New PM Articles for the Week of February 27 – March 5

New project management articles published on the web during the week of February 27 – March 5. And this week’s video: Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris show us how selective attention works. Just over a minute, safe for work unless you keep playing it over and over.

Must read!

  • Mike Cohn reminds us that a cross-functional team is one where the members have different skills—not one where every member has all the needed skills.
  • Dave Nicolette points out that, while Scrum is an excellent solution for some problems, it doesn’t fit every situation. Lean Thinking might be what’s next.
  • Nir Eyal and Chelsea Robertson explain how the brain focuses and eliminates distraction (they are different functions), and give us some clinically proven ideas for enhancing each.

Established Methods

  • The Women Tester’s Magazine January 2017 edition is now available to download. Not just about testing, and not just for (or by) women—highly recommended.
  • Henny Portman alerts us to a new project management methodology, coming from Denmark: Project Half Double. As in half the time, double the impact.
  • Elizabeth Harrin lists the essential project management competencies we need to be successful in 2017 and beyond.
  • Harry Hall bullets 37(!) practical actions you can take to improve your project communications.
  • Glen Alleman explains what you need to know to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty, to achieve project success.
  • Michael Wood explores the critical success drivers for managing global projects.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly round-up of all things Agile, including Agile middle management, the role of QA in Agile teams, and more contrarian ideas.
  • Ryan Ripley interviews Natalie Warnert and Amitai Schleier on the Women in Agile discussion, and why we should all support it. Just 47 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dave Prior and Marty Bradley consider the question: when embracing Agile methods, should the PMO go away? Just 28 minutes, safe for work.
  • Shipra Aggarwal explains how to create release plans for feature-driven projects and date-driven projects.
  • Nicholas Malahosky coaches us on how to introduce Agile methods to teams outside of IT.
  • Tamás Török explains why software developers are like pro football players.

Applied Leadership

  • Esther Derby provides two examples where changing the point of view led decision makers to realize they were trying to solve the wrong problems.
  • Art Petty says the Big Fix doesn’t work, but incremental behavior changes can work wonders.
  • Michael Lopp traces the “New Manager Death Spiral.” Read, ye experienced manager, and cringe. I certainly did.

Technology, Techniques, and Human Behavior

  • Geoffrey Bock updates us on the acceptance and application of smart data for Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning in the enterprise.
  • Tom McFarlin announces his upcoming e-book, “Where Do I Start with WordPress?” Since roughly 19% of the internet is run on WordPress, I thought this might be of interest.
  • Nick Pisano briefly defines business intelligence, business analytics, and knowledge discovery in databases, and points out their growing convergence.
  • Belle Cooper confronts burnout: what it means, what it does to us, and how to overcome it.

Working and the Workplace

  • Brian Wagner and James Kittle get Steve Potter to talk about interview questions and styles. Just 34 minutes, safe for work.
  • Lisette Sutherland describes the Remote First company, and what you should expect when you run into one. Just over nine minutes, safe for work.
  • Alyse Kalish gives us the up-to-date standard for what to include in the header of your resume.

Enjoy!

Excel Functions You Probably Aren’t Using

I started using spreadsheets back in 1985, in the days of Lotus 123. At the time, I was developing reliability prediction models used in design tradeoff decisions for systems being developed for the US Army Corps of Engineers (that little reverse osmosis water purification do-dad under the counter at Starbucks is pretty straightforward technology, but when scaled to produce tens of thousands of gallons per day, using surface water and generator power, things can get complicated). I moved to Excel a few years later when I adopted Windows 3.1 but after more than three decades, I still manage to find new ways to capture and manipulate data. Let me share a few Excel functions that you probably aren’t using.

Calculating the Number of Working Days

It’s easy to calculate the difference in days, weeks, months, or years between two dates, but I often need to calculate working days.

