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One Less Problem

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By Jennifer Lynch

A current popular song is titled "Problem".  Part of lyrics goes: Head in the clouds, Got no weight on my shoulders, I should be wiser and realize that I've got one less problem without ya! In his book the Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything, Matthew May talks about removing insignificant activities. Dan Ward in his book FIRE, Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation talks about brain draining verses brainstorming. Brain draining is the process of removing features and functions where brainstorming adds features and functions.  Focusing on the right features and functions is a hard task.  Focusing on the right projects is also a hard task. 

Often overbearing stakeholders drives the project and function load.  In an upcoming CHAOS Tuesday, Evan Sorensen will help us understand how to deal with overbearing stakeholders.  In the meantime one of the ways to reduce projects and functionality is our Value Portfolio Optimization and Management Service. This service uses our unique and patterned optimization method to reduce projects and functionality by the means of relativity.  Using our 7 constraint ranking system each project and major function is ranked against each other.  In this way overbearing stakeholders can visually see how the valuable projects and functions get prioritized and delivered.

The other unique feature about the Value Portfolio Optimization and Management Service is the stakeholders themselves help and participate in the relationship assignments.  This helps them buy into the prioritization.  They can visually see that maybe one of their pet projects or features has less importance to the organization than other projects and features.  They also can visually see a project might be put off because of the lack of skilled resources and be replaced by a project that is more likely to succeed because the skilled resources are more aligned with another project.  Management can mix high-risk innovative projects with low risk insipid projects to create a balanced portfolio.

Problem tasks can have high value, low value or average value.  If is often difficult to assess the value and the effect of a task on the outcome of a project or portfolio.  Let us consider a real life situation.  In the last few weeks before the rollout of some person had the bright idea to make everyone register before getting access to the website.   Now if this feature was presented during one of our optimization clinics we would have asked the question to the management team what is the value, risk, capability, cost, and the other constraints of such an action.  It is crystal clear that it would have been one less problem without this feature.

Our Next CHAOS Tuesday:

September 23: CHAOS Tuesday #61: is titled “Toxic Person”.  A toxic person can demoralize other team members. The notion of toxic comes from the idea of poisoning the well so others cannot drink from it.  In this program, Evan Sorensen helps us understand how to deal with a toxic person.  Evan is the founder and director of the New England Institute for Marriage and Family Therapy.  In addition to Evan, Lee Cunningham will explain how agile management tools fit into the wider environment of the application life cycle.

Last Week’s PM2GO Advice Posts:

Delayed Decisions: David Saul suggests the executive sponsor get the team to make decisions early.

The Plan Business Problem: The Standish Group suggests that the full project plan should have a preamble…

Productive Laziness: Peter Taylor suggests that project managers need to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and should take the approach of ‘productive laziness’

Negotiate Power: The Standish Group suggests all power resides and emanates from the executive sponsor whether or not he or she realizes this fact.

Tension: As Bill Niemi says, “The executive sponsors are always creating tension between the technical development team and the business people.”



The User Experience

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by Jim Johnson

Last week Apple announced the iPhone 6 and the iWatch.  Apple is the master of the user experience design.  They build products that people want to use rather than have to use.  I want to use my MacBook Air. I never wanted to use my Windows PC, but did so to do work.  Our current CHAOS Tuesday is titled the “User Experience”.  Ninety (90%) percent of CIOs agree that the user experience is the most important part of any mobile and Internet application project. They feel no matter how technically successful projects are if the user experience is poor the project has failed. They also agree that most of their applications get short changed in the area of improving the user experience.  In addition they feel that most PM and other staff do not have the skill to get the right feedback to create an exceptional user experience.

In this CHAOS Tuesday our book review is called: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products written by Nir Eyal.  Nir has an interesting background.  He has expertise in both technology and psychology.   The book is really about building software and other products that get people to keeping coming back. The four big take-a-ways for me were: First, create a trigger; second; Make the user do something; Third, give the user a variable reward; and lastly make the user invest in the application. I give this book four out of five butterflies. Please make this blog, PM2GO and CHAOS Tuesday a habit.

Google is a good example of a great user experience.  It is not fancy.  In fact it is rather plain.  However, the elegance is the simplicity and the relevance of the information returned.  Twitter is another example of a great user experience.  This is especially true for the receiver, rather than the producer.  Restricting the producer to 140 characters makes the person focus on the essential information.  These two ideas are behind our Value Portfolio Optimization and Management service.  Like Twitter, the service breaks down projects into small microprojects each with only the essential features and functions.  Like Google, the service ranks each of the microprojects by relative value.  This allows the organization to create and deliver the most valuable projects rapidly. Our Value Portfolio Optimization and Management Service is a forward-thinking and predictive visualization of the value of your software investments. By focusing your project portfolio on value, our service frees your organization to create value. Download our “Exceeding Value” report/brochure by going to here.

