inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #76 of 111: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Mon 16 May 05 09:55
    
Heh, true. The interesting thing is the explicit focus on human factors.
I think your book is part of something that's going on - a shift in PM thinking
where more emphasis is being placed on the interpersonal aspects of the work, and
that is a good thing. It is becoming more acceptable to recognize that people
have feelings and to explicitly take those into account in highly technical
environments.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #77 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 16 May 05 10:13
    
Matisse: Yes - There are two books, each more than a decade old,
called Peopleware by Tom Demarco, and the psychology of computer
programming, by Weinberg, that hit on most of these major points.
Peopleware really seems to be an inspiration for XP, given how many of
the central ideas are in the same ballpark (shared workspaces,
collaboration, working evnironment, etc.). Both of these books are
referenced in XP explained.

I mention this only because i'm still shy about identifying movements
or shifts - I really don't know enough different people working in
enough different places to have a sense for shifts that large - you
know? It's one thing to gauge interest, or how certain kinds of
books/websites are popular or not.

It's another thing entirely to see actual change happening inside
organizations - change is super slow. Molasses slow. Especially when
you're dealing with corporations and big organizations. Making change
happen is an entirely different kind of socio/political challenge from
managing people/projects - it's a much harder thing. I wanted to have a
chapter on leading change but it didn't make the cut (as close as I
got was a reference to John Kotter's leading change, at the end of Chp
16).
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #78 of 111: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Mon 16 May 05 10:49
    
That's a very important point - about the difficulty of change. I think a lot of
us here on The WELL are people who want to see change happen, and often try to
help it happen, and I bet most of us have been very frustrated at times about how
hard it is. Some problems cannot be solved by better Project Management, they
might be easier to endure with good PM, some things require broad change to
really be fixed.

I was a manager for a company where one of the two owners has some serious
psychological problems - I think it's called narssistic personality disorder
(adult child of alcholics most likely) and although I could reduce his impact on
my team an dprojects, I could not "fix" him. And when it is the culture, or
society that has the problems, not just one person, it's even more daunting in
some ways.

Still, making change is an essential human activity, without it we wouldn't
really be what we call "human".
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #79 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 16 May 05 10:58
    
It's a funny thing that I think we all share - the belief that
revolutions occur (or should occur) quickly. I don't know if it's the
way ideas are presented in the media, something we're taught in school,
or something about human psychology or American culture, but we really
believe that change happens fast, despite overwhelming evidence that
it doesn't. 

The joke is that even revolutions take an enormously long amount of
time to take place - we fixate on the moment when the change happens,
but 9 times out of 10, a group of people were pushing for that change
for months, or years. 

I don't want to slide into political theory, but this is one of
arguemnts you'll hear *against* deomcracy. The ability for leaders in
democracies to make change happen is very slow compared to more
authoritarian systems with more fixed sources of power. Of course your
typical dicatorship has it's own problems, but the ability to make
change happen quickly isn't one of them.

On a smaller scale, and getting back to software development and
leading projects, clear authority is essential to make anything happen.
If you can't make any decisions without approvals, you can't possibly
fuction at a pace fast enough to lead anyone or anything. Change at the
local scale, changing a bad decision into a good one, or a bad bug fix
into a satisfactory one, requires some degree of local authority to
make it happen. In a way making any kind of decision is a a kind of
change. 
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #80 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 16 May 05 12:27
    
Matisse wrote:

"I was a manager for a company where one of the two owners has some
serious psychological problems - I think it's called narssistic
personality disorder (adult child of alcholics most likely) and
although I could reduce his impact on my team an dprojects, I could not
"fix" him. And when it is the culture, or society that has the
problems, not just one person, it's even more daunting in some ways."

This a great point - I think there's something about unfixables that's
important. When you're managing anything, there are some things you
have the ability to fix, but many you can only maintain or contain. The
more things you have to spend your time maintaining, the less time
there is to get out in front of the project and lead the way.

So getting back to the process/methodology talk, adherence to some
kind of system for doing work can help maintain certain tasks by trying
to do them in a repeatable, systematic way.

When a team has too many problems that can't be fixed, or can't be
easily maintained, the team is guaranteed to fail - or at least be
late, or struggle and suffer in getting work done. When people say "my
team is sooo dysfunctional" this is usually what they mean.

