Saturday, July 20, 2019

Micrometers, chalk, and axes


On a recent aircraft restoration project I learned this 3-step process of mechanics (who knew? You can't make this stuff up!), which in three short statements illustrates the axiom that a process, viewed end-to-end, is not better than it's worst component, and also ...

Precision and accuracy, no matter how diligent, are wasted on the poorest resolution of the process
  1. Measure with a micrometer
  2. Mark it with chalk (in our case, Sharpie marking pens), and
  3. Cut it with an axe! (in our case, shears of one kind or another, or (gasp!) the band saw)
The high precision guess
Ooops! This very process shows up in project management. See: accuracy vs resolution and the spreadsheet -- estimates that are just a bit better than a guess (the axe) are entered into cells with zillions of digits of resolution (the micrometer). Nonsense.

Domain distortion
And, we see it as domain distortion when the defined process crowd with six sigma control limits wants to port their ideas into the domain of the one sigma program office. Again, nonsense (except for the problems defining process in six sigma that is quite portable and worthy)

Small stuff gets washed out in the big picture
It seems I'm constantly explaining why/how the precision of a estimate in a work package more or less washes out at the PMO level in a Monte Carlo simulation of all the work package effects.

Monte Carlo is the 3-step process micrometer-chalk-axe writ large:
  1. Agonize over every work package estimate (micrometer, but the WP manager does this step)
  2. Enter all the WP data into a simulation package using 3-point estimates and benchmarks (chalk, likely applied by the project analyst)
  3. Run the simulation to get the "big picture" (axe)
What I find is those in the PMO wielding the axe seem to get inordinately excited about an outlier estimate here or there. If you're the axe-person, don't sweat the micrometers!


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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Kanban, WIP, etc


Kanban, WIP, and three others are what I frame as "five tools for managing"

I've put it together in this slideshare.net presentation (*):



_______________

(*) See: slideshare.net/jgoodpas for all of my online stuff .... free for download, but an attribution would be appreciated


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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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