NetWorkDays(Start_Date, End_Date,[Optional_Holidays])

This function calculates the difference between the two dates but ignores Saturdays, Sundays, and whatever holidays you pass it in a list. You can pass this example list either directly as B2:B9 or by defining a name for that range (highlight the range, right click, Define Name) and passing the name. We’ll use this list as an example:

Holiday

Celebrated

Martin Luther King’s Birthday (US)

1/16/2017

President’s Day (US)

2/20/2017

Memorial Day (US)

5/29/2017

Independence Day (US)

7/4/2017

Labor Day (US and Canada)

9/4/2017

Thanksgiving Day (US)

11/23/2017

Day after Thanksgiving (US)

11/24/2017

Christmas Day

12/25/2017

Let’s say I want to include the number of working days until some event in a status report. The effective date of the status report is in a named cell (done the same way you named the range of holidays) and so is the event date. Like so:

=NETWORKDAYS(Status_Date,Go_Live,Holidays)

This will return the integer number of working days, which you can then use directly or in another calculation.  I typically include the holidays for the project in a separate tab. But let’s say you crashed the schedule and decided you needed the team to work a few weekends, especially at go live. So create a list of Working Weekend Days, name the range, and add it to the calculation.

Working Weekend Days

Worked

Conversion Sunday

1/8/2017

Cutover Saturday

6/10/2017

Cutover Sunday

6/11/2017

Now we can incorporate those weekend working days into the formula:

=NETWORKDAYS(Status_Date,Go_Live,Holidays)
+COUNTIF(Weekend_Work,">"&Status_Date)

In this example, the CountIf function picks up the two days in the list greater than the status date of January 9, which is then added to the 108 days from the NetWorkDays function result:

Status Date

1/9/2017

Go Live

6/12/2017

Working days to Go Live

110

The Working days remaining equals the number of weekdays between the two dates, minus the three holidays that fall in the range, plus the two weekend dates greater than the status date. Note that if your weekend days are something other than Saturday and Sunday, the NetWorkDays.Intl function allows you to specify alternatives.

Summarizing Data in a Table

While we’re talking about status reports: it helps to summarize the information in your risk register, even at a high level. Take a look at this sample, which includes the results of a qualitative risk analysis.

Risk ID

Risk description

Last likely date of occuring

Probability

Impact

Calculated risk

1

This risk

1/1/2017

Medium

Medium

3.0

2

That risk

1/23/2017

Low

Medium

2.4

3

The other

4/1/2017

High

Medium

3.5

4

One more

2/1/2017

Low

Large

2.8

5

And another

7/1/2017

Very low

Medium

1.7

The Calculated risk field is based on a formula:

=SQRT(VLOOKUP(D2,RiskProbValue,2,FALSE)
*VLOOKUP(E2,RiskImpValue,2,FALSE))

Note that two lookup tables were defined to associate numeric values with the Probability and Impact scores; the risk is calculated as the square root of the product of the two numeric values. So let’s say you want to tally up the number of risks with High or Medium scores that are still likely to occur. On the status report, it looks like this:

High Risks

1

Medium Risks

2

We can use the CountIfs function to tally the risks for each criterion. For High risks, e.g. those with a Calculated risk value of 3.0 or more, and a Last likely date after the status date:

=COUNTIFS(Calculated_risk, ">="&3, Last_Date,">"&Status_Date)

For the Medium count, we’ll use a range of values:

=COUNTIFS(Calculated_risk, ">="&2, Calculated_risk, 
"<"&3, Last_Date,">"&Status_Date)

Getting a Completion Date

Sometimes I need to pencil out a very high-level timeline to determine if a goal is even achievable by some date. So I’ll create a list of tasks, each with a proposed duration, and start date. The assumption is that each task begins the day after the predecessor completes. I can then use the WorkDay function:

WorkDay(Start_Date, Duration,[Optional_Holidays])

This returns the serial number of the date Duration days after Start_Date. I can convert it for display using the Text function, like so:

=TEXT(WORKDAY(B7,C7,Holidays),"m/d/yyy")

I can also convert the date to the day of the week, again using the Text function:

=TEXT(WORKDAY(B11,C11,Holidays),"dddd")

This lets me specify a State Date for the first task and durations for each task in the list, with the subsequent start dates and completion date calculated automatically.

