Archive for June, 2008|Monthly archive page

Jim McCarthy on The Core

In my recent interview with Jim McCarthy I asked him the following question:

Q: Can you tell us a little more about The Core and BootCamp?

It may be a short question but to do it justice Jim McCarthy sent me a full and detailed response that mirrors closely what is published on The McCarthy Show website. I found it fascinating and, although I felt it necessary to edit it significantly for the interview writeup, I am pleased to present it in full here:

The Core Commitments and The Core Protocols are a collection of codified best practices that came out of our teamwork laboratory, called BootCamp, compiled over an eleven year period, and now in Version 3.1. The current version can be downloaded here. The story of the evolution of these interpersonal protocols is probably worth telling in some detail because a) they actually work, and this is because of their mode of genesis and b) it makes a good story.

We didn’t create The Core.

Instead, we watched it grow. We did create the set of initial conditions under which The Core protocols, or something very much like them, would almost certainly emerge. Over the years, we have maintained healthy conditions for Core evolution. Along the way we also pruned the tree from growing into a few false directions. And we added resources: our own money, time, focus, and stamina. We protected it. Took notes. Tried it out. Passed it out.

A proper credit also has to include the thousands of BootCamp students from around the world who contributed to The Core’s development over the years.

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Happy 1st Birthday!

Exactly one year ago I made my first blog post Be Careful What You Wish For and so today CakeI am celebrating the 1st birthday of Outside of the Triangle. Having made 45 posts in that time I am pleased that a few people have read and commented on what I have had to say and flattered (and maybe a little surprised) that I have been cited in one Wikipedia entry! However the main reason I started this blog was as a means of self development and, looking back, this is where the true value has lain for me. Writing and researching posts has opened up my mind to new possibilities and viewpoints in ways that I could never have imagined a year ago. Some real highlights for me have been:

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Free eBook: Interview Tips

I am fortunate (or possibly unfortunate?) in the respect that my exposure to job interviews has been very limited. Most of my career progression has come from internal promotions and networking at the company I work for now. However I always think it is wise to be prepared to move on and that is why everyone should maintain an up-to-date CV and have their interview skills ready for action. Besides, the skills that you need to interview well are the same as those that you need to sell yourself to customers, your boss and the people you manage.

Liz Handlin of Ultimate Resumes (who writes her own excellent blog) has made available a free eBook for download: Interviewing Made Easy!

It is a quick read, written well and has lots of excellent information. And it’s free! What are you waiting for?

PM Interviews: Jim McCarthy

Back in 1999 I read a great book about software engineering: Dynamics of Software Development by Jim McCarthy. This book was one of the first to express the idea that software development is primarily a people-centric activity and that therefore the success of any software project is intrinsically bound to how well the team works together.

Jim has had a wide ranging and successful career in the software industry and I was delighted to have the chance to interview him and discover his current views on the management of software projects.

Q: Many people will already know you from your books Dynamics of Software Development and Software for Your Head or through your BootCamp training course. Can you give us a brief summary of your career to date?

I began my career as a software guy over 30 years ago. Over the years I have synthesized what I learned from software development and corporate experiences and applied it to solving the riddles of team dynamics. I have had responsibilities in development, testing, marketing, programme management, user education and general management. I led software development teams at Bell Labs, The Whitewater Group and Microsoft Corporation. Since 1996 I have devoted myself to researching groups and how they create products and organisations. We use a teamwork lab (McCarthy BootCamp, a product development simulation) and in situ research at corporations, large and small, worldwide.

I wrote Dynamics of Software Development in 1995 and Microsoft has recently released the 2006 edition of Dynamics which is cool because it includes both the Core (see below) and the original video on which the book was based. My wife, Michele, and I have created the Core Protocols (now available in version 3.0) which are a collection of interpersonal protocols that support results-oriented behaviour, the efficient aggregation of individual qualities into a greater whole and the development and realisation of shared visions. Together, we authored Software for Your Head and now host a podcast show on team and other business issues. I also give numerous speeches and seminars. I can be reached at or via our website

Q: What are you currently working on?

Once there was this guy interviewing me in Malaysia and he asked me “What software are you working on now?” I answered, honestly, “Yours.” In a way I guess that answer still holds Continue reading

The (Un)Value of Ideas

How much is an idea worth? Sometimes it seems that the only thing separating wild success from abject failure is that “one big idea”. What’s more, people who can generate ideas are positively perceived:

“Joe is the creative brain behind this”

Conversely, no matter how good someone is in other areas, saying that they can’t generate ideas sounds like a strong criticism:

“Greg does a great job on implementation but he’s not an ideas man”

But you know what, I think ideas are overrated. Continue reading

PM Interviews: Raven Young

Seattle based Raven Young is a freelance IT project manager and writer of the excellent PM blog Raven’s Brain. This week I had the pleasure of catching up with her to find out a little more about her views on the past, present and future of IT project management.

Q: Most people will know you from your excellent project management blog Raven’s Brain. Can you give us a brief summary of your career to date?

I got into “management” in my early 20s. I was working in retail back in the early 90s and was about the only person that knew how to use a computer beyond the store’s Unix based inventory application. I quickly moved into a management position and worked my way up to the impressive sounding title of West Coast Regional Operations Manager at the age of 23. My desire to plan and reduce costs and rework carried me through this phase of my career where I worked in retail store set-up, new construction and operations management for Crown Books, and eventually my role stretched to encompass technical projects. This is where I found the joy of project management in the high tech industry and I’ve now been working on web and software development projects for the last 14+ years.

Q: What are you currently working on?

Over the past three years I have been fortunate enough to be self-employed, which has afforded me the benefit of working on a number of different opportunities, each offering their own unique experiences. I’ve continued to take on short-term assignments, acting as a business, management and leadership coach and working on different project solutions. I just wrapped up a brief stint contracting as a Programme Manager III for Microsoft which was an interesting experience in itself. I also continue to build up my Project Management blog Raven’s Brain focusing on the “soft-skills” that are so essential for Project/Programme Management but are totally absent from the PMBOK and other Project Management texts (and essentially missing in many PMs).

Q: What do you see as the greatest current challenge for project managers and what do you personally do to overcome it?

Communicating effectively. We send emails, conduct & facilitate meetings, distribute reports, metrics and schedules, send memos and notes, have chats in the hallway and ad-hoc meetings, but I believe PMs still aren’t doing enough to communicate the right information at the right time to the proper audience and ensuring the message conveyed is both heard and understood. Continue reading