February 26, 2014

The Sender-Receiver Model

Why the Sender-Receiver Model is true:

My mom said, "Honey, please go to the store and buy a bottle of milk. If they have eggs, get six."

I came back with six bottles of milk.

She said, "Why did you get six bottles of milk??"

I said, "Because they had eggs!"

February 19, 2014

Have you been Asked yet Today?

I had a conversation with a potential client the other day and they asked me question after question. Probably thinking I was getting irritated by it (if they knew me better they would know this certainly wouldn't be the case), the client said “We teach all of our consultants to ask questions. If they don’t understand something, they are told to ask more questions.” Wow!

This is definitely the kind of place I would like to work. My husband can vouch for this. If he tells me he was talking with so-and-so the other day and they went to the Bahamas, I ask “When did they go? For how long? Did they go with someone? ...” until he says, “I didn't interrogate them!”

One of the biggest problems with projects is not getting a complete view of the objectives (scope). This stems from a few things, including not spending the time and effort to find out what the client really wants. How do we find out what the client wants? ASK.

Why wouldn't we ask questions? Probably from a fear of looking stupid – after all, whatever we do, we are supposed to be experts in our field. Our customers come to us to get their problems solved. Isn't asking questions a sign of weakness?

I would claim that asking questions is a sign of confidence.

When I was in elementary school there was a classmate who asked the most seemingly stupid questions. That classmate is now a doctor. I could see that my classmate wasn't stupid – rather, appearing unintelligent was less of a risk than not knowing.

So, as my potential client so clearly demonstrated, asking questions is a key to success.

February 13, 2014

Is it Really a Project?

I asked a colleague the other day how everything was going with his project. He told me that what he was working on was supposed to be a project, but really it was operations.

The word was that the company had described the work as a project to win the contract. However, the work wasn't seen as a project.

Was it a project or not?

First, I would say that if the team member did not think he was working on a project, he was not. No matter if there was a project name that he put on his time sheet each week.

How could it have seemed to be a project?

My guess is that the Project Manager and executive saw it as a project. There was an account code assigned and surely there were reports to the customer on the deliverables. And, hopefully, there was an end result in mind.

However, if the project team members did not see any sign of this being a project, it surely wasn't to them. (If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it...)

If there were regular team meetings with outcomes the team was working toward - that would be seen as a project. Even if there weren't team meetings, but regular communication from the Project Manager, possibly outlining the overall status of the project, there could be some semblance of a project.

What was the missing key?

I would say communication from and to the Project Manager.

So, I guess my colleague was right - this was operations cleverly disguised as a project.

February 06, 2014

Big Data and Project Estimates

March Madness is due to hit in full force soon. I try to ignore this fact but my husband warns me every year when the season is approaching (so I can know why he is hibernating).

For those who aren’t basketball fans, March Madness is the American (United States) National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments.

This year it is especially big news because Warren Buffett, together with his company, Berkshire Hathaway, are offering $1 billion to any person who can correctly pick the winners of all 63 games in this year’s NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. The odds, without tools, are 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

To add to your chances of winning, Paul Bessire has created an application called The Predictalator. He says this software has been incredibly accurate in predicting outcomes of sports games. If you want to spend time on going for the billion, there’s a tool.

The Predictalator analyzes multitudes of factors and converts them into probable outcomes.

Let’s apply these estimates to projects. If we had a project with 64 team members (just like there are 64 teams in the Men’s NCAA tournament), and asked each team member for an estimate on an activity, we would have 1 in 9.2 quintillion odds that all of the estimates would be correct; correct meaning exactly equal to the actual outcome. If we had only 64 activities in a project – which would be a pretty small project – and had one estimate for duration for each activity, again the odds would be 1 in 9.2 quintillion that the total estimate would be on target.

Which leads me to think – why do project managers, sponsors, team members and clients (okay, project stakeholders in general) often expect projects to be “on” their estimates? Certainly the odds are wildly against that.

Of course, as we get closer to the end, our estimates for the project budget and duration are much more accurate – just like when we get down to the final game in a basketball tournament.

While The Predictalator teaches us there is no safe bet on games or projects, perhaps a good webinar for basketball bettors would be on Rolling Wave Planning, to continuously update their estimates.