Project Management Operational Problem Solving Implementation & Change Management Strategy & Alignment

Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog
This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Friday Fun II: Festival Express -- Last week, I mentioned some modern music that boomers like myself can appreciate. This week, I point you to a document of vintage boomer music. (Quicktime required)

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JIT Planning -- Not too long ago, hanging out on the Agile Project Management YahooGroup, I found myself writing...
An effective plan/guide is merely a model of current expectations, and only as "good" as its most recent/regular/frequent update. In my new real world position, I'm quickly falling into the practice of "JIT" planning for any but the most repeatable projects, with a high level, loose plan that is fleshed out as knowledge allows and time requires.
At which point, Dale Emery asked...
What is different about your new context that's encouraging to adopt that practice?

Given what you're learning, if you were to return to your previous context, would you return to your old way of planning, or would your new learnings apply there, too?
Damn, Dale...Good questions.

Let's just say part of the difference in context is going from being some know-it-all consultant to actually doing this stuff on a day-to-day basis.
But seriously, folks...

As I think about it, a major difference is that the kind of project environments that I was consulting in until recently were typically product development projects with project durations measured in months (or even quarters) and in large, slack-filled, externally constrained Fortune 100 firms, while my new job is about projects that are measured in weeks in a very busy fast-growing, internally constrained 31-person interactive marketing and web services development company.

There's something about being able to take the core team of a large effort through 3 to 10 days to plan a 9-month-to-a-year project in relative detail versus having to have a high-level plan ready 3 to 5 days after a contract is signed for a client kickoff meeting, at which we learn more about what the client is capable of and what they think we've sold them for delivery in 6 weeks. (One of my objectives in my project and process management role is to move some of that "high level" planning to into the selling/contracting process rather than after it. As a result, for the first time, PM (me) attends weekly sales pipeline reviews.)

One might say that my new environment "forces" a level of agility, although before I came aboard, there were very detailed plans replete with hard deliverable dates tied to every task. I've recently addressed a template for a class of quite repeatable projects here (something we've done enough with processes that have been refined to almost consider it "production" rather than projects...almost, but not quite), and we've turned what was a plan/schedule of over 120 lines to one of about half that size.

Regarding the second question, my use of Critical Chain Project Management allows the process to absorb the variation of changes and refinements along the way without a lot of anxiety. Also...to tell the truth...even the previous context often started with plans that were far more detailed in the early going than the later, and often used some delayed plan refinements, implemented after key decision points. So I was usually guiding clients along similar paths, although, as a consultant, I wasn't always around for the later stage refinements. Not really a huge difference if I were to "go back" to my old context.

Thanks for asking, Dale.

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TOC-ICO Call for Papers -- The Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization (TOC-ICO) has a conference scheduled for October, 2004 and is calling for papers/presentations. It figures -- I'm going to be in China when it's planned for Miami. I hope somebody goes and blogs it. Clarke? David? John? Jack?

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Friday Fun: Project Luck --

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Starting a Business --
Here's an alternative model, based on what Charles Handy calls Existential Enterprise, and which I have called New Collaborative Enterprise. Its first two principles turn the business school formula upside down:

Marketing: Don't sell or market anything -- identify and produce something for which there is a substantial unmet need.

Financing: Don't borrow money or sell part ownership in your business -- only spend your own cash or cash you've earned.

This isn't rocket science. The first rule simply says do your research before you start, do it thoroughly, and do it with potential customers. That way you have sales before you have costs. Then rule number two becomes easy -- your customers finance your business, and the debt is quickly extinguished when the product is delivered. This is an oversimplification, of course. You can't always finance operations this way. But if you have to borrow, the principle is the same -- pay it off fast, as part of the same transaction that gave rise to the debt in the first place, and never give up equity -- it's like selling your soul.
(From the reliably thoughtful Dave Pollard)

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Connecting Reality and Uncertainty -- A well-cited piece this morning, MachineDesign.com: Network links go well beyond simple straight lines, yields good advice on building plans.
The first step to good teamwork in project management depends on great task design. Tasks should provide logical and touchable deliverables, be short compared to the overall project, sized for visibility, and allow control of risks.