Task

Start Date

Duration

Plan

1/5/2017

5

Analyze

1/12/2017

25

Build

2/17/2017

15

Test

3/13/2017

26

Cutover

4/18/2017

3

Complete on

4/21/2017

Friday

Of course, the danger in this approach is that by tweaking the start date or individual durations, you can convince yourself that something is achievable simply by giving yourself less time to do it. So, don’t do that.

The ability to create reusable spreadsheets that use Excel functions to provide actionable information from raw data is still one of those skills that will pay big dividends over the course of a career in project management. All you really need is a little imagination and an understanding of what the data actually represents.

New PM Articles for the Week of June 6 – 12

New project management articles published on the web during the week of June 6 – 12. And this week’s video: Ed Deci’s TED Talk on controlled motivation and autonomous motivation. Ed is the co-developer of the self-determination theory, which suggests that we should create conditions under which people can motivate themselves. Just 14 minutes, safe for work.

Must read!

  • Johanna Rothman presents the case for and against estimates, in parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. This series should be sufficient justification for you to follow her blogs.
  • Nick Statt reports on Microsoft’s new project management app for Office 365, called Planner. Not a replacement for Project, but a collaboration and planning tool.
  • Brad Egeland provides one-page summaries for twelve project management, collaboration, and portfolio management software products.

Established Methods

  • Elizabeth Harrin collected insights from six PM’s on how they manage multiple simultaneous projects.
  • Pat Weaver looks into those cases where the critical path includes task dependencies other than Finish-to-Start links.
  • Clark Wimberly notes that proper preparation is required for a kick-off meeting which will pay dividends throughout the project.
  • Henny Portman reviews “PPM! Manage Your Organization Masterfully with Project portfolio Management.”
  • Cameron Conaway interviews Robin Kwong, Special Projects Editor at the Financial Times, who find clarity by beginning each project with the same question: What’s it for?
  • Kenneth Ashe explains how to create and use an Issues Log.
  • Rob England proposed two deliberately conflicting principles to guide a DevOps transformation, in order to create a dynamic tension. Which is how the world works, right?

Agile Methods

  • Dave Prior notes the untimely passing of Agile leading light Jean Tabaka by pulling two interviews from his archives. A total of 42 minutes, safe for work. She will be sorely missed.
  • Saumya Nigam explains estimation using story points.
  • Faisal Ansari uses the INVEST model to determine whether backlog items are well written, as the first step in splitting them into smaller stories.
  • Emanuele Passera continues his introduction to Kanban series with part 2.
  • Tom McFarlin considers Reid Hoffman’s quote, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, then you’ve launched too late.”
  • Tami Flowers describes using Lean/ Agile methods to establish a data governance organization framework.
  • Bob Tarne explains the concept of “ready ready.” It’s where you need to begin in order to get to “done done.” You can say that again …

Applied Leadership

  • Suresh MK uses events from the life of Nelson Mandela to illustrate John Kotter’s eight-stage process of creating major change.
  • Kathleen O’Connor interviews Bart Engal on his book, “Leading Through Language: choosing Words that Influence and Inspire.”
  • Lysette Sutherland interviews Dave Hecker on effectively managing geographically distributed software development teams. Just 35 minutes, safe for work.
  • Elise Stevens interviews Gillian Klette on what to do when your project team hates each other. Just 18 minutes, safe for work.

Pot Pouri

  • David Manheim looks at complexity, reification, Goodhart’s Law, and why measurement is hard. So is spelling reification.
  • Travis Bradberry explains why you should work for 52 minutes, then take a break for 17 minutes. Got your timer ready?
  • Abby Wolfe shares an infographic on the high-impact LinkedIn profile updates you should make when job-hunting.
  • Seth Godin suggests we talk slowly, because “um” doesn’t add as much value as silence.

Enjoy!