Sunday, July 14, 2019

Soccer for 3 year-olds


Ever been to a soccer match with 3 year-olds on the field?

All go for the ball all the time; it's just a herd moving around the field (*), more or less with ball the center of attention. But, little is done except to kick at the ball. And certainly no one is ready for the breakout.

And this applies to project management how?

The best example is email with the dozen addressees. Everyone gets the "ball" but actually no one gets the ball. "Hey, everyone was supposed to do something!" But actually, no one did anything but kick it around.

It's like 3 year-olds playing soccer!

(*) field = pitch to some


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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Oceans to fly


Everyone has oceans to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know boundaries?
Amelia Earhart

This month we celebrate the Apollo program and the flight of Apollo 11 specifically, the first man-to-land-on-moon mission completed 50 years ago this month. (*)

Surely Apollo was our ocean of the times, 50 years ago.

And, coming only 11 years after the U.S. launch its first satellite in January, 1958 -- the so called "grapefruit" -- Apollo was certainly reckless in a certain kind of way, myriad risks taken in order to meet the timeline set by President Kennedy to get to the moon by the end of the 1960's.

(*) Launched July 11, 1969; moon landing July 20, 1969



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Monday, July 8, 2019

A historical perspective



The future may not repeat history, but it rhymes
Anonymous
No linearity
Another way to understand the opening witticism is that activities guided by people aren't amenable to linear -- that is, straight line -- projections and forecasts. But they are often close

Fair enough ... most would agree. Experience keeps us between the lines, as it were.

The upshot is that using the facts of history to forecast the randomness of the future requires the forecast to be probabilistic -- that is: needs to allow for a range of outcomes, subject to the biases, experience, pressures, and circumstances that inform human activity -- in the moment.

Repeat vs Rhyme
Linear projections of the past history or performance into the future usually are wide of the mark. Why? Because the very projection itself stimulates a counter-strategy. Thus no repeat!

But, projects are rarely a green field, so there are historically defined limits -- process, culture, experience. Thus, the future rhymes with the past, even if not repeated.

Project manager's mission:
Among several possible mission statements is this one (*):

The mission of the project manager is to defeat forecasts that imperil delivering expected value within the bounds of reasonable risk 
Perhaps you can see the rhyming effect of that statement .....

(*) See page 2 of this blog for a more complete explanation of the project manager's mission



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Thursday, July 4, 2019

4th of July



This office is closed on 4 July due to circumstances beyond our control
Sign on British Consulate in the USA






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Monday, July 1, 2019

Sacred but not immutable


There are a lot of project principles, and processes built on those principles, we think of as immutable: stationary--and proven--with time, experience, context.

Somewhat like the speed of light: Every observer or practitioner in any frame would see them the same way

Not so fast!

Sacred indeed! To be respected? Yes! Defaults that are best practice? Absolutely
But immutable? No.

Unlike the speed of light, Planck's constant, the G-gravitational constant, and a few others, everything else is subject to interpretation, framing, circumstances and context, and the advance of process improvement.

To be immutable in the project context is to be on the edge of denying "new physics" that might move the PMO to a more effective plane

New under the Sun
Just during my professional PM time, I've witnessed:
  • Theory of Constraints
  • TQM in multiple forms, largely abandoned
  • Critical chains
  • Agile methods
  • Monte Carlo simulations into the main stream
  • PERT dismissed
  • Iron triangles, parallelograms, and other interdependencies
  • Black Swans and other physics of the unknown (chaos, fragile systems etc)
  • Risk matrix
  • Etc



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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Agile -- what it means







Dilbert: We need 3 more programmers.
Boss: Use agile programming methods.
Dilbert: Agile programming does not mean doing more work with less people. 

Boss: Find me some words that do mean that and ask again

Dilbert is a creation of Scott Adams
And so, you might ask: what does agile mean?

How about this?

Agile means getting effective project results even in the swirl of complex and uncertain project requirements, primarily by applying small teams, working collaboratively, to deliver increments of business value, with priority according to business effectiveness, importance, and urgency
Ooops! I seem to have left out anything about process. Is agile a process-free zone? Of course not! No one does anything functionally without applying a bit of process, even if it's only two steps.

My observation -- and personal experience -- with myriad small teams is that they self organize to optimize their self interests amazingly fast, first trying one process -- perhaps a baseline process -- and then quickly shifting to another to find a "local" optimization. Sometimes there's an obvious leader; sometimes it's all for one; one for all.

When/where collaboration improves their lot, they'll readily collaborate. Where it's problematic is when collaboration demands are laid on top-down with no obvious improvement in the local process and no apparent connection to goals or objectives. If the top-down thing is legitimate, then the project leadership needs to get in the communications mode to show how all the dots connect! 


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Friday, June 28, 2019

Decisions on auto-pilot


[Some decision analysis'] have been going on for long enough that they've built up their own speed and force. ... We call them decisions, but they really aren't. [They are] the sum of so many previous events and determinations that they have a weight that feels like a layer of time
David Ignatius
"We call them decisions but they really aren't".
The worst variety of such auto-pilot decisions is trying to rescue or justify "sunk cost", to wit: we've invested so much that we can't afford to decide anything else but to keep going 

Invested in vain
"Sunk Cost" is the cost already expended for which you can't recover. It's no basis for a decision. Decisions should be made on the outcomes to be had by further investment: the ROI on the future.

Of course, easy to write this; harder to execute. No one wants to be embarrassed or fired over wasted or abandoned effort and cost. No one wants to explain a sacrifice or supreme effort made in vain

Advance in a different direction
But a Marine general in Korea, circa 1950, was heard to say (or so he was alleged to have said): "Retreat, hell! We've advancing in a different direction"

Sometimes that's the decision to be made in spite of "...  a weight that feels like a layer of time"



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