Tasks also need to make sense. The clearer the task deliverable, the clearer the responsibility of the person performing the task. And the better the match between skills, assigned resources and tasks, the more predictable the project.

Eventually, task design reaches a natural limit when tasks go from motivational to micromanagement. At this point, the return on additional investment in the project plan is negative. It's time to set the plan prior to that point, set the baseline, and start executing the plan and building the team that will complete the project.
Project networks are about defining not so much the boxes, but their edges and the arrows between them.

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On Certainty and Reality --
"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
    - Albert Einstein
(From Quotes of the Day)

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A Year Ago Today --
"...Project Portfolio Management is the process of turning a (hopefully related) list of initiatives that come from a strategy into a prioritized collection of projects and programs that are funneled through a pipeline. The result of doing it right is a process that both maximizes benefit for the organization and minimizes undo pressures on the resources expected to deliver them. Too many organizations fail to recognize the major reason that it is 'difficult enough to survive single projects' is that those single projects and the people that are working on them are buffeted by the needs of other projects, planned and otherwise. Unless and until shared-resource, multi-project shops, like R&D, Engineering, IT, and Product Development understand the impacts of living in such a system, they will continue to struggle with their individual projects..."
Still holds up, if I do say so myself. Read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Should You Be Allowed to Work Yourself to the Bone? --
"Does a manager have the right to monitor the 'work balance' of those who answer to him or her? If so, when and how to intervene?"
An interesting question from David Batstone in Worthwhile.

Kind of like the theme of this summer's I, Robot film. How does a manager draw the line between what's in the best interest of the individual versus what's in the best interest of the organization? Or more precisely, can a manager determine where an individual contributor's interests no longer intersect with the organization's?

Go home.

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Culture Matters More than Strategy -- From Fouroboros, I'm failing to come up with a pithy comment on this passionate piece on humanity in business. Go read it.

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Friday, July 23, 2004

Friday Fun: Bruddah Iz Gets Belated Buzz -- In last week's Friday Fun piece, I mentioned a few movies of the last year that I liked. In another media, my iPod/iTunes combo has had an significant impact on my listening habits. The linked Wired.com article is about a Hawaiian artist whose posthumous success is partially attributable to my browsing in the iTunes music store.

As an aging Boomer, that browsing has also resulted in finding some current bands that feel comfortable to these old ears. I highly recommend Modest Mouse for quirky energy (any song named for drunk poet Bukowski and referring to God as a control freak certainly qualifies for quirk) and the new Wilco disc for something that sounds to me like a blend of Brian Wilson/Pet Sounds alienation and melodies, John Lennonish vocals, punctuated by Neil Youngish noise guitar...some great moments of guitar rock.

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PowerPoint Resources -- I'm not living in PowerPoint as much these days as when I was doing independent consulting and training, but from Michael Hyatt comes a nice list of PowerPoint power tools, some of which could have come in handy. Among them, he points to the Beyond Bullets blog I've mentioned before and that has turned into a regular read for me.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

What You're Reading --
Strategic Navigation: A Systems Approach to Business Strategy

Building Project-Management Centers of Excellence (With CD-ROM)

Books: Six Thinking Hats

Eating the Big Fish : How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders

Creating the Project Office : A Manager's Guide to Leading Organizational Change

Critical Chain Project Management

Advanced Project Portfolio Management and the PMO: Multiplying ROI at Warp Speed

Developing Products in Half the Time: New Rules, New Tools, 2nd Edition
These are recent purchases by those of you who have accessed Amazon.com via the recommendations you've seen here. Thanks. Now that this blog is no longer in part of a for-profit endeavor, your support through such purchases is appreciated.

(Oh yeah. You are aware that Amazon is not just books anymore. Aren't you? Shameless.)

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The ChangeThis Blog --
"ChangeThis is on a mission:
Spread important ideas and change minds.

Over the next few months, we'll publish powerful, rational arguments from leaders in politics and business. These arguments may upset you. They may make you curse. Ultimately, we're confident that they will convince you.

