Skip to content

Feed aggregator

How to Draft a Stakeholder Communication Plan

Project Management Articles - PM Hut - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 18:25

how-to-draft-a-stakeholder-communication-planThe truth is that there are quite a lot of things that you would need to take into account when you manage a project. Even though a stakeholder communication plan isn’t always necessary, for long-term and heavy projects you are most certainly going to need to have one. With this in mind, we would like to go through a few things that you might want to take into account in order to be able to create one from scratch which meets the expectations of the stakeholder and fulfills its overall requirements and expectations. Let’s go right ahead and take a look.

Identify the need for communication

This is rather obvious but it’s particularly important. Your client and all of the stakeholders need to be well aware of the fact that you are incredibly concerned with their critical opinion and that breeds the need for transparency and communication. Upon doing so you are instantly gaining their trust and that’s generally one of the most important things that you would have to do in the first stages of the project. Read the Complete Article

Categories: Communities

How To Pick Up A Project From Someone Else

How to Pick Up a Project From Someone Else

In the last couple of weeks I’ve turned into a woman who runs down Regent Street in ridiculous heels to get to her next meeting on time.

Who has said, “Sorry, I’ve got a mouthful of lunch, hang on,” too many times on the phone because there isn’t enough time in the day not to work through lunch.

Who has paid library fines even though the books are just there ready to go back, because she can’t get out of the office for 20 minutes to return them.

In other words, life has just been really busy.

The reason for all this is that I’ve taken on a new project. We’ve shuffled things around and I’ve picked up a (big, complicated) piece of work. It’s interesting. It’s in good shape as the previous PM did an excellent job. The team are committed and know what they are doing. But I got 47 emails about it overnight (that’s between 5pm and 8am) on my first day truly in charge. There is a lot going on and I really don’t feel like I have a clue.

Still, it’s the  turn of autumn over here, my favourite time of year with leaves that cheer you up even if you have got out of bed four times in the night with a toddler who is going through the ‘there’s a T-Rex in my wardrobe and I’m scared’ phase.

So, here are my tips for beginning work on a project that someone else is handing over.

Scroll to the bottom to get a free Project Initiation Checklist to help with all this. It’s everything you need to remember when you are taking on a new project. 1. Get a handover

The clue is in the title. They are handing over responsibility to you, so they need to actually do a handover. Get copies of important papers (especially anything to do with money spent or committed to spend). Ask about the team. Check the milestones.

That’s the formal part of the handover. Now have a chat off the record.

Find out what the stakeholders are expecting and which of them are being a bit difficult right now. The old project manager is a great source of information about the office politics surrounding this project and can shortcut your learning curve drastically.

New project: Stop anything that doesn’t work with how you want to run the project
Click To Tweet

2. Get introductions

I can’t find the source of this story (get in touch if you know) but someone once told me a tale of two soldiers. The both agreed to talk each other up at every opportunity. Over the years they described each other’s credentials and experience when their colleague’s name came up in conversation. Lo and behold, they each got promoted more quickly than the norm.

In his book Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Robert B. Cialdini talks about how having someone else introduce you is a more powerful way of making a first impression. Get the leaving project manager to make positive introductions, and ask them to specifically point out that the project remains in good hands.

That’s a message that will give confidence to stakeholders who might be nervous about the change in project manager and it means you’re more likely to get off on the right foot.

Come to think of it, that soldier story might be in that book too.

3. Go through project initiation again (by yourself)

For your own piece of mind, run through what you would normally do when you set up a project. Is there a project initiation document? A business case? If you would set up a Yammer group for a new project, is there one?

Download the Project Initiation Checklist by leaving your email address in the box below. Run through the steps. Check that you are happy running this project now.

Put in place anything that you feel needs doing and stop anything that doesn’t work with how you want to run the project. Just be sure to tell everyone so that they know what’s going on.

You don’t have to run it in the same way as the other person did. It’s yours. Do it your way.

Now go and be awesome!

Tips for Picking Up a Project from Someone Else Pin It

You'll also like:

  1. Newsletter The Girl’s Guide to PM Newsletter comes out about once a month.  If you like the blog, you’ll love the newsletter – it’s full of...
  2. Newsletter Archive Are you looking for the link to subscribe to the newsletter? Click here to subscribe The last 20 editions of the PM4Girls Newsletter are accessible...
  3. Book review: Six-Word Lessons For Project Managers What can you learn from just 6 words?  According to Lonnie Pacelli, President of Leading on the Edge International quite a lot.  He was inspired...
  4. Project managing the Olympics: milestone timeline With the Olympics kicking off in London next week, I’ve picked out the major project management milestones for the event in this timeline. Use the...
  5. Project Initiation Checklist [Free Download] Get this free checklist to help speed up your project initiation meetings. This is the document you want in your bag when you meet your...

Categories: Blogs

October Product Update: Focus on the Work That Really Matters

The LiquidPlanner Blog - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 16:11
october releaseoctober release

Did you know that your ability to focus at work directly impacts personal and business success? Various studies have proven that focus is tied to job engagement, which is tied to increased productivity and business growth.

Still, the struggle to focus on work that needs to be done right now is universal. Distractions are everywhere. Projects grow in scope and priorities change; co-workers stop by to chat (fun), and ask for last-minute help (not so fun). There are demands from stakeholders, requests from customers, resources to be allocated. Could your attention get any more splintered?

And yet, we all want it: To get in that zone where we do impactful work and make a mark in our industry.

Focus on relevant project information

At LiquidPlanner, we know the importance of focusing on the right work to deliver excellence. Our October update supports teams in this mission—with new filter options that let team members remove distractions and focus on their most important work, no matter what’s going on around them.  

