Five Boxes, Three Ways

I read a lot of articles every week in curating these round-ups, and not all of the content is produced by project managers. Probably less than half, most weeks. I see a lot of excellent content from non-project managers, and a lot of gibberish, in about the same ratio that I see from project managers. Not everyone shares the same understanding of project management methodologies, even among the practitioners. I typically use the general classifications “Established” or “Traditional” methods and “Agile” methods while some folks refer to a methodology called “Waterfall.” So, in an effort to over-simplify these three commonly referenced methodologies, I’d like to show five boxes, three different ways.

This first version is frequently referred to as “waterfall.” Back in the 80’s, there were a few projects that were actually run in a fashion similar to this. Most failed, because you have to monitor while executing, or you don’t catch the errors until it’s too expensive to correct them. Ever seen that poster of two teams, building a bridge from opposite shores of a river, getting to the middle and suddenly realizing that they’re not matching up? Yeah, like that.

five-boxes-one

The second version is the way most projects have been managed for the last few decades: complete the planning stage, and then move on to execution, while monitoring the process and quality as you go. This is especially critical in civil engineering projects, like the apocryphal bridge, but also for those where compliance with some external protocols or requirements is required, or where powerful stakeholders have to be satisfied, or where a lot of sub-contractors, inspectors, or other contributors are involved.

five-boxes-two

These days, many projects are being run using Agile methods: plan enough to begin execution, monitor more-or-less continuously, and re-plan based on what you learn as you go. This is great for certain kinds of software and consumer product development projects; not so much for civil engineering, pharmaceutical development, and other projects where the product will have a lot of potentially catastrophic failure modes and a very long life.

five-boxes-three

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note that the contents of the boxes have not changed. Poor execution will doom a project, no matter what else is going on. Initiating the wrong project or starving the right one for resources will generate a negative ROI, no matter how you manage it. And failing to monitor scope, schedule, cost, quality, and the mood of the stakeholders will burn any project to the ground. Simply re-arranging the boxes, like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, won’t change the outcome. But there will always be people who want to try.

New PM Articles for the Week of November 21 – 27

New project management articles published on the web during the week of November 21 – 27. And this week’s video: “Weightless,” by Manchester, UK “ambient” band Marconi Union. A study by Mindlab International determined that this song produces a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date: a 65% reduction in overall anxiety and a 35% reduction in usual physiological resting rates. In case of holiday-induced stress …

Must read!

  • Darragh Broderick points out five leadership lessons we can learn from the National Football League.
  • Johanna Rothman provides elegant definitions of iterative and incremental, and how each manages a different type of risk.
  • Seth Godin notes that automation is reducing the difference in cost between custom, on-demand orders and mass-produced products. We’ll need a few adjustments in our management approach to stay in business.

Established Methods

  • Barry Hodge helps us radically transform our status reports by making progress visible.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy posted two more risk management videos, on selecting risk response strategies. Total time just over 7 minutes, safe for work.
  • John Goodpasture points out the application of project statistics in “Cost Risk and Uncertainty,” Chapter 14 of the GAO Cost Estimating Manual. Free download!
  • Pat Weaver reports to us on the application of virtual reality and 4D Building Information Modelling to optimize scheduling of activities and resources in construction projects.
  • Harry Hall tutors us on scope risks – how to recognize them, how to manage them.
  • Mike Donoghue puts the focus on gathering and managing requirements.
  • Naomi Caietti explains the details of managing organizational change in projects.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Suketu Nagrecha, Chairman of the Board of the PMI Educational Foundation. Just 19 minutes, safe for work.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers posts his weekly round-up of Agile articles, blog posts, and other content.
  • Dave Prior discusses “being” Agile, as opposed to “doing” Agile with Jessie Shternshus and Paul Hammond. Just 40 minutes, safe for work.
  • Henny Portman bullets the learning objectives of the SAFe 4.0 Scrum Master course.
  • Margaret Kelsey rounds up links to the top five #DesignTalk webinars of 2016, with links to the recordings.

Applied Leadership

  • Elizabeth Harrin identifies the potential sources of conflict in each phase of the project life cycle.
  • Leigh Espy shares a variety of ways to express appreciation to your team and co-workers.
  • Deanne Earle reviews “Leading in a Changing World,” by Keith Coats and Graeme Codrington.
  • Elise Stevens interviews author and organization change management consultant Michelle Gibbings on becoming a more effective influencer. Just 17 minutes, safe for work.

