Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Øredev 2010 Wrap Up

Someone should give Michael Tiberg a cape!

I’m just back from Øredev 2010 and it was awesome! I am very fortunate in that I have the opportunity to attend and speak at a lot of conferences but none of them are like Øredev.

For the unfamiliar, Øredev is held each fall in Malmo, Sweden. It is put on by Jayway and organized by Michael Tiberg and Emily Holweck (who should also get a cape). This year they drew over 1,000 attendees from all over the world. The primary focus of the conference is development, but the topics addressed cover such a wide range that there is never a moment when you can’t find something that will spark your interest.

The conference kicked off with a Keynote called Mission Critical Agility by Dr. Jeff Norris from NASA. He gave a great presentation on innovation, failure and how unlikely events drive success. It was very inspiring and included some fascinating anecdotes about Alexander Graham Bell, as well as some very cool ARToolKit material about the moon landing. (There is no way I could explain ARToolKit and do it justice, but here is a random YouTube video that will help: http://bit.ly/41Wg0x).

The theme this year was Get Real and the tracks included Java, .NET, Smart Phones, Architecture, Cloud and nosql, Patterns, Agile, Web Development, Social Media, Collaboration, Realizing business ideas, Software Craftsmanship and, the conference’s secret weapon: Xtra. The speakers are encouraged to make their presentations as challenging as possible, so there is rarely a session that doesn’t make you feel like you’re watching a TED video. (And in fact, they taped every session and they will be posted in a few days.)

The Xtra track was an experiment this year and I really hope other conferences start to include tracks like this. Along with the sessions about HTML5, Java Provisioning in the Cloud and Agile Release Planning, the Xtra track had sessions on Understanding hypnosis, the lifecycle of a coffee bean as it makes it’s way into your cup, MIDI, Photography and using your voice and body to become a more effective speaker. While these topics may not seem to fit with the rest of the conference, they provided a balance I’ve not seen before and it made an awesome conference even better. The technical talks I attended challenged me from an intellectual perspective and I can definitely say that being asked to sing part of a human chord in Kathy Compton’s session “Music: the language of the eternal kinderkind” definitely put me out of my comfort zone – but in a good way.

I’ll post an update when the videos are live. If you missed it this year, you may want to start planning to make the trip next year. It is a truly unique thing.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Øredev 2010

In just a few short days Øredev 2010 will kick off in Malmo, Sweden. I’m really looking forward to getting to participate again. It is hands down my favorite conference to be a part of. The material presented is usually quite challenging and the attendees are a very sharp group.

ProjectWizards Meetup in Malmo, Sweden

While I am are there, ProjectWizards CEO, Frank Blome and I are hoping to be able to meet up with the Merlin users in the area. So if you’ll be in Malmo next week, and would like to join us for a drink and a chat, please respond to this post and let know and I'll get in touch with you to give you the details. We have not set the date or time yet, but will do so as soon as we have an idea of how many folks to expect.

Dave’s Presentations at Øredev 2010

I’ll be giving two presentations at Øredev this year., so if you feel like stopping by, please let me know so I can say Hi. The topics I am speaking on are:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Interview with Riaan Rottier from Cochlear Ltd.

An interview with Riaan Rottier from Cochlear Ltd. Dave and Riaan discuss how Cochlear has used Agile practices in a traditional project environment, the challenges that approach can present, Agile 2010 and the certification question.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

An Interview with Brian Rabon from BrainTrust Consulting (Audio Only)

An interview (audio only) with Brian Rabon from BrainTrust Consulting. Brian discusses his approach to Project Management, his work in Agile and his experiences in working towards becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Interview with Fred Kluth from Funny Garbage

Several weeks ago ProjectWizards held our first NYC Tweet Up and Frank Blome and I had the chance to meet Fred Kluth. Fred works as a Interactive Production Manager in NYC for Funny Garbage and last week he was able to take some time out of his schedule for a brief video interview about his role as a project manager, his rules for Facebook and how he was able to use social media to land his gig.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why You Suck at Offshoring, Even with Agile 
(Recap and Retrospective) - Part 2 of 2

Thushara and I have had a great response to our presentation at Agile 2010.  Because there seemed to be interest, we did a recap of our presentation and also held a retrospective. This is part 2 of 2.

Why You Suck at Offshoring, Even with Agile 
(Recap and Retrospective) - Part 1 of 2

Thushara and I have had a great response to our presentation at Agile 2010.  Because there seemed to be interest, we did a recap of our presentation and also held a retrospective. This is part 1 of 2.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Offshoring and the Technology Gap

Next week I'll be co-presenting at the Agile 2010 conference in Orlando, Florida with Thushara Wijewardena. Our presentation is called "Why you suck at off shoring, even with Agile". The plan is to discuss and debate some of the issues people run into when they are doing offshore projects. Thushara, who lives in Sri Lanka, will be covering the offshore side and I'll be handling onshore. We've both got a fair bit of experience in the area, but in order to make sure we'd covered all our bases, we interviewed a number of people to get their take on it. Heading into it, I felt pretty confident, based on my experience, that the majority of the difficulties that onshore managers and teams struggle with are brought about by their own approach and an assumption that offshore must learn to adapt to the onshore way of working. My basic argument was that the onshore teams really had to find a better way to adapt how they approached working with an offshore team if they really wanted to get the most out of them. Working with teams spread across the globe, in different time zones, from different cultural and educational backgrounds is never easy, but I do believe that the responsibility for enabling the offshore team falls largely on the onshore team's shoulders.

