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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.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Have You Ever Quit? - Slacker Manager Phil Gerbyshak has, but he's come to the realization that ...
"Iíve only quit my managers, not any companies"
Sounds about right to me. Go read the whole thing.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Managing Anything --
The first and most important aspect to managing anything - and I mean anything - is to manage expectations.
Sounds about right to me. Read the whole thing to find out what Jeffery at Thinking Faster thinks are the number 2 and 3 most important aspects of managing anything.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Linkage: Johanna and Esther -- You may have noticed a core group of blogs and sites that I tend to link to. Obviously they are the one's I read. In addition to Glen Alleman, two of my regular go-to gals (so much for PC) are Johanna Rothmann and Esther Derby. Here's a pile of posts from them that are worth your time.

From Johanna Rothmann:
  • Why Everyone Needs to Manage Their Own Project Portfolio - "...Developers (and testers and writers) need to let go of old work. Their managers need to stop assigning everything that smells like that old thing to those specific developers, and add in the new requests to the entire project portfolio....The key is for everyone to know what they are working on for a short while, and what their personal backlog is..."

  • Measuring Productivity: More Difficult for Managers - "...how to measure knowledge workers. For software project teams, itís easy: the number of running, tested features over time. The features have to be complete. No partial credit for partially done features. But what about for managers? Thatís a little trickier..."

  • Which Kind of Project Are You Working On Now? - "...Especially in this economy, I would do as little as possible on keep-the-lights-on projects, avoid normal growth, and see if I couldnít transform my business. But thatís my strategy, and fits my risk-taking approach, not yours. Do you know what kind of project you are working on? Should you be?"

  • Partial Commitments to Projects Create Unpredictable Projects - "...Partially-committed projects are not projects you can predict anything about. Yes, they have people assigned to them. Yes, they even make some progress. But how can you predict anything about the project?..."
  • From Esther Derby:
  • Specialists AND Generalists - "...if you have a project with many specialists, you end up with lots of politics as people seek ascendancy for their particular concerns. If the specialists are acting as vendors to a project team, those specialists may not be invested in the delivery goal of the project, only in delivering their part answering their concerns."

  • Three Myths about Teams - "...Teams that are working well together make the work look easy. They work at a purposeful, yet relaxed pace. They even look like they are having fun."

  • Visibly Valuable - "...Here are 10 things you can do as a developer to make yourself more visibly valuable, which may keep you off the RIF list..."
  • They've also got a few books, most of which I've read, and all of which I would recommend...
  • Manage It!: Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management, from Johanna.

  • Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, from Esther.

  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management, from both.

    ...and coming soon...

  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, from Johanna.
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    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Links & Snips
  • How to detect bullshit - Scott Berkun: "Great teams and families help each other detect bullshit, both in others and themselves, as sometimes the real BS we need to fear is our own."

  • Protecting the Workgroup - Fast Company: "...in high-performing groups, the leader 'protects' the group from the larger company, whether lobbying for more resources or shielding the group from company interference."

  • Designing Interactions - Bill Moggridge (Recommended book.) - First sentence: "Who would choose to point, steer, and draw with a blob of plastic as big and clumsy as a bar of soap?"

  • Leading Ideas: Walk the Fine Line - Fast Company: "By definition, if you want to create something extraordinary you've got to leave the majority. You've got to break free from commonly accepted ideas and practices and go out on a limb. The catch, of course, is that you risk your sanity in the process. It's never easy to be a non-conformist, dissenter, or rebel. You end up walking the fine line between crazy and brilliant. But if you want to look back on your life and smile, it's necessary from time to time."

  • The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) - John Maeda: (Recommended book. You can browse it at Amazon.)

  • We specialize in everything - Seth Godin: "It's okay to specialize in being a generalist, of course. By that, I mean that there are many problems...where someone who can see wide and doesn't have an allegiance to a particular solution is exactly the right person to call. I rely on generalists all the time, and so do you. My point is that you never call on these people when there's a better specialist available. And in the old days, a little town could only support one generalist, so it wasn't an issue. Today, especially in high-value situations, that's just not the case. So, yes, generalize. And specialize in it!"

  • iPhone Development: 12 Tips To Get You Started - from the often useful Sitepoint
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    Saturday, April 04, 2009

    Recent Linkage: Herding Cats -- Not enough time to do these justice with my own commentary, but here's some recent posts from Glen Alleman that I've been sitting on...
    Herding Cats: Making Credible Estimates
    "The art of estimating the cost and schedule aspects of a project a fraught with problems. The primary issue is the belief that estimates are either credible or completely worthless. Both extremes are wrong of course. But a reality check needs to be taken, before understanding how estimates can be put to use..."

    Herding Cats: Status Reports
    "Status reports always seem to be a thorn in the side of many project managers and managers in general. Status reports tend to be "wrong headed" in general. Here's how to fix this and get back to adding value..."

