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Archive for the 'Management & Business' Category

Scrum Videos

Posted by Mike on 30th January 2009

I posted this over at Effectual Working, but thought I would add it here too.

I have been doing some research on agile software development methodologies, specifically Scrum, and found the following videos.

Posted in Management & Business, Productivity, Project Management, Software & Computers, Testing | No Comments »

What makes a good Project Manager?

Posted by Mike on 8th November 2007

I have confessed to my peers that it is hard to assess the effectiveness and performance of a project manager in our organization.  It is probably hard in other organizations too.  “On time” and “under budget” are hard to quantify on information technology projects.  Some may argue this point, but I find that no one really knows what a project will be when these two metrics are established.

I read an interesting post by Scott Berkun.  It is titled Are you a leader or a tracker?.  In it, Scott lists a group of questions to ask a project manager in order to understand what that person really does.  I summarize the questions into a couple key ideas.

  • “Professionalizing” project managers has left many of them without relevant, hands-on roles.  I am finding that information technology executives (CIO, CTO) are wanting more hands-on project managers.  In other words, PMs who have a deeper understanding of the projects they are tasked with completing.
  • Leading the team to the goal is more important than pushing them from behind.  If the focus is on tracking, what leadership value are you bringing?  It is easier to track.  (Hindsight is 20/20.)  Most teams need a leader who can put the next steps and the ultimate goal into better focus.

At the very least, if you are in a project management role, do a self-assessment using Scott’s questions.  Your answers may point you in a better direction that will increase your effectiveness and value.

Posted in Management & Business, Project Management, Software & Computers | No Comments »

IT Publications

Posted by Mike on 23rd October 2007

Out of all the publications I receive as an IT professional, Computerworld is the best.  How can I tell?  It is because rarely can I finish an issue in one sitting.  I will try to skim through it first, but usually get stuck on Don Tennant’s editorial.  Then I get caught reading an article and then dog-earring several others to read later.  This magazine is full of valuable information and insight week after week.

Posted in Management & Business, Productivity, Project Management, Software & Computers | No Comments »

Bring Yourself to Work Day

Posted by Mike on 14th April 2007

David Schmaltz has suggested a day, modeled after the Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, called Bring Yourself to Work Day. He sets it on the fourth Friday of April, April 27, 2007. I think it is a great idea. It actually might work, rather than wreck havok!

Posted in Freedom, Management & Business, Project Management | No Comments »

Leadership

Posted by Mike on 11th April 2007

I remember one particular health department inspection when I was a store manager for Walgreens. Early that morning, I used the restroom and when I washed my hands, I used the last paper towel.  I was in a hurry to get a few things done before the store opened, so I told myself, “I can fill the towel dispenser later.”  (Procrastination – doesn’t it always get you?)  Shortly after opening, the health inspector showed up. Guess what?  I had a perfect report, except for one warning.  You guessed it!  No paper towels in the men’s restroom.  I failed to be a leader in my store.

Today, I noticed a garbage can blocking a fire exit in the building where I work.  How it got there, I do not know.  I do know where the garbage can belongs.  It took me all of two seconds to move it.  That is leadership. Do what needs to be done, even in the small things.  Don’t put it off or wait for someone else to take care of it.

Posted in Management & Business | No Comments »

Training

Posted by Mike on 6th July 2006

I received a FEEDBlitz email from Hal Macomber that introduced me to a blog by David Maister. He has an article, titled, Why (Most) Training is Useless. If you are a trainer, or a manager who wants to effect change, I highly recommend that you read it.  In my job, I do a lot of training. It is my experience that what David says is very true. Training should be done at the point of change, in full collaboration with top management. Without this kind of support, most training does not accomplish its’ goals.

Posted in Management & Business, Project Management, Software & Computers | No Comments »

Metrics – Gaming the System

Posted by Mike on 4th April 2006

This is not a new problem to establishing meaningful metrics.  I call it “Gaming the System.”  This behavior has been around since people started measuring the performance of other people.  Those being measured will always find a way to make their numbers look good.

I know someone who used to be a cashier for Kmart. They had a metric for average scan time.  Her time was the best in the store; because she figured out how to make her numbers look good.  She would arrange all the customer’s items with the bar codes ready.  Then, she would quickly scan each item and hit the subtotal button.  At first, the other cashiers were angry with her, saying that she made them look bad.  However, management caught on to what she was doing to get great numbers.  Guess what?  They trained all the other cashiers to do the same thing and the store’s numbers became the best in the district!