The most interesting interview I had was with a gentleman I know who comes from India and has been in the U.S. since the 70's. He has years of experience in testing out different ways to make offshore successful. Some of the lessons he has learned seemed to be directly counter to my assertion for the talk, but he had some very solid explanations of how and why he came to those conclusions.

One of the things he said is that there are certain job functions that an onshore team should probably never send offshore. Architect and BA were among these roles. By way of explanation, he offered a story...

The company he ran had been contracted to develop a POS system for use in retail stores in the U.S. He had one of his top leads head over to India to spend time with the team they had formed. The requirements had been fully defined, all the developers were trained and things seemed ready to go. During the discussion of the requirements, the lead asked the team how many of them had ever worked on a POS system before. None of them had. The second question was how many of them had ever seen a POS system before. Only one team member indicated that he had and when he was asked to describe it, he described the back of a cash register. So, while the team was comprised of experienced developers, and they had a full set of requirements, none of them had ever had experience with anything like what they were being asked to develop. Now, while this would not prevent them from actually executing the requirements, without some level of familiarity with what it would be like to interact with such a system, or what the job function of someone who had to use it was like, how likely is it that they'd be successful in their implementation? In this case, they were fortunate that their lead, although born in India, had spend several years in the U.S., knew the client, how they worked, etc. Without his knowledge of how this POS system needed to be used, the team would have been lost no matter how good they were.

What I found most interesting about this was that while I had been focusing on the idea of culture as being a significant stumbling block for onshore teams who are unable or unwilling to adjust how they work to adapt to the offshore teams, I had not considered how the implementation of technology in the day-to-day life of people in one country or another could have such a significant impact on the work. It wasn’t just a matter of the onshore and offshore teams respecting one another, or making sure they all knew how to develop in the same programming language, or that they had well defined requirements. In this case, the fact that none of the team members had ever run across a system of this kind presented a huge challenge and no amount of cultural sensitivity, or training was going to cover the gap created by the varying levels of technology implementation on a day-to-day level.

If you are planning on attending the Agile 2010 Conference in Orlando and would like to hear more of what Thushara and I have learned during our research for the presentation, please join us on Thursday, August 12 at 11 AM in room A-4.

And if you have any feedback on the above, I'd love to hear it.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Will The New iPhone Change How PMs Work?

A Project Potion Special Interview with Frank Illenberger

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Art of War - Chapter 2 - Entry 1 - Knowing the Cost

"To raise a corps of a hundred thousand
 A thousand pieces of gold will be spent each day."
The second chapter of the Art of War begins with Sun Tzu laying out some basics about materials required to wage war. This kind of thing happens quite a bit throughout the book and it can be pretty distracting for Project Managers because our brains have been conditioned to start tracking these as requirements that we'll have to obtain at some point.  The run up of all these requirements  leads to the statement about the rate of gold per day and the fact that you can't even consider getting an army until you have that covered. The point of all this is to show that in war, there is cost, and that before you can start on the things you think you need to obtain (people to do the work), you first have to account for a whole bunch of hidden costs that you need to address before you go get people.
Bottom line...whether it is war, or a project, getting things done is expensive and there are going to be things that are less obvious or sexy that need to be covered. Before you take anything on, make sure you have a firm grasp of the cost. 
"The cost of an interpersonal Challenge is primarily an emotional one. Nonnegotiable conflicts can be very painful, since success generally comes through ending the relationship or changing ti into a very different one. Therefore, careful evaluation and acceptance of the emotional costs of your Challenge are essential to your success."
For Sun Tzu, the cost includes the lives of the soldiers and all the people who are going to have to work so hard to support them. While most project managers are not normally putting team members into direct mortal danger, the cost of the project may mean other projects do not get done... and depending on what choices are made, the business or company could be at risk, which does pose a direct threat to people's ability to work and earn a living and places them in harm's way.
We need to understand the cost of what we take on and what the ramifications of what we are doing are so that we can make responsible, informed a choices while managing the project.

Quotes are taken from The Art of Strategy by R.R. Wing

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why an Iteration is Not A Mini Waterfall

When I am working with Project Managers who are in the throws of trying to learn Agile, there are certain discussions (debates), which can indicate that the person is going to have more of a struggle with making the change. These are usually the PMs who quickly grasp the flow of the process, but immediately begin second-guessing the system, and all of this usually happens without the PM even realizing it. After all, if you have been around a bit, and you are a halfway decent PM, you look at everything that enters your path as a potential threat to your project and start working out how you are going to get around it. This is what we are taught to do – find a workaround.

I think the bigger issue though, usually stems from the fact that the PM often does not recognize how their own expertise can be the obstacle. One of the ways this often manifests itself is through a question or declarative statement/argument about how the PMBOK is clearly, already Agile and these iterations or sprints we are talking about are nothing more than mini-waterfall projects.

Just in case any of the mini-waterfall people happen upon this… I mean you mo harm. I spent about 8 years inside that argument. Please bear with me a few minutes and this will make more sense.

I have learned my lesson about trying to engage in an argument against the perception that a sprint (or iteration) is just a mini-waterfall. I don’t agree with it, but it is perception, and my experience has been that getting pulled into this one kind of like trying to debate whether Sammy Hagar was a better front man than David Lee Roth.

