Get Ready to Manage an Autonomous Vehicle Project

Google Driverless Car

Google prototype

The same people who funded the research that led to the Internet, the U.S.government, are about to invest $3.9 billion in research on autonomous vehicle development. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx appeared at the Detroit Auto Show to announce a budget proposal that will spread the funding over ten years, and “accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects.”

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” said Secretary Foxx. And everyone else, since consumer technology developed in the U.S. will be sold all over the world, as it always has been.

Autonomous Tech

Take a moment to think about the technologies that are converging to produce a vehicle which drives itself, reliably and efficiently, safely and affordably. From visual and auditory recognition (not just speech, but sounds) to machine learning, continuous risk assessment and management to efficient route selection. GPS is about navigation; extend that to lane-selection strategy. And then there’s peer-to-peer networking, based on location, direction, and velocity. If debris falls onto the road, nearby cars will caution other vehicles headed toward it, well before they can see it, and alert a specialized vehicle that will automatically remove it, quickly and safely, without interrupting the flow of traffic.

Changing When Things Get Done

Rush hour traffic will be reduced, because more activities will become asynchronous. Cars will top off their own gas tanks while you’re sleeping, schedule their own maintenance, drive to Jiffy Lube, and return. Retail stores and supermarkets will have their stock delivered and gas stations will have their storage tanks topped up off-hours, with no humans involved. Your car will coordinate with the vehicle delivering your groceries, so it arrives at your home at the same time you do. Residential snail mail and package delivery will occur overnight. Airport parking lots will be re-purposed. Uber will need a new business model.

The Opportunities for Project Managers

This isn’t just about auto manufacturers. There will be boundless opportunities for technology project managers who understand these applications and how they will be used by everyone from the military to school districts, trucking firms to fire departments, construction companies to emergency medical services companies. We understand the potential information security issues and how to non-destructively test software-intensive systems. We get the complexities of scheduling, issue and risk management, and reporting progress on developmental systems. We know how to engage stakeholders and deal with compliance across multiple jurisdictions. We understand how the economics, the ethical issues, and the organization’s strategic goals need to drive the decisions we present to our sponsors. This is just an extension of what we’ve been doing for some time now, but the impact of this work will be global.

Someday soon, you may have a chauffeur named Watson. Let’s help him get to work.

New PM Articles for the Week of September 28 – October 4

Red BalloonNew project management articles published on the web during the week of September 28 – October 4. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Peter Gray summarizes the declining emotional maturity and resilience among college students, manifesting as an inability to handle setbacks and an escalating demand for services.
  • Esther Derby recently reflected on best practices for Agile, and selected seven to share with us. Note: these aren’t just Agile practices, but approaches to problem-solving.
  • Lisa McLeod analyzes the Volkswagen emission spoofing scandal, as a proactive deception driven by the CEO’s goals for the company, rather than adding customer value.

Established Methods

  • Todd Williams points out the pitfalls in organizational change management.
  • Philip Smith notes that that hard part, in these times of rapid change, is making change “stick.”
  • Allen Ruddock argues that the key to a successful project is communicating to the stakeholders what’s at stake for them – “What’s in it for me?”
  • Harry Hall lists nine ways to start a new project, in order to avoid being behind at the point of 15% completion.
  • Dhan Wa says we’re in the midst of a generational change in the practice of project management.
  • Bruce Harpham explains how to grow your internal network, and why you should.
  • Vivek Prakash reports on how the team that translated the PMBOK 5th Edition into Hindi set ground rules for handling disagreement, to meet their project schedule.
  • Glen Alleman explores the unmyths of project duration estimating.
  • Rich Maltzman makes the link between assumptions and risks, and then trots out an example from fish biology to illustrate his point.
  • John Goodpasture identifies some of the crucial innovations that arose from the American Civil War and World War II.

Agile Methods

  • Gil Broza gives us the “why” of working in iterations.
  • Mike Cohn wants to see the Scrum coaches and trainers shift their thinking, to grow the community rather than solidify their market share.
  • Jaap Dekkinga lists six levels of “doneness” that should be considered in Agile planning.
  • Jenny Brown notes some of the organizational challenges that can inhibit the adoption of Lean / Six Sigma methods.

