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We are changing LAST Conference this year: Here is how and why.

Better Projects - Craig Brown - Sun, 05/29/2016 - 01:31

TL/DR: We are making changes to LAST Conference to improve the attendee experience. Go check out the sessions you want to go visit on Lanyrd. And then go buy a ticket before they sell out.LAST Conference is widely regarded and commented as one of the best industry conferences in the world.I heartily endorse this belief. I have been organizing it with my friend Ed Wong since 2011 and we think we have got a pretty good set up going.We ask people what they thought of each event a week or so later, and the huge numbers of actual responses, plus the very overwhelmingly positive comments we hear reassure us our initial design ideas were right. We have also been written up by several industry folks unilaterally declaring our event to be amazing.We hear that people love the community vibe, the low fuss, non-corporate feel of the event. We hear things like our instructions to "vote with your feet" on sessions empowers people to explore and bail on sessions if they aren't useful or fit for the audience member. And the rich variety of sessions; games, workshops, talks make for a great day.  Plus meals and a drinks tab at the local pub that pull people together and provide a place to talk and exchange ideas with co-attendees. We have done all this for less than $100 a ticket, because when we originally set this conference up we were looking to help people at not-for-profits, government agencies, small businesses and startups who didn't have the budget to go to expensive training events and conferences.Despite all this, we get some complaints.The most frequent issue reported to us is that the volume of sessions on one day mean that people get frustrated with the choices they have to make and the opportunity cost of going to one session over another.Scarcity equals value, right? We have a huge number of speakers and facilitators with lots of concurrent things going on. We charge the equivalent of an expensive lunch for a ticket. So don't we need to make something scarce? We designed the choke point to be the attendee's time. AT first we though that was a good idea - people will just have to come along to the meetups in town, and come back next year for another event.  This year we are going to try to address the pain.We have spread the conference over two days and we have asked a number of speakers to come back and repeat their session from the Thursday on Friday. Not everyone could afford the time, and sometimes we have swapped out speakers but hung onto the same topic. We also have (as of the day I publish this blog post) MOST of the sessions published on Lanyrd, which means you can browse through what's on and think about what you want to track and go see. Check out the handy features on the Lanyrd page that help you plan your event. So head along, enjoy yourself, and let me and Ed know how you think the conference is doing.#EdWongisSexy
Categories: Blogs

7 Strategies To Stay Focused At Work

strategies to stay focused and relaxedStaying focused at work can become a difficult task when you workplace is hectic and chaotic. Yes, it does come with the territory - loud equipment, people walking by, loud discussions, deadlines, busy schedules, and clutter, but all of that can be cultivated so that it doesn’t have to stress you out. Even the slightest changes can become leveraged strategies to stay focused when your workplace isn't zen.According to a 2015 study conducted by
Categories: Blogs

The Fallacy of Beneficial Ignorance

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Sat, 05/28/2016 - 01:01

The basis of #Noestimates is that decisions can be made in the presence of uncertainty without having to estimate the impact of those decisions

No Estimates

Here's a research paper that hopefully will put an end to the nonsensical idea of #NoEstimates.

All project work is uncertain. And has been stated here endless times, uncertainty comes in two forms - Reducible (Epistemic) and Irreducible (Aleatory).

Add to that the biases found on all projects - confirmation and optimism are two we encounter all the time. The conjecture - and it is pure conjecture- that decisions can be made when spending other people's money in the presence of uncertainty without estimating the consequences of those decisions is not only conjecture, it's factually false - a Fallacy.

Here's the paper at SSRN. You'll need to create a free account. This version is the pre-publication version, but it's the same paper I downloaded from my account. Read the paper, discover how to reject the notion of #NoEstimates, not only by its ignorance of managerial finance, probabilistic decision making, business governance violations, but foundational mathematics.

So time to learn why estimates are needed to make decisions in the presence of uncertanty, how to make those estimates, and start behaving as adults in the presence of the risk created by this uncertainty as Tim Lister tells us Risk Management is how Adults Manage Projects.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 5.50.13 PM

Related articles What's the Smell of Dysfunction? Making Decisions in the Presence of Uncertainty Making Choices in the Absence of Information Making Conjectures Without Testable Outcomes Estimating and Making Decisions in Presence of Uncertainty Making Decisions In The Presence of Uncertainty Intellectual Honesty of Managing in the Presence of Uncertainty Some More Background on Probability, Needed for Estimating Why Guessing is not Estimating and Estimating is not Guessing
Categories: Blogs

What We’re Reading This Week: The Gig Economy and the Future of Work

The LiquidPlanner Blog - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 17:51
what we're readingwhat we

So much has been made about the future of work, from the rise of the 1099 “gig” worker to the employee who works one full-time job and moonlights in another. Not sure either of these things are really new, but the data doesn’t lie. More than 53 million Americans, or about a third of all U.S. workers have a second job. Why?