To me, the real issue comes down to something completely outside the steps of the process itself. A traditional PM can make all the arguments they need to in order to maintain their death grip on the belief that everything in the world can be broken down into a traditional (waterfall) project. But, no matter how much Kool-Aid they’ve consumed, there is one thing which cannot be avoided, and which they cannot deny…

A waterfall project schedule is nothing more than a guess.

"…But little Mouse, you are not alone,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes of mice and men

Go often askew,

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised joy!"

(from "To A Mouse" by Robert Burns)

Yes, it is an educated guess and yes, there is usually math involved and we all know that if there is math, it must be true. Math aside, a traditional project schedule is just a guess based on what we think we know will happen, made at a point where we think we know enough to predict the future. (And I think we all know how good we project managers) are at predicting the future.

So, in managing a project, a significant part of the PMs gig is to come up with this educated guess and then do his/her very best to make sure to bend the very fabric of reality to match the guess. The idea is to manage to the plan.

In Agile, we focus more on the team and what we can do in order to better support and enable them, because it goes (Theory Y Alert!) that if you’ve got a bunch of smart, motivated people, you give them what they need, a clear objective and the power to make smart decisions, that the rest will take care of itself. (Remember – it says Theory Y above, not Theory X).

So, regardless of the steps in the process, the whole value system is completely different. A PM who is looking at the world through a waterfall will see the steps in the process as the thing that exists to make sure everyone stays on schedule as planned. An Agile PM is one who looks at the process as something their to support the team’s ability to perform. At the end of the day, both sides need to get stuff done, but a traditional PM uses the schedule to do this, an Agile PM enables the team to do this.

To me, if a PM is locked into the vice-grip of trying to prove that Agile is something that is already covered in the PMBOK, working their way out of that Gordian knot is usually something they will have to work through on their own, but if they can see the variance in the structure of the value system, and how that vantage point impacts their actions on the project, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

(And yeah, I’m willing to throw down for Hagar any time, anywhere.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Project Potion Special Interview with Johanna Rothman on Agility and Programs

Breaking Radio Silence

I have lots of excuses... but, they are only excuses. However, I am very happy to report that I am now working for ProjectWizards heading up their new US company. I'll be writing more about this later both here and in another blog I'm doing on the PW site (link will be forthcoming).

In the meantime, this is something I stumbled upon recently that I think is very cool:
The Tao of PM Blog

And, I have a few Project Potion videos below. I'll be keeping up with these regularly from now on.

Project Potion Episode 11 - The Unpronouncable Volcano

Project Potion Episode 12 - iPads and Ashclouds

Project Potion Episode 13 - The Episode Without a Name

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Malaysia Scrum User Group Kick Off - Notes and Videos

Just over a month ago I had the great pleasure of making a trip to Singapore and Malaysia to teach Certified Scrum Master classes. It was my first time teaching in Singapore and it was a very cool experience to teach such a sharp bunch of folks. The highlight of the trip though was co-teaching in Malaysia with Mike Sutton and helping the folks at ATSC (http://www.asiaictpm.com/default.htm) with the official kick off of the Malaysia Scrum User Group. The class in Kuala Lumpur was pretty huge for a CSM class (56 people) and it would not have been possible without Mike Sutton who lives in the UK but has been spending time in Kuala Lumpur working on some projects for his company WizeWerx (http://www.wizewerx.com/). Mike and I have very different backgrounds and I think I probably learned as much from him as anyone in the room.

Along with starting up the Scrum User Group, ATSC has also started a special networking group called MSC Circle to help raise awareness and networking opportunities for the Scrum Masters in KL. During the event I had the chance to shoot some video interviews with a few of the folks who took the class. They are embedded further down in the post.

If you'd like to learn more about the Malaysia Scrum User Group please go to http://myscrum.ning.com/ and sign up to hear more about the great things that are underway there. My good friend SK Khor, who I have had the pleasure of volunteering with for a number of years through the PMI IT&T SIG where he has served as the Asia Pacific Regional Director is heading up the group with support from MDeC (http://www.mdec.my/), the Malaysia govt. group that is responsible for helping establish and promote the growth of IT in Malaysia. Based on the work SK did with the IT&T SIG, and the fact that we've been able to grow the number of CSMs in the region to 80 since December, I think there will be a lot of activity in the region in the coming months.

I had a really great time on the trip and being a part of the classes and the kick-off event. I have a bunch of people I owe thanks to for the experience. None of it would have been possible without Mike Sutton, the folks from ATSC - SK Khor, EK How and Nan Ping Lee, as the incredible support from MDeC COO, Ms. Ng Wan Peng and Ms. Aiza Zeyati. On top of all this, I would just like to say that the people at the Scrum Alliance (http://www.scrumalliance.org/) rock like Hagar. Jim Cundiff, Tobias Mayer, Howard Sublett, Maria Matarelli and Tom Mellor, who was kind enough to record a video welcome to the members of MSC Malaysia for our opening event are some of the most responsive and supportive people I've run across in my 10+ years of volunteering for professional organizations. I owe all of them many pints.

And now, on to the videos…

Project Potion 10 - 6 Ways to Beat Project Planning

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Art of War Chapter 1 - Entry 6 - "The Plan is useless..."

At the end of the first chapter of the Art of War, Sun Tzu gives direction that may make the strongest case for project management in the entire text.

