About Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a project manager with over twenty years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including premises-based ERP solutions, like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise, and SaaS solutions, like Workday. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. He also holds the project management professional (PMP) designation, as well as professional designations in human resources (GPHR and SPHR) and in benefits administration (CEBS). In addition to his articles and blog posts, he curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.

New PM Articles for the Week of January 19 – 25

Balloon BeyondNew project management articles published on the web during the week of January 19 – 25. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Seth Godin notes that professionals don’t add emotion to their communications to signify urgency.
  • H.O. Maycotte argues that the challenge in getting actionable information out of Big Data is being sure you’ve asked the right question.
  • Tim Wasserman identifies ten strategic trends in project execution that will define success in 2015.

PM Best Practices

  • Harry Hall lists ten ways in which the alignment between the customers and project team is gradually lost.
  • Dave Wakeman looks to Seattle and finds that the problem of a failed tunnel-boring machine has expanded well beyond the tunnel itself.
  • Rich Maltzman finds a colossal example of a failure to engage project stakeholders, right in his home town of Boston.
  • Nick Pisano references Borges’ “Library of Babel” in pointing out the challenges inherent in extracting meaning from collections of data with no underlying common design.
  • John Carroll asks, “If the stakeholders don’t actually care about the project or take any responsibility or interest in it, then why is the project being carried out?”
  • Mike Cohn explains why we should focus on benefits, rather than features.
  • Mike Donoghue argues for benefits management, as the key to keeping your project on track.
  • Ryan Ogilvie recommends a dozen ITSM blogs, for those of us with service management responsibilities.

Agile Methods

  • Neil Killick describes the role of Scrum Master in terms of responsibilities, behavior, and goals. An excellent, brief, but actionable explanation of a complex topic.
  • Niranjan Nerlige describes the role of Product Owner, as a list of interactions with the team and with the business.
  • John Goodpasture deconstructs Mike Cohn’s recently published definition of done.
  • Johanna Rothman considers alternatives to estimation, in the form of planning and re-planning.
  • Mike Griffiths reviews a few misconceptions about teamwork and collaboration.
  • Joanne Wortman talks about blending Agile methods in with the traditional.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Pam Welty and Joy Gumz on the use of Building Information Models for construction projects. Just 17 minutes, safe for work.
  • Elizabeth Harrin shares five quick tips for managing communications during a crisis. Just three minutes, safe for work.
  • Mark Phillipy talks about the importance of networking in developing your career. Just 26 minutes, safe for work.

Pot Pouri

  • Steven Levy extracts three lessons learned from the scandal surrounding under-inflated footballs in last weekend’s game between the Patriots and the Colts.
  • András Baneth gets to the essence of Reality Television Executive Chef Gordon Ramsay’s coaching method.
  • Don Kim points out that there are times when SMART goals can be dumb. Or at least, counter-productive.
  • Emanuele Passera considers the question: do we really need to be number one in our industry?
  • Lynda Bourne reflects on taking the time to reflect and think. And yes, that’s an example of recursion.


Commas for Zombies: A Punctuation Guide

Eats, Won't Leave, So Shoot!

Eats, Won’t Leave, So Shoot!

I’ve previously written about my inner eighth grade English teacher. While I’m generally pretty easy going, he gets cranky when people whose first language is English use it poorly. Typically, it’s improper phrasing, mixed metaphors, or odd colloquialisms that set him off. Lately, he’s become annoyed by improper punctuation. The two most commonly used punctuation marks are the period and the comma. Hardly anyone gets the period wrong, but comma errors are … well, common. In this short post, I’ll summarize a few guidelines for proper use of the comma.

Commas For The Zombie Apocalypse

Consider the following sentence:

As the zombies closed in, Emily realized, to her horror, that she had left her grandmother’s teakettle on the stove, with the burner at medium-high.

In this example, “As the zombies closed in,” is an introductory clause, which is set apart by a comma. Common starter words for introductory clauses include after, although, as, because, if, since, when, and while. Similarly, commas should follow introductory words, like well, however, yes, and even similarly.

Non-essential phrases, such as “to her horror,” are also set apart with commas, before and after. If you could remove the phrase without changing the essential meaning of the sentence, then it is a non-essential phrase. A clause that begins with that is always essential.

