Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Six

What are your top 6-12 goals for next year? Have you thought them through? If you're like a lot of people, one goal is to lose weight. But is that it?

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

The World's Oldest Government

I had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Administrative Development for Egypt while I was there delivering a project management conference this week. The minister has a clear vision of where he wants to take project management in order to improve his organization's performance. He's looking beyond just certification to mentoring/coaching and training to help build a project management competency.

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


I was working today with a client on estimating how many man-hours their project was going to take. It was a pretty straightforward exercise; estimate the number and complexity of all the components of the project and apply benchmark data we’ve collected and add it all up to come up with a total. At this early stage in the project, there is some margin of error in what we refer to as a budgetary estimate. It’s more refined than a level of effort but not a detailed estimate.

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

When Six Sigma isn't enough

I had an interesting conversation with a client last week. They had a process that was a "burning issue." They threw a couple Six Sigma Black Belts at it to make process improvements.

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


How effective are you at networking? Do you even think about it much? Typically, if I'm in the middle of a big project, I'm not thinking about networking, but I know I should be.

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


I came across an interesting analogy when talking about communications. Words are second hand, or dead, when talking about our real thoughts or concepts just like a bucket of water is dead when compared to a raging river.

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

A Good Time for Process Improvement

A lot of people are focused on the economy and how things aren't looking so good. Companies like Sun are reporting layoffs. There isn't a lot of growth going on right now, but this can be a good thing.

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


I was working with a new client yesterday and heard about an unusual metric they are tracking on their project.

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


"Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our live in which we do not benefit from others' activities" - The Dalai Lama

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

What are you waiting for?

I watched a video earlier today of a friend of mine jumping out of an airplane as part of a skydiving group. I'll admit skydiving isn't high on my list of things I want to do, but I admire him for doing it. He isn't a young guy either, he's a retired Army Colonel (did you say thanks to a vet yesterday?).

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

Veteran's Day

Here in the US, November 11th is Veteran's Day, a day to honor all of those that served in our military. I am proud to be part of this group, having served in the US Navy from 1987-1995, including a deployment to the Arabian Gulf during the first Gulf War. My wife is also a veteran, we met while stationed in Japan together.

So if you know a veteran, say thanks. If you are a veteran, thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Compromise can kill your project

As project managers, we all know about how to compromise, working with disparate stakeholders and coming up with a solution that meets their needs, is technically feasible, and won't break the bank.

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

A new article

I had an article published yesterday at Projects at Work. The article is based on an interview I had with David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What are you passionate about?

This question was asked of me when I was interviewing for the job I now have (I must have given a good answer). It wasn't just "what are you good at?" but what gets you up in the morning and excited to get to work?

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

A Mark Twain Quote

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform - Mark Twain.

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

Comfort Zone

I was out mountain biking yesterday, and due to some wet trails, I was on the ground a couple of times, even got a nice gash below my knee from hitting a rock. One of the other riders that was also on the ground a few times said "if you aren't falling, you aren't pushing yourself enough."

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


I am listening to the audio book of Seth Godin's latest work, Tribes, which you can still get as a free download from I have been a fan for a long time and this book is true to form.

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

Colin Powell

I took some notes during Colin Powell's keynote address this past Sunday at the PMI Congress and I was looking at them as I unpacked from the trip.

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

PMI Congress wrap up

I'm at the last presentation of the PMI conference, another presentation on agile. It seems to be a big buzz around here. Our agile reception on Saturday night was well attended, including author Michele Sliger and Jesses Fewell, who is forming an agile community within PMI.

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

Live from PMI Denver

We have set up the IT & Telecom SIG Website with live twitter and flickr feeds so you can follow what's going on at PMI-Denver.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

PMI Events in Denver

I am getting ready for the PMI Events in Denver. If you are there, look me up.

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

Luck and Effort

Seth Godin had an interesting post on his blog the other day. It made me think of a saying my daughter taught me, "The harder I work, the luckier I get!"

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

Presedential Election

Like many Americans, I was watching the presidential debate on TV last night. I'll admit that I was a bit disappointed in them. Both candidates spent a lot of time talking about "their record" on what they've done in the past, and how their opponent did the opposite. I wish they had spent more time focusing on what they would do if they became president.

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 It looks at the candidates statements and the real facts behind them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Money for Charities

The website Squidoo is giving money to your charity. Go here and vote on your favorite, and they'll donate $2.00 to it, no catches. They'll keep on giving until they go through $80k.