Here’s a rundown of these new focus filters:

From the Filter Menu you now have three choices around how you see and interact with your workspace:

All Projects: This is the full-meal deal, everything in your workspace. This allows you to see everything that’s going on if you want a big picture view.

My Projects: You’ll only see the packages and projects that you’re part of. This way you can focus on the work with, literally, your name on it—and have the benefit of seeing how it fits with everything else that’s going on with your projects.

My Tasks: You’ll only see the tasks you’re assigned to. For the days you want to zero in on getting things done, this one gets your straight to your top priority tasks.

Now you can see your work in context and focus on the project information that’s relevant to getting your job done. Do more of the right work, starting today!

Also Newly Redesigned, the People Tab

You’ll notice another nifty update—the look and feel of the People tab. There are now consolidated people-centric functions, such as profile, notifications, access controls, and the member invite process.

To learn more about our October update, read the release notes.

If you’re not a LiquidPlanner customer but looking for ways to increase focus and productivity at work, try us out!

Take a Trial

The post October Product Update: Focus on the Work That Really Matters appeared first on LiquidPlanner.

Categories: Companies

Vampires, Zombies and SDLC Integration?

Tasktop Blog - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 15:00

Overheard at Tasktop: “Let me know what you think of the vampire. I’ll get started on the zombie.”

We have a Yammer group called Overheard at Tasktop where we share things heard around the office that sound funny out of context. There have been a lot of these conversations lately, like this snippet from a conversation I had with our graphic designer about the images she’s creating for our Halloween-themed webinar.

Halloween has always brought out my inner child, so I couldn’t be happier to get a chance to use zombies, vampires and other spooky stuff to talk about what happens when companies don’t have a good solution for integrating their software lifecycle tools.

We hear a lot of horror stories from our customers about how they were connecting their systems before they came to Tasktop – from mind-numbing manual processes, to homegrown point-to-point integrations that break when one of the endpoints is updated – and we’ve put them together into a webinar. We’re going to get a bit silly with our metaphors, but we’ll be discussing serious issues like a lack of traceability, plummeting employee engagement, and projects with thousands of hours spent on unproductive activities.

And did I mention there will be zombies?

Swivel seat integration turns bright minds into zombies. Register for the webinar to find a better way.


Categories: Companies

The Myth of Multitasking: Why IT Operations Needs WIP Limits

LeanKit Blog - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 14:53

It may sound hard to believe, but multitasking is an effective way to get less done. Juggling...

The post The Myth of Multitasking: Why IT Operations Needs WIP Limits appeared first on Blog | LeanKit.

Categories: Companies

Data science and sensemaking – tales from two hackathons

Eight to Late - Kailash Await - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 09:23

It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem” – GK Chesterton


Examples of vendor-generated hype about data science are not hard to find,   I found one on the very first site I visited:  a large technology and services vendor who, in their own words, claim their analytics solutions help organisations “engage with data to answer the toughest business questions, uncover patterns and pursue breakthrough ideas.”  I’ve deliberately avoided linking to the guilty party because there are many others that spout similar rhetoric.

Unfortunately it seems to work:  according to Gartner, “by 2020, predictive and prescriptive analytics will attract 40% of enterprises’ net new investment in business intelligence and analytics.” This trend is accompanied by a concomitant increase in demand for data science education, fuelled by  remarks along the lines that data science is “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”

By and large, data science education tends to focus on algorithms and technology, but its practice involves much more. The vendor who claims that technology can help organisations grapple with “toughest business questions” and “pursue breakthrough ideas” is singularly silent about where these questions or ideas come from. Data is meaningless without a meaningful hypothesis.  Problem is, in the real world questions or hypotheses aren’t obvious; one has to work to formulate them. As the management icon Russell Ackoff once said, “Outside of school, problems are seldom given; they have to be taken, extracted from complex situations…”

The art of taking problems is what sensemaking is all about.

Unfortunately, it is a skill that is typically ignored by data science educators.


Probably because it is hard to teach…but the good news is that it can be learnt. Like most tacit skills, sensemaking is best learnt by doing, that is, by formulating problems in real-world situations.  Before I get to that, however, let’s take a brief detour.

Real world problems are characterised by ambiguity

An important aspect of real-world problems – as opposed to classroom ones – is that they are invariably fraught with ambiguity. For example, a customer’s requirements may be vague or the available data incomplete and messy. What this means is that there is no guarantee one will be able to formulate a well-posed problem, let alone get a useful answer.   Worse, unlike a risk-based situation in which uncertainty can be quantified, one cannot even figure out the odds of success.

The human brain processes quantifiable uncertainty (aka risk) and ambiguity very differently. The former, which can be calculated, is dealt with by the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for decision making and goal-oriented thinking. Ambiguity, on the other hand, is processed by the amygdala, which deals with emotions.  The upshot of this is that ambiguity evokes an emotional response, the most common one being anxiety.

Although some people are innately better at coping with anxiety than others, it is possible to get better at it by repeatedly putting oneself in high-pressure (yet safe) situations that are ambiguous.  For data science students, hackathons provide a perfect opportunity to do this.

Ambiguity in data science – tales from two hackathons

Over the last two months, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the Master of Data Science Innovation (MDSI) program run by the Connected Intelligence Centre at UTS.   The course director, Theresa Anderson, sees hackathons as a great way for students to learn how to handle ambiguity.  So, apart from regular coursework assignments, students are encouraged to participate in external hackathons sponsored by industry and government organisations.   This gives them opportunities to gain practical experience in formulating problems in ambiguous and high-pressure environments.

Datacake at GovHack

A few MDSI student teams participated in a GovHack event earlier this year. Here’s what William Azevedo,  a member of team that called themselves Datacake, wrote about his team’s problem formulation journey at the event :

The challenge is simple: the competitors should form teams, identify a problem and use data from government agencies from Australia and New Zealand to present a solution to the problem. Naturally, this solution should bring some benefit to the society.

