New PM Articles for the Week of August 6 – 12

New project management articles published on the web during the week of August 6 – 12. And this week’s video: James Hamilton explains how to bore a proper pilot hole for a wood screw. I just finished prying out nearly 2,000 wood screws and nails from the old 600 square foot deck on the back of my house, and I can say for certain that the guy who built it did not use this technique. 4 minutes, safe for work or home workshop.

Business Acumen and Strategy

  • Ali Montag recaps a three-question “litmus test” for new employees, created by Jeff Bezos in 1998 and still a part of their recruitment process today. 4 minutes to read.
  • Ashish Sharma describes the next big target for exploitation: hacking motor vehicles, and through your car, your phone and the data on it. 7 minutes to read.
  • Peter Diamandis reports on the rapid growth of venture capital investment sourced from China, including the technologies they are funding. 5 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • Cornelius Fichtner interviews Niraj Kuma on leading a project in the midst of chaos—in this case, a flood. Podcast, 32 minutes, safe for work.
  • Elizabeth Harrin shares some guidance on prioritizing and focusing for a project manager who also wears several other hats. 6 minutes to read.
  • Mohamed Amer analyzes the selection of a project status “data date.” 3 minutes to read.
  • Kiron Bondale waxes poetic on the need for an effective product owner, and then pivots to review Eric Uyttewaal’s new book, “Forecasting Programs.” 3 minutes to read.
  • Harry Hall points out the three most common failure mores for IT-led software projects to fail. 3 minutes to read.
  • Christopher Cook interprets the old military expression, “Two is one and one is none.” 4 minutes to read.

Managing Software Development

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of Agile content, from the Business Agility report to the new Professional Scrum Master II class to cognitive biases. 8 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Tom Cagley tells us that it isn’t OK to demo work that isn’t “done” yet. With some exceptions when you really should. 5 minutes to read both articles.
  • Oleksii Fedorov addresses the critical software technical decision maker question: When is the time to pay off technical debt? And where to start? 5 minutes to read.
  • Emma Lilliestam uses the “user experience” of a watermelon to explain secure design. 3 minutes to read.
  • Sebastian Boyer gives an overview of eight tools and techniques for conducting a Scrum retrospective. 6 minutes to read.
  • Rich Rogers and James Bach each remember Jerry Weinberg, called by some “The grandfather of Agile,” who passed away on August 7 at the age of 84. 3 minutes to read, each.

Applied Leadership

  • Kim Peters and Alex Haslam review the research: to be a good leader, start by being a good follower. 4 minutes to read.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy argues that small doses of micromanagement can be beneficial. 6 minutes to read.
  • Bruce Benson notes that data is only actionable if it helps you tell a compelling story to an audience that finds it interesting. 3 minutes to read.
  • Leigh Espy advocates for applying emotional intelligence in the workplace. 4 minutes to read.

Research and Insights

  • Steve Ragan explains phishing kits—the exploit code delivered in a successful phishing Email attack. Video, 14 minutes, safe for work.
  • Daniel Oberhaus reports on new research that links sleep deprivation to high-speed internet access. Yes, I’m writing this after 10:00 PM. 3 minutes to read.
  • Noa Kageyama recaps recent research into the effect that stress has on our ability to recall. The twist: the way you learn something matters. 5 minutes to read.

Working and the Workplace

  • Nancy Settle-Murphy explains how you can “win friends and influence people” when you work remotely. 5 minutes to read.
  • Leah Fessler notes the value that “cultural brokers” bring to their culturally diverse teams. 3 minutes to read.
  • Anna Quito shares statistics, history, and fun facts to know and shout about our closest companion: the office chair. Charles Darwin—seriously? 6 minutes to read.

Enjoy!

New PM Articles for the Week of July 30 – August 5

New project management articles published on the web during the week of July 30 – August 5. And this week’s video: engineer and ethicist Braden Allenby and biomedical engineer Conor Walsh consider how a coming wave of automation, robotics, and biomedical enhancements could fundamentally alter the trajectory of our species. Cool animations and lots of ethical issues in only 3 minutes. 

Business Acumen and Strategy

  • Greg Satell says it’s time to be skeptical about The Lean Startup. There are many paths to innovation; “No strategy fits every problem.” 5 minutes to read.
  • Suzanne Lucas has some suggestions for the strategic selection of an outsourcing partner. There’s more involved than just delegation. 3 minutes to read.
  • Ruturaj Kohok points out useful applications for augmented reality in five industries. I’ll bet you can think of at least two more after reading this. 4 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • Dale Howard explains why those question marks appear in the Duration column when you add a new task to Microsoft Project. 4 minutes to read.
  • Harry Hall notes ten common failure modes for managing risk responses. 3 minutes to read.
  • Glen Alleman shares some content describing the NASA approach to risk management, together with some principles on uncertainty, risks, and estimates. 2 minutes to read.
  • Darren Chait coaches us on the bane of the project manager’s existence: meeting notes. 5 minutes to read.
  • Tom Cagely describes a life cycle for consensus decision making, from down-selecting alternatives to testing consensus—excellent techniques! 4 minutes to read.

