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.

New PM Articles for the Week of July 9 – 15

New project management articles published on the web during the week of July 9 – 15. And this week’s video: Cy Swan, still working as a blacksmith and knifemaker at 81, celebrates Independence Day by blasting an anvil into the air, at a pair of hovering drones as they film the whole thing. Yeah … 3 minutes, safe for work, and no anvils were harmed in the making of this video.

Business Acumen and Strategy

  • Dave Gershgorn reports on the push by Microsoft for Congress to regulate how facial recognition technology is used, based on potential human rights risks. 2 minutes to read.
  • Richard Fall reports on the evidence of bias in the proprietary algorithms in COMPAS, a program used by judges that recommends criminal sentences. 3 minutes to read.
  • Dipayan Ghosh gives us the executive summary of California’s new data privacy law. 4 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • John Goodpasture shares a response from one of his students to the change management question, how would you prepare an organization to take on Agile methods? 2 minutes to read.
  • Robert Wysocki describes a comprehensive model of project management called the Scope Triangle. 4 minutes to read, part 1 of 2.
  • Glen Jones explores the selection of KPIs for executive oversight. Here is part 2. 6 minutes to read both parts.
  • Kiron Bondale notes the perils of expressing resource availability as a percentage. 2 minutes to read.
  • Nat Schatz recommends additional due diligence for efficient consolidation of project resources and processes after a merger or acquisition. 12 minutes to read.
  • Mike Clayton explains the meaning of education contact hours and PDUs, as used in the PMI credentialing process. 8 minutes to read.

Managing Software Development

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his list of Agile content, from changing corporate culture to product prioritization to whether Scrum is iterative or incremental. 7 outbound links, 2 minutes to read.
  • Chitra Manoj presents a case study that demonstrates the value of a gap analysis in a project to implement an off-the-shelf replacement for an existing financial system. 3 minutes to read.
  • Svetozar Krunic explains lead scoring, a user behavior metric valued by marketers. 4 minutes to read.
  • Justin Rohrman describes a definition of “done” for development completed by a small team with no real hand-offs. 6 minutes to read.
  • Claire Reckless gives her detailed answer to a simple question: What is software testing? You can’t manage what you don’t understand. 10 minutes to read.
  • Steven Sinofsky points out the bear traps in implementing API connections to other systems from your enterprise system. 12 minutes to read.

Applied Leadership

  • Alexander Maasik curates his weekly list of leadership articles, from making sure your goals have impact to not believing your own BS to the need for better governance. 3 minutes to read.
  • Johanna Rothman posts two parts on objectives and key results (OKR) and how that translates to accountability, versus fostering responsibility and autonomy. 7 minutes to read both, here’s part 2.
  • Cesar Abeid interviews Jason Evanish on the importance of using 1 on 1 meetings in growing your team members. Podcast, 36 minutes, safe for work.

Research and Insights

  • Greg Satell reports on recent progress in the war against synthetic identities used to defraud financial institutions. 5 minutes to read.
  • Tom Merritt suggest five alternatives for making your web browsing more secure. Read or video, both 2 minutes.
  • Polina Aronson and Judith Duportail examine the starkly different empathic responses of two different AI conversational agents: one programmed in the US and one in Russia. 12 minutes to read.

Working and the Workplace

  • Emily Esposito recaps the key points from Daniel Pink’s new book, When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing. 3 minutes to read.
  • Benjamin Spall distills lessons learned from talking to over 300 successful people about their morning routines. 4 minutes to read.
  • Michael Lopp shares his practices for managing his browser, phone, Email, and life. 5 minutes to read.
  • Alyse Kalish explains why everyone should have a professional headshot handy. 2 minutes to read.

Enjoy!