New PM Articles for the Week of May 8 – 14

New project management articles published on the web during the week of May 8 – 14. And this week’s video: TED’s Chris Anderson interviews Elon Musk on his projects, from boring tunnels under Los Angeles to a permanent colony on Mars. Just 41 minutes, safe for work. The future is a work in progress.

Must read (or Hear)!

  • Chad Rigetti and Chris Dixon discuss the physical limits that apply to Moore’s Law and prospects for quantum computing in machine learning. New term: “neuromorphic processor.” Just 27 minutes, safe for work.
  • Yuval Noah Harari looks out to 2050 when most jobs that exist today will have disappeared, and the “useless” class will be a far greater challenge than the working class.
  • Bertrand Duperrin updates on the end of search (as we know it) and the rise of non-benevolent assistance (“Let me help you select a product from our sponsors.”).

Established Methods

  • Harry Hall identifies five actions we can take to improve project communication
  • Charmaine Karunaratne suggests strategies and tactics for managing a project team distributed around the globe.
  • Colin Ellis catalogs a few ways to really suck at project management.
  • Geraldine O’Reilly steps us through the creation of a RACI matrix, and points out a few other variations, like CAIRO and RACI-VS.
  • Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy suggests a relatively simple project risk management plan.
  • John Goodpasture addresses the definition and handling of extreme risks.
  • Rich Maltzman notes the risk management implications of a recent discovery that climate change is releasing long-frozen viruses and bacteria into the water supply.
  • Glen Alleman recommends “The Death of Expertise,” by Tom Nichols. The Age of Enlightenment is but a dim memory …

Agile Methods

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of all things Agile, from refactoring Agile to schizophrenic dichotomies in Agile frameworks to dual track development.
  • Leigh Espy delivers an excellent summary of Agile principles and philosophy, and a short overview of the leading methods. Highly recommended for project managers looking for a point of entry.
  • Dave Prior interviews John Le Drew, host of The Agile Path on his approach to the craft of podcasting. Just 46 minutes, safe for work.
  • The Clever PM presents a product manager’s guide to technical debt.
  • Bart Gerardi introduces voting using the Fist of Five. It only sounds like a Kung Fu movie.

Applied Leadership

  • Art Petty provides some guidance for managers on dealing with a toxic employee.
  • Mike Clayton provides action plans for dealing with each of six different types of difficult project sponsors.
  • Coert Visser notes that positive stereotypes are just as depersonalizing as negative stereotypes and thus should not be used as a compliment.

Technology, Techniques, and Human Behavior

  • Thomas Fox-Brewster reports on the quick action by a malware researcher which shut down Friday’s WannaCry ransomware. Still running XP on some device? You’ll surely get another opportunity to regret it.
  • Jennifer Zaino catches us up on recent attempts to develop standards for the Internet of Things, notably a new W3C working group and services based on Linked Data.
  • Nir Eyal shares an excerpt from Nathalie Nahai’s new book, “Webs of Influence: The psychology of online persuasion.” Specifically, this excerpt is about persuasive video.

Working and the Workplace

  • Michael Lopp describes his daily morning calendar scrub. “If unscheduled time is zero, die a little inside.”
  • My Nguyen outlines what we need to know about ergonomics to stay healthy while riding a desk all day. Desk, monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, and regular movement – all important!
  • Sara McCord considers the pros and cons of deleting LinkedIn connections you don’t actually know.


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.

Non-Utilitarian Metrics

My new post at AITS was published this morning. After my usual wise-ass opening, I provide three examples of poor project management metrics and how they were presented, and conclude with a few summary principles for collecting actionable data and presenting it clearly. I’m pretty sure I can squeeze out a few more articles like this, but it would be great to have some input from other project managers and portfolio managers. Leave a comment here or at AITS, and share a story I can repeat. With attribution, of course.