Yesterday, I was at Sears buying a dehumidifier. After making my purchase, I went to merchandise pickup.  I scanned my receipt and my name was added to the queue.  I looked at the screen and to my delight; the average wait time was 2.20 minutes.  Great!  I will be out of here in no time!  WRONG. I watched the worker and saw quickly that he was “Gaming the System.”  Once orders were added to the queue, he would take his hand-held device and mark all the orders complete.  Then, everyone would wait.  The metric looked great, but didn’t reflect reality.

Sears probably spent some serious money to develop this system, including lovely computerized voice prompts.  They probably use this average service time metric to determine staffing levels.  I can tell from personal experience that this store is probably under-staffed.  I didn’t have my watch on, so I don’t have the exact time of my wait, but it was much longer than the 1.40 minutes that was recorded. (I would guess that I waited 20 to 25 minutes.)

Sears could have the customer indicate that they received their item as the event that clocks the actual service time.  (Perhaps by scanning their receipt again.)  That would eliminate the “game.”  In this scenario, the customer starts and stops the clock.  (Also, the worker didn’t check my receipt. They probably have a shrink problem too.)

“Gaming the system” is easy to avoid.  You just have to observe the system in action and make adjustments.  Don’t set your metrics program to reward speed, unless you have an independent way to ensure accuracy.  Set it up to reward accuracy.  I can tell you one thing.  The workers at this particular Sears Merchandise Pickup area were not motivated to hustle.

Posted in Management & Business, Project Management, Software & Computers, Testing | No Comments »

Running Effective Meetings

Posted by Mike on 6th December 2005

Norman Bodek has written a short piece on Running Effective Meetings, as part of the Kaizen Blog project. In it, he advocates a format for stand-up meetings and contrasts that to a traditional meeting approach. I agree that his format for conducting a stand-up meeting is great. However, it only seems practical for co-located teams.

Here are some questions that Norman asks:
7. Questions:

       a. Did you participate?

      b. Did you feel the meeting had real value to your work?

      c. Do you look forward to those meeting?

      d. Etc.?

7.a The answer to 7a is a personal one. Either you will participate or you will not. Obviously, a culture that encourages participation will help with this.
7b. Many meetings can be low value. It is very important that the meeting organizer sets up and runs the meeting to gain maximum value for the participants.
7c. If 7b is handled well, people will look forward to meetings. If there are too many meetings, it won’t matter how good a particular meeting is run. People will get burnt out on meetings and probably just want some time to themselves to “get things done.”

I propose a hybrid of the stand-up meeting and the traditional meeting. This helps when teams are not co-located.

  1. Have a standing meeting time and place, but don’t be afraid to call a meeting when it is needed.
  2. Build your meeting plan (agenda) on stated problems.
  3. Work each problem, one at a time.
  4. Make sure that everyone can briefly say what they want to say.
  5. Gain agreement on a course of action.
  6. Get a reliable promise to carry out that course of action.
  7. Iterate, until all the problems are discussed.
  8. Thank everyone and close the meeting.
  9. Document the meeting.

This isn’t exactly a lean approach, but I believe it does help improve the traditional meeting. One thing that I try to do is keep status reporting to a minimum. Status reporting is hard to avoid completely, but I do feel that people find more value, from a meeting, where problems are solved.

Posted in Management & Business | No Comments »

Classifieds are next?

Posted by Mike on 28th November 2005

Seth Goden wrote a piece called Classifieds are next. I believe what he says about stock tables. I don’t agree on the subject of classified advertisements. First of all, classified ads do bring revenue to a newspaper. Second, people do read the classifieds in their local newspaper and shopper-type publications.

I may be backwards, but I regularly check the print classifieds for items I am looking for and for bargains. Sometimes, I will pick up the local paper just for the classified ads!

I also see huge value for online classifieds. I’m a regular buyer and seller on eBay. I also have had great success using online classifieds at work.

I think there is room for paid classified advertisements in the both the print and online markets.

Posted in Management & Business | No Comments »

Why is China Buying?

Posted by Mike on 23rd June 2005

Read the story, CBS News | China Bids For U.S. Oil Company | June 23, 2005?09:30:01. There is a pattern emerging of China buying, or trying to buy U.S. businesses. This is the logical outcome of the economic policy of the U.S. China is becoming flush with cash. Cash that the corporations and people of the United States are sending China’s way. This is done in the name of corporate profits and personal comfort. We are a nation of consumers. There is a problem, in that consumption eventually devours the whole body. Our wealth, prosperity, security, and future are being thrown away with our national trade imbalance.

Posted in Management & Business | No Comments »