Reflective post on the course TI 2011 – Project Evaluation and Management
What have I learned so far in this class?
Thinking all the way back to February (I can´t believe how much time has passed), so many small things come to my mind that have helped me in the course as well as in other courses I had. One of the most important ones were the conversations we had during class about the book chapters and our takeaways. It was amazing to see how each one of us had connected different topics and examples to the lessons of the book, and talking about those really helped to put together a ‘big picture’.
Another highlight was to work together with students not coming from a business background but IT. I realized that we were able to complement our knowledge very well, and at the same time I found that, with their help and some effort, I could also learn small coding steps quite easily.
Sadly, due to obvious circumstances, our lectures had to take place online. However, in my opinion this was another opportunity to prepare for a future work environment, where more and more people will have to work from home. This requires discipline and the ability to structure ones one schedule, but also trust and the ability to find a way of co-working with other people in other time zones.
Personally, I believe many companies which were reluctant to do so before have now been involuntarily thrown into the cold waters and were forced to let employees work from home, adapt more flexible ways of working, change business processes accordingly and also start to interact differently with their customers.
I could imagine that many people, managers as well as employees themselves might have been surprised
In his last night in Morovia, Mr. T. has a dream in which the “futurist” Yordini appears and answers all his questions about the future.
We learn that the airport project will be finished in time for the Summer Olympics – it won´t be perfect, but still good enough to handle everything, so… LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
Belinda Binda will be able to overcome her burnout and will begin a new career as the U.S. Senator of the State of California.
Allair Belok has some interesting steps ahead of him. First, he´ll work as an investment banker, before becoming a special assistant in the White House (I wonder if he and Belinda will have another encounter), only to go on to the Federal Prison at Danbury (Lahksa?!). But in the end, he will find peace in religion after all and have his own radio talk show.
The last question of Tompkins however remains unanswered: “What will happen to the American software industry? Will all the jobs be lost to third-world countries as some have feared?“ The only response to that was “read my book on the subject”. This might be an indication that there is not just one simple answer to this question, and maybe many more pages need to be turned in time to finally find out the end to that story…
In any way, I am sure the time in Morovia was worth every minute for Mr. T. And not only did he learn a lot during that time and from the experiment, but all his 101 lessons will be published in the Aidrivoli Software Magazine so that others can learn from them as well…
A bit sad, because Lahksa hadn´t come by to say goodbye, he settles
In Chapter 20 we get to know the author Harry Winnipeg. He’s a person able to spot problems, especially when it’s about people. After spending some time with he PMill A project team, he comes back to Mr. T. to tell him that he demoted the angry project manager, who was more than happy about being released from that job. In the end we learn that his angry behavior was rather an outlet to his fears of failing, as such emotions are rather not ‘allowed’ in a workplace, and anger is therefore a common surrogate to release those feelings. Mr. W’s tip to Tompkins is to end that project team, because too much has gone wrong and the project will never be able to finish anymore. But because of Belok, Mr. T. is unsure and wants to at least pretend that the project is still going.
This is a very common problem I have experienced myself already in real life. Often, staff and managers do have a relatively good feeling when an idea, a project or a plan is simply not working out or not making any sense anymore. However, in almost all cases, people are either too proud to admit that the idea failed, or they are trying to convince themselves and others that it somehow can still be saved and finished successfully. Yet, often our gut feeling is a pretty reliable indicator and we should swallow our pride and simply admit that not everything always works out. It is the same with great ideas – you can have an awesome new thing in mind, but if the time and the circumstances are not right, and this idea is not contributing to your goal and mission, then no matter how good it
Kenoros gave all project teams grades on their design efforts. He only considered if all coded modules were established and if the interfaces between them were determined. An F means that this does not exist at all, which is the case in all but one of the A-teams, while all smaller B- and C-teams got an A or B.
Apparently, the reason being is that the A-teams started coding a long time ago, while the others stuck to the Oracle’s approach and are pushing back implementation to prioritize verification work first.
Kenoros theory is that as design work is for only a few people, the A-teams were simply too big and there were no other tasks to be done for the remaining workers. To not look like bad managers who let their people sit around doing nothing while a deadline comes closer and closer, they simply skipped the important part of dividing a project into small and meaningful pieces with the design process and went straight to the next step.
Even though it is not related to software products, this reminds me of a design thinking workshop I participated in: only a few people are needed in the beginning to figure out what the customer actually needs, not what he says he wants…
We had the example of a customer who wants to hang something on a wall and goes looking for a device to do that. He goes to the store and says he wants a drilling device for that. However, what he actually needs is simply a 5mm hole in the wall. In fact, he doesn´t care at all how it gets there…
Belinda shows on a white board the difference between a product with few and thin interfaces compared
Reflective and prospective post on the course TI 2011 – Project Evaluation and Management
What have I learned so far in this class?
The main takeaways for me in the second partial of this semester have been all the guest lectures we had, and the reading of our novel ‚The Deadline‚.
So, what have I learned from the guest lectures? First of all, we had guest speakers with highly diverse backgrounds and working experience. They have worked in startups, big tech conglomerates or founded their own startups and one even went to Shark Tank to pitch his business. They also worked in all kinds of different areas, from the gaming tech industry to finance to health. In general message I took from all of them was that we should try to get as much experience in as many fields as possible, to learn new stuff and to figure out what we actually want to do in our lives. While we need to put a lot of effort and dedication in to achieve new things, we should also never forget to take time for ourselves and for hobbies, not only to relax but also to find opportunities for inspiration and motivation. And most importantly, we should not try to do too many things at once but rather focus on one element and do that properly. Personally, it helped me to hear about their opinions about doing a master’s degree. As it is super important in the working life to be able to work with other people or even manage people, those skills need to be learned and trained. Doing a master’s degree can help you exactly with that, as it requires students to be more like peers of professors or professionals rather than sitting in a
Dr. Larry Boheme, an expert on conflict resolution for systems projects, steps up to teach the management team about conflict resolution. He teaches Mr. T his ‘Win Conditions’ for conflict resolution:
Accept conflict. Declaring it unacceptable will only drive the conflict underground.
