New PM Articles for the Week of April 14 – 20

NewsNew project management articles published on the web during the week of April 14 – 20. We read all of this stuff so you don’t have to! Recommended:

Disaster and Recovery

  • Steven Levy finds project management lessons in the heartbreaking Korean ferry disaster.
  • John Goodpasture examines the way small teams deal with sudden disasters.
  • Nick Pisano points out that much of the criticism of the Obamacare website misses the real lessons.

PM Best Practices

  • Duncan Haughey tells us how to be effective coaches for our project teams.
  • Martin Webster argues that “winning” is great for sports, but lousy for teams at work. A cooperative style gets more done.
  • Andrew Filev presents some strategies for establishing good habits in your teams’s group behavior.
  • Alina Vrabie tells how to facilitate creativity within your team, using those soft skills we all like to talk about.
  • Luis Seaba Coelho shares some amazing data on the affect the “default” has on the decisions we make.
  • Philip Smith notes that many projects get off on the wrong foot, failing in requirements gathering and engaging senior executives.
  • Kerry Wills explains why it’s so important for your project team to establish the right pace.
  • Mike Clayton finds some great insights in the origins and evolution of the term “stakeholder.”

Agile Methods

  • Roman Pichler elegantly describes how we build a product that the users will actually want, using a Vision Board. Highly recommended!
  • Rich Karlgaard gives twelve reasons why your project team should be small enough to feed with two pizzas, and twelve tips for creating two-pizza teams.
  • Kevin Aguanno shares case studies of three Canadian banks that took different approaches to adopting Agile methods. Highly recommended!
  • Pawel Brodzinski says that if you want higher productivity metrics, just throw out the low numbers in your planning poker deck. I think that was humor …
  • Vijaya Kumar Bandaru has put together a great Scrum Master resource, for those who want to take servant leadership up a notch.

Governance

  • Glen Alleman finds himself explaining that yes, we can know the (approximate) value of what we’re building. Egad …
  • Kailash Awati tells a Holmes and Watson story of the PMO manager who was faced with a horrible truth – the dysfunctions of his organization.
  • Mike Donoghue proclaims the power of the user in guiding the evolution of technology.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Dave Prior interviews Kanban coach Frank Vega, who advocates for using workflow management for a variety of activities. Just 11 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cesar Abeid explains how to leverage the web to gain exposure and build your reputation. Just 50 minutes, safe for work.
  • Margaret Meloni tells us how project portfolio management fits into our working lives. Just 12 minutes, safe for work.

Enjoy!

New PM Articles for the Week of March 31 – April 6

Cartoon NewsboyNew project management articles published on the web during the week of March 31 – April 6. We read all of this stuff so you don’t have to! And Elizabeth Harrin was kind enough to give me a guest spot on her blog, PM4Girls – thanks, Mum! Also recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Glen Alleman explores the clever phrase, “Do it right or do it twice.”
  • Gary Nelson notes that there is an appropriate window of opportunity for change. After that, everything gets expensive or impossible.
  • Bruce Benson sings the praises of arguments, disputes, and debates.
  • Barry Hodge argues that Nozbe is the best “to do” list app for project managers, and gives five excellent reasons. I’m still not ditching Trello, though …
  • Dick Billows notes the advantages of using a software-based project scheduling tool, and shoots down the arguments against it.
  • Marian Haus recaps the three “traditional” techniques for overcoming project schedule constraints.
  • John Goodpasture shares a challenge question he puts to his risk management students, on how to assess the impact of a new technology, process, or vendor.
  • Tony Adams traces the link between the project charter and the engagement of the project sponsor.
  • Henny Portman links us to some great how-to videos for Excel – the project manager’s Swiss Army Knife.
  • Sue Geuens notes that incorrect data records can lead to some pretty serious consequences.

