Archive for January, 2015

Configuration Management Tales Podcast Part 1

Posted on: January 28th, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

Joe Dager’s Business901 podcast with Kim L. Robertson

Configuration Management Tales #1

The first part of a two part podcast on configuration management tales.

 

Pavlov’s Employee Negative Lesson Learned

Posted on: January 26th, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

By Jon M. Quigley and Shawn P. Quigley

Negative Motivational Lessons Learned

We have been spending considerable time on lessons learned and the learning organization.  Lessons learned can have various perspectives, personnel, project, and both.  We will take a break from the pure project aspect, and consider project and personnel.  Lessons learned by personnel can have both positive and negative motivational aspects based upon reinforcement by previous project patterns of behavior (management / supervision).  We will illustrate what is meant by this by providing you with an example of negative motivational lessons learned.

Project is Underway

We start with a project, well underway.  The project is to deliver a complicated system consisting of numerous constituent parts.  The prototype parts are assembled to produce a working prototype of the system.  While the prototype system is being constructed a project engineer that is responsible for one of the subassemblies noted an error in the design of the product, which will prevent the system from functioning as required.  The individual who noted the discrepancy is design engineer with domain knowledge and technical expertise; however, he is not directly responsible for the full assembly of this product.

Pavlov Strikes in the form of the Organization

This is where we have an indication of negative motivational lessons learned.  One would expect the engineer to state the design flaw to the project manager with supporting evidence.  This would allow the project manager to modify the prototype as required to make a functioning product.  However, due to negative reinforcement on current and previous projects the engineer did not present the opportunity to improve the prototype.  Reinforcement is an experience that has been repeated numerous times.  We have shown that experience is an exponential driver of behavior and performance.  This can be considered an example of Pavlov’s effect that through repeated reward or discipline positive or negative behavior can be embedded in the individual thereby causing positive or negative project performance.  This subsequently impacts both delivery and functionality.

Process, Procedure and People

There are three categories for lessons learned and these are process, procedure and people.  Process is a group of procedures put together to accomplish a specific objective or task. Procedure is the guidance provided to perform a task. People are the method to complete the task.  Lessons not learned (or negative lessons) in each of these categories can cause a project to fail and on a larger scope put the organization at risk to going out of business by losing time, money and customers.

 

What Makes Sense in Scrum Projects

Posted on: January 23rd, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

Joe Dager’s Business901 podcast with Jon M. Quigley

What Makes Sense in Scrum Projects

Scrum Projects and Agile applications beyond software and scrum of scrums.

 

Processes, the Building Blocks for a Better Project

Posted on: January 21st, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

By Rick Edwards and Shawn P. Quigley

How projects and processes are related

If one were to describe their project to someone, they would most likely describe the end deliverable or objective of the project (a.k.a scope), the expected completion date (time) and the expected resource requirements needed to faithfully execute the plan (cost).   Nowhere in this description would the HOW this is to be accomplished be discussed.  Of course, as Project Managers, we understand the how is; often, the more telling description of the probability of success of the project.   The reason the how is often left out, is that, especially in matrix organizations, the how is not the purview of the project manager.  The how is the domain of the line manager.  

This perceived disconnect between something as intrinsically essential as the how a project is executed and the project’s success is a source of conflict and frustration within many organizations.  If the project manager is responsible for delivering the Scope, on time and within budget, but not responsible for the how the plan is to be executed, can a project manager have any hope of being successful?  

Tool User and Tool Maker

The how (meaning the processes the project uses to execute the plan to deliver on scope, time and cost) are the tools used to craft the expected output.  A craftsman utilizes the appropriate tool at the appropriate time to create value.  Rarely will he make a change to the tool itself if it is not performing the task at the appropriate quality level (although he may become frustrated and cuss a lot).  That is the tool-makers job.  In the same way, project managers select from a pre-determined set of tools and processes to accomplish his or her task.  But what should the project manager do if the tool is not up for the task, aside from venting at the nearest wall?  An open dialogue with the tool-maker might provide a solution for a longer lasting change.  This open dialogue and outcome would still need to be captured as a positive lesson learned.  The lessons learned documented by the project team are suggestions to the line managers on how to improve their processes performance.

