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 December 15 – 21

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

PM Best Practices

  • Elizabeth Harrin describes Project Management as a Service. Not outsourcing, but a change in approach.
  • Johanna Rothman debunks the notion that competition among teams produces better products.
  • Glen Alleman debunks a debunking of myths and half-truths about estimating.
  • John Goodpasture explores the idea of cascading risks: where one damned thing leads to another.
  • Ron Rosenhead reflects on what he’s learned over the past year.
  • Harry Hall shares the lessons learned from this year’s Christmas tree disaster. Yes, even the Nativity Celebration needs a risk management plan …
  • Gary Booker illustrates a model of accountability, as a governance and operating practice.
  • Ryan Ogilvie considers whether communication is more effective when more structured or more personalized.
  • Ulf Eriksson gives us his recommendations for writing more effective test cases.

Agile Methods

  • Mike Cohn recommends that product owners should expect the development team to make a few adjustments to the sequence that they work the backlog.
  • Joanne Wortman argues that the key to success in an Agile initiative is taking the time to get the architecture right.
  • Michiko Diby is noticing that Agile values and methods are creeping into her off-duty life.
  • Kam Zaman reports on his success in implementing the elusive “dual-track Scrum.”

Looking Ahead

  • Carleton Chinner outlines three critical trends that will directly impact the practice of project management.
  • Michel Dion reflects on the evolution of project management, as the wall between operations and projects melts away.
  • Jennifer Zaino projects the future of cognitive computing, for 2015 and beyond, in health care, retail, and other industries.
  • Kent Schneider traces four critical trends related to data breaches and security that will affect our projects in 2015.
  • Seth Godin contributes his “annual plan construction set” of meaning-free buzzwords and phrases, to help you prepare for the coming year [face palm].

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews The Risk Doctor, David Hillson, on the risks you didn’t even know you were taking. Just 21 minutes, safe for work.
  • Craig Smith and Tony Ponton interview Rachel Tempest Wood on why project management is still useful. Just 25 minutes, safe for work.
  • Here’s a YouTube video explaining the origins and principles of Kanban, as developed and practiced at Toyota. Just 3 minutes, safe for work.

Pot Pouri

  • Tony Adams notes the viral nature of cranky behavior at work: we are “emotional conductors” who bring our emotions to work every day.
  • Lynda Bourne describes a recent scientific study of idiotic risk, e.g. that class of risks where the payoff is negligible and the downside is extreme. Key finding: elect women.
  • Kerry Wills gives us the key bullet points from the 2014 Standish Report. If I thought it was a statistically sound survey, I’d look for other work.
  • Alex LuPon identifies the underlying project management methodology followed by The Hobbit Trilogy. Take THAT, Joseph Campbell!