EppsNet Archive: Project Management

Adventures in Agile: The Scrum Board

For 3-1/2 months, we’ve been using a scrum board — not the one in the photo, but similar — to track tasks on a development project. Tasks start out on the left side of the board in a Not Started column, then move through In Progress, Code Complete and User Testing on the way to Done. Today someone said, “We need a list of everything that still needs to be done — like the scrum board, but could you put it in a spreadsheet?” Ummm, I could, but it wouldn’t contain any additional information than what’s on the board. That was an eye-opener to me. I like the scrum board format because it keeps things visible. It’s easy to see what all the tasks are and it’s easy to see the status of each task. It never occurred to me that if you record information on Post-Its and stick them… Read more →

An Obstacle Course

Pretend that your project is an obstacle course and you want to get the biggest obstacles over with in the beginning. Here are some strategies for being on time or early: You want to know what all the obstacles are as soon as possible. You want to deal with the biggest, hardest obstacles first. You want to complete every obstacle as soon as possible, rather than “on schedule.” If you can go around an obstacle or skip it, do that. Your team has to stay on the same course. You don’t want part of your team on a different course. Getting your team aligned about the blocks and how to deal with them using the entire team IQ is much more efficient than “working hard” or pounding away at the problem. Look for the big ideas. Make sure team members aren’t going over obstacles that don’t exist. What’s the biggest… Read more →

Control is Not Important

To understand control’s real role [in software development], you need to distinguish between two drastically different kinds of projects: Project A will eventually cost about a million dollars and produce value of around $1.1 million. Project B will eventually cost about a million dollars and produce value of more than $50 million. What’s immediately apparent is that control is really important for Project A but almost not at all important for Project B. This leads us to the odd conclusion that strict control is something that matters a lot on relatively useless projects and much less on useful projects. It suggests that the more you focus on control, the more likely you’re working on a project that’s striving to deliver something of relatively minor value. To my mind, the question that’s much more important than how to control a software project is, why on earth are we doing so many… Read more →

Fun with Charts

I use charts like this one to track open project tickets, color-coded by priority. At a meeting last week, I pointed out that the number of open tickets on this particular project had peaked out at 70 and was now dropping faster than the value of my house, at which one of the attendees laughed more enthusiastically than I thought was necessary. “Why is that funny?” I asked. I mean, it was supposed to be a little funny, but not laugh-out-loud funny. “I’ve been there,” she said. Read more →

Advertisement for Myself

I was laid off recently by a mortgage bank here in Southern California. Times are tough in the mortgage business, as you may have heard. First, some tips on how not to do a layoff: Call the layoff a “rightsizing,” which suggests that there was something “wrong” with the people who were let go. (Actually, the company I worked for has already announced another “rightsizing” in which 1,000 more people will be laid off over the next few months. They just can’t get these “rightsizings” right.) Overnight a layoff information packet, including a 20-page severance agreement, to the home of laid-off employees, asking them to sign and return it via the enclosed UPS envelope. Don’t enclose the UPS envelope. The next day, overnight a second packet to employees’ homes, containing the UPS envelope and a letter correcting phone numbers, email addresses and other misinformation in the previous day’s packet. Include… Read more →

Setting Expectations

A family member had surgery recently and had to sign a consent form: I have been advised that all surgery involves general risks, including but not limited to bleeding, infection, nerve or tissue damage and rarely, cardiac arrest, death or other serious bodily injury. I acknowledge that no guarantees or assurances have been made as to the results that may be obtained. And so on . . . Don’t say you weren’t warned! Medical professionals are very good at setting realistic expectations with the customer, whereas in IT we take customers into projects with glib assurances and wishful thinking. I wonder if we could make a practice of saying to customers even something as simple as this: “This project — like all projects — has a number of possible outcomes, and not all of them are good. Let’s go over some of the more likely scenarios . . .” Thus… Read more →

99 Rules

Here’s a short excerpt from an article called “Ninety-Nine Rules for Managing ‘Better, Faster, Cheaper’ Projects” by Alexander Laufer and Edward J. Hoffman: In a dynamic environment, project management is not about performing according to plan, with minimal changes. It is about meeting customer needs, while coping successfully with unavoidable changes. Therefore, the planning system should be capable of coping with changes. Jesus Christ, if I could articulate even one rule that perfectly, I’d publish it and call it a day . . . but there are 98 more of these! Here’s another one: More paperwork does not ensure greater information reliability or accuracy — it only adds to the non-value-added cost. It only seems that adding more measurement and reporting means better control. The illusion of control may partially explain an obsession with control. A must read! Thus spoke The Programmer. Read more →

Integration Chickens

Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves . . . — William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act I. Sc. 2 The Programmer finds that the integration chickens have come home to roost . . . I remember when Vignette first arrived at our company and the people who had made the decision to buy it would show up at meetings in their complimentary Vignette polo shirts and explain that the project was going to be delayed just a bit more because they still couldn’t work the bugs out of the Vignette installation — but hey, willya look at these free shirts we got?! Well, we’ve been trying to work the bugs out of it for three months now, and to integrate it with IBM’s WebSphere for a client project. We tried Vignette 5.5 with WebSphere 5.1, which… Read more →

Action is Eloquence

Action is eloquence. — Shakespeare, Coriolanus Vicious, despicable, or thoroughly disliked persons, gentlemen, and ladies can be project managers. Lost souls, procrastinators, and wishy-washies cannot. — Jerry Madden, “One Hundred Rules for NASA Project Managers” You can have a lot of bad qualities and still be an effective project manager, but you can’t be indecisive. Work out your personal insecurities on your own time. Make a decision. Move on to the next problem. Thus spoke The Programmer. Read more →

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