I’m not sure I’d use the word simple…but the importance of problem formulation comes through quite clearly.  Here’s how he and his team (called Datacake) went about it:

 As a starting point, our team published an online survey to understand how safe people feel when walking on the streets, especially at night. As we didn’t have much time, we spread the message via social networks. In a couple of hours, we received 44 answers. It gave us enough information to back our idea.

Notice the process used in defining the problem – the team realised they did not know enough to define a meaningful problem so they went and got relevant data. Following this:

Our team analysed the answers of the survey, engaged in passionate discussions, took tips from the mentors, had lots of coffee and designed some cool diagrams on the blackboard.

…and then his description of the Aha moment when a good idea emerged:

Then the magic happened. We had this idea of merging information about crime, demographics, weather, land zoning and street illumination to provide a map of the safe and unsafe areas within a suburb.

An important point is that sensemaking is best done collaboratively. Since the problem is ambiguous or even undefined (as in this case) no individual has a privileged access to the “truth.” It is therefore important to bring diverse perspectives to bear on the problem. Indeed, sensemaking may be thought of as collaborative problem formulation and solving. In view of this it is interesting to hear what other members of Team Datacake had to say about their problem formulation process.  Here’s an excerpt from another member of Datacake,  Anthony So:

During the whole weekend we really forced ourselves to go deep and asked “Why is it happening? Why is it happening? Why is it happening?” every time we found an interesting pattern. We really wanted to understand the true root causes of those accidents. We didn’t want to stay at a descriptive level. We knew the answers were behavioural. We knew there were multiple problems and therefore require different answers and solutions. We did different techniques to do so: machine learning, stats, data visualisation. It didn’t matter which we used the only important point was how can we get to answers of those questions.

The specific area they looked at was pedestrian safety. They found that obvious variables, such as driver fatigue and hazards were not significant, so they started looking for other potential factors. Here’s how Anthony put it:

For instance we built a classification model on the severity of the accidents involving children but we didn’t use it to make predictions. We used it to identify the important features (and unimportant) for those cases. We found out that some of the variables related to the environment (Primary_hazardous_feature, Surface_condition, Weather…) and to the drivers (Fatigue_involved_in_crash…) were not important. This gave us a good indication that those accidents are mostly related directly to the behaviour of the children. So we kept diving further and further and found 3 postcodes with higher numbers of accidents than others. We focused on those 3 areas and we kept going deeper and deeper…

In the end Datacake came up with a few suggestions for improving pedestrian safety. They were awarded a prize for their efforts, so the problem they formulated and solved was clearly valuable to the sponsors.

Peppermoney Hackathon

A couple of weekends ago, Pepper Money, Australia’s largest non-bank lender sponsored a day long internal hackathon for MDSI students, with a hefty winner-take-all prize as an incentive. The challenge was quite open-ended, and had to do with helping the organisation develop a consistent brand voice. Participants were given a small corpus of text files from the organisation’s public and social media sites and were given very general guidelines on how to proceed. Details were left entirely to the teams.

As one might expect, most teams spent the first few hours struggling to define a relevant and tractable problem – relevance being paramount for the client and tractability for the teams.  Being a mentor at the event, I was able observe how different teams handled this. Among other things, I was particularly impressed by how some teams with very little text mining experience were able to – in a few hours – come up with a good problem, an approach to solve it…and, most importantly, make decent progress by day’s end.

I won’t go into details except to say that the approaches were diverse, ranging from the somewhat philosophical to the very technical. A couple of examples:

For some vignettes from the day, check out the #PepxUTS hashtag on Twitter. Blair Hudson, Innovation Portfolio Manager at Pepper Money, summed it up very well:

#PepxUTS was our first hackathon event, challenging students to build data science solutions in a day to allow everyone at Pepper to communicate using a consistent brand voice. Our Co-Group CEOs both joined in for judging and awarded the winners. It was a rewarding day for all involved

The day’s experiences left me ever more convinced that hackathons are an excellent vehicle for learning and demonstrating the practical utility of sensemaking skills.

Wrapping up

The two case studies highlight the benefits of sensemaking skills, both for students and organisations.  On the one hand,  students who participated got valuable experience in formulating problems collaboratively in high-pressure, high-ambiguity situations. This is a skill that cannot be learnt in classrooms, MOOCs or even in online data challenges (like Kaggle) where problems tend to be clearly defined. On the other hand, sponsoring organisations have benefited from new insights into longstanding problems.

Finally, it should be clear that although I’ve focused on educational settings,  what I’ve said for students applies to organisational settings too: there’s nothing to stop organisations from using hackathons as a means to help their employees learn sensemaking skills.

To conclude, the main point I want to make is that the most important situations we encounter at work (and even in our personal lives) are usually fraught with ambiguity. Our first reaction is to jump into problem solving mode because it feels like the right thing to do. In reality, one is generally better off stepping back and taking the time to think the situation through, preferably with a group of diversely skilled individuals. All too often this sensemaking step is neglected, and teams end up solving an irrelevant problem.

To paraphrase Chesterton, in order to see the right solution, one must first see the right problem.


Many thanks to Blair Hudson, William Azevedo and Anthony So for their contributions to this piece.

Filed under: Data Science, sensemaking
Categories: Blogs

The New Social Project World [Giveaway]

Social Project World Event

Roll up, roll up!

Peter Taylor and I are hosting a fantastic event in London on 1 December all about how to work in a collaborative, social project management structure.

It’s the first event that I have been responsible for organising and as my name is on it, I can guarantee you that we’ll be putting in every effort to make it practical, value-packed and fun. Oh, and there will be prosecco and afternoon tea as well (that was my idea)!

You can read all about it here.

