Agile Scout Kindle Giveaway!

Peter Saddington is celebrating the fifth anniversary of his blog, Agile Scout. And he has decided to give away three Kindle readers over the next three months, to celebrate. Click here for the details.

Agile Scout has been one of the best sources of news on Agile techniques and how they are actually being implemented, by real organizations. Peter is a trainer and consultant, and he spends a lot of his time and energy helping teams get their Agile act together. He’s one of the folks working in this space who has a balanced view of software development, so I tend to give his opinion a bit more weight than certain other folks, who need not be publicly shamed.

Reading My KindleRegarding the Kindle: we’re on our second Kindle, and between my wife and I, it gets used literally every day. Not just for books: you can download videos from Amazon Prime and watch them on the plane. My wife also uses it to play Spider Solitaire. But of course, we have well over a hundred books on our Kindle. The Kindle app on my laptop gets used from time to time, but the ability to sit in a comfortable chair and read can’t be beat.

Even if you already have a Kindle, stop by and congratulate Peter on his milestone.

Faux Compliance

Crappy BumperOne of the nice things about living on a golf course is that there’s plenty of well-maintained scenery. Since we don’t play golf, we’re able to take nice, long walks unencumbered by clubs, balls, bags, and the need to keep score. While on our walk this morning, we passed by a car had apparently encountered an inattentive driver. Bumpers are legally required here in Nevada, so the owner removed the outer portions of the smashed rear bumper and used a hank of clothesline to support the inner plastic core, now in two pieces. I’m not sure whether the Metro Police Department will object to his handiwork or simply chuckle and drive on, but it plainly isn’t going to absorb the impact of his next collision.

True Compliance

Most of my projects over the last thirty years or so required compliance with some regulation, standard, or guidelines published by some external authority. In many cases, it was administrative rules interpreting some legislation; in others, it was standards like GAAP. In all cases, compliance was one of our critical success factors. In many cases, we were self-auditing; in others, we had inspectors or auditors review our work. But compliance testing was a part of every plan. To that end, we tried to understand the nature of the regulation – what is it trying to accomplish, or prevent? It isn’t enough to just go through the motions of compliance. Your subject matter expert has to think like the inspector, and ensure that you are truly in compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the regulation.

Mitigating Bad Outcomes

The impact of a finding of non-compliance in an inspection or audit is a business risk in itself. In some cases, the bad outcomes that the regulations were designed to prevent or mitigate are also an operational risk. This is especially true when safety or privacy is at issue: the organization has a stake in preventing bad outcomes during the project and in operation. Consequently, compliance should be part of your project risk analysis. Think of the regulation or standard as a proven risk response; your goal should be to make it effective, so the organization doesn’t have to assume additional risk.

Like risk management, compliance management is part of a practicing IT project manager’s professional tool kit. You don’t have to be the subject matter expert on the regulations; you simply have to manage the efforts taken to comply, and ensure that compliance is effective, rather than merely cosmetic. Like that trussed-up bumper, for example.

New PM Articles for the Week of September 15 – 21

In the CloudsNew project management articles published on the web during the week of September 15 – 21. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Anna Hartley contrasts value engineering and simple gold plating.
  • Nick Pisano dives into the definition and validation of framing assumptions, as a potential warning sign of impending project failure.
  • John Goodpasture uses physics to explain why traffic in the slow lane moves faster as volume builds, and then applies the same principal to prove Brooks’ Law!
  • Glen Alleman gives a quick summary of “The Incremental Commitment Spiral Model: Principles and Practices for Successful Systems and Software,” by Barry Boehm and Jo Ann Lane.
  • Gary Hamilton and Jon McGowan share their best practices for managing projects with regulatory compliance as a critical success factor.
  • Pat Weaver explains that good policy flows from the intersection of morals, ethics, values, and principals, and shows how they interrelate.
  • Venkatesh Krishnamurthy criticizes financial incentives applied without an attempt to understand the problem.
  • Mark Mullaly prescribes some actions to engage absentee sponsors.
  • Bruce Harpham looks for negative cues – thing that should have happened, but didn’t – as a diagnostic for project health.
  • Kerry Wills believes that the principal difference between project success and failure lies in issue management.
  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews two project management software collaboration products: activeCollab and twProject.
  • Peter Taylor, author of “The Lazy Project Manager,” reminds us that you can work too hard to be effective in your job.
  • Peter Saddington shares an interesting story of how lazy out-performs smart, if you give it a chance.

Agile Methods

  • Johanna Rothman reminds us that Agile and Lean are beneficial tools, but we have to adapt our culture to get any benefit from them. Of course, that takes time.
  • Mike Cohn insists that while story points are about time, they shouldn’t be equated to some number of hours. It’s about relative time – so, Einstein was Agile?
  • Bart Gerardi continues his series on Agile anti-patterns.
  • Liz Keogh explains the difference between goals and capabilities.
  • Manas Shirode coins a new phrase: Bonsai waterfall.
  • Tushar Patel thinks that portfolio-management approaches can help project managers cope with Agile practices.

Professional Development

  • Coert Visser addresses the “curse of knowledge,” and offers some ways to avoid talking past our stakeholders.
  • Erin Carson advocates the PMP as a career development tool for engineers and software developers.
  • Tom Taylor posts a slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the “ups and downs” of managing projects and programs.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Jorge de la Guardia, on the history and future of the Panama Canal. Just 33 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dave Prior is starting a new series of podcasts with Richard Cheng and Dhaval Panchal, on current trends in Agile. Just 15 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Shawn Dickerson on the demand for leadership from project managers. Just 25 minutes, safe for work.