Will the Triple Constraint become the Project Diamond?

Craig Brown shares his experience (here) using a project diamond instead of the triple constraint (a.k.a., the Iron Triangle).  I was wondering whether someone would do like this… I’ve seen quality represented as a “Q” in the middle of the triangle or as an area “under” the triangle. 

I’ll have to think some more about how to use it.   I like the concept in theory, but I’m not sure how well the prioritization exercise Craig describes would work in practice.


PM Quote of the Day — Tacitus

All enterprises that are entered into with indiscreet zeal may be pursued with great vigor at first, but are sure to collapse in the end.

Keep this quote in mind when trying agile or iterative development for the first time. There’s a great temptation to be all “gung-ho” during the first sprints of one’s first projects. But agile puts more of a premium on consistent, repeatable execution than one might first imagine.

Because the idea is to go through repeated iterations, agile approaches can burn out teams if a team starts with and tries to sustain a “heroic” pace. Select and work your sprint backlog judiciously!

Texting, Talking, Twitter, and I’m getting old

I felt my age when saw this post on Texting vs. Talking (post here) by Kathleen Moriarty at relentlessPR.  It isn’t that I don’t prefer texting to talking — I am a weakish, but definitite “I” on my MBTI.   Texting gives a bit of distance that is attractive to this introvert.

Perhaps it’s because I related so heavily to my future as a parent when I read this passage:

Luckily for parents, texting is a great way for them to communicate with their kids. 68% of American parents communicate with their kids by text message, and 53% of texting kids say that their relationship with their parents has improved because of texting. It’s an easy way for parents to touch base with their kids without intruding too much – it’s much easier for kids to send a discreet text message to their parents rather than to actually call them when out with friends.

Of course, perhaps it was because Kathleen’s post reminded me of a recent episode where I also felt my age. I was asked by two correspondents — within a day of each other — to point them to my Twitter feed.  I had to sheepishly explain that I don’t tweet and likely won’t for a while. Twitter would just kill my day job.   Also, the “always-on” connectivity would eat into my personal life (though I could give round-the-clock Jon updates).

But most of all, the idea that people would care enough to follow me on Twitter 24/7/365 would be too much encouragement for my already overly-developed ego.  If my colleagues and family think I’m insufferable now…  :-)

Don’t forget the “corner cutting” poll

I’m getting some good response to the “corner cutting poll” on the right sidebar of the blog itself, but I’ll leave it open for a while longer. 

For my newsreader subscribers, the poll’s direct URL is here: http://www.polldaddy.com/p/775626/

Do we need to work factory hours?

I don’t think so.  Perhaps this attitude stems from the fact that both my mom and my in-laws are from farm families — the idea of 8 to 5 doesn’t apply to my County Kerry or Haskell County kin.  A couple of provocative articles on the Harvard Business site explore the blurring between work and life (Do We Need Weekends? is here, Don’t Leave Your Personal Life at Home is here).

Connectivity is a bug-bear for many.  In particular, a lot of colleagues ask me about whether I like my Blackberry (I do).  The most common objection I then hear is that I’ve tethered myself to the office.  To which I say: “Do you prefer being chained to your desk”?  The ability to time shift is precious to me, well worth the cost of having to shift calls or business into “non-working” hours.

Also, I do not subscribe to the idea that the potential to be “always on” equals being “always on.”  There are of course the “ringer off” and caller ID features.  And every e-mail does not need an immediate response.  A lot of the complaints about the Crackberry would be solved by a quick Franklin-Covey time management course.  Or, heaven forbid, we might realize that every mail we’re copied on doesn’t need our contribution to the thread.

Finally, while I’m not customer-facing today, that was when I especially loved having a tether rather than a chain.  I recall one upgrade weekend where I had to be on-site, but I was able to have my wife join me for the weekend.  In the “good old days” pre-mobile or Blackberry, I would have had to stay on site on in my hotel almost the entire time.  No dinner and a movie, no personal time, etc.

