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
The basis of #Noestimates is that decisions can be made in the presence of uncertainty without having to estimate the impact of those decisions
Here's a research paper that hopefully will put an end to theÂ nonsensical idea of #NoEstimates.
All project work is uncertain. And has been stated here endless times, uncertainty comes in two forms -Â ReducibleÂ (Epistemic) andÂ IrreducibleÂ (Aleatory).
AddÂ to that the biases found on all projects -Â confirmationÂ andÂ 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 usÂ Risk Management is how Adults Manage Projects.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
So much has been made about the future of work, from the rise of the 1099 âgigâ 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 doesnât 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, itâs 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 willâgiving 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, itâs time to abandon the idea that the new way to work is still a long way off. The future is here, and itâs up to you decide how to make it work.
Here are some articles to get you thinking about new ways to work.
- If Robots Are the Future Of Work, Where Do Humans Fit In? â by Zoe Williams, theguardian.com
- This Is What the Future Of Work Will Look Like, Survey Says â by Marissa Lang, sfgate.com
- The Future of Work Requires a New Vocabulary: The Revival of the Side Hustle â by Alexandra Douwes, Huffingtonpost.com
- How Gamin Is Shaping the Future of Work â by Katy Tynana, HBR.com
- How Remote Work Will be the Future of Innovation â by Alvin Chia, HuffingtonPost.com
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 ProjectÂ Management Guide.”
The post What Weâre Reading This Week: The Gig Economy and the Future of Work appeared first on LiquidPlanner.
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.
Getting the right collaboration tool for your team is really important â as is knowing how to use it. Itâs something that my book, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers, goes into in a lot of detail because if you get it wrong itâs a massive waste of expense and energy.
But I donât 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 canât 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 Daraâs experience to pull out 4 tips for everyone else in the same situation.The Need: Understanding You Canât Grow Like This
It didnât take long for Dara, Head of Professional Services for Prophix UK, to realise that heâd 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. âIt 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,â 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. âI needed a tool that would make sure we werenât wasting all our time or dropping balls with customers,â he adds.Tip #1: Know why you are embarking on a project to change or upgrade your software tools. Thereâs 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 Whatâs 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. âI tried products that were difficult to navigate, and I quickly realised they didnât have the depth of functionality that I needed.â
But when he found Accelo, something clicked. âFirst off, I knew Accelo was the right tool for us when I saw how easy it was to use,â he says. âIt 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.âTip #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 youâll often get a gut feel that this particular product is the right one for you. Do your due diligence and vendor comparisons, but donât ignore that feeling either.
The Processes: Getting Everyone Doing The Same Thing
Fast forward a bit: Prophixâs 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.
âIt was so easy for the new staff members to learn the processes, and to navigate through their work,â says Dara. âHad we not had Accelo, all new staff members would have had to manually consolidate all information from multiple sources. And, quite frankly, I donât think it would have been possible to expand as quickly as we did.â
The UK office doubled in size in little over a year â and Dara says it happened smoothly.
A further benefit of standardisation is that itâs easier to manage when project team members move on or switch out. âI can easily go into their projects and see what they have been doing, where the projects are and what else needs to be done,â Dara explains. âSo even though they are no longer around, itâs super easy for me to handle their tasks.âTip #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. Thereâs 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?
âWe have been billing out 10% more a week,â 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.â
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.
âIt saves my team so much time,â Dara says. âNow, they can spend the time working with clients instead of doing administrative work.â
There is also better visibility about that time spent working with clients. âPrior 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,â Dara says. âWe no longer have that happening.â 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! Youâll often see this mentioned on my blog, and itâs 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: Placeit.net
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Here's a straightforward approach to estimating on agile projects. This is an example of the estimating profession found on many domains.Â
Editorâs note: Weâre 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 businessesâand often invest heavily in recruitingâbut we rarely invest with the same rigor in our people.
Asana is exceptionally different, and itâs why Iâm excited to announce Iâve 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.
Every company has a culture, whether youâre 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 itâs obviously not the same as perks and benefits. Rather, culture lies at the very core of a company; itâs what connects three crucial parts of an organization. Itâs helpful to think of them as the three points of a triangle.
One point of the triangle is the organizationâs 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, âpeople touchpoints.â These are all the programs, communications, and behaviors within a company itselfâthings 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 companyâand 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 Asanaâs 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, weâre committed to our idea of âfast growth, mindful business.â And weâre 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: Whatâs 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 yearâs 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. Iâm delighted to join the team and build on the many things that are already working so well. Iâm even more excited to help drive where we go next.
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 timeâlike, ways it can work for me? âResisting in Roswell
Dear Resisting: For a start, Big Brother isnât 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 thereâs 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 Iâd 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 werenât recording their time accurately and clients were being undercharged.
To put your mind at rest, talk to your manager about why theyâre introducing time tracking. When you understand the goals, youâre more likely to feel that tracking time has some advantages â and I bet they arenât doing it just to check up on you.
Finally, Iâm sure there are other people feeling like this in your team. Youâll 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: Iâm in a bit of a pickle. The project Iâm 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 clientâyet. 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?Â — Uncool Cucumber
Dear Uncool: Goodness, I donât envy you. In some situations itâs 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. Letâs not stress clients out for no reason. If you can deal with the problem and keep them out of it, then great.
But that isnât 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 canât keep your companyâs 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 wonât, 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 youâll have done the right thing for the project, for your client and for your company.
Have questions for Elizabeth? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to submit a question.