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

Inbox Zero

Are you overwhelmed by your email. Watch this, it's pretty good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The End of a 9-5 Workday

I came across an interesting post on Dan Schawbel's blog about ROWE - results only work environment. The idea is that we are owe our employer our results, not our time. We work when we want to in order to get our work done. No more 9-5 (or 8-6 as some organizations are).

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

Out of Control

I conducted an interview with David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, last week. One of the things we discussed is how people focus on what's out of control. The example he used was that if there's a hole in your ship, you're not worried about what course you're on, you focus on fixing the hole.

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

Simplify Things

I came across a great blog post on Zen Habits about simplifying your life. The post gave 10 things you can do to make your life less cluttered.

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

A View From the Back

Yesterday was the annual Tour de Shawnee, a non-competitive bike ride around my town. In past years, I have ridden in the front with the fast guys. It was a great ride, because the police made sure all the intersections were safe, they had rest stops with candy and cold drinks, so all I had to do was ride.

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

The Olympics and the Big Picture

Like many people, I have been watching a lot of the Olympics these days. From sports I love like track or cycling, to ones I didn't realize were around, like trampoline. There are so many stories of success out there.

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

Measuring Success

I received a $30 gift certificate in the mail this week for taking 5th in my age group in a race I did this spring. I was surprised, because it was a big race (around 10,000 participants including walkers) and I didn't think I would do that well. This got me thinking about how we measure success.

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

The Zen of Ferris Bueller

I got to my hotel on Monday night and found one of my favorite movies on; Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I like it in part because it was shot in my home town of Chicago, but I also think it's a pretty good movie.

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

The Zen of Getting Things Done

So I finished the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. I had two colleagues recommend it within a couple of days and took that as a sign.

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

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.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Setting Goals

Well I ran Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth Minnesota over the weekend. I didn’t go as fast as I wanted. I was originally thinking 3 hours 10 minutes. As I got going, I settled into a pace to get me to the finish in 3:15. However, it started warming up, I started slowing down, and I finished in just over 3:25.

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

Lessons Learned

I'm back in New York City this week. I got in some runs in Central Park and around the reservoir. It's been 5 years since I was last here, but the park hasn't changed.

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

Post Modern PM

Dave Prior has an interesting post in his blog, DrunkenPM talking about the Post Modern Project Manager.

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

Do Clothes Make the Man (or Woman)?

My son was off to his job at the bike shop wearing a t-shirt and shorts. I made the comment that I could almost dress that casual in my new job. It got me thinking about clothes and work.

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


So what's the culture like at the place you work? Is it focused on the success of the company, or individuals? Do people work well together or is there friction? What have you done to make the culture better?

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

Projects at Work

I am officially part of the Projects at Work editorial board, see this (you have to scroll all the way down to find me).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Strong Opinions, Weakly Held

This is a theme where I work. The company looks for people that are passionate about what they do, whether it's someone like me who's passionate about process improvement and project management, or one of the developers being passionate about developing outstanding software.

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

Virtual PM Tools

I had an article published today in Projects at Work on virtual tools such as Second Life for project management. Read it here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Web Based Software

I was reading the June issue of Macworld on my flight back to Austin last night and it had an article about the rise of web-based programs. One program it specifically mentioned was Adobe's Photoshop Express, which I've started using. You can see some of my photos here.

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

IT Does Matter

So I'm reading the book Does IT Matter by Nicholas Carr. His premise is that IT, like the railroads or other past technology innovations, gets to the point that because they are available to everyone they don't offer a competitive advantage and should be viewed as a commodity.

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

A hot new book

As I was reading some of my usual blogs, I came across two different references for the book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. It's a career guide written in manga, the Japanese style of comics.

Watch the trailer.

Zen and Presentations

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

Stuck in an airport

I'm stuck in an airport lounge in Texas, waiting for some weather to clear so I can go home. I had a conversation today with a colleague about what makes projects late (not usually weather).

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

Happy Earth Day

It's Earth Day today, at least in the northern hemisphere. It's a day to appreciate the environment and think about what we can do to make it better.

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

Getting Old

My wife is responsible for the database at the church where she works and they are looking at moving to a new tool. One question she had for me was can a company get to tied to its history and not be able to evolve. My answer was of course.

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

Creativity versus Productivity

My daughter is off competing today in the state finals for a program called "Future Problem Solving." The idea is to take a team of kids, give them some future, real-world situation and have them apply their creativity to come up with solutions.