Agile Methods

  • Jeff Pierce addresses requirements gathering for those development projects with a lot of constraints.
  • Johanna Rothman continues her series on designing your own Agile project, with a look at dealing with the unknowns.
  • Cheri Baker looks into the post-success bounce, and why success is so often temporary.
  • Soma Bhattacharya talks about what to do once you’ve succeeded, and your Scrum team is successful, productive, and stable.
  • Dave Prior reflects on how he’s using (and benefiting from) his personal Kanban, as a follow-up to his interviews with Jim Benson.
  • Paulo Dias looks at the down side of starting a Sprint on a Monday.

Strategy and Governance

  • Martin Webster asks an interesting question: “Does strategy emerge or is it planned?”
  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell’s new book, “Leadership 2030: The Six Megatrends You Need to Understand to Lead Your Company into the Future .”
  • Michael Wood notes that the maxim “simpler is better” also applies to project portfolio management.

Your Career

  • Dennis McCafferty shares a slide deck that shows compensation and career prospects for experience project managers are looking very good, indeed.
  • Linky van der Merwe links us to a few resources for project managers looking to make a career move.
  • Michel Dion provides some tips for those preparing for a job interview.

Enjoy!

Roles and Responsibilities

Flower GirlMy wife and I recently traveled to Seattle for a wedding. Our daughter-in-law was the matron of honor, and our granddaughter was one of the flower girls. Since Abbie is only two and a half years old, this was her first wedding. Fortunately, there was another flower girl, who went first and modeled the appropriate behavior. She walked the length of the aisle, scattering rose petals along the way. Abbie followed for a few steps, and then stopped to look at the rose petals on the floor. Being OCD (like her Dad), she started picking them up and putting them in her basket. Not quite what Mom had expected when she gave her the job, but the audience loved it.

Roles and Responsibilities

For many people, being assigned to work on a project is a novelty. They have regular jobs, where they have well-understood, routine practices and procedures. However, their additional project duties may not be clear to them. When in doubt, they may default to the behaviors that have made them successful in their regular job (like cleaning up the floor after play). This default may not be beneficial to the project, especially for tasks in the critical path. Consequently, it is important to make the responsibilities, procedures, and project relationships clear for the people assigned to each role, especially if they’ve never worked on a similar project. There are several tools available for clarifying roles and responsibilities:

  • Project Organization Chart – A simple hierarchical diagram of the reporting relationships can usually answer most questions, especially on a cross-functional team.
  • Role Description – Many project charters or project human resource management plans have a narrative description of the duties and responsibilities of each role. This can prevent confusion over who is responsible for what activities.
  • RACI Chart – A table listing the work packages or deliverables, identifying who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed for each, usually adds enough structure for most teams to establish a well-understood workflow.
  • Samples and Templates – Many “new” tasks are best understood by looking at the result of a previously completed task, or a fill-in-the-blanks form. This is especially true for work packages resulting in a document deliverable.

Minimizing Overlap of Responsibilities

A primary goal of planning for the human resources aspects of a project should be to ensure all tasks are covered, exactly once. If two people are responsible for the same task, there is a reasonable chance that neither of them will do it. Use the RACI chart to fine-tune who participates in the production of each project deliverable. Ensure that all work assignments are unambiguous, and all participants understand how the work in progress will be handed off. Work with the team to define cues, and follow up on transitions from one person or group to the next. And don’t forget to note completion – I like Kanban boards, because they make work in queue, in progress, and completed visible to the workers.

Coaching

Of course, nothing beats coaching. Whether it comes from the project manager or another experienced team member, a bit of guidance can go a long way. Any task performed for the first time naturally raises questions, before, during, and after. I regularly work on SaaS or software implementation projects with people who will only replace their enterprise software once or twice in their career, so the coaching is less about developing skills than it is about getting them through the assigned task.

Effectively communicating roles and responsibilities can make the project a positive experience for the entire team, while ensuring the timeliness and quality of the deliverables. It takes a bit more care in planning, but it makes execution go much more smoothly.