Starting a Fire

Do you know how to start a fire?  I am not talking about charcoal briquettes, or the use of combustion material such as  lighter fluid, gasoline, or those special wax products that can be used in your fireplace, no propane or gas used either.

I’m talking about the fires we make in the woods when we go camping. It is okay if you do not know how, in fact my life as had quite a few times when my boy scout experiences have been a benefit to more than my family or those with whom I am camping.  My son and I have made many campfires for cooking out or roasting marsh mellows. Before this, I had camped out without a tent and used the fire for warmth (and to keep away the vermin while we slept).  We have started fires when the material may be damp, but that is not to suggest that it is easy to start a fire … Continue reading

My Career Part 1

My Career

I have been very fortunate in my career, and that really means very lucky.  Upon graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, I had two job offers after sending my resume to more than 100 companies.  That is not a very good yield, but it would be good enough.  I selected the smaller company, but I selected that company because they created new things.  The company I started at developed embedded industrial control systems.  It also turns out the people with which I would be fortunate enough to work, were very friendly, and as I would say, were a hoot to be around.  Some of my other blog posts describes shenanigans.  To this day we still have secret words, that mean something to us but nothing to anybody else (R4).

What drives me

My interest or objective has never been one thing when it comes to product development.  In the beginning, I was interested in … Continue reading

What does not work – Queuing Theory

Queuing Theory

Queuing theory is the study of waiting lines and is associated with business in determining resources needed to achieve service business throughput objectives, but it does not just apply to services and material handling.

Queuing Theory and Billable Hours

I have worked at companies that had a target for billable hours, that well in the 90%. That is, 90% or more of the hours the employee worked, had to be assigned to specific project work. The organization treated the time an employee was at work and available to work on specific projects, at nearly 100%, so for example, in a 40-hour work week, it was expected that 36 hours or greater were dedicated to specific project activities.  This was recorded in the project schedule.

Queuing Theory and Product Development

The impact of queues on product development and knowledge management in general is explained well in this Harvard Business Review article a snippet of which is found below:Continue reading

Safe Space

I have been in twitter and real discussions about safe spaces for the product development team to do their work.  I can understand this, nobody should get hurt at work, that is one of the reasons for OSHA, and internal work instructions and equipment.  However, we are not talking about the physical world in our modern discussion of safety in the work space.  There is nothing wrong with tension, or discomfort. Of course we are not talking about guns, cars and knives at work, but then again, most of those referring to safe space at work are really talking about words in the work place and not physical harm.  We are talking about the removal of even mental discomforts from the work space.  The problem is, this mental discomfort is frequently the source for progress.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. … Continue reading

Missing Requirements

Missing Requirements

Sometimes the best way to convey the challenges in product development, is to show some of the reasons things can go wrong.  To that end I am going to regale you with a tale of requirements gone astray.

Wearing Many Hats

I worked at a small company a long time ago. I am glad I did, as I wore many hats and learned something new every day while having this job at this small company.  This particular instance, we were to design and build an embedded control system for a large manufacturer, and the requirements were listed on a short sheet of paper as a bulleted list of the objective the constraints, and the general performance expected.

Product Development Input

The primary source of contact and the requirement was the head of marketing. This company generally had short communication and hierarchy chains.  However, the marketing person was essentially a customer advocate and not really an engineer.  In … Continue reading

Communication and distribution of work

Communication and Project Team Distribution

There are times when our business does not have all the requisite talent within the walls of the organization. It is nearly impossible to be fully prepared for every opportunity available, and the business and time investment in expertise that is only transitory seldom passes muster. However, when we build this network of internal and external or numerous external sites, we must also consider the communications that will vary depending upon the scope of the project. Let’s consider a company is building the network that consist of three companies:

The development Test and verification Our organization (UAT)

Immediately after the articulation of the project scope, we need to identify the players and areas of responsibility. Our communications planning should account for the distribution of the work, and so too our schedule. We must account for the transitions between the organizations, who needs what information and what constitute good quality of information as well as good … Continue reading

Success and Back-up Plans (Plan B)

I recently noticed a LinkedIn post on success and failure that led me to the need to comment.  The quote from the article that gave me some consternation:

The minute you have a back-up plan, you’ve admitted you’re not going to succeed. ~Elizabeth Holmes Theranos Founder & CEO

When I am driving a car, I keep in mind I may have to find an alternate path, lest in my obstinacy I run headlong into another car that shows up on my side of the road.  This was part of my driver’s education so many years ago and it is generally sound advice.  Back-up plans (plan b) are more akin to this type of action than admitting failure or that failure is possible.  Back up plans can be alternative routes to our objective.  If we extend the above argument a bit further, my plan is to take interstate 85 to Greensboro, and if that is blocked due to … Continue reading

Emotional and Organizational Maturity


I have recently had an exchange with Thomas Cagley on LinkedIn in response to an article “The Agile Mindset“.  Comments around emotional and organizational maturity were made and Thomas Cagley asked the questions about which one comes first.

I said I think emotional maturity must come first.  Without the ability to handle the “real” situation, you are unable to understand and resolve those things related to organizational maturity.  You must emotionally be able to handle the present situation then think clearly and grow the organization and build (hiring, coaching, process improvement) the maturity in areas that are immature.  In this case, we are referring to how well we perform those technical aspects of the organization such as product testing, requirements and configuration management, project management and manufacturing to name a few.  You can find an example outlined extensively in the CMMI model.

My experience suggests people often want what they want when they want it. We do … Continue reading

Risk and Communication Management

Risks and Communication Management

A significant portion of successful project management is due to communication, so it should stand to reason that ineffective communications can be a significant source of project failures.  Everything from evoking scope and requirements, prioritizing objectives, to team building requires effective communication.

Communication is used in keeping the project team in step with the project objectives, as well uncovering previously unknown constraints and adapting to the situations that are presented to the project.  That includes articulating and taking advantage of opportunities as they come available in the course of project execution.

Communication is used in our progress reporting to the project sponsors, we must communicate with our team to and ask questions, define and track metrics to ascertain the progress, and then report that in such a way that the sponsors can understand and take actions we believe are necessary for the project team to remain successful.

We provide a brief list of … Continue reading

Assumptions, Projects and Learning

 The Learning Organization

We are developing an online class at Value Transformation titled Learning Organization and Project Management.  In this class we wed the discipline of project management with the learning organization and motivation.  As we work and develop the material we consider opportunities that are available for an organization to grow and become more capable through the talent growth.  We are talking about an organization level learning, the process of creating, retaining and transferring knowledge throughout the enterprise making the organization more capable.  One of the topics often glossed over in project management and the organization learning discussions are assumptions.

The Old Saying about Assume

My dad was in the military, so I know the obvious saying that goes with the word assume.  Since this is so cliché I prefer not to use that here, but will only say that making assumptions ends poorly for everybody – or so says the saying.


Personally, most assumptions I make … Continue reading

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