Art of Project Management – Scott Berkun
Definition
  • Project management is about using any means necessary to increase the probability and speed of positive outcomes or simply put “Making good stuff happen”
Key Insights
  • Project Management and software development are not sacred arts
  • The simpler your view of what you do, the more power and focus you will have in doing it
  • Simple doesn’t mean easy
Overview of Project Management Activity
  • Figuring out what the project is (Planning, Scheduling, Requirements Gathering)
  • Shepherding the project through design and development work (communication, decision making, and mid-game strategy)
  • Driving the project through to completion (leadership, crisis management, end-game strategy)
The Juggling Act (The Human Angle)
 Balancing Traits (Tom peters – pursuing the Perfect Project Manager)
Eight Dilemmas to be juggled
  • Ego/no-ego
  • Autocrat/delegator
  • Tolerate ambiguity/pursue perfection
  • Oral/written
  • Acknowledge complexity/champion simplicity
  • Impatient/patient
  • Courage/fear
  • Believe/skeptic
Visioning
Typical distillation cycle
  • Marketing Requirements Document->Vision/Scope document->Specifications->Work Breakdown Structure
 Five qualities of good vision
  • Simplifying
  • Intentional
  • Consolidated
  • Inspirational
  • Memorable
Getting it Right
  • Writing well requires one primary writer
  • Volume is not quality
  • Does the vision accurately reflect our goals and intentions for this project?
  • Is the vision helping leads and individual contributors to make discussions and reject requests that are out of scope?
Requirements
  • Requirements – What we need to do ?
  • Specifications – How will we do ?
  • Implementation – Do it
Writing good specifications
  • Ensuring right things get built
  • Provide a schedule milestone that concludes a planning phase of the project
  • Enable deep review and feedback from different individuals on the course that the project will take
 “The hardest single part of building a software system is deciding what to build. No other part of the conceptual work is as difficult in establishing the detailed technical requirements, including the interfaces to people, to machines, and to other software systems. No other part of the work so cripples the results if done wrong. No other part is more difficult to rectify later. Therefore, the most important function that the software builder performs for the client is the iterative extraction and refinement of the product requirements” – Fred Brooks
Quality Requirements
  • Provide a plan for requirements negotiation and iteration
  • Hunt down erroneous assumptions
  • Hunt down missing information
  • Define relative priority to each requirement
  • Define or eliminate unintentionally ambiguous language
Planning
  • Milestone length should match project volatility
  • Be optimistic in the vision and skeptical in the schedule
  • Bet on design
  • Plan checkpoints for add/cut discussions
  • Inform the team about planning philosophy
  • Gauge the team’s experience with problem space
  • Gauge the team’s experience in working together
  • Take on risks early

Scheduling
 Schedules have three purposes 
  • Make commitments about when things will be done
  • To encourage everyone who’s contributing to a project to see her efforts as part of a whole (Impose a forcing function. A forcing function is anything that –when put in place –naturally forces a change in perspective, attitude or behavior. So schedules are important forcing functions for projects)
  • Tool to track progress and to break work into manageable chunks
In all cases methodologies need to be adjusted and adapted to fit the specifics of a team and a project and that’s only possible if you have a foundation of knowledge
Ultra simplified model of scheduling – Divide into three phases
  • One for design
  • One for implementation
  • One for testing
Scheduling as a Learning Curve
  • Schedule estimation grows in accuracy over time
  • Schedules are simply a kind of prediction
  • No matter how precisely they are drafted or how convincing they appear, they are just a summation of lots of little estimations, each one unavoidable prone to different kinds of unforeseeable oversights and problems.
 Estimation 
  • Good work estimates have a high probability of being accurate and bad work estimates have a low probability
  • Establish baseline confidence interval for estimates
  • Lead programmers must set the bar for quality estimations by asking good questions and  taking wise approaches that the team can emulate
  • Programmers should be trusted
  • Estimate depend on the programmer’s understanding of the project goals
  • Estimates should be based on previous performance
  • Specification or design quality should be to whatever point engineering needs to make good estimates
Communication
Stages in communication
  1. Transmitted
  2. Received
  3. Agreed
  4. Understood
  5. Action
Communication pitfalls
  • Assumptions
  • Lack of clarity
  • Not listening
  • Dictation
  • Problem mismatch
  • Personal attacks
Quotable Quotes from the book
  • A man fears the tiger that bit him last instead of the tiger that will bite him next
  • Human beings, who are almost unique[among animals] in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so – Douglas Adams
  • “I like working with good people because if I come up with an idea, they come up with a better idea, then I come up with an even better one, and so on. It’s a leapfrog process, and the work becomes much better than it would be if I only did exactly what I want”
  • The way the universe works is big decisions don’t necessarily come with great amount of time to make them
  • Probability is cold and heartless and it helps to remind us that entropy is everywhere and is not the friend of projects or their managers
  • All successful projects are simply a long series of adversities that must be overcome. Far from it being unusual to face adversity, it is normal and our business to overcome it. The real test is not when we are successful when there is no adversity but when there is and we triumph
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Stay Tuned and Have Fun.
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