A couple of “beyond-the-basics” meeting tips

Kevin Eikenberry (here) passes along a few strong thoughts on effective meetings from an e-mail thread w/ Susan Otto (her blog here).  The first item — not considering the true cost of meetings — is one that is influencing our approach to face-to-face interactions these days.  Especially when we need to pull colleagues from around the regions.  More from their discussion:

What is one of the biggest mistakes people make when attending meetings?  Not being prepared…each member attending should know what they need to do….  And, if you are invited to attend a meeting and you don’t have a clear idea of why you need to attend…consider whether your participation at that meeting is really necessary.

You know, too many people just show up.  Not attending sends a valuable message to the organizers that they many need to look at… 

What is one of the biggest mistakes people make when planning meetings?  Expecting the “usual” members to attend the meeting, which again follows what I was just alluding to. Only invite those members to attend who really need to be at a meeting.

I really like this suggestion…we have a regular meeting of the various PMO leaders and it is getting a bit unwieldy.  We’re looking to ensure that we have decision makers of consequence in the meeting.  Oh, and I love this last suggestion…

What can I do to evaluate my meetings’ effectiveness?  Ask someone to attend one of your meetings, paying attention to the interactions between team members…, who participates in the meeting, who talks to whom, etc.

Serendipity in WordPress — the “Related Posts” feature

WordPress added a feature called “Possibly Related Posts” that identifies posts that may be of interest of the readers of one’s post (explained here).  I’ve left the feature on in my blog, but I forgot about it until I saw two new blogs in my “Clicks” stats (from my Triple Constraint posts here and here)

Sit down and shut up! had an older post on the Triple Constraint (here).  It was nice to see that Extreme programming still pays homage to the ol’ Iron Triangle.  Also, I have to like any post that references Spock’s lament from The City on the Edge of Forever.

Suburban Fizz posted on projects, life, and how the Triple Constraint is part of everyday living (here).  I try not to impose PM jargon on my family, but I smiled with recognition at many of the same trade-offs that have gone through my head.

My wife — a refugee from Wall Street — does occasionally use her past experience, however.  For example, when I ask about what might be good for lunch, she’ll reply:

Well, we’re way long hot dogs…

More on the Triple Constraint

I’ve gotten a lot of good comments on my previous post on the Triple Constraint.  Just a couple of clarifications, at least from my perspective:

  • I don’t want to minimize how useful the Triple Constraint is in understanding the basic trade-offs that one must make among scope, time, and resources. 
  • That said, it is a basic heuristic and is most useful when initiating and planning a project.  In other words, project, program, and portfolio managers need to insist on these choices before the project is chartered.  That is when we have the most leverage to ensure an appropriate mix among the three.  Saying “scope, time, resources — pick two” when a project is in the midst of execution is too late. 
  • Project and program managers must focus harder on understanding scope, especially in relation to the business case that justified the project in the first case.  There is an implied baseline in that business case — it should inform our decisions about product scope and change control.

I’ve gone into the quality dimension earlier — especially w/r/t scope — so I won’t beat that over the head again. 

The relationship among scope, time, resources, quality, etc.

Thought-provoking post by mysticMundane on the Triple Constraint (here) — hat-tip to Michael at IT Project Failures (here).  IMO, both yielded good insights, with some caveats.  The good:

  • I always like to see quality included as essential to the triple constraint — Michael has the picture here — the scope isn’t delivered unless the work product conforms to requirements.
  • Scope change control is impossible without a baseline.  Good luck trying to get changes when the only baseline is a vague statement that the project is supposed to “boil the ocean.”
  • I like the second graph (here) with reservations…moving the scope frontier out nicely shows how hard it is for each time/resource combination to satisfy the new scope.

The caveats:

  • While I understand their intent, the graphs make it appear that scope is a function of time and resources.  Perhaps building each product feature can be represented by that, but is simply summing “features delivered” the scope? 
  • Do we fully understand scope deeply enough; in particular, isn’t the project ultimately supposed to create deliverables that generate benefits over time?  My experience is that too many project managers focus solely on features, which are derived from the business benefits, the deliverables, and their requirements.  Continue reading

Work/Life Balance Calculator

Balance is a constant issue for we initiative leadership types — I’m in work hour 13 today — but it is nice to dream.  CNN put together a cool calculator (here).