Think Systems, Inc. Approved as Registered Education Provider by Project Management Institute

Mar 19, 2016

Baltimore, MD – Think Systems, Inc. today announces that the Project Management

Institute (PMI), the world’s largest project management member association, has named Think as a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) effective  March 1, 2016.  R.E.P.s are organizations that have been approved by PMI to help project managers achieve and maintain the Project Management Professional (PMP)®, Program Management Professional (PgMP)® and other PMI professional credentials. These organizations have met PMI’s rigorous quality criteria for course content, instructor qualification, and instructional design.

The BKPM Boot Camp explains and then provides opportunities to practice the methodologies, principles and processes that are presented in Bare Knuckled Project Management; How to Succeed at Every Project. Think’s BKPM Boot Camp qualifies for 10 PDUs! That’s more than you can typically get from a single project management course and Think has value priced (below the going rate for a typical PDU) the boot camp to make sure as many aspiring project managers can attend as possible. This significant chunk of PDUs are earned over a 4 to 6 week perios, by reading BKPM, completing several online surveys and then attending an intense 6-hour live session.

Project managers are increasingly turning to R.E.P.s for certification training and maintenance, especially since median salaries for the profession now exceed $100,000 (USD).  At this salary level, PMs are required to be highly effective and functional.  Company executives are looking for PMs that help their organization capture the maximum intrinsic value possible from every project.  PMs need to learn control and they need to learn to look outside of the traditional project constraints of the Iron Triangle (time, cost and scope).  BKPM expands the very mindset of PMs and shows them how to succeed at every project.

Think Systems, Inc. joins more than 1,500 R.E.P.s in more than 80 countries. These organizations include commercial training providers, academic institutions, and corporate training departments within corporations and government agencies.


About Project Management Institute (PMI) 

Project Management Institute is the world’s leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project, program and portfolio management profession.  Founded in 1969, PMI delivers value for more than 2.9 million professionals working in nearly every country in the world through global advocacy, collaboration, education and research. PMI advances careers, improves organizational success and further matures the profession of project management through its globally recognized standards, certifications, resources, tools academic research, publications, professional development courses, and networking opportunities. As part of the PMI family, Human Systems International (HSI) provides organizational assessment and benchmarking services to leading businesses and government, while and create online global communities that deliver more resources, better tools, larger networks and broader perspectives.

Visit us at, and on Twitter @PMInstitute.


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Two Baltimore City Companies Partner to Take-on Cyber Risk

Feb 4, 2016

Baltimore, MD – Think Systems ( and PivotPoint Risk Analytics ( have teamed up to provide a combined offering to companies who are serious about addressing cyber risk.

Think has become an authorized reseller of PivotPoint’s CyVaR, a new cyber risk analysis application that analyzes a company’s risks in terms of their financial impact.  Think provides information technology expertise and executive project control, something they call Bare Knuckled Project Management (BKPM).  Now, company executives can see their cyber risk as potential financial impacts on their business, prioritize risk mitigation activities, and immediately have Think take control of implementing those solutions.  The line between cyber risk awareness and corrective action has never been more direct for business executives.


“I’m hearing from Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) that they need to be able to talk to executives in financial terms, not cyber lingo. They want more than their opinion when raising the specter of a cyber breach; otherwise they sound like alarmists.  CyVaR addresses both of these needs.” – John Hill, Vice President of Business Development of Think

The one-two punch of CyVaR’s cyber risk analytics and Think’s Bare-Knuckled Project Management provides executives with a new way to prioritize cyber risk and do something about it.  “We work with CISOs, CIOs, and CTOs and have seen first-hand how difficult it is to develop security and IT plans that work together.  The quick-wins that come out of CyVaR analysis provide our clients with exactly what they should focus on next.  Sometimes it can still seem like a lot of work, but that’s why we are here, to help them break-down solutions into actionable plans and then execute.” – Jeff Welch, Vice President of Product Development of Think

Think offers the CyVaR Quick Start program to companies to demonstrate how well this application can rapidly help them gain control of the potential financial impacts that cyber security can have on their business.  The Program provides consulting and a 90-day product license for a minimal fee.  The goal is to develop a baseline and scenarios where mitigation plans are evaluated to see how they bring down cyber risk.  CyVaR is very intuitive and leverages the SANS Top 20.

