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 October 31 – November 6

New project management articles published on the web during the week of October 31 – November 6. And this week’s video: Melissa Marshall explains how to “Talk Nerdy to Me,” so we can share our complex engineering and technology work with others. In other words: your elevator pitch.

Must read / view / listen!

  • Aimee Chanthadavong reports on the success women in Australia are having in breaking the glass ceiling in tech companies and what the rest of the world can learn from them.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy provides a detailed explanation of how to conduct a qualitative risk analysis in a series of four videos totaling a little over nine minutes. Safe for work and recommended for viewing with your project team.
  • Art Petty explains how to survive and thrive with your executive sponsor. Just 28 minutes, safe for work.

Established Methods

  • Michel Dion puts the need for documenting requirements into perspective, as a vital communications tool.
  • Elizabeth Harrin lists three ways to reel it back in when your project starts to go off the rails. Note that these are not mutually exclusive, and in fact reinforce each other.
  • Harry Hall posts five questions to ask when developing a scope management plan.
  • David Hillson describes risk escalation, a portfolio-level approach to managing risk responses when the project that identifies the risk isn’t impacted by it.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Beth Spriggs on her PMI Global Congress presentation: project assumptions as a source of risk. Just 23 minutes, safe for work.
  • John McIntyre proposes an interesting alternative to reviewing lessons learned documents when beginning a new project: it’s called Call3!
  • Ryan Ogilvie tells how incident management can be improved by those in other roles who have a stake in problem resolution.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers posts his weekly round-up of Agile articles, blog posts, and other content.
  • Johanna Rothman concludes her series on the roles of coaches and managers in Agile transformations.
  • Tom McFarlin on developer intuition: “It feels like all we’ve done is introduce complexity while championing simplicity.” Hear, hear!
  • Mike Griffiths does the financial analysis that shows when outsourcing / offshoring makes sense, and when it does not.
  • Austin Knight considers the sources of design debt (as opposed to technical debt) and how we can avoid piling up too much of it.
  • Brendan Toner reviews “Scrum Magic,” by Doug Purcell. An entry-level view of Scrum, with language friendly to project managers who use traditional methods.

Applied Leadership

  • Kenneth Darter explains the basics of being a mentor.
  • Alicia McClain explains how leaders can build psychological safety for their teams.
  • Dana Wilkie reports on a survey that not only finds 84% of workers have had a bad boss, but identified the characteristics of “bad.” Don’t be these people!

Technology and Techniques

  • Bertrand Duperrin shares a critical lesson learned from the Delta Airlines outage this past summer: survivable platforms are harder to build than to lease in the Cloud.
  • Seth Godin notes that your websites will eventually decay, become obsolete or buggy. So, how do you plan for finding those problems and sunsetting each site?
  • Conner Forrest reports that mobile devices now account for over 51% of internet usage. If you aren’t optimizing for mobile consumption, get ready to fail.

Working and the Workplace

  • Lisette Sutherland answers her most-asked question: how do you get a remote job? Just nine minutes, safe for work.
  • Victor Tan Chen reports on the growing evidence that performance metrics applied to individual workers produces a lot of negative effects.
  • Natalie Warnert reflects on the need to decompress and “not add value.”

Enjoy!

New PM Articles for the Week of October 17 – 23

New project management articles published on the web during the week of October 17 – 23. And this week’s video: Adam Grant’s TED Talk on the surprising habits of original thinkers and how to recognize them. Just 15 minutes, safe for work.

Must read!

  • Kailash Awati case studies two examples of sensemaking using data science from two hackathons.
  • Alison DeNisco summarizes a report from Accenture and Girls Who Code that indicates the gender gap in tech is getting worse. But insights show how we can reverse the trend.
  • Andy Jordan points out a trend: some PM’s are feeling slighted because they get the “maintenance” projects while their peers get the strategic projects.

Established Methods

  • Suraj Chatrath notes that improving requirements gathering can reduce risk.
  • Elizabeth Harrin tells how to properly take over a project from someone else.
  • David Cotgreave asks, “What does the P in your PMO stand for?”
  • Harry Hall shares a project plan checklist, because there’s more to planning than just creating a Gantt chart.
  • Moira Alexander explains the basics of remote project management.
  • Grace Windsor lists seven factors to include in your project health check.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers contributes his weekly round-up of Agile articles, job posts, and news items.
  • Bart Gerardi explains various Agile approaches to dealing with delivery dates.
  • Vrushali Umbarkar describes the transition from a waterfall-style requirements tracability matrix to an Agile test backlog.
  • Derek Huether coins a new term: Karaoke Agile. Because some folks are just going through the motions.

Applied Leadership

  • Art Petty notes that “traditional” management methods (think 1990’s) can stifle creativity.
  • John Goodpasture contemplates the notion of leading with “microknowledge.”
  • Maria Molfino presents interview excerpts from conversations with seven strong, creative women, with links to the complete interviews.
  • John Carroll maps the Taoist teachings about four types of leaders to project managers.
  • Coert Vissar refers to recent research that casts doubt on our understanding of willpower and ego depletion.

Technology and Techniques

  • Kevin Marks explains why text on a mobile web browser is harder to read, and explores the physics that might hold the key to better design alternatives.
  • Rahul Razdan campaigns for the use of Big Data in improving design.
  • Brendan Toner reviews the Wacom Slate – a clipboard that digitizes whatever you write and can even convert your lousy handwriting to text.

Working and the Workplace

  • Thomas Carney examines why it’s so hard for us to focus our attention when doing really hard tasks.
  • Bruce Harpham review “Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success,” by Shane Snow.
  • Suzanne Lucas explains why there are certain questions you shouldn’t ask in a job interview. And provides ten examples.
  • Jessica Stillman recaps nine techniques to improve your ability to get to sleep and get the most out of the hours you spend sawing those logs (snoring, for you non-Americans).

Enjoy!