Today I have an amazing giveaway: you can get your hands on a ticket for free. That’s worth £195.

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is to complete the form below with your details. If you can’t see the form, hop over to the giveaway page and enter direct from there. We’ll put the names in a hat (not really, it’s all done with random number generators to make it totally fair) and pick someone to join us onboard The Yacht London on the Thames as our guest.

If you don’t want to leave it to chance, snap up a ticket now. We’re keeping numbers quite small so don’t delay!

Please note that this giveaway is for the event ticket only. We will not reimburse your travel costs to London. For that reason, this giveaway is only open to UK residents.

You'll also like:

  1. Project Management in the Real World launch The kind folks at the British Computer Society are throwing a bash for me to launch my new book, Project Management in the Real World....
  2. Launch of Project Management in the Real World! I heard from the publishers today that the first copies of Project Mangement in the Real World have come off the press and are looking...
  3. Healthcare Project Management: Giveaway Winner Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway this month for a copy of Healthcare Project Management. Names went into the hat and the winner was…...
  4. Giveaway winner: NLP for Project Managers Last month’s newsletter giveaway winner was Fiona from Edinburgh. She wins a signed copy of NLP for Project Managers: Make Things Happen with Neuro-Linguistic Programming...
  5. Updated: Project Management in the Real World I have finally put together a page of information about my book, Project Management in the Real World.  So now if you click the picture...

Categories: Blogs

Fair and Balanced in the Absence of Principles?

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 02:40

We hear fair and balanced is a desirable approach to problems. Turns out this is a false balance when the issue under discussion doesn't address an underlying principle. 

One side can be wrong

It is seductive to state we're exploring new ways to do things ... in the absence of the underlying principles that would guide the explorer to a possible new way to doing something. In the absence of any principles, any conjectures should be rejected. Without this approach, any conjecture, any unsubstantiated opinion, can be treated as equal to principles and evidence-based processes. This is not a good way to improve processes.

Categories: Blogs

Why We Need Estimates

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Sun, 10/16/2016 - 00:02

The ability to generate reliable cost and schedule estimates is a critical success factor necessary to support business projects.

Without this ability, business value is at risk of experiencing cost overruns, missed deadlines, and performance shortfalls—all recurring problems that projects assessments too often reveal. Furthermore, cost increases often mean that the business firm cannot fund as many projects as intended or deliver them when promised.

Related articles IT Risk Management Architecture -Center ERP Systems in the Manufacturing Domain Why Guessing is not Estimating and Estimating is not Guessing
Categories: Blogs

Digital PM Summit: Video Diary Day 2

Here’s my video recap of Day 2 of the Digital PM Summit in San Antonio, featuring the Alamo! And some other work stuff too, including a quote by Jeremy Clarkson, which rather tickled me.

If you can’t see the video, watch it here on Vimeo:

Watch Day 1’s diary here.

You'll also like:

  1. Digital PM Summit: Video Diary Day 1 My video diary from Day 1 of the Digital PM Summit in San Antonio, Texas, USA....
  2. Video Diary: Pink Elephant ITSM Conference, Las Vegas, Day 1 This is the video diary from Saturday and Sunday at the Pink Elephant ITSM Conference in Las Vegas. Thanks to Thomas from the Manta Group...
  3. APM Conference Diary [Video] Here's my video diary from the APM Conference 2016. I've strung together my live Periscope broadcasts from the day to give you an idea about...
  4. Video Diary: Pink Elephant ITSM Conference, Las Vegas, Day 2 This is the video diary from the first proper day of the Pink Elephant conference. The video is about 3 minutes long. Watch the video...
  5. Video Diary: PMI Global Congress EMEA Day 2 This is the video diary from Day 2 at PMI’s Global Congress EMEA in Dublin. See if you can spot Lindsay Scott, Thomas Juli and...

Categories: Blogs

How the Times Are Changing–Ready for the Revolution?

The LiquidPlanner Blog - Fri, 10/14/2016 - 17:18
Time are changingTime are changing

What a week! My team has been enchanted by visions of the future. Here’s why: A fourth revolution is incoming. There are new education models on the horizon, ones that teach us how to be generous. What? A musician wins the Nobel Prize in Literature—really? It’s all too mind-blowing and cool to be true. Here are three articles that cast a spell this week.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What It Means, How to Respond – World Economic Forum

Are you ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? This visionary piece, written by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, shows us how Revolution 3.0  “will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” This new age is one where time evolves exponentially rather than linearly and digital disruptions are everywhere—and this is just the tippy-tip of the iceberg. Read up, see what’s coming, and how to prepare.

Stanford’s Most Popular Class Isn’t Computer Science–It’s Something Much More Important – Fast Company

Finally, a college class with practical application! Stanford Juniors and Seniors have been flocking to “Designing Your Life” since 2010, a course that has a new-world agenda with great appeal: gratitude; generosity; self-awareness; adaptability. Could this be the start of a new type of learning? (Although Socrates might argue with the “new” bit.)

Bob Dylan, Master of Change – New York Times

“I’m a poet, I know it, hope I don’t blow it.” These lyrics, sung by Bob Dylan over 50 years ago seem almost prophetic, as the songwriter is the first musician to ever win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Never one to stand still, Dylan has stayed relevant for over half a decade while transforming and transmuting. From hippie folkster to electric rabble-rouser; born-again prophet to country songster, Dylan’s ability to metamorphosize and be a cultural icon is mind boggling.

The post How the Times Are Changing–Ready for the Revolution? appeared first on LiquidPlanner.

Categories: Companies

Digital PM Summit: Video Diary Day 1

This is my video diary (do people even call it that any more? vlog?) of Day 1 of the Digital PM Summit in San Antonio, Texas. If you can’t see the video, watch it direct on Vimeo here:

Watch Day 2’s diary here.

