Thursday, October 30, 2014

Destructive Heroes and Brilliant Jerks

Great article in today's Times about someone we sometimes run into at work: 'Destructive Heroes'. These are the people who are effective at their jobs but abusive to their co-workers. Because of their effectiveness their obnoxious personalities are tolerated by the organization, to the detriment of their colleagues.

Scott McGohan, chief of McGohan Brabender, has dealt with a destructive hero — a persona that once described him. CreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times
Rather than just complaining about these people, the article discusses the negative effect these people have on their companies. In one case the company totaled up the hours spent cleaning up the messes created by this high-flier and found that the "Brilliant Jerk' (another name for this type) cost the company more than he made. And that didn't even count the cost to employee morale.

In his training seminars, Mr. Sullivan, president and managing partner at the Shamrock Group, a management consulting firm in Denver, could count on two things whenever he asked, “How many of you have had a destructive hero in your midst?” About half of those in attendance would raise a hand. And of those, “Almost 100 percent said the same thing: ‘We waited too long to deal with it, and it cost us a lot.’ ”
“Get rid of the brilliant jerk as fast as you can,” said Cliff Oxford, founder of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs in Atlanta, who has registered the and is writing a book to help companies deal with such employees (Mr. Oxford also wrote about the topic for The New York Times’s You’re the Boss blog.)
“Teaching over 100 courses,” Mr. Sullivan said, “I’ve never had one person tell me they converted a destructive hero.”
I have had my own experience with these people and they are not always men or in sales. In my current position, a highly intelligent QA Director who won't suffer fools has intimidated the entire staff until she doublechecks everything done and belittles every small mistake made. The end result is that projects drag twice as long as needed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lithuania declares energy independence from Russia

What do you do when you are a small, former Soviet Republic, trying to make it on your own but tied to Russia's gas monopoly? Lithuania has figured out a way to break this strangle-hold that Russia has used to freeze out Ukraine and threaten to do so to other former Eastern Bloc countries.
The floating natural gas terminal Independence arriving in Klaipeda, Lithuania, on Monday.CreditPetras Malukas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
This article explains how the Lithuanians have brought in a mobile factory for converting Norwegian Liquified Petroleum Gas to Natural Gas and parked it just off-shore. It may cost more than Russian gas but this independence comes at a price that the Baltic states are willing to pay.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Oct 27, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm taking a PMP Preparation class. How long do the PDUs I earn in this class last?

Learning in Lahore

Dear Learning,

I'm going to assume you are taking a PMP prep class in preparation for sitting for your PMP exam for the first time. In that case there is no date at which the education your are obtaining runs out. According to the PMP handbook linked here, there are years during which your PM experience apply but your education can be 50 years ago for all they care.

If you are taking the class to earn PDUs for maintaining your certification, you must report them in the next three-year period during which you need to obtain 60 credits.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Oct. 20, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

What’s a WBS Dictionary and how do you use it?

Poor Speller in Chicago

Dear Poor Speller,

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is the oldest tool in the Project Manager’s toolkit and one of the more graphic ones. It is the first opportunity for the PM to express his style as he shows the way he intends to organize the project. Will he organize it by phase, function, or deliverable? How many levels will he go before work starts to be done? I always love watching the way a PM drafts his WBS; it is a look into his mind.

One thing about a graphic tool such as a WBS: there is no room for paragraphs or even sentences. Nouns and adjectives are all you have room to work with. And sometimes a chunk of work requires more than that to allow those executing the work to know what needs to be done. That’s where the WBS Dictionary comes in. It is a tool that provides more detail around a piece of work that is in the WBS. Not every WBS element must be defined, just those that need it.

I don’t strictly use a WBS Dictionary as a stand-alone tool. But when I enter WBS elements into the Gantt chart, I’ll use the Notes tab on that line to enter additional details.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quarterback Graphic

The New York Times graphic department scored with this beautiful graphic showing touchdown passes plotted against year for 252 quarterbacks.

With 252 quarterbacks and their touchdown passes shown each year of their career, this stunning graphic has over 2000 pieces of data elegantly displayed. The top quarterbacks and the current crop have their curves labeled. By looking at the slope of the curve, one can see which quarterback is most efficient while the height shows the record holders. You can compare quarterback efficiency and production over the decades all the way back to Benny Friedman in the 1930's. 

Get access to the full article here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Oct 13, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm a Project Manager working for an electronics firm making laptops. My technical team says our battery is a huge risk in environmental hazards. As PM, should I recommend a change in product or battery use to ensure the company is not penalized due to this project?

Battered in Mumbai

Dear Battered,

Aha! An ethical dilemma! I love it! 

Depending on your project setup you may have somebody on your team representing regulatory or legal who should be making this call. If you do not, or you believe they are acting unethically, it is your responsibility to act ethically and ensure that the company does not violate any rules or regulations. 

As a Project Management Professional you sign a code of conduct that insists you act in an ethical manner. While doing so may hurt your career in the short term, you will always be better off in the long term. And taking short-cuts for short-term gains never pays off in the long term. 

But you don't need me to tell you that. Take any religious text or even Plato and they will agree with me. Below is my personal motto that you are free to take:

Do the right thing
Do the thing right

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Putting the E in Estonia

I really enjoyed Talinn when I visited a few years back. Not only was the old town absolutely gorgeous with one beautiful square leading into another, the people were amazing. Everyone seemed friendly and spoke many languages.

So it came to no surprise to me that Estonians have fully embraced the digital world. According to this article, Estonians microchip technology to embed their national identity and access thousands of services, including banking and medical records.

They ignore concerns about privacy in favor of the greater convenience of full connectivity. Coming out from under the Soviet yoke a generation ago, they welcome the slashing of bureaucracy this electronic connectivity allows.

Look at some of the advantages they gain: 98% of Estonians file their taxes online in 5 minutes allowing the tax department to halve their workforce to 1,500 and issue tax returns in a week. Digital signatures on mobile devices are the norm.

Estonia is leading the way here. Is it the right path to the future? Are we heading to 'This Perfect Day?'

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Oct 6, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I see that the grades I can receive when taking my PMP exam are 'not proficient', 'moderately proficient' and 'highly proficient', Can you explain the value of securing moderately proficient versus highly proficient on my PMP certificate in career perspective?

Overachiever in Delhi

Dear Overachiever,

As far as anyone other than you is concerned, the PMP test is graded Pass/Fail. Nobody asks for your grade. Like most credentials, you either have it or you don't. 

So why does PMI grade it in such a way? Self-preservation.

The PMP exam is a HUGE moneymaker for the organization. $500 a pop for hundreds of thousands of people adds up fast. When I took the exam back in the last millennium (1999), there was a minimum score and they graded applicants with a number. I believe I barely passed which told me I studied exactly enough.

But picture what happens to those who barely fail. They are out $500 and want to argue with the PMI on the correctness of their answers. Especially some of the philosophical questions that ask you what you would do in a certain situation. You can claim to be doing the right thing and PMI disagrees. Who to mediate? 

So the PMI protects itself by not telling you which questions you got right or wrong. It only tells you that you scored each section with a particular proficiency. 

Never mind, just take my advice and pass the test and tell everyone you scored highly proficient. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

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