Lincoln Didn’t Need Four Hours to Sharpen an Ax

I’m getting really tired of seeing this quote attributed to President Abraham Lincoln:

If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.

Young Abe Lincoln was hired out to other farms by his father. He became handy with an ax, splitting logs into rails for fences. I’m pretty sure that he never spent more than a few minutes sharpening his ax, because that’s all it takes for me to sharpen any of my axes. If the bit has a chip in it, you use a mill bastard file (when talking about files, bastard means medium-rough) to smooth the edge; otherwise, a simple whetstone is sufficient. I use a round stone called a puck that I can grip with one hand while I hold the ax head in the other hand. It took me less than five minutes to return an old, battered Estwing hatchet to service after my wife found it at a yard sale, and we still use it when camping at the beach.

So why am I ranting about axes? I’m not—I’m ranting about attribution.

A good idea stands on its own. If there is a well-known expert who has weighed in with a pithy quote that applies to the subject, then inserting it into an expository article is perfectly reasonable; I do it all the time. But first, I research the quote to confirm that it is accurate and was actually said by the person I’m going to attribute it to. To do less not only risks my credibility, it shows disrespect to the reader and calls the otherwise good idea into question.

It is indisputable that preparation is key to efficiency. No one will argue otherwise. Yet, someone—several someones, in fact—introduced their article on that indisputable maxim with that faux quote which Lincoln never said. I can say definitively that he never said it, because The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln is available on line, and nothing like that line comes up in various searches. Moreover, I suspect that Lincoln would find the assertion ludicrous if he heard it.

So when another article popped up in my Feedly list today and I saw that silly quote about sharpening Lincoln’s ax, I closed my browser and I composed this rant. Maybe I should thank him.

New PM Articles for the Week of September 9 – 15

New project management articles published on the web during the week of September 9 – 15. And this week’s video: Jon Acampora tutors us on using the VLOOKUP function in Excel. Jon provides a sample file that you can download and use to follow along. One of the best Excel tutorials I’ve ever seen, for one of the most useful (and widely used) spreadsheet functions. 22 minutes, safe for work.

Business Acumen and Strategy

  • Greg Satell explains why change management so often fails. Don’t prepare for battle by crafting a sales pitch! 5 minutes to read.
  • Mike Clayton reviews Positive Psychology in Business, by Sarah Lewis. 3 minutes to read. He even includes a video with more details—6 minutes, safe for work.
  • The nice folks at Clarizen point out that Brexit will also upend UK employment law, from precedent to current cases to legislation needed to replace EU law. 3 minutes to read.
  • Suzanne Lucas reports on California legislation that may reclassify gig workers as employees. Not just Uber—software companies need to pay attention! 3 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • Kiron Bondale points out some of the underlying causes of ineffective project risk management. 2 minutes to read.
  • Elizabeth Harrin tells us how to hold a brilliant project kick-off meeting. My project’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. 10 minutes to read.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews PMI Head of Certification Products Sierra Hampton-Simmons on the coming changes to the PMP exam, as of July 1, 2020. Podcast, 30 minutes, safe for work.
  • Marina Pilipenko briefly summarizes six common techniques for making project estimates. 4 minutes to read.
  • Emmie Anderson shares her infographic on Zombie PMOs, showing symptoms and effective treatments. Good information, overused metaphor. 3 minutes to read.
  • Peter Taylor celebrates the 10th anniversary of publishing The Lazy Project Manager by making the Kindle version available for free. 178 pages. And: Laura Barnard interviews Peter on business agility and the PMO. Podcast, 40 minutes, safe for work.

Managing Software Development

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of agile content, from internalizing design thinking to the meaning of ‘bugs’ in an agile context to idea validation. 7 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Mike Cohn explains why the Fibonacci sequence works so well with Planning Poker. 4 minutes to read.
  • Johanna Rothman responds to a reader comment on last week’s post: measuring both cycle time and velocity lets a team try to beat a goal. Can opener, meet worms! 4 minutes to read.
  • Nilanjan Bhattacharya points out some of the problems we should anticipate when integrating infrastructure as code (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) into DevOps. 5 minutes to read.
  • Alister Scott describes the evolution of his team’s Agile story wall, from a Kanban board to a timeline to something even more detailed. 3 minutes to read.
  • John Cutler shares an agenda that will guide your team toward an actionable definition of a Minimum Viable Product. No, really. 4 minutes to read.

Applied Leadership

  • Sharlyn Lauby identifies five different roles you want on your team, and why you want each of them—even the Naysayer. 3 minutes to read.
  • Frank Sonnenberg contemplates the value of credibility and explains how to earn 3 minutes to read.
  • François Ortalo-Magné, Dean of the London Business School, recommends three self-development actions for leaders to be more effective. 3 minutes to read.

