Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Abraham, Martin and John

On the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech and 150 years after the Gettysburg address, I think it fitting to let these leader's words speak for themselves. I have the full text of the Gettysburg address and the ad-libbed "I have a dream" speech below for anyone's reference. But first, I include the song I have been crying about all day: Abraham, Martin and John.

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, PennsylvaniaNovember 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I have a Dream

Washington, DC
August 28, 1963

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi -- from every mountainside.
Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring -- when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children -- black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics -- will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Aug 26, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

How do you handle overly optimistic folks - those who commit to deliver too much in an impossibly short time?

How do you handle them when senior management loves what they are saying?

If I object - I'm seen as 'not having a positive attitude.'
Just Another Engineer

Dear Engineer,

I love those optimistic folks. I'm one myself. But I imagine your concern is that they commit themselves to unrealistic timelines which ends up delaying the overall project. So let's focus on that aspect of their personalities.

As a Project Manager, during the planning phase, you need to have Team Members commit to hours of effort and duration for the tasks for which they take responsibility. They should make those commitments in front of their peers so that they are more likely to live up to those commitments. If you don't believe their commitments are doable, now is not the time to say so. 

But when the project is fully planned, you need to look at their time committed to this project based on all these individual commitments and compare that to the time they are actually available on the project. And when they are over-committed, you need to increase the durations or slip tasks to ensure they can work within their resource constraints. But that did not address any low estimates they may have made. Once again, now is not the time to say anything. 

Wait until the project gets going. Then manage their time on task more carefully than you would manage those whose time seemed more reasonable during planning. If they live up to their commitments, you are golden. More likely, they will not be able to meet those aggressive timelines. Gather your facts. 

When you have enough data to convince them, show them the facts in a Gantt chart with Baseline Start and Finish Dates. Your conversation should go along these lines. "On the first three tasks you actually completed them in twice the duration you planned. Is this a systemic problem or a one-time problem? If this is systemic, what do you say we double the durations of all your subsequent tasks and put it down to being overly optimistic? If it's a one-time problem, what was the exact nature of the delay and let's figure out how to prevent that happening again in the future."

That should solve the immediate problem and force them to make better estimates on future projects. 

As to the management who loves the optimist's estimates, make sure they are copied on the status report that shows that we are doubling the optimist's estimates in the future and why. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sixty-seventh excerpt of 'Twelve Towers'

          “Well, well. If it isn’t my old friend Gwilym. Don’t think about the torch, you’ll be dead before you reach it.”
        “Do you think one crossbow bolt will stop me? It will hurt but then you’ll be dead. I’ll squeeze the life out of you with one hand.”
        “Gwilym! Always the brute. You’ve never had a brain to use so you always have to rely on your giant strength. But I have a plan. I use my brain. I’m not stupid. Come in boys!”
        Two other men entered the room, each with a loaded crossbow. The room was crowded now.
        “You brought a rope! How convenient. Tie him up to that couch, Brendan. And don’t spare him any pain. He’s strong, you see. Strong, but stupid.”
        One of Tarrant’s henchmen tied Gwilym’s hands together behind him and then around the back and under the couch and around his ankles. He secured both his hands and ankles to the couch, then looped the remainder around his neck and back to the couch. Gwilym’s hands were losing their feeling. He had tried to keep them clenched so that he would be able to slip them out when the man was done tying him but Brendan had responded to that by tying them tighter, then looping rope around the initial loops between his hands, cutting off his circulation.
        The whole time, Tarrant and the other man were pointing their loaded crossbows at Gwilym’s head and chest, precluding any escape attempts. When Brendan stepped away, Gwilym tried to flex his muscles to rid himself of the knots but he soon discovered there was no hope.
        “What now, boss?” asked the other man.      
        “Go back to your job. I think we’re almost through to the next chamber.” The men walked back through the other entrance. After a few minutes, Gwilym heard them digging. The whole time, Tarrant stared at Gwilym. Gwilym’s mind was working fast. He was completely under Tarrant’s power. He had been in situations before that looked bleak and he had always found that time helped the person who was in the worst situation. Things rarely became worse. He had to buy as much time as possible.
        “So, dummy. Have you figured out yet why you’re not dead?”
        That was the third time Tarrant had said he was smart and I’m dumb. Why is that so important to him? He must have some deep-seated fears about his own intelligence to keep bringing it up. I must use that.
        He knew why he was being kept alive and helpless by Tarrant. Tarrant worked for Palomides. Palomides wanted his book and so he wanted Gwilym alive. If Tarrant could torture the information out of him, then Gwilym could be killed. He needed to be prepared to tell Tarrant a lie that would lead him to be caught by someone. For that he needed time. Let’s live up to Tarrant’s wishes and act dumb.
        “Because you want to make me die slowly. You like causing pain.” Gwilym glanced down at his injured leg.
        “Ha!” said Tarrant. “Such an idiot! I will cause you pain, but I’ll do it for a reason. I’ll do it until you tell me what I want to know. Do you understand?”
        Again Gwilym glanced down at his injured leg, lingering on the lower part, below the old break, before looking up again to meet Tarrant’s eye.
        Tarrant’s smile grew from his sneer and he asked Gwilym, “What is the most sensitive part of your body?”
        Gwilym’s eyes flicked to his lower leg and then back to Tarrant’s eyes. “My back, Tarrant. I was whipped in Lebanon once and my back is the most painful.”
        “Really?” Tarrant stepped forward, standing in front of Gwilym. “More painful than your leg?” As he said the last word, Gwilym watched him poke his boot into the bone of his calf. As soon as contact was made, Gwilym flinched, contracted all his muscles and let out an unearthly scream. He shuddered and gasped breath back into his lungs.
        “I have a hard time believing your back is that painful. I would think you would have flinched from being tied to the couch.” Again he poked Gwilym’s leg with the same result. “I remember this leg. Last time I saw it, a bone was sticking out of it. That must have hurt, huh? Wasn’t that bone sticking out right about here?” He gave Gwilym a vicious kick right where the skin had been broken through and Gwilym almost lifted the couch in his muscle flinch, his screams filling the small chamber. The digging sounds had stopped. Tarrant yelled for them to continue working.
        “What…do…you…want?” choked out Gwilym. Tears forced out of his eyes.
        “What do I want? Revenge for one thing. You’ve cost me so much. First my job!” At that word he kicked Gwilym hard in the shin, resulting in the flinch, the muscle clench, the scream, and the sweat to stand out on Gwilym’s face. “Then my little scam!” Another kick, another scream. “Then my gambling winnings!” Same thing. “Then my lucky dice!” Again. “And now I’m a wanted man, hiding from the king’s men.” When Gwilym was kicked this time, he made a choking sound, his eyes rolled up in his head and he slumped against his ropes.
        Tarrant stopped, then kicked him again. This time there was no response. He pulled an eyelid open and saw the whites of Gwilym’s eyes. He put his hand on Gwilym’s chest and felt his victim’s shallow breathing.         “Damn!” he muttered. He checked Gwilym’s knots and then moved down the passage to join his men.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Aug 19, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