Use a comma to separate free modifiers, which describe attributes of some element at the beginning or middle of a sentence. “With the burner at medium-high,” modifies the teakettle on the stove. If it isn’t clear what is being modified, re-structure the sentence.

Rob fired a warning shot, but the zombies continued to advance.

In this example, the comma separates two independent clauses, joined by the coordinating conjunction but. The other coordinating conjunctions are and, for, or, not, so, and yet. The comma always precedes the conjunction.

Greta backed away from the lumbering, rotting zombie.

If two adjectives modify the same noun, and the meaning would be the same if the order of the adjectives were reversed, then separate them with a comma.

The zombies were merely hungry, not sadistic.

Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasting elements. In this example, not is our cue. Other contrast cues include versus and as opposed to.

Emily, Rob, and Greta fought the zombies with guns, knives, and axes.

Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series. The comma before the and is referred to as an Oxford comma. Some sources say to always use it, while others say it should only be used to avoid confusion. Like neckties and Dos Equis, it’s a style choice.

Additional Thoughts

A comma is not an indicator of when to pause. Never put a comma between a subject and its verb, even if you’d read it aloud that way. Also, a comma is not the only choice for joining two sentence parts; consider using the semi-colon. If you imbed a quote in the middle of a sentence, place a comma before both the opening and the closing quotation marks. Finally, remember Will Strunk’s advice, “Omit needless words.” Brevity requires little punctuation.

I’ve included a barrel-full of commas in this short article, in both the examples and the explanations, to illustrate proper usage. If you think I’ve omitted or misused one or more of them, leave a comment.

Zombie image courtesy of AMC, “The Walking Dead”

New PM Articles for the Week of January 12 – 18

Neighborhood BallonNew project management articles published on the web during the week of January 12 – 18. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Chuck Cohn points out three cloud-based collaboration tools that you might not think of as project management apps.
  • Chloe Green gives us an overview of what’s happening in cognitive computing, and how business will benefit from natural language processing.
  • Soma Bhattacharya interviews Samad Aidane on how neuroscience research is producing insights into human behavior with significant applications to project management.

PM Best Practices

  • Kailash Awati describes an alternative to the entity – relationship “search for objective truth” approach to data modeling, based on emergent design principles.
  • Glen Alleman notes that project management includes adjustments to the plan, throughout execution of the project.
  • John Goodpasture addresses the question of when we need to re-baseline our project schedule.
  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews Mark Phillip’s new book, “Reinventing Communication.” It sounds like his scientific approach might not be workable outside the laboratory.
  • Craig Brown created an interesting diagram of actions and feedback, starting with “Something bad happens.”
  • Andy Jordan cites a case study in what happens when a sponsor stifles a creative approach to delivery.
  • Phillip Smith contemplates Kaizen, which means more than just “Good change.”
  • Nick Pisano continues his multi-blog contemplation and conversation with me on finding a lingua franca for project management data.
  • Kerry Wills reminds us not to get too comfortable with our understanding of the issues and risks we see in our projects.
  • Pat Weaver outlines the challenges of comparing failed projects, or even conducting a root cause analysis.
  • Michael Lopp suggests that interruptions introduce a greater cost in lost productivity than the financial savings of an open office.
  • Ryan Ogilvie uses the metaphor of a sieve to talk about identifying the issues that should drive your service strategy.

Agile Methods

  • Johanna Rothman considers the relationship between optimism and success at implementing Agile methods.
  • Don Kim argues that Agile is based not on iteration, but recursion. You can say that again …
  • Vandana Roy gives us a detailed comparison of Scrum, Kanban, and Scrumban.
  • Shivakanth Velishala defines DevOps, and describes the three pillars that support continuous delivery.

Looking Ahead

  • Alistair Croll returns from Las Vegas (thanks for supporting our economy!) with insights on how wearables and the Internet of Things will rely on Big Data.
  • Lance Ulanoff reports on a personal robot, funded by Kickstarter, which may be under your tree for Christmas. The face resembles ice queen Elsa, with a new hairdo. Let it go …
  • Lyndsey Gilpin forecasts 2015 developments in renewable energy: generation, storage, and utilization, as well as changes in the business itself.
  • Christopher Romani looks at trends that will affect federal government acquisition and program management in 2015.
  • Kevin Korterud looks all the way out to 2025, to envision what PMO’s will be like ten years from now.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Frank Parth on the PM lessons learned from mega projects. Just 21 minutes, safe for work.