How does your organization provide process improvement ideas to the tool-makers?

Define the following three terms in your own words as they apply to your organization:

  1. Matrix
  2. Process
  3. Program

Retain those definitions when reading the following two papers and think of how they could apply.

Common Lessons Learned Mistakes

Posted on: January 19th, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

Common Lessons Learned Mistakes, Misconceptions and Things Left Unsaid

By Rick Edwards and Shawn P. Quigley

Why organizations fail to exploit their own lessons learned.

“There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience and that is not learning from experience”.   – Archibald MacLeish

Lessons Learned – Really?

Too many organizations understand Archibald’s point all-to-well.   Like a ritualistic sacrifice, project team members, project managers and executives review the project’s closing report containing a myriad of “Thou Shall Nots…”, chanting a mesmerizing slogan about learning from past mistakes – and then set fire to the whitebook and watch it burn, never to be discussed again.   “Don’t mention the war”, as they say.

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.  – Winston Churchill (among others)

What’s more amazing, is these same clerics that performed this ritualistic burning are shocked when those same mistakes are miraculously raised from the dead and become re-incarnate in the next project, reducing team performance, morale and sapping value.   What these organizations have failed to realize is that a new thinking is needed in order to change this reality.  Reinforcing the same methods, tools and mindsets that caused the mistakes, means you’ll make these same mistakes bigger, faster and more costly.

“We cannot solve our problems by using the same thinking we used to create them”. – Albert Einstein

Lessons Learned and Speed of Distribution

The cause for this lack of use of previous lessons learned is a question of timely access.   Many organizations suffer from not having the right lesson, taught to the right team, at the right time.   Digging deeper, we discover that flaws in the structure by which lessons learned are catalogued impact how well these lessons learned get to their needed use point.  Often, we catalogue these lessons by project (Which project did we see something like this before?).  We might catalogue by team (Who was working on the project when this happened before?).  Finally, we might catalogue it by technology (I’m not using that specific technology, so we won’t have that problem).

Timeliness is the other aspect we discover as we dig further into why lessons do not survive the close of a project.   Often project teams review the lessons learned of a few “benchmark” projects prior to each phase initiation, or worse yet, only at the beginning of the project’s initiation.    This gives ample time for the team to change its make-up, change its direction, or just plain forget (we are all human, you know).

How does your organization catalogue and review its lessons from projects gone by?

 

Lessons Learned, the Lifeblood of the Learning Organization

Posted on: January 16th, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

By Rick Edwards and Shawn P. Quigley

How Lessons-Learned apply to the Learning Organization

In our previous post, we defined Lessons Learned (LL), and discussed why the practice is so vital to the long-term viability of an organization. Now we will discuss how the disciplines practiced by Learning Organizations can unlock the full potential of an organization when applied to the Lessons Learned process.

At first glance it is obvious how Learning Organizations use Lessons Learned in creating value through, well, learning.  However, in order to really understand how to maximize the impact projects have on the future performance of an organization, we need to dig deeper. According to Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline (Fieldbook) there are five disciplines practiced by the Learning Organization: Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Team Learning, Systems Thinking, and Shared Vision. (Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, & Smith, 1994) In a previous post we defined each of these five disciplines; therefore we will not be redefining them here.

Continuous Learning

The first two disciplines, Personal Mastery and Mental Models, both pertain to the individual team members within the project. Team members who practice these disciplines understand not only themselves, but how they view the world. They understand their biases and strengths. They understand their weaknesses and their experiences. These two disciplines create the foundation of lessons learned since the lessons are derived from the team members’ experiences and therefore described in the context of the extent to which these two disciplines are practiced. As we discussed in the posts on the leadership equation, experiences are a major driver in behavior both good and bad. If the team members don’t understand or are not honest about what has happened, then the context of the lesson may be compromised. As they say, “Garbage In – Garbage Out”.

