Adaptive Project Management Strikes the Right Balance Between Structure and Flexibility

A version of this  post originally appeared on Product Creation Studio’s web site.

This post is the last in a series of three that explores the shortcomings of common project management approaches for hardware product development and proposes an alternative.

In my first blog post, I wrote about waterfall project management. The structure of this approach allows one to effectively manage complex projects, but deals very poorly with unknowns.

In my second post, I looked into agile project management, which is a method predominantly used in software development. This minimally structured approach works well on these projects because the cost of making a mistake is low and the tasks have simple interactions. However, it works poorly on projects with long lead-times and complex interaction between elements.

In both posts I discussed how these approaches worked well for the types of projects they were designed for, but poorly for the types of projects we do here at Product Creation Studio: designing new hardware products. Most importantly, while a strict adherence to these paradigms will lead to agony and pain when designing hardware, there is still much of value in both approaches. Waterfall and agile can be combined into an effective project management paradigm for hardware development.

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Agile is Too Flexible for Designing Hardware

This is a reprint of a blog post I wrote for Product Creation Studio

The Agile Manifesto, published in 2001, describes what the authors felt was most important when developing software:

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

When I read the manifesto I’m struck by how reasonable the statements are, especially that responding to change is more important than following a plan. What’s the point of following a plan that’s based on out-of-date knowledge or bad assumptions?

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Climate-Change deniers are starting to look as ridiculous as flat earthers

There are people who still believe that the earth is flat. They have theories and web pages. There’s even a Facebook page. They draw maps with the north pole in the center and a great wall of ice on the edge (i.e. Antarctica). They have explanations for the seasons that would imply that the seasons in Australia and Canada are the same. They come up with complex theories to explain eclipses and conspiracy theories to explain NASA missions. So they have theories and explanations for everything, it’s just none of it makes any sense or is consistent with detailed observations. And it’s all much more complicated that the heliocentric world view, but for some reason they prefer to believe that the world is flat.

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Land Use: Ethanol vs Solar

This post was originally posted to Sustainable West Seattle’s web site in August of 2013

On a recent trip to Minneapolis, I looked out the window of the plane and saw a vast expanse of land growing corn. It had me thinking about ethanol, since much of that corn is being grown to feed not man nor beast, but cars and trucks. I wondered if we wouldn’t be better off covering that land with solar panels. On my return, I looked up some numbers and my suspicions were confirmed: we could produce about 4 times the electricity consumed in the US by covering the land now used to grow corn for ethanol with solar panels.

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My thoughts on Initiative 732, Washington’s proposed carbon tax

There’s been a lot of ink spilt about the CarbonWA proposal to introduce a carbon tax in Washington State. Most environmental groups are part of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy and are not supporting I-732, which is somewhat surprising. After a short search, the only long-standing organizations I could find that support I-732 were Audubon and Sightline (for those who want a more in depth analysis, I strongly recommend Sightline’s three part series). My goal here is to give a brief description of I-732, describe why some people don’t support it, and give my personal thoughts to its strengths and weaknesses. My conclusion is I think you should vote for it (unless you think that climate change isn’t real, in which case, go jump in a lake that used to be a glacier).

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The Energy Blog – War of the Currents Round 2

This posting was originally published with Sustainable West Seattle  in June 2010

The War of the Currents was fairly fought over 100 years ago and the winner was the undisputed better technology; a technology that has served us well. Electricity has worked its way into every facet of our lives and into almost every corner of the country. To be off-the-grid practically means to be Amish or The Unabomber. It’s so critical that when we had an extended power outage here in Seattle in 2006 eight people died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. So what has changed to make we want to take up arms and fight for the discredited Direct Current?

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The Energy Blog – War of the Currents

This posting was originally published with Sustainable West Seattle  in June 2010

War of the Currents: Round 1

Before there was HD-DVD vs. BlueRay, Mac vs. PC, or Beta vs. VHS there was AC vs. DC. And if you think that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had a rivalry, check out Edison and Tesla, two of the greatest innovators ever and bitter foes in the War of the Currents.  This posting will be a bit more technical than I usually get, but I won’t assume you know anything about electricity and there will be no math.

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