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

Lean PM

I had an article published today in Projects at Work on Lean Project Management, find it here (free registration required).

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Winning Team

Last night, the local university, University of Kansas (KU), won the college basketball championship in breath-taking style. Now I didn't go to KU, but plenty of people around here did, and even folks like me that aren't big basketball fans or KU fans were still watching last night's game and cheering on the winning team.

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

More Zen & Motorcycle Maintenance

So I'm still making my way through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I was reading a section the other night about "stuckness." In the story, he's talking about what happens when you're trying to remove a screw and end up tearing the slot. You're stuck, you can't get that screw out.

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

A Quote

This came from our church bulletin this weekend:

"When one door of happiness closes, another one opens;
but often we look so long at the closed door
that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."

- Helen Keller

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Buddhist Viewpoint

I came across this post in Marshall Goldsmith's blog. I have been a fan of Dr Goldsmith for some time. He has written a number of articles in Fast Company, one of my favorite magazines.

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

Spring is Here

It's officially Spring today, and it was even pretty warm here in Kansas, about 68F/20C. Spring is the time of new growth and new opportunities.

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

Video of me from PMI

This video was shot at the PMI NA Congress in Atlanta last fall. Quality isn't great, but I think you'll get the point.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


There was an interesting article in this month's Wired about David Heinemeier Hanson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and Jason Fried, his co-founder at his current company, 37Signals. They have a philosophy that simple is better. Interesting enough, one of their current applications is a project management tool called Basecamp, which takes this approach to running projects.

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

The Future of the Project Manager

I was at the Kansas City PMI Chapter meeting last night. The speaker, Brett Hirsch from IBM, talked about the future of project managers. He didn't really have any earth shattering revelations, just some points to think about. Get a mentor early in your career, network, keep up on the latest tools, etc.

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

On a Snowy Day

It's cold and snowy here in Kansas today. It seems like Spring will never get here. We had a couple nice days last weekend, but that was it.

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


The draft release of the PMBOK 4th edition is out at the PMI website for review. I spent some time going through it yesterday and there aren't any radical changes. If you want to provide your input, you have until March 22.

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

Climbing a Mountain

So I'm still making my way through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I'm currently at a scene where the narrator and his son are climbing a mountain. The narrator is talking about another person that climbed the mountain, both in reality and in a figurative sense in a search for meaning.

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

A Good Quote

I found a quote today that I liked. It was on Mike Griffith's blog post on the top 10 estimating techniques. The quote was:

"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


The current issue of Fast Company had an interesting article on checklist, see it here. Their argument was that checklists aren't just for the kid at the fast food place making burgers, but can help in all types of situations.

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'm reading the book Implementing Lean Software Development by Mary & Tom Poppendieck and came across an interesting comment. They talk about how software by it's very nature should be easy to change, or else it would be called hardware. Good software is designed this way so that it can easily change to the changing business environment.

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

Motorcycle Maintenance

I pulled out the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I had originally read it back in college and was curious to see how I related to the book at this stage in my life.

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

Running and Scrum Planning

I was trying to come up with something to blog about and was drawing a blank. It was the end of the day and I had been doing a lot of writing for a project I'm working on, so I decided to head out for a run and hope for inspiration, and it worked.

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

Continued Education

I'm back from my trip to Colorado. I wish I could have stayed longer, I don't get to see any mountains here in Kansas.

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

Journeys and Maps

A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step - Tao Te Ching, Chapter 64

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

Lean Project Management

I've been doing some work on Agile/Scrum lately and I started thinking about Lean Enterprise from my Six Sigma class. The origins of Lean to a large degree come from work by Toyota and focus on manufacturing, but there are some concepts that can be applied to project management.

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

A Buddhist Quote

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

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

Project Management Maturity

I wrote an article on project management maturity that was recently published in Projects@Work. It can be found here (free registration required).

Let me know what you think, or leave your comments after the article.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Speaking Engagement

I will be speaking next Monday (14 Jan) at the PMI Kansas City Mid-America chapter meeting. The topic is Project Management Maturity. More details can be found here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Are you ready for the New Year?

I have always liked to take some time during the holidays to contemplate the coming year. Work is usually a little quieter, I'm not in the middle of some big project or anything so it makes it a good time to "sharpen the saw" as Stephen Covey would say. So hear are a couple of tools you might consider for the coming year:
  • 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.
I hope you like these. May the new year bring you everything you want.