Look for manifestos from:
Jay Levinson, Bestselling Author
Donna Brazile, Al Gore's Campaign Manager
Malcolm Gladwell, Bestselling Author
Seth Godin, Bestselling Author
Micah L. Sifry, Author and Senior Analyst with Public Campaign
Tom Peters, Bestselling Author
Halley Suitt, author of Halley's Comment
Jerry Colonna, Founder, Flatiron Partners
Jessica Stern, Harvard Lecturer on Public Policy and Terrorism
Guy Kawasaki, Bestselling Author"
Something that looks like it's worth watching.

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Be a King, Not a Joker --
"Stop measuring performance and get something done."
(From CIO.com.)

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Continuous Improvement -- The Next Manufacturing Craze -- IndustryWeek columnist David Drickhamer writes about his plans to come up with the "next big thing" in management. After discussing the need to practice being a guru, develop a cadre of proselytizers, and come up with a name for it, he asks...
"What about the meat of my program? That's the tricky part. Management ideas follow Darwin's theory of natural selection. There are challenges that aren't being met by the current approaches. New perspectives and solutions are bubbling to the surface that I'll have to ferret out and claim as my own. I'll also throw every operational improvement tool that's still working into my yet-to-be-named bag of tricks. It will be bigger and better than lean and Six Sigma because they'll both be in there. As will Total Quality Management, theory of constraints, management by objectives, employee empowerment, time-based competition, and anything else I can squeeze in."
As I often say, better together...the unified theory field.

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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Managing the Middle Way -- I've been sitting (zazen) on this one for quite some time...
"The mode of existence of phenomena is differentiated from their mode of appearance. Phenomena appear to the mind differently from their actual mode of existence. When the mind apprehends their way of appearing, believes in that appearance as being true, and follows that particular idea or concept, then one makes mistakes. Since that concept is completely distorted in its apprehension of the object, it contradicts the actual mode of existence, or reality itself. So this disparity or contradiction between 'what is' and 'what appears' is due to the fact that although phenomena are in reality empty of any intrinsic nature, yet they do appear to the ordinary mind as if they exist inherently, although they lack any such quality. Similarly, although in reality things which depend on causes are impermanent and transient, undergoing constant change, they do appear as though they were permanent and unchanging. Again, something that in its true nature is suffering appears as happiness. And something which is in reality false appears as true. There are many levels of subtlety regarding this contradiction between the mode of existence of phenomena and their mode of appearance. As a result of the contradiction between 'what is' and 'what appears', there arise all manner of mistakes. This explanation may have much in common with scientists; views of the difference in the modes of appearance and existence of certain phenomena."
(From the Dalai Lama and Science for Monks project.) There's a post in there somewhere about plans and reality, assumption identification, and unnecessary dilemmas as root causes of problems. I'll leave you to find it, Grasshopper.

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Dual Platform Life -- I've just noticed something in the way I'm organizing information these days. At [my] home [office] for years, I've been a Macintosh person, using Safari for web-browsing, NetNewsWire for feed-reading, and Entourage (the MS Office for Mac version of Outlook) for email. At my "new" job (does about 3 months count as "new?"), an IBM laptop with Internet Explorer and Entourage is the official setup. With a few intensive months of this under my belt, I've reinforced my satisfaction with my Mac. If only it had a port of MS Project, I wouldn't need or want Windows for anything.

One thing I've found is that living this multiple online personality has had an impact on my tools, and I find myself living more on the web than from my hard drives these days...

I've been experimenting with Google's Gmail offering. Initially wondering about its interface, it's winning me over. I'm shifting more and more of my email discussion list subscriptions to it from my focusedperformance.com address. Its way of showing and hiding messages in a thread works for me. I've started doing the label and filter thing on Gmail as well. I wonder how well it'll deal with spam as my account matures. (The one reason I hesitate going all the way to this free email system is the time, money, and psychic energy I've got invested in the Frank Patrick - Focused Performance identity.)

