No Estimates, Business Case, and Sunk Cost

In our earlier posts, we explored abuses of estimates, and then the need for the estimates in the business prioritization or what projects shall we undertake, and securing the resources to accomplish the objective.

Business Case

In the prior blog we discussed the connection between the estimates and the business case for the work.  The business case, as we have seen, compare the costs for undertaking the project against the return or income generated.  some of these comparative approaches (IRR) allows the organization to compare the proposed project against other investments the organization could otherwise undertake with this amount of money, but in all cases we are trying to understand if the proposed project is prudent use of the organizations resources or if it is a low return and high risk endeavor.  We wold not want to spend $1Million to make $250 Thousand.

Estimates and Gate Reviews

We will derive the estimates, but our organization may have project … Continue reading

Abuses from Estimating

I would like to start off with has anybody seen an appropriate study of estimating when it comes to doing the work? Not a study that already knows the conclusion they want, but an actual scientific study.  The thoughts below are not based upon anything like that but, having seen many estimating boondoggles. I have also read portions of the works of Barry W. Boehm, and Constructive Cost Model which is a tool for estimating, many years ago.

I find myself in many discussions with the #noestimates crowd. I am not a no estimating person.  The latest “exchange” was around the abuses that estimating brings. This I am in full agreement with them. I just do not go as far as they would to say, no estimates because people are abusive in this regard. My retort, people abuse antibiotics, but we do not ban these.  It is interesting to note that most if not all the people I “hear” … Continue reading

Clues! Signals

Clues! Signals!

Below is the result of a collaboration with John Cutler. He posted a document on Google Docs, and I liked the outline so much I felt compelled to post my thoughts In fact, it was surreal adding my contents to the Google docs and John coincidentally showed up on line, at the same time and was approving my contribution as I was writing it!  I had to write fast to stay ahead of him. I wrote the top level part of the outline, making it easy to think about that topic and what can and often does go wrong.   It was such an interesting collaboration, unscripted, accidental, and fun.  We had talked about making a short video, teasing out a few of the more interesting ones and talking about them, but the new father has plenty of other more important work.  In  fact, the collaboration was so easy, it turns out making a decent outline in WordPress is … Continue reading

Product Development and Cognitive biases

Project Management and Critical Thinking

There are a good many cognitive biases that can impact discerning the truth or what is valid and true.  Yet knowing what is valid and true is important for any business decision, product development and especially for project managers.  Project managers are often part of decision arm and execution arm of the business objectives.

If you do not think cognitive biases do not impact you, and that there are so many of them, perhaps you should shuffle on over to Wikipedia an do a search list of cognitive biases[i].  There you will find a long list of biases that can get in the way. These biases are so subtle that you may not even be aware that it is affecting how you think. Cognitive biases are shortcuts for us to make decisions.

For example; let’s consider a few of those biases starting with confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias impacts product development and project management … Continue reading

Team Player

There is considerable writing on creating and being a team player. There is much more to this than platitudes and poetic prose.  Some time’s the saying team player is preceded by saying you are not being a – team player.  One should especially fear this admonishment or condemnation.  It may not mean you are in fact, not a team player, but a ruse for manipulation by a person with interest in the outcome, sort of coercion through soft name calling, and appealing to your inner team spirit.

How many of us DO NOT want to be team players? Personally, while I do both solo and team type work, I would not want to be considered not a team player by the team in which I am a part.  I once ha a job in testing and was asked to alter the testing results, specifically, close fault reports prematurely before any evidence of corrective action has taken place.  I presented my … Continue reading

Agile for the Rest of the Organization

Agile beyond product development

I have recently had another wonderful discussion with John Cutler on agile beyond the actual product development work of the organization.  This may seem trivial on the surface, but the reality is the company or organizations is only as fast as the slowest element.  Imagine the finances for the endeavor are not secured in a timely manner, delaying the start of the development work, as a small example.

Some company’s separate the qualifying of the technology away from the development group using a group that may be referred to as Advanced Technology, at least that is my experience in some larger automotive companies.  This group will work with the technology, understanding it and helping to bring it maturity including the broad strokes of how the technology will be employed.  This time to understand the technology reduces the risk to subsequent product development work.  However, this approach does bring other risks to the organization.  For example, … 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

Onboarding can be Costly

Onboarding Defined

First, we should probably explain or define onboarding.  Onboarding is the collection of activities associated with our present staff socializing and training our newly acquired talent.  The older employees take time out of their day to demonstrate behaviors and pass on specific knowledge and skills.

Onboarding New Hires

Recently a person that I know was hired for a job at a company.  This person has no experience with this company or this industry.  They do not know the clientele and they do not know their coworkers.  Many of you probably recognize this way of indoctrination to the company.  It often conjures the images of being thrown to the wolves.

This person is spending time going through the company training.  The thing is, the company training is not so much training as it a ride along with people that just go through the paces of doing the work, not explaining the reasons behind the actions.  There is no demonstration … Continue reading

Organization Management and the Pendulum


I have been re-reading my copy of Introduction to Quality Control by Kaoru Ishikawa.  If you have been following our blog, you will know we frequently write on quality items and it is not strange for us to read these types of books. However, there is a reference in this book that takes me back to some of the companies at which I have worked in the past.  The specific paragraph is noted below[1]:

Presidential QC diagnosis should not be carried out on the premise that everything is bad, using top management muscle to expose malpractice n a deal shortcomings.  Like the doctor who examines a patient in order to diagnose an illness and commence treatment and promptly so that the illness gets no worse, the presidential QC diagnoses aims for action.  Its purpose is to enlist everyone’s cooperation to pinpoint weaknesses and systematically improve the situation.  This means that CEOs … Continue reading

Commodity or Talent

First of all, I hate the word human resources for our employees.  This verbiage starts the discussion as if people were fungible.  That people, their talents, aspirations, motivation and capability are identical. That is simply not true.

 I just got out of a discussion with a company that left me feeling hopeful.  After working in a company that appeared to be unable to differentiate commodity from the knowledge area or discipline of the employee, this was refreshing.  It was wonderful to hear a company that seems to really value the employee and the skills and talents they bring to the work.

 In this discussion, situations were described where the company would make quick changes to make it possible to acquire talent, and other instances where they would delay making a decision since they could not find the right talent. In the case where delays happened, they did not lose the budget for the talent acquisition because they could not find … Continue reading

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