New PM Articles for the Week of January 9 – 15

New project management articles published on the web during the week of January 9 – 15. And this week’s video: the Jon Spear Band celebrates risk management (sort of) with “The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese.” Just 3:16 of jump blues, safe for work. Turn it up …

Must read!

  • Michael Lopp contemplates the illusion of productivity, the mindset of busy, and (his proposed cure) the Builder’s Mindset. Think of this as an intervention.
  • Liane Davey advises on managing a team that has been tasked with unrealistic targets. Ethical failures at Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, and so on arose from pressure to deliver, at all costs.
  • Nancy Settle-Murphy makes the case for proving that you are trustworthy and then tells you how.

Established Methods

  • Harry Hall gets us back to the basics of cost management. Great example, real life actions.
  • Elizabeth Harrin calendars the project management conferences planned for 2017, including some too far in the future to describe the content.
  • Mike Clayton lists fifty great project management blogs we should be following in 2017, including many new to me.
  • Frederic Lardinois reports that Atlassian Software (Jira and Confluence) is buying Trello in yet another round of consolidation in the project management software market.
  • David Robins points out the downside of online project management and collaboration software: empowering the uninitiated. Think “Jurassic Park.”
  • Glen Alleman goes into deep, technical detail on the Cone of Uncertainty, which is a metaphor for the process of reducing cost and schedule risk on projects.
  • Thomas Carney gives us a detailed course on quality assurance in software engineering.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers shares his weekly Agile roundup: Scrum turns 21, product ownership (not just the role), and whether “priority” can be plural.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews NK Shrivastava on his PMI Global Congress presentation, Warning Signs that Agile Isn’t Working. Just 30 minutes, safe for work.
  • Marty Bradley addresses the new Agilista question: should the PMO go away?
  • Matteo Tontini describes learning to work as a team using Scrum, without a full-time product owner. Failure in three, two, one …
  • Moira Alexander posts a beginners FAQ on Agile project management. You almost certainly have a stakeholder that would benefit from this, so pass it along.

Applied Leadership

  • Seth Godin translates a sign at LaGuardia Airport from pompous bureaucratic to conversational English. Yes, you have permission to communicate like an actual person.
  • Coert Visser explains the Mother of All Biases: naïve realism. Includes a “count your fingers” exercise demonstrating how our perception is sharp in only a very narrow field.
  • Elise Stevens curates a list of resources for developing effective leadership skills.
  • Andy Kaufman reflects on influencing through questions. Just over six minutes, safe for work. A bit loud, but if you clicked on the Jon Spear Band tune …

Technology and Techniques

  • Jenna Hogue directs us to a presentation on cognitive computing (51 minutes, safe for work) but mercifully gives us an overview of the content.
  • Carnegie Mellon University has lined up four of the world’s best professional poker players to compete against an AI program. Sounds like “Her” meets “Casino Royale.”
  • Nilanjan Kar tutors us on creating an impactful PMO dashboard using Powerpoint. More interesting for the examples than the techniques, but worth reading.

Working and the Workplace

  • Kathleen O’Connor interviews Anna Schlegel, author of “Truly Global: The theory and practice of bringing your company to international markets.”
  • Ryan Ogilvie recounts a conversation with a colleague who was asked to ‘drop the hammer’ on people more often in her new role. Ryan’s counsel: choose your battles wisely.
  • Suzanne Lucas shares demotivating job descriptions penned by the people who do them. “I try to convince people in another time zone to talk to the person two cubicles away.”


New PM Articles for the Week of December 26 – January 1

New project management articles published on the web during the week of December 26 – January 1. And this week’s video: as we start a new sequence of 365, Craig Benzine from Mental Floss explains why there are 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour. Just over two minutes, safe for work, and the various toys on the shelf in the background and framed pictures on the wall are worth the click, all by themselves.

New Year, Ready or Not

  • Sara McCord coaches us on how to efficiently wade through the enormous mound of Email that accumulated like snow on Lake Placid while we were on vacation.
  • Doug Thorpe repeats excellent advice from John Maxwell in planning ahead to improve your execution in the new year, remembered as PLAN AHEAD.
  • Alyse Kalish has curated a list of six TED talks with actionable self-improvement strategies. Don’t just make the usual New Year’s resolutions …

Established Methods

  • Glen Alleman summarizes the guidelines for a credible cost estimate.
  • John Goodpasture explains the Law of Requisite Variety and what it means for designing controls.
  • Joe Wynne completes his two-part series on managing organizational change in HR projects.
  • Michelle Knight tutors us on the data dictionary – useful for everything from data governance to designing reports.
  • Barry Hodge listed his take on the best project management blogs of2016 (including this one – thanks, Barry!).

Agile Methods

  • Mike Griffiths analyzes the role of business analyst in a project using Agile methods.
  • Ryan Ripley interviews Neil Killick on a variety of Agile topics, from “Shu-Ha-Ri” to #NoEstimates and “Done.” Just 53 minutes, safe for work.
  • Dave Prior and Devin Hedge discuss estimates for bidding projects that will use Agile methods, as opposed to those proposals based on plan-driven methods. Just 15 minutes, safe for work.
  • Michael Abehsera asserts the need to design for reality, rather than our aspirations.
  • Craig Smith interviews James Lewis on the principles of microservices architectures. Just 31 minutes, safe for work.

Pot Pouri

  • Erin Griffith reports on the growing list of ethics scandals at various startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
  • Gretchen Reynolds summarizes a recent study into the effects of periodic walking as a positive alternative to the purely sedentary working day.
  • Brendan Toner gets the to-do list app down to two great alternatives – ToDoist and Wunderlist – and shares his reasons for selecting one of them.


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.


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.


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.












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.