Friday, February 16, 2018

Illuminating the path

Here below I shamelessly reprint a posting from herdingcats.
Why? Because Glen's point about the purpose of plans is to illuminate possibilities; not to constrain critical thinking, common sense, and accommodation for changing facts, is profound.  Everyone who practices project management or team management should understand that.

From herding cats:
In the space of two days I had evolved two plans, wholly distinct, both of which were equally feasible. The point I am trying to bring out is that one does not plan and then try to make circumstances fit those plans. One tries to make plans fit the circumstances 
George Patton
General, U.S. Army

"Any suggestion that plans and planning are not part of project management, no matter the approach - agile or traditional - wilfully ignores the purpose of a plan. That purpose is not the force the team to follow a path, but to illuminate the possible paths that can be followed to reach the goal."

end quote (emphasis added)

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Organization v management

We organize with hierarchies; we manage through networks
 More or less, that idea is the theme of historian Niall Ferguson's book "The Square and the Tower".

Simply said, the orgainizing principle of bureaucracy is the hierarchy  -- span of control; process flow-down; interchangeable people (to an extent) such that no one is indespensible -- everyone ages out!

But effective management more or less ignores the organization chart. Effective management reaches and influences any and all who can make a difference.

Hierarchy is way too restrictive for effective management; it promotes stovepipes and "we/they" stresses that are not value-additive. And, it's one dimensional: command and control. Networks, on the other hand:
  • Are multidimensional: cultural, financial, personal, professional, political (and, all of the above)
  • Are fluid with circumstances
  • Respond to multiple cultures -- virtual, domestic, foreign, business
  • Convey power in multiple ways: real power (hierarchy); associative power (who you know, and how well you know them); cultural or personality power
  • Facilitate promotion: way more people get to know you  
"They" say: if you can't effectively network, you can't expect to be influential and consequential. "They" are probably right

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Accurate v Fairness

Do you use a lot of data in your project? Most everyone does.
Things to keep in mind:
  • All data has some bias(es) built in
  • Because it's objectively accurate doesn't make it acceptably fair
Bias in data
There are library shelves full (or virtually full at library websites) of papers explaining biases that get built into data, even if unwittingly. Kahneman and Tversky probably have some of the best reading on this subject. Factors:
  • (Planning) Experiment design flaws
  • (Collection) Measurement and counting method error sources
  • (Collection) Expectations influences on observations
  • (Analysis) Statistical errors and data selection errors (bias)
  • (Interpretation) Framing to make a point
Accuracy v Fairness
You probably ran into this in school: grading on the curve. Grades were objectively one thing, but in fairness--we are told--grades posted were something else.

What's fair isn't what's accurate, necessarily
Fairness is about impact--what the downstream causation and consequences are for having applied data results to an issue. When people are in the loop, all the harder: race, class, win-lose, antimosities.

In the project office, the first instinct is (or should be) objectivity.

Risk management
But then objectivity meets management goals (*), and before you know it, we're back to "grading on the curve". If "fair" and "accurate" are not the same, then there is a gap. And, what is the nature of this gap? Risk! And, who is the risk manager? The PMO, naturally

(*) Political, humanitarian, economic, social justice, or competitive factors enter the picture.

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Bitcoin project budgets

Cryptocurrencies are coming to a project near you! Indeed, you could be first on your block to budget in a cryptocurrencies, of which there are now hundreds according to a study by NIST

It's all magic you say? You're in good company: Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from 130 magic”

Now, I've worked on projects with foreign currency funding; that put's the company's treasurer on the project team. The treasurer works the currency hedges and other exchange related stuff.

Would a project paid for in Bitcoin be different? Yes, and no. Yes, the volatility of cryptocurrency values adds a degree of risk not usually on the risk matrix. No, currency-hedged projects are not that unusual. We've done it before.

What is money?
This question doesn't usually arise in project management circles, but hey! It's a new monetary world. 
Most of the world's money today, some say 90%, is virtual: no paper, no coinage, no gold or other tangible back-up. Virtual money that is one of the five world exchange currencies has properties that transfer well to cryptocurrency:
  • Convenienty portable, more so than gold bullion for sure
  • Persistent, never wears out or can be destroyed like coinage and paper (the Canadians have gone to a plastic replacement for paper, but nonetheless....)
  • Value universally understood by comparison to tangibles (we know the value of a Coke the world over)
Ergo: cryptocurrencies can qualify as money

The blockchain
The thing that makes a cryptocurrency work is an underlying technology called a "block chain". The important take away understanding a block chain is that it is a secure distributed database with no central authority but with enforced data integrity.

Now, a secure distributed database can be useful for a lot of stuff, and for distributed projects it could be very useful indeed.

Here's what NIST says about what a blockchain is:
Blockchains are immutable digital ledger systems implemented in a distributed fashion (i.e., without a central repository) and usually without a central authority. At their most basic level, they enable a community of users to record transactions in a ledger that is public to that community, such that no transaction can be changed once published.

A blockchain is essentially a decentralized ledger [database] that maintains transaction records on many computers simultaneously. Once a group, or block, of records is entered into the ledger, the block’s information is connected mathematically to other blocks, forming a chain of records.

Because of this mathematical relationship, the information in a particular block cannot be altered without changing all subsequent blocks in the chain and creating a discrepancy that other record-keepers in the network would immediately notice.

In this way, blockchain technology produces a dependable ledger without requiring record-keepers to know or trust one another, which eliminates the dangers that come with data being kept in a central location by a single owner.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Collingridge's dilemma

A simple but profound observation:
When change is easy, the need for it cannot be foreseen; when the need for change is apparent, change has become expensive, difficult and time consuming.
David Collingridge
"The Control of Technology"

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