    Herding Cats: Useful Project Management Quotes
    "Many times I'm sitting in a meeting or driving along thinking about projects I'm working on, or even better riding my bike far away from home and a thought comes to me about how to wrap up a complex concept in a simple phrase. Here are some that have come to the surface lately..."

    Management of Projects
    (Definitions of "management" - too short to quote. Click the link.)
    If you're interested in project management but not already following Glen's Herding Cats blog, you should really give it a serious look.

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    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    Big Picture Management -- From Phil G at Slacker Manager comes New Manager Guide: Big Picture Focus. Long-time readers here know I think of myself as a "big picture" person, concerned about whole system improvement, and as a "generalist", so I appreciate Phil's suggestion for new managers that...
    The job of management is to focus on the company's business within the marketplace - that's the big picture. Now your thinking has to include the marketplace, the competition, the trends taking place in your industry, the kinds of new skills needed to increase productivity, new technology breakthroughs and new business or marketing strategies to compete successfully.
    Amen.

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    Friday, December 26, 2008

    Goof off at work, read a book, ignore e-mail -- Story Highlights:
  • Experts: Goofing off at work can relieve stress, improve morale
  • Lower your standards, says one adviser: Learn to let things be good enough.
  • Blow off low-priority tasks, says an expert, see if anyone notices
  • Check voice mail and e-mail less often -- twice a day -- to reduce distractions
  • [via Esther Derby]

    On a related note, Deviant Behavior in Project Management from the Project Shrink blog includes a story on the risks of acting on the third bullet above...
    True story: on a project where I was one of several PMs, weekly progress reports had to be written and send to all other Project Managers. After a while I got the impression that no one was actually reading these things, because of the kind of questions I was getting (answers were all in the reports).

    As I was not fond of reporting just for the sake of reporting anyway, I started little irritating experiments like issuing identical reports with different dates, adding nonsense risks, just to see if anyone was paying attention. As you might have guessed, no responses what so ever. So, I stopped writing the reports. All hell broke loose...

    ...What I was experiencing is called deviant behavior, not performing the behavior that is considered normal within society or a particular social group.
    Not really the same thing, but this reminds me of a weekly status report I saw years ago that essentially said "there will be no status report this week."

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    Friday, March 07, 2008

    Memos are like meetings --
    Bureaucrats write memoranda both because they appear to be busy when they are writing and because the memos, once written, immediately become proof that they were busy.
    - Charles Peters
    ...kind of like the flurry of emails I sent out yesterday, justifying the past few days of work, I must admit.

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    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    BlackBerry Balance - From Cali & Jody, a blog by the champions of Best Buy's "Results Only Work Environment".
    "...the point of technology is not to give people more access to an individual, but to give that individual more control over their time. You use your cell phone, remote internet access and/or BlackBerry to manage your job on your own terms. Your focus is on outcomes, not availability."
    It's not about how much you do - it's about how much you accomplish.

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    Friday, January 11, 2008

    Cost Cutting Nightmare - From The Associated Press:
    "Corporate leaders who think they can slash expenses without customers noticing might want to give Circuit City Stores Inc.'s top brass a call. The electronics retailer is living the nightmare of cost-cutting gone bad."
    Predictable. Read the whole thing.

    It's the top line, stupid.

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    Friday, July 06, 2007

    Friday Fun: The Reality of Resource Management --
    ...from Savage Chickens.

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    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Silos: Not Always a Problem -- Jack points out that sometimes silos are merely an artifact of how the work gets done, identifying two flavors...
    "The key between these types of silos is that one is imposed by rigid structures and politics, and the other is imposed by demands of personal work styles and needs."
    Read When silos work. I like pieces like this, that apply common sense to cliches - that help to avoid knee-jerk reactions due to labels. It's too easy to fall into jargon habits.

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    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Three Roles for Managers -- From Jeffrey Phillips' Thinking Faster: What's a manager to do?:
    "...in the modern economy, a manager can add at least three valuable attributes: translation, clarity and resolution."
    Read the whole thing for a drill down on these attributes. Good stuff.

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    Monday, February 05, 2007

    The Most Important Trait? -- According to a survey at CIO Blogs...
    What's wrong with this picture?

    That item leading the survey with 38% of respondents - the ability to juggle multiple priorities - is pathetic. It's management's responsibility to determine the priorities, either by edict or, preferably, by some systematic process, and to provide processes to minimize re-prioritization as much as possible. If left up the the folks doing the work, either juggling and multi-tasking will occur, resulting in dropped balls and unnecessarily extended delivery dates, or those folks doing the work with choose a priority, which may not coincide with the priority best for the firm.

    I've got to believe that this survey was put together with tongue firmly in cheek. I want to believe that this survey was put together with tongue firmly in cheek. Please tell me they (including those who responded) were kidding. Please.

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    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Blasts from the Past, Sep 3-9 -- Four years ago, a couple more pointers to pre-blog writings - Ax or Slack, Break Rules to Make Rules, and Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints.

    And in 2004, the multi-project management series continued with bits on resource effectiveness and multi-tasking.

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    Friday, August 19, 2005

    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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