Cybersecurity and Data Protection

  • Daniel Dobrygowski reports on the growth of corporate cybersecurity alliances. 6 minutes to read.
  • Emam explains the details of the Deep Fake Detection Challenge, intended to create a realistic dataset that can be used to train AI models. 2 minutes to read.
  • Joan Goodchild updates us on the latest phishing and spear-phishing attack vectors. Email is an open window, even if you lock all the doors. 5 minutes to read.

Pot Pourri

  • Nancy Settle-Murphy examines ghosting—”the practice of ignoring or severing a business relationship by suddenly withdrawing from all communication.” 6 minutes to read.
  • Martha Jeong summarizes research into how leaders are perceived when they change their minds. 4 minutes to read.
  • Charlotte Jee reports that Amazon is now soliciting answers for questions that Alexa can’t handle from the general public. This could get ugly. 2 minutes to read.

Enjoy!

New PM Articles for the Week of September 2 – 8

New project management articles published on the web during the week of September 2 – 8. And this week’s video: Sorrel Gilbert begins a series on the basics of project risk management. This segment is about risk categorization; 4 minutes to watch. She also posted a video on the risk life cycle, 6 minutes to watch. And Harry Hall posted his insights on qualitative risk analysis. 3 minutes, all safe for work.

Those are lenticular clouds over Mt. Rainier in the photo below. Sorry, UFO watchers!

Business Acumen and Strategy

  • Jay Chapel looks at the three common “as a service” models—SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS—in terms of providers, market share, and market trends. 4 minutes to read.
  • Curt Nickisch interviews Nobel-winning economist Oliver Hart and colleague Kate Vitasek on the use of relational contracts for complicated relationships, like outsourcing. Podcast, 23 minutes, or read the transcript in about 14 minutes.
  • Ann Saphir reports that trade policy uncertainty has reached levels not seen since the 1970’s, estimating lost output of roughly US$850B. Defensive tactics are in order. 3 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • John Goodpasture reports on his recent experience as a participant and observer of a group of small teams, engaged in a self-organizing 2 minutes to read.
  • Dale Howard shows how to add useful details to tasks in MS Project, using the Task Form. 5 minutes to read.
  • Mike Clayton shares five tips for keeping stakeholders engaged in your project. Video, 9 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy defines 15 project management terms. 7 minutes to read, or watch the video—13 minutes, safe for work.
  • Brook Appelbaum makes the business case for Lean Project Portfolio Management. 5 minutes to read.
  • Ankit Rathi reflects on the reasons why artificial intelligence projects fail. 4 minutes to read.

Managing Software Development

  • Lenticular clouds over Mt RainierStefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of agile content, from the “demise” of Six Sigma to Zombie Scrum to product roadmaps that suck. 7 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Johanna Rothman tells us why she prefers to measure cycle time rather than velocity. 4 minutes to read.
  • Chris Arend maps out three developing trends for commercial chatbots. 2 minutes to read.
  • Patrick Lee Scott explains why complex architectures and solutions should be avoided, or at least mitigated. 4 minutes to read.
  • Ron Jeffries argues that the primary defining characteristic of Agile and Scrum is working software. 5 minutes to read.
  • Glen Alleman adds some clarifying detail to Ron Jeffries’ post on “doing” Agile and Scrum. Just a minute to read.

Applied Leadership

  • Kathryn Heath and Brenda Wensil share the results of their research into creating a diverse culture. As it turns, out we need to begin with our meetings. 5 minutes to read.
  • Scott Steinberg coaches us on telling our teams about a management decision that they won’t like, when you don’t like it, either. 4 minutes to read.
  • Dan Rockwell points out three natural (more or less) human behaviors that can make a leader behave badly. 2 minutes to read.

Cybersecurity and Data Protection

  • Ayodeji Onibalusi defines and explains the benefits of Zero Trust Networking. 4 minutes to read.
  • Terry Sweeney walks us through eight ways to spot an insider threat. Good news: negligence is more common that malicious intent. 10 minutes or so to flip through all nine pages.
  • Adam Levin says that companies can have their identities stolen, too. Or at least, damaged: think about the hack of Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account—even the CEO isn’t safe? 4 minutes to read.
  • George Williams tutors us on how to defend our corporate data against ransomware attacks. 4 minutes to read.

Pot Pourri

  • Loren Grush reports on the failed communications between SpaceX and the European Space Agency that added risk to what should have been a routine maneuver. 5 minutes to read.
  • MIT Technology Review describes a proof-of-concept AI system that identified a new potential drug to treating fibrosis in 46 days. Just over a minute to read.
  • Martin Armstrong reports on a Glassdoor UK survey of the most hated bits of office jargon. Punch a puppy? WTF? Just a minute to read.

Enjoy!