Archive for November, 2009

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Meeting Acceptance Criteria Implies Customer Satisfaction

checklistIt doesn’t matter if your model is Kanban, Agile, Waterfall, or RUP.  You can’t close out a project or task without first identifying the Acceptance Criteria.  Acceptance criteria begins to take shape during the first moments of a project or task.

If you are utilizing Kanban or Agile, everything pertaining to your deliverable should be captured on your story cards.  This includes story details and acceptance (testing) criteria.  Satisfying all acceptance criteria implies the needs of the customer have been met.

If you following Waterfall, RUP, or similar model, you would expect to identify acceptance criteria, along with scope description and project deliverables, in the project scope statement.  (These are each components of a scope baseline)

It all goes back to requirements and stakeholders’ satisfaction.  Remember each requirement should add business value by linking to a business or project objective(s).

Those criteria, including performance requirements and essential conditions, must be met before project deliverables are accepted. Regardless of your model, spare yourself a lot of wasted time AND money by documenting acceptance criteria early.

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Mitigated Speech and Project Negotiations

Try thisMitigated speech is a linguistic term describing deferential or indirect speech inherent in communication between individuals of perceived High Power Distance.

The term was recently popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, where he defines mitigated speech as “any attempt to downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what is being said”. He described 6 degrees of mitigation with which we make suggestions to authority:

1. Command – “Implement this

2. Team Obligation Statement – “We need to try this

3. Team Suggestion – “Why don’t we try this?”

4. Query – “Do you think this would help us in this situation?”

5. Preference – “Perhaps we should take a look at this an an alternative”

6. Hint – “I wonder if we will run into any issues by following our current process”

As I observe the command and communication structure between a PMO and its members and contractors, I have the opportunity to witness mitigated speech every day.  Being direct (command) doesn’t always work.  People need to learn to be flexible in their requests and negotiations if they have the hope those in power will implement new strategies.  Additionally, learn to read those around you to know what degree of mitigation you will use IF you intend to use it.

As I read Outliers, I started to think of the relationship between mitigated speech and Appendix G.8 (negotiation) of the PMBoK.

Negotiation is a strategy of conferring with parties of shared or opposed interests with a view of compromise or reach an agreement.  Negotiation is an integral part of project management and when done well, increases the probability of project success.

The following skills and behaviors are useful in negotiating successfully:

  • Analyze the situation.
  • Differentiate between wants and needs – both yours and theirs.
  • Focus on interests and issues rather that on positions.
  • Ask high and offer low, but be realistic.
  • When you make a concession, act as if you are yielding something of value, don’t just give in.
  • Always make sure both parties feel as if they have won.  This is a win-win negotiation.  Never let the other party leave feeling as if he or she has been taken advantage of.
  • Do a good job of listening and articulating.

To summarize, stride to be a win-win negotiator and be aware of the mitigated speech you are using to conduct your negotiations.

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How To Effectively Manage An Offshore Team Of Developers

Offshore TeamsThere are probably two primary reasons you would go with an offshore team.

(1) Your customers are also offshore, or (2) you’re hoping to save money on development costs.

I’m going to assume your reason is number (2).  Though this post is brief for such a complicated topic, it should give you some things to think about.  Yes, you can certainly save a lot on development expenses. Then again, it can come back to bite you in rework expenses if there are communication issues.

How do you bridge the language barrier?
(1) You need a go-to guy or gal who speaks the same language as your developers but will be working at your location. This is a must. Your probability for success is going to go way up by ensuring there is no breakdown in communications.

How do you receive the quality of code you need?
(1) Use continuous integration
(2) Use test scripts to understand requirements
(3) Use short iterations
(4) Have regular builds
(5) Separate teams by functionality (not activity)

How do you communicate?
(1) If you can afford to send/bring someone (an ambassador) over to work with the other team at the beginning of the project, do it.
(2) It is critical that your “go-to” has a daily meeting with the team. Select a method that allows each side to see one another. (webcam/Skype)
(3) Have everyone use Skype (VoIP) and/or a chat client for one-on-one communications.
(4) Keep a Skype connection open between the offices.
(5) Use wikis or other collaborative solutions for common project information.
(6) Stay away from email, unless it is for formal communication. Information is going to get lost along the way and it will take longer to clarify.

Remember to use parallel communication methods, not serial.

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Real Time Reputation Scores On Twitter

When Twitter launched their list feature recently, I immediately wondered if #FollowFriday was going to go the way of the dinosaur.

For those out there not using Twitter, you have the power to “follow” people of interest and see what they are saying.  By following people of similar personal or professional interests, you get an idea of what is happening in real time.

As you begin to follow people, you are exposed to more and more who can really offer interesting things to say.

Because I wanted to read about what’s new in Tech, I followed Leo Laporte, founder of the TWiT® Netcast Network. Because I wanted to read about entrepreneurs and start-ups, I followed Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo.com.  Because I wanted to read about Project Management, I followed Dave Garrett, CEO of Gantthead.com.  Granted, I didn’t just go out and follow them at random.  I followed others and patiently waited for Friday to arrive to see who they would recommend to Follow.  Though I enjoy this organic process of discovery, it is not particularly efficient.  Though the introduction of lists has allowed me to see similar people in large numbers, there is no guarantee it is nothing more then a popularity contest.

Who shall I follow and who shall I recommend to follow?  Alas, I am but one person.  Who am I to suggest who you should follow and who you should not? I will yield my recommendation to one I consider superior in the decision making process.  I yield to what James Surowiecki termed the Wisdom of the Crowd and a nice webapp created by The Plan Is.

It appears The Plan Is tracks all tweets tagged with #pmot and uses them to update a list of the most influential project managers on Twitter. Updates are calculated continuously and new results are displayed every 5 minutes. They won’t tell you how the scores are calculated, as that would make it too easy to game the system.  It appears ranking is based on the number of followers, volume of tweets being retweeted, and the number of lists appeared on.  I may be wrong.  But, the list appears pretty accurate.  Go on Twitter and look at the hashtag #pmot.  If you say (tweet) something interesting, it gets retweeted.  If people like to read what you’re tweeting, you’ll get followed.  What I like about this dynamic reputation score is there are NOT people out there tweeting “vote for me, vote for me”.  It just seems to work.

So, you’re a new Project Manager, Scrum Master, Agile aficionado, or Kanban practitioner on Twitter.  Who do you follow?  Who has the best reputation, from the crowd point of view?  Follow the links below and find out.

Project Managers on Twitter

  1. DaveG253: 2175 points
  2. francisojsaez: 1800 points
  3. projectmgmt: 1685 points
  4. ProjectShrink: 1400 points
  5. Qtask: 1400 points
  6. JohnEstrella: 1135 points
  7. pmstudent: 1100 points
  8. franciscojsaez: 980 points
  9. thesambarnes: 915 points
  10. PM_StrayDogg: 835 points

If you would like to see a list from an Agile perspective, there’s a list for that as well.

Note:  The 10 Project Managers in the list above were dynamically generating at the time of this post.

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If You’ve Never Failed…You’ve Never Lived…

If you have ever been on the fence about doing something, out of fear of failing, this video will give you the push you need.

  • Create that new service or product
  • Go for that promotion
  • Get that new job
  • Launch that company

Life = Risk