Technology and Techniques

  • Mike Griffiths tutors us on the fine points of creating multiple choice questions (and how to spot the correct answer in poorly written examples).
  • Leyla Acaroglu reviews the two physiological states of being for insights into what motivates change. As it turns out, a little discomfort is a good thing.
  • Jory McKay explains how our brain processes what we’ve read for retention. Yes, how you read makes a difference.

Working and the Workplace

  • Nir Eyal updates us on the current state of the ongoing debunking of ego-depletion, and suggests that there is meaning in our feelings about our work.
  • Suzanne Lucas reports on a study from Germany: switching from a seniority-based system to a merit-based system breeds inter-generational resentment.
  • Lisette Sutherland interviews Clare McNamara on giving virtual teams the time and space to get to know each other. Just 38 minutes, safe for work.

Enjoy!

New PM Articles for the Week of November 14 – 20

New project management articles published on the web during the week of November 14 – 20. And this week’s video: a quick tutorial on Yogic Coffee, a breathing exercise designed to wake you up in the event of carbohydrate-induced slumber (for those of us who still eat lunch). Less than three minutes, safe for work, but practice outside the immediate view of your boss.

Must read / view / listen!

  • Eamonn McGuinness gives us a layman’s overview of five neurotransmitters and their impact on our attitudes, health, and productivity.
  • Sanket Pai recommends we encourage gratitude among the people in our project teams. See Eamonn’s article for the scientific reasoning, but it’s Thanksgiving in the US this week, so the timing is right!
  • Benjamin Hardy relates an old parable that demonstrates a basic truth: those who take the initiative, who initiate, will be successful. Agito, ergo sum.

Established Methods

  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews “Stakeholder-led Project Management,” by Louise Worsley.
  • Rich Maltzman interviews Moira Alexander on her new book, “Lead or Lag: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership.”
  • Tomas Laurinaviciusinterviews Paymo CEO Jan Lukacs, who opines that the key to project success is appointing the right person as project manager.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy gets us back to basics and beyond on the risk register. He also provides a sample/ template for download.
  • Harry Hall tutors us on the inputs to the project charter, as described in the PMBOK. Just five minutes, safe for work.
  • Art Petty reflects on lessons learned from managing three risk-filled projects, each of which required hard governance decisions.
  • Nick Pisano argues for a reduction in project information asymmetry, using insights from economics.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers posts his weekly round-up of Agile articles, blog posts, and other content.
  • John Goodpasture shares an interesting image of five levels of planning in Agile methods and reflects on how scaling methodologies started to become mainstream.
  • The Clever PM riffs on the phrase, “Humans are hard.”
  • Priya Yannam unpacks the phrase “self-organized teams” to look for characteristics of Agile at work.
  • Joel Bancroft-Connors and his invisible gorilla, Hogarth, make the case for tracking team issues the same way we track deferred technical issues. Call it “team debt.”

Applied Leadership

  • Leigh Espy explores the science behind emotional intelligence and how we can develop our EI skills and apply them to leadership. Insight: TalentSmart found that those with better EI skills earn significantly more.
  • Abhinav Kaiser shows how we can apply emotional intelligence to the PMBOK Guide knowledge areas.
  • Lisette Sutherland shares some tips for working with a team spread across multiple time zones. Just ten minutes, safe for work.
  • Elise Stevens interviews Jenny De Lacy on how to facilitate great meetings. Just 18 minutes, safe for work.

Technology and Techniques

  • David Cotgreave lays out the operating fundamentals you need to establish before you can hope to gain any benefit from new project portfolio management software.
  • Technavio shares their report on the nine leading vendors in the global online project management software market, and twelve to keep an eye on.
  • Priyanka Chakraborty updates us on the state of project portfolio management in 2016.

Working and the Workplace

  • Alison DiNisco reports that women in the tech industry make 94% of what men in the same jobs make.
  • Coert Visser says the research is clear: interruptions reduce the quality of your work.
  • Sara Hutchison tutors us on how to decode recruiter Emails in the modern, LinkedIn Age.

Enjoy!