"Those who triumph,
Compute at their headquarters
A great number of factors prior to a challenge"*

He goes on to explain that those who spend less time planning do not succeed. According to Sun Tzu, more planning = greater success, less = greater chance of failure and no planning at all pretty much guarantees you have no shot.

The first chapter of the Art of War ends with Sun Tzu claiming that by observing the time spent in "computation" he can determine whether or not one will succeed in their efforts.

From a PM's standpoint, this has relevance on a number of levels. The most obvious application would be to the idea of actually planning out a project, and if you follow the rest of the lessons of the Art of War, this is going to end up bringing in many of the elements included in a traditional project plan. Things like risk planning and developing a communication strategy are critical aspects of Sun Tzu’s formula for success.

One application that might not be so obvious is how this planning can play out on a smaller scale. Something as simple as a business meeting, offers a great opportunity to prove out some of Sun Tzu's claims. If you've ever been in a meeting where you arrived not knowing what was going to happen, or what you were going to say ahead of time, you are probably already all too familiar with the formula for defeat that is mentioned above.  For my own part, this is a lesson that took a long time to learn, but over time I have learned that if I make the time for "computation" before a meeting, things go much better. In terms of preparation, working out things like how the Five Measures fit within the context of the meeting, thinking through what will take place based on who is likely to be present, what objectives or motivators they might have, who might say what, how the others in the room will respond, and especially, how to raise the issues I need addressed as well as how to respond to the questions I'm likely to be asked, seems simple but it is unfortunately something most people don’t take the time to do. It may sound like a lot of work, but my experience has been that once you get into a habit of doing it, this tends to come fairly easily. Whatever your goals in the meeting, even if it is just to get through it with your job intact, putting in the time to prepare before hand is just basic risk management. It will give you the freedom to devote the time and attention necessary to cover the things you were not able to think of before hand.

If success in the meeting equals getting your issues addressed without losing credibility, taking the time necessary to be prepared to participate with confidence and ease is just basic risk management, the same as you’d do on any project. And as for the others around the table, as Sun Tzu says, examining they prepare will give you a lot of insight into their ability to succeed or fail once things get underway.

While it can be fairly simple to see how this applies to Project Management, it has a lot of relevance to an Agile approach as well. If taking an Agile approach is intended to offer the freedom to handle constant change while incrementally working towards a desired goal, The Art of War in right in step. The basics of things like forming the team, having the team determine how they will best work together, what the vision statement is, etc. are all part of the “computation” Sun Tzu is talking about. These practices have even greater application later on in the Art of War. In a later section of the book Sun Tzu talks about the need to be fluid and adaptable, in order to do this successfully, someone leading an Agile project, or an Agile team, still needs to take the time to understand the basic concerns mentioned in this chapter.

The bottom line is, success is determined by your ability to make the time to learn about what you are facing and considering what will happen when things get underway.

Or, as President Eisenhower put it, "The plan is useless; it's the planning that's important."

* Quote taken from "The Art of Strategy" by R.L. Wing

Friday, March 26, 2010

Project Potion 8 - The Fonzi - Isaac - Radar - Mr T Report

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Are you tired of filling out those boring old Red Amber Green reports?

Introducing THE FIRM REPORT!

Last week I was talking with a co-worker about the status report we have to file each week. It’s called a RAG Report. He asks why it is called a RAG Report. I explained to him that RAG stands for Red-Amber-Green and we spent some time discussing the various merits (or not) of completing that type of report. The intent is clear – show red, amber or green to quickly convey a message about the state of the project, but in practice, the sad thing is that the simple color system easily lends itself to a situation in which an executive will simply look at the color and ignore the rest of the detail that has been painstakingly crafted and tuned by the highly developed creative spin tactics of the project manager (or lead).

So, that conversation got me to thinking that maybe a RAG format had outlived its useful(less)ness. Being the hard working, creative mastermind that I am, I started trying to work out a new alternative to the Red-Amber-Green… and now I am proud to give you…

(drumroll please)


The FIRM report embraces a new model for rating project health:

F = Fonzi
I = Isaac (your bartender)
R = Radar O’Reilly
M = Mr. T

Here is how this works:

If you get a Fonzi, that means “AHHHHHHEEEY”  -  things are very, very coolamundo!

If you get an Isaac (portrayed here with his classic “Double Issac” hand gesture), this means things seem to be more or less okay, but it would probably be a good idea to head down to the Lido deck and start having at the Mai Tais (yes that is the plural… I looked it up) post haste.

If you get a Radar you should be remembering all those times in the TV classic M*A*S*H (ATTN Gen Y… TV Land is your friend) when Radar (IMHO, the greatest PM ever portrayed in film or TV) cocks his head ever so slightly, and says “CHOPPERS!” This usually happens about 20 seconds before anyone else hears them. In other words, there is some seriously bad stuff in the air, some of which is bound to be missing a few limbs, and they are headed your way Sport!

Finally, we get to Mr. T… as in “I PITY THE FOOL!” which means… Dude, you are simply screwed, and no amount of gold around your neck is going to save you from the fact that someone is going to be taking you sweet, sweet iconic 1980's van away very soon.

More on this in the next episode of Project Potion… and I’ll be posting a status template for you to test your job stability with very soon. 

