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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It's Blogday -- Five blogs I haven't linked to yet (as far as my failing memory tells me)...
Common Blogarithms - Root Cause

The Coyote Within - Be quick, smart and adaptable

The Cranky Middle Manager Show - Podcast

Management Craft - Yet another voice in the management wilderness

The Word Nerds - Another podcast, this one on language, usage, and etymology
Enjoy. [Tag: ]

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Educated Decisions --
"The owner of a large factory decided to make a surprise visit and check up on his staff. Walking though the plant, he noticed a young man leaning lazily against a post..."
Get the punchline here.

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Optimism, Realization, Despair, and the Finish Line -- Jeffrey Philips (yes, again) has recently completed a series defining these four phases of a project. Some of good advice found in it include...
...The "work" they do early in the project is not wasted if it is used to ensure the team can be more efficient and effective later in the project. There remains the temptation to skip all of this upfront stuff - just to plunge into the project without any preparation. If your team is cohesive, the more time you spend developing a common approach, the more efficient and effective you team will be in the later project phases. (Optimism)

...At the end of this phase (approximately 50% of the time elapsed), I'd recommend that you refactor the entire project. By that I mean reassess the scope of the project, the amount of work completed to date, the amount of time left and the velocity and acceleration of the project team. It will be much easier at this point to carefully consider the requirements and features/tradeoffs or to ask for more resources now than it will be much later in the project. (Realization)

...the project manager and the project sponsor need to do everything in their power to remove distractions, roadblocks and other people or problems that may hinder the team from getting "in the zone". (Despair)

...Give yourself some time at the end of the project do debrief... The Finish Line
Now go read the whole thing.

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Show Me the Science -- I tend not to get overly involved with issues of current events, but this "intelligent design" stuff really has been sticking in my head, living, as it does, at the intersections of rationality and superstition, and of meaning from without and meaning from within, and with its implications for the education of future generations. More stuff on it later - stuff like this, over at Unfocused later, I suspect, although the questions of cause-and-effect and rational analysis that it involves could fit here.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Still Between the Boxes -- Jack Vinson comments on yesterday's posting about arrows...
"I like Frank's claim that project managers should be the people responsible for understanding the hand-offs and making sure they are smooth."
For clarity about what I'm claiming or not, it's important that the project manager understand the handoffs, but they not THE only ones responsible for that understanding. For every handoff in a project, three people need to understand them clearly -- the provider, the receiver, and the project manager. IMHO, it's the PM's responsibility to make sure the other two understand and agree to them, whether the PM understands their detail or not.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Between the Boxes --
"The sagacious reader who is capable of reading between these lines what does not stand written in them, but is nevertheless implied, will be able to form some conception."
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 1749-1832 (via Bartleby)
I've been thinking more again about the arrows between the boxes. Whether we're talking about projects or processes, it's not so much the content of the boxes, but the arrows between them that actually define the effort and deliver the results.

The handoffs that those arrows represent are a major source of fumbles and miscommunication and as such, should be the primary focus of the project manager or process owner. The people performing the stuff in the boxes (which by the way, don't forget, have their own set of smaller boxes and arrows) own those boxes and the methods used to do what they do.

However, the project manager and process owner need to solicit from them what they need to do what they need to do to support the larger effort. It's the identification of these dependencies and their translation into inputs and outputs in the forms of the arrows that link the boxes that constitute the definition of the project or process in question. Interim tasks and subprocesses are only necessary to create the conditions necessary to let loose an arrow allowing the flow to continue. Even more than bobbling handoffs that we plan for, it's the failure to identify necessary inputs and where they'll come from that cause a lion's share of blocked flow within a project or process.

There's usually a lot more performers in an effort than there are project or process managers, so the boxes, tasks, and subprocesses that are identified usually get a lot of attention. More attention often needs to be aimed at the arrows, handoffs, and deliverables. Most of my project plans have quite verbose task descriptions, often necessary to help clarify and define the outputs of the task in order to fully define completion for the performer of the work. I wish I could put information on the arrows, defining the actual deliverables, in PM software like can be done in software designed to map processes.

Goethe says that the meaning is "between the lines." In project and process management, at least we have the arrows in our network diagrams or process maps to help make those connections, but it's still in the purview of those involved to be aware of the white space and the need to understand more of what's between them - the missing arrows.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Be(come) Yourself --
"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity."
   -- Christopher Morley, American journalist, novelist, and poet
(via Steve Hardy)

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cool Tool: Griffin iTalk Voice Recorder for iPod -- Thinking about trying out this podcasting stuff, like all the cool kids, I was looking for an easy, convenient way of grabbing vocal utterances. This nifty gizmo from Griffin, does a surprisingly good job. If you, like me, keep your iPod on your desk at work, it's also handy for capturing audio "notes to self." Next to check out...a peripheral stereo mic designed to work with it.