Learning Impact on Mental Models

Within the Learning Organization, Mental Models are adjusted and modified as new experiences are gained, providing new inputs and conditions change. For well managed organizations, these new inputs are often gathered from the employees through suggestion boxes, feedback loops and, important to this topic, the lessons learned or retrospection from our projects. The difference between performing and not performing can be as small as ensuring these modifications to the collective Mental Model of the organization in fact, take place.

Modification to the collective Mental Model through feedback and effective communication is an example of Team Learning. Team Learning is no more than taking the talents of all the members of a group and sharing them in a manner that produces effective results. This would be the antisepsis of what Lesson Learned is capable of producing when effectively employed. The question would arise; how can you have team learning when you are not capturing and applying what your team has learned from past activities?

Systems Thinking is thinking about and understanding the behavior of a system and the interrelations thereof. Again this would be an integral part of what a lesson learned. We take what happened determine why it happened and then use that information to improve the process the next time. In the context of lessons learned; systems thinking is the feedback loop which promotes constant development of the team and the individual. And it is this constant development that is personnel mastery.

This brings us full circle in how lessons learned are part of a learning organization. If an organization is employing the five parts of a learning organization they have no real choice but to capture and use the lessons they learn from every activity. Most organizations understand this relationship, but have difficulty in application it due to complexity as well as the practicality of capturing in a manner which they believe would be useful. We will discuss some of the options in later post, but would like to start with the thought that simplicity is the key.

 

Bibliography

Senge, P. M., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R. B., & Smith, B. J. (1994). The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. In P. M. Senge, A. Kleiner, C. Roberts, R. B. Roos, & B. J. Smith, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (p. 593). New York: Doubleday.

Lessons Learned, the Lifeblood of a Learning Organization

Posted on: January 14th, 2015 by admin 3 Comments

Why Lessons Learned are vital to the long-term vitality of organizations

To best discuss any topic, we must first establish a common foundation from which to build. Let’s start by defining some key terms:

1. Lesson: an activity that is done in order to learn something; also: something is taught, a single class or part of a course of instruction, something learned through experience. (Merriam-Webster (Lesson))

2. Learn: to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience, to come to be able, to come to realize. (Merriam-Webster (Learn))

Learning and Testing

Learning within organizations involves the continuous testing of experiences, and the transformation of that experience into knowledge – accessible to the whole organization, and relevant to its core purpose. (Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, & Smith, 1994)(pg. 49)

The purpose of something as trivial as the defining of the words lesson and learn allows gaining the insight that every activity undertaken within a project is potentially a lesson-learned – more importantly, only if the organization actually has applied what it has learned to current and future endeavors. Sadly, in to many organizations, these lessons are, at best, merely documented and stored, relegated to the dusty project archive shelves.   Within these organizations, teams are very apt at capturing problems that arise during the day.  However, these organizations rarely determine why these problems occurred; much less remind themselves of these problems as they ponder which fork in the road to take the next time the opportunity to succeed presents itself.  

Not all learning is in the classroom.

Not all learning is in the classroom.

 

Learning and Ongoing Value Improvement

On the other hand, organizations who create value year after year often are the ones who not only take the time to understand why project performance is what it is, they also routinely remind themselves of these lessons – improving their decision making ability real-time. Improving performance and creating even greater value.  The Lessons Learned process is the heart of a vibrant, growing organization, pumping the nutrient-rich lessons learned to the members within the organization, when they need them, allowing them to grow.

The following series will explore how the concept of the Learning Organization within Organizational Behavior discipline can be applied to the Lessons Learned process within the Project Management discipline.  It will also provide practical advice on how the Lessons Learned process can be organized in order to maximize value for future projects.

Enter the Learning Organization.