You'll also like:

  1. Digital PM Summit: Video Diary Day 2 Wondering what went on at the Digital PM Summit? Here's the lowdown on Day 2 of the event in San Antonio....
  2. APM Conference Diary [Video] Here's my video diary from the APM Conference 2016. I've strung together my live Periscope broadcasts from the day to give you an idea about...
  3. Video Diary: Pink Elephant ITSM Conference, Las Vegas, Day 1 This is the video diary from Saturday and Sunday at the Pink Elephant ITSM Conference in Las Vegas. Thanks to Thomas from the Manta Group...
  4. Video Diary: Pink Elephant ITSM Conference, Las Vegas, Day 2 This is the video diary from the first proper day of the Pink Elephant conference. The video is about 3 minutes long. Watch the video...
  5. Video Diary: Pink Elephant ITSM Conference Day 3 This is the video from the Tuesday at the Pink Elephant ITSM Conference in Las Vegas. The video is about 6 minutes long and includes...

Categories: Blogs

Less is More – Tasktop Dev

Tasktop Blog - Thu, 10/13/2016 - 17:36

Tasktop was founded on the idea of Less is More. Less confusion. Less overhead. Less bloat.

Tasktop was also founded on Tasktop Dev — our first commercial product and deeply entwined in our heritage. Without Tasktop Dev, we would not be the company we are today. We’ve grown our product line to include Tasktop Sync and Tasktop Data, but Dev is where we started. It’s a workhorse. It’s the individual productivity tool in a line up of enterprise level products. It has a steady user-base of professionals who have used it for years.

Then, last week, I saw this graph…

This is the number of Tasktop Dev Pro licenses we’ve sold every month for the past two and a half years. It doesn’t take a genius to see that something has changed. Something inspired more new customers sign up in the past 5 months than in the previous 21 months.

What happened?

You may remember this blog post from April of this year.

We went back to the basics with Tasktop Dev.

We stuck to our company motto: Less Is More.

We took an even harder look at what really matters to our customers. We responded to make Dev even better. We made some tough choices. And users noticed.

These decisions and adjustments allow us to offer Tasktop Dev to our customers for less than we previously could. At only $24 per year, the cost is less than a cup of coffee per month.

Tasktop Dev occupies an interesting space in the software development world. On one hand it’s an individual productivity tool–something to help individual developers stay in their IDE. There’s less context switching. Less lost time. More productivity. And let’s be honest, that’s enough. That makes Tasktop Dev a useful product for individuals and companies. We help reduce this invisible inefficiency tax developers incur.

But Tasktop Dev is much more than an individual productivity tool. It’s also the first step in an organization’s integrated development lifecycle. With Tasktop Dev, developers are automatically able to include their task ID and url within their commit messages. This is the first step in Code to Task traceability.

Tasktop started with Tasktop Dev and has expanded to Tasktop Sync and Tasktop Data. We are now a one-stop shop for end-to-end traceability from the code to tasks to reporting. Our customers can trace their requirements to implementation stories to tasks to the actual source code. The Tasktop suite of products lets a customer look at a requirement and answer the question “Where is the actual code that satisfies this requirement?”

Not only is Tasktop Dev valuable for individuals, it’s even more valuable for organizations.

It’s exciting to see our Tasktop Dev work pay off. It’s good to see that sometimes a product that’s been around for awhile can be new again.

For more information about Tasktop Dev, check out our webpage. You can also try it free for 30 days on the bottom of this page.

Categories: Companies

Continuous Improvement in Lean

LeanKit Blog - Wed, 10/12/2016 - 22:27

Continuous improvement is one of the pillars of a Lean environment. It sounds pretty lofty, doesn’t it? “I...

The post Continuous Improvement in Lean appeared first on Blog | LeanKit.

Categories: Companies

Project Management, Performance Measures, and Statistical Decision Making (Part Duex)

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Wed, 10/12/2016 - 21:08

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 2.04.04 PMThere is a current rash of suggestions on how to improve the performance of software projects. Each of these, while well meaning, are missing the means to confirm their credibility.

They are many times end up being personal anecdotes from observations and local practices that may or may not be applicable outside those anecdotes and more importantly may not be statistically sound in principle, let alone practice.

I work in the Software Intensive System of Systems domains in Aerospace, Defense, Enterprise IT (both commercial and government) applying Agile, Earned Value Management, Productive Statistical Estimating (both parametric and Monte Carlo), Risk Management, and Root Cause Analysis with a variety of capabilities. In this domain, we are guided by credible results using principles, processes, and procedures to increase the probability of program success. References below. 

The growth of cost and schedule is not unique to commercial development. One of my work colleagues is the former NASA Cost Director. This is from one of our presentations from a International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association meeting on the same topic. And there are many other examples (see references).

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 2.10.01 PM

One case of 12 projects from a large contractor of Software Intensive System (SIS) shows similar variances 

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 2.25.59 PM

More research at and has shown there are four core root causes of this unfavorable growth in cost and schedule and shortfalls in technical capabilities. 

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 2.30.30 PM

Some might say these are domains unrelated to our domain. I'd suggest the Principles for project success on non-trivial software efforts are universal. Your project may be different in practice, but the principles are the same. These principles are:

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 3.21.21 PM

So let's look at an example 

Here's a typical graph showing a core problem in the software development domain. 

There are a collection of projects that started with an estimate at completion and as these projects are executed they didn't turn out as planned - and most importantly they didn't turn out as needed. 

