Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Instrumental versus Fundamental Reasons for Work

I've been reading The Adventures of Johnny Bunko and I came across a concept I thought was worth sharing. In this page, Johnny's career fairy talks about doing things for either fundamental or instrumental reasons. She explains that people do things for instrumental reasons because they think it's "going to lead to something else" such as career advancement etc, even if it's not something that's enjoyable. People do things for fundamental reasons because they think it's the right thing to do.

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

A Balancing Act

Good project managers know the importance of managing scope. The customer comes along, asks for a change, you fill out your change request form and get the change scheduled, possibly in a future release or iteration.

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

The Empire State Building

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

Getting Things Done

I came across a good article yesterday about how to be more effective in getting things done, writtten by a former boss of mine, Shawn Kinkade. That article also had a link to 20 motivational tips, another article worth reading.

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.