New PM Articles for the Week of August 17 – 23

Cape MearsNew project management articles published on the web during the week of August 17 – 23. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Ezra Klein analyzes last Sunday’s New York Times’ expose of the demands of white-collar life at Amazon, and finds the evidence less than compelling.
  • Suzanne Lucas counters the New York Times Amazon profile with her observation that many people are looking for exactly that sort of demanding, big-league career.
  • Sarah Greene Carmichael reviews the research: those long hours are counterproductive for both the employee and the company.

Established Methods

  • Glen Alleman on anecdotes and statistics: “An anecdote is a statistic with a sample size of one.”
  • Elizabeth Harrin describes “Advances in Project Management,” as edited by Darren Dalcher. Sort of a PM Reader’s Digest …
  • Kailash Awati summarizes Russell Ackoff’s type classification of managerial attitudes toward planning. And it’s not necessarily about dysfunction.
  • Coert Vissar reviews Richard Nisbett’s, “Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking.”
  • Seth Godin notes that the first step in addressing a complex problem is agreeing on the definition of the problem and how it impacts us.
  • Robert T. reflects on the science supporting the value of intuitive decision-making.
  • Bruce Harpham collates eight habits of highly effective communicators.
  • Art Petty helps us overcome our fear of sharing feedback.
  • Harry Hall reviews the core principles and terminology of scope management.
  • Alex Lu-Pon profiles Adam Wright, who manages the construction of personal submarines, one boat at a time.

Agile Methods

  • Mike Griffiths looks into a problem with Agile methods: resistance to innovation and change, among some of the thought leaders!
  • Johanna Rothman follows up on her recent post, explaining how to use continuous planning.
  • Len Lagestee lists seven characteristics that sum up what an increasingly Agile organization should “feel like.”
  • Derek Huether has identified an amusing divergence: the Big Design Up Front of Agile2015 seems less valuable than informal gatherings, e.g. Emergent Design.

Work Isn’t a Place You Go But Something You Do

  • Thomas Carney gets the skinny on working remotely, from eleven project management thought leaders.
  • Patrick Gray shares some tips for the traveling IT worker, also known as the migrant computer worker, road hog, and so on …
  • A.W. also known as Gulliver the business traveler, trots out the unhealthy consequences of a life spent on the road. Now you tell me …
  • Tom Barnett looks at what should drive our decision to move on to the next opportunity.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Errette Dunn on his journeys to become the Lean influence at Wrike. Just 53 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner continues his recent interview of Susanne Madsen, with a deeper dive into coaching techniques. Just 25 minutes, safe for work.
  • Elise Stevens interviews Dan Galorath on the fine art of estimating. Just 15 minutes, safe for work.



New PM Articles for the Week of August 10 – 16

PortlandNew project management articles published on the web during the week of August 10 – 16. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Glen Alleman demonstrates how to estimate with minimal information, based on the question, “How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?”
  • Art Petty shares his thoughts on the courage needed to transform a business, whether it’s to avoid pending obsolescence or to take advantage of opportunities.
  • Bruce Harpham helps us develop our business acumen with some specific recommendations.

PM Best Practices

  • Suzanne Lucas lists the elements of being a manager that your employees will want to follow.
  • Elizabeth Harrin identifies seven reasons team members don’t take responsibility, and what you can do about it.
  • Margaret Meloni shares a letter from the project team to the PM, explaining their expectations. This is a companion to an earlier letter, from the PM to the team.
  • Thomas Carney reviews the issues, considerations, and challenges encountered by teams that work remotely.
  • Harry Hall provides a requirements management preparedness questionnaire.
  • Deanne Earle articulates the benefits of assessing a project in progress, to determine whether it should be continued or canceled.
  • Ryan Ogilvie gives us his insights on how to “do” incident management.
  • Matthew Squair has extensively re-written his 2009 post on epistemic, ontological, and aleatory risk. The best explanation of the continuum of uncertainty I’ve ever read.

