New PM Articles for the Week of July 16 – 22

New project management articles published on the web during the week of July 16 – 22. And this week’s video: a quick review of recent changes to Microsoft Visio, followed by a demonstration of how to integrate Visio with Microsoft Project. 26 minutes, safe for work.

Business Acumen and Strategy

  • Bill Taylor focuses our attention on three reasons why Netflix is successful. And focus is the key word here. 4 minutes to read.
  • Greg Satell revisits the failures of Blockbuster, Kodak, and Xerox. The root cause of each of their failures was not just disruption. 5 minutes to read.
  • Dan Kopf summarizes a report from the OECD on what higher tariffs might mean for economic growth. It’s not all about the retail price of manufactured goods. 2 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • Satya Narayan Dash tutors us on contingency reserve and management reserve. 9 minutes to read.
  • John Goodpasture explains David Hulett’s approach to integrating the risk register and the project plan. 2 minutes to read.
  • Elise Stevens interviews Karlene Agard on value management in mega-projects—reducing cost without reducing value. Podcast, 16 minutes.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy delivers a very detailed mini-course on project stakeholder management, from identification to creating a Register. 16 minutes.
  • Mike Clayton provides detailed instructions on how to get the most from our next “lessons learned” meeting. 12 minutes to read.
  • The folks at Clarizen share their thoughts on milestones—on both good and bad practices. 3 minutes to read.

Managing Software Development

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of Agile content, from Beyond Budgeting to why open floor plans suck to results of the scrum master survey. 7 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Raffaela Rein describes inclusive design as removing barriers to access for the disabled, from the deaf to the color blind and beyond. 5 minutes to read.
  • Erik Dietrich describes seven types of testing (beyond functional testing) that you should be doing. 5 minutes to read.
  • James Kobelius considers what it might mean to certify an AI product as “safe.” 6 minutes to read.
  • Janelle Shane gives us a practitioner’s view of why artificial narrow intelligence is more achievable than artificial general 5 minutes to read.
  • Alex Aitken questions the predictive value of velocity. 3 minutes to read.

Applied Leadership

  • Alexander Maasik curates his weekly list of leadership articles, from fairy tales and fables to accurate data to being compassionate. 5 outbound links, 4 minutes to read.
  • John Yorke explains the concepts exemplified by Herbie, a key character in The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt. This is a novel that introduces the Theory of Constraints. 7 minutes to read.
  • Mary Jo Asmus points out some of the upsides to delegating. 2 minutes to read.

Research and Insights

  • Mike Griffiths catalogs some of the AI assistant applications we should look forward to as project managers. 7 minutes to read.
  • Max Steinmetz collates some recent statistics on Agile adoption and results. 3 minutes to read.
  • Alison Coleman previews a new report from PMI: Next Practices: Maximizing the Benefits of Disruptive Technologies on Projects. 5 minutes to read.
  • Oliver Staley reports on a new study from a business school in Madrid which compared formal and automated communication with informal communications at work. 2 minutes to read.

Working and the Workplace

  • Elizabeth Harrin shares an extract from her excellent new book, Project Manager, which describes three ways to get that first job as a PM. 5 minutes to read.
  • Berta Melder explains why serotonin is important to our happiness and productivity and identifies daily activities that can help us produce more of it. 4 minutes to read.
  • Kerry Wills reminds us to observe a few simple workplace courtesies—like keeping your calendar updated. A minute to read.

Enjoy!

Project Management Lessons from Paleoanthropology

In early 1987, a study of 145 mitochondrial DNA samples from women representing a variety of populations, conducted by biochemists and geneticists, was published in Nature. Using a complex analytical model based on mutation rates, the authors determined that all living people have a common ancestor, later dubbed Mitochondrial Eve, who lived in east Africa between 140,000 and 200,000 years ago. This was a blow to the multiregional hypothesis promoted by several prominent paleoanthropologists, which asserted that the fossil record showed continuous evolution over the last two million years in widely distributed locations. But recently, a team of geneticists, paleoanthropologists, and other scientists collaborated to develop a new model. And their approach has important lessons for those of us who manage teams of knowledge workers with diverse specialties.

Acknowledge Biases and Assumptions

Every well-developed knowledge specialty has its own culture, models, methodologies, favored data sources, and assumptions. Consequently, practitioners have biases that reflect their specialty. The scientists in this interdisciplinary team, led by archeologist Eleanor Scerri, wanted to avoid letting their professional biases lead to “cherry picking across different sources of data to match a narrative emanating from one [field].” So, the team met for three days to review each other’s work—challenging assumptions, noting accomplishments and problems, and learning to communicate effectively with their colleagues in other specialties. This process led to a coherent view, goodwill, and mutual respect. Lesson learned: many of our biases arise from deep knowledge in our specialty and confronting them early can facilitate cooperation and team building.