Stay tuned!
The Mike Sutton Sessions - Part 4 - Startup Diary

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of co-teaching a CSM class with Mike in Malaysia. In part 4 of the interview we shot he talks more about the work he is doing there and his startup diary, which can be found here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Project Potion Special Interview with Thushara Wijewardena

Working With an Agile Offshore Team

Project Potion #6 - Dave Goes to Macworld

Where the ProjectShrink intervews the drunkenpm about his visit to Macworld and his efforts at setting up a PM Mac User Meetup

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Mike Sutton Sessions - Part 3 - ScrumFest

Part 3 of the drunkenpm interview with Mike Sutton, CEO of Wizewerx and founder of ScrumFest.

In this part of the interview, Mike talks about his work putting on ScrumFest in the UK and his plans to hold additional events elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Art of War Chapter 1 - Entry 5 - The Tao of Paradox

The next section of Chapter 1 starts by introducing one of the core strategies of Sun Tzu's teaching. In "The Art of Strategy" by R.L. Wing, the section is translated as:

Heed me by Calculating the advantages

reinforce them by directing outwardly.

This has a very direct relationship to the strategic work a PM does in that it calls upon the practitioner to measure and understand their true position and then "reinforce" (read as spin or manipulate) the perception of that position by how you represent it.

As he moves into the next section, Sun Tzu provides more clarity into how the perceived reality can be manipulated:

Thus, when able, they appear unable.

When employed, they appear useless.

When close, they appear distant

When distant, they appear close.

They lure through advantages,

And take control through confusion.

In the R.L. Wing translation, this is referred to as the "Tao of Paradox". The instruction is to create a perceived reality that is not necessarily accurate in order to gain advantage. This is "playing dead" or manipulating how we project ourselves and our situation in order to gain the upper hand. There are obvious implications in the context of an armed struggle, but think about it in the setting of a meeting at work, when you pretend to know less than you do in order to either gain more information, or learn more about another's understanding of a situation. Even down to basic interviewing tactics where you lead an interviewee towards an answer you hope to get by pretending you have a problem you have not been able to solve.

This tends to be one of the areas of the text where "nicer" people often get stuck. They perceive this as dishonest or misleading and, rightly so, if they consider themselves to be honest folk, it is something they would not purposely strive for. But beyond a physical conflict context, this is something which all of us do in our daily lives from childhood, often without even being conscious of it. As children we learn to get what we want by creating a sense of urgency that will draw the response we are looking for from our caregivers. While not many PMs would willingly admit to lying to create a false impression, how many would be able to say that they had never added a little spin to a status report to create a more positive impression, or led their team to believe that failure to meet a deadline meant certain doom for their employment, in order to drive the team to getting the work done on time.

As Sun Tzu says, "everyone uses the art of war". The Tao of Paradox is no exception. The question is, is it better or "more honest" to use it absent mindedly, or to understand it as a normal behavior without judging it and learn to be more aware of when and how you make use of this approach so that you can wield it with greater skill and a greater sense of responsibility.

When complete, they appear to prepare.

When forceful, they appear evasive.

As this paradox is created, what happens to the "opponent" is that they spend time gathering knowledge, interpreting and planning a response. This creates a window of advantage where, if you have followed the five measures and already have your approach planned, you can seize the moment.

They attack when the opponent is unprepared

And appear when least expected.

This is the Strategist's way of triumph.

It must not be discussed beforehand.

As someone managing a project, or a team, you need to be vigilant for those moments when you can achieve the little wins that build trust and drive the efforts toward delivery. The word "attack" is used above, but it does not have to be a negative attack. You can just as easily attack a lack of faith in the project or a negative perception of the team. As leaders, we are often able to have a greater impact when we bring order to the chaos around us if people have already decided that we are caught up in the chaos that has taken hold of them. When done well, this spin can make things look like you have saved the day with relative ease. It can be a double-edged sword, however, because when done poorly, you end up as one of those PMs who create a crisis just to solve it. The idea is not to create drama in the space around you, but take advantage of what is already there to engineer an impression of the situation, and your role in it, that will allow you to gain the position you desire.

Quotes in this entry from 

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Mike Sutton Sessions - Part 2 - Improvisation

Part 2 of the drunkenpm interview with Mike Sutton, CEO of Wizewerx and founder of ScrumFest.

In this part of the interview Mike talks about how studying Improvisation techniques have influenced his work building and leading Agile teams.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Art of War - Chapter 1 - Part 4
Having defined that which is to be measured, Sun Tzu provides examples of things to be considered when examining the five measures. He recommends determining which leader has captured the cultural mindset:

"Which leader
 Has the Way?"

And, which has the poitical and organizational advantage:

"Which side has
 Heaven and Earth?"

Who has the strength and rigorous enough approach to discipline to follow the processes they have defined as their path to success.

"On which side
Is discipline
More effective?"

"Which army
Is the stronger?"

According to Sun Tzu, understanding these will help you "know" victory and defeat. This is an important point to spend some time on. The idea is not that if you study these things, you'll win; but that if you study these things, you will be able to foresee who will win... which leads to a principle introduced later that is (simplified) never take on a battle you have not already won.

Following this thought, if you stick with Sun Tzu, follow his rules, he promises to lead you to victory. If you follow his guidelines, the Art of War will get your back and keep you from harm. However, this is going to include knowing when to back down, when to back away and when to take action in a way that is decisively final. In the workplace, my experience has been that the last part if often more difficult for people to adopt than the backing down. (But there will be much more on this later.)