While I still like NetNewsWire immensely and have about 100 subscriptions in it, I find myself in Bloglines during the work day as well for my core "must reads" subs. The ability to "clip" stories in Bloglines is also a useful feature. (It would be more so if I didn't find myself in the habit mentioned in the next paragraph.) But I'll still rely on NetNewsWire for downloaded/offline feed reading when on the road.

The thing that really surprised me however is when I realized how I'm using Google's Blogger - the engine behind this weblog. Its "BlogThis!" auto-blogging button, combined with its "Save as Draft" option has turned my list of draft blogs into an extension of my "Favorites" in IE and "Bookmarks" in Safari, at least for the transient things I used to accumulate in a "Todo" or "Current" bookmark grouping.

Anybody have any other cross-platform or web-based tools that I should be aware of?

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Friday, July 16, 2004

Friday Fun: Match of the Week -- From the current Nagoya Basho. Who says it's a big man's game? The relatively diminutive winner of this one is the overwhelming dominant reigning champion. As in many things, it's about leverage. (799KB Realmedia Video)

Plus a Movie Recommendation - One of my favorite movies of last year, this one is a hoot -- right up there with Kill Bill and American Splendor. Depp's in the best of his manic roles, plus a DVD fully loaded with commentaries and extras.

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Agile Estimating and Planning -- Draft chapters of a new book by Mike Cohn, author of User Stories Applied. (Tip o' the hat to Clarke for the linkage.)

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Planning - Defined by Dale Emery.

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Thursday, July 15, 2004

Goal setting and Cheating -- From one of my regular reads, Knowledge@Wharton, the current Operations Management ariticle points out that...
"...goal-setting [...] has a dark side to it, according to a recent research paper by a Wharton faculty member and two colleagues. In addition to motivating constructive behavior, goal setting especially when it involves rewards can motivate unethical behavior when people fall short of the goals they set or that are set for them. The relationship between goal setting and unethical behavior is particularly strong when people fall just short of reaching the goal."
Goldratt says "Tell me how you'll measure me, and I'll tell you how I'll behave." My friend Tony Rizzo is a bit more frank when he translates it to "Tell me how you'll measure me, and I'll tell you what damn fool things I'll do to make those numbers look good." Apparently, some of those "damn fool things" skirt the borders of ethics from time to time.

The article talks about people failing to reach goals by a small margin being more likely to lie about reaching them. I know I've also seen (and probably committed, myself) instances of self-deception as well, along the lines of "I really reached the goal, but was cheated by someone else's failure." Holding people accountable for goals when those goals are inextricably intertwined with others' behavior and performance will eventually lead to such behavior.

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The Numbers Behind Success -- Yesterday, Joe Ely pointed at a recent Management by Baseball post which pointed out that...
Non-baseball organizations need to track their progress with certain numbers and, like baseball's wins and losses, these really do matter. But frequently they don't match the quality of the group's efforts. How many times have you run a project or new initiative you know was really good and well-executed but the bottom line hasn't shown equal-quality results in the short term? Too often. Sometimes your competitor does something half-axed and blows away the market. The bottom line result doesn't always reflect the quality of the decisions and effort that went into the efforts.
I'm seeing my recent theme everywhere. Fortunately, the piece keeps me honest by continuing...
Quality, clarity of vision, persistence, ability to change plans adaptively on the fly tends to win over the long term, but guarantees nothing over the short term. If management knows what the constituents of successful performance are (in baseball, runs scored relative to runs allowed), they can keep track of these key components and ratios as well as the obvious surface indications of success and failure. They can use these measures to take a longer view and apply their resources more intelligently.
Yep; "if management knows what the constituents of successful performance are..." Some do. Some don't. According to a Fast Company piece on Clayton Christensen,
The good news is, companies don't fail because of bad management. The bad news is, they fail because of good management. "By doing what they must do to keep their margins strong and their stock price healthy, every company paves the way for its own disruption," Christensen says. It was a simple, elegant, and terrifying conclusion: The drive to success becomes a death march.
Maybe strong margins and stock prices are not the numbers behind success (duh!). One buzzword of recent days, coming from recent reports about Iraq war "intelligence" seems to be "group-think." I suspect that a lot of managers suffer from the same malady. Finding the meaningful metrics probably means breaking out of it.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The 10 Commandments of Email -- Check out the sidebar to the linked Fast Company article about Intel's solution to email overload.