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 1.55.42 PM

Figure 1 - Planned Estimates versus Actual Performance from [1]

Some unanswered critical questions at charts like Figure 1 are:

  1. What's the credibility of the initial estimates?
    • Are they risk adjusted?
    • Is there Management Reserve for in scope but unplanned activities?
    • What's the confidence in this estimate?
    • What are the Cost Element Relationships that drive risk
  2. What processes are in place to execute according to plan?
    • Are there measures of physical percent complete to provide the feedback needed to take corrective actions?
    • Is there a risk retirement plan to ensure Risks don't turn into Issues and delay the project?
  3. What irreducible uncertainties and the resulting risks were Not handled?
    • Is there schedule, cost, and technical margin in the plan?
    • Do you know the margin burndown rate and is that measured to assure you're on plan for the burn down of margin rate?
  4. Was the scope controlled, properly funded, staffed properly, defects too high - causing rework, and a myriad of other operational and developmental things that could have caused the actual result to not match the initial estimate. What are these and what corrective actions from the root causes were not in place?
    • Is there a change control process in place of some kind?
    • Does that process prevent impacting the plans without authorization?
  5. What irreducible uncertainties were not considered for cost, schedule, and technical margins?
    • Is there Management Reserve for this?
    • Is that MR managed in accordance with the governance processes for the project or the firm?

Each of these questions and the others needed to determine if the samples like those Figure 1 have any root causes not identified by the author of the chart.

Without determining the cause of why the sampled value is what it is, the chart is missing one half of the needed information to make a decision for the corrective actions, and the unfavorable answers to the questions above. 

A Few References and Resources 

  1. Schedule Estimation and Uncertainty Surrounding the Cone of Uncertainty, Todd Little, IEEE Software, May/June 2006
  2. "Sources of Weapons Systems Growth: Analysis of 35 Major Defense Acquisition Programs"
  3. GAO cost estimating and assessment guide
  4. Parametric Cost Estimating Handbook
  5. NASA Cost Estimating Handbook
  6. USAF Cost Risk Uncertainty Handbook
  7. Department of Energy
  8. OMB A-11 Part 7
  9. Defense Acquisition Universty Cost Estimating
Related articles Three Increasingly Mature Views of Estimate Making in IT Projects Who's Budget is it Anyway? Just Because You Say Words, It Doesn't Make Then True Project Risk Management, PMBOK, DoD PMBOK and Edmund Conrow's Book There is No Such Thing as Free Essential Reading List for Managing Other People's Money The Fallacy of the Planning Fallacy Herding Cats: Probabilistic Cost and Schedule Processes Information Technology Estimating Quality
Categories: Blogs

Asana tips: task or project?

Asana Blog - Wed, 10/12/2016 - 19:11


Teams can track anything with Asana, but taking the first step to decide how your team should track your work can be challenging. You might wonder: when should I use a task and when should I use a project? While there’s not necessarily a “right way” to use Asana, there are some general tips to follow so you can get it right from the start.

Tasks and projects: the basics

A task is the basic unit of work in Asana. Tasks can represent action items for you or a teammate to complete, one-off to-dos, repeated steps in a process, or they can even be used to store information. Creating a task is simple—you can do it in My Tasks, or with the Quick Add button.

Projects are an organized list of tasks. In an organization, projects are stored in teams. Projects help you plan goals, and are great places for your team to communicate about and visualize progress towards a goal. You can quickly create a project by clicking the + button in the sidebar, or by using Quick Add.

As you track more work and map out new workflows in Asana, you’ll create many tasks and projects. To help you stay organized, here’s some guidance on how to decide between using a task or a project.

How to choose between tasks and projects Does your work involve other teammates?

You can use Asana to track any kind of work, from your own small to-dos to all of your team’s work. But work that only pertains to you is best suited for a task. For example: submitting your expense report or reading a research article about your industry. For these kinds of tasks, add them from My Tasks, so you can track them alongside all the other work that is assigned to you.

If a task involves other teammates, you’ll probably want to add it to a project. (Go to the project and press enter to add your task.) If there isn’t a project for this work, then create one and have your teammates add their relevant work to it as well.

If the work is relevant to multiple projects or teams, you can store the task in multiple projects. For example: a social media post about an event your company is attending could be in a social publishing calendar project as well as in an event planning project.

A few steps versus entire workflows

As you start building out a task, you might realize that there are more pieces to it than you thought. If you have more than 5–10 subtasks, or subtasks within subtasks, consider using a project instead. If you’ve already created a task for the work, you can easily convert it to a project.

If you know you’re building out an entire workflow, you should start with a project, and can use sections or custom fields to categorize tasks or show work stages. It’s easier to see work moving through stages and measure progress when it’s in a project (especially because you can also add it to My Dashboard). But if your project has fewer than five tasks or stakeholders, try it out as a task.

Visualizing work

There are many ways to see your work in Asana. If you need to see all tasks assigned to you, go to My Tasks. For tasks or conversations related by certain criteria, you can do a simple search (instead of creating a project for them). Familiarize yourself with different views to ensure you’re seeing your work in the way that makes the most sense for you.

Projects provide several different ways to to view work within them, including a calendar, progress chart, and a view of all the files in the project. If you know you’ll need these types of views, start with a project.

Some examples to guide you

The main difference between tasks and projects is their scale and scope. Below are a few examples to demonstrate the difference and how they relate to one another to track your work.

A piece of content versus editorial calendar

Managing your editorial calendar in Asana is a great way to visualize your publishing schedule and keep your content on track. By creating an editorial calendar project, you can have a calendar view and use custom fields to indicate the status of each piece as it moves down the pipeline. You can then create a new task for each piece of content to track its author, due date, status, and any subtasks.

A discussion topic versus a meeting agenda

Running your meetings in Asana keeps the agenda clear and makes action items easy to track. Create a meeting agenda project with sections to keep organized and track discussion topics, ideas, follow-up work as tasks. Because you can store tasks in multiple projects, it’s easy to talk about existing work from other projects by adding it to your meeting agenda project too.

