All posts by Smartin

Agile Methodologies: a Retrospective

Disclaimer – While this may appear to be an article about a software development methodology, I’ve been using many components that are considered “agile” in non-software projects for over a decade. For the software folks out there, this is an article on the pieces of “Agile” that I find value in – your mileage may vary. After exceeding 2,000 words, I decided that I would need to kick out posts outlining details of the Agile components as separate components.

At a  recent meeting of the folks involved in the  PMI Southern Alberta Chapter (PMI-SAC) mentorship program, a discussion started around “Agile” since one of the people involved had been informed that their team would be using agile. A number of side discussions arose around this, including questions like:

  • What kind of Agile will you be using?
  • That seems like a project better suited to a traditional methodology – why are you using Agile?
  • What sort of projects are suited for Agile methodologies?
  • Why do IT projects continually fail / over-scope / finish late / …

Continue reading Agile Methodologies: a Retrospective

Using the Right Metrics for Project Profitability – an Optimization Fable

The Challenge:

Boardroom Table PhotoIn 2015 I was asked to help with a root cause analysis to investigate the poor performance of some projects in an engineering consulting firm’s portfolio. This article uses “fake” numbers, but they are similar (in the aggregate) to some extracted from an actual accounting database. When I entered the discussion the cause was assumed to be percentage cost of sales. Digging into the data resulted in different conclusions (and remedies) and underscored why using the right metrics for project profitability is critical. Continue reading Using the Right Metrics for Project Profitability – an Optimization Fable

2017 Reading List

Last updated March 25/2017 – “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by Ogilvy and “the Art of Profitability” by Slywotzky should be written up and on the list by early May. Both are worth a read, and both are fairly “light” reads

Upon reflection as 2016 wound down, I realized that I hadn’t been reading anywhere near as much as I had in the past. While I could put this down to many factors (work, kids, commute time) if I am being honest with myself it was really because I had not made reading a high enough priority. To try and catch up with everything I have missed (since I used to read at least a book a month) I’m trying to read a book a week.

This section will outline my 2017 reading list (as it proceeds) with quick reviews similar to those in the mentorship reading list, but with a much wider focus. Categories will appear as I build a system, and books that I think are appropriate for the project management Mentorship program will also appear there. Since I don’t think that anyone will care what my chronological reading list is, I won’t record it, but you can expect book commentary to update at least twice a month (and weekly if I can).

I have now read a book in 2017 that hasn’t made me wish I had read it earlier. As a result there is now a “I will not be re-reading books below this line” entry – with the better material on the top. The vast majority of this list is (in my opinion) exceptionally good Continue reading 2017 Reading List

The Best Time to Start

Mercury LaunchI keep having conversations that boil down to variations of “When is the best time to start?”. Whether this is starting a fitness program or diet, kickoff of a project, or finally fixing that dripping faucet, all of these conversations generally take one of two forms:

  1. This is really late, and we probably can’t finish in time, so it’s pointless and demoralizing and…
  2. We need to catch up, because we were supposed to start (a while ago) and now (another team) is way ahead of us and catching up is going to be really hard or impossible and why didn’t…

There is a lovely anecdote in Waltzing with Bears where a client is explaining to the project manager that the project must be executed on time. After a few iterations, the client agrees that if the project could complete the day it starts, the company would recognize immediate benefits. The conclusion: the project is starting too late! While starting “late” is not an ideal circumstance, it is important to remember that “late” is almost always better than “never”.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

There is no way for you to go back in time and start earlier, but you can get in gear and start as quickly as possible. If you are waiting for the perfect time to start, you should either resign yourself to never start, or realize that a good solution now probably beats a perfect one later. Continue reading The Best Time to Start

The Power of Mentorship

2 kids with scienceYou’ve heard about Mentoring, and don’t understand what all of the hype is about – it’s just another way to say “have a conversation with people who know stuff you don’t” right? On the surface that may be all there is to it, but the power of mentoring goes a lot farther than those meetings may seem to indicate, and a successful mentoring relationship can often lead to decades of collaboration.

The Benefits

Mentoring has a lot of benefits, and not just to the person who is looking for a mentor (called the protege or “mentee”). A few of the benefits include:

  • Better engagement
  • More job satisfaction
  • Higher retention (less employee turnover) for both partners in the mentoring relationship
  • Faster promotions
  • Facilitated learning – for both parties
  • Better succession planning
  • Higher overall knowledge base for the business
  • Staff that are more skilled, more engaged and better at working together.

Most of these benefits are difficult to quantify, so many of the companies that specialize in supporting mentorship programs tend to focus on retention. Continue reading The Power of Mentorship