I wrote an article on the future of project management over at Georgetown University’s professional certificate blog site. Check it out.
Agile is (finally!) taking off! Everyone is using it!
Or are they? Agile is reaching the peak of the hype curve (up next: the Trough of Disappointment). Most of my clients are now using it. Heaven help us.
Agile is better than waterfall in a lot of instances. I’ve read the studies, I am a believer. But it’s not the best in all situations. Organizations that go Agile tend to go 100% Agile. It becomes just as rigid as the 100% waterfall approach.
Aside from this, organizations are abusing Agile to the point where it is not effective. Using Jira is not Agile! Doing daily stand-ups is not Agile! However, most of the abuse is based on the roles in Scrum, the most common Agile methodology.
I’ve never seen a Product Owner who had both the knowledge to be the product owner or the authority to make decisions on behalf of the business. They struggle to analyze or even understand software development decisions and they have to go back to the business for buy-in. They end up being just a middle manager slowing things down.
A knock against Project Managers is they do little to move the project forward. They spend their time doing administrative tasks and planning a future that never comes. Scrum Masters are even worse than this caricature. They rarely have experience that would be valuable in a software project, that is, system/business analysis, development and testing.
Analysts, Developers and Testers
The people doing the work. Projects are successful based on these people. I’ve come to fully appreciate the value of a great analyst. Many organizations get this right – yay!
Wow! As a follow up on the post about risk management and the hack of Capital One, the Wall Street Journal is now reporting that high employee turnover in its cyber-security division may be partially responsible. (My last client went through three cyber-security directors in less than two years – they are currently looking for their fourth.)
Idea: if you have high turnover, pay your employees more and treat them better.
The demand for project resources always exceed the supply of resources. Always. Even at the Department of Defense, with $700B, cannot meet the demand for resources.
The key in success in projects is to manage supply and demand. Most organizations fail. Most fail because they simply don’t know the supply of project resources. Or the demand. Other than that, they’ve got it under control!
The supply of resources is typically people. Organizations know how many people they have. They may make a crude estimate of person-hours available (number of people X 40 hours, for example). This is wrong. This over-estimates the supply. Your employees do not dedicate 40 hours per week to projects even if they have no operational responsibilities. By the time you subtract staff meetings, time off, HR, and training, it’s closer to 30 hours per week.
The only way to accurately measure supply is to track time. Every employee on a project should track their time. Soon, within months, you’ll have a better number for supply.
Measuring demand is also beyond most organizations. They don’t do sufficient project planning and therefore don’t know how much time is estimated per project.
The only way to accurately measure demand is to track time. Every employee on a project should track their time. Soon, within months, you’ll have a better number for demand. The best way to estimate time for future projects is measuring time on current projects. Your estimates will continually get better. But only if you track time.
Humans are bad at understanding the risk. The example above is from the US Airways plane that Captain Sullenberger landed on the Hudson River. It’s a picture of the passengers and crew standing on the wings waiting for rescue. (First – planes can float?!?).
You can’t easily tell, but the majority of passengers are NOT wearing life jackets. In fact only 33 of the 150 passengers had them on. Only four people had them on correctly (fastened). Imagine that you just survived a one-in-a-million event and you don’t take the precaution to survive the far-more-common death by drowning.
Note the Hudson River is about a mile wide between Manhattan and Hoboken. If the plane is exactly in the middle, and let’s face it, it probably was, that’s a half-mile swim. Very few people can swim a half-mile. Oh! It was also February! The water is damn cold – in the fifties.
I think about this when I’m managing projects. Risk management is hard. Understanding and evaluating risks are hard. Predicting probability is hard. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it but understand we’re not good at it. I always reserve time – it’s better to have it when something bad happens. And it usually does.
News reports say that a Seattle hacker stole 100 million credit applications. She is an ex-employee of Amazon’s AWS service that housed the Capital One database. Before talking about this incident from a risk management standpoint, I am a little surprised that Capital One, #98 on the Fortune 100 with $6B in profits last year, can’t/won’t build a sufficient IT infrastructure. I guess they decided to Transfer the risk.
I can’t wait to hear the entire story. A female hacker that failed to graduate from the local community college (that I taught at!) is an interesting story.
From a risk management perspective, there are several angles. Perhaps she stole the data while she was an employee and just got caught now. It’s possible that when she left Amazon, the exit process where all her accounts are disabled may not have been followed. Maybe she had inside help.
But maybe she hacked one of the largest tech companies in the world to get data from one of the largest financial companies in the world. Wow!
While these hazards begin with fire, they are ultimately about human risks”
AZ Central has an incredible story about how the conditions that caused the deaths of 85 people in the Camp Fire are prevalent throughout the West. They analyzed nearly 5,000 towns and found 526 have a risk potential higher than Paradise, CA. These risks are:
- Evacuation Constraint: the number of roads leading out of town. Eleven people died while evacuating Paradise.
- Resident Age: 10% of Paradise residents were over 75 years old. Of the 85 that died, 62 were over 65 years old and 36 were over 75.
- Disabled Residents: 25% of Paradise residents were disabled, twice the national average.
- Alert System: in what seems like the biggest mistake, no emergency alert was broadcast to Paradise residents. Despite the fact the county has the ability to send mobile alerts (many counties do not), they did not do so.
- Mobile Homes. 12.5% of homes in Paradise are mobile homes. Mobile homes tend to be less fire resistant and closer to each other and thus more susceptible to fire. 37 of the 85 people who died lived in mobile homes.
We are bad at evaluating risk. Hundreds of thousands of people live in wildfire zones. Many millions are on the opposite side of the environmental spectrum, coastal populations will be under water within a decade or two.
The best answer is the obvious one – don’t live in wildfire zones. But we struggle, and mostly fail, to provide for adequate housing, driving people farther into the wilderness. Ultimately it may be insurance companies that save us. They may simply stop insuring homes where the risk is too high.
I will be presenting at the monthly PMIWDC dinner in Falls Church on October 20. Details are here. The presentation will discuss the difficult choices facing project managers in three different parts of the project lifecycle: 1) project selection, 2) execution and 3) project termination. It will provide methodologies, tools and advice to ensure your organization makes the right choices to increase success in projects as well as maximizing the business value delivered by projects.
Below is a link to the PMI Webinar presentation: Managing Risk on Public Sector IT Projects, presented on November 18, 2014.
If you are interested in more details about the health benefit exchanges, check my Blog Archives – I’ve posted lots of information about them. Also, I talked about the GAO scheduling guide here: http://terrapinconsulting.net/gao-guide-to-scheduling/
Follow me on Twitter @DominicLepore for strong PM advice and cute selfies.