You can also use the meeting agenda project to have conversations in between meetings, and conversations on tasks can focus on the specific work itself.

Individual launches versus launch roadmap

For each individual launch, you can create a task within the product launch project. That way, teams can get an overall view of all launches, while seeing all the individual efforts within each launch.

You can create a new project for larger launches, but it’s useful to still keep a tracking task that’s stored in the general product launch roadmap.

Setting team conventions

Because Asana is flexible enough for any team, you can decide what works best for yours—and that might look different than what we’ve outlined here, or what other organizations do. It’s important that everybody on your team or in your organization follows the same set of conventions around creating tasks and projects. Here are a few considerations to help in your creation process:

  • Which work will always be tracked in Asana and where?
  • How do you name projects and tasks?
  • Does certain work always get tracked as a task or project?
  • Will your team create your own “template” projects and tasks, that you can copy for recurring workflows?

Asana is flexible enough to organize you and your team’s work however you need, especially once you establish norms and get a feel for what works best. You can always make changes along the way. Once you’re up and running, you can spend time on getting work done, instead of trying to track it down in the first place.

Categories: Companies

The Future of Management 3.0

NOOP.NL - Jurgen Appelo - Wed, 10/12/2016 - 08:18

Do you want to own and scale up one of the most innovative leadership brands in the world?

Six years ago, I started working on Management 3.0 courseware and workshops. Quite rapidly, other trainers signed up to offer my classes to their own clients because there was nothing quite like it out there. Now, six years later, there are 175 Management 3.0 facilitators worldwide offering hundreds of workshops per year. We have an enthusiastic team assisting with support and marketing, a new full-color book, Managing for Happiness, that is already being translated to several languages, amazing-looking new content modules, and a new and improved curriculum that will be launched per January 1, 2017.

The next step?

I will hand over the Management 3.0 brand to others.

Management 3.0 was called one of the leaders of the Third Wave of Agile. We now see other institutions offering agile leadership workshops and certificates. After my keynote at Agile 2016 in Atlanta, several organizations reached out to me to discuss collaboration with the Management 3.0 team. Despite increased competition, our workshops are widely seen as the most successful, the most playful and colorful, and definitely the most innovative among all leadership programs. Even managers and teachers at traditional business schools take notice and have asked for my time to talk with them.

However, I am not the right person to scale up this business.

I am a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. I am not an effective CMO, COO or CEO. I don’t fly around the world to talk with training institutions, content channels, and business partners. It doesn’t make me happy. I’m not good at hiring Account Managers or Vice Presidents of Business Development. And I am certainly not the right person to develop business strategies and optimize revenue streams. I’m good at spotting new opportunities and experimenting with innovative ideas. I’m not so good at scaling up those solutions once they seem to work well and need a boost in execution.

It is time to hand over the reigns to others.

Do you want co-ownership of Management 3.0 with me?
Do you have the talent to scale up a successful startup?
Do you have time and money to invest in this business?

Contact me.

I know the Management 3.0 brand can grow to include workshops and courses to cover many more topics and target audiences. I’m sure there are hundreds of channels and publishers that will be glad to distribute our colorful materials. And it’s certain that training institutes worldwide are in desperate need of innovation.

I do my best work when I contribute as a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. If you let me do that, I will happily let you grow the company.

The post The Future of Management 3.0 appeared first on NOOP.NL.

Categories: Blogs

Coming soon: a new chapter for Workstyle

Asana Blog - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 21:52
Dots forming a wave

When we started Workstyle a year and a half ago, our purpose was simple: to share ideas and lessons from leaders and teams who are doing great things together.

Since then we’ve written many stories and shared actionable advice on everything from how to give blunt, effective feedback and encourage work-life balance to falling in love with your job again.

For the past several months, we’ve also been thinking (a lot) behind the scenes about how to evolve Workstyle, and we’re just about ready to share what we’ve come up with. In a few weeks, we’re relaunching Workstyle with a brand new name, look and feel, and format. We’re also publishing all-new content on how teams can get great results together.

We can’t wait to share the new Workstyle with you. Stay tuned.

Get a sneak peek and subscribe for the latest updates.

Categories: Companies

How to Measure Value

Agile is about delivering value, so it is important to understand the value you are delivering within an iteration or release. However, I seen many teams that focus on how many story points they deliver but not really thinking about the value of those story points.

So are there ways to measure value? The answer is, of course there is. One way would be to use the Planning Poker approach, but instead of estimating the effort for each story you can estimate the value of the story. In this case, the team doing the work would include the product owner, any sponsored users, and other users or subject matter experts. Just as you would start with estimating effort, you would pick one feature or user story and assign it an arbitrary value, such as eight points. Then you would go through and assign values to each of the remaining features or user stories relative to that one.

From here, there are a couple more things you can do to refine your value measurement. One approach would be to divide the value of a story by the story estimate. For example if you had a three story point story with a value of three, you would have a feature of 1 value point/story point. Likewise if you had a one story point story with a value of three you would get a answer of three value points/story point, which would indicate that this would be a more valuable story based on the value per points.

Another approach would be to calculate the cost of each user story. If you have a team that is pretty stable you can estimate how much it cost to perform an iteration. You should also know your velocity, so it's a simple math equation to come up with your cost per points. So for example if you had a five person team and average cost per person of $200/hour, you work that out for a two-week iteration you're looking at $80,000. if your velocity is 50 points then your cost per store is $1600 so an eight point story would cost $12,800.

So these are just a couple ways in which you can measure the value of what you're delivering. You could do something as simple as the T-shirt sizing approach, where a story may be small, medium, large, or extra-large in value. In any case you should look at someway to ensure that you are measuring the value you are delivering and not just the effort being completed.
Categories: Blogs

Why Is Six Sigma Important to Manufacturing Teams?