 

Bibliography

Merriam-Webster (Learn). (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2014, from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learn

Merriam-Webster (Learned). (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2014, from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learned

Merriam-Webster (Lesson). (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2014, from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lesson

Senge, P. M., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R. B., & Smith, B. J. (1994). The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. In P. M. Senge, A. Kleiner, C. Roberts, R. B. Roos, & B. J. Smith, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (p. 593). New York: Doubleday.

 

Processes, the Building Blocks for a Better Project

Posted on: January 12th, 2015 by admin No Comments

by Rick Edwards and Shawn P. Quigley

How projects and processes are related

If one were to describe their project to someone, they would most likely describe the end deliverable or objective of the project (a.k.a scope), the expected completion date (time) and the expected resource requirements needed to faithfully execute the plan (cost).   Nowhere in this description would the HOW this is to be accomplished be discussed.  Of course, as Project Managers, we understand that the how is often the more telling description of the probability of success of the project.   The reason the how is often left out, is that, especially in matrix organizations, the how is not solely the purview of the project manager.  The how is the domain of the line manager.

This perceived disconnect between something as intrinsically essential as the how a project is executed and the project’s success is a source of conflict and frustration within many organizations.  If the project manager is responsible for delivering the Scope, on time and within budget, but not responsible for the how the plan is to be executed, how can a project manager have any hope of being successful?

The how, or the processes the project uses to execute the plan to deliver on scope, time and cost, are the tools used to craft the expected output.   A craftsman uses the appropriate tool at the appropriate time to create value.  Rarely will he make a change to the tool itself if it is not performing the task at the appropriate quality level (although he may become frustrated and cuss a lot).  That is the tool-makers job.   In the same way, project managers select from a pre-determined set of tools and process to accomplish his or her task.   But what should the project manager do if the tool is not up for the task, aside from venting at the nearest wall?   I suggest talking to the tool-maker.   Perhaps together, you might find a solution.  Or, for a longer lasting change, these tool-makers all have suggestion boxes, known as whitebooks.  The lessons learned documented by the project team are suggestions to the line managers on how to improve their processes performance.

How does your organization provide process improvement ideas to the tool-makers?

Maslow and the Learning Organization

Posted on: January 9th, 2015 by admin 1 Comment

By Shawn P. Quigley

More on Maslow

In our previous discussions we have referred to Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation (Hierarchy of Needs) and how this relates to work place motivation. To best continue our discussion we must first review some of the tenets of Maslow’s theory in more detail and dispel the misconception that Maslow set the hierarchy in the form of a triangle to convey that one need must be fully satisfied before another can become predominate or pre-potent as coined by Maslow in his 1943 paper published in the Psychological Review. (Maslow, 1943) Maslow discusses that if the individual feels a need more than another it will be the main driver and this can only be determined by that individual.

Maslow and Goals

In his article Maslow states that there are at least five goals or basic needs: Physiological, Safety, Love, Esteem, and Self-actualization. (Maslow, 1943) However, he also states that these are only part of what determines the behavior of individuals. There are biological, cultural, and situational drivers as well. Maslow further stated that the order in which these basic needs are structured is determined by the individual, their experiences, and the level of prepotency assigned by the individual. The example he provided was that of an individual that has never felt hungry would not have that as a physiological motivator or a predominate need. And thus that basic need would not come into play for the individual in question.

But in the Workplace?

At this point you are probably asking, “How this relates to work place motivation?” Using the basic needs as a guide we can see how being involved with an organization or group could provide a feeling of safety, self-esteem, and belonging; a lower grouping for both esteem and love. On the same hand it could detract from these needs if the environment provided is unsafe, degrading, and lacking a sense of unity or belonging. Many organizations strive to provide a safe work environment, but there is more to safety; as a basic need, than just not having a potentially hazardous environment. In fact there are numerous jobs that are not safe, yet the individual feels this need is met through its potency compared to other needs. Having provided is as an example we can surmise that the situation and/or environment plays a major role in what needs the individual sees as predominate and the only way for supervisory or management personnel to know this re-sequencing of the individual’s needs is through positive interaction.

