Category - Triple-constraints-2

22.08 20120

Summer, Hot Dogs and Baseball…

Summer is almost over.  Long days, hot dogs, and baseball are fading into memories.  The subject of baseball makes me think about the search for excellence.   A baseball team is one of the best examples of how both individual and team excellence are required to achieve great results. On a baseball team, every individual must know his role very well and play his position to the best of his ability.   However, to win the game, every player must not only play their position with an attitude of excellence, but also synchronize his activities to those of the other players on the team.  This synchronization requires having a view into what is happening on the field.  Every play is an unknown.  Each time the ball is pitched, the team does not know where it will go.  The players have to watch the ball and the runners and know to which team member to send the ball at the right time.  Can you imagine if baseball players had to play blindfolded?  What would be the results with no view into where the ball is or what their teammates are doing? Too many times in our organizations, it would seem like we are playing baseball blindfolded.  We have a lot of really excellent individual contributors, but when it comes to trying to synchronize their activities, none of them can see where the ball is to hand it off to their teammates.  Current market conditions require even quicker plays than the past; the creative nature of our projects makes it even harder to know where the ball will go.  The handoffs between players are even more vital.  A clear view of the playing field can help us use our excellent individual contributors to the best of their abilities to achieve team results. As it stands, 50 to 70% of software projects fail.  Eighty percent of the issues related to project failure are attributed to poor communications and ambiguous requirements.  Proper requirement management ties back to effective communication with the customer and members of the team.  Team members, far removed from the customer, often times misinterpret the customer’s needs and have no view into what the other team members are doing relative to the requirements. Last week I attended the Agile 2012 conference, an exciting place for new ideas and business process improvements.  I got the opportunity to speak with leaders at the innovative company Tasktop.  Mik Kersten, CEO and Co-Founder, and Neelan Choksi, President and COO, gave me a briefing about their new product Tasktop Sync.  This product helps to remove the blindfolds from our team members to help them synchronize their activities and win as a team. The benefits of Tasktop Sync for an organization are tremendous.  This solution allows companies to tie together existing ALM infrastructure, reducing the costs related to the adoption of new technology.  From a user perspective, the technology gives the user all the information necessary to do his or her job with unified visibility and reporting for the entire development process from requirements to testing to source code.  Processes and touch points become clearly visible in one view and allow for the management of workflows. Tasktop Sync offers real time synchronization of less than 1-second average time per sync with standard servers.   The tool also provides automated and configurable conflict resolution for data.  Sync supports all artifact types, including tasks, work items, defects, requirements and tests.  No new repositories are created; all data is stored on existing systems. Tasktop Sync ensures that each stakeholder in a project has access to the data that they need within their tool of choice, across requirements management, Agile development and traditional quality management systems. This product helps IT organizations manage the growing number of diverse tools used to manage ALM. The tool acts as ALM middleware and dramatically reduces the need to create point-to-point integrations that are costly and almost impossible to maintain.  If requirements traceability, communication among team members and cost savings relative to tying together your numerous ALM systems are of concern to you, then Tasktop Sync can help you be at the top of your game when you put the ball into play to deliver new software projects.

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27.06 20120

Should I Worry?

In today's fast-paced marketplace, with multiple projects in the funnel at the same time, we get into a cycle of always being behind.  In our project organizations and in our individual projects, we are always "fire fighting" instead of engaging in fire prevention and containment.  The problem causes project managers and teams to get burned and, frankly, burned out.  If your organization is suffering from smoke inhalation, shifting your project "worry curve" may revive the life of your organization so that you can see clear to make progress and drop the need to work "80 hour weeks." I recently got the opportunity to hear project consultant, Clinton Padgett speak at the Dallas PMI Chapter meeting.  Padgett offered pearls of wisdom from his new book, The Project Success Method.  The book offers a step-by-step how-to guide on managing a project from idea to completion. The most compelling take-away from Padgett’s talk was regarding “Shifting the Worry Curve.”  He offered a slide visually depicting the life cycle of a project from initiation to closure.  Instead of the standard project curve demonstrating the rise and fall in project resource expenditures, he showed the curve in terms of the rise and fall of worry.   The worry he referred to was the concern for the project demonstrated by the project manager’s and project team’s level of activity. According to Padgett, the “worry curve” of the typical long-term project begins small with the “uninformed optimism” of the team that time is on the side of the new project.   The immediate concerns of other late stage projects overshadow any worry about the new early stage project.  The general consensus is that the new project can be dealt with later because there is plenty of time; more pressing issues of earlier deadlines should be dealt with now. As time passes and the project moves toward its desired time goal, the team moves into the stage of “vague concern.”  In this stage, the team becomes aware that less time exists to execute the project; however, other projects still take precedence.  Team members simply bring the project into their conscious mind, still believing that the project can be successful, while knowing that there is less time to make that a reality. At the peak of the curve, when the project timeline is at least two-thirds spent, the team shifts to the last stage, which is “panic.”  The project is now moved to the forefront of the team’s activities, but it is behind schedule, and it is now in a place to have cost and quality problems, not to mention the stress and mental health issues that this produces for team members. Padgett recommends maintaining a steady rhythm of worry verses late stage peak worry.  This means, as each project is initiated, keeping a steadier pace of focus on project activities with more ups and downs during the life cycle verses the insurmountable mountain of activity and worry towards the end of the project.  Managing multiple project workloads becomes easier when we do not neglect early stage projects and do not always need to engage in late stage crisis management for every project.  With a more balanced strategy, we will find that we will have less late stage crisis and less “80 hour work weeks.”  For the organization, more balanced time management means fewer “burned-out” and “stressed-out” project teams and less cost and quality issues due to panic stage actions by the teams. According to Padgett, the management of TIME is the key to achieving overall success on all three dimensions of project performance.  Of the triple constraints of time, cost and specifications, time is the constraint that once out of control is hardest to recover and causes the most damage. Balancing project time allocation is of great value to the project manager and the project organization; it reduces the intensity of worry.

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