One theory is that as the economy slips, so does labor churn. More and more people worry about leaving an existing job, so they stay for the sake of stability even if this means missing an opportunity to find new, higher paying work. Given this, it’s no big surprise that financial fear could be a major contributing factor to why people choose to take on additional work.

The other theory is that the future of work is a technological creation. New tools and technologies (read: Internet) have given people the freedom to work when, where and how they like. Services like Uber can be turned on or off at will—giving drivers the freedom to work on their own schedule. Web-based tools that enable teams to work together from anywhere are steadily chipping away at the notion that everyone has to be in the same office.

No matter how you interpret the future of work, it’s time to abandon the idea that the new way to work is still a long way off. The future is here, and it’s up to you decide how to make it work.

Here are some articles to get you thinking about new ways to work.

Bonus Story! The most read blog post of the week:

Like what you read? Have suggestions? Drop me a note @mmerwin.

If you want to read up on how to be the top dog of project managers, download our handbook, The Ultimate Project Management Guide.”


The post What We’re Reading This Week: The Gig Economy and the Future of Work appeared first on LiquidPlanner.

Categories: Companies

From Divided to United — Aligning Technical and Business Teams

LeanKit Blog - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 16:07

Learn how to unite around priorities, dependencies, and metrics, aligning technical and business teams. Discover how LeanKit created unity in our teams.

The post From Divided to United — Aligning Technical and Business Teams appeared first on Blog | LeanKit.

Categories: Companies

4 Real-Life Tips For Choosing Collaboration Tools

Tips for choosing collaboration toolsGetting the right collaboration tool for your team is really important – as is knowing how to use it. It’s something that my book, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers, goes into in a lot of detail because if you get it wrong it’s a massive waste of expense and energy.

But I don’t have the monopoly on knowing how to do it. I talk to a lot of project managers about the software they use and there is often a common theme: they are pushed into finding something better because they can’t carry on as they are.

This is what happened to Dara Ingoldsby from Prophix, a firm that develops software to automate financial and operational processes. I found out more about what happened and used Dara’s experience to pull out 4 tips for everyone else in the same situation.

The Need: Understanding You Can’t Grow Like This

It didn’t take long for Dara, Head of Professional Services for Prophix UK, to realise that he’d joined a company where the systems for getting work done were less than ideal.

Projects were stored in different programs and in different formats. Dara made it a mission to find the perfect tool to run the projects efficiently. “It was impossible to find information you needed, everything was buried in documents and folders, and there was no way of getting an accurate status for any project,” he says.

When he started looking for a tool, he wanted to make sure that it was able to manage all of their projects, while enabling their staff to provide good service. “I needed a tool that would make sure we weren’t wasting all our time or dropping balls with customers,” he adds.

Tip #1: Know why you are embarking on a project to change or upgrade your software tools. There’s no business justification for launching a new collaboration tool just because you read about it in the business press. There should be a strong reason to change.

The Requirements: Working Out What’s Important

One of the main priorities for Dara, as he searched through the available software tools was a solution that could they could use to streamline their processes. “I tried products that were difficult to navigate, and I quickly realised they didn’t have the depth of functionality that I needed.”

But when he found Accelo, something clicked. “First off, I knew Accelo was the right tool for us when I saw how easy it was to use,” he says. “It takes project collaboration and workflow management to the next level. It was quite literally love at first sight. Or in this case, at first demo.”

Tip #2: Know what you are looking for before you start looking. What business problem are you trying to address? When you start looking at software you’ll often get a gut feel that this particular product is the right one for you. Do your due diligence and vendor comparisons, but don’t ignore that feeling either.

Dara Ingoldsby quote

The Processes: Getting Everyone Doing The Same Thing

Fast forward a bit: Prophix’s new software is in place, full of all the standard processes and workflows. Knowing that they had that part sorted, Dara and his team decided to hire a few employees with no prior project management experience.

The UK expansion for Prophix could have been a massive headache for the small Hampshire-based team but standardising as much as they could and putting it all in one place made the process easier.

“It was so easy for the new staff members to learn the processes, and to navigate through their work,” says Dara. “Had we not had Accelo, all new staff members would have had to manually consolidate all information from multiple sources. And, quite frankly, I don’t think it would have been possible to expand as quickly as we did.”

The UK office doubled in size in little over a year – and Dara says it happened smoothly.

A further benefit of standardisation is that it’s easier to manage when project team members move on or switch out. “I can easily go into their projects and see what they have been doing, where the projects are and what else needs to be done,” Dara explains. “So even though they are no longer around, it’s super easy for me to handle their tasks.”

