Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Personal Kanban - Week 1

So I'm in my first week of using a personal kanban board. So far I think it's a success.

I set it up last Friday afternoon. It was a good way to wrap up the week and make sure I wasn't forgetting any tasks that had to get done before I called it a day. It also worked well when I walked in my office on Monday morning - a quick, visual reminder of what I have going on.

Here's how I set things up;
  • I have two swim lanes, one for work, the other for home/other projects (such as volunteer work). Within each, I set a limit of 2 items for work in progress. We'll see how well that works in a couple weeks when I'm running 2 different projects.
  • I use small stickies for tasks that are small, around a couple hours or less. I have big notes for more involved work. On these, I jotted down important details. For example, the task to prepare for my presentation at PMI has key dates I have to meet.
  • I'm going to keep things in "done" throughout the week and use this to help me do my timesheet at the end of the week.
  • I am still keeping a "To-Do" list of short, quick things I have to do. I haven't made up my mind on the best way to handle these items.

I haven't figured out what I'm going to do when I'm traveling. I think I'm going to use a notebook to capture what I have to do when traveling and write things down that have to go on the board when I get home. Stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pirates and Leadership

There was an interesting article in Harvard Business Review last fall about star and guardian tasks. Star tasks are those that are more strategic while guardian tasks are more operational. The article discussed how effective pirate ships were at dividing these tasks, since one person is typically not good at performing both kinds of tasks.

The world of project management is the same. The star tasks would be having a vision for the product or seeing the big picture. These are tasks often associated with the product owner or sponsor. The guardian tasks would include planning out the work, getting the right resources, or managing the budget; obviously more in line with the project manager.

So just like the pirate ship, with a captain to handle the star tasks and a quartermaster to handle the guardian tasks; you should keep these to roles separate on your project. And as the project manager, if you have a team member out of line, you can make them walk the plank.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Divisive Speech

Part of Buddhist practice includes avoiding the 10 non-virtuous actions. One of these actions is divisive speech. I think this project managers should pay attention to this one.

Divisive speech can be thought of as any words that can bring disharmony or create animosity. Politicians do this a lot; trying to create a division between themselves and their opponents while making their opponents look bad.

This type of speech can happen on a project team as well. While I feel conflict can be good, if the conflict includes divisive speech, it can hurt the team. For example, discussing the merits of .NET or Java can be a healthy discussion, but when it turns to insults, there's no benefit.

A successful project relies on a effective project team. This takes time to develop. It's the project manager's job to see that this happens. It can be as simple as having some ground rules established at the start of the project that guides the right behavior. Once the team gets rolling, these rules won't be necessary but during the forming/storming stages, they can help the team move in the right direction. What ground rules do you put in place at the start of a project to ensure your team's success?