Wednesday, December 31, 2008
On my list is to get more speaking engagements. I'm going to do more active marketing, submit more proposals to big events such as PMI's global congresses, and then make sure I'm thoroughly prepared so I give good presentations and can get references. I have 1 confirmed even on my calendar and 3 tentative events. My target is 6 events for the year.
So having a set of goals is more than just a list of high level things. For each goal, you should plan out a set of actions to accomplish that goal, complete with dates. Then throughout the year, on a weekly and monthly basis, identify what actions you have to achieve your goals. Don't be one of the crowd that joins the health club in January and by the end of March is no longer going (but still paying the membership fees).
If you're interested in some of my other New Years Planning activities, refer back to last year's post here.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Egypt is the site of the first big projects, they pyramids. Ironically, they built in an iterative fashion, starting with a smaller one, learning from their mistakes, and building bigger/better ones.
Egypt is also home to another important project management tool - beer! I know I've sat around with the team after a hard day to unwind and bond over a couple cold ones.
Monday, December 15, 2008
This is a phrase I've been hearing here in Egypt. It means "God willing." It's used when people make plans to say this is what we want to do, but it isn't completely up to us.
It's like project management. We can make all our plans but things can still go the wrong way. Those are the times we can take the Egyptian attitude and accept the situation and go from there.
I had a project one time where we were doing a data conversion. About a month out, we found out some hardware wasn't going to be ready in time. There wasn't anything we could do about the situation, so we ended up doing the conversion in 2 steps, the second step happening when our hardware got in place. It took a little while to get people past the issue and on the solution, but we did it.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The resulting answer was pretty big and the client thought it was much bigger than the project would actually be, and he might be right. Under ideal conditions, the project may take much less time. However, having done projects before, I know this perfect state for project execution is rare. Things often come up. There’s some requirement that didn’t get identified but is a must-have. Problems creep up. People get pulled of the project for something else, or quite or get married. Some features take longer than the benchmark would indicate.
For now we’ll keep an eye on this estimate while we start our first iteration. After we complete that, we’ll see if our estimates for those features match reality. Then we can adjust the overall estimate as necessary.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Six months later, they approached Lombardi to ask if this process was a good one for Business Process Management (BPM), which is were I got involved.
So what does BPM provide that 6 sigma doesn't? In their case, they had a manual process for tracking metrics. Someone would go into a time tracking system, acknowledge that they were starting a task, go do the task, and go back to the time tracking system to say it was done. This is what is referred to as a "swivel chair" integration. The task execution and time tracking aren't truley integrated. This is one area that BPM can help, it tracks execution of the task because the task and tracking of the task are integrated in the same tool.
So BPM can improve capturing metrics, what else? In their case, the task itself was still being performed with emails and spreadsheets. Moving to BPM will eliminate these activities. All process data and communications happens via the BPM platform.
A BPM platform also lets you tweak the process easier. You identify a bottleneck through metrics captured automatically, figure out how to work around it, make a change to the process, and you're done. Kaizen at its finest.
So while 6 sigma gets you in the right direction, BPM will set the groundwork for continous improvement.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
First there's networking within your organization. This can help you with your project or career inside the company. If you build your network, you have people you can call on to help you out when you need it.
Then there's networking outside your company. Maybe you're in the perfect job and never plan on leaving, so you don't see the point. Networking is more than finding a job though. Through my networking, I've meet people that have helped me in the job I was at, learn new skills, and participate in interesting activities outside of work.
There are two important things about a network. First, don't wait until you need it to build it. The last time I was laid off, I had a strong network in place and quickly had a number of opportunities to explore.
The second thing is the network isn't a one-way street. You have to be willing to give to your network and help them out. Maybe it's saying yes when someone asks for a volunteer or helping someone with a problem. You have to pay into your network in order to be able to draw on it later. Karma works here; the person I help today may not be able to help me next week, but someone will as long as I'm paying into the network.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
That email you sent, voice mail you left, or blog post you wrote probably doesn't capture what you really intended to say. Seth Godin had an interesting blog post on this recently.
So how do you ensure your message gets across? You can look at the replies to your blog posts, make your voicemails to the point, or take time to really read that email before you hit send. Personally, I don't leave long voicemails and I hate receiving them. Emails shouldn't be more than a few (short) paragraphs. The same goes for presentations.
Woodrow Wilson captured it best when he said "If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now." I have seen speakers ramble on because of a lack of preparation and emails ramble on because someone didn't take the time to organize their thoughts. I'm an advocate of pecha kucha and I hope to see this catch on.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
When companies are in growth mode, a lot of energy goes into recruiting, onboarding etc. I was at Sprint PCS when they were in this mode, and it can be pretty crazy. However, when this growth slows down, there's a real opportunity here. Companies can use that time that would have been spent reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, or bringing new people on board to focus on other things; specifically, process improvement.