Tip #3: Standarise where you can. Making processes repeatable saves time doing the work and onboarding others to do the work and increases visibility. The Results: More Revenue; Fewer Headaches

The change to a new software tool is always a challenge. There’s training, learning new ways of doing things and getting used to working differently even if you are really keen to make the switch. So aside from helping the company grow and giving project managers fewer headaches, has the implementation been a success?

“We have been billing out 10% more a week,” says Dara. And in terms of our actual revenue, we have seen an increase of about 25%. This is a great start, and we are hoping for more.”

Dara believes it has been worth it. The professional services side of Prophix is now a one-stop shop. With everything stored within a single tool, the team can easily see existing emails, plan out projects, see the status of remaining tasks, and even assign themselves work.

“It saves my team so much time,” Dara says. “Now, they can spend the time working with clients instead of doing administrative work.”

There is also better visibility about that time spent working with clients. “Prior to Accelo, we had no way of tracking the time spent on each project, and we often would have one member of the team burn through all the allocated hours,” Dara says. “We no longer have that happening.” Project teams are able to see in real-time the hours that have been spent on each project and the profit margin associated with that.

Tip #4: Track time! You’ll often see this mentioned on my blog, and it’s really important if you work in any kind of client-facing, service role. You can calculate profitability, prioritise more effectively and improve your delivery processes if you know how long projects are taking you.

This article was sponsored by Accelo.

Header image credit:

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Categories: Blogs

Estimating on Agile Projects

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 03:39

Here's a straightforward approach to estimating on agile projects. This is an example of the estimating profession found on many domains. 

Categories: Blogs

Meet Anna Binder, Asana’s first Head of People Operations

Asana Blog - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 18:30
Anna Binder Asana People Operations

Editor’s note: We’re excited to welcome Anna Binder to Asana as our first Head of People Operations. Before joining Asana, Anna was VP of People at MuleSoft and previously held leadership positions at ReadyForce and IronPort Systems.

At fast-growing tech companies, we always invest in our businesses—and often invest heavily in recruiting—but we rarely invest with the same rigor in our people.

Asana is exceptionally different, and it’s why I’m excited to announce I’ve joined Asana as its first Head of People Operations. In my new role, I’ll work closely with our co-founders Dustin and Justin as we scale the amazing culture they’ve built here from the ground up. Equally as important, I’ll be doing great things together with each and every one of our now-more-than-200 Asanas as we take this values-driven company to the next level.

Culture is what connects business goals, values, and people

Every company has a culture, whether you’re a small nursery offering gardening services, a global law firm, or a burgeoning tech startup. Whether or not that culture has been intentionally designed is what can matter most.

Culture is often misdefined and it’s obviously not the same as perks and benefits. Rather, culture lies at the very core of a company; it’s what connects three crucial parts of an organization. It’s helpful to think of them as the three points of a triangle.

One point of the triangle is the organization’s business goals. What is your organization trying to achieve in the marketplace, and how will it get there?

Second is values. What are the values of the company, especially of its founders? Everything starts with the values held by company leadership and how well they walk the talk.

The third is people, or in operational terms, “people touchpoints.” These are all the programs, communications, and behaviors within a company itself—things like the budget, the language used in job descriptions, and how decisions are made and communicated. There are potentially thousands of these touchpoints in any given company—and every one of them matters.

Culture is what lives in between these three points, connecting them together. My goal is to build and evolve people programs that help us achieve our business, diversity, and inclusion goals in a way that is consistent with our values.

Scaling Asana’s great culture through world-class people operations

Asana is built on a foundation of mindfulness. As Dustin has discussed many times, mindfulness informs everything from how we make tough trade-off decisions in the product to how we onboard new hires and develop managers.

As our headcount continues to grow, we’re committed to our idea of “fast growth, mindful business.” And we’re constantly looking at ways to ensure that our incredible culture continues to thrive through our people programs, especially as they (naturally) grow more complex in nature.

In more concrete terms, these are business questions like: What’s our compensation philosophy as we continue to expand into different geographies? How do we scale the programs like our Conscious Leadership Group workshop for all staff? What are the most important internal metrics and drivers that matter to the health of a much-bigger Asana in a year’s time? And how do we start understanding that data now?

I do believe that an examined life is an improved life, and Asana is certainly a company dedicated to examination, reflection, and betterment. I’m delighted to join the team and build on the many things that are already working so well. I’m even more excited to help drive where we go next.


