Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dashboards scale!


Here's news you can use: Dashboards scale!

Does this look like the dashboard for a 3-star running a zillion-billion dollar defense program?

That's Vice Admiral David Venlet in the photo, and that dashboard is the way he likes it: low tech, but informative.

Unfortunately for the Admiral-program manager, good and useful and timely program information does not necessarily beget good and timely program performance. This dashboard is for the F-35 fighter aircraft, and by all accounts this program is in big doo-doo.  Of course, that's what you'd learn by examining the data; so there's no mystery that the earned value for this project is way off the mark.

But, back to the dashboard. You can see from the panel on the left that there are many charts to show trend lines for measurements for several different metrics. Project flows are in the center panel, and then subsequent panels on the right document other project activities.

One unique aspect of this dashboard is that some of the data is for the design and development program for the aircraft, and some are for the production program. The acquistion strategy for the F-35 was to begin production as soon as there were design models that verified the likely performance. Simply put, that's a risky strategy, and if the assumptions break down, as they did in this program, all the dashboards in the war room can't put humpty dumpty back on the original track.

One metric that is on this dashboard is the sunk cost -- the actual cost to date. Some are saying that the program must go forward so that the sunk cost is not a waste. Others say you shouldn't make a decision on the basis of sunk cost -- only the future is relevant. So far, it's been decided that the future is relevant and the program continues.




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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Constructive critique and coaching


It was famously said, in a paraphrase: lead people, manage things.

I buy into this advice, so I'm always on the alert for something that plays into it. In a recent posting, I read some advice on delivering constructive criticism that seem pretty sensible, given my own experience of being on both the receiving end and the delivering side of such encounters.

And, full disclosure: the first time I really had to do this, I really screwed it up!

So, the main points are:
  • Deliver the news in person, not on the phone, Facebook, or by tweet or email!. I once had a boss (vice president) who was fired by email... so chicken-crap by the guy who sent the email.
  • Focus on actionable things to do. Seems eminently sensible to be concrete, but often you get this: A friend was told he did not have the "leadership presence" for executive office. What do you do with that?
  • Bring praise. I always try to start with praise. In fact, my advice is never come without praise. No one is a complete dolt. Seems kind of backwards to me to start negative and then wind saying: "but you do a lot of stuff well".
  • Encourage problem solving, since folks who can see a problem and get it solved always have a job; and those that can't are 'takers' for the most part and always at risk for their job.
  • Provide a model. If you're asking for change, there should be a model for guidance. After all, if there's no direction to change to, how is one to know where the utility lies?


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Friday, June 16, 2017

Algorithms to live by


Have you read this book?
It's a must read. 
 
It's a different take than Tversky and Kahneman which is summarized in Kahneman's book "Thinking fast and Slow", another must read. 
 
When to stop looking?
Staffing up? Going through a bunch of resumes or applicant interviews or some such -- however you do it these days?
When do you stop looking?
Is there any computer science behind the optimum search or sample size?
 
This problem, which faces most PMs sometime in the project life cycle, is the first algorithm that is described by authors Christian and Griffiths.
 
And, the answer is: Yes, there is computer science on this topic. But no, you have to read the book!
 
And, many others
There are several algorithms -- chiefly those that apply to management and managers -- developed in the book, so the optimum stopping is only one.
 
Another fascinating one is optimum sorting and affinity grouping which every brainstorming sessions goes through
 
And another is about exploring vs exploiting -- sort of a take on risk management.

Give it a read



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Monday, June 12, 2017

Telling a story


Got business development responsibilities? A lot of project managers get involved in supporting sales rain-making, proposal development, and general marketing support.

Here's a Kahn Academy video series on structuring a story. This stuff is taken from Pixar, who should certainly know how to do it.

Structure
Although you may not be making a movie, video, or commercial, the ideas of structure apply universally.
  • Story spine -- more less the path through the story
  • Theme -- the encapsulation of the story's point or lesson -- the memorable core idea that sticks with you
  • Acts -- really, just reduction applied to the theme in which are the "what and why" actions.
3-Acts
They talk about the standard 3-act structure:
  1. Set-up
  2. Middle actions
  3. Wrap-up or climax
Theme connects to structure
Of course, a test to be made along the way is that the story, as it unfolds, connects to the theme. This may even lead to backward engineering on the theme: first comes the story; second, the theme is derived. This is consequential to the idea of "evolution" ... no big theme up front.

Story beats
A new idea to me that came out of the video on "structure" was the idea of "story beats". Beats are "what" vs "why" that collectively build the theme. They are generally of the form "because of XXX, then Y". Collect the beats -- probably a couple for each act -- and the theme should be obvious.

 If you're writing a proposal, there's a lot to be learned and applied from this video series.



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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Got a mixed language team?


Even though IBM, and before them Yahoo, called everyone home to work locally, language may still be an issue. And, it may be an issue even though English is the language of commerce the world over. In fact, I was surprised to learn -- from the people at "deepenglish" -- that there are now more ESLs* than native speakers

Nonetheless, perhaps acquiring some language skills will be necessary. In an interesting review of some ways to look at this issue, click here, we learn that the Internet -- shocking as that might seem -- has really changed the way people acquire language skills.

So, if you're about staffing an international project, or just staffing from a local pool of ESLs and native speakers, you might find one of the eight ideas is spot-on
  1. Everything is digital, or becoming so, increasing access to means and methods and content
  2. ESL is on the rise -- but I said that already
  3. Multiple learning methods: all kinds of A/V coaching tools
  4. Natural bi-lingual -- we grow up with the English Internet
  5. Auto-correct, and word substitute --  I guess that's a good think overall
  6. Personalization for your learning situation
  7. More social immersion; afterall, Facebook is largely English
  8. And, of course: GAMES! (all work, no play, etc)


*English second language, at "deepenglish"


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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Defining PM


I've never been too keen on the conventional definition of project management, though it is the "coin of the realm" so to speak on that point. Nonetheless, I'm more closer to the action with my definition, I think. And, so here it is mapped to the conventional definition:



My idea
Book Answer
Narrative
Initiating
Backlog
Planning
WIP, Test, V&V
Executing, Controlling
Delivery
Partial delivery
Closing
(Closing is at the very end)
Influencers and discriminators
Specific goals
Specific success criteria

Recall, I wrote about influencers and discriminators in a recent posting [resources, time, quality, cost, and scope]


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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Influences and discriminators


When it's OPM -- other people's money -- the client gets to make the priority judgments.
I call them "influencers and discriminators"




Influencer
Commentary
Resources
Money, staff, infrastructure, intellectual property or access
Real, virtual, remote, dedicated or shared
Time
Calendar, duration, milestones, value-add points
Scope
Client deliverables; business deliverables; project debris
Agile CUD: create, update, delete agility
Quality
Fitness to use; fitness to standards; fitness to “best value”
Risk
Risk to the client; risk to the business.
Impact and likelihood. Black swan effects
Anti-fragile

So, here's how this looks at the extremes:
Or, maybe it's cost management



Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
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