Taking the time now to improve efficiencies can help a company increase profits because they're increasing revenue without adding more resources. As a starting point, look at all the processes that already exist. Figure out which ones most closely align with the company strategy, figure out ROI of the improvement projects, and then go in deep to identify improvements to specific processes. Later, when you're ready to start growing again, you'll be in a much better position to support it.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
They have a running tote board showing the names of the team members. They are tracking the number of negative comments that are made be everyone; things like sarcastic wisecracks, cynical comments or pessimistic opinions. They want to track if this metric goes up if the project becomes challenged.
Like any metric, the key will be what they do with it to manage and change behavior. If they see the number go up on a weekly or monthly basis, will they take action to bring the metric back down? This could be a good indicator it's time for a team building activity or some other break in the routine.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I've had a couple of team building activies on my project recently. Last week one of my developers rolled off the project, so we had a farewell dinner for him. A couple of weeks ago, it was a taping of the Late Night Show with David Letterman. This week we are going to go out as a team after work and catch the latest James Bond movie.
As project managers, we would be nowhere without our team. I am fortunate that at Lombardi Software, I am surrounded by a bunch of really smart people that can't help but make me look good. It lets me fit that roll of servant-leader, trying to do my best to see that they have everything they need to be successful.
So what have you done for your team recently? Have you told them how much you appreciate them? Have you taken them out for dinner?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
So are there things you've thought about doing but haven't gotten around to for whatever reason? Why wait? Think about the worst outcome, is it that bad? OK, so skydiving could turn out bad, but they have a lot of safety precautions.
It's only by accepting risks that we can also achieve greater rewards. I remember when I turned in my paperwork to leave the Navy. It was risky since I didn't have a civilian job offer at the time. However, I landed on my feet. I wouldn't be where I am today without having taken that first step.
Running projects can be the same. Risks can be opportunities to exceed the goals of the project. What risks can you take on to achieve a higher level of success?
Monday, November 10, 2008
So if you know a veteran, say thanks. If you are a veteran, thank you for your service.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
However, are there times when we shouldn't compromise? There are times that if we give in too much, we fail to make anyone happy.
I was on a process improvement project one time, representing the business users as we were improving the process for testing software before it was put into production. One of the recommendations of my improvement team was to co-locate business users with the software vendor as part of the testing team. The complication was that the vendor was half-way across the country so co-locating meant temporary housing for a couple months in another city.
Management's reaction was that this would be expensive and couldn't we do it with conference calls and email. However I and one of my other team members felt strongly that co-location was the only way to get the results we were looking for. Rather than compromise, we kept lobbying until we were able to convince management to agree.
So there are times to compromise, but there are also times when you have to stand for what you want or be willing to walk away with nothing. The key is to know the difference.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Think about when you were a child, what did you like to do? Did you like sports? Heading out to the woods on your bike? Boy/Girl scouts?
Back when I was in the Navy, I had a supervisor tell me to figure out what I liked to do and bring that to whatever job I was working at. In the field I was in, you would typically have a new assignment every year or so. I figured out early on I liked to help solve operational problems through technology. This involved understanding the big picture and how to improve operations, something I continue to do to this day.
Another way to think about it, if you were writing a novel about yourself, what would your story be? If you can envision that, why not make it a reality.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I came across this quote today and found it interesting in light of the elections here in the US yesterday. I think the results say that Americans were ready for a change, time to reform.
What about at work? Is everyone going in the same direction? Is that going to bring improvement to the organization, or does someone have to change things up? It's the organizations that don't see the need for change that end up suffering. Think about the record companies. They were happy to make large profits on records and then CDs. They didn't see the need to reform when MP3s started to show up. A radical shift to the industry was brought about by reformers.
So if you're following the processes and procedures because that's the way it's always been done, think about how you can change things for the better.
Monday, November 03, 2008
I came across a similar quote in Tribes. The quote was "If we're not uncomfortable, we aren't doing enough leading." It's that whole comfort zone thing again. We have to get our of our comfort zone to be effective, as leaders or bikers.
After my second painful fall yesterday, I did back off and become conservative in my riding for the next hour. After that, I got past my fear of falling and was pushing again, and having much more fun. Just like in life, it was only my fear that was holding me back, not my ability.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The book is about leadership. We can all be leaders for what we believe in, even if we're not a formal leader in the organization. We just have to believe in what we're doing. The idea that takes off is the one with the most fanatic supporter (the heretic is what Seth Godin calls him/her).
"The only thing holding you back is your own fear" is what he has to say. There isn't a right way to lead, the key is to decide to lead and not manage.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
He talked about leadership, not a surprise from a military officer. His message was similar to what other leaders would tell you; you have to provide the purpose and get people excited, you have to take care of your troops, you have to inspire people to become self motivated, and you have to have integrity.