Categories: Companies

Dear Elizabeth: Keeping Secrets From Clients and Time Tracking Woes

The LiquidPlanner Blog - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 17:03
advice columnadvice column

Dear Elizabeth: My team manager is on a rampage to have us all log and track time. Part of me understands why but another part of me feels like Big Brother is watching. Is there a better way I can look at tracking my time—like, ways it can work for me? –Resisting in Roswell

Dear Resisting: For a start, Big Brother isn’t watching. Everyone has far too much actual work to do than pour over your timesheets to find out whether you took 30 minutes or 45 minutes as a lunch break. That is, assuming you have nothing to hide and are hitting your targets and delivering on your project!

Look at time tracking as a personal tool to help you be more effective. For example:

  • How good are you at estimating? Timesheets will help you understand whether your estimates are realistic because you can compare your project schedule against the work you actually did and see whether there’s a gap.
  • You can see where you spend your time. I know I spent time on social media sites throughout the day, but if I tracked it I bet I’d see it is longer than I expected. Time tracking will help you see exactly what you are doing each day, which is the first step to doing things differently.
  • Your company can charge your clients more. I know of one company that boosted their profits by about 50 percent because they could charge clients accurately. Previously people weren’t recording their time accurately and clients were being undercharged.

To put your mind at rest, talk to your manager about why they’re introducing time tracking. When you understand the goals, you’re more likely to feel that tracking time has some advantages – and I bet they aren’t doing it just to check up on you.

Finally, I’m sure there are other people feeling like this in your team. You’ll do everyone a favor for starting an honest conversation about how people feel about timesheets. In turn, this will help ensure that if you do start tracking time that the results are meaningful and that everyone feels good about it.

Dear Elizabeth: I’m in a bit of a pickle. The project I’m currently managing is not going to make the delivery date because a handful of developers got moved to another project. But my boss has told me not to say anything to the client—yet. Well a week has gone by, and the client keeps asking me for updates, and I find myself having to spin one white lie after another, which I hate. How do I proceed in a way that I can be honest, and make the client and my boss happy?  — Uncool Cucumber

Dear Uncool: Goodness, I don’t envy you. In some situations it’s fine not to say anything to a client straight away, say for example, if you expect to be resolving the issues imminently so that their project is not going to be affected. Let’s not stress clients out for no reason. If you can deal with the problem and keep them out of it, then great.

But that isn’t happening in your situation. I think a week is plenty long enough to keep this client in the dark about what is potentially a showstopper for their work. They might have a big launch planned, and if you can’t keep your company’s side of the bargain then ultimately the relationship with this client will be damaged longer term (an unscrupulous boss might even blame you for losing the client).

I would tell my boss that I am going to tell the client. He or she needs to support you in making sure that message is a pain-free for the client as possible. In other words, they need to help you find some extra developers. Could you buy them in? Could you get them back? Could you pay them overtime?

Take a few suggestions to your boss. They will all cost money but you can offset that against the cost of bad publicity, reputational damage and the cost of losing the client. Ask your boss to approve a solution that helps you get back on track.

If they won’t, I would still tell the client. Be honest and explain your resourcing problem. Ask them for help with resolving the problem, and see what they can do from their side to put pressure on your management team to free up additional resources. They can escalate it within their management structure and that will come back to your boss eventually. It will be uncomfortable. But you’ll have done the right thing for the project, for your client and for your company.

Have questions for Elizabeth? Email to submit a question.

Wait, there’s more! If you want practical solutions to common PM problems, download the eBook, “How to Solve the Top 9 Project Management Challenges.” 

top 9 project management challenges

The post Dear Elizabeth: Keeping Secrets From Clients and Time Tracking Woes appeared first on LiquidPlanner.

Categories: Companies

HPE Discover & Software Lifecycle Architecture Diagrams

Tasktop Blog - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 13:29

June is right around the corner and for Tasktop that means HPE Discover!

Over the past 5 years, the Pre-Sales Engineering team at Tasktop has created hundreds of Software Lifecycle Architecture Diagrams for our prospects and customers. Using a custom template, we’re able to facilitate collaborative conversations around the challenges our automotive, banking, insurance, retail, etc. customers are facing with their disconnected tool stack.

software lifecycle diagram example
By creating customized pictorials of existing tools stack and workflows, we help everyone get on the same page visually and socialize the idea of a connected application lifecycle inside their own organization. They look great too!

So if you’re headed to Las Vegas for the conference, make sure you stop by our booth: #608 (near the ‘Enable’ Transformation Zone) because not only will expert Tasktopians be facilitating these conversations but we’ll also be creating these custom diagrams on-site.

Let us know the challenges a disconnected lifecycle is causing you and what you want to do about it.  We’ll build you a personalized software lifecycle architecture diagram, print it out for you at our booth, and email it to you as well.

Unlike the other swag you collect, I promise it won’t sit on your desk and collect dust.