CyVaR was recently featured in MarketWatch and has been getting attention.  What makes CyVaR different is that the cyber analysis engine is built to run simulated attacks on a company’s tech profile and report cyber risk in terms of dollars.  Success probabilities are calculated and value-at-risk calculations are run to determine financial exposure levels.  “Our cyber risk model has been around for years and is constantly revised with new threat knowledge; our analysis simulation runs millions of attacks from multiple vectors on company profiles that are loaded into CyVaR; and VaR calculations are a well-established method for calculating financial risk. How accurate do you need to be to develop an order of magnitude financial risk profile and prioritize how you should allocate your cyber security budget?  These aren’t decisions for accountants; these are decisions made by executives.” Gerald Caponera, VP Sales, PivotPoint Risk Analytics.

CyVaR is currently being used by CISOs, CFOs and Board Members, and cyber insurance providers who want to understand not only cyber risk, but how it can impact a company from a financial perspective.

For more information on CyVaR and Think’s authorized reseller options, contact John Hill ( or 410.624.7219) or Jeff Welch ( or 410.960.4930).

PDF version of this release:

February 2016 Release_Think and PivotPoint

Associated Images:

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Executive Project Expectations… is failure baked-in?

Feb 1, 2016

While reviewing the Chaos report from the Standish Group and I saw updated statistics that, again, paint a simply dismal picture for IT projects. The Standish Group research shows:

  • 31.1% of projects will be cancelled before completed
  • 52.7% of projects will cost 189% of their original estimates

These are staggering statistics and are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  They are also well-researched and  illustrate a fundamental disconnect in how projects are scoped and managed; however, that’s not even close to the most frustrating part of the issue. Almost every C-level executive you talk to will say their projects are managed fairly well.

rosanneTo borrow from a classic Saturday Night Live skit where Roseanne Roseannadanna (Gilda Radner) is spoofing Soviet Union news media about the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, “Nothing is wrong here. Especially near the nuclear reactor.

It takes something truly extraordinary to rise to level of concern for executives. How is it possible to reconcile that so many projects fail or double in cost, but are managed fairly well? How can these two extremely divergent perspectives coexist? The most obvious conclusion is that project failure and overruns are already baked into executive expectations.  While this may be a scary notion, it makes sense when you consider the fact that project success rates have remained largely unchanged over the last 20 years, even with the coming of organizations like PMI (the Project Management Institute) and a myriad of new project management tools and processes. I mean, if a seemingly unchanging percentage of project failure always occurs, then executives had better expect it.  Executives are left thinking, “Sure projects fail.  They always have and they always will, so nothing is wrong here, especially near the nuclear reactor.”

Then something truly confounding happens in the minds of executives.  They conclude, “I’m already investing enough money, resources, and time on this.  I’m not changing anything.  Not even if it can increase my likelihood for project success.”  Simply put, it’s the devil they know, so they leave it alone.

Not every executive fits this mold.  There are a few who always feel the need to do better.  Others find the need to do better in periods of extreme crisis or when business stresses are low enough to risk something new (a rarity).

To accept this level of project failure seems like total madness, but it is so damn consistent and pervasive that it’s hard to argue against.  Why have new project management tools and processes not changed the success rate of projects?  Don’t believe for a second that you can rationalize this by saying that while tools and processes have improved, projects have become bigger and more complex. Think about it; there is a common factor that everyone keeps ignoring or tries to work around, it’s people.  It’s the executives, the project managers, the technical teams, everyone involved in projects.  To put it bluntly, people are the problem.

Relatively recent advances in neuroscience show that people are remarkable hardwired and have very specific cognitive limitations. These limitations have actually enabled people to survive, even thrive, in the past but they work against us in many ways when trying to manage complex projects.  Only those who truly learn to think about projects differently can improve project success rates. Processes and tools are great, but the evidence shows that these things do not make a real difference in project success rates. The key is that people need to hone their critical decision-making capabilities so they support the task of complex project management.  They need to be trained at a limbic level so they can develop the ability to properly manage project decisions at an almost instinctive level.  They need to adopt specific practices, not processes, to deal with everything that can negatively impact a project.  They even need to adopt specific practices that help them find and act on opportunities that accelerate and improve project success.  This is not natural for most people.

At Think we credit our very high project success rate on the fact that we are highly selective (look for exceptional critical decision making traits in people) and train our project managers to think about projects differently.  Bare-Knuckled Project Management (BKPM) is a state of mind.  It is a methodology that first trains, then re-wires, the minds of project managers to help them make the right decisions on projects.  BKPMs do dramatically increase the success rate of projects.  It’s not magic, it’s hard earned and it’s repeatable.

One of our biggest challenges is in explaining to executives that they don’t need to settle for such lousy project success rates. It sometimes feels more like a religious battle than a practical discussion about project management, but it is beginning to catch-on.