There was one thing that really resonated with me. He also talked about the transition in his life after leaving the military and his role as Secretary of State. He was describing his thought process when he was determining what he would do next. His advice; don't go through life looking in the rear-view mirror, look ahead.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Colin Powell did the keynote on Sunday, the same day he announced his support for Obama. The conclusion a number of us had after the presentation was that the general was an agile project manager.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
On Friday, I will be presenting at the Leadership Institute with Dave Prior, Mark Lurch, and Petra Goltz. We are talking about communications.
On Saturday night I have pulled together a reception to bring together some of the leaders from both traditional and agile project management.
I will be manning the IT & Telecom SIG booth from Sunday through Tuesday.
Finally, I also planned the annual SIG networking event for Monday night.
Friday, October 10, 2008
In the post, he recommends eliminated 120 minutes/day of spare time in our life, time wasted watching TV, commuting, or going to meetings. He provides a list of things to use that 120 minutes for that can help us be more successful.
Most of us probably don't think we have 120 spare minutes in our day. We're already overworked, multi-tasking, and sleep deprived. But are we working on the right things? Do you need to spend 45 minutes on the weekly status report that will only be skimmed over by the recipients? Will anyone notice if you just spend 25 minutes on it? Can you send someone else to the hour long meeting and have them give you a 5 minute synopsis later? Haven't you seen that episode of Law and Order before?
I'm pretty diligent when it comes to exercise, because I make that a priority. Any of us can do the things that are really important as long as we put them on the top of our to-do list.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I didn't turn on the TV expecting a lot of accuracy. Like the vice-presidential debates last week, both candidates seemed to be off on their facts. For a reality check, visit the site FactCheck.org. It looks at the candidates statements and the real facts behind them.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
They also had a great post worth repeating:
People online are real people.
If you send a nasty email, there’s a real human being on the other end who gets it.
If you flame in a forum, you’re wasting real people’s time.
If you spam someone, you’re really only making yourself look bad.
If you write IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS it sounds like shouting.
If you want something to happen your way, try asking instead of demanding.
If you give, you’ll probably wind up getting, too.
If you blog just to pick fights, don’t be surprised when people don’t trust you.
If you collaborate, say thanks.
If you’re independent, say no thanks.
If you like someone, tell them.
If you don’t, walk away from the computer.
If you’re giving feedback, lead with just one good thing.
If you’re getting feedback, realize that the person must care a lot to have sent it.
If you goof, apologize.
If you apologize, mean it.
If you smile, mean that too.
If you don’t like something, don’t do it.
If you do like something, spread it.
But far far more important:
Give people a break.
The break you probably deserve yourself.
People are out to do good, 99% of the time.
You probably are too.
Say thanks out loud and a lot.
Try making someone’s day.
Chances are they’ll make yours in return.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I've worked in a couple of places where the emphasis was how long you worked, not what you delivered. The smarter companies are recognizing that isn't what's necessary in this day of knowledge workers.
Last Friday my kids were off school. I got up early and put in a very productive 5 hours. Then I went mountain biking with my son, took both kids to lunch, and went back to the office to wrap things up, another 3 hours or so. Some days I will wrap up before 5, go for a run, and then spend a little time answering emails before I go to bed.
Now I will admit there are some days, especially when I'm with a client, that I'll put in 10+ hours in the office. A flight attendant accused me of being a workaholic this week because I was about the only one not sleeping on an early morning flight, but to me, the airplane is a great place to get things done, no distractions. It helps when I'm in first class and have a little room to spread out. It also means I don't have to work late at night and I can go out and enjoy myself.
Monday, September 15, 2008
This makes sense for project planning. Have you been in the situation where you should be planning, but you're busy putting out a fire? You have to get the fire off your plate before you can get to planning. The key is to focus effectively so that you can get to the planning.
The technique provided in Getting Things Done is to identify what the next action is for any project or other task on your plate. When you can clearly identify the next actions, you are more effective in executing. Pick up the book if you want more details and look for an upcoming article in Projects at Work on the topic.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
The fifth one, simplify your to-do list, has been something I've been practicing for some time. I try to start each day thinking about what the most important things I need to get done that day. Most days I have a top 3 work list and a top 3 other list (household projects, volunteer stuff etc). I find if I focus on those things, I'm less likely to get distracted by other activities.
The other thing I like about the blog post is the advice to pick just one thing on the list and try start practicing that today. Tomorrow, pick something else on the list. Don't try to do everything at once.
Today, I'm going to clean off my desk. It gets cluttered easily when I'm traveling a lot because I throw things on it between trips and piles build up. I'm not traveling this week, so it's a good week to do a little organizing.