Categories: Companies

How to Make a Decision in the Presence of Uncertainty

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 23:28

Uncertainty is all around us. In the project world, uncertanty comes in two forms:

  1. Aleatory Uncertainty - the naturally occurring variances due to the underlying statistical processes of the project. These can be schedule variances, cost variances, and technical variances - all driven by a stochastic process with a known or unknown statistical distribution. If you don't know what the distribution is, the Triangle Distribution is a good place to start. For example: The statistical processes of testing our code ranges from 2 to 4 days for a full cyber security scan. Planning on a specific duration has to consider this range and provide the needed margin. Aleatory uncertainty is irreducible. Only margin can protect the project from this uncertainty.
  2. Epistemic Uncertainty - the probability that something will happen in the future. The something we're interested in is usually unfavorable. For example: The probability that the server capacity we have selected will not meet the demands of the user when we go live. Epistemic uncertainty, being probabilistic, can be addressed with redundancy, extra capacity, experiments, surge capacity and other direction actions to buy down the risk that results from this uncertanty before the risk turns into an issue.

When we hear you can make decisions without estimates, this is physically not possible if you accept the fundamental principle that uncertanty is present on all projects. If there is no uncertanty - no aleatory or epistemic uncertainties - then there will be no probabilistic or statistical processes driving the project's outcomes. If that is the case, then decision have no probabilistic or statistical impact and whatever decision you make with the information you have is Deterministic.

So if you want to learn how and why estimating is needed to make decisions in the presence of uncertainty start here:

And then when you hear about a conjecture that decisions can be made without estimating you'll know better, and consider anyone making that conjecture as uninformed about how probabilistic and stochastic processes in the project world actually work - especially when spending other people's money.


Categories: Blogs

Seven Ps for Profound Change

Insights You Can Use - Esther Derby - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 21:38

Captured from my keynote at Big Apple Scrum Day, May 17, 2016.Seven Ps of Change

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Categories: Blogs

“What If” You Managed Your Resource Plan Better?

Project Management Articles - PM Hut - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 19:08
“What If” You Managed Your Resource Plan Better? By Kristyn Medeiros How are you getting the truth? I talk to people every day who struggle with resource capacity and demand planning. It’s a challenge to see what people are working on and if people are available to take on more projects. Often times they are focused on the [...]
Categories: Communities

How to take better breaks at work

Asana Blog - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 16:43
breaks at work

We’ve all heard how important it is to take breaks at work. We can only sit in front of a computer for so long before our attention wanes and even the simplest tasks start to take, seemingly, forever. There’s a ton of research out there about the optimal amount of time we should work between taking breaks. We talk about it constantly. And yet, aside from lunch, how often do you actually take a real break during your workday?

I constantly take breaks throughout the day, but I have to admit, they usually involve staring at my Twitter feed for a while, and when I go back to work, I don’t feel like I truly took a break or refreshed my brain. It’s not a break so much as a prolonged distraction. And so, it feels like a waste of time, and I feel guilty for taking time away from my work. Because when you’re not taking a “true” break, it is a waste of time.

When you don’t let yourself take a true break from work, it becomes a waste of time.

The science of taking breaks at work

The benefits of breaks have been well studied. Researchers at University of Illinois found that regular goal-deactivation (i.e., a break where you aren’t thinking about work) drastically improves focus. When we allow our minds to wander, activity increases in the problem-solving areas of our brain and we improve our creative thinking, which is why we so often have great ideas in the shower.

Despite all of the benefits, I usually feel guilty when I take a break. And that’s a problem. We need to reframe the way we think about rest. Idleness is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s vital to our daily mental processing. As Tim Kreider writes in the New York Times: “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice… It is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Our brains need downtime. They crave it. And I know that I am guilty of depriving my brain of that downtime. It’s masochistic in a way, for me. I know that my brain needs time to rest, to wander, to not look at a screen. But I’ve almost become afraid of my own thoughts, of what would happen if I gave my brain some time off. So I check Twitter, and Instagram, and Snapchat, and Facebook. I read thinkpiece articles about how my city is changing and then swear to never read a thinkpiece article again. I message friends. I do anything, literally anything, but sit and allow my brain to wander and rest.

“Letting our minds wander facilitates creative thinking.”Tweet

In a world where we’re always busy, where our social media apps are calling to us every time we step outside or go to the bathroom or have thirty seconds of free time, how do we take truly productive breaks at work—breaks that rejuvenate our focus, energy, and motivation? What do these breaks look like?

Creative ways to take “better” breaks

In a study at Baylor University, researchers found that what determined a “better” break was not the activity itself, but the level of enjoyment the person felt. In other words, there’s no one right answer. The best type of break is the one that you like the most. Here are some ideas to try.