Sun Tzu also goes on to explain that if you don't adhere to these rules, whether you use the Art of War or not, you've already ensured you will fail. This is another critical point in the Art of War. What Sun Tzu has essentially done is stated that if you stick with him 100%, he'll guarantee success, anything less than that, and you are not using the Art of War and you will fail.

For those familiar with Scrum, this would be "The Art of War, but..." and it has about the same chances of success as "Scrum, but..." (more on Scrum, but)

This level of commitment is something that appears a number of times throughout the book. It can seem a bit severe when put into practice, but it is something that (IMHO) truly differentiates practitioners of the AOW from those who merely dabble in it. Because war is such nasty business, once you have committed to it, Sun Tzu demands total commitment. At times, this means backing down and at times it can mean pushing further than you might normally. Even taking the time to determine, for yourselves, where the line is in terms of what you are willing to do in order to help the project succeed, can be helpful. As Sun Tzu says, we must know our opposition and ourselves. Often, trick for us as PMs, is to make sure there is a difference between the two.

Quotes listed in this entry are taken from John Minford's Penguin Books Great Ideas translation "Sun Tzu The Art of War (Strike with Chaos)" published by Penguin books in 2006. The passage covered in this entry can be found on pages 3 and 4 of the book. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

MacWorld PM Meetup

If you are a PM and you are going to be at Macworld I'd like to meet up with you because, well, I know you are out there and let's face it - there is strength in numbers. I am working on details now, but I'm thinking maybe either the afternoon/early evening of Thursday Feb 11, or Friday Feb 12. If you are interested, please send an email to dave@mrsungo.com with the words Macworld PM Meetup in the subject line and I'll keep you up to speed on the details as they unfold.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Mike Sutton Sessions - Part 1 - the Agile/NLP Mashup

Part 1 of the drunkenpm interview with Mike Sutton, CEO of Wizewerx and founder of ScrumFest.

In this part of the interview Mike explains how he uses Scrum, XP, and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) in his Mashup approach to managing software projects and Agile teams.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Art of War - Chapter 1 - Part 3

After listing the five measures (see Chapter 1 - Part 2), Sun Tzu provides an explanation of each of the elements. Throughout the Art of War there are a number of places where Sun Tzu offers an explanation through the use of contrasts and by listing elements which, when grouped together, provide a more complete explanation of the point he is trying to make. If this seems a bit daunting, consider the way the none of the traditional elements that make up a true project plan (Charter, Risk Plan, Communications Plan, Project Schedule, etc.) provide as complete an explanation of what the project entails individually as they do when grouped together.

The Tao (The Way)

Sun Tzu explains The Tao (or The Way) as the thing that unites men with the mind of the person leading them in an unwavering way, despite the threat of death. For a project, or an organization, this would extend beyond a mission or vision statement into how it plays out within the culture of those involved, either uniting them, or not.

Heaven (The Political Environment)

In defining Heaven and Earth, which I defined (in Chapter 1 - Part 2) as being akin to the Political Environment and the Organizational Structure, they are respectively explained as a balance of opposites and measures.

Heaven is
Yin and Yang,
 Cold and Hot
 The cycle of seasons

When applied to a political environment, the cyclical, dynamic but dependable state of the four changing seasons gives context to the listing of the opposites above. The political nature of an organization will always be in flux. There will always be opposing forces, but the dynamically shifting nature of that balance is something to be relied upon and carefully monitored. So, regardless of what type of political situation you face, you can always depend on the fact that change is coming and no matter how things are balanced today, they will be different tomorrow. Trust in the change, not in the state.

Earth (The Organizational Structure)

The organizational structure, or Earth, is defined in a list of actual measures:

... Height and depth,
 Distance and proximity
 Ease and Danger...

While it may be simpler to see, it is no less critical than the political environment/Heaven. Because it is less abstract, it can be examined in a more exact way, using more tangible metrics. However, Heaven and Earth are paired in the Art of War. The organizational structure and political environment can't be seen individually. They are a pair, and moreover, as part of the five measures, just two of the ways we experience that with which we are interacting.

Command (Leadership)

In explaining what he means by Leadership, or Command, Sun Tzu provides a list of ingredients. I have always worked under the assumption that these have been listed in a particular order based on the overall importance of each to organizational maturity (with Wisdom being prized above all and Severity as the lowest ranking critical value), but that may just be me. Either way, if you were to examine an organization and rate them along each of these points, you would be able to develop a fairly clear understanding of the overall value system and (arguably) maturity of that organization.




Discipline is perhaps the easiest of the five measures for a project manager to understand. It is defined as...

 Chain of command
 Control of expenditure

This is a simple, concrete explanation.

Sun Tzu closes out this section of the chapter by saying that every leader is aware of the five measures, but there is a difference between being aware and truly understanding them.

He who grasps them wins
 He who fails to grasp them loses

According to The Art of War, there are five vantage points from which you should be studying any organization/company/opportunity/opponent/insert name of thing you are facing that you are scared of or do not understand here. If you study the five measures for your situation to a point where you have true clarity on each of them, then by your very understanding of them, you will succeed. However, if you don't, by your very lack of understanding, will fail.

To use a simple analogy, assuming you have all five of your senses available to you, (because as Sun Tzu says, "Every commander is aware of these five fundamentals", you experience the world through taste, touch, smell, sight and sound, all together. If you had the ability to see, but started ignoring any visual input, how true would your understanding of the world be? How successful would you be in it? And perhaps more importantly, how safe would you be?