Wait, thereâs more! If you want practical solutions to common PM problems, download the eBook, âHow to Solve the Top 9 Project Management Challenges.âÂ
The post Dear Elizabeth: Keeping Secrets From Clients and Time Tracking Woes appeared first on LiquidPlanner.
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.Â Using a custom template, weâre able to facilitate collaborative conversations around the challenges our automotive, banking, insurance, retail, etc. customers are facing with their disconnected tool stack.
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.Â They look great too!
So if youâre headed to Las Vegas for the conference, make sure you stop by our booth: #608 (near the âEnableâ Transformation Zone) because not only will expert Tasktopians be facilitating these conversations but weâll 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.Â Weâll 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 wonât sit on your desk and collect dust.
Uncertainty is all around us. In the project world, uncertanty comes in two forms:
- Aleatory Uncertainty - the naturally occurring variances due to theÂ 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 isÂ a good place to start. For example:Â TheÂ statisticalÂ processes of testing our code ranges from 2 to 4 days for a full cyber security scan. Planning on a specificÂ durationÂ has to consider this rangeÂ andÂ provide the needed margin. Aleatory uncertainty isÂ irreducible. Only margin can protect the projectÂ from this uncertainty.
- Epistemic Uncertainty - the probability that somethingÂ will happen in the future. TheÂ something we're interested in is usuallyÂ 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 toÂ 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 isÂ Deterministic.
So if you want to learn how and why estimating is needed to make decisions in the presence of uncertainty start here:
- Making Hard Decisions: An Introduction to Decision Analysis, Robert Clemen
- Making Multi-Objective Decisions, Mansooreh Mollaghasemi and Julia Pet-Edwards
- DecisionÂ AnalysisÂ for the Professional, Pete McNamee and John Celona
And then when you hear about a conjecture that decisions can be madeÂ 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.
Weâve 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. Thereâs 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 donât feel like I truly took a break or refreshed my brain. Itâs 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 youâre not taking a âtrueâ break, it is a waste of time.
When you donât 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 arenât 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 thatâs a problem. We need to reframe the way we think about rest. Idleness is not a bad thing, in fact, itâs 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 viceâŠ 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 inspirationâit is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.â
Our brains need downtime. They crave it. And I know that I am guilty of depriving my brain of that downtime. Itâs masochistic in a way, for me. I know that my brain needs time to rest, to wander, to not look at a screen. But Iâve 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.
In a world where weâre 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 workâbreaks that rejuvenate our focus, energy, and motivation? What do these breaks look like?Creative ways to take âbetterâ breaks
In a study at Baylor University, researchers found that what determined a âbetterâ break was not the activity itself, but the level of enjoyment the person felt. In other words, thereâs 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, itâs 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, itâs 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 idleâopening it up to the benefits of idleness.Read fiction
This is one of my favorite types of breaks, but only if done right. I donât mean read an article or a non-fiction book. Iâm talking about fictionâabout 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, itâs 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, itâs 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 refreshedâbecause I didnât 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 Iâm 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.
Itâs cathartic, writing stuff out that canât be said elsewhere. And in the process I often am able to work through thingsâI ask myself questions, and surprise myself with answers that I hadnât found before. As Teresa Amabile points out in The Progress Principle, daily journaling shows us that we are making progress in lifeâa 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 youâre 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 youâre having a problem, any problem, give exercising a shot. Itâll probably help.Idleness: the ultimate productivity hack
These days I often feel overwhelmed with the amount of work on my plate, and itâs hard to take a break without feeling guilty for doing so. I push myself to continue to work even though I know itâs unproductive. This is common, I know. But the evidence for the benefits of rest is clear, and so Iâm working on reframing the way I think about them. Idleness is not laziness. Itâs productive.
The type of break you take doesnât 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 youâre done, ask yourself, do I feel more focused, energized, and motivated? If yes, youâre on the right track. If not, itâs time to experiment. Donât feel confined to certain types of activities, and donât be afraid to step away from your desk for a while. When you get back, youâll feel more refreshed (and more productive)Â than if you never left.
Not quite ready to get back to work? Take aÂ few extra minutes to share this article with a teammate.
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!
Hosting options: Windows, Mac, online
Cost and plans: Online version is free. Windows single-user perpetual licence is âŹ109. The Mac version is cheaper at âŹ73.
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 devicesCreating A New Mindmap
Itâs easy to create a new mindmap. Click New, choose from a template and then give your mindmap a name.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 â useful if you have more detail to add.
Personally I donât love working with visual data representations like this and I didnât spend much time formatting my mindmaps to make them pretty. But if design is your thing, you go for it.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 itâs 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 itâs 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.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. Youâll see who else is working on it in the top corner, much as you do for Google Docs.In SummaryâŠ
This isnât the tool for me because it supports a way of working that doesnât fit with my personal preferences, but itâs very good. The uses for mindmapping and visual charting like this are huge. Iâve 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.
Itâs 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: placeit.net
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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
People often ask me, “When is agileÂ 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 clientÂ 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,Â 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.
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.
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, orÂ bullet proof our cyber security front end from attack by the Chinese would we.
So why is estimatingÂ 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 theÂ software arts. In engineering schools it is. Estimating is part of all engineering disciplines. OneÂ 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 -Â how to manage theÂ technicalÂ processes ofÂ engineering programs with the principles of managerial finance, contract law, and probabilisticÂ decisionÂ 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,Â This manÂ began to build, and was not able to finish - LukeÂ 14:28-30