Adaptive Project Management lessons from a Saturday Night Live skit

Last night on Saturday Night Live there was a skit in which three engineers  demonstrated their invention, a machine that can translate a dog’s thoughts into words, to two investors. This is a project with complexity and uncertainty, and adaptive project management is appropriate. Did they use adaptive project management and if not, would it have improved their demonstration?

Continue reading “Adaptive Project Management lessons from a Saturday Night Live skit”

Adaptive Project Management: Leading Complex and Uncertain Projects

I just want to let my readers know that even though my blog has been quiet lately it’s not because I’ve stopped writing, but that I’ve been working on a book. The goal of the book, like many of my blog posts, is to provide insights on how to manage projects that have both complexity (so agile is a poor fit) and uncertainty (so waterfall is a bad fit). It should be coming out in March 2017.

Why Product Development Needs Project Management

My second blog post for LiquidPlanner, Why Product Development Needs Project Management, relating my experience trying to do product development with no project management process. It does not go well (though it was better than the company with too much product development process).


What every engineer should know about project management

Project management in an innovative environment is the art of herding very smart cats. It’s the project manager’s (PM’s) job to make sure everyone is working on the correct tasks, that risks are being managed and communicated, and that the stakeholders (i.e. the decision makers) have the information they need to make informed decisions. It’s not the PM’s job to make decisions, but only to make sure the needed decisions are being made by the right people who have all the information they need (or at least, as much of it as possible). For the PM to do her job, she needs certain things from the Individual Contributors (ICs). In this post I’ll discuss what the PM needs from the ICs and why she needs it, but all of the advice can be summed up in one sentence:

Communicate quickly, completely, and candidly.

If you just do that, you can’t go wrong.

Continue reading “What every engineer should know about project management”

Metrics need to add value or they’re just a waste of numbers

Any freshly minted MBA will tell you What gets measured gets manageda quote often misattributed to management consultant Peter Drucker. Everyone is obsessed with metrics, measuring every element of a business and making decisions based on this data. In the era of “Big Data”, this is even truer. And I’m not here to say otherwise, exactly. I’m a big fan of calculating, tracking, and listening to metrics. But I’ve seen them misused often enough that I want to throw a cup of skepticism on the fire of metrics: not enough to put out the fire, but enough to create a smoky cloud of uncertainty. The fire will keep you warm and scare the wild beasts that roam the forest, but it won’t pitch your tent or clean up after dinner.

Continue reading “Metrics need to add value or they’re just a waste of numbers”

Project Management Lessons from handing out free shoes

Yesterday I volunteered at the Seattle/King County clinic, a four-day event at Key Arena where about 750 volunteers provided over a thousand people per day medical services for free. You could have dentures made, get eyeglasses, and receive vaccinations. There are also people to help navigate the health insurance system, which is no easy task.

Everyone who attended was entitled to a free pair of shoes donated by Brooks (thanks to Chris Clark from Brooks for arranging the donation and running the team for 4 days, 12 hours a day). I spent an 8-hour shift helping hand out these shoes.

Continue reading “Project Management Lessons from handing out free shoes”