Let’s fix this!  Let’s start thinking about projects differently and drive success rates through the roof. There is no reason to accept so much failure.

Busted IT Projects. Ugh. …

Jan 27, 2016

We Fix Busted IT Projects. bkpm-book

Think Systems and I take on BUSTED PROJECTS… expensive and embarrassing and frustrating for ALL involved. Top management shakes their heads, and just sigh when the next delay shows up…

You know the scenario – it happens far too often. If you haven’t yet experienced a project in complete collapse, sooner or later you will. And when it does happen, and the only option is to succeed, conventional business practices and standard project management approaches aren’t always up to the challenge.

The BKPM no-nonsense approach to getting the job done involves ruffling a few feathers, making some hard decisions, and speaking unpleasant truths to people who don’t always want to hear bad news. I think of it as taking a bare-knuckled approach to project management, and that’s what our book is all about.

You need to understand something. This isn’t a book of management platitudes, high-minded business practices, or a refinement of the standard project management materials taught in textbooks. It’s about practicality and efficiency — keep what works and get rid of the rest. It’s about what actually works in a wide variety of project types, project teams, and project owners. And it will make project failure a thing of the past.

You want a free, personalized copy of BKPM? I’ll send it to you. Just ping me.

john hillJohn Hill_unattributed


Think Systems Presents BKPM to Students at Stevenson University, Brown School of Business and Leadership

Nov 18, 2015

Tony Gruebl and Jeff Welch of Think Systems were invited to present a Bare Knuckled Project Management lecture and lab to students attending a class on Project Management, conducted by Jim Kucher, D.P.A., Assistant Professor, Brown School of Business and Leadership, Stevenson University.

In this 3-hour evening class, university seniors were introduced to the principles and concepts of BKPM and the level of control that top project management consultants need to exhibit when working at C-suite levels inside companies.  In the lecture portion of the class, Tony walked students through the state of the industry and dismal project success rate that is commonly reported by industry watchdogs like the Standish Group (approximately 68% of projects fail at some level).  Jeff introduced the students to the BKPM discipline of leveraging limbic learning to hack their brain and change their instinctive reactions to project management stresses and planning scenarios.

For a hands-on collaborative class component, students were run through several sessions of a project scenario in order to have them experience how BKPM principles and frameworks would allow them to get on top of and maintain control using Think’s Rapid Control Process. In these live-fire scenarios, students experienced just a taste of how project managers need to use tools to fight instinctive responses to stress and to maintain control.  It was magical to explain neuroscientific concepts of our brain’s system 1 and system 2 (Kahneman) and then have the students experience the great mind eraser of stress where analysis and information recall practically vanish.  By demonstrating these human traits and tying them to critical phases of project management, these students learned how to truly and rapidly take advantage of project management experience they will soon have.

The faculty and students at Stevenson couldn’t have been better collaborators for this classroom experience and Think can’t wait to be invited back again.  Perhaps someday we’ll hire some of this young talent.


Baltimore SmartCEO Honored Think at its 2015 Future 50 Awards Ceremony

Feb 6, 2015

Smart CEO_Clip 1Baltimore, MD (Jan. 22, 2015) – Baltimore SmartCEO and Sponsor M&T Bank honored the 2015 Future 50 award winners at a Hollywood-themed awards ceremony, which took place on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at The Hunt Valley Inn. Sixty Greater Baltimore companies were recognized for their fast growth based on a three-year average of employee and revenue growth. In all, 50 mid-sized Future 50 companies, five small Emerging Growth companies, and five large Blue Chip companies were recognized in the program. The 2015 Future 50 winners collectively generate over $2.1 billion in annual revenue and employ over 11,000 individuals in the Greater Baltimore area.

Think’s president, Tony Gruebl, said, “we honor the CEO’s of great Baltimore firms, but the award really goes to each of our team members who focus every day on maintaining the excellence of our business. We just get the spotlight for a brief moment. Bryan Wolbert, our Executive Vice President, the legendary John Hill (our sales leader), Jeff Welch (strategy and product development), team leaders Kristy Mathena and Shamir Somji, and all of our team members at our other accounts are the folks who make this company move forward. We share a common vision and common belief about why we do what we do at Think. If there’s a Smart CEO amongst us, it’s simply due to them.”

