Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pod-ject Management

This is a rather casual post regarding podcasting. For project managers, there is a tremendous amount of excellent material (not all of it packaged under the title "project management, by the way) to be had.

If you've never tried listening to a podcast, you have very few excuses...
  • You don't need an MP3 Player (most sites allow you to play the audio right from your PC)
  • You don't need to pay money to subscribe to (most of) the podcasts
  • You don't need any special technical skills

Of course, they still aren't for everyone. I acknowledge that we all have differing preferences for communications - some of us are visual, some auditory, some kinesthetic, most of us a hodgepodge of the three. This comes under the topic of learning styles, probably deserving of a posting all of its own. In the meantime, you can check your own preferences here. But for convenience, the idea of catching up on PM information from what is effectively a radio broadcast, is a good one, and I suggest you take advantage of it.

Podcasts devoted to PM

There are several PM Podcasts which I'll list below. Check them out. The creators of these podcasts put a great deal of their own personal energy and passion into them - and it shows.

The PM Podcast

Controlling Chaos

PMThink! - (go to right side of blog)


The PMO Podcast

Insights for Project Managers

General Management/Business podcasts that have a propensity to talk PM

Manager Tools

The Cranky Middle Manager

Podcast Directories

Don't count on blogs to keep you up-to-date. If you do have an MP3 player or Winamp, the associated software can check for latest podcasts by topic. Stick in PMO or Project Management from time to time and see what's come on line. I also like Podcast Alley, and find it easy to use - you can listen to podcasts right from that site.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One week anniversary

Well, it's been one week. On the right, you see a fairly recent snapshot of the visitor locations. This blog has been visited by some 350 people from many locations, including New Zealand, Qatar, Finland, Canada, and The Philippines. That's a great start, and I hope to keep it going with interesting posts, comments, and discussions here. I intend to keep it fresh and intriguing, but I also count on you for that diversity and freshness. Chip in with a comment here or there, okay?
I already take away one lesson learned (re-learned, really) from the experience: free services are worth approximately what you paid for them. The wiki site we were using went haywire on us without any warning. I had no backup. But...'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger', and this gave me the opportunity to start over, add some new features, and this time, remember to store the wiki material in a $&#*@^ backup file!
Let's go for another great week!

Fiddling again!

This is going to sound weird, but I switched wikis. The Bluwiki site has been down for days. I went to a new provider, wikidot. The transition should mean only an improvement to you, as this forced me to redo the entire site. I added a video clip from the movie. To contribute to Fiddler on the Project , I give you three options.

1. Click here to go to the wiki, which provides the context, a video clip from the movie, a sample chapter, a survey, and a "writeboard" scratch editing area.

2. Click here to go directly to the survey.

3. Click here to go directly to the Writeboard. The password is tradition.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Does your project have Measuritis?

Measuritis is a chronic viral condition in which your management, your project office, or perhaps even you are obsessed with numerical measurements of everything that can possibly have a number associated with it. My favorite Measuritis story is this one (partially because it's true).

My colleague and I were each leading project groups. We each had about 10 project managers overseeing important equipment and network deployments. Each week, we produced a report which gave a progress report on each project. Problem was, our director kept asking for the data to be reconfigured in different ways (he didn't have the software skills to reconfigure these himself). So he would continually ask for the data to be reported every which way. To try to show him the error of his ways, we created a special report which listed the various reports we were generating for him. On this "report report" as we sarcastically called it, we listed the various reports we were issuing for him, with what frequency, and which audience.
Well, instead of getting our intended message, our esteemed manager reacted like this: "Gentlemen, that report is very nice. I'd like to see it produced once a week".

I took two lessons learned from this episode:
1. Sarcasm is often lost on your "victim" and instead, you become the victim.
2. There are different varieties of Measuritis. In this case it was a particularly deadly strain of the virus called reportata overlodum.

My experience in talking with those who run project offices also provides plenty of examples of Measuritis infection. In the quest for KPIs (Key Performance Indices), all that can be measured, is. And that's not the real problem - the problem is the credence that is given to the numbers calculated from these measurements. Don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to project dashboards and KPIs in general. What I am saying is that it makes sense to be extremely thoughtful and careful when establishing the measurements and very important to consider the intangibles. I know that "you cannot fix what you don't measure", but you also must be aware of what you cannot measure and account for it in the mix.

I am hoping to start a conversation on this subject, via people responding to this posting. Don't worry, I have had Blogger install an anti-measuritis anti-virus pattern; your project will not be contaminated. Also, I promise not to generate pie-charts, trend data, or radar diagrams showing the number of postings per unit time...

For your reference I provide the following resources:

A very short article which discusses the merits of devising project measurements.

A link on this subject from Jerry Manas' excellent blog, PMThink! on this subject.

The general links for these two blogs are as follows:
Content Spool's Business Management section:

Jerry Manas' Blog, PMThink!:

So please consider sharing here your stories of Measuritis. Thanks! And if you have it, get well soon!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The "buzz" on Crowdsourcing

Why "buzz"? Look at the cover of "We are Smarter than Me", a book, like "Wikinomics" which was written using the "power of crowds". Don't BEE surprised at what you see.

