New PM Articles for the Week of August 4 – 10

Hot Air BalloonNew project management articles published on the web during the week of August 4 – 10. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

PM Best Practices

  • Robert Wysocki and Joseph Matthews continue their series on a framework for the occasional project manager.
  • Nick Pisano considers the challenges of integrating cost and schedule on large projects, especially for the federal government.
  • John Goodpasture details why Monte Carlo simulations are better quality than the estimates that go into them.
  • Andy Jordan tells of a “traditional” project manager’s quick adoption of Kanban.
  • Lynda Bourne builds on a pair of earlier posts with her thoughts on designing key performance indicators that actually drive performance.
  • Kevin Korterud selects “estimate to complete” as the most useful metric.
  • Susanne Madsen bullet points the rules for a perfect status report.
  • Bruce Benson finds that the best way to learn from experience is to build systems that remember (and implement) what you’ve learned.
  • Gary Nelson recalls an old friend’s old car, and wishes every project ran like a Honda Civic. And yes, that’s also an acronym …
  • Joanna Carlson analyzes the roll-out of the Minnesota Affordable Care Act site, MNSure.
  • Kerry Wills has a great metaphor for setting context for the issues we document.

Agile Methods

  • Johanna Rothman explains how to avoid three of the most common estimation traps.
  • Glenn Alleman points out the potential for disparate views of Agile, based on the domain, scope, and budget.
  • Mike Cohn notes that Agile does not mean equal, at least for the members of the self-organizing team. Be sure to read the comments – they help Mike clarify some points.
  • David Anderson continues his series on using Kanban for project management.
  • Sanjay Zalavadia explores the need for agility in embracing Agile, especially your test management strategy.

Professional Development

  • Bryan Barrow shares his vision of our transition from project managers to project leaders.
  • Penelope Trunk explains the need to balance focus and breadth, in what she calls “cross-training.” Specialization isn’t just for insects!
  • Suzanne Lucas debunks some falsehoods about networking.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Carlos Flesh on managing projects in Latin America. It’s a cultural thing! Just 47 minutes, safe for work.
  • Carl Smith interviews Larissa Scordato on how she gave up her dream of being an archeologist to become a digital project manager. Just 12 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cornelius Fichtner details his personal best practices for getting the most out of attending a conference.

New Books

  • Elizabeth Harrin reviews Bonnie Biafore’s new book, “Microsoft Project 2013: The Missing Manual.”
  • Ian Whittingham finds project management lessons in the follow-up to Freakonomics, “Think Like a Freak,” by Levitt and Dubner.
  • Bruce Harpham finds project management lessons in a biography of William Shakespeare, somewhere between tragedy and comedy …

Enjoy!

Risk Management is Part of the Operating Rhythm

Risky Baby Business

Risky Baby Business

I just watched Dave Prior’s interview of Ken Rubin at the Agile 2014 conference. It’s a good interview, and Ken makes some excellent points. But at one point, he makes the observation, “In more traditional risk management, the assumption is early on that you’re going to generate this risk assessment. You’re doing this now on the first day, when you have the worst possible knowledge you’re ever going to have about the project.” Dave then interjects, “And then nobody updates it.” While I agree that this is not uncommon, it is poor practice.

Risk management should not be something you do once, at the beginning of a project. It should be part of the regular operating rhythm of any project. Whether you take a very structured approach to assessment, with quantitative analysis and a separately managed risk budget, or a qualitative approach with risk management costs baked in to the project budget, risk management is only beneficial if it is part of execution, as well as planning. Our risk assessment, like our requirements gathering, should be an ongoing process that improves the resilience (anti-fragility, if you prefer) of the endeavor over the course of the project.

