New PM Articles for the Week of August 31 – September 6

SightseersNew project management articles published on the web during the week of August 31 – September 6. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Julie Bort summarizes the myths and science of lies, liars, and a few ways to identify when someone is hiding something.
  • Scott Adams lists some of the “tells,” or involuntary actions, for cognitive dissonance, the human reaction to facts that conflict with one’s beliefs. Be careful, because you won’t be able to un-read this.
  • Coert Visser describes a 2 by 2 matrix, modest /arrogant and ignorant / knowledgeable, and suggests some strategies for dealing with the arrogant-yet-ignorant state of mind.

Established Methods

  • Moira Alexander shares her strategic alignment checklist for project managers, because it’s not just about being on schedule, on budget, and on the quality target.
  • Gary Nelson uses a woodworking metaphor for getting a project completed without cutting corners (or sanding them off).
  • Phil Weinzimer reflects on his interviews of Proctor and Gamble’s CIO, Filippo Passerini, who was so impressive that he rates an entire chapter in Phil’s new book.
  • Glen Alleman makes the case for using source lines of code as a measure of system and project performance.
  • And in response, Nick Pisano argues the case against using SLOC as a measure of performance. I agree with Nick on this one.
  • Matthew Squair looks at technical debt through his safety engineering and risk management lens.
  • BrenDt imagines the perfect project management tool; it’s just not commercially available, yet.
  • Kathleen O’Connor interviews Brian Manning, co-founder of Centric Digital, on the balance between project management and creativity.
  • Parag Tipnis finds the intersection of scope management and stakeholder management, where diplomacy is required to keep perfection from preventing progress.
  • Neel Patel reports on what the AI and security communities say about the prospect of software beating hackers in the near term: not likely.

Agile Methods

  • Pawel Brodzinski explains the effect that the Zeigarnik Effect has on context switching – one more reason to limit work in progress.
  • John Goodpasture notes with approval the role of the enterprise architect in Disciplined Agile Delivery.
  • Mike Cohn makes the case for budgeting, as an alternative for teams that don’t feel capable of estimating well.
  • Neil Killick argues for product management, as a long-term replacement for project, program, and portfolio management. He didn’t convince me, but it’s worth a read.

Work Isn’t a Place You Go

  • Alia Crum and Thomas Crum describe a three-step process for leveraging stress.
  • Michael Lopp wakes up in a panic at 4:00 AM to review his deadlines, work in progress, and commitments. Time to delegate! Well, after everyone else is in the office…
  • Bruce Harpham interviews podcaster Jeff Sanders, who focuses on early mornings, productivity, healthy habits, and personal development.
  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews “Growing Software: Proven Strategies for Managing Software Engineers,” by Louis Testa.

Enjoy!

Commitment: It’s the Way Business is Done

Empty DesksI’ve recently noticed a trend: a number of Agile software development consultants, coaches, and thought leaders have been writing about commitment, in the context of management wanting them to commit to dates on a quarterly basis. The general consensus among these folks is that commitment should be on a shorter time line, like their bi-weekly sprints. Don’t ask us to commit to more than we can do in the next two weeks, because we don’t estimate well, or we don’t understand exactly what is needed. Like it says in the Agile manifesto. “We value responding to change, over following a plan.

Organizations Communicate Via Plans and Contracts

While that’s certainly a positive value, plans are also necessary. Especially for organizations negotiating contracts with customers and suppliers, transitioning to new lines of business, merging, acquiring, divesting, and doing all of the other outward-facing activities common to businesses. A CIO who greenlights a project to replace an ERP expects to be able to quit paying annual service charges to their legacy vendor on some date. A CEO who negotiated financial incentives for her suppliers, based on their utilization of their supply chain management system, agrees to milestone dates. A CFO who needs to merge two general ledger charts of accounts after an acquisition needs to be able to report financial results for a specific quarter. And when those things don’t happen on time, their ability to negotiate the next deal is hampered, much like your credit score is affected when you miss a mortgage payment. The business suffers, in ways great and small, from stock price dips to the cost of capital, to opportunities and jobs lost. The damage may never be apparent to the software development team, but it’s real.