Monday, August 25, 2008
This year was a little different. My son works for the local Trek store and they were there providing support. So instead of riding in front, we rode in back and helped out people that ran into problems. It was an enjoyable way to do the ride. We were able to talk more, we got the satisfaction of helping a couple riders out, and we saw riders with a different perspective. They weren’t as concerned with keeping their speed up, having the latest bikes, or the most hi-tech clothing. They were there for fun.
It’s good to change perspectives every once in a while. This is a great technique to help resolve conflicts. Once I was having a disagreement with someone in another department because she wasn’t supporting a new process I was deploying. I had executive support and was just steam-rolling ahead, not stopping to think why she wasn’t on the same page. It wasn’t until I took the time to see things from her perspective that I understood it wasn’t that she didn’t support my process, she just didn’t have the resources to help me out. Once I realized that, we were able to reach an alternate solution that everyone was happy with.
So next time you’re facing conflict, think about the other person’s perspective and how things might look from the back.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
These athletes aren't successful just because they worked hard for the last 6 months. They've been thinking about and preparing for the Olympics for years. We should have this same focus in our careers as well.
In the middle of a big project, it's easy to focus just on getting that project done without thinking about the bigger picture. We need to step back from the day to day chaos once in a while and think about our long term goals. My favorite approach to this is from Steven Covey. Picture your own funeral. What are people going to say about you? What is going to be written on your tombstone? This exercise is a good way to think about what you really want to do with your life.
So as you're watching the Olympics, think about where you want to be in 4 years when the next Olympics come around. Write your ideas down and start planning.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
In project management, it's always scope, schedule, and budget that determines if a project is successful. But a good project manager knows that isn't enough. The customer also has to be satisfied, but how do you measure that?
One approach I've taken for some time is to define the measures of success as the project is going through the chartering process. This is where key metrics can be identified that can later be used to measure if the project has delivered. In process improvement, the measure can be reducing the number of defects or decreasing the time to complete a process.
So as you're starting off your project, think about all the goals the project should accomplish and how to measure them. With running, my goal is to finish in the top 5% of any race. Anything else is a bonus.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
One line comes up at the end of the movie that is pretty deep. After Ferris and his friends have had a great day in Chicago, the damage has been done to the Ferrari, and Ferris is back home, he says "Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it."
Monday, August 04, 2008
An underlying theme of the book is a “mind like water.” I’ve heard this idea used a lot in meditation. Think about a pond when a pebble hits it and the ripples flow out. In meditation, you want to get rid of the ripples; clear the mind.
The same idea applies to Getting Things Done. If you can get things off your mind by capturing them in an effective system, you will be more productive with the things you are doing.
A key is to be able to decide what is the next step for any of the projects you may be working on. For example, every time I start my car, the computer reminds me that service is due. The next step has to be well-defined. It’s not get the car serviced but more precisely call the service department and make an appointment for Friday at 8:00 AM.
So in your next meeting, as your discussing a project, ask the question “So what’s the next step?” and get things done.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The idea is that we can't really plan our career out because there's to much uncertainty. We shouldn't take jobs or assignments because we think they'll get us ahead. We should do the things that provide us satisfaction, align with our inner soul, or fulfill a higher purpose.
The successful people are those that do the things they want to do, not the things they think they need to do to get ahead.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
But it's not that simple, is it? If you take a hard stand, you run the risk of creating animosity with your customer. But on the flip side, if you give in to much, your project gets out of control and nothing gets delivered.
So how do you decide where to draw the line? You want to make the customer happy by delivering what they want but the key is to deliver.
I've had this situation come up recently with my customer. My compromise was to put a couple of the higher priority requests into the current release, ones that don't have much of an impact on the schedule. The rest I have slotted for the next release. At the same time, I reinforced the idea that it's more important to get the new tool into production, even without every feature, than it is to wait and get it perfect. Once they start using the tool, they will come up with other features, and some of the ones they are thinking about now won't seem so important.
So keep thinking win-win. How you can give the customer what they want while still delivering as soon as possible.
Monday, July 14, 2008
On my trip to New York last week, I visited the Empire State Building. The constuction of this was an amazing accomplishment.
The entire project was done in 1 year, 45 days. At the time, it was the tallest building ever constructed. The project involved 7 million man hours and up to 4000 people a day. It came in under the $50 million budget by $9 million. The construction began in 1930, during the Great Depression in the US.
The amazing thing to me is that this was designed and constructed before the days of computers. Everything had to be done by hand. I keep a slide rule around that had belonged to my father and the other day I was trying to explain to my daughter what it was used for. No scheduling tools or CAD programs to help build this monument, and yet it was a very successful project.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Interesting enough, Shawn's article mentions the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. I was talking to a friend yesterday and she also brought up this book. I don't really believe in coincidences, so there must be a reason I came across this book twice in a day.
