Five Boxes, Three Ways

I read a lot of articles every week in curating these round-ups, and not all of the content is produced by project managers. Probably less than half, most weeks. I see a lot of excellent content from non-project managers, and a lot of gibberish, in about the same ratio that I see from project managers. Not everyone shares the same understanding of project management methodologies, even among the practitioners. I typically use the general classifications “Established” or “Traditional” methods and “Agile” methods while some folks refer to a methodology called “Waterfall.” So, in an effort to over-simplify these three commonly referenced methodologies, I’d like to show five boxes, three different ways.

This first version is frequently referred to as “waterfall.” Back in the 80’s, there were a few projects that were actually run in a fashion similar to this. Most failed, because you have to monitor while executing, or you don’t catch the errors until it’s too expensive to correct them. Ever seen that poster of two teams, building a bridge from opposite shores of a river, getting to the middle and suddenly realizing that they’re not matching up? Yeah, like that.


The second version is the way most projects have been managed for the last few decades: complete the planning stage, and then move on to execution, while monitoring the process and quality as you go. This is especially critical in civil engineering projects, like the apocryphal bridge, but also for those where compliance with some external protocols or requirements is required, or where powerful stakeholders have to be satisfied, or where a lot of sub-contractors, inspectors, or other contributors are involved.


These days, many projects are being run using Agile methods: plan enough to begin execution, monitor more-or-less continuously, and re-plan based on what you learn as you go. This is great for certain kinds of software and consumer product development projects; not so much for civil engineering, pharmaceutical development, and other projects where the product will have a lot of potentially catastrophic failure modes and a very long life.












Note that the contents of the boxes have not changed. Poor execution will doom a project, no matter what else is going on. Initiating the wrong project or starving the right one for resources will generate a negative ROI, no matter how you manage it. And failing to monitor scope, schedule, cost, quality, and the mood of the stakeholders will burn any project to the ground. Simply re-arranging the boxes, like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, won’t change the outcome. But there will always be people who want to try.

Major Update to my Home Office!

I addition to writing and blogging, I’m a project management consultant working from an office in my home. Many of my clients supply a laptop that they want me to use when accessing their network. Up until recently, I just spread everything around on my U-shaped desk – laptop, monitor, monitor, laptop, monitor – and tried not to knock anything over. Then a few months ago, I started looking at standing desks. I just don’t have room in my home office for another table or desk – if I did, I’d add a woodworking bench. For a while, it looked like I was going to have to ditch what I had in order to be able to start over. Not my idea of a positive solution. So I asked my daughter-in-law for her recommendation.

Home office sitting configuration

Sitting configuration, sans mug

Like me, Nancy works with multiple monitors. She has been using a gadget from Varidesk for several months. It sits on the tabletop and lets you raise and lower your monitors, keyboard, coffee mug, and so on with minimal exertion. Her experience has been positive, although she is considering a product from another company with an electric motor to handle the lifting. Since I need the exercise, I opted for the manual version of the desk. But that really only solved half of the problem.

Home office sitting configuration

Standing configuration, avec mug

I found a dual monitor KVM switch from StarTech, which allows me to toggle between the laptops. Then I ordered a Vivo laptop stand so I could mount the client laptop above my Dell, which lives in a docking station. I now have the two laptops “stacked” vertically next to my standing desk and I can work on one computer while monitoring the other for activity. I can toggle both monitors, keyboard, and trackball with a single button on the right side of the StarTech KVM box, located between and beneath the monitors. The third 1920 by 1200 monitor is sitting in the corner, pending other uses.

The Vivo mount is stable enough to type on when logging in or when I want to respond to an Email or IM without switching to that laptop. It never moves, even when raising and lowering the VariDesk. I considered mounting the pole in an existing hole in the desktop return at the base of the U, but by using the C-clamp on the edge of the return behind the other laptop, I was able to reclaim that space for other uses. And when I need to remove the lower laptop from its docking station, the Vivo arm swings the upper laptop out of the way.

At this point, I’m sold on the health benefits and relative comfort of using a desk that lets me alternate between sitting and standing – when I say I’m an Agile project manager, I really mean it! My next purchase will likely be one of those soft padded mats to stand on and maybe an IV pole to supplement my coffee mug. If I ever decide to mount my Macbook, I’ll use that return desktop hole for another Vivo mount. They have one that supports both a laptop and a monitor, at standing height. And I still have space under the hutch on the left side of the desk for other gadgets.

Final note: I don’t have any relationships with any of these vendors, and I didn’t even add them to the Practicing IT PM Bookstore, although maybe I should. This is just my personal product review.

Commonly Observed National and Religious Holidays 2017


To see the 2018 version of this article, click here.

As I remind everyone each year: if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to update your project schedules with non-working days for 2017. Below is a list of commonly observed national and religious holidays, and the dates they are commonly observed. Naturally, you’ll need to confirm which holidays apply to your project team.

And here are instructions for updating the working calendar in MS Project.

Holiday Weekday Celebrated
New Year’s Day Sunday 1/1/2017
Martin Luther King’s Birthday (US) Monday 1/16/2017
Republic Day (India) Thursday 1/26/2017
Chinese / Vietnamese New Year Saturday 1/28/2017
President’s Day (US) Monday 2/20/2017
Ash Wednesday Wednesday 3/1/2017
Holi (India) Monday 3/13/2017
Beginning of Passover Tuesday 4/11/2017
Good Friday Friday 4/14/2017
Easter Monday (UK) Monday 4/17/2017
May Day (China: Labor Day) Monday 5/1/2017
Early May Bank Holiday (UK) Monday 5/1/2017
Victoria Day (Canada) Monday 5/22/2017
First day of Ramadan Saturday 5/27/2017
Spring Bank Holiday (UK) Monday 5/29/2017
Memorial Day (US) Monday 5/29/2017
Shauvot Wednesday 5/31/2017
Eid al-Fitr Monday 6/26/2017
Canada Day Saturday 7/1/2017
Independence Day (US) Tuesday 7/4/2017
Pioneer Day (Utah, US) Monday 7/24/2017
Independence Day (India) Tuesday 8/15/2017
Summer Bank Holiday (UK) Monday 8/28/2017
Eid al-Adha / Festival of Sacrifice Saturday 9/2/2017
Labor Day (US and Canada) Monday 9/4/2017
Rosh Hashanah Thursday 9/21/2017
Yom Kippur Saturday 9/30/2017
Dussehra (India) Saturday 9/30/2017
National Day (China) Sunday 10/1/2017
Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday (India) Monday 10/2/2017
Sukkot Thursday 10/5/2017
Columbus Day (US) Monday 10/9/2017
Thanksgiving (Canada) Monday 10/9/2017
Diwali (India) Wednesday 10/18/2017
Veteran’s Day (US) / Remembrance Day (Canada) Saturday 11/11/2017
Thanksgiving Day (US) Thursday 11/23/2017
Day after Thanksgiving (US) Friday 11/24/2017
First day of Chanukah Wednesday 12/13/2017
Christmas Eve Sunday 12/24/2017
Christmas Day Monday 12/25/2017
Boxing Day (UK, Canada) Tuesday 12/26/2017
Kwanzaa Tuesday 12/26/2017
New Year’s Eve Sunday 12/31/2017