Archive for September, 2010

8

August PMP Certification Numbers

Diffusion of ideasI know what you’re thinking.  Derek, why oh why do you post these PMI numbers ever month?  Where’s the value?

Well, I’m kind of fascinated by a theory called diffusion of innovations. It’s a theory of how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures.

There was a book published in 1962 by a fellow named Everett Rogers, who defined an adopter category as a way to classify individuals within a social system.  The adoption of an innovation follows an S curve when plotted over a length of time. The categories of adopters are: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards (Rogers 1962, p. 150)

Innovators

Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies which may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures. (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282)

Early Adopters

This is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. Realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain central communication position (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).

Early Majority

Individuals in this category adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the adoption process, have above average social status, contact with early adopters, and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership in a system (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283)

Late Majority

Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation, have below average social status, very little financial lucidity, in contact with others in late majority and early majority, very little opinion leadership.

Laggards

Individuals in this category are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this category show little to no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions”, have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends, very little to no opinion leadership.

Certification as an Innovation

So, what does a certification have to do with innovation?  I’m trying to draw a parallel between the industry adoption of the credential compared to diffusion of innovation.  Every month I get a copy of PMI Today and I traditionally annotate data points.  I have them as far back as September 2006.

January February March April May June July August
New PMPs (Overall) 3,714 3,713 5,344 4,718 3,985 4,630 3,687 3,965
Total Active PMPs 367,619 371,014 375,959 381,111 385,096 389,726 393,413 397,378

PMI Credentials August 2010
When I look at the data from the last 4 years, the certification velocity has remained relatively consistent. (send me an email if you want the spreadsheet) For the month of August, those with the PMP certification increased to 3,965. There are now a total of 397,378 active PMPs.

The questions that I pose to you, the reader, are

Where do you think the PMP credential is on the chart listed above?

Where are we on the bell curve?

Is the PMP in the early adopter, early majority, or early stage of the late majority?

4

Zombie (Team Member) Motivation Techniques

What skills do you need to lead your zombie army?  Sorry, what I meant to ask was, what skills do you need to lead your team?  Motivation techniques can be as unique as the individual.

There are a lot of people out there who identify themselves as project managers, those tasked with managing inanimate resources (time, scope, budget…zombies). Though those skills are necessary, there is a need for skills to lead teams and manage stakeholders.  I’m talking (soft) skills to lead, manage, and inspire human resources.

Provide Feedback

You can’t expect your team to operate in a vacuum.  As a team member, imagine if your manager provided an annual review and then didn’t provide feedback to you until the next annual review.  That would be a clear failure on the part of the manager or leader.  I believe managers and leaders are obligated to provide continual feedback to the team.  Now, if managing a zombie team member, no feedback is needed.  They’ll keep searching for brains until someone either shoots them in the head or decapitates them.  Either way, providing feedback will probably only result in you being chased by a horde of flesh eating zombies.

Recognize Performance

Let’s look at this from both a positive and a negative perspective.  If your team is not doing a good job, you need to recognize their performance (both as a group and individually) and give constructive feedback so they can meet your expectations.  If they are meeting your expectations, you need to reinforce what you like so they can continue to meet those expectations or exceed them.  Recognizing zombie team performance is like watching someone win a pie eating contest.  They eat (brains).  Put another brain in front of them and they’ll eat it.  Repeat ad nauseum.  How well they perform is limited by nothing but time.

Negotiate

Don’t be an unreasonable person.  Recognize that some team members will not feel comfortable with some goals set for them.  Win-win negotiations should help you arrive at the desired outcome.  With constant feedback and motivation, believe any team member can reach any goal you set for them.  Note, don’t set the bar too low and give them a false win.  Do not believe in “stretch” goals.  Negotiate realistic outcomes.  Most importantly, don’t negotiate with zombies!  Zombies are like terrorist, except they have a green skin tone and look at you like an opened can of Spam sitting in the hot sun for a week.

Motivate and Persuade

Have you heard the idiom you can catch more bees with honey than you can with vinegar?  Get to know each of your team members personally and find out what motivates them.  What’s important to them; coffee, family time, or recognition?  You may buy one team member a coffee gift card, tell another to go home early, or thank another publicly in a meeting.  Everyone has something that motivates them.  If you ever order lunch for the team, make sure you consider everyone (individually).  When you set schedules, try to consider individual family obligations.