Our Next CHAOS Tuesday:

On September 16 CHAOS Tuesday #60: is titled “Aereo Crashes”.  The main focus on this show is the Aereo copyright case.  Aereo is a start-up that allowed subscribers to view live and time-shifted streams of over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices. The service was launched in February 2012.  Our primary guest for this program is Lee Gesmer.  Lee Gesmer is a founding partner of the Boston law firm Gesmer Updegrove LLP.

Last Week’s PM2GO Advice Posts:

Secret Life of Houdini: Jim Johnson gives The Secret Life of Houdini 3 out of 5 butterflies.

The Plan Overview: The Standish Group suggests that a project plan must be well thought out and well articulated to all parties involved, particularly the executive sponsor.

The PMO Acid Test: Peter Taylor suggests you try these two simple tests to assess the effectiveness of your PMO.

Negotiate Overview: The Standish Group suggests that putting together a successful project plan requires negotiation.

Mission Impossible: As Raj says, “The big thing for an executive sponsor is to recognize they can not make the impossible happen.


A Better Approach to PM is Needed

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By Lou Vianna

One of the least visible aftermaths of WWII was the managerial capability developed by America. Many of those wise ways to solve problems and a lot of determination were at the base of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. As a spin-off of the Space Program, two prestigious project organizations were created: the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in Europe, 1967; and the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the U.S., 1969, thus fostering and being supported by a subculture of the growing military industrial complex. The PM traditional vision has millions of members, tens of thousands of books, thousands of software products, and countless blogs and white papers.

Those lessons learned formed the baseline for the traditional PM approach that was consolidated around big-money contracts between large corporations and the U.S. government, mostly in the aerospace and the defense industries ... as well as some computers and computing projects. The value of projects was negotiated up front by top brass, set down in formal clauses, and surveyed by legions of lawyers. In the past, PMs were hired to keep control of this planned value and, in the U.S., to be closely watched by Congress. Nowadays, the environment and the market are remarkably different. Berlin’s wall fell, and many commercial barriers did too. The marketplace is incredibly dynamic, competitive and increasingly complex. Lawyers are still active, but consumers apply sanctions more efficiently than judges, without appeal possibility.

Just to cite an interesting aspect, nowadays a regular smartphone has similar processing power to the NASA computer center at the time. Not considering technology, there are, at least, three tangled perspectives to approach the challenges of present-days projects.

First, no plan is good enough. Customer needs evolve quickly, and some sound change management procedure should be in place, not to dump change, but to evolve wisely. Second, corporate demands are daunting. Profits must be high to satisfy investors, but they must comply with all sorts of legislation and regulations. Third, market changes become moving targets, with a velocity that makes it impossible keep a plan stable.

Despite all those facts, the brand-new international standard – ISO 25.000:2012 – in its first page, assures that traditional PM tenets are applied to all projects, in all industries. This standard preserves the PM traditional view. The evidence that we are collecting does not support this standard application for software projects that are creative, innovative, and social development projects. Many projects do not deliver a product or service as designed up front, they cost more than anticipated, and they may be late –  yet they become very successful endeavors. Yes! All of us know projects like this. It is equally true that projects exist that adhere to the “iron triangle” (on time, on budget, on target), and we celebrate them as successes – yet they led the project’s organization to failure and, in some cases, bankruptcy.

Now, PMs are being commissioned to create value. New ways to manage projects must be designed, tested and continually improved. Even project definition seems to need a better clarification. We are at the dawn of a new PM approach, and we need to improve old methods that are no longer relevant and are holding us back. Do we have the guts to go beyond tradition, or will somebody else teach us to innovate in this ground that we have created?

Lou Vianna is the South American Research Director for The Standish Group. Lou is a project management professional and educator. He has trained more than four thousand project managers through his affiliation with Fundação Getulio Vargas and other educational outlets. His background includes work at the Naval Research Institute in Brazil and service in the Brazilian Navy. Lou received his masters in project management from George Washington University and his masters in engineering from McGill.

This week’s CHAOS Tuesday is titled “The User Experience.”

In this show we explore:

  • Creating a modern user experience
  • Modernization in place: Step 2
  • Agile management tools user experience
  • How executives use agile management tools
  • How to get users hooke

Last Week’s PM2GO Advice Posts:

Building Decision Trust: Shahin Khan suggests the executive sponsor needs to build a trusted team so that decision power can be distributed.

Ambiguous Language: Jon Quigley suggests ambiguous language only defers or kicks the problem down the road.

Project Sponsorship Action: Peter Taylor suggests that you take some time to consider the reality of the effectiveness of project sponsorship in your organization.

You Can Negotiate Anything:  Jim Johnson gives “You Can Negotiate Anything” five out of five butterflies.

Disconnect: Albert Soule suggests that executive sponsors recognize and try to bridge the inherent disconnect between a sponsor’s objectives and user’s objectives.


