New PM Articles for the Week of February 13 – 19

New project management articles published on the web during the week of February 13 – 19. And this week’s video: Jochen Menges explains how charismatic leaders speak to our emotions, and why we defer to them. Just 18 minutes, safe for work.

Must read (or Hear)!

  • Vicki Wrona concludes her four-part series on project management obstacles with her reflections on unrealistic expectations and micro-management.
  • Mike Griffiths explains how to apply Lean Thinking precepts to your PMO, to deliver the most value with the least waste and highest utilization of available talent.
  • Cornelius Fichtner extracts the answer to one question he asked in each of 14 interviews at the PMI Global Congress 2016: Which is the interpersonal skill that you attribute the most of our success in your career to? Just 24 minutes, safe for work.

Established Methods

  • Leigh Espy provides a complete, concise, and actionable tutorial on software project requirements.
  • Mark Mulally contemplates project management as a service function, and what that means to stakeholders, sponsors, and project managers.
  • Elise Stevens interviews Michel Dion on rescuing troubled projects with a brutal assessment and a new plan, followed by execution and intense monitoring. Just 24 minutes, safe for work.
  • Barry Hodge explains how to tailor Prince2 to each project. And yes, that’s an integral part of the method!
  • Harry Hall identifies seven common quality management failure modes.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of Agile content, from Agile tribes to the learning value of prototyping, to the Goldilocks product development timeframe.
  • Johanna Rothman shows how to maintain visibility over the work you postpone with a Parking Lot.
  • Ryan Ripley interviews Bryan Beecham on the importance of simplicity, psychological safety, and continuous improvement. Just over an hour, safe for work.
  • Jay Melone addresses the big question on Design sprints: how do you get from validation to execution?
  • Tamás Török links us to the best Slack integrations for distributed software teams.

Applied Leadership

  • John Goodpasture ruminates on the fiduciary nature of the project manager role.
  • Art Petty catalogs some of the awkward moments—the ones that trigger our negative emotions—and advises on how to handle them.
  • Grace Windsor explores ways to apply emotional intelligence techniques to enhance team collaboration.

Technology and Techniques

  • Mordaxus starts a series where he will complain about information security practices with a short didactic on security models.
  • Cathy Nolan reports on the growing use of Internet of Things technology by retailers, as they watch us shop and try to understand (and influence) our behavior.
  • Joe Wynne starts a series on managing robotic process automation projects for CRM applications. The fact that I can type this, you get what it means, and we both treat it as A Thing astounds me to no end.
  • Bill Gates wants us to tax the robots who take human jobs. Even the ones shaped like paper clips? OK, maybe that’s an obscure reference …

Working and the Workplace

  • Brendan Toner touts OneNote as the ultimate tool for blogging (I use it for just about all of my writing and note taking these days).
  • Bertrand Duperrin points to recent studies that found needlessly complex processes kill productivity and reduce employee engagement.
  • Elizabeth Harrin shares a long list of the small strategies that help her to be efficient in her multiple roles.
  • Lolly Daskal reminds us that time management is only one piece of the productivity and effectiveness puzzle.
  • Lisette Sutherland focuses on maintaining our health when working remotely by being mobile. Just 9 minutes, safe for work.

Enjoy!

Does a Project Manager Have a Fiduciary Duty?

At Musings on Project Management, John Goodpasture recently posted his reflections on whether the project manager is a fiduciary. He asks the rhetorical questions, “At some point, some ox is going to get gored. And then who blames the fiduciary? And to what risk is the fiduciary held?”

It’s an interesting question, and it seems the answer, like most questions rooted in law, depends on jurisdiction. Note that this is not legal advice and I am not an attorney—I’m just some guy with a little knowledge of employment practices in a few countries. An actual labor attorney could fill at least ten pages with critical comments on the next few paragraphs before pausing to refill her coffee cup. That caveat aside here is my response.

USA

In the US, every state but Montana has adopted the doctrine of employment at will. In other words: an employee can be terminated at any time, for any reason—with a few exceptions spelled out by law. That uniquely American principle aside, all employees, including at-will employees, are subject to the law of agency—they are agents of their employers. As such, they are subject to the general fiduciary principle, which centers on loyalty: the employee will not compete with their employer, solicit the employer’s customers, clients or employees prior to the leaving the company, use work time to further the employee’s own interests, or misappropriate confidential information or trade secrets of the employer by sharing that information with the new employers. There is also a duty to account for profits and to deal fairly with his or her employer in all transactions between them. Finally, there is usually a duty to disclose the existence of conflicts or adverse information to the employer, even if the employer is not harmed by the undisclosed adverse interest or information.

Donald TrumpNote that this fiduciary relationship is between employer and employee, rather than between subordinate and manager. Also, note that the duties constrain the actions of the fiduciary; they do not contemplate outcomes. While you can certainly be terminated in the general outrage over the impact a project might have on some power center of your company, that possibility arises from at-will employment, rather than the fiduciary duty. In other words: they can fire you, but they can’t sue you to recover damages.