Applied Leadership

  • Peter Saddington does a review of recent research into leadership and employee engagement, and finds evidence that we should be leading from the heart.
  • Art Petty reports on the lessons he learned from delivering two leadership workshops for the Alabama Jail Association. Leading in dangerous situations amplifies success and failure.
  • Tom McFarlin shares his professional approach to dealing with business relationships gone sour.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Elizabeth Harrin addresses questions about online project management training and the level of difficulty of the PMP exam. Just three minutes, safe for work.
  • Alena Kuzniatsova recommends a video from the Agile2015 Conference: a panel discussion on adopting Agile methods. Just over an hour, safe for work.
  • Jesse Fewell shares two brief videos, on #NoEstimates and virtual collaboration. A total of 13 minutes, safe for work.
  • Elise Stevens interviews Amany Nuseibeh on the need for project managers to live the PMI Code of Ethics. Just 17 minutes, safe for work.
  • Ruairi O’Donnellan shares a funny short video on eliminating risk. Less than two minutes, and safe for work as long as you use the enclosed stand.


New PM Articles for the Week of January 26 – February 1

Grand CanyonNew project management articles published on the web during the week of January 26 – February 1. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Must read!

  • Elizabeth Harrin explains in detail how to determine project success criteria, how to communicate the criteria, measure, baseline, track, and report on progress.
  • Brian Jackson introduces us to Ross, a super-intelligent attorney powered by IBM’s Watson computing system. A cloud-based lawyer may review your next contract!
  • Jason Hiner sketches out three trends that are going to define the next decade, not just in technology but the way our societies work.

PM Best Practices

  • Bruce Harpham outlines the practice of risk management, for program managers.
  • Ron Rosenhead returns from delivering a course for project sponsors with some insight on the lack of unity in some organizations on who is a sponsor.
  • Harry Hall gives us a detailed view of what a risk management plan should contain.
  • Jennifer Lonoff Schiff identifies the biggest (or most common) problems that project managers can anticipate, avoid, or mitigate.
  • Glen Alleman dismantles one of the business cases for iterative development.
  • Kevin Coleman makes the case for telecommuting, and offers some guidelines for making it work.
  • Pawel Brodzinski explores the economic value of slack time. Maximizing utilization is not the way to maximize value – queuing theory applies!

Agile Methods

  • Neil Killick follows up last week’s analysis of the Scrum Master role’s responsibilities, behaviors, and goals with a similar look at the Product Owner role.
  • Mike Cohn strips Scrum down to three clear, elegant sentences, and warns us to add only those elements that actually work in our environment. Excellent advice!
  • Michael Barone subjects Agile to a little psychoanalysis.
  • Boon Nern Tan explains the case for and benefits of pair programming.
  • John Goodpasture contemplates Big Agile, and the limited benefits of additional process and structure.
  • Don Kim sees parallels between the Structured Agile Framework (SAFe) and the Bill Murray classic, “Groundhog Day.” You can say that again …
  • Johanna Rothman contemplates the roles of development manager and test manager in Agile organizations.
  • Seth Godin distinguishes between optimism and honesty, and our ability to commit and deliver.
  • Han van Loon proposes a replacement for the estimation Cone of Uncertainty. Check out his video on YouTube and try not to think of a snake swallowing its prey.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Maria Kozlova on building and maintaining high-performing teams. Just 19 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dave Prior interviews Mike Vizdos and Peter Green, on the values and techniques of Nonviolent Communication. Just 24 minutes, safe for work.
  • Tony, Craig, and Renee interview a variety of attendees at the Scrum Australia conference in Sydney. Just 35 minutes, safe for work.

Pot Pouri

  • Jyothi Rangaiah has published the January edition of Women Testers magazine. If you haven’t discovered this wonderful resource yet, take this opportunity.
  • Ruairi O’Donnelan on wishes: “A software engineer, a hardware engineer, and a project manager find a magic lantern …”
  • Nick Heath reports on the growing call for IT to set aside some jobs for women. Not certain jobs, but a certain fraction of the positions.