One tip I find effective for getting things done is to identify my top three priorities at the start of each day and focus on those, avoiding distractions from other tasks and activities until they are done.
So what are your priorities for today? If you're reading this, I've already got one of mine done. Remember, it takes 21 days to adopt a new habit, so if you want to become more effective, pick a tip from one of the articles I mentioned and start today.
Monday, June 23, 2008
It’s good to set goals to move you forward, but some times you just can’t reach your goals and you have to know when to re-adjust. If I had tried to finish in 3:10 from the start, I probably would have dropped out by around 18 miles. It happened to me once, so I know. However, by knowing when to reset my goal, I was still able to finish.
I’ve been on projects that set off with some lofty goals, but is that really good? Is it really motivating to give people an impossible target, or is it more demoralizing? As project managers, our objective is the success of the project, but we have to know how to define what that means.
I don’t consider my marathon a failure because I didn’t hit my original target goal. I still ran over 26 miles in less then three and a half hours. I finished in 472nd place out of 9800 runners, so I was in the top 5%. I know there will be other races in my life that I will exceed my goals, so I’m happy with the results.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I keep a running log so that I can go back and see what kind of training brought me success, and how I was racing in past years. As I get ready for my marathon (9 days away!), I can assess what kind of shape I am in compared to past years and how I will do. I'm predicting around a 3:10. I wanted to break 3 hours, but I know my training hasn't been that good.
I also keep a personal journal so I can track what has brought me success in work as well. It also has my observations of how I can improve. Sometimes (like this week), I'm to busy to think about it. Over the weekend though I plan on taking some time to check my log and make some entries on the professional side.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
The quote I liked was when he talked about a project manager "Getting past the point where you consider one approach to be the “one true way”, and on to a place where you see each approach as viable and important"
Just as each project is by definition unique, we need to think about how we approach each project, rather than trying to shoe-horn a standard approach every time. It might be waterfall or agile or spiral or somewhere in between, we need to figure out the best way to get it done.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Before landing at Lombardi Software, I interviewed with few other companies. In a number of cases, they were moving away from business casual back to business formal dress, which meant either a shirt/tie or sport coat. While I like dressing up, and I did my share of it in the Navy, I have to wonder, does it really matter what we wear?
Obviously, anyone can take it to an extreme, and anytime I'm with clients I make sure I am dressed as well as them, but if I'm in the office with my co-workers, does it matter if I'm in jeans?
I think the military had it right, it's about conformity. Some public schools are also going to uniforms for a similar reason. If we're all dressed about the same, no one is going to feel singled out because of what they wear, and ideally, everyone will work better together. I don't need a suit to make me a better worker, I'm fine in my jeans and polo shirt as long as that's what everyone else is wearing.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I worked in one organization that started to rank employees as part of the annual performance evaluation. The people ranked high got raises, the ones at the bottom of the list were at risk for loosing their jobs. This made for a very competitive workplace (i.e., backstabbing). I am glad not to be there anymore and as I was looking for a new position, I asked about the culture and how they handled performance reviews to make sure I didn't get into the same boat again.
At my current company, they took the time as part of the on-boarding process to talk about the culture of the organization, and it wasn't just an HR person reading off a set of slides. It was one of the VPs that had been with the company and could talk to how the culture has evolved over the years. This step keeps the culture evolving in a positive manner so that the company continues to be successful.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The idea is that we should have this passion, but at the same time, be open to new ideas. Based on my research, this quote originated with Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future.
As an example, while I am passionate about project management, in the last few years I've moved more toward agile project management. What are you passionate about? Are you open to new ideas in this area?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
I was having a discussion with someone using Rally's web-based agile project management software over the weekend. His conclusion was that while it was ok, there were some desktop features that this program didn't do as well because it was web-based. To me, the biggest limitation to web-based stuff is that you have to be connected to use most of it (though that is starting to change). For someone that does a lot of work on airplanes, this is a problem, at least until more planes start offering in-flight wi-fi. So for most things, I'll stick with my desktop application.
On a side note, I was featured in today's post on Dan Schawbel's blog, Personal Branding.
Monday, May 05, 2008
I think the difference between the railroads or the introduction of electricity and IT is that IT is continuing to evolve, and I'm not saying that just because I started a new job today with a software company. Successful companies will continue to take advantage of the latest innovations to stay ahead of the competitors. Companies in IT that want to stay in business will continue to find solutions to make customers successful.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Watch the trailer.
Around where I live, the redbud trees are blooming. They are by far my favorite trees. I missed most of their splendor last year because I was in Japan (and missed the cherry blossoms there because I came back home for 2 weeks at their peak). So here's a picture of one.