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R. Buckminster Fuller's SYNERGETICS -- On the occasion of the 109th anniversary of his birthday in 1895 and the 50th anniversary of the patent on his best-known invention, the geodesic dome...
"We are in an age that assumes the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable. Consequently, society expects all earnestly responsible communication to be crisply brief. Advancing science has now discovered that all the known cases of biological extinction have been caused by overspecialization, whose concentration of only selected genes sacrifices general adaptability. Thus the specialist's brief for pinpointing brevity is dubious. In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual's leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which, in turn, leads to war.

"We are not seeking a license to ramble wordily. We are intent only upon being adequately concise. General systems science discloses the existence of minimum sets of variable factors that uniquely govern each and every system. Lack of knowledge concerning all the factors and the failure to include them in our integral imposes false conclusions. Let us not make the error of inadequacy in examining our most comprehensive inventory of experience and thoughts regarding the evoluting affairs of all humanity.

"There is an inherently minimum set of essential concepts and current information, cognizance of which could lead to our operating our planet Earth to the lasting satisfaction and health of all humanity. With this objective, we set out on our review of the spectrum of significant experiences and seek therein for the greatest meanings as well as for the family of generalized principles governing the realization of their optimum significance to humanity aboard our Sun circling planet Earth."
From one of my favorite whole system thinkers, the above quote is the opening of the introduction of Bucky's Synergetics - Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, the full text of which is available here. A little light reading for the summer. (Also, John Cage on Fuller.)

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Monday, July 12, 2004

On Expectation Management --
"We've fundamentally changed people's expectations of our performance...We've changed the expectations of our stakeholders on Capitol Hill. We've changed the expectations of our employees in terms of how they're treated. And we've changed our customers' expectations of our performance. In the old days, we shipped fewer than 50% of our orders within eight weeks. Today, if it takes two weeks for customers to receive an order, they complain. When you change expectations, it's very hard for an organization to relax and slip back into old patterns of behavior."
    -- Philip N. Diehl, Director of the United States Mint
From a 1999 Fast Company article.

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Clarke's Current Cool-Aid -- Clarke Ching has been recently into David Allen's time management cool-aid, a la the book Getting Things Done. I'm usually slow to rise to these best sellers, but at Clarke's implicit suggestion, along with a bit more research, I'll admit it looks interesting.

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We Drink The Cool-Aid Because That's All That's Being Served -- From my friend Tony Rizzo, of the Product Development Institute...
...With the greatest degree of sincerity, I would be serving you the sweetest of project plans, laced with the most perfumed of poisons. Inadvertently, in complete ignorance, and with the best of intentions, I and all your other project managers would be misleading you at every step, and you would be imbibing our advice most willingly. We and you would continue to propagate the grand lie.

Of what grand lie do I speak? I speak of the many estimates of project duration, of course. These are created daily throughout the world, by project managers whose tools force them to create grossly misleading mathematical models of projects, models that then are used to make predictions and subsequent commitments to decision-makers like you and even to customers.

"Wait!" you say. "Which project management tool would provide such erroneous output?"...
Tony answers that last question in a piece he posted to the shareholdervalue YahooGroup. I still wish Tony would start blogging for things like this, but he is very much in his element in the more interactive environment of email discussion groups like this one and APICS' CM (Constraint Management) SIG List.

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Friday, July 09, 2004

Friday Fun: The Killer App --
Now that's a menu for a power user.