The LiquidPlanner Blog - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 15:47
Six SigmaSix Sigma

Anyone who has ever led a manufacturing project can attest to the fact that they have unique challenges. Nearly all projects iterate through some version of the “planning, execution and control” cycle, but manufacturing takes that to new levels. This is particularly true when you are going to be churning out a high volume of the same thing, such as an automobile part or an electrical component.

Watching the end result of a project manifest itself as thousands (or millions) of an item rolling off of a conveyer belt can elicit an almost Zen like pleasure. But it also can be accompanied by a sinister side effect: variance. Variance is the enemy of production, but the trouble is that virtually everything varies somewhat in this universe if you measure it carefully enough. There are simply tiny fluctuations present in everything we see and touch. This includes even the most precise goods made today. Addressing variance is where the processes of Six Sigma shines.

What’s a “Sigma”?
Six Sigma is a group of processes that were born at Motorola and made famous at General Electric. Now it is used in many of the best manufacturing companies around the world.  Before we get into the specifics of what Six Sigma is and why it’s important, let’s discuss what a sigma is and why it matters.

When you are manufacturing a product, standardization matters. In fact, whether or not the product is a “quality” product depends upon the product falling within a certain range of specifications.

As stated earlier, everything deviates from a standard if you measure it carefully enough. The goal is to take measurements that are fine enough to capture these fluctuations. You average these measures together to determine the mean, and then you can calculate the standard deviation of all of those numbers. This simply tells how diverse your data set is. Diversity can be a good thing but not when you are dealing with products that are supposed to be standardized!

Ideally, your measurements should be grouped very closely to the mean. This would indicate a low standard deviation, which is desirable. On the other hand, a high standard deviation indicates a lot of variance, which means your processes are probably not under control.

This is where we get the word “sigma.” A sigma, abbreviated as “σ“, represents a distance on either side of the mean.  A single standard deviation from the mean is called “one sigma.” So one sigma quality means that only the items with measurements that fell within one standard deviation passed quality inspection. Unfortunately, this only equates to about 31 percent. Three sigma quality is much better since it means that many more passed through quality. That gets us up to over 93 percent quality.

If you have achieved six sigma quality, you have only 3.4 defects for every one million products that your organization produces. This is considered to be world class.

world class What Six Sigma Looks Like in the Real World

One way it has been described is that one sigma quality equates to an error per page in a book. Three sigma quality equates to a single error in the whole book. Six Sigma quality would have only a single error in the entire library. When you achieve the level of six sigmas, you have essentially removed most of the things that can be controlled. Remaining defects will fluctuations in line with the nature of materials, etc.

The 5 Steps of Six Sigma

But the goal is not simply to achieve this quality. The goal is to be able to achieve it repeatedly and predictably every time you manufacture the product. This generally involves not only the organization performing the project but also the entire supply chain.  So Six Sigma has a series of steps to help you achieve world class quality and sustain it. This family of steps is abbreviated as DMAIC. If you work around Six Sigma, you will see DMAIC a lot. It is an acronym that stands for:


Here’s a look at each step:

  • Data: The steps that make up DMAIC are based on hard numerical analysis and not simply observation. The team gathers data and those data are used to understand and make decisions. As W. Edwards Deming famously stated, “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.”This data-driven approach begins with the step of Define. In other words, define the problem, define the scope, and define what success would look like. Steven Covey urged us to “Begin with end in mind”, and this is simply an empirical understanding of what that end should look like.
  • Measure is where you take very specific measurements of your current reality. This starts with the output but may grow to include measurements about how the output is being produced.
  • Analyze is about coming up with a plan to move from the current measured state to the desired state. It commonly involves root cause analysis so that you are not simply dealing with surface issues.
  • The step of Improve takes action to move the current state to the desired state. The previous steps of Define and Analyze are to gain an understanding of what is wrong and how to fix it, but this step takes real steps to bring the product into quality tolerances.
  • Control is about making your change consistently repeatable. This is not about a one-time fix. It is about putting the right change policies, and processes in place to produce consistently better products. This can be the most frustrating step in the entire process.
Prevention Over Inspection

A common reaction when looking at this list is: “What happened to inspection?” In other words, how can you have high quality if product inspection is not an integral part?  The answer is that Six Sigma, like most modern quality programs values prevention over inspection. It is based on the principle that quality cannot be inspected into a product after it has already been manufactured. Instead, quality is all about prevention. When it comes to delivering quality products, planning always wins over inspection.

The art is to learn to identify, measure, and ultimately eliminate variances. And this is not a one-time activity. It has to be done throughout the project and into subsequent operations, because waste is like weeds in a lawn or garden. You get rid of the undesirables but then they inevitably and relentlessly come creeping back in.

Is Six Sigma Right for Your Project?

You can best answer this question by looking at the type of manufacturing or service delivery involved in your project. In cases where the manufacturing is not highly consistent, it may be best to try a different approach. A great example of a Six Sigma project includes Motorola manufactured circuit boards and silicon processors and chips. This was highly repetitive and did not vary much within a product line. On the other hand, consider an aircraft manufacturer that delivers a relatively small quantity of planes that are each configured differently—not a great candidate for Six Sigma?

Taking the steps to achieve world class quality can be intimidating, but it brings big rewards. If you are ready to learn more about Six Sigma and what it can do for you, the American Society for Quality could be a great place for you to begin.

Did you know that only 2.5% of companies successfully complete 100% of their projects? That’s sign of a bad project management process. How would you rate yours? Take our Project Management Health Check, a 9-question multiple-choice assessment of your project management process.  

Take the assessment!

The post Why Is Six Sigma Important to Manufacturing Teams? appeared first on LiquidPlanner.

Categories: Companies