I came across a great blog site, Presentation Zen. I am working on becoming more active as a public speaker, and this site has some good advice. A particular article that caught my eye compared Bill Gates to Steve Jobs from a presentation perspective. The article talks about the Zen principle of simplicity, or kanso and that "beauty, grace, and visual elegance are achieved by elimination and omission."
The blog post goes on to compare the style of Jobs (visual Zen master) and Gates, who embodies the Microsoft method of presentations that many of us have seen. I'll admit I've even created some like this myself. But next time I put together a presentation, I'll think about simplicity and how to create the most impact with the least amount of stuff in my slides.
On a side note, I recently switched from a Windows machine to a MacBook. I think even the Mac computers have that same Zen approach.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Our conversation centered around scope creep. Because projects take so long, end users ask for a lot of requirements because they don't think they'll have a chance to get anything else once the project is done. Then they change their mind because it takes so long to deliver what they ask for that the business has changed and now they need something new.
The answer of course is to break the project up; deliver a little at a time. It took me a while the first time I tried to convince a sponsor this was the way to go with a project, but after I successfully delivered a small first release followed by a second release, he became convinced on this approach to running a project. No more huge list of requirements, no more long time periods between gathering requirements and delivering on them, and a happy sponsor. Now if only I could do something about weather delays!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
My son is working on an interesting project that is in the spirit of earth day. He's taking an old bike of mine (my first real racing bike) and rebuilding it to be a commuter bike he can ride to work and school. So he's recycling and when he's done he'll be reducing his carbon footprint by not driving as much. For my part, now that the weather has improved, I've started to ride my bike for errands rather than driving. What can you do?
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
It’s not just companies; people can do this as well. Are you evolving? As project managers, we can get into ruts, running the same types of projects for the same organization. It’s important to continue to learn new skills. Reading is one way to stay up with the latest trends. Going back to the classroom is another; whether it’s for a formal degree or a new certification. Conferences, like this week’s Scrum Gathering in Chicago are also a great way to hear new ideas (see the DrunkenPM blog for more on this).
In Seven Habits for Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about sharpening the saw. What are you doing to keep your saw sharp?
Monday, April 14, 2008
The competition got me thinking about the balance between creativity and productivity. Early in my career, while still in the military, I received some feedback that I wasn't creative enough. I puzzled over this. I was in the Navy, I just had to follow orders. It took me a while, but I began to realize each of us should bring our creativity to our jobs. It comes with problem solving, creating new ways to approach the work. After all, a project is a "unique endeavor" so it should be approached creatively.
There's got to be a balance though. We can't just sit around all day and brainstorm ideas. Unlike my daughter and her team, who just have to give a presentation on the ideas they come up with, we need to take an idea and make it work.
My favorite approach; if I'm stuck on a problem, I'll get away from my desk. If it's convenient, I'll do something physical like go for a run. Talking to someone else helps sometimes. Whatever approach I take, I know how long I have before I need to get moving on a solution, so I don't get lost being creative.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
So what makes a winning team? Having a common goal helps, especially when things get tough. KU had 3 losses late in the season that must have made them question if they could achieve their goal. That's where good leadership comes in to keep the vision alive.
Teamwork is also important in reaching the goal. Everyone has to understand their role as well as the other team member's roles and they have to be able to communicate effectively among themselves.
So how's your team doing? Do you have a common goal to guide your actions? Is everyone aware of how their piece fits into the big picture? When you reach your goal, do you take the time to celebrate? The streets around KU were sure crazy after the game last night.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
In Zen, the idea is to reach this point, then your mind is empty because there isn't a solution. You now have a beginner's mind and can start to really understand the problem.
Have you had the situation in a project when you're faced with a decision and don't know the best option? You have too many things running through your mind? When I'm faced with this situation, I like to try to take some time to meditate and clear my mind. Then I can start looking at the problem with that beginner's mind and hopefully make the right decision.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
One quote I liked is "We cannot promise to do everything that people suggest we should do. We can promise to listen to our key stakeholders, think about their ideas, and do what we can. This is all that we can promise – and this is all that they expect."
A leadership guru I know says there is no bad feedback. Keep this in mind next time someone gives you advice and remember there's always room for improvement.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
When was the last time you did something new? Are you stuck in a rut, running your projects the same old way. Maybe it's time for a new tool, or taking a risk and trying a new approach to things.
I'm on a project where some of my other team members don't want to try new things. I put together a wiki for part of the work, but no one else is participating. It also seems the project has been kind of stuck discussing possible approaches rather than selecting one approach and moving forward. I would rather move forward and if we are wrong, we find our mistake sooner and get on the right course rather than being stuck in analysis paralysis.
My new thing this week; I got my self a Apple MacBook. No, it's not the new super thin one, but it is a change from my long trail of Windows machines. I'm having to re-learn a little on how to use a computer, but that's what keeps us young.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Contrast this with a colleague of mine in the middle of a big Planview implementation project. This is a large IT organization with a lot of projects to track.
