projects are about people working together towards completing a significant goal.  The key words here are “people working together.”   Kindness and consideration in the planning phase goes a long way in expediently completing the project.

I activate kindness in the planning phase in three ways:

  1. Accommodate – how and when someone does their work is their responsibility.  When people know others are dependent on them to start or finish their work, they typically accommodate those requirements far better than if the schedule is dictated.  As the project manager, I make it my responsibility to understand people’s availability to do the work required and accommodate the schedule to their availability or find other resources that are available.
  2. Acknowledge – each of us  has unique skills and strengths.  Acknowledging these helps better coordinate who is the best person to accomplish specific tasks. For example, it makes no sense to have the detail oriented person create the overall theme for an event yet they may be  the right person to ready a space for hosting the event.
  3. Appreciate – showing gratitude and graciousness of how people can and do contribute while planning carries over into actually doing the work.  I use appreciative  inquiry about my contributor’s desired future state with how they can best deliver.

Over the years of leading projects I’ve seen two  things can hurt people’s ability to keep it kind during planning:

  1. Righteousness -this is the belief that “my way is the best way”.
  2. Entitlement – this means the belief that others in some way owe you something.

By following the three A’s of Accommodate, Acknowledge, and Appreciate; and being conscious of the stumbling blocks of righteousness and entitlement, kindness can be the foundation of an expedient project plan.

Cheetah students learn how to bring these principles alive in projects close to home in Cheetah Action Project (CHAP). This is where they learn how to improve their project management skills by doing a project at home or work with those closest to them.   Learn how to make kindness your project planning foundation.

High Performing Business – Planning – Desire

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Signs of spring can drive new desires.  But taking time to plan helps think through how much you really desire what you desire.

Signs of spring can drive new desires. But taking time to plan helps think through how much you really desire what you desire.

It’s only March 3rd and the fruit tree’s are in full bloom all around me here in the Pacific Northwest.  The rain clouds have cleared for a moment and the sun is peaking through.  It’s days like today that fill me with vim and vigor to start planning my gardens for the spring and summer.  On days like this I can find myself falling into delusions of grandeur over what I’m going to tackle.  This will be the year I put in that cool cathedral green house I’ve been eying and build that twenty by twenty foot fenced enclosure near my workshed to have an expanded space to grow vegetables protected from the hungry wildlife that enjoys the fruits of my labor.  But as I get into the details of planning, I find getting the concepts more in balance of what I can do and what I will do and what I actually need.   I rarely consume all the vegetables I  grow anyhow, even when I make the effort to can all of them, so do I really need this much effort to go into this?

Doing the planning activities to realize my dreams helps bring them into balance of what is not only possible for me, but what is also truly desirable.   I ask myself just because I can do something, does it mean I actually want to do it?   Before the cathedral green house idea germinated, I was going to purchase a neighbor’s thirty by forty foot green house.  I did some preliminary planning on this larger greenhouse and realized this was not how I wanted to be spending my time.  Planning serves a very valuable purpose of vetting the desirability of dreams to bring them into balance of the reality they will create if achieved.  And this is one of the true values for me – it helps me look before I leap.

You can do the same thing if you’re considering a career upgrade in Project Management by first checking out what is involved in becoming a Project Management Professional.  Download your free copy of Cheetah’s Smart Start Guide to becoming a Project Managmenet Professional.

High Performing Business – Planning – Mojo

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
How do you use your mojo to bring everyone up around you? In Cheetah's 60 hour online "Personality Based Project Management" you learn how to do just that.

How do you use your mojo to bring everyone up around you? In Cheetah’s 60 hour online “Personality Based Project Management” you learn how to do just that.

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

I first heard the term “mojo” about ten years ago.  I was doing a live radio show and the interviewer asked me about the “mojo of accelerated learning.”   I managed to contrive a suitable answer, as I had never heard the term “mojo” before.  When the interview was done, I called the woman on my team who had arranged it  and asked her if she had ever heard the term.  She said – “well yes, I was the one who suggested to the interviewer she ask you about your mojo with accelerated learning.”  We both had a good laugh as I love improv and having to think fast on my feet.  Just the question of “mojo” when I had no idea what “mojo” meant, boosted my “mojo” in the moment.

The term “mojo” used to mean a spell, or some type of charm.  It’s morphed into meaning  your personal charm, talent, and charisma – where you are feeling energized and at the top of your game in a way that is obvious to even the most casual observer.

I got to thinking how sparked I am in the early stages of planning  a project.  My mojo is in it’s prime there as well.  I’m energized, excited, and full of what is possible with our new initiative.  It’s an exciting place to live for an idea machine like me and my enthusiasm is infectious.  What works even better when the sparks are flying, is that I have a team that is like the engine to bring us up the mountain I’m creating to climb.  While mojo is exhilarating and maybe even required to get things moving in the right direction with a project in the start-up phase, it isn’t what necessarily helps you go the distance with completing the project. Knowing how and when to use various team members’ mojo and the type of mojo to use during the various phases of a project is a key skill for a project manager.

We all have our own unique forms of mojo – that special something that makes us shine.  Some people like to also refer to this as “personality.”   A few years back an acquaintance told me I had a “big personality.”    The reality is we all have “bigness” in our own special ways.  In Cheetah’s 60 hour online course – “Personality Based Project Management,”  students learn how to best use the strengths of theirs and other’s personalities to more effectively pick the right projects and more efficiently complete those projects.  It isn’t that one person’s personality is any better than another’s – it’s how you use who you innately are to pursue what it is that is most important to you that makes your mojo flow.  Take Cheetah’s Personality Assessment to see how you can use your mojo to do better project management.

Take Cheetah’s Personality Assessment to see how you can use your personality to do better project management.