YouTube and WikiPedia are two famously prominent examples of web-based communities using 'crowd power' which have had significant impact. This movement has already had influence on project management. The January, 2008 issue of PMI's PM Network (see the case study on FilmRiot, page 46) covers the crowdsourcing movement with good examples, and the same issue reviews blog software for project collaboration.

In We are Smarter than Me, I participated in the authoring of this book by contributing some ideas on project management via the crowdsourced editing tools on their site. The inside front and back covers are emblazoned with the names of the “authors” (including me) in glorious and spectacular size 0.1 font. Listen – a mention is a mention.

I decided next to check out the world of crowdsourcing by participating in one of the sites recommended by both “We Are Smarter Than Me” as well as by the PM Network magazine article. I submitted an idea to , a crowdsourcing site meant to help incubate and promote new ideas. It was a little convoluted – I submitted an idea to produce a crowdsourced Project Management book, The Fiddler on the Project. I got lots of feedback from the group, and ended up winning the weekly “IdeaWarz” contest that they run. So the “crowd” liked the idea.

Here are some web resources for you if you would like to investigate this further. For starters, pick up the January issue of PM Network and read the articles on pages 46 and 88. Then start exploring some websites. Let yourself get lost in the "crowd". Participate! (design a t-shirt)
Pssssst: if you go to, now through 14-Jan or so, be sure to vote positively for The Pun Duck, another of my ideas...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

More on the Fiddler (not Moron, the Fiddler)

You've seen some reference to Fiddler on the Project, the book I'm co-authoring with Ranjit Biswas, PMP. We have a goal to have 100 contributors. We're up towards 70. So don't miss your chance to collaborate. Just visit . If you do nothing else, at least take our quick survey, which you can get to directly from that site.
Here is the prologue from the book. A little tease...

Fiddler on the Project - Prologue

What are projects? Projects are all about change. If you didn’t want change, why would you be initiating a project? While operations are focused on the status quo, projects strive to improve our lot, gaining us more customers, or coming up with the means to delight our existing ones. Projects are initiated to do business more efficiently, to meet some kind of government or contracted requirement, or to venture into some new line of business altogether. In any case, we initiate these projects because we need something to be significantly different than it has been. If we don’t make the change, we may end up in a dangerous situation.

Yet, ironically while a project’s focus is change, the people who work on our projects and the organizations they’re from, as well as the customers and other stakeholders of the project- including the project manager themselves – are rooted in traditions. These traditions have served us well, sometimes for many generations. Lose sight of these traditions and the project manager – and the project itself – is not in tune with its environment, won’t likely satisfy the organization, the sponsor, the customer, and therefore will not bring about the change that was desired, and we may end up in a dangerous situation.

So, the project manager, the leader of these projects, has one foot on tradition and one foot on change. All along, he or she must balance between tradition and change while actively orchestrating the elements of the project, smoothly conducting, if you will, the ‘music’ of the project while not losing their foothold on either, and – you guessed it, ending up in a dangerous situation.
Such is the Fiddler from Fiddler on the Roof. He balances on the peak of the roof, perched atop the house, effortlessly keeping his balance with one foot on either side of the peak while producing beautiful, enchanting music – a melody that is an inspiration for the story's main character, Tevya. The fiddler never fails – and he never falls.

We want to help you – as the Fiddler on your projects – to be able to keep your balance and play that tune, and to inspire the stakeholders of your projects. And, you know, we wouldn’t complain if you got a little inspired, yourself!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Putting things in perspective

One of the things that will make this blog important to you - I hope - will be frequent references and resources that you can use as a project manager. I'd like to start that trend right here on Day One by highlighting a website which is fun, informative, and interesting. I suggest you pay it a visit during a spare moment. You'll find yourself intrigued, entertained, and educated, all at the same time.

At least - that was my perspective.

The site is and it is the brainchild of Dr. Richard Wiseman, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire, in the UK.

As a project manager we need to understand our stakeholders (assuming that we have first done a fantastic job of identifying them). To understand and facilitate communications with those stakeholders, we have to understand their perspective - walk a bit in their shoes, as they say.

Dr. Wiseman's videos are indeed far-removed from project management. Or are they? Using the ideas he gives, not only about perspective, but about understanding visual and verbal cues, can help truly understand whether that estimate for test soak time is really 6 weeks, or rather could it be done in 1? See his experiment with Leslie Nielsen in which Leslie identifies his favorite food in two video segments (one food identified in each, that is). Dr. Wiseman challenges you to determine in which of the two Neilsen is lying.

I won't give the whole thing away, folks. Just check the site and have a look at the 5 videos.

And do me a favor....share your perspective after you come back here, okay? Thanks.

Visit Exclaim! Project Management

Support this site, view these content-related videos, please! Thanks.