My iPod is definitely turning into a multi-tasker. My 20 gigs of tunes was first augmented by some good podcast subscriptions (like The Cranky Middle Manager Show) and hijacked hard to find classic public radio shows (Like Schickele Mix, aided by Allegro as my radio guide). And now my own mellifluous vocal emanations...

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

NYC Blogger/Geek Dinner -- If they'll accept someone from across the Hudson, good chance I'll be there on September 15. If you're in the neighborhood, sign up at the wiki. (Pointage (and wine) courtesy of Hugh)

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An 8-Hour What? -- This day in history from The Writer's Almanac...
It was on this day in 1862 that the newly formed National Labor Union called upon Congress for the first time to establish the eight-hour work day...

It wasn't a labor leader who helped bring the eight-hour work day into the mainstream. It was Henry Ford...

The eight-hour workday didn't become federal law until 1933, when Congress enacted the National Industrial Recovery Act...

At the time those laws were passed, most sociologists predicted that Americans would work steadily fewer and fewer hours. But in fact, the opposite has happened. Today, more than 25 million Americans work more than 49 hours each week. And 11 million spend 60 hours or more at work each week. Americans also take fewer vacation days than employees in any other industrialized nation.
Read the snipped parts here.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Public Pipelining -- This site, belonging to a "new media designer" has a nice feature for setting the expectations of prospective clients...a highly visible bit on the page mentioning that "emil will be available for new projects from September 15th 2005." Far better to rationally manage expectations than to allow prospects to expect you to drop things for them. If they get it, they also get that when emil's working on their stuff, he won't drop their work for the next new guy.

Unless of course, emil's just on an extended vacation until the 15th.

(via the cssvault)

[UPDATE: Be sure to check out the comments for this post. Emil, the young Serbian designer who's site I've pointed to, and I have gotten into a conversation about his choice of putting the availability notice on his home page.]

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Flow On - Over at gapingvoid, Hugh brings together the questions of relevancy and flow, and suggests that Sig might have a point suggesting that "flow" is "next."

Hate to break it to them, but those of us who have been familiar and worked with Goldratt's Theory of Constraints have long emphasized the understanding and management of "flow" as a means to assuring relevancy of activity. Whether in manufacturing, distribution, or projects and multi-project systems (like R&D product development or engineering shops), the goal of the owning parent system is the prime determinant of relevancy of activity.

And for these systems, from those as large as the whole corporation to those as small as a project team or production cell, the means to achieving the goal are a set of interdependent activities linked by handoffs physical, informational, or transactional. The "flow" of these handoffs (think a project task network, or a process flow chart) should be limited only by the capacity of strategically selected constraint functions, which then allow a simplified focus of management on assuring the flow of work to, through, and from these constraints.

Unfortunately, too many organizations ignore or are ignorant of the importance of constraint management, and allow too many irrelevancies -- too many erroneous assumptions -- too many misleading measurements -- to distract from the focus on flow. Too many organizations focus too much on managing capacity and cost of irrelevant parts of the system instead of focusing on managing the flow for the real source of more goal stuff -- system throughput. (If you can grow the top line - the bottom line (the goal for for-profit entities) is much more assured than if you obsess too much on the lines in between. You can only cut costs so much before hurting throughput. Throughput is potentially unbounded.)

Once the idea of flow through the system as the source of organizational goal attainment and relevancy is understood, it's a lot easier to move on to personal flow and relevancy.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Global Virtual Classroom: A Free Online Educational Program -- Looking for a little blog love out there to help promote a worthy non-profit endeavor I'm involved in.

The Global Virtual Classroom is a free online educational program to promote communication, collaboration and understanding among students around the world. Combined with cross-border and cross cultural interaction, these are all skills necessary for success in our flattening world.

We're entering the third year of the GVC's current incarnation. (It used to be the AT&T Virtual Classroom in the late 90s, but is now run by my sister and brother-in-law's Give Something Back International Foundation.) The cornerstone of every year's efforts is a contest in which teams of three schools (ideally from three different continents) collaborate online to build websites of their own design.

If you've got kids, maybe their schools/teachers might be interested in participating. Send them to the GVC site, in which they can find an application for participation in the contest.

If you've got a blog, and if you've appreciated some of the things you've read here in Focused Performance or in Unfocused, you can help by passing this info along to your readers.

If you live in South or Central America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia, your support in spreading the word to your local network is all the more valuable in helping us achieve a greater diversity of participation than last year.