Think provide strategic and tactical project management to firms where projects and initiatives lack control and measurable success. Using its Rapid Control Process to deploy BKPM, the company has helped many senior executives achieve notable advances in achieving results in critical projects, ranging from IT-centered projects to mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and integration related projects. Think offers its BKPM Boot Camp as a way for these firms to understand their culture and how to embrace and measure “effectiveness and control” as a KPI of project performance. For more information, contact John Hill at Think at 410.235.3600.
Download SMARTCEO News Release Here

Jeff Welch joins Think Systems as Vice-President, Strategic Product Development

Jul 1, 2014

Baltimore, MD – Jeff Welch, formerly in key positions for PDRI, Inc, Vangent, Inc., and Pearson Performance Solutions, and co-author of Bare Knuckled Project Management: How to Succeed at Every Project (2013, GamePlan Press), has joined Think Systems, Inc., as Vice President for Strategic Project Development. Jeff is responsible for continuing development of Think’s Strategic and Tactical Project Management offering and PMO development services while also serving as the company’s Communications and Training Director.

Mr. Welch said, “It’s exciting to see how incredibly effective the Bare Knuckled Project Management (BKPM) approach is proving to be. This goes for Think internally and also for the few clients who we’ve begun to teach BKPM. As Think grows, it will be more important than ever to develop the assessment, benchmarking, training, coaching, and technology tools and services needed, in order to unshackle project management teams so they can think and act like true bare knuckled project managers.”

The company was founded by Tony Gruebl, its president, who added partners Bryan Wolbert and Valerie Smith in 2011 and Ed Hale, Sr., former CEO of First Mariner Bancorp, and owner of the Baltimore Blast, in 2013. The management team continues to grow the firm by evangelizing the principles described in Tony and Jeff’s book, Bare Knuckled Project Management; How to Succeed at Every Project. The company is scaling their process, tools, and consulting team to help enterprises inoculate their Project Management Organizations (PMOs) from traditionally high failure rates.

Jeff is an executive-level strategist and solution architect with more than 25 years of experience leading the development of information systems, communication strategies, and corporate training/coaching programs. He was the co-owner of a successful multimedia development company that serviced the US intelligence community and large commercial corporations. After being acquired, he continued to manage teams through a myriad of information system and training development efforts of various sizes, ranging from small tactical efforts to multimillion dollar strategic efforts. He brings the experience and insight that blends state- of-the-art neuroscience, adult learning theory, and evolving accelerated learning methodologies, needed to successfully change the long-term behavior of project managers who are learning to become BKPMs.

Tony Gruebl said, “It’s truly exciting to be able to evangelize BKPM with Jeff. The more we see BKPM principles at work enabling simple, direct, and effective project management, the more convinced we are that this simply works better than anything we’ve encountered in 25 years of running highly technical projects.
With Jeff’s knowledge of evolving scientific principles in neuroscience and learning theory, we believe that we can develop BKPMs in nearly every organization.”

Contact: For additional information, please contact Tony Gruebl, president, at 443.725.5131 or John Hill, vice president of Business Development at 410.375.9424.

Think Systems provides strategic and tactical project management services, PMO coaching, and business analysis and technical support for a variety of technologies including data warehousing, business analytics, BI systems, and e-learning among others.

Download PDF Here

Think offers Information Security Recruiting Services

Jul 31, 2013

Baltimore, MD – Boards of Directors and company executives are increasingly aware of the serious threat to corporate information assets posed by advanced persistent threats and state-sponsored cyber attacks. Combined with increasing state and federal security and privacy regulations, this awareness leads organizations to expand their information security teams. As a result, a demand exists for experienced information security professionals that outpaces the current pool of qualified candidates. That’s why firms need a recruiter with deep roots in the network of information security professionals and executives.

In partnership with a national peer-to-peer organization dedicated to helping information security, IT risk management, privacy, and compliance executives be more successful, Think has built a uniquely qualified Information Security Recruiting Practice. The partnership leverages the organization’s relationships with top security professionals from around the globe, with access to over 1,500 individuals at the CISO, CSO, CPO, CRO level.

“We are providing information security recruiting services to our clients in an era when businesses’ mission-critical data and proprietary digital information have already been proven to be vulnerable to 3rd party malicious intrusion,” said John Hill, Vice President of Think, who is leading the effort.

Think’s Information Security Executive Placement Division works closely with our commercial enterprise clients to manage any permanent, contract, or contract-to-hire needs they may have in hiring or contracting information security professionals for their current in-house staff. We will also assist security professionals seeking to make a career move, either within the security industry or to a different role within the IT industry (e.g., CIO, CTO, etc.).

Any and all fees are paid by the commercial client and only after a successful placement is made by Think.