Develop a Common Vocabulary

Paleoanthropologists, geographers, geneticists, and environmental scientists have very different ways of talking about their work. Each field has its own jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms. Scerri noted, “[Our] understanding of findings tends to be influenced by the models and paradigms we have in our heads, which tend to … [affect] how we process new information.” The team had to pool their knowledge in a way that let them share data, methods, and models in a way that didn’t leave anyone out. This required them to adapt their communications to use terminology that was meaningful to the entire group and avoid a dependence on jargon. Lesson learned: time invested in establishing a common vocabulary facilitates understanding and leads to real progress.

Become Accustomed to Conflict

The researchers were able to reconcile their different theories into a cohesive story that accounts for the complexity of the different data points and leaves room for the abundant ambiguity still present. Scerri noted, “Insights from different models can help to shed light on the answers we look for … it’s all about incremental steps and changing perspectives.” Lesson learned: conflict can often be resolved, but even when it can’t, the root of the conflict is often based in some ambiguity. Acknowledging that ambiguity is a step toward a tentative agreement, pending eventual resolution of the ambiguity.

Scerri and her colleagues recognize that, like humanity itself, their model is still evolving. New data and new ideas will inevitably lead to future refinements, and they are fine with that. And that might be the most important lesson of all: you don’t need to be absolutely certain in order to deliver something of immediate and future value.

And if you’re curious, here’s a link to their paper.

New PM Articles for the Week of July 2 – 8

New project management articles published on the web during the week of July 2 – 8. And this week’s video: Bill Gates discusses his pledge of $2 billion for investment in new alternative energy technologies. 3 minutes, safe for work.

Business Acumen and Strategy

  • John Detrixhe points out some of the reasons that European “Big Tech” companies are smaller than their US and Asian counterparts. 4 minutes to read or scan the high points.
  • Benjamin Gomes-Casseres examines the apparent death of the “GE model” in the aftermath of that company’s removal from the Dow Jones Industrial index. 4 minutes to read.
  • Peter Diamandis summarizes three ways that technology is making a huge difference in healthcare, from personalized medications to intelligent prevention. 6 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • John Goodpasture notes that schedule slack is your most powerful tool for managing risks and explains why. 2 minutes to read.
  • Rob England follows up on the 20 IT project management dysfunctions he gleefully listed on Twitter. “If only the strong survive your system it’s time you fixed your system.” 3 minutes to read.
  • Michael Wood identifies the challenges inherent in managing projects in a change-resistant culture. 7 minutes to read.
  • Brad Egeland warns us not to let the project become about the technology. 5 minutes to read.
  • Mike Clayton explains the Belbin Team Profile, a widely used team assessment tools. Think of it as roles defined by behavior, useful for diagnosing team dysfunction. Video, 6 minutes, safe for work.
  • Joel Carboni posts another in his occasional series on the characteristics of a sustainable project manager; this time focusing on the PM as an agent of change. 2 minutes to read.
  • Elizabeth Harrin interviews Bill Dow on the PMO life cycle, including the need to eventually close them down. 3 minutes to read, or watch the video, just over 3 minutes, safe for work.

Managing Software Development

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of Agile content, from scaling Scrum to whether Agile is a cult to Agile organization design. 7 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Chris Kenst makes the case for including testers in code reviews. 5 minutes to read.
  • Kiron Bondale asks: when a team member leaves and knowledge transfer is required, does it matter whether the team is using Agile methods? 2 minutes to read.
  • Roman Pichler advocates a growth mindset to improve your product management skills. 6 minutes to read.
  • Jennifer Bonine interviews Gene Gotimer on a practitioner’s view of the pervasive role of QA in DevOps. Video, 12 minutes, safe for work.

Applied Leadership

  • Alexander Maasik curates his weekly list of leadership articles, from team goal-setting to why team-building exercises don’t work as well as team nurturing. 5 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Scott Cochrane says that the way to avoid decision-making disasters is to always know who “holds the key” to the decision. 2 minutes to read.
  • Melody Stone shares some insights into selecting meeting attendees and some behavioral “failure modes.” 4 minutes to read.

Research and Insights

  • Lila McLellan reports on a new study that found open office layouts may make people less productive and change the way they communicate. 3 minutes to read.
  • Andrew Mauboussin and Michael Mauboussin share the results of their research into how people interpret imprecise terms like “likely” and possibly.” 7 minutes to read.
  • Scott Gerber recaps input from the Young Entrepreneur Council on the new technologies that appear ready for widespread use. 4 minutes to read.
  • Teppo Felin reconsiders the “gorilla on the basketball court” experiment: if humans are blind to what is obviously out of place, does that simply mean we are good are focusing our attention? And what does that imply about artificial intelligence? 18 minutes to read.

Working and the Workplace

  • Suzanne Lucas reflects on the growing gap between biology and social mores in the age of #MeToo. The law isn’t keeping up, so corporate rules need to adapt. Quickly. 7 minutes to read.
  • Alicia Adamczyk notes that requesting help from people with whom we have “weak ties”—not friends or family—can be more effective precisely because they are not like us. 3 minutes to read.
  • Leigh Espy tells us how to build rapport with remote team members. 5 minutes to read.

Enjoy!