New PM Articles for the Week of August 11 – 17

Balloon Above the TreesNew project management articles published on the web during the week of August 11 – 17. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Pawel Brodzinski expands on Jerry Weinberg’s definition, as “a process of creating an environment where people become empowered.”
  • Mike Griffiths considers the limitations of graphical depictions of data, when the information we should be consuming doesn’t graph so well.
  • Ammar Mango plots alternative routes through conflict.
  • Bryan Barrow explains his alternative to Post-It Notes for facilitating a project planning exercise.
  • Michael Girdler extols the virtues of a good scope statement.
  • Roberto Toledo lists his guidelines for fostering innovation.
  • Bruce Harpham begins a series on regulatory project management.
  • Dovilė Misevičiūtė notes that most attempts to institute time tracking fail within the first few months, usually for the same reasons.
  • Rachel Burger spoils “Guardians of the Galaxy,” pointing out the project management lessons. You could have at least waited until the DVD came out …

Agile Methods

  • Kevin Aguanno compares use cases and user stories, and how each can be the right tool for the job.
  • Bart Gerardi explores Bill Wake’s acronym, INVEST, on how to improve the quality of user stories.
  • Mike Cohn reflects on the balance of specialists and generalists in that most Agile team, the sandwich shop.
  • John Goodpasture explores the need for a release sign-off when applying Agile methods. Because it’s not just about software developers.
  • Chuck Morton continues his series of comments on Peter Morris’ article in the October PM Journal. This episode: Agile is not a project management discipline.

Following the Trends

  • Albert Barron explains [whatever] as a service, using pizza. Yes, even your grandmother will understand this one. Admirable, Albert!
  • Marco Visibelli shares recent lessons learned that tell us how companies make (and lose) money on Big Data projects.
  • Rich Maltzman interviews Kim Marotta on how MillerCoors is applying a sustainability strategy to improve performance.
  • Matthew Kosinski interviews Workday’s Liz Dietz on their upcoming Higher Education product.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Rich Maltzman of EarthPM on applying sustainability practices to project management and the PMBOK. Just 49 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Thomas Juli about integrating personal happiness and focus with project success. Just 32 minutes, safe for work.
  • Glen Alleman links us to seven podcasts from Mary Ann Lapham and Suzanne Miller of the Software Engineering Institute on the principles of Agile development.

New Books

  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews “Project Management Workflow: A Business Process Approach,” by Dan Epstein and Rich Maltzman.
  • Henny Portman reviews Alan Ferguson’s new book, “Integrating Prince2.”

Enjoy!

New PM Articles for the Week of August 4 – 10

Hot Air BalloonNew project management articles published on the web during the week of August 4 – 10. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Robert Wysocki and Joseph Matthews continue their series on a framework for the occasional project manager.
  • Nick Pisano considers the challenges of integrating cost and schedule on large projects, especially for the federal government.
  • John Goodpasture details why Monte Carlo simulations are better quality than the estimates that go into them.
  • Andy Jordan tells of a “traditional” project manager’s quick adoption of Kanban.
  • Lynda Bourne builds on a pair of earlier posts with her thoughts on designing key performance indicators that actually drive performance.
  • Kevin Korterud selects “estimate to complete” as the most useful metric.
  • Susanne Madsen bullet points the rules for a perfect status report.
  • Bruce Benson finds that the best way to learn from experience is to build systems that remember (and implement) what you’ve learned.
  • Gary Nelson recalls an old friend’s old car, and wishes every project ran like a Honda Civic. And yes, that’s also an acronym …
  • Joanna Carlson analyzes the roll-out of the Minnesota Affordable Care Act site, MNSure.
  • Kerry Wills has a great metaphor for setting context for the issues we document.

Agile Methods

  • Johanna Rothman explains how to avoid three of the most common estimation traps.
  • Glenn Alleman points out the potential for disparate views of Agile, based on the domain, scope, and budget.
  • Mike Cohn notes that Agile does not mean equal, at least for the members of the self-organizing team. Be sure to read the comments – they help Mike clarify some points.
  • David Anderson continues his series on using Kanban for project management.
  • Sanjay Zalavadia explores the need for agility in embracing Agile, especially your test management strategy.