Look at cute pictures

Yes! This is real. A 2012 study found that after looking at cute pictures of kittens and puppies, people performed better on a variety of tasks that required focused attention. Looking at cute pictures produces nurturant love, a feeling that we need to protect these cute little animals, and it tells our brain to be more alert and aware. Basically, it’s an evolutionary trait. What a world we live in, eh? So the next time your attention starts to wane, look at some pictures of puppies, or your kids, or anything you find cute, and see if it helps jumpstart your focus.

Draw or doodle

Doodling has been shown to be a powerful thinking tool, a way to help our brain process incoming information, and a way to relax. While many people doodle in meetings, on calls, or during lectures to help them pay attention, it’s also a useful break. The great thing about a doodle or simple drawing is that it requires no thinking, allowing your mind to wander, daydream, and be idle—opening it up to the benefits of idleness.

Read fiction

This is one of my favorite types of breaks, but only if done right. I don’t mean read an article or a non-fiction book. I’m talking about fiction—about escaping the real world to a land that lives in your imagination. Novels have always been my favorite way to escape reality. When reading a great book, it’s difficult to think about anything else.

A great book has the power to overwhelm your mind and uplift your imagination, letting you live, even for just a few minutes, in a world where none of your problems are real, where in fact, you are not real. There are few other activities that let you escape in that way, as completely and thoroughly as reading fiction. You could argue that a movie will do the same, and it can, but with reading, it’s up to you to visualize the world. That extra cognitive effort required is what allows me to truly escape. And when I put down the book, I come back to Earth refreshed—because I didn’t just take a break from work. I took a break from me.

Write or journal

This is, in my opinion, the ultimate tool for when I’m feeling completely overwhelmed. The fact that a journal is not meant for anyone else is incredibly freeing. I think of it as a quiet place where I can process my thoughts and feelings.

It’s cathartic, writing stuff out that can’t be said elsewhere. And in the process I often am able to work through things—I ask myself questions, and surprise myself with answers that I hadn’t found before. As Teresa Amabile points out in The Progress Principle, daily journaling shows us that we are making progress in life—a powerful productivity tool.

Traditional types of breaks are great, too Take a nap

Napping is often sold as the cure for those mid-day slumps. The best part? Even a ten minute nap can have a huge effect on memory, creativity, alertness, and the ability to absorb new information. If you’re a napper, this study goes more in depth about the benefits of varying lengths of naps.

Get moving

Exercise is my personal favorite. Something about a brief workout and a shower recharges me and gets me ready to face the remainder of my day. The benefits of exercise affect nearly every aspect of our lives. A study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that exercising during the workday had a positive effect on mood and job satisfaction. Another study found that exercise has a positive effect on cognition, reaction time, creative thinking, memory, and task switching, just to name a few. In short, if you’re having a problem, any problem, give exercising a shot. It’ll probably help.

Idleness: the ultimate productivity hack

These days I often feel overwhelmed with the amount of work on my plate, and it’s hard to take a break without feeling guilty for doing so. I push myself to continue to work even though I know it’s unproductive. This is common, I know. But the evidence for the benefits of rest is clear, and so I’m working on reframing the way I think about them. Idleness is not laziness. It’s productive.

“Idleness is not laziness. It’s actually productive.”Tweet

The type of break you take doesn’t matter. The best answer varies from person to person. What matters is how the break makes you feel. Try out some of these breaks the next time your attention starts to wane at work. When you’re done, ask yourself, do I feel more focused, energized, and motivated? If yes, you’re on the right track. If not, it’s time to experiment. Don’t feel confined to certain types of activities, and don’t be afraid to step away from your desk for a while. When you get back, you’ll feel more refreshed (and more productive) than if you never left.

Not quite ready to get back to work? Take a few extra minutes to share this article with a teammate.

Categories: Companies

Successes and Failures are Illusions

NOOP.NL - Jurgen Appelo - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 09:19
Successes and Failures.jpg

In my talks around the world, I emphasize the need to run management experiments and I offer examples of interesting ideas that worked well for my team. Of course, with so many events per year, it was inevitable that someone would ask me, “What is your least successful experiment?”

I had to think about that for a moment and I had difficulty coming up with examples. That was strange, I thought. According to information theory, we learn most when roughly half of our experiments fail. When I’m able to name a good number of ideas that work, and I’m not able to list ideas that don’t work, does that mean that my learning process is suboptimal? That would be a reason for concern!

When I thought about it, I realized that, at least for me, success and failure are temporary statuses and I perceive them both with an optimistic mind. I have plenty of ideas that work for now, and I have a lot of ideas that don’t work yet. This means that, when you ask me about a successful experiment, I will happily share with you something that is successful now, knowing quite well that it may turn into a failure later. Likewise, when someone asks me about a failure, I have difficulty producing examples because I’m not considering the ideas that aren’t working yet as failures. They often just need more time, adaptation, and customization to make them work.