So how much tool do you need? The folks at 37Signals would say to much complexity is a bad thing, even to the point of being criticized for not growing their tools. On the other hand, some organizations need a big application like Planview to support a complex organization. However, I've also seen companies implementing complex tools in a hope that is will fix a weak, immature process (it won't).
So start simple, get your processes in shape, and then bring in the bigger tools when you need them.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
To me, a key piece of advice for anyone these days is to keep up on your skills. As the world continues to evolve, new tools are introduced, projects are sent overseas, those of us that are continually updating our skills are the ones that employers are going to find valuable. Brett mentioned agile project management and this is an area I am seeing growth in. The person sitting next to me said his company, a consulting company spun off from a Big-8 accounting firm, was starting to adopt Scrum. Others I talk to in the IT & Telecom SIG are also doing work in this direction and a bunch of us have gotten our Certified Scrum Master certification.
So what are you doing? Is it time for another certification? Time to take another position to gain some additional skills? Back to school for another degree?
Friday, March 07, 2008
I had a conversation yesterday with the CIO of a local Health System (bunch of hospitals). One of the challenges he sited was that the IT budget has to go against the other capital projects when funding decisions are made. So is it more beds or a new computer application? He also said the IT budget is typically cut back after plans are made, so projects originally planned for one year get pushed out to the next year.
In his organizations, the IT projects that get funding are being driven by business needs and the business needs are tied to the organization's strategy. It seems like such a basic concept, but how many organizations are really doing this? I know I've seen plenty of pet projects being done because some executive wants it, even though it isn't tied to the strategic goals. This is where a good portfolio management process is needed, to make sure the resources are only being allocated to the projects that really matter.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
They have removed some of the management plans like scope, cost, and time. They got consistent in naming the processes, they're now all verb-object (e.g., Define Scope). They've also simplified some of the inputs and outputs to processes. There are now sections for gathering requirements and identifying stakeholders. The procurement area got the biggest overhaul, it's now down to 4 processes from the 6 there used to be.
There's still no mention of agile or lean or any related techniques. I have seen a trend of more of us traditional (i.e., PMP certified) project managers adapting agile techniques so I'm disappointed this wasn't included in the new PMBOK.
In general, it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary. I guess you can look at the updates to the PMBOK as a iterative approach, only the iterations are 4 years rather than 4 weeks like a Scrum project.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
So do you have mountains that are waiting to be climbed? Are you just sitting at the foot of the mountain listening to the stories of those few that were strong enough to go up? Your mountain may be taking that next step in your career or writing that book that you've always thought about.
A few years ago while in Japan I had the opportunity to climb Mt Fuji. It was a bit of a challenge, but I made it up, and it was worth the trip. Having made it to the top, my advice is to stop staring at your mountains and start climbing.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
"If you cannot summarize it on only one page, you need to go off and learn more about it!"
This is really pretty good. I've always felt one of my strengths was the ability to summarize things effectively, but as I think about it I realize it's because I spend the time studying the subject. So next time you have to give a brief synopsis, go do your homework.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Checklists are often sited as a quality assurance tools, but how many of us really use them? When I'm preparing a customer deliverable (typically a Word document), I have a simple checklist so that I don't forget anything in the last minute rush. The checklist includes conducting a review for grammar, having someone else review the document, incorporating their feedback, checking all diagrams, running spell-check one last time, making sure page layouts/fonts etc are correct and finally checking the document properties.
This might sound pretty simple, but when things get rushed at the end of the project, my checklist keeps me from forgetting anything.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I know I've seen plenty of software that wasn't designed this way. It's a vicious cycle; customers ask for everything because they don't know what they really want and they know how hard it is to change once the requirements are agreed to. They get the final product and then begin to understand what they really need, but the cycle time is long, so they ask for all kinds of stuff again and it takes a long time to deliver again and their needs have changed again...
By delivering just the minimum functionality in a short cycle, the feedback loop is reduced and the customer more quickly understands and gets what they need.
Monday, February 18, 2008
The book discusses the meaning of quality. As project managers, we can pull out our PMBOK and see what it says about quality from a project management perspective, but is that it?
One point he brings up early has to do with "what has gone wrong in the 20th century." He goes on to say that when we hurry something along, we no longer care about it and just want to get on to the next thing.
How often do we rush through something like our weekly status report or some test case we're working on? We're thinking about the future instead of being in the moment, as Zen philosophy would advise us. So next time you're trying to rush through things, stop, take a deep breath, and concentrate on the moment at hand. The future is just an illusion; the past just electrical impulses in our brain. It's only the present moment that counts.