Respect

Respect is fundamental in any relationship.  You will get the very best from people if you have mutual respect.  I once had a superior ask me if I wanted my team to respect me or to like me.  My response was OR?  Why can’t they do both?  Teams will respect you if they know you would never throw them under the bus to protect yourself.  Take the hits from management if you don’t reach a goal.  Protect the team at all costs.  As a result, the team should do everything they can to prevent that situation from happening.  Zombies are not team players.  They want your brains and they will throw you under a bus at the first opportunity.  Don’t judge them. They know not what they do.

Summary

If you’re going to be a project manager who is managing people, you need to have good soft skills.  That is, you need the ability to engage and interact effectively with your team, obtain acceptance, build consensus, and provide assistance, direction and leadership.

I’m a strong believer that if you treat people with honesty and respect and your motives are good, it will come back to you.  That means be genuinely concerned about the well-being and happiness of your team.  Listen to them and guide them.  Whatever the business side expects of you will get taken care of.  Your team will rise to the challenge.  I’ve known project managers who lacked some of these skills.  Either they didn’t provide feedback to their team or they were unreasonable or demanding.  The team was miserable, productivity went down, and that manager blamed the team.  It was a vicious cycle.

Sometimes, you just have to do what you know is right and face the consequences.

Sometimes, you have to fight the urge to eat brains.

Photo: flickr user frogmuseum2

4

Lacking Empathy

empathyAs a project manager, I personally believe empathy is one of the most important virtues.  I think it’s one of those attributes that makes us most human.  You can’t expect to take care of your team, or even customers, if you are unable to be empathetic.  Regardless if you can help someone, ask anyway.  Regardless if you can understand what they are thinking or feeling, try anyway.

I recently participated as a juror in a criminal trial.  Though I knew it would be a personal inconvenience, I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.  It was my obligation as a citizen, to do my part in ensuring justice was served.  Some would argue if it truly was, but I digress.  So, what’s the point of this blog post?

About a month ago, I informed the necessary (corporate) parties who pay me that I had been selected to be part of a jury pool.  Upon sending them the necessary information, I was told I would be paid for a full 8 hour day, minus $20. (The amount Frederick County pays a juror for one day of service).  Considering the cost to short my paycheck was probably more than $20, I wasn’t going to argue.  If that’s what they wanted to do, it was a wash for me, with the exception of the work I had to delay for my customer.

Upon submitting my hours on the second day, I received a (billing) submission error.  Because it was an ambiguous error message, I send an email to accounting.  I said, upon completing my second day of jury duty and billing my time, I received the error.  Within a few minutes, I received a very short email response. It informed me I would only be paid for 1 day of jury duty, that “it’s in the handbook” and I would have to bill my time to my Paid Time Off (PTO).  I was surprised I didn’t get a “I’m sorry if there was a misunderstanding…” or “I regret to bring this to your attention…” email.  Seconds later I got another email.  It was one line.  “You can also take Leave Without Pay”.

Let’s take a moment to reflect.

Both of these emails came from the Human Resources department, not from my direct chain of command.  I did get a telephone call from my Director within a few minutes.  He apologized if I had misunderstood the corporate policy to only pay employees for one day of jury duty but added he would work with me if I had already made plans that would result in a PTO deficit.  I want to commend him on having empathy.  He showed true leadership in picking up the telephone and calling me.  He showed true leadership in listening to me vent for several minutes.  It didn’t change anything but he certainly scored a few points in my book.

We’re all human beings.  We all like to be treated like human beings.
When in doubt, pick up the phone or go talk to someone directly.
Most importantly, don’t ever send a one line email that basically says “RTFM”

Like the image?  Find it at Pictofigo

6

Reasonable Doubt

Not GuiltyThis last week, I had the honor and frustration of serving on a jury in a criminal trial.  By working with so many stakeholders in my day-to-day activities, I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult to use the same methods with witnesses and with my jury peers.  What was the goal?  Given the evidence, presented by both the prosecution and the defense, decide (as a group) if the defendant had been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Unfortunately, being a juror was unlike managing regular stakeholders, where they can all maintain their own perspective throughout a project.  As a member of the jury, we had to offer a unanimous verdict; Guilty or Not Guilty.  The other very challenging thing we dealt with was a subjective term (compared to objective) called reasonable doubt.  Until all of the evidence was presented and we were asked to deliberate on the verdict, we were not allowed to speak to each other.  Only at that time were we able to define what reasonable doubt was.  Only then were we allowed to compare notes from the trial and come to a collective agreement.