Risk: “An unknown that matters”

I would argue that a large part of any risk management project, like the requirements gathering process, is reducing or eliminating the unknowns. This can’t be accomplished just by making plans – you have to take action and increase your understanding. Let’s consider the most common risk responses:

  • Transfer: If you transfer the responsibility to deliver some portion of the project, especially to an external organization, you still have to ensure that they’ll be deliver on time and to the required quality in order to make your risk response successful. This requires continuous monitoring and corrections, as well as coordination with the other performers on your team. If things start to go sideways, you’ll have to deal with the residual unknowns and the possible impacts.
  • Mitigate: Any mitigation action should have a trigger, which requires monitoring. Once triggered, you need to determine if the mitigation is having the desired effect. If your mitigation is intended to reduce the impact of the risk event, you need to update your estimate of the impact in order to know whether to make incremental changes. If the intent was to reduce the probability of the risk event, you need to be able to monitor the residual probability.
  • Avoid: If you avoid a risk by removing something from scope or changing the design, you’ll need to communicate that decision to the stakeholders. This shouldn’t be something done only at the time of the decision; it needs to be part of your communication plan.
  • Accept: If you decide to accept a risk, you still need to monitor for it. It is not uncommon for a project to decide that a risk, previously determined to be acceptable, grows to require some mitigation or even avoidance.

The Team Should Know the Risks

The risks to the project may impact the project team, so they need to understand them. They also need to understand the planned responses for each significant risk, at least as it impacts their work. The team is part of the “sensor network” that will detect the transition from risk to issue, requiring action. They need to understand their role, and how to escalate an observed risk response trigger.

Ultimately, risk management is an integral part of the execution of the project. Whatever methods you use to manage and respond to project risks, be sure to keep discussion of the risks under management on the agenda for your team’s regular meetings. Few risks are entirely static; we have to manage them dynamically!

New PM Articles for the Week of July 28 – August 3

Hot Air BalloonNew project management articles published on the web during the week of July 28 – August 3. We give you a high-level view so you can read what interests you. Recommended:

Contract Management

  • Todd Williams shares some insights gleaned from litigation over failed projects. Unless you only manage internal projects with in-house staff, you need to read this!
  • Glen Alleman articulates the key distinctions between fit for purpose and fit for use, and applies them to project management.
  • Pat Weaver outlines method for preventing, minimizing, or at least making visible, delays due to client inaction.
  • Andy Jordan presents an interesting case study of an outsourced portfolio management office. Or more accurately, outsourced PMO services.

PM Best Practices

  • Pollyanna Pixton notes that it’s easy to get metrics wrong, and explains how to design them to be effective.
  • Craig Brown vents at project management textbooks that get the work breakdown structure wrong.
  • Bryan Barrow points out that there are some things that Kanban software can’t do as well as Gant charting software.
  • Bruce Harpham offers a few stress management best practices.
  • Elizabeth Harrin provides an executive summary of PMI’s “Navigating Complexity” practice guide. PMI members can download the guide at no charge.
  • Kailash Awati mines a paper from the British Medical Journal for an understanding of how organizations deal with human error: scapegoats and systems.
  • Kiron Bondale lists the stakeholder questions you want to answer in your project kickoff meeting.
  • Gina Abudi details a set of roles and responsibilities for team decision making.
  • Nick Pisano considers the early stages of project execution, as the team establishes its operating rhythm.
  • Dan Stober shares the Q&A from his recent webinar on the project manager as business analyst.

Agile Methods

  • Mike Burrows recounts his experience with implementing Kanban with a new team, and how they evolved from a generic process to just what they needed.
  • John Goodpasture expounds on the need for Agile methods to take compliance with external requirements (say, auditors and regulatory agencies) into account.
  • Shim Marom considers (and questions) the incremental value of “deeper” retrospectives.

Professional Development

  • Cheri Baker recounts her recent experience with a French client who wasn’t enchanted with her “American cheerfulness.” Time to recalibrate!
  • Scott Berkun provides a master course in refining and delivering your pitch, so that your ideas get the traction they deserve.
  • Lynda Bourne details the steps in building your personal brand, and leveraging your knowledge of your business contact’s brand.
  • Karina Keith shares some factoids about the profession of project management, to help you get a little perspective.

Podcasts and Videos

  • Cesar Abeid interviews Ky Nichol on the challenges of managing event projects like the World Cup and the Olympics. Just 39 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dave Prior interviews Troy Magennis on how to apply the lessons from Money Ball to portfolio management. Just 9 minutes, safe for work.
  • Mike Wheatley speaks with SAP America VP of Global Operations Tina Rosario on the growing importance of data governance. Just 12 minutes, safe for work.
  • Rich Maltzman and Dave Shirley share a video of a presentation on innovation by former Obama administration CTO Aneesh Chopra. Over an hour, safe for work.

Enjoy!