Do you need dedicated resources to be successful on a project?

Lonely in Maryland. 

Dear Lonely,

To quote Groucho Marx: I doesn't huit!

But back in the real world, you almost never get dedicated resources so you would almost never succeed if the above statement were true. (By dedicated, I assume you mean people fully committed 100% of their time to your project.)

For one thing, even if your resources were 100% committed to your project, they may still have two tasks taking up all their time at the same time so this doesn't guarantee success. More likely, though, is that they are working many tasks some percentage of their time over the course of your project. Your job is to ensure that they are not a bottleneck. How do you do this?

When you plan your project, determine how much time they are dedicating to each task, not just the duration of the task. Plug this number into the work column of your Gantt chart. MS-Project will calculate the %time required by your resource over that period. Do this on all tasks and it will nicely add it up for you on a daily basis.

Now you have to look over the View Resource Graph to see where people exceed the % allocated to your project and do something about it. You can set this allocation % in the View Resource Sheet view. Whenever the resource exceeds the allocated %, the bar graph will show red. You need to deal with that.
Before you get too excited, make sure your timescale is correct. Notice in the above graph, it looks like I'm 100% required for a whole week in July while I'm available only 50%. But when I zero in to this week, you see it is only one day that I'm overloaded. Project will show the worst case for each time period, not average.
If you zoomed out I would appear to be 100% loaded for the entire month or year. So look instead for the details.

Next step is to do something about it. You could increase the duration of all activities on that day so that the resource is back within their availability. But be more specific. Look at the tasks using up that time and only increase the duration of tasks not on the critical path. Or delay those tasks to when that resource has availability. Look at the View Resource Usage view to see what is going on:
Here you see it is me drafting the project plan in one day. An activity that is off the critical path. I can do it in two days, or do it in one and spend all the next day on my other project.

But do this manually. Project can do it for you automatically but it cares nothing for the nuances of your project. It will simply increase all durations until everyone is properly resourced with the result being that your one year project will now take ten years. Seriously!

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Charitable Project

It is possible for a school to receive charity from a church full of Evangelical Christians while maintaining the separation between church and state?
Leah Nash
According to this article, the SouthLake church of West Linn, Oregon has been volunteering at Portland's Roosevelt High for the last four years, fixing up the school, painting, construction, etc and serving as tutors throughout the school year. And there has been no complaint of evangelizing of the faith. Good for them!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. August 12, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I like your idea of displaying project exclusions. But what is your mechanism for surfacing and displaying them? 

Out in Somerset, NJ

Dear Out,

Exclusions are things that could be considered part of the scope of a project but, for reasons of other constraints, we are not choosing to do. In order to prevent false expectations, we need to highlight the fact that these things are excluded from the project's scope.