On a side note, the book was reportedly rejected by 121 publishers before finally being published. That's a lesson in persistence! It's now described as the most widely read philosophy book.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
As I was out there, it occurred to me how my planning for running is similar to the 5 levels of planning for Scrum.
Starting at the lowest level, at the start of the day I look at my schedule, family activities, the weather, and my goals for the week to decide what to do for a workout that day. This is like the daily standup meeting; what happened yesterday (did I have a hard workout I need to recover from), what's planned for today (long run, biking etc), and what obstacles are there (busy schedule, bad weather).
Moving up to the next level, my weekly planning is like the iteration or scrum planning. I set some goals for the week such as the types of workouts I want to do that week, rest days, and total amount of time I want to work out (I go by time rather than number of miles). The iteration planning is looking at the features for that iteration and planning some detail to them, while still leaving some flexibility to their execution.
At the third level is the release planning; how many iterations are going to be included in the release, dates, themes, and feature sets. I break up my year into phases, starting with prep phase, going through a base phase, build phase, and then the race phase. Each phase has a theme and dates to go with it. For example, the theme of the base phase is endurance.
The next level up is the product roadmap; what is the overall theme, the big picture for the year. This year for example, my overall focus is on running a fast (at least by my definition) marathon. All the more detailed planning works around that.
Finally we get to the vision. My vision is to continue to be a competitive athlete; in running, triathlons etc. The product vision is how the product will look in the future.
So there it is. If this planning model can be applied to my running, it can probably be applied to a lot of projects, even if they aren't following Scrum.
Monday, February 11, 2008
I was out there for training to earn my latest certification - Certified Scrum Master! If you don't know, Scrum is one of the popular versions of Agile project management/software development.
Even though I already knew what Scrum was about, the class was still good. Our instructor, Hubert Smits, had a lot of experience to share.
I think it's important to never stop learning. If you haven't been to a class or conference in a while, find one and convince your boss you need to go. It's the best way to get a handle on new approaches or techniques and networking with other folks will give you new ideas to bring to your organization.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
I've often seen the analogy of comparing a project plan to a map, where the project is the journey. As I prepare for a journey, I was thinking about this.
I am driving to Colorado today. I'll plug my destination into my car's navigation system, and it will tell me which way to drive, how far I have to go, and when I'll have to stop for gas. Just like with a project management plan, this is a good start.
However, I don't know what will happen along the way. I may hit some bad weather. I'm always in awe when I first see the Rockies. I'll have my camera along so I can capture the sights as I go, and when I get there.
Our project plan should prepare us for what lies ahead, but it can never account for every possibility, we will have to make adjustments along the way. But I also believe that the journey is half the fun, whether it's solving a challenging design issue or setting up a new development environment, I try to enjoy the things that happen along the way. Obviously, with a project, the goal is to complete on time, within budget, and with the planned scope, but we shouldn't be so focused on the end that we miss out during the journey.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
One area that struck me was muda, which is typically translated as waste but can mean uselessness. Have you ever had to do something on a project that added no value? I know I've done things like create status reports in 3 different formats for different audiences, even though the content was the same. Then there's the task of trying to create a detailed project schedule during planning even though there are a lot of unknowns. You can make a lot of assumptions, but then you have to go back and change everything when your assumptions turn out wrong. Or putting a status report on a shared folder but also emailing it out to a distribution list.
An Agile project management approach will address some of this, but a lot of organizations don't want to leave their waterfall approach behind. You can still apply lean thinking to a traditional PM approach. The key is to look at the process and eliminate any activities that don't help add value to the final product, things like extra bureaucracy, un-needed features (goldplating), or poor communications. If you need some help, go find your resident Six Sigma Blackbelt.
Friday, January 18, 2008
I came across this quote in a book I'm reading, though I've seen it before. It's an interesting concept, when we're ready to learn, we'll find the resources to help us learn.
I am being considered for a "teacher" assignment. I will be acting as a mentor for some project managers. However, even though I am there to teach, I am sure I will also learn. I'm looking forward to the opportunity.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Monday, January 07, 2008
Sunday, January 06, 2008
- Mission Statement - With all the books out there, my favorite is still “The 7 Habits of Highly Effevtive People” by Stephen Covey. His second habit is to “Begin with the end in mind.” In this chapter he talks about creating your personal mission statement. Things happen twice, first in our mind then in the physical world. Don’t we plan a project before we start execution? We need to do the same with our personal growth. Go here to start working on your mission statement.
- Vision Board – This is a good tool to help visualize where you want to go. More on vision boards here.
- Goal Post - This is an application in Facebook that will help you reach your goals by sharing them with your friends. (note - Goal Post no longer exists, but try this)
- Journaling – I was introduced to journaling during a leadership program over 5 years ago. My journal has my personal and professional thoughts. It helps me reflect and think about what's going on in my life. You can find resources in journaling here.