OK. Enough begging. Please, just check it out via the links above and see if you think it's worth your support in the form a simple post or pass-along. Thank you.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More On Best Practices - Points to Organic KM, which suggests that...
A mismanaged Best Practices initiative might stifle the need to question conventional wisdom.
Which brings to mind a two-part piece of graffiti recently seen...
Part 1: Question everything.

Part 2: Why?
Tagged for

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Some Pieces on public radio (maybe without the radio)...
"they are up against the Innovator's Dilemma. If you haven't read that book by Clay Christensen, you really should. As it applies in this instance, the dilemma is that the established organizations can only approach innovation on the basis of protecting their current way of operating. The future of public radio may not be podcasting, but it will certainly be based on much lower-cost methods of producing and distributing most programs, and as incumbents in the industry, the WGBHs of the world are unable to cannibalize their own operations to the extent they must to survive."
...and reinforcing the idea of innovation from the outside, 250 mpg autos...
So far, DaimlerChrysler AG is the only company that has committed to building its own plug-in hybrids, quietly pledging to make up to 40 vans for U.S. companies. But Toyota Motor Corp. officials who initially frowned on people altering their cars now say they may be able to learn from them.

"They're like the hot rodders of yesterday who did everything to soup up their cars. It was all about horsepower and bling-bling, lots of chrome and accessories," said Cindy Knight, a Toyota spokeswoman. "Maybe the hot rodders of tomorrow are the people who want to get in there and see what they can do about increasing fuel economy."
...but perhaps even the big companies can slip into innovative offerings, such as HBO as the fulfillment of the dream of public television...
But these days pretty much every serious, original TV movie about history or current events is produced by HBO. PBS, on the other hand, airs...Antiques Roadshow. And the corporate underwriting spots on PBS look to me a lot more like advertisements than anything I see on HBO.

In fact, it seems to me that as a creator of programming, it's HBO that has fulfilled that original public TV dream–it costs $12 or $15 a month to subscribe, but it has become America's great advertising-free oasis of smart, enlightened, innovative, risk-taking television.
The broad(?)casters are learning. Are the automakers? Sure, the latter has the legacy of their heavy infrastructure, but someday soon, that excuse won't fly any more.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

China and India -- An important issue of BusinessWeek. If the effect of IFN and FHKCX on my 401K is any indication, something's going on over there.

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How to Use Wikis for Business -- Another good web piece from InformationWeek.

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Order From Chaos Via RSS -- If you haven't gotten into having the web fed to you, you're missing out on a productive way of webbing.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

We're Number Three! -- Six months ago, I reported that my employer, DigitalGrit, Inc., was awarded the number one spot as the best place to work for mid-sized firms in New Jersey. Today, we get word that not only are we good for our empolyees, but apparently, our online marketing and advertising market has liked us as well, as we've been awarded the number three position in Deloitte and Touche's Technology Fast 50 list for New Jersey.


Great place to work, and growing. A good combination.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

One thing at a time -- Jeffrey Phillips' Thinking Faster blog has become a frequent, well-written, well-thought-through source of head-nodding for me, especially with his recent (familiar to my long-time readers) advice on focus. Check it out.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Worth Checking Out -- I mentioned this...

...the other day. Well worth checking out.

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Friday Philanthropy -- If you've been feeling a bit guilty about your charitable givings this year, allow me to bring to your attention the sixth in the series of farmyard philanthropy being coordinated by my blog buddy, the Big White Guy in Hong Kong. Randall's going for two heifers this time, and is running behind on his timing goal, so please consider chipping in for a cow or two. Thank you for your consideration.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

My First Computer -- Brought this puppy into Nabisco to support analysis of electronically collected time studies. I remember the director of IT coming over to my cubicle asking "You want to buy a what?" He tried to convince me that he could do what I wanted with the mainframe! I squelched his suggestion when I asked if he could guarantee the phone connection from the bakery in Mexico City. (Never traipsed this 30 pound "transportable" to there, but did use it for three years one summer at the Chuckles plant in Danville, IL.)

32 character screen with matching 32 character thermal printer.


And this one is the first computer I owned. Never did add up the original base price plus the upgrade to the 512k "Fat" version or the 1m "Plus". (Still got the first issue of MacWorld, which would be in mint condition if it weren't for the margin notes adding up my initial investment in computer, printer, and modem. Young Stevie Jobs was so dapper in his suit and bowtie.)

Only some of the history found here.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

How To Learn...from your mistakes. No one ever learned anything from doing everything right. Fortunately no one does, so there's plenty of opportunity to learn. Check out this essay from Scott Berkun, author of The Art of Project Management.

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