In other words, for my long-term optimistic brain, half of the experiments succeed and the other half will succeed later. I’m sure there are people with a negative mindset who would turn it all around: Half of the experiments fail and the other half will fail tomorrow. (My short-term pessimistic brain often works like that: “Nothing works, and even if something works, it breaks when I start using it.”)

Successes and failures are convenient illusions. They are judgement calls of the human mind, subjective evaluations of the consequences of our actions. Outcomes can be observed by anyone but successes and failures exist only in the eyes of the beholder.

Photo: (C) 2010 Paul Keller, Creative Commons 2.0

My new book Managing for Happiness is available from June 2016. PRE-ORDER NOW!

Managing for Happiness cover (front)

The post Successes and Failures are Illusions appeared first on NOOP.NL.

Categories: Blogs

Software Review: iMindQ 4.1 Online and Windows [2016]

iMindQ Software Review

General Information

Name: iMindQ
Vendor: Seavus
Hosting options: Windows, Mac, online
Cost and plans: Online version is free. Windows single-user perpetual licence is €109. The Mac version is cheaper at €73.
Languages: English
Currency: n/a

Mindmapping Made Easy

iMindQ is a mindmapping product. You can create mindmaps and flow diagrams for anything. If you think visually and take a lot of notes in spider diagram format then this will help you construct and share your ideas in a professional way.

Online Or Desktop

I used the desktop version of this app but when I came to take some screenshots of the work I had done I found that my trial had expired.

I used the online version to open the files that I had created. The online version is really slick and integrates seamlessly with Dropbox and other online storage tools.

The advantage of the desktop version is that it integrates with MS Office or your iOS devices

Creating A New Mindmap

It’s easy to create a new mindmap. Click New, choose from a template and then give your mindmap a name.

mindmap made with iMindQ

My mindmap about peformance metrics

Formatting Your Chart

You have a lot of flexibility with display options too, if you want to make your mindmaps and charts beautiful.

Add icons and images from a big selection or upload your own, change the colours and shapes and add boundaries to group bits of your maps together.

You can also add callouts to items on the mindmap which act like notes – useful if you have more detail to add.

Personally I don’t love working with visual data representations like this and I didn’t spend much time formatting my mindmaps to make them pretty. But if design is your thing, you go for it.

Mindmap made with iMindQ

A not very pretty mindmap, but one that is perfectly functional

Making Changes Later

Provided you have saved your mindmap in an acceptable format you can go back in and change it later. By default files are saved in DMMX format but you can also export in Freemind, Outline, text, as html or as a picture.

Knowing what you want to do with your mindmap is important because if it is something core to your project that is going to be updated every so often then you need to make sure it’s in a format you can continue to use.

Presenting Your Work

Yes, you can export and put your mindmap in a PowerPoint presentation or something but you can also present direct from the app.

I tested this with the web version and it’s really great. Click the presentation mode icon to clear the screen of all the editing and menu items. Then you can use the walking magnifier to zoom in on part of the chart. What a great way to keep the team focused on the current discussion point without getting side-tracked by something else they can see in the corner of the map.

Mindmapping magnifier

Example of magnifier, showing you how it zooms in on one area of the map

Collaboration Options

You can collaborate on mindmaps with the web version as long as you are signed in to Google Drive. Share it from your file list and then go into the file. You’ll see who else is working on it in the top corner, much as you do for Google Docs.

In Summary…

This isn’t the tool for me because it supports a way of working that doesn’t fit with my personal preferences, but it’s very good. The uses for mindmapping and visual charting like this are huge. I’ve seen people capture notes from conference presentations in a mindmap, or you could use it for planning agendas, taking meeting notes, explaining the concepts of your project, documenting and grouping requirements, even planning your project.

It’s going to be a useful addition to your set of project management software tools and you can get started for free with the web version to see if you like it.

Full disclosure: I have not been paid for this review.
Header Image credit:

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Categories: Blogs

Construction Project Management Certification – Is It For You?

is construction project management certification for you?According to, over 4,900 construction project managers report making between $48,400 and $105,698 per year. Pay depends on experience and skill set, but construction project managers are often able to find work in most cities across the country and around the world once they obtain the appropriate work history and education, and often a construction project management certification. What is Construction Project Management? <a
Categories: Blogs

Quote of the Day

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 16:47

Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fool do not imitate the success of the wise - Cato the Elder

Any conjecture not based on testable principles, independent of personal opinion or anecdotes cannot stand up to the questioning of the wise.