Agile Methods

  • Patrick Mayfield, who comes from a Prince2 background, explains why Agile methods work better for today’s projects.
  • John Goodpasture gives us a brief update on the U.S. federal government’s efforts to embrace Agile methods.
  • Johanna Rothman tells a tale of two project teams, to illustrate the difference between adopting Agile rituals and exhibiting Agile behavior.
  • Mike Cohn alerts us to some new premium features on
  • Suman Bhownick explains the business logic behind the Agile principle of maximizing the amount of work not done.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews executive coach David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done,” now in the second edition. Just 44 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Susanne Madsen on applying organizational change management techniques in our projects. Just 21 minutes, safe for work.
  • Elise Stevens interviews Chris Halloran on the fine art of estimating. “The most dangerous place to plan a project is from behind a computer screen.” Just 22 minutes, safe for work.

Outside the Lines

  • Jonathan Vanian points out the Big Data linchpin that the forthcoming Hewlett Packard Enterprise will hinge on.
  • Adam Shostack has started building a model of web browser security, which should probably be constructed from Antagonistic Legos.
  • Steven Levy recommends a product I hadn’t thought of: a charge-only USB cable for those public phone-charging stations. Malware at the airport? Whodathunkit?
  • Michael Smith describes his initial (positive) impressions of Workflowy, which he describes as half to-do list, half planning software.
  • Larry Alton reports on the growing number of small start-ups focused on natural language applications for AI. Someday, this weekly list will be curated by an app, and it won’t make any money, either.


Commitment: It’s the Way Business is Done

Empty DesksI’ve recently noticed a trend: a number of Agile software development consultants, coaches, and thought leaders have been writing about commitment, in the context of management wanting them to commit to dates on a quarterly basis. The general consensus among these folks is that commitment should be on a shorter time line, like their bi-weekly sprints. Don’t ask us to commit to more than we can do in the next two weeks, because we don’t estimate well, or we don’t understand exactly what is needed. Like it says in the Agile manifesto. “We value responding to change, over following a plan.

Organizations Communicate Via Plans and Contracts

While that’s certainly a positive value, plans are also necessary. Especially for organizations negotiating contracts with customers and suppliers, transitioning to new lines of business, merging, acquiring, divesting, and doing all of the other outward-facing activities common to businesses. A CIO who greenlights a project to replace an ERP expects to be able to quit paying annual service charges to their legacy vendor on some date. A CEO who negotiated financial incentives for her suppliers, based on their utilization of their supply chain management system, agrees to milestone dates. A CFO who needs to merge two general ledger charts of accounts after an acquisition needs to be able to report financial results for a specific quarter. And when those things don’t happen on time, their ability to negotiate the next deal is hampered, much like your credit score is affected when you miss a mortgage payment. The business suffers, in ways great and small, from stock price dips to the cost of capital, to opportunities and jobs lost. The damage may never be apparent to the software development team, but it’s real.

There are few things less beneficial than perfect, too late. Therefore, mature software development teams set a window for requirements changes, announce it to their stakeholders, and deliver based on their understanding of what is required, at that point in time. Mature, quality-driven software development teams understand their tools, their environment, their architecture, and their limitations. They can sketch out a timeline that has a reasonable ability to manage their schedule risks, and they commit to it. Mature software development teams understand that it’s not about them, and it’s not about their processes; it’s about the needs and aspirations of the organization they serve.

Employers Value Business Acumen

PMI recently announced new continuing certification requirements for the PMP and other credentials that emphasize what surveys have identified as employer-desired skills. As PMI puts it, “Employers need project practitioners with leadership and business intelligence skills to support long-range strategic objectives that contribute to the bottom line. The ideal skill set — the PMI Talent Triangle — is a combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise.” One of the key components of this skill set is what is commonly called business acumen: an understanding of the business, the marketplace, and the operating environment. It enables the project manager to interpret the strategy set by the leadership team and apply it to the project, thus improving the likelihood of delivering the benefits sought by the decision makers who approved it. If software development professional organizations are taking similar steps, I haven’t heard about it.

A competitive business environment is not a video game; it’s closer in spirit to a track meet, with multiple teams competing in multiple events. At some level, it’s the Olympics; competition on a global scale. If some portion of the organization can’t compete at the required level, that function eventually gets outsourced. And the decision to undergo that kind of painful, expensive disruption won’t be driven by some pointy-haired boss, but by a bunch of Wallys.