So that you understand why it was so challenging for use to reach our verdict, I’ll condense two days of testimony into a few paragraphs.

The victim was a 73-year-old woman.  The defendant was a 21-year-old man.  After arriving home from taking the bus one dark winter night, the victim said she was assaulted by the defendant on her doorstep and her purse was stolen.  When she appeared on the stand, she said she had never seen him (the defendant) before but she would never forget his face.  When interviewed by the police the night of the attack, her son who lived with her told the police that she described the attacker to him as looking like the boy who had helped her with her groceries in the past.  The son knew who had helped her in the past and gave the police a name.  The victim was sent to the hospital and the police met her there with a series of photographs to make a positive identification.  She pointed to the defendant’s picture and then another saying it he looks like him but then pointed back to the defendant and said that it was him, adding that he was on the bus with her that night.  The officer did NOT circle the photo like he normally did, when a victim makes a 100% positive ID of an attacker.

The day after the attack, the defendant was interviewed by the police.  He said he remembers seeing her on the bus but he could never do such a thing to her.  He said that he had helped her with her groceries in the past.  When he was asked where he was at the time of the assault, he said he was at his cousin’s house playing video games.  Oddly enough, the cousin never appeared in court to corroborate his story.  When the cousin’s wife testified, she said he was not there that night.

There was no other evidence offered.  The contents of the purse were never found.  The cell phone and food stamp card in the purse were never used.  So, what happened when the jury was asked to deliberate?  We compared notes and we debated.  When the foreman asked how many of us thought he was guilty, almost all of us put up our hands.  When the foreman asked who thought the prosecution had proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, everyone put there hands down but one guy.

We needed to have 100% agreement.

My argument to him was, it would be a terrible tragedy that IF this guy would be convicted of a crime for no other reason than he had helped this lady with her groceries in the past and he was on that bus that night.  Nobody was debating, including the defendant, if he was on the bus or if he had helped her with her groceries before.  But nobody could prove that he was at the scene of the crime.  By reading his body language, several of us believed he was not an innocent person but we were uncertain he was guilty of this particular crime.  The final juror lamented and we rendered a verdict of not guilty.

The defendant burst into tears as our foreman stated not guilty to each of the three counts.  The prosecution then asked each of us to stand and respond guilty or not guilty.  One by one, we responded “Not Guilty”.  The judge told the defendant he was free to go.  We were then told to return to the jury room.  We all agreed we should have felt more satisfaction in freeing this guy.  Moments later, the judge entered the chamber and informed us that the defendant had been charged in the past with the same thing, assault and theft.  She said the court was not allowed to give us this information and added that she believed, based on the evidence presented, that we would find him not guilty.

As I shook my head, the juror who sat next to me in the jury box said the right thing.

Though knowing this guy has done this before kind of bothers me, but I would rather set a guilty man free than to convict an innocent one.

Image: Pictofigo

0

Using Stories on my Personal Kanban

User StoriesA colleague on Twitter asked how do I break down my stories, acceptance criteria etc?  As a reference point, “stories” refer to my use of User Stories on a task board or Kanban.  It’s a method of representing requirements or scope.  In upcoming posts, I’ll also write about acceptance criteria, size, blocks…

Let’s say you have some work that needs to be completed or delivered (scope).  Rather than the old fashioned shall statements to define the scope or requirement (system shall do this; system shall not do that), we’re going to write a little self-contained story on an index card, post-it note, or something similar.  When we’re done, we’re going to add the story card to our kanban board.  Our user stories are written from the perspective of the user.  In the case of the personal kanban, that’s me.  What you put in your user story may vary. But, for me, the stories have to be self-contained and they have to pass my “why” test.  Though I don’t write it in the user story or on the card, I map work I do back to higher level goals.  If the work can’t be mapped back to previously defined goals, I’m just wasting time.  Let’s try not to do that.

When writing a user story, this is the format I follow

As a <type of user>, I want <goal> so <reason>.

Here it is in action

As a blogger, I want to write a blog post about user stories, so people will understand how I use them.

Now I ask myself “why“.
What is my predefined goal that it maps back to?

Spend more time writing, speaking, and mentoring and less time directly managing or leading projects.

So, there you have it!  Because I use both an electronic kanban and a physical one, I keep all of the details in the electronic version and use the physical one a visual reference.  It is a constant reminder to myself and others of what I am committed to do, work in progress, work that is blocked, and work recently completed.

Have any question?  Feel free to leave a comment.