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Improvisational Planning -- Dave Pollard's been doing a series (actually a nascent book) on the care and feeding of the "natural enterprise." This one talks about strategic planning as improvisation...
"In natural enterprises, this improvisation is continuous and pervasive, and it largely takes the place of more formal, hierarchical planning and decision-making processes. It's practiced constantly and honed to a fine art. Improvisational, collaborative decision-making, and not edicts from an Executive Committee or formal policies or plans or standard operating procedures, drives most of the key actions and decisions of the enterprise. That's not to say that more formal planning is never valuable in natural enterprise. But formal plans must be very flexible and are often more useful as milestones, frameworks, creative thinking and consensus-building exercises than as rigorous decision-making and operating guidelines. Plans become mere tools, to be used or not used as the situation dictates moment to moment."
Kind of like rolling plans in the project world. Plan out in detail only as far as you can see, with a rough direction beyond. Fill in the details as circumstances allow.

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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Adaptability -- Good advice...
"...If you're staffing a project, make sure you have enough people who are adaptable to several types of work..."
from Johanna Rothman, who expands on the concept in a recent posting.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Real Life Innovation -- From Joyce Wycoff's Good Morning Thinkers!...
This two-part column comes from Tommy Cates, director of online studies at the University of Tennesse, Martin. It made me ponder a bit and smile a bit ... what more can you ask for? Hope you enjoy also. joyce

A Moral Dilemma (passed along from the Internet)

You are driving down the road in your car on a wild, stormy night, when you pass a bus stop and you see three people waiting for the bus:

1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
2. An old friend who once saved your life.
3. The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.

Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing there could only be one passenger in your car? Think, before you continue reading. This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once actually used as part of a job application. You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die and thus you should save her first. Or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect mate again so you might want to pick that person.

DETERMINE YOUR ANSWER BEFORE PROCEEDING...
...to one creative solution at Joyce's site.

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NAVAIR Recognizes Outstanding Teams --
"The winner in the category of logistics/industrial was the NAVAIR Depot AIRSpeed Team, a joint team with representation from the three NAVAIR depots (Cherry Point, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; North Island, Calif.). According to the letter of commendation, 'Your use of Theory of Constraints, Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma to transform the way the depots do business has increased aircraft availability to the warfighter. By reducing cycle time, increasing throughput and decreasing work-in-progress on multiple product lines, your team has kept less aircraft in the depots and more aircraft on the flight line.' "
As much as I am a proponent of TOC as a means of bringing chaos into focus, I'm glad to see our tax dollars being spent putting all the pieces -- TOC to determine what to fix and Lean and Six Sigma to provide the fixes -- together. Better together.

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Monday, July 05, 2004

Lean Knowledge Work -- Amazon.com, in the wisdom of its algorithms, recently aimed me at...
Office Kaizen: Transforming Office Operations into a Strategic Competitive Advantage
and
Value Stream Management for the Lean Office
As I'm now embedded solidly in the world of knowledge work, I was wondering if anyone out there was familiar with either of these. Comments on them or other similar sources via the comment link would be appreciated.

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Carrying On -- Hal Macomber, a longtime friend of this blog, points out something that I, too, have noticed...
"David J. Anderson, author of Agile Management and the weblog of the same name posted a series of Lessons Learned from Eli (Goldratt): #1 Small Batch Sizes, #2 Resistance to Change, #3 Don't Assign Blame, and #4 Lean and Six Sigma. Have a look. David is a solid writer and avid learner. He doesn't just stop at the lesson he learned. David offers a refreshing perspective. If you like what you read, then join his Agile Management Yahoo! discussion group. You won't be disappointed."
I agree with Hal, since astute readers will note that I've also linked to and been linked to by David. As I find less time and energy for big pieces in this weblog, it's good to see folks like David, John, Clarke and Jack all take up some of my TOC and Critical Chain slack.

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Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy Birthday America! -- The birth announcement...
Celebrated by my mother's side of the family, for as long as I can remember -- must be approaching 50 years pretty soon -- with a picnic, involving a particular culinary tradition...
...that I documented
last year over on my personal Unfocused blog. Happy Fourth!