Quotes listed in this entry are taken from John Minford's Penguin Books Great Ideas translation "Sun Tzu The Art of War (Strike with Chaos)" published by Penguin books in 2006. The passage covered in this entry can be found on pages 2 and 3 of the book. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Project Potion #5 - The Art of War

The Project Shrink, Bas de Baar and Dave Prior talk about responses to Episode #4, the Exploding Mailbox, Dave's new Art of War blog series, the Crisis Commons response to Haiti and the cultural differences between the current generations in the workforce.

For more Project Potion ->http://projectshrink.com/potion/

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Art of War - Chapter 1 - The Five Measures

In the Art of War, as soon as Sun Tzu finishes explaining how serious the topic of war actually is, and how much careful examination it requires, he begins explaining how to go about studying it.

2,500 years ago Sun Tzu came up with a list of five things he said had to be considered first and foremost when one was going to engage in conflict. He referred to these as The Five Measures. They are:
  • Tao
  • Climate
  • Ground
  • Leadership
  • Method

My favorite explanation of how these five measures work is Gary Gagliardi's and it can be found in this book, or this video lecture (sadly, out of print). However, Gagliardi’s explanation is a little more focused on the sales and business side of things, so for people managing projects, a good way to think of these five measures is :
  • Tao - The philosophy that guides your opponent
  • Climate - The political environment you are dealing with
  • Ground - The organizational structure you are dealing with
  • Leadership - The leader’s character and decision making skill
  • Method - The efficiency and effectiveness of the applied Tao
Su Tzu says that if you study these five measures, you have to look at them as they relate to not only your opponent, but also yourself, and that if you are able to do that, you will be able to use them in order to achieve success.

He goes on to say that if you do not know these five measures, you cannot plan for success or prepare to achieve it.

In hopes of making it a little easier to apply, here are some examples of the kinds of things you might consider when applying the five measures to your own situation: (I've paired them up and listed them out of order because I think it makes them easier to understand).

Ground - What is the org. structure? Who is supposed to report to whom?

Climate - What is the political power structure? Despite the org charts, who really has the power to influence and make things happen - perhaps most importantly, who has the power and motivation to pose a threat to the work you are doing?

Leadership - What is the leadership style of the organization/people you are dealing with. For instance, some leaders are very command and control ("You can be in the boat, our of the boat"); others are more concerned with a shard or diplomatic solution.

Discipline - How strictly does the organization follow its' own defined process. For example, there are lots of PMOs out there will very clearly defined processes that are not supposed to be deviated from... and yet often times, people spend more time working around the regulations than they do following it or adapting it.

Tao - This one is not always an easy thing to grasp for those who are not used to it. In the context of what we are talking about here, the Tao would refer to the nature/character/vibe of the place. Some orgnaizations place a high value on creativity and freedom for responsible, engaged teams. Others are more about people working 9-5, following a process without much though or personal involvement in why things are done the way they are, or finding ways to make them more efficient.

If you take the time to explore these concepts and learn what they mean to the places you are working, it will better enable you to make the necessary decisions about how to approach your work.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Art of War for Project Managers

Chapter 1 - Analysis

"This is war.
It is the most important skill in the nation.
It is the basis of life and death.
It is the philosophy of survival or destruction.
You must know it well." *

In Sun Tzu's world, war was a heavy thing. Brutal, costly, painful and only to be taken on when it was absolutely necessary.

And when it was necessary, the only way to set yourself up for success was to become a student of the thing you were about to spend people's lives on.

For those of us who manage IT Projects, this may seem a bit over the top if you try to apply it to your work, but when you come right down to it, it isn't that far off.

Each project we take on levies a heavy toll on us and the places we work. We burn money, people, reputations, good will and more often than not, our life outside of work.

We've all worked with the people who create projects just to seem busy, or create giant catastrophes just to save the day. More often than not, these people get sorted in the end, but the thing to keep in mind for each of us is, if you are going to take on a project, and burn through all those things that could be used on something else the company needs to stay afloat, or the time you need outside of work to be with your family, make sure you understand why you are doing it, what you are going to do, how you are going to succeed, and most of all, what you are going to do when you realize you got the first three questions wrong.

* The translation above is from Gary Gagliardi's book "Sun Tzu's The Art of War Plus Its Amazing Secrets". Of all the translations I own, there are only two that are so worn the pages are falling out. This is one of them.
The Art of War for Project Managers


I've been studying the Art of War and working on applying it to my day to day work as a Project Manager for almost 15 years now. While I've lectured on it and taught classes that covered the whole text, I've never detailed out my ideas on how each piece can be applied to the work of a project manager.

My goal here is to post a new entry every few days until I've worked through the entire book. I'll be referencing multiple translations and will give notes on each one in the entries.

As always, any comments or feedback would be greatly appreciated.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Project Potion Episode 4 - The Exploding Mailbox

(Where The Project Shrink, Bas de Baar and I answer some of the questions folks sent him when they blew up his mailbox.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

DrunkenPM Explained

I've been told by a lot of folks that I should change the name of my blog. I may be weakening on that one, but I'm not totally ready to throw in the towel just yet. The assumption a lot of people make is that the title has to do with drinking or that it is some self-depreciating joke. Neither of which earn me much in the way or respect or credibility, but the fact is they have nothing to do with the title.