There are few things less beneficial than perfect, too late. Therefore, mature software development teams set a window for requirements changes, announce it to their stakeholders, and deliver based on their understanding of what is required, at that point in time. Mature, quality-driven software development teams understand their tools, their environment, their architecture, and their limitations. They can sketch out a timeline that has a reasonable ability to manage their schedule risks, and they commit to it. Mature software development teams understand that it’s not about them, and it’s not about their processes; it’s about the needs and aspirations of the organization they serve.

Employers Value Business Acumen

PMI recently announced new continuing certification requirements for the PMP and other credentials that emphasize what surveys have identified as employer-desired skills. As PMI puts it, “Employers need project practitioners with leadership and business intelligence skills to support long-range strategic objectives that contribute to the bottom line. The ideal skill set — the PMI Talent Triangle — is a combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise.” One of the key components of this skill set is what is commonly called business acumen: an understanding of the business, the marketplace, and the operating environment. It enables the project manager to interpret the strategy set by the leadership team and apply it to the project, thus improving the likelihood of delivering the benefits sought by the decision makers who approved it. If software development professional organizations are taking similar steps, I haven’t heard about it.

A competitive business environment is not a video game; it’s closer in spirit to a track meet, with multiple teams competing in multiple events. At some level, it’s the Olympics; competition on a global scale. If some portion of the organization can’t compete at the required level, that function eventually gets outsourced. And the decision to undergo that kind of painful, expensive disruption won’t be driven by some pointy-haired boss, but by a bunch of Wallys.

New PM Articles for the Week of November 10 – 16

Balloon Over the WallNew project management articles published on the web during the week of November 10 – 16. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Kevin Kern traces the trajectory of re-planning from reactive to proactive to predictive.
  • Elizabeth Harrin summarizes a presentation by Mark Englehardt at PMI Hungary’s Art of Projects Conference, “Project Risk Management Doesn’t Have to be Difficult.”
  • Steven Levy outlines the elements of the project charter.
  • Roxi Bahar Hewertson considers how four types of mastery contribute to leadership success.
  • Rich Maltzman demonstrates the impact of context in our communications, with a graphic that lets us deceive ourselves.
  • Bruce Harpham presents the PMBOK view of managing conflict, as a follow-up to last week’s post on sources of project management conflict.
  • Bruce Benson explores conscious uncoupling, as members of a struggling organization fight to preserve the size of their piece of the pie.
  • Michael Girdler links morale problems and lowered and productivity as result of organizational change to the project communications plan.
  • Lynda Bourne contrasts the functions of management with the functions of governance.
  • Allen Ruddock looks at the “overs and unders” that contribute to failed projects.
  • Kerry Wills argues for picking team members who may not be perfect in any one role, but can play multiple roles.

Agile Methods

  • Mike Cohn illustrates the incremental and iterative nature of Agile development, with a sculpture metaphor.
  • Mike Griffiths says that the key to scaling Agile is not adding process, but facilitating the work of teams.
  • Terry Bunio points out the plain truth that “minimum viable product” is not always an appropriate approach.
  • Michiko Diby takes issue with the term “Scrum Master.”
  • Neil Killick: “We teams can make a huge difference to removing the typical dysfunctions around software estimates, simply by asking the right questions.”
  • Madhavi Ledalla champions automation and virtualization, as drivers of improved quality, reduced build time, and more predictability.
  • Milton Dillard explains what Agile acquisition support is, in the context of how the U.S. federal government lets contracts.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Dave Cornelius on the project manager role in Lean and Agile approaches. Just 12 minutes, safe for work.
  • Mark Phillipy shares a presentation on improving task estimation using three-point estimates and critical chain. Just 35 minutes, safe for work.
  • Paul Ritchie posts his very first Crossderry Blog podcast, explaining why the Apple Watch won’t compete with the Swiss watch industry. Just 17 minutes, safe for work.

Pot Pouri

  • Suzanne Lucas offers her list of ten simple things to do (and stop doing) in order to boost your career.
  • Coert Visser explains why you should interrupt.
  • Ron Friedman says you’re probably not getting enough sleep; explains how it’s impacting the quality of your work; and then tells you what to do about it.
  • Nick Pisano weighs in on Net Neutrality, the economics of controlling access to information, and the demands of the powerful interests who want that control.

Enjoy!