Archive for March, 2008|Monthly archive page

When Brainstorming Goes Bad

You sit down in the “blue sky” room. Everyone knows the rules:

  • Anything goes
  • No judging
  • This is all about idea generation

And so you begin:

You: Thanks everyone for coming. I think this should be quite simple. We just need some ideas about implementing some software to track system bugs.

Person A: OK. Maybe the splash screen should show bugs…you know…insects and things.

Person B: Yeah. Maybe we should develop a PDA in the shape of a ladybird. That would be cool

Person C: It could change colour depending on how many unfixed bugs there are.

Continue reading


More on Hiring the Best

Stacey Douglas over at Undocumented Features (a fantastic PM blog by the way) has recently been asked to expand her team. In her post The Art of Hiring Programmers she kindly refers to two of my recent posts: Hiring the Best Coders and 600 Line Design. She also links to two other great articles on the subject.

Following on from that she has, additionally, posted 5 tips that she recently learned for making better hiring decisions in More on Hiring.

What Makes a Great Project Management Blog?

Ahh. If only I knew the answer to that question. I certainly wouldn’t be sharing it with everyone here that’s for sure!

Recently I read with interest Raven Young’s post entitled Project Management Link-Fest. Partly because she linked to my recent interview with Johanna Rothman, partly because she linked to a load of other interesting stuff but mainly (on this occasion) because of her comment at the end of the list:

I’m thinking this link-fest thing is a lazy (wo)man’s way to share a lot of great articles and posts, but know long lists of links isn’t the best way to share soild content. I’ll try to keep these types of posts to a minimum.

It is sometimes easy to think that posting a list of links is in some way “not really blogging” or lazy. But I don’t think she needs to worry.

One of the reasons I find Raven’s blog so useful is that she obviously takes the time to read a lot of material and then posts links to the best of it on her site. In fact, if I had to choose only one blog to read, it could quite easily be hers: she’ll probably be linking to everything that I really want to know about anyway! As I said in my post Communication: 6 Ways to Add Value creating a list of related information sources does deliver a benefit because it makes it easier to find things that you are interested in.

Why Requirements Are Hard

It should be so simple shouldn’t it? Ask a customer what they want and then design and build some software that does it. Easy.

In his post Limitations of “The system shall…” Roger L. Cauvin quotes a great example by Mike Cohn of how easy it is to misinterpret what a user needs. First the requirements are listed like this:

  • The product shall have a gasoline-powered engine.
  • The product shall have four wheels.
  • The product shall have a rubber tire mounted to each wheel.
  • The product shall have a steering wheel.
  • The product shall have a steel body.

Then they are re-stated as follows:

  • The product makes it easy and fast for me to mow my lawn.
  • I am comfortable while using the product.

Unless you are very different to me you would interpret the first set as describing some kind of car whilst the second (much simpler) set clearly describes a sit-on lawn mower. Continue reading

PM Interviews: Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman runs her own project management consultancy firm Rothman Consulting Group, has written a number of influential project management books, has had numerous articles published and blogs regularly. This week Johanna kindly managed to squeeze me in to her hectic schedule and gave me her views on the problems facing project managers and the best ways to solve them.

Q: Many people may already know you as an author of several project management books or from your blogs on Managing Product Development and Hiring Technical People. Can you give us a brief summary of your career to date?

I started as a developer in 1977. I managed small projects for a few years as a technical lead and then became a tester for a couple of years (starting in 1985). I started managing larger projects in 1986 and, in 1988, I managed my first programme and became a manager of Software Quality Assurance (SQA). In 1990 I became the head of a small business unit. That was followed by a few other middle management jobs in development and SQA and finally starting my consulting business in 1994.

Q: What are you currently working on?

I have several writing projects: my next book about portfolio management, a chapter for the Beautiful Teams book and other articles. I’m working on a new estimation workshop. I have client work that I can only talk about in general terms: a couple of assessments and project management training.

Q: In your work as a consultant what do you perceive as the greatest current challenge for IT project managers and how do you help your clients overcome it?

Senior managers want to see results out of IT. But most senior IT managers (CIOs and their counterparts) don’t know enough about how to measure projects or about how to think about project success. So they ask their Project Management Offices (PMOs) to mandate a single process for all projects and therefore hamstring their project managers. The second greatest challenge is Continue reading

Book Review: Getting Things Done

Back in September 2007 my post Taming Your Inbox described how I had applied some techniques for managing the wealth of emails I receive. I’d heard about the techniques second hand from someone I met on a training course who, in turn, had picked them up from David Allan’s renowned book Getting Things Done. Based on some feedback I received and a post from Pete Johnson I resolved back then to buy and read the book for myself. I have just finished it and can honestly say that it has been a revelation! Continue reading