Monday, March 27, 2017

No plan .... no worry!


Planning is an unnatural process, it’s much more fun to get on with it. The real benefit of not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by months of worry.
‒ Sir John Harvey Jones

My thanks to herdingcats for posting that bit of insight where I could find it.


Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
http://www.sqpegconsulting.com
Read my contribution to the Flashblog

Friday, March 24, 2017

Who can say yes?


In your domain, who can say "Yes" -- and make it stick?

Should this be a hard question to answer? It can be. Consider:


If you want a "Yes", up close and personal works much better than remote and mystical. And, you may have to be cunning to work around the "staff" that protects the "yes-sayer" from saying "yes" too often.

What does that mean for the remote worker? Could be SOL in many situations because you just can't get access.

In fact, if the "staff" ordinarily works with knives, you may want to get one also. One doesn't want to show up at a knife fight with a pop-gun.

Hey, best of luck with that "yes thing". I hope it works for you.



Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
http://www.sqpegconsulting.com
Read my contribution to the Flashblog

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Risk Management Short Course


Need a quick introduction to risk management? Don't have much time for this?

Try this very short course on risk management (no math required!)





Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
http://www.sqpegconsulting.com
Read my contribution to the Flashblog

Friday, March 17, 2017

"..... means are authorized"


James Madison, one of the intellectuals of the American revolutionary period, writing in Federalist* 44 in the pre-constitutional period of the late 1780's, said this:
".. wherever the end is required, the means are authorized"
Whoa! Not so fast!

What about " ... means are authorized" so long as they are:
  • Morally and ethically constructed
  • Conform to legal and regulatory constraints
Actually, Madison was defending the "necessary and proper" clause of the American constitution which recognizes that 
If a government has the authority to perform a particular function, it must necessarily have the power to do what is necessary and proper to perform that function. Madison asserts that it is a basic characteristic of government to have the authority to pass authoritative law

But, again I say: Not so fast. Every nefarious and authoritarian regime would make that argument, to wit: "it's legal because I say it's legal"; or, if the supreme authority does it, then it has to be legal.

WHAT ABOUT IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT?
Same thing applies in my mind. The PMO has a fiduciary responsibility to client and business to act in their best interests -- which, by the way, may be in conflict. But, that "end" does not justify any means. Nonetheless, the PMO does have a responsibility to stand up for better regulation and more sensible and practical rules so that best interest are served with ends that are moral, ethical, and legal


* The Federalist papers are a set of 85 essays by multiple authors written to persuade state legislatures to approve and adopt the Federal constitution, written by a convention of States in the late 1780's.


Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
http://www.sqpegconsulting.com
Read my contribution to the Flashblog

Monday, March 13, 2017

O-Ring jobs


Are you an O-Ring? Or in an O-Ring job?
Many professionals are.

What's an O-Ring job?
You are an indespensible link in a chain, or an important tile in a mosaic (system) whose performance bears on the performance of the entire chain or system. You do a poor job, or you do a really good job, and the larger outcome notices.


The name comes from the O-Ring failure in the shuttle disaster of the mid-80s when a simple part of the system failed and led to a catastrophic failure of the whole system.

Here's a key point:
As the other links become stronger, the value of increasing your strength increases also. Ergo: smarter links puts pressure on you to become smarter so that you are not the weakest and least valuable. 


TED talk
In a TED talk, David Autor gives us a rousing explanation of why there are more jobs now than there were 100 years ago, before the modern age of personal productivity, and why most of the jobs are now O-ring jobs.

He starts with the startling statistic that the number of bank tellers (people) have increased over the past generation, in spite of ATM machines. But their cognitive skill requirements have demonstrably increased.