I guess I feel that the nature of problems leaders deal with stretch
from technical, social, organizational, political, and (like your
former boss) psychological. 

When thinking about change, the only way it works is if you can see
the project and team from many of these different perspectives. I think
if someone put a gun to my head and said "Berkun you must create a
methedology", I'd end up with something that tried to capture the many
different perspectives leaders have to be aware of to lead or manage
anything.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #81 of 111: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 17 May 05 11:26
    
Interesting stuff here.  I'm not a project manager, but I've found
myself managing projects from time to time.  My favorite step is in the
very beginning -- talking to the people who know stuff you don't know.
 Take IT, for example.  I'm a plenty good enough techie in various
fields, but I don't know IT, networks, etc. from a hole in the ground. 
So rather than saying "For my project, the following IT things must be
done, task1, task2, task3..." I will first go to the IT guys, more or
less hat in hand, and say "here's what we're trying to accomplish, what
do you think our best options are and why?"

This avoids the famous "I could have told them that wouldn't work, but
nobody asked me" disaster and it makes everyone feel like they have a
stake in things.  When it comes time to do the IT tasks, they aren't
just doing work, they are doing work that reflects their own input.

As a training manager, I'm often on the other side of that equation. 
People will ask me for something in the training domain, and will be
surprised (and sometimes really annoyed) by the number of questions I
ask in return.  Still waiting for the first person to walk in and say
"Here's what I'm trying to accomplish -- is there any kind of training
program that would help me do that?"

And since you're a former training manger, any suggestions on reading
or resources would be much appreciated.  I will read your book,
especially the chapter on how not to annoy people!
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #82 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Tue 17 May 05 14:36
    
Carl:

You hit two very important points: 1) Admit to things you don't know
2) Ask people questions.  If you combine these two things life, and
projects, become much easier. Beyond the good reasons you mention for
doing this, it changes the relationship you have with someone if you
are acknowledging that they may have information or knowledge that may
be useful. Even if you don't follow their advice, if you truly listen
to them, they'll notice, and respond to you differently.

But you've set me up here with your question: I can't give you a good
answer unless I knew more about what you're trying to do, or what you
want to learn :) The first name that comes to mind is Peter Elbow - any
of his books are a good place to start (though more about the art of
teaching, than the science). You won't agree with everything he says,
but that's part of the learning process :)
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #83 of 111: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 17 May 05 17:59
    
Hah, good point!  But I will check those out. :-)
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #84 of 111: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Wed 18 May 05 10:33
    
Ok, I slept on it and came up with a real question, and then I'll clam
up and let you get back to talking about project management.  I just
took over a very traditional face-to-face class type of software
training operation.  Zero e-Learning.  Having been around the industry
for a while, I want to do e-Learning effectively, not just do it so I
can say I'm doing it.  What should I read to get up to speed?
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #85 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Thu 19 May 05 15:15
    
E-learning is a tricky thing - You have to come to terms with the fact
that it's a cost/reach choice. You can't replace the value of a good
teacher face to face with people. But you can save costs, or reach
people you can't through other means via e-learning.

Sadly I can't think of a single book on e-learning. I've read several
but I found them all to be, well, trash :) Seriously - they were all
about hyping different technologies, and not at all about how to
develop a strategy for using e-learning, or pairing e-learning with
traditional face to face courses - something I suspect is what you
need.

My best advice to you: Do a pilot program. Pick a specific need your
customers have that seems best suited to some kind of e-learnning(see
below), and pilot a small sample size of those customers using whatever
e-learning tools you have available. IF you start small (pilot) you'll
give yourself and your customers a chance to learn together without
much risk, and make a better set of choices when you roll things out on
a broader scale. 

The kinds of things best suited to e-learning: obtaining knowledge
(e.g. studying the history of WW II), and individual skill development
(learning C++). Learning more social or interactive skills, such as how
to do brain surgery or how to run an effective meeting don't work well
through most e-learning tools.