What I wanted to talk about when I started the blog was a style of project management that was a little more stealthy and subtle ... more under the radar than what most people employ. To me, the best project management happens when people don't realize it is going on. I also think that, a lot of the time, I can accomplish more as a PM by not acting like a PM because people feel more at ease, or less threatened, if they don't think you are there trying to control them, or check up on them.

So, I needed a name that fit with all that, and I apparently watched way too much Kung Fu Theater on Saturday afternoons growing up because the best fit I could think of was Drunken Boxing. I could give you my explanation of it, but since I don't practice any martial arts, I think I should leave it to those with more experience.

This clip is from an episode of Fight Science and it provides a much better explanation of Drunken Boxing that I ever could. While you watch, imagine applying the behaviors to managing people and work - that is the point of the title of this blog.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Project Potion Episode 3 - The New Team

I am happy to report that the Project Shrink, Bas de Baar, (@Projectshrink) and I have posted Episode 3 of Project Potion - The New Team. This conversation focuses on the things we need to deal with when putting together a new team for a project.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Shannon and Weaver and the Personal Branding Paradox

On the personal branding front, the “very personal” message you had previously recorded, which was played for me when I answered my cell this evening might have come across a little more sincere if you did it before you decided to take legal action against me.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

MITPM 2009

(From the Q4 2009 IT&T SIG Newsletter)

By Dave Prior and SK Khor

During the first week of December, IT&T SIG Chair, Petra Goltz and IT&T SIG Past Chair, Dave Prior had a chance to join IT&T SIG Asia Pacific Regional Director, SK Khor and PMI Fellow and 2006 PMI Chair Iain Frasier for MITPM 2009 Conference Awana Genting in Kuala Lumpur.

MITPM is an annual regional project management conference focusing on ICT industry and the IT & Telecom SIG has been supporting the event since 2006. The growth of project management in the area is an amazing success story and it has been fueled by a unique pairing of private and government resources who have worked together for the past few years to ensure that it established a solid foothold as technology and PM best practices take root in the region.

This year, Keynote Speaker and IT&T SIG Chair, Petra Goltz led things off with her talk "Beyond 2009: New Challenges for PM" (see her article “Challenges for Project Managers in the years ahead “ in this newsletter). IT&T SIG Past Chair Dave Prior followed with a presentation on the new PMIS Paradigm and introduced some tools and alternatives that are available for PMs as we move into and beyond Web 2.0 and Social Networking. Then PMI Fellow and 2006 PMI Chair, Iain Frasier, led a very insightful roundtable discussion on the topic of "Project Governance in a Challenging Time" and followed up with a workshop called "The Fast Track PM: Managing Multiple Priorities".

(Video of these presentations will be posted for IT&T SIG members in the coming weeks – stay tuned for more details.)

MITPM is supported by a number of sponsors including a nationwide initiative in Malaysia called Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Malaysia. MSC Malaysia is currently hosting more than 900 multinationals, foreign-owned and home-grown Malaysian companies and it is rapidly becoming a dynamic hub for the ICT industry in the region. MSC Malaysia is directed by the Multimedia Development Corporation (www.mdec.com.my) or MDEC. MDEC is committed to “drive MSC Malaysia by empowering businesses and connecting communities through ICT; and to facilitate Malaysia’s goal of becoming the preferred location for ICT and multimedia innovations, operations and services.”

During MITPM, IT&T SIG Past Chair, Dave Prior had the opportunity to spend some time with MDEC’s Chief Operating Officer Ms. Ng Wan Peng, Head of Capability Development Dr Karl Ng and Manager Ms. Aiza Zeyati Zamani. They explained that when MDEC was first started, it was primarily concerned with trying to create jobs in the region, but in 2003/2004 it took on a more proactive approach to ensuring that not only were jobs being created, but that skilled resources were trained and ready to fill them. By partnering with local Project Management training Specialist like the Advanced Technologies Studies Center (ATSC), they have been able to grow from 80 PMPs at the start of 2005 to over 2000 in 2009. This significant growth has contributed to the recent trend that has led many multinational foreign-owned organizations to establish a presence in Cyberjaya. Cyberjaya is the heart of MSC Malaysia, and for many foreign-owned companies doing business in Malaysia it serves as the location of choice for their Project Management Centre of Excellence, serving the needs of project management expertise across the entire Asia Pacific region.

The work of MDEC extends well beyond just promoting traditional project management best practices. In fact, it addresses technology concerns extending across all verticals. This includes providing education, mentoring and support for everything from Microsoft to Cisco technologies, to ITIL and to innovative and leadership programs, and Agile approaches to technology such as Scrum. In fact this December ATSC hosted one of the first Certified Scrum Master training sessions in Malaysia and is poised to help Agile grow in the region to support projects that require an alternative approach to traditional project management.

The work between MDEC, local organizations like ATSC and groups like the IT&T SIG are a model for how various groups around the globe can come together to help bring focus to new and emerging ideas in regions that are growing and establishing their role in the global IT workscape. The IT&T SIG is very proud to be able to contribute to continued growth in the region and is looking forward to exciting new things in 2010.

Social Media and Personal Branding: Episode 3 - An Interview with John Vajda
(Please note - John's new twitter handle is @PMmashable)

Project Potion Episode 1: The Green Thing

Project Potion Episode 2 : 2009 Year End Lessons Learned with Bas and Dave