Never Enough
He goes on to explain a second principle (O-rings being the first) which he calls the "never enough" principle, summarized as "Invention is the mother of necessity"

Give it a look





Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
http://www.sqpegconsulting.com
Read my contribution to the Flashblog

Thursday, March 9, 2017

On customer satisfaction


Is customer satisfaction one of your project metrics. Good grief, I hope so! If not, you might want to consider this little ditty:
 
  •  “If the customer is not satisfied, they may not want to pay for our efforts.
  • If they are not successful, they cannot pay.
  • If they are not more successful than they already were, why should they [pay]?”


Niels Malotaux
Paraphrased a bit


Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
http://www.sqpegconsulting.com
Read my contribution to the Flashblog

Monday, March 6, 2017

Workflow for communications


I've always subscribed to the notion that the top three things for a PM to do are:
  1. Communicate often
  2. Communicate effectively
  3. Communicate widely
Perhaps I should have made "effectively" the first thing on the list. In any event, at every occasion (often, widely), here are the workflow rules for effective communications:



Two rules
Remember this
Rule 1
       Tell them what you’re going to tell them
       Tell them
       Tell them what you told them
Rule 2
If “they” don’t get it, it’s not their fault



Re Rule 2:
  • If at first you don't convey it, back out and reformulate
  • You can't show frustration
  • You can't show irritation
  • You can't blame it on the audience if they don't get it
  • You can take it off-line to try again




Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
http://www.sqpegconsulting.com
Read my contribution to the Flashblog

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Team overload -- burning out


Are you on one of those death march projects about to burn out. Want some time off? Perhaps it's in the plan

Formula  solution
Google among others -- Microsoft, etc -- are well known for the "time off, do what you want toward self improvement and personnel innovation" model; formulas like that lend objectivity to the process (not playing favorites, etc). Note: more on this in the "6x2x1" model discussed last

Productivity drop
Of course, the real issue is one that agile leader Scott Ambler has talked about: the precipitous drop in productivity once you reach about 70% throughput capacity of the team. Up to this point, the pace of output (velocity) is predictably close to team benchmarks; thereafter, it has been observed to fall off a cliff.

Other observers have put it down as a variation on "Brooks Law" named after famed IBM-370 project leader Fred Brooks: "Adding people to a late project makes it later" . In this case, it's too many people on the team with too many interferences. It's been observed that to raise productivity, reduce staff!


Wave bounces
In the physics of wave theory, we see the same phenomenon: when the "load" can not absorb the energy applied, the excess is reflected back, causing interference and setting up standing waves. This occurs in electronic cables, but it also happens on the beach, and in traffic.

Ever wondered why you are stopped in traffic miles from the interference while others up ahead are moving? Answer: traffic load exceeds the highway's ability to absorb the oncoming cars, thereby launching reflections of standing waves that ebb and crest.

So it is in teams: apply energy beyond the team's ability to absorb and you simply get reflected interference. Like I said: the way to speed things up is to reduce the number of teams working and the number of staff applied.

In agile/lean Kanban theory, this means getting a grip on the WIP limits... you simply can't have too many things in play beyond a certain capacity.

Sometimes the problem arises with sponsors: their answer is universally: Throw more resources in, exactly opposite the correct remedy

6x2x1 model
One of my students said this:
"Daniel Pink  has an excellent book called Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us. In the book, Pink talks about inspiring high productivity and maintaining a sustainable pace.

One of the techniques is the 6x2x1 iteration model. This says that for every six two week iterations the development team should have a 1 week iteration where they are free to work project related issues of their choice.

You can also run a 3x4x1 model for four week iterations. Proponents of this approach have observed that the development teams will often tackle tough problems, implement significant improvements and generally advance the project during these free play periods. Without the time crunch to complete the story points the team also refreshes itself."

I don't know, but Pink's thesis may have been the genesis of the Google and Microsoft "time off" plans I've already mentioned, or maybe the experience of those plans found their way into Pink's thesis. Either way, time off matters!



Read in the library at Square Peg Consulting about these books I've written
Buy them at any online book retailer!
http://www.sqpegconsulting.com
Read my contribution to the Flashblog