UK

In the UK, the terms of employment are governed by contract, whether explicit or implicit. In the event of a dispute where no contract document exists, the courts will decide what the terms of the contract are by reviewing the Employment Statement and other supporting relevant material. While you can be dismissed at any time, the employer must show that they have a justifiable, valid reason and that they acted reasonably, given the circumstances.

Under UK common law, the officers and directors of a company have a fiduciary duty to the corporation, while the employees generally do not. In the recent UK case of Ransom v Customer Systems Plc, the Court of Appeal found that the employee’s contract did not create duties equivalent to the loyalty required of a fiduciary.  In an ordinary employment contract, the employee and employer must have regard to each other’s interests, whereas employees are not required to subjugate their own interests, as is required of a director. Bottom line: you’re not a fiduciary and they can’t collect damages, and although you can be fired for a lot of reasons, most HR departments will overrule firing a PM simply because some senior person is pissed off.

Other Jurisdictions

The situation in Canada is similar to the UK, in that there is no employment at will and employment agreements prevail. While courts have found both employers and employee in violation of agency fiduciary obligations, in practice this has mostly been limited to self-dealing, soliciting former clients, and misusing proprietary information. While you can be terminated for misconduct, termination without cause generally requires notice and severance pay. So while you might be fired for pissing off some senior person, you’ll get a lovely parting gift. Australia and New Zealand are a bit more complex in terms of terminations, agency fiduciary obligations, and possible recovery of damages, but are generally similar to Canada, even though your parting gift will likely be capped.

In most non-English speaking jurisdictions, contracts are mandatory and employment is generally based on paternalistic principles. It would be shocking for someone to be fired for pissing off some senior person in the course of doing their job—no court would look kindly on the “because he pissed me off, that’s why” defense.

In closing: while you might be summarily fired in The Land of Trump, as you get further away, the risk diminishes considerably.

New PM Articles for the Week of February 6 – 12

New project management articles published on the web during the week of February 6 – 12. And this week’s video: Kevin Kelly’s TED talk on “cognification,” the inevitable process of making things smarter so humans can focus on inefficient things like innovation and discovery. Best line: “Efficiency is for robots.” Just 14 minutes, safe for work.

Must read!

  • Samad Aidane tells what you should keep in mind when leading multi-cultural teams. Global projects are here to stay, and so are the people who will plan and execute them.
  • Nancy Settle-Murphy provides detailed guidance on making much better decisions with a distributed / virtual team.
  • PMI released the 2017 Pulse of the Profession survey, which says that more projects are meeting their original goals and fewer are failing.

Established Methods

  • Harry Hall tells a story about a project launch two different ways, with two different endings and a soundtrack by the Kingston Trio.
  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Jay Payette on aligning projects with strategic goals. Just 30 minutes, safe for work.
  • John McIntyre posts a few PMO events scheduled for this month.
  • Michael Smith tutors us on tracking task dependencies.
  • Kenneth Ashe gets us back to the basics with a look at the stakeholder register.

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of links to Agile content, from strategic agility in the enterprise to the clumsy corporate comedy of Dilbert.
  • Natalie Warnert contemplates whether it is useful to estimate technical debt and defect resolution, in addition to new development work.
  • Johanna Rothman looks at a backlog consisting of tasks, rather than stories. Not a good way to create value!
  • Chris Thelwell proposes a maturity model for design teams adopting Agile methods.
  • Derek Huether notes some gaps in making Scrum work in an organization where the team is just one part of a much larger whole.
  • Bart Gerardi considers the question of whether the ScrumMaster should attend the daily stand-up.
  • The Clever PM debunks the myth of consensus. Agreement on next steps is more important and immediately actionable.
  • Ryan Ripley interviews Zach Bonaker and Amitai Schleier on the monetization of Agile and the nature of coaching.

Applied Leadership

  • Art Petty lists some excellent examples of real leaders being effective in the corporate workplace by quietly doing the things that help others be successful.
  • David Cotgreave examines the need for conflict resolution skills by the project manager.
  • Chris Cook reviews three biases that can negatively influence our decision making.

Technology and Techniques

  • Kara Swisher interviews former New York Times technology reporter John Markoff, who explains why we need robots to take our jobs. Just 58 minutes, safe for work.
  • Cade Metz reports on the Asilomar conference on artificial intelligence, where the conversation turned to the looming loss of middle-class jobs.
  • Belle Cooper reviews the science that tells us we need to reduce the noise level, for productivity and health.

Working and the Workplace

  • Hired released the second edition of their Global State of Tech Salaries report. Looks like there’s more to Austin than just the City Limits.
  • Lisette Sutherland interviews Nick “The Podcast Monster” Jaworski on building authentic relationships with remote clients. Just 39 minutes, safe for work.
  • Suzanne Lucas reports that IBM is acting to dramatically reduce the number of employees working from home.

Enjoy!