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.


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.


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.

New PM Articles for the Week of February 24 – March 2

Six NewsboysNew project management articles published on the web during the week of February 17 – March 2. We read all of this stuff so you don’t have to! Recommended:

Risk Management

  • Steven Levy continues his series on risk management with part 3. Links to the other articles in the series are on the top of each page. Highly recommended.
  • John Goodpasture explores the impact complexity has on cost and risk.
  • Geoff Crane defends his personal obsession with identifying project risks.
  • Elizabeth Harrin answers some questions on risk and issue reporting from one of her students.
  • Christian Bisson notes that risks aren’t always negatives. Sometimes, you can just have too much of a good thing.

PM Best Practices

  • Shim Marom summarizes the arguments surrounding the #NoEstimates debate as a series of questions.
  • Glen Alleman addresses each of Shim’s questions on #NoEstimates.
  • Michael O’Brochta makes the case for establishing ethical standards and conducting ethics training, in support of ethical behavior.
  • Michelle Stronach recaps the current state of virtual training, from development of the materials to considerations for the learner.
  • Martin Webster covers coaching – why, how, and what questions to ask.
  • Alina Vrabie looks at the logistics of team collaboration – specifically, scheduling time for it.
  • Andy Jordan reflects on his experience remotely managing teams to identify lessons learned in maintaining project communication.
  • Anya Faingersh wonders whether management academic studies are relevant to the way we actually manage, and vice-versa.

Project Governance

  • Jonathan Shaw has written a long article that illustrates why Big Data is a Big Deal. Highly recommended, but find a comfortable chair.
  • David Hillson summarizes the Five Capitals of Sustainability, as first described by the Forum for the Future in 2007.
  • Toby Elwin skewers the capability model as a substitute for competence.
  • Pawel Brodzinski explains why Kaizen boards, which track ideas for improvement and encourage team participation, usually don’t work.
  • Buddle Findlay tackles the procurement elephant in the room: making software development contracts Agile.

Agile Methods

  • Peter Saddington gives us his thoughts on SAFe, the Structured Agile Framework, after attending the training.
  • Mike Cohn explains why the product owner has to make the call to abnormally terminate a sprint and start a new one.
  • Bart Gerardi offers some ideas on how to get the most out of your daily standup. For starters, don’t make it into a status meeting.
  • Rob Galanakis tells us why Scrum and XP fit so well together.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Susanne Madsen on how to become a more effective leader. Just 59 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Bryan Barrow on his approach to project planning meetings, using index cards pre-printed with standard deliverables. Just 26 minutes, safe for work.
  • Mark Phillipy interviews Carl Pritchard on his approach to risk management. Just 59 minutes, safe for work.