Missed Interpretations

Now we should discuss what positive interaction is and some common short comings of supervisors and management in this area. It is not uncommon for supervisors and managers to assume that they have determined the underlying motivators; needs, of their people through mere observation. To address this issue we will again look to something Maslow said, “The person who thinks he is hungry may actually be seeking more for comfort.” (Maslow, 1943) If an individual state that they are hungry and supervisor may assume that is their need the true point may be being missed. Probably the most misinterpreted signal is that of monetary gain because determining what need it actually equates to can be exceptionally difficult and it more than likely relates to several needs at the same time. However, only one need usually has predominance at any given time. The key in that sentence is “at a time” because the situation can and most likely does change which need takes led. An example of this would be if an individual is asking for more money, but their actual need is esteem it could possibly be satisfied through being offered a position as team leader or recognition for their abilities and contribution to the organization. Again the need of the individual asking for more money could be something totally different, such as safety. The only way to determine the actual need in any situation is through open and honest dialogue; the open Mental Model.

The Benefits of Tension

As with most things if it were this simple everyone would be doing it, but there is more. If needs are constantly satisfied and the individual develops a sense of being owed this satisfaction or become disenchanted due to a lack of tension between actual and desired states they can now longer be used as motivators and when used produce only negative connotations for both the individual and the organization. There needs to be some form of tension between the actual and desired state; tension, for a need to take predominance. It is this predominance that makes the need hold value to the individual and its’ use as a motivator. This is not to say that organizations should not attempt to satisfied their employees’ needs, but to say that they must constantly show them how doing what is needed for the organization will assist them in maintaining their base needs and working on those higher order needs that can rarely be satisfied, such as self-actualization: Personal Mastery.

Summary

In summary we have reviewed Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation (Theory of Needs), discussed how needs can be situational, what allows and need to be a motivator or a detractor, and related this discussion to two of the principles of the Learning Organization. It is the basic understanding of these principles and more that will enable an organization, project, and/or team to meet their goals while helping the individuals that make them up to obtain their needs and develop.

 

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review(50), 370 – 396.

Testing and Scientific Method

Posted on: January 7th, 2015 by admin No Comments

Below is an excerpt of our book Testing of Complex and Embedded Systems

Pries, K., & Quigley, J. (2011). Chapter 4. In Testing Complex and Embedded Systems (pp. 33-35). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Testing of Complex and Embedded Systems

Testing of Complex and Embedded Systems

 

Basic Principle of Testing

The verification and test group is there to provide some critical and unbiased review of the product. This is used to understand the real quality of the product and make adjustments as to improve that quality. When we find a bug or defect, we are in a position to consider whether it gets corrected before the product is shipped to the customer. Without this work, the first opportunity to ascertain the product quality would be the customer.

“Concentrate on what cannot lie–the evidence.”  ~  Grissom to Warrick in the CSI Pilot

When we test, we are in a position to provide evidence-based results and conclusions to our product development team. In the famous Kalama Sutra, Siddhartha Gautama–the historical Buddha–explains to the Kalamas that they must not accept spiritual declarations as the truth without testing such statements for themselves

Verification principles.

Verification principles.

 

The Method of Science Is the Method of Bold Conjectures and Ingenious and Severe Attempts to Refute Them.  ~Karl R. Popper

The method of proposing a hypothesis and then testing it is called abduction and was first formalized by Charles Sanders Peirce.  Karl Popper took the concept further by proposing the principle of falsifiability; that is, if we are incapable of testing a hypothesis, then that hypothesis is effectively meaningless.  The principle of falsifiability acts as a practical Occam’s Razor to eliminate unverifiable avowals.  The approach is not without critics; however, rational use of falsifiability serves to eliminate situations where we are making statements so nebulous as to be meaningless.

Method of Science.

 

Usually, a theory cannot be proven by one test with a positive result, but it can be proven false by one test that disagrees with its predictions.[1]


[1] Hartmann, William K. and Miller, Ron, The History of the Earth (New York: Workman Publishing, 1991) p.237.

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