FIRE is Hot in Washington DC

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Written by Jim Crear


Lt Col Dan Ward has been a guest several times on CHAOS Tuesday. During these sessions we discussed FIRE and its adoption in Project Delivery. He has written and published a book. FIRE: Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation (Dan Ward; Harper Business, 2014) documents further results and provides an introduction to FIRE tools, practices, and principles. Well we can all be excited to know that between Standish Group articles, CHAOS TUESDAY, and Dan Ward’s book on FIRE the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released a new paper to government and military program managers on innovative contracting. One of the several of the methods they describe, along with Agile, is the FIRE approach!

The government wants (Rapid Technology Prototyping) the ability to rapidly and inexpensively assess new technologies. To accomplish this they propose multiple, small, fast, and inexpensive acquisitions developing prototypes with demonstrating various scenarios. This approach will allow users to try out the functions early. Microprojects! Sound familiar! Challenge the vendors by having them go head to head to provide a working prototype or technology. Then award the project to the vendor that provides the best working solution. Another important aspect of the paper is that they now want to “manage failure”. Failure can be good, it can save money. The Standish Group has been saying for several years that failure early on can be the best learning curve and ultimately lead to a better more successful outcome for any size organization.

“Engaging the End Users and potential end users should be engaged as early as possible, and the end users should be the main participants in identifying the problems/requirements. End users should be identified from among the subject matter experts and power users in an office.” This was taken verbatim from their paper. Wow!  Additionally, they have included many of the long standing preaching’s of the Standish Group. It calls for the establishment of small teams using Agile for small projects or microprojects. It also includes as they call it “Prizes” or as we call them incentives to project team members for getting a project completed on time, under budget, and user accepted.

The paper is really long, but my take away from it is this: someone in Washington DC is listening to the Standish Group, CHAOS TUESDAY and reading the CHAOS Chronicles.  If you would like a copy of the paper, please write to Jennifer Lynch: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with the tagline: innovative contracting.

This week’s CHAOS Tuesday: is titled “Trustworthy Vendors”. In this show we explore:

  • Definition of Trustworthy Vendors
  • Dealing with the X-Factor
  • Dealing with Bait and Switch
  • Dealing with the Emperor's New Clothes techniques
  • Dealing with Overpromising

Last Week’s PM2GO Advice Posts

Ticking Time Bomb: Hans Mulder suggests you think of design debt as a ticking time bomb.

Role Models: The Standish Group suggests that the project manager have access to similar projects to use as role models against the current project

Entrance and Exits: As Bill Heil says, “VMware has a large number of waterfall IT projects.

Five Deadly Sins: The Standish Group suggests the executive sponsor understand the five deadly sins of project management and how to deal with them.

Integrating the Role: Gloria Larson suggests that the executive sponsor role is integral part of the her normal job.


Dutch Treat

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Written by Hans Mulder

My message to the Dutch members of parliament was that in order to achieve value they must first understand the complexity of the problem.  Complexity is the root of the problem and as a university professor I was forever looking for answers.  Before joining The Standish Group my quest went unanswered.  The answer is the Size-Complexity Matrix.  The Standish Group correlated their 50,000 projects into a Size-Complexity Matrix as a way to predict the results of an IT project on the basis of matching historical results.

The statistical analysis of large numbers regarding similarities in success, failure, and problems of IT projects also revealed the CHAOS laws of complexity. The biggest complexity is caused by the scale, size or scope of a project. This is not an unexpected outcome. For dozens of years, it has been well known that large IT projects have high risks, but we never knew exactly how high these risks were. Often the failure and success criteria involved were reported, but the most important criteria and the impact of different criteria were never analyzed. This can only be done on the basis of many independent observations.

The complexity of IT projects can be divided into three dimensions, which influence each other: the size and the scope of the project, the size of the organization and the size of the information system. The larger the project or the system is to be built, the higher the risk range. If all three complexity parts are maximal, which often is the case for governments, IT projects become unmanageable or to put it as Jim Johnson says: they become chaotic.

See and listen (in Dutch) to Hans presentation to the Dutch Government on youtube:

This week’s CHAOS Tuesday: is titled “I Hate You”. In this show we explore:

  • How to deal with people that you hate
  • How to deal with people that hate you
  • MIP: Step 1 Database Modernization
  • Keeping PM tools simple
  • Viacom v. YouTube case

Last Week’s PM2GO Advice Posts

Sages: Warren Buffett, George Soros, Paul Volcker; and the Maelstrom of Markets is a book by Charles R. Morris reviewed Jim Johnson.

Managements: History The Standish Group suggests that the average project will have 2.1 restarts, so there is a good chance that the current project has been tried before.

Defining the Role: As Bill Heil says, “We do lots of IT projects and some executive sponsors are strong and some are not so strong. "

Edification: Resources: The Standish Group suggests the executive sponsor needs to understand what resources are needed for the project and how the team will obtain and use these resources.

Owner's Helpers: Bill Niemi said “At Fidelity, the executive sponsor would have a delegate who would run the weekly team meetings and make most of the decisions for the business unit.”


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