Anyway - I could ramble on and on. If you're still awake and reading
this, and have more questions, I'm glad to continue to throw advice at
you - just follow up with me through my www.scottberkun.com. 
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #86 of 111: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Thu 19 May 05 15:19
    
plat-o-shrimp, I happen to be enrolled right now in an online intro to Java
course through UC Berkeley Extension. So far I like it.
The material has been presented in reasonable (for me) size chunks, and I like
having full access to my own computing environment while working on the
assignments.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #87 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Thu 19 May 05 20:58
    
Excellent - do you know what software they're using? It might be a
good place for Carl to start. I'm not familiar anymore with who the big
players/vendors are. 

If you think about it, e-learning is just a smart kind of book. A well
written book on a subject, with good exercises and good explanations,
can be used to teach most kinds of things. With e-learning you get the
benefit of interactivty, real-time feedback (quizes/tests), and in some
situations, distributed classroom type experience (chat rooms, or
actual virtual classroom).

I think where e-learning goes wrong is when it's used in ignorance of
the roots of good teaching. Even books emulate what would happen
between a teacher and student. So you'll see all kinds of technologies
and features thrown around in the name of e-learning that leads to just
awful experiences. Whenever you're not sure how to apply e-learning
stuff Carl, step back and consider how a good teacher would try to
teach the topic/skill to a student. Then see how you can use the
technologies you have at hand (pens, paper, websites, supercomputers,
whatever) to help get towards what that good teacher would do. 

When I wrote this book, I stopped in many places and asked myself:
"how would I teach this to someone sitting next to me?" if I couldn't
find a way to do that, I probably dropped the concept entirely - there
was no way I was going to pull it off with words and pictures alone.
But if I could figure out how to teach it in person, I could then try
to break it appart into pieces and see how well I could use the
technology at hand (words and pictures) to convey the same thing. 

So I guess I see all these different tools as being in service to the
same core idea of teaching and communicating. 
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #88 of 111: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 20 May 05 12:02
    

What a great, thoughtful conversation this is. I don't want to interrupt it,
but I wanted also to thank Scott both for writing this amazingly useful book
and for joining us for the past couple weeks to talk about it. Also big
thanks to David for being such an able moderator.

We've just turned our virtual spotlight onto a new interview, but that
doesn't mean this one needs to stop. The topic will remain open
indefinitely, so please feel free to continue if you can. And thank you for
being such great guests here, Scott and David.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #89 of 111: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Fri 20 May 05 14:26
    
It is a good conversation.

To answer Scott's question above, I think UC Berkeley is using
a home-=grown PHP-based system, with templates. It's pretty well
thought out though and more importantly the instructor has provided the
material in good-sized chunks, with good examples and excersises.

A really big deal about teaching stuff is that the instructors usually talk
too much - in my opinion less that 20% of the time should be lecture, the rest
should be exercises and testing that you got it. These can be run in 15-minute
iterations in a face-to-face class: Present idea, do exercise, take mini-test,
but total lecture time should be small - otherwise just get the audio tape.


More on Project Management - first off, Scott you should join The WELL :-) 
 
Secondly, I really do think that project managers (not just of software)
should take a look at XP, and see what they can learn from it - I certainly
want to study some groups doing it (and of course try it myself in groups),
there really does seem to be a shift towards more human-centered process.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #90 of 111: David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Fri 20 May 05 16:35
    
(Matisse susses out my hidden agenda for asking Scott to come in and
discuss his book :-)

I just want to cut in here and thank Scott for joining us and for
engaging in such an interesting discussion.  It's always nice as a
moderator to have the conversation sustain itself :-)
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #91 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Mon 23 May 05 16:39
    
Thanks Cynthia and David for having me - its been fun!

Matisse: I agree about teachers talking too much. The brutal truth is
that they don't know what else to do - few are confident enough to go
more interactive since it feels, at first, like a giving up of control.
Teaching is scary and the old world says when scared, tighten your
controls. So here we are in a lectured driven education system :)

I do agree about XP - and that it will be the first exposure that many
people have to human and communication centered models for work. 
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #92 of 111: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Mon 23 May 05 17:12
    
It's interesting that XP is supposed to kind of sort of do the kind of
development and project management that is implicit in the work of the Center
for Environmental Structure ("The Timeless Way of Building", "A Pattern
Language", etc.)  I moved to California in 1987 to apprentice with Chris
Alexander and the reality of working with him was, well, perhaps not so so
centered on the same values.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #93 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Wed 25 May 05 03:20
    

Interesting - It's always fascinating how writing about something is
so different from actually doing it. I remember reading about certain
philosophers who's lives were entirely in contradiction to the
philosophies they wrote about. Humans are funny creatures - we have a
hard time not breaking our own rules & beliefs.

