Tools and Teams

I recently saw a post on Twitter from the Great John Cutler on allow the team to pick the tools that they use to do the work.  Generally, this is not a bad idea, but not necessarily a great idea either.  It sort of depends.

 

 

My experience in companies that also have hardware parts associated with the software, each group selecting their tools comes at a great disadvantage when it comes to understanding the various work products as it moves through the organization.  It is not possible for one team to see what the other team has done, when the tools are not connected, or each group selects what that individual group needs without consideration of the departments that are depending or associated with the work.  In these cases, a product life cycle management tool that connects the various work departments and work packages can help tie all of these together. Consider a vehicle manufacturer that … Continue reading

My Career Part 2

Career; of Motorcycles and Trucks

This blog continues from my last post describing the first part of my career.  We continue with the tire pressure monitoring system.  In those days, and for many years before that, my preferred form of transport was motorcycle.  I had an accident a few years before taking this job that broke some bones in my wrist (not my first nor last set of broken bones), in fact I got the bike fixed and was riding it through the winter with my right hand in a cast, and with multiple socks on to keep my hand warm.  I should mention that my preferred transportation was motorcycle, at least in part, because it was my only source of transportation.  Eventually, my fourth job before my professional career started, the manager of the U-Haul at which I worked during my undergraduate education came across a wonderful, and old, Toyota station wagon complete with the fake wood … Continue reading

What works: team participation

The team

My first job out of university was with a small product development and manufacturing company. The company developed their own embedded products for sale all over the world.  I do not know how this collection of technicians and engineers ended up as a tight or as close when it came to work.  The group was a collection of characters. The other electrical engineer, we will call Flicky (we had secret names for each of the team members). There was one technician we referred to occasionally as IR because of the unfortunate anagram is name made.  There was a mechanical designer we referred to as BWI, I will explain that later.  There was another assembler / technician we referred to as Wal.

Games with the Team

When it came to the electrical or embedded product idea generation and development, I can recall a game we played.  We would read the specifications together, asking questions where we could of the sales … Continue reading

Instead of No Estimates

Instead of  No Estimates

Instead of no estimates, we should consider adjusting our approach to estimates that eliminate the abuse, and still allows for the answers to the business questions, “does this project improve our bottom line” allowing the business to determine if the company really wants to undertake the project, and if so, do we have the talent and resources to undertake this project.  Answering these two questions initiates the next steps to actually create a project and being planning and doing the work.

Besides the techniques below, we can estimate from top down, estimation comes from managers and executives, or bottom up, that is those doing the work or closest to the work, provide the estimates. There are draw backs and benefits to each of these approaches.

Estimating Techniques

There are many techniques for estimating.  Experience suggests organizations may not use much more than the least helpful, expert judgement.

Analogous Parametric PERT Simulation (Monte Carlo Analysis) Expert Judgement Analogous

Instead … 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 … Continue reading

Team Building Not all Roses

Team Building Phases

Teams are not as easy as throw our collection of individuals into a room together and bang, thus is a team created.  We are fond of the description of the steps a team will go through by Bruce Tuckman we list below.  Our experience suggests this list to be a reasonable list of the phases a group goes through to become a team.

forming -the collection of individuals are put together storming  the clash of personalities as well as social mores norming – the group establishes the group’s norms and mores performing – the collection of individuals are now performing (the sum is greater than the individuals) Collection of Individuals

It takes more than placing people together in a room and pointing them at an objective, will not necessarily turn this collection of individuals and turn them into a team.  This story is about the start of a project, actually the first time this collection of people worked together.  … 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

Planning Poker @PMImetrolina Ballantyne

I recently spoke at a PMI Chapter in Ballantyne event, well, I say spoke at but we really played a game of planning poker. We divided the group up into groups of four (that is how many suits per deck). There were 5 groups, and I supplied the prompt from which all responses were generated.  As expected,the initial prompt produced a wide array of results, from the lowest duration card available, to the maximum and in this case that was the infinity symbol – meaning not estimate able.    This was true not only from table (team at one table) but also from table to table.  After three passes, we could see convergence in each team as assumptions were evoked and questions were answered.

Every time I have used this technique, either in game or real life, I have witnessed this converging result. The team asks questions, more information is uncovered along with a variety of approaches and nuances to the … Continue reading

26 Tips to Encourage Strong Work Ethic

A person’s work ethic is directly correlated with their productivity and is best developed through guidance and encouragement. But sometimes identifying the values we want to emphasize becomes difficult if we don’t have a clear set of goals.We asked experts to share their most valuable tips in successfully promoting strong work ethic to their employees.

Here are 26 tips to encourage strong work ethic in the workplace.

“Here’s a list of 26 strong work ethic  tips, check out the link to read more”, our contribution to the Fit Small Business articles.

Expectations of Contractors and Engineers

Expectations of Contractors and Engineers Written by Steven G. Lauck & Jon M. Quigley

To ensure the team is working from the same set of expectations, we may develop a document or set of documents that describe those expectations. The work below may help you set up your own documentation on the expectations you have of your team and reciprocally what they will have of you.

The file below is found as a download here.

I. Focus Areas Customer/Supplier Orientation

Understand who your customers are and how well your products and services are meeting their needs. Adopt the posture of evaluating the quality and value of your services periodically as a basis for continual improvement.

Mastery

Be a master of the position functions and establish yourself as a resource to others. Know what your products and services are and strive to be best in delivering them.  Epitomize continuous learning and bring that to your work life.

Organization

Support … Continue reading

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