Managing Software Development

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of Agile content, from agnostic agile to #NoCeremonies and #NoProjects to team building. 7 outbound links, 4 minutes to read.
  • Andre Helderman points out the need for unbiased algorithms and thus transparency in their design. 3 minutes to read.
  • Johanna Rothman explores the relationship between how well we understand the customer’s problem and the roadmap to deliver it. 3 minutes to read.
  • Andrey Salomatin goes into the details of prototyping with code: why, how, and what to expect when iterating on a product idea. 11 minutes to read.
  • Emma Lilliestam tells us why penetration testing should include exploit development—in other words, getting into the system. 2 minutes to read.
  • Carol Brands recounts her introduction to SAML (security assertion markup language) and how she realized what it meant for code maintenance as user roles proliferate. 4 minutes to read.
  • Noah Weiss clarifies some potential misconceptions about the product manager role. 3 minutes to read.

Applied Leadership

  • Alexander Maasik curates his weekly list of leadership articles, from pursuing OKR’s to the benefits of weekly reporting to the likelihood of failure. 5 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Nancy Koehn describes Abraham Lincoln’s approach to leadership using key events in his presidency. 6 minutes to read.
  • Marcia Reynolds explains the power of helping people to re-frame who they think they are in moments of doubt or fear. 4 minutes to read.
  • Robert Noggle explains how to tell the difference between persuasion and manipulation. 6 minutes to read.

Research and Insights

  • Shelly Fan recaps research into multi-tasking with a mind-controlled robotic limb. Yes, this really is a thing. 4 minutes to read.
  • Ephrat Livni summarizes findings from research into how the brain manages learning: it seems that uncertainty enhances the process. 4 minutes to read.
  • Mike Fishbein explains how to master any skill. You just need to learn how to learn. 7 minutes to read.

Working and the Workplace

  • Brian de Haaf explains why remote workers are out-performing office workers. 2 minutes to read.
  • Eric Torrence describes the rare skill of disarming a tense situation. 4 minutes to read.
  • Mary Jo Asmus shares some ideas about changing the way you look at the people who annoy you. 2 minutes to read.

Enjoy!                   

Project Management Lessons from Paleoanthropology

In early 1987, a study of 145 mitochondrial DNA samples from women representing a variety of populations, conducted by biochemists and geneticists, was published in Nature. Using a complex analytical model based on mutation rates, the authors determined that all living people have a common ancestor, later dubbed Mitochondrial Eve, who lived in east Africa between 140,000 and 200,000 years ago. This was a blow to the multiregional hypothesis promoted by several prominent paleoanthropologists, which asserted that the fossil record showed continuous evolution over the last two million years in widely distributed locations. But recently, a team of geneticists, paleoanthropologists, and other scientists collaborated to develop a new model. And their approach has important lessons for those of us who manage teams of knowledge workers with diverse specialties.

Acknowledge Biases and Assumptions

Every well-developed knowledge specialty has its own culture, models, methodologies, favored data sources, and assumptions. Consequently, practitioners have biases that reflect their specialty. The scientists in this interdisciplinary team, led by archeologist Eleanor Scerri, wanted to avoid letting their professional biases lead to “cherry picking across different sources of data to match a narrative emanating from one [field].” So, the team met for three days to review each other’s work—challenging assumptions, noting accomplishments and problems, and learning to communicate effectively with their colleagues in other specialties. This process led to a coherent view, goodwill, and mutual respect. Lesson learned: many of our biases arise from deep knowledge in our specialty and confronting them early can facilitate cooperation and team building.

Develop a Common Vocabulary

Paleoanthropologists, geographers, geneticists, and environmental scientists have very different ways of talking about their work. Each field has its own jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms. Scerri noted, “[Our] understanding of findings tends to be influenced by the models and paradigms we have in our heads, which tend to … [affect] how we process new information.” The team had to pool their knowledge in a way that let them share data, methods, and models in a way that didn’t leave anyone out. This required them to adapt their communications to use terminology that was meaningful to the entire group and avoid a dependence on jargon. Lesson learned: time invested in establishing a common vocabulary facilitates understanding and leads to real progress.

Become Accustomed to Conflict

The researchers were able to reconcile their different theories into a cohesive story that accounts for the complexity of the different data points and leaves room for the abundant ambiguity still present. Scerri noted, “Insights from different models can help to shed light on the answers we look for … it’s all about incremental steps and changing perspectives.” Lesson learned: conflict can often be resolved, but even when it can’t, the root of the conflict is often based in some ambiguity. Acknowledging that ambiguity is a step toward a tentative agreement, pending eventual resolution of the ambiguity.

Scerri and her colleagues recognize that, like humanity itself, their model is still evolving. New data and new ideas will inevitably lead to future refinements, and they are fine with that. And that might be the most important lesson of all: you don’t need to be absolutely certain in order to deliver something of immediate and future value.

And if you’re curious, here’s a link to their paper.