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Friday, July 02, 2004

Accountability -- A few days ago, I quipped a bit about heroics, and the downside of depending on such behavior. Somehow, the issue of accountability feels related. It sounds laudable on the surface, but carries with it some concerns. David Weinberger, writing in Worthwhile, asks "What's wrong with accountability?" I suggest you read the whole piece, but he closes by saying that...
"Announcing that the company is adopting accountability as a core value usually means that things are going badly so they've decided to make things go worse by engaging in magical rituals that lessen the trust that actually lets companies advance."
The problem with accountability is that someone is usually held accountable. That's a problem because there are very few endeavors for which full accountability can fairly fall on the shoulders of one person -- or even one organization. Such endeavors are the results of complex systems of skills, relationships, capabilities, and capacities -- not to mention the vagaries of lady luck.

In the MediaPost article by Cory Treffiletti referenced in Weinberger's piece, one of the arguments for care in the use of accountability is...
"...the volatility that comes as a result of forces outside of one's immediate control. Being Accountable means being reliant on stability in the world around you."
Regular readers here know of my respect for the impacts of uncertainty and variation. There are things that can be done to mitigate the effects of UV, but it's rare to be able to maintain a stable stance for long these days. I often find myself denying the righteousness of holding a project manager accountable for the success of a project. S/he can be held accountable for doing her/his job of facilitating the promise making, problem identification and solution building, and progress tracking. The success of the project itself is not based on the PM's efforts, but on the complex sum of the parts that all team-members play.

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Friday Fun: Project Management Tales --
"$%^&*#! This is %@%$ stupid." Jim disappears for half a day, leaving instructions for his crew to get themselves sorted out, work out how they'll handle any rapids etc. Jim reappears with an unwilling native in tow.

They all board the inflatable. As they cast off the river level suddenly drops dramatically and the river flow slows. "I told the @#$% up at the hydoelectric dam to close the sluices," Jim says.

The inflatable proceeds quickly but not suicidally. The rapids are rapid but not murderous. There are cuts and bruises from the violent buffeting, but no capsize and no men overboard.

On day 6 the native gets excited and gesticulates wildly. A waterfall, somewhere ahead, seems to be the message. They land and spend 3 days hiking around the waterfall.

There are some very close moments on the trip, but after 3 weeks they arrive.

Jim is thanked for bringing the crew back safely, if a little battered. Jim is criticised for being a week late. The experts point out that if he hadn't wasted 3 days walking, and if he hadn't had the river flow slowed they would have made it in 2 weeks easily. Jim is promised another trip to organise so he can do better next time.
Different, but similar, outcomes here.

(As I re-read this, I'm not sure it's sufficiently "fun" to qualify for the heading. If you agree, there's always this -- in five-pound blobs.)

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Strategic Thinking and Improvement

Enterprise PM - It Starts with Strategic Interdependence

Face Reality

How to Think With Your Gut

Hugger-Mugger and Helter-Skelter

Managing for Murphy, Satan, and Yourself

More of the Same (Local/Global)

PMI Congress Notes: Using Risk Management for Strategic Advantage

Tell Me How You'll Measure Me and Ah, But What to Measure?

What's in Your Strategy?

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Why TOC Works
Project and Multi-Project Management
Critical Chain and (not or) XP

Defining Project Success (But for Whom?)

Down 'n Dirty w/TOC and PM (Part 1 of 5 consecutive posts)

End of Project Review

If Project Management is the Answer, What's the Question?

In Defense of Planning

It Ain't the Tools

Lessons Learned, Revisited

Predicting Uncertain Futures

Project Conflicts

Project Determinism (and other myths)

Project Portfolio Management

Promises, Predictions, and Planning

Removing Bottlenecks - A Core Systems Design Principle

Stage Gates and Critical Chain

Ten Top Sources of Project Failure (The Executive Version)

The Meaning of "Schedule"
Leadership and Change Management
Consistent Leadership Behavior

Invisible Dogma - Perpetuating Paradigms

Nothing But Value

On Assumption Busting

Personal Productivity - An Excuse?

The Psychology of Change Management

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Global Virtual Classroom


FP's Link List
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Critical Chain Discussion Group

Lilly Software: Visual DBR

Sciforma PS (Critical Chain Software)

Spherical Angle (Critical Chain Software)

Synchrono Supply Chain Planning Software


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