Complex organizations have diverse goals, which will lead to diverse individual goals which can conflict with each other.
Conflict is not unprofessional but deserves respect and could be resolved to the organization’s best interests.
Mediation can represent a simple method of conflict resolution.
To resolve conflict, the conflicting parties need to understand and respect each other’s needs, keep the organizational goal in mind and look for new options not considered before. Most of the time, common interest exists.
Procedures for conflict resolution should be put in place before conflict happens. When conflict arises, those procedures can be followed to spot and mediate conflict.
The logic Dr. Larry Boheme follows reminds me of my Project Management class, in which we also discussed how to manage conflict in projects.
We found that first of all, it needs to be determined which kind of conflict we have, as conflict can arise from three categories:
Different goals & expectations
Uncertainty about authority
Especially in projects, there are some common sources of conflict known to exist in specific phases for which you should expect to arise and look out for. They compromise the following:
Project formation: lack of clarity, setting of priorities, gaining resources
Project build-up: problem spill-over from first stage, technical conflicts
Main part: schedule-related, delays and catching up, trade-offs
Project phase-out: scheduling, deadlines, personal conflicts
Consequences can include increased costs and wasted resources, decreased productivity and lower motivation, poor decision-making, complaints, blaming or backstabbing. Those are actually
In the beginning, notebooks with specs from the American NASPlan which ended up in litigation arrive in Morovia, stolen by Mr. Belok as a ‚help‘ for the project. I especially liked the comment of Mr. Kenoros when taking all those books to the teams:
We take on too much because we are terrified of too little.
Then, Mr. T. is informed of a new problem. Osmun Gradish is the PMill-A project manager. He is changing from a „pleasant, soft-spoken, young manager“ into being „loud“, „angry“ and „abusive“ because of the pressure and stress on having to lead an overstaffed project team. They also suspect that he is afraid his project will be the only one not to meet the deadline, leaving him to be blamed for that failure.
Mr T. writes in his journal his thoughts:
Anger and contempt in management are contagious. When upper management is abusive, lower management mimics the same behavior (much like abused children who go on to become abusive parents).
Managerial contempt is supposed to act as a goad to get people to invest more in their performance. It is the most frequent „stick“ of carrot-and-stick management. But where is the evidence that contempt has ever caused anyone to perform better?
A manager’s use of contempt to goad workers is more a sign of the manager’s inadequacy than of the workers.
Meanwhile, Belinda is leading the project for the Air Traffic Control Tower for the summer games in Morovia. Her team is currently reading the Radio Governance System (RGS) specs from the FAA. However, none of them understands what exactly is specified by the RGS specs. With Belinda’s help, they conclude that in fact, it doesn´t specify a system at all and contains only vague descriptions that could be applied to
Mr. Belok is convinced that only overtime work and strict control can lead to success. That is why he says he would move the deadline closer if he believed the projects were on track. He also wants the process improvement program to reach the Level 4, even though he has no idea what that means. He only cares about how numbers sound, not the details and implications of anything.
Belinda´s thoughts on overtime are quite different. While she also knows that overtime hours are needed, she wants to see the most overtime work done when the projects are in their maximum effort phase. If overtime hours increase too much before that point, that extra work cannot be sustained long enough, and the overall effort will be not enough to carry the burden of the peak workload.
Contrary to the believe that a reasonable amount of pressure will increase productivity, Waldo’s analysis of projects shows that the relation between pressure and productivity is almost flat. People keep working as normal even if pressure is way too high, as they are already used to impossible deadlines and expectations and behave rather cynical. However, they don´t understand why a little pressure is not having a large effect. They decide to ask Mr. Kenoros Oracle for help, and the answer is:
People under pressure don´t think faster.
Waldo´s results for overtime work were surprising as well. Those working overtime were even slightly less productive than those not working any overtime at all. This is an extremely interesting fact. Even though it is logical that in an office, workers spend a lot of time on meetings, hallway chats, coffee runs or other unnecessary and unproductive tasks, it is still expected for people to work overtime
Chapter 13 teaches us one of the most important things in project management, especially for software products. Even though it can be extremely helpful to have guidelines and processes to follow, they should never be assumed suitable for any project. Depending on your scope and resources, tasks might be redundant or could be solved in a different way that would save lots of time for other work.
As the B and C product teams are anyways rebuilding already existing products, they all figured that specifications didn´t need to be developed from scratch but could simply be derived from the already existing software. In addition to those functional specifications, they added their own non-functional specifications suitable for the individual teams to lay the ground for their own product. However, the contrast to the A teams is huge and points to the problem that Mr. T. was aware of right from the beginning: too large teams. Instead of working on tasks that move the project forward quicker (still), the manager needs to assign unnecessary and productivity–decreasing tasks just to be able to provide one task for each team member.
It´s almost comparable to strong and weaker economies. Often, in developing or weak economies, jobs exist that industrialized countries don´t have anymore. For example, in some countries it is common at hotels for people to open doors, deliver bags to rooms, pack groceries into backs at supermarkets or help you with parking and reversing out of parking bays – and it is expected that you give those people a tip for their tasks, as for them it is their source of income. In other countries, these jobs either don´t exist or they are part