Related articles Architecture -Center ERP Systems in the Manufacturing Domain IT Risk Management Why Guessing is not Estimating and Estimating is not Guessing Making Conjectures Without Testable Outcomes Deadlines Always Matter
Categories: Blogs

When is Agile Wrong for You?

People often ask me, “When is agile  right or not right for a project?” I’ve said before that if the team wants to go agile, that’s great. If the team doesn’t, don’t use agile.

That answer is insufficient. In addition to the team, we need management to not create a bad environment for agile. You might not have a great environment to start. But a bad environment? That’s a horror show.

I had a coaching conversation recently. My client has a typical problem. He sees multiple ways to accomplish the work. He’s taking ideas from agile and lean, and smashing them together to create a project approach that works for them, at their company. It’s not quite agile. And, that’s the sticking point.

His management wants to “go agile.” They have no idea what that means.They think agile is a way to get more good stuff faster with less cost. It’s possible that with agile approaches, they can achieve that as a by-product. To be honest, any approach that stops people from waiting for phases to finish will help. That’s not necessarily agile.

The management team does know about one of the well-known approaches. They want everyone to go through that training. My client doesn’t think this will work. He has a number of concerns:

  • Management wants to control how people work at the project level. Management wants to define the iteration duration, what the standup questions will be, who will be on which team, and what the teams will do. (That’s enough right there, but there’s more. They are geographically dispersed across the globe. Going with an out-of-the-box solution does not make sense.)
  • Management wants to use team measurements for personal compensation. Specifically, they want to use personal velocity as a way to compensate people. (This is stupid, dangerous and wrong.)
  • Every manager my client has spoken with thinks that he or she does not need to change. Only the tech people need to change. (They could not be more mistaken.)

If you work in an agile organization, you know the problems with these assumptions.

Teams manage their own work: their intake is via the Product Owner. They decide how to work, flowing work through the team. Hopefully, the team focuses on their throughput, not who does what.

Remember, Velocity is Not Acceleration. When managers abuse velocity and use it to measure the team members (not even the entire team!), they create schedule games and a toxic team environment. At best, a manager’s abuse of velocity leads to people taking shortcuts and incurring technical debt. At worse, it destroys teamwork.

Managers can create the environment in which people can succeed. Especially in agile and lean, managers do not have to “incent” people, or push people to do well. People will do a good job because they get feedback often and they want to. When managers attempt to manipulate an environment to deliver more with less work (what they think agile is), I’m not sure if anyone can succeed.

I asked my client if the managers understood what agile might mean for them, as managers. He was sure the managers had no idea.

I suggested that trying agile in this environment would give agile a bad name in the organization. I suggested these alternatives:

  • Ask about the three questions that might help the managers articulate their goals. See Define Your Agile Success.
  • Do a simulation with management to have them feel what agile is like.
  • Explain the system of agile and how the ideas that management have is not helpful.
  • Request a reasonable environment for a short-ish timebox (I was thinking about a month, maybe two months) to show management that their ideas are not the only ideas that could work. I suggested a number of measures my client could suggest to his management.

Don’t start agile in a toxic environment. It’s not worth it. Agile is wrong for you. Remember that Agile is Not a Silver Bullet and Agile is Not for Everyone.

Remember, agile is a cultural change, not merely a project management framework. Instead of agile, consider using all the ideas of agile to show steady progress and decide how to influence your managers.

Instead of agile, consider using all the ideas of agile ( for example, teamwork to deliver small chunks of value) to show steady progress and decide how to influence your managers. Don’t ask teams to be collaborative when management wants to stay command-and-control.

Categories: Blogs

Book of the Month - IT Project Estimation: A Practical Guide to the Costing of Software

Herding Cats - Glen Alleman - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 04:42

IT Project EstimationEstimating is part of all decision making in the presence of uncertainty. Accuracy and precision are two primary attributes of all estimates.

We all know estimates are hard. But there are lots of hard things in the development of enterprise software. We wouldn't be whining about how hard it is to construct a good First Normal Form database schema, or bullet proof our cyber security front end from attack by the Chinese would we.

So why is estimating a topic that seems to be the whipping boy for software developers these days?

My first inclination is that estimating is not taught very well in the software arts. In engineering schools it is. Estimating is part of all engineering disciplines. One undergraduate and one graduate degree is in physics. Estimating is at the very heart of that discipline. A second graduate degree is in Systems Management - which is a combination of Systems Engineering and Managerial Finance - how to manage the technical processes of engineering programs with the principles of managerial finance, contract law, and probabilistic decision making.

This book comes with a spreadsheet for making the needed estimates to increase the probability of project success. It opens with an important quote that should be a poster on the wall of any shop spending other people's money

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all the behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish - Luke 14:28-30


Categories: Blogs