Professional Development

  • Bryan Barrow shares his vision of our transition from project managers to project leaders.
  • Penelope Trunk explains the need to balance focus and breadth, in what she calls “cross-training.” Specialization isn’t just for insects!
  • Suzanne Lucas debunks some falsehoods about networking.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Carlos Flesh on managing projects in Latin America. It’s a cultural thing! Just 47 minutes, safe for work.
  • Carl Smith interviews Larissa Scordato on how she gave up her dream of being an archeologist to become a digital project manager. Just 12 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner details his personal best practices for getting the most out of attending a conference.

New Books

  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews Bonnie Biafore’s new book, “Microsoft Project 2013: The Missing Manual.”
  • Ian Whittingham finds project management lessons in the follow-up to Freakonomics, “Think Like a Freak,” by Levitt and Dubner.
  • Bruce Harpham finds project management lessons in a biography of William Shakespeare, somewhere between tragedy and comedy …

Enjoy!

Risk Management is Part of the Operating Rhythm

Risky Baby Business

Risky Baby Business

I just watched Dave Prior’s interview of Ken Rubin at the Agile 2014 conference. It’s a good interview, and Ken makes some excellent points. But at one point, he makes the observation, “In more traditional risk management, the assumption is early on that you’re going to generate this risk assessment. You’re doing this now on the first day, when you have the worst possible knowledge you’re ever going to have about the project.” Dave then interjects, “And then nobody updates it.” While I agree that this is not uncommon, it is poor practice.

Risk management should not be something you do once, at the beginning of a project. It should be part of the regular operating rhythm of any project. Whether you take a very structured approach to assessment, with quantitative analysis and a separately managed risk budget, or a qualitative approach with risk management costs baked in to the project budget, risk management is only beneficial if it is part of execution, as well as planning. Our risk assessment, like our requirements gathering, should be an ongoing process that improves the resilience (anti-fragility, if you prefer) of the endeavor over the course of the project.

Risk: “An unknown that matters”

I would argue that a large part of any risk management project, like the requirements gathering process, is reducing or eliminating the unknowns. This can’t be accomplished just by making plans – you have to take action and increase your understanding. Let’s consider the most common risk responses:

  • Transfer: If you transfer the responsibility to deliver some portion of the project, especially to an external organization, you still have to ensure that they’ll be deliver on time and to the required quality in order to make your risk response successful. This requires continuous monitoring and corrections, as well as coordination with the other performers on your team. If things start to go sideways, you’ll have to deal with the residual unknowns and the possible impacts.
  • Mitigate: Any mitigation action should have a trigger, which requires monitoring. Once triggered, you need to determine if the mitigation is having the desired effect. If your mitigation is intended to reduce the impact of the risk event, you need to update your estimate of the impact in order to know whether to make incremental changes. If the intent was to reduce the probability of the risk event, you need to be able to monitor the residual probability.
  • Avoid: If you avoid a risk by removing something from scope or changing the design, you’ll need to communicate that decision to the stakeholders. This shouldn’t be something done only at the time of the decision; it needs to be part of your communication plan.
  • Accept: If you decide to accept a risk, you still need to monitor for it. It is not uncommon for a project to decide that a risk, previously determined to be acceptable, grows to require some mitigation or even avoidance.

The Team Should Know the Risks

The risks to the project may impact the project team, so they need to understand them. They also need to understand the planned responses for each significant risk, at least as it impacts their work. The team is part of the “sensor network” that will detect the transition from risk to issue, requiring action. They need to understand their role, and how to escalate an observed risk response trigger.

Ultimately, risk management is an integral part of the execution of the project. Whatever methods you use to manage and respond to project risks, be sure to keep discussion of the risks under management on the agenda for your team’s regular meetings. Few risks are entirely static; we have to manage them dynamically!