Of course I'm super curious about your experience with the Center for
Environmental Structure - as I think I mentioned earlier on, I'm
familiar with Alexander's work and have read a couple of the books
(Notes on synthesis of form, and timeless way). Tell me more :)
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #94 of 111: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Wed 25 May 05 08:44
    
This was in 1987.
Basically, Chris is brilliant, at times very generous in ways, but often simply
an asshole, having little or no regard for the feelings of others.

An anecdote:
I had gotten into some sort of argument with him, and the issue came up was it
important to admit you are wrong when you are wrong, and Chris asked me 
why is it important to admit being wrong? At first I was tempted to just
stop talking to him, it was so ridiculous, but I realized (all in an instant)
that he was serious, he really didn't know why, so I thought about it and said
"Because when you admit you wrong it creates a kind of vulnerability, an
intimacy that enables levels of communication that are not possible without
it."

My experience with Chris was that he really, truly did not "get" that - the
idea of opening himself, being vulnerable, was so hard for him, and he felt
(feels?) so isolated and so often "right" where others are "wrong" that it
interfers in a major way with his ability to form lasting and efective
relationships.

Now, look, the guy is like 60-something, I was 25, he has two daughters
(who must be almost 20 now), and so what do I know?

But I can tell you that whenever we talked about Chris, and I mean *whenever*,
these themes came up, and this is among people who were working really hard
with him, really liked him, but were sooo frustrated with him personally.

Ask anyone who has worked with him.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #95 of 111: Uncle Jax (jax) Wed 25 May 05 13:53
    
>Because when you admit you wrong it creates a kind of vulnerability,
>an intimacy

Probably true, but there is a more fundametal point of game theory. If
parties to a contractual relationship (i.e., a software team) agree to
admit when they are wrong it sets the rules in a way that is more
productive.  You don't have to tiptoe around imaginary boundaries,
which is time consuming and diverting.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #96 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Thu 26 May 05 16:28
    
Thanks Matisse for that story. It seems pretty basic that in any kind
of relationship what you said is true - if you can't admit you're
wrong, how can anyone trust you intimately? Admitting to mistakes is a
kind of honesty, and just like other kinds of honesty things the
absence of it limites relationships.

Jax: I'm familiar with game theory, though not that particular point
coming from it (I agree with the point, so I'm pleased :) I think that
beyond game theory, it's leaders that have the most responsibiltiy to
eliminate imaginary boundries and reinforce the real ones. In my own
experiences, no matter what the posted rules are it's the behavior of
leaders that creates or avoids the imaginary boundries your talking
about. I don't know if there's a name for the theory, but I think
there's a lot of truth to organizations inhereting, or being heavily
influenced by, the personality (and biases) of their leaders.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #97 of 111: Uncle Jax (jax) Thu 26 May 05 16:32
    
>it's leaders that have the most responsibiltiy to eliminate
>imaginary boundries and reinforce the real ones.

We're in total agreement there.
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #98 of 111: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Thu 26 May 05 16:35
    
Reminds me o a definition of a "good parent", who stands in a new place and
says "It's safe to go here."
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #99 of 111: Scott Berkun (scottberkun) Fri 27 May 05 09:30
    
Ooooh - I like that definition. Where's that from? It works for any
kind of leadership role. Excellent. (Assuming of course they actually
make it safe :)
  
inkwell.vue.244 : Scott Berkun, "The Art of Project Management"
permalink #100 of 111: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Fri 27 May 05 19:21
    
Yer gonna laugh, but I first heard it from Timothy Leary.



There was a matrix that was something like this:


                              Dominant
                                  ^
                                  |
                                  |
          Tyrant                  |      Good Parent 
         "Do it or I'll hit you"  |     "It's safe to come here."
                                  |
                                  |
  Hostile <-----------------------+------------------------>   Friendly
                                  |
                Victim            |     Good Child
         "Please don't hurt me"   |    "Please tell me what to do"
                                  |
                                  |
                                  |
                                  v
                              Submissive


(I know some people will object to the labels "domnant" and "submissive",
feel free to fix it.)
  

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