Often these exclusions are surfaced during the early stages of a project, before planning, and end up in the documents used to authorize a project. But it is during the Planning Phase that we must highlight them. The last thing we want is for powerful stakeholders to believe their pet part of the project is within scope until it is too late and them be disappointed at your' deception.' Make sure they know from day one of the Project Implementation that what they are looking for is not in the project. Then they will push for a Phase II of this product.

But what is the mechanisim? During the Work Breakdown Structure session, as a team, we determine the deliverables of the project. When people bring up items that we agree are not part of the scope of the project, we list them on the flipchart entitled: Exclusions. Continue adding to this throughout the planning session as more false expectations surface.

When you publish your project plan, have a section entitled: Exclusions, and list all these items. But don't lust bulletize scope items under this title or some people will read them and assume they are within scope since they are listed in the Project Plan. Instead, list them in sentence form with the words NOT or ONLY somewhere in the sentence. As in: 'Does not include 14 inch diameter products." or: "Only green and yellow colors are included."

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sixty-sixth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

After dinner, Gwilym handed Bleddyn some silver and gave the boys a series of errands to run that would keep them busy. “I’ll see you back here for supper,” he said as he left, armed with rope, torches and a long dagger. “Where are you going, Da?” asked Jac.

“I have to talk with that man who owns the villa we visited this morning,” he replied on his way out.
The mound looked much as he’d left it. He lit a torch and stuck the unlit end in the ground at his feet. He found the rope again and pulled the piece of sod out of the ground.  No light emanated from the hole. 

Thrusting his torch inside, he saw a rough-hewn tunnel, about 3 feet tall, leading into the hill. He looked around one last time, and then crawled in. The tunnel was cut out of dirt and rock, and looked unsafe. But he was too curious to stop exploring. Was this the source of the golden torc I saw earlier this week?

After crawling for about 60 feet, the tunnel opened up into a wide space. The last few feet of the tunnel walls were made up of large rocks. He was happy to enter this open area and stretch his limbs.

The room was about ten foot square, lined with rocks and with wide wooden planks holding up the ceiling. Placed against the far wall was a long bronze couch. Next to that, a large bronze urn, about three feet tall, with some design running around the top edge. Along the wall next to him was a bronze wagon, about five feet long, with a flat wooden top. There was another tunnel opening in the far wall next to the couch.

The ceiling was a few inches over his head but, as he looked closer, he noted that this was not the original ceiling of the room. Planks had been roughly sawn away to remove the original ceiling, which lay only a foot above the top of the couch. Another ceiling about two feet above this had also been sawn away. Between each ceiling was a layer of large rocks. Gwilym entered the room and examined the objects.

There was a series of lions running around the edge of the urn. The couch was heavy and had intricate Celtic designs carved into the back. He sat down on it. Gwilym started at a slight scrape from the other entrance to this room. A man came into the light of Gwilym’s torch. Tarrant was pointing a crossbow right at him. Gwilym’s eyes went immediately to the torch he had wedged into the wheels of the wagon. With the light out, Tarrant would lose his advantage with the crossbow, and he could take him in the dark. But Tarrant saw the look and moved next to the torch.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Return to sender for dog poop violators

Hah! I love it. A city in Spain is getting revenge on dog poop law scoffers by delivering their dog's poop back to them at home.

In Brunete, Spain, the mayor found that the most consistent complaint he received was about the presence of errant dog-poop so he set about to reduce this problem. His earlier program was less successful, more on that later, but this one works. All dog owners seem to be carrying plastic bags now, a rare sight in Spain and dog poop complaints have been reduced by 70%.

This article goes into more detail. The big question I had while reading it was: How do they know whose poop it is? Undercover volunteers, after witnessing a crime, will meet the owner and admire the dog, asking its name and breed. From there, a quick look at town records reveals the address. The poop is packaged in a white box and delivered to the door titled: Lost and Found. When the owner signs for the package, they get a lovely surprise.

Oh, and the previous failed project. A remote controlled plastic poop that would bump into people's feet to raise awareness. Both programs are shown in the video below:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. August 5, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

During the planning phase, how do you deal with alternative solutions?

Both Ways in New Jersey

Dear Both Ways,

The time to narrow down your options from several to one is before the project is authroized and heads into planning. I've seen way too many projects spin their wheels during a planning session because there are too many unknowns.

How can you plan for more than one project track? That is always a recipe for disaster. Not to mention an energy drain on your team members. And how can the steering committee promise you time and money when they don't even know how you are going about doing the project? So do the best you can to narrow your project options down to one before you plan.

Not to say that you may have a few forks in the road ahead, especially on a New Product or process project where some research is excpected. But what I suggest in that case is to plan the Research Phase, then make your decision, then plan the Development Phase and ask for that amount of money and time after you are done.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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