Contact: For additional information, please contact John Hill, Vice President of Think, at 410.375.9424.

Think provides strategic and tactical project management services, PMO coaching, and business analysis and technical support for a variety of technologies including data warehousing, business analytics, BI systems, and e-learning among others.

Ed Hale takes partner stake in Think Systems; to serve as Director and Advisor

Jun 4, 2013

Baltimore, MD – Edwin F. Hale, Sr., Baltimore developer, former CEO of First Mariner Bancorp, and owner of the Baltimore Blast, has taken an equity stake in Think Systems, Inc., a locally owned consulting and human capital firm that provides project management services to companies with high stakes technology projects. Mr. Hale purchased equity in the company in a private transaction and will serve on the company’s board with other partners Tony Gruebl, Bryan Wolbert, and Valerie Smith.

Mr. Hale said, “Think is attractive because of the company’s dynamic leadership, vision for growth, and honest approach to selling and delivering. Tony, Bryan, and Valerie are all highly skilled, smart professionals, well regarded by their customers and peers, and I have a great deal of trust that their approach will allow this business to grow in Baltimore and nationally. They asked me to lend my experience and guidance, and I’m happy to join them.”

The company was founded by Tony Gruebl, its president, who added partners Bryan Wolbert and Valerie Smith in 2011. Tony is a seasoned business intelligence technology consultant and Six Sigma Master Black Belt who is known for running high risk technology projects successfully. Tony’s book, Bare Knuckled Project Management; How to Succeed at Every Project, recently released on Amazon, explains his methods. The company intends to scale their process to help enterprises wanting to inoculate their Project Management Organizations (PMOs) from traditionally high failure rates.

Bryan is Executive Vice President and COO of the company with 15 years of business analysis and project management capability. Valerie is Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Think where she manages the infrastructure of the company and also runs a large project for one of Think’s clients at Chevron Oil. The company currently employs about 20 people mostly in Baltimore, has a high profile list of clients, and is expecting fast growth.

Recently, another local Baltimore talent, John Hill, joined the company as Vice President of Business Development. John is a known quantity in Baltimore and worked for G.1440 and e.magination network over the last decade. John will lead the sales growth of the firm.

Tony Gruebl said, “As we contemplated growth, we recognized that we needed Ed Hale, a local legend and bare-knuckler himself, to keep us grounded and true to our model. Ed is both an experienced entrepreneur and a regional titan who has lived the kind of growth that we believe is ahead for us. Ed is an amazing coach, advisor, and friend. He believes what we believe about how to do business the right way, honestly and transparently. We are very fortunate that he’s taken an interest in Think.”

Contact: For additional information, please contact Tony Gruebl, president, at 443.725.5131 or John Hill, vice president of Business Development at 410.375.9424.

Think Systems provides strategic and tactical project management services, PMO coaching, and business analysis and technical support for a variety of technologies including data warehousing, business analytics, BI systems, and e-learning among others.
Download PDF Here

Bare Knuckled Project Management: How to Succeed at Every Project released on

May 20, 2013

Baltimore, MD – Think Systems, Inc., today announced the release of Bare Knuckled Project Management: How to Succeed at Every Project, written by Tony Gruebl and Jeff Welch. Tony is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt, professional project manager, and president of Think. Jeff is a technical executive and solutions architect, instructor, speaker, professional project manager, and advisor to the company.

There are lots of management philosophies that tell you that if you just follow a few simple rules, you’ll have perfect results. But it’s never that simple. As many as 70% of all projects undertaken by companies and organizations fail according to one well known study. Despite demanding certified project managers and adopting rigorous project management techniques, project success remains elusive.

The bare-knuckled approach to project management is the answer. Anybody can swing a bat, but that doesn’t mean anybody can be a major leaguer. It’s all about the person. It takes talent, temperament, training, experience, and aptitude to achieve greatness. Make no mistake, for great projects, you need a great project manager — someone who isn’t afraid to do what it takes to get the job done. You need a Bare-Knuckled Project Manager, someone not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, make hard decisions, and speak unpleasant truths to people who don’t always want to hear bad news.

Bare Knuckled Project Management: How to Succeed at Every Project, published by GamePlan Press, is available on

Contact: For additional information, please contact Tony Gruebl, president, at 443.725.5131 or Jeff Welch, advisor to Think at 410.780.0110 or John Hill, vice president of Business Development at 410.375.9424.

Think Systems provides strategic and tactical project management services, PMO coaching, and business analysis and technical support for a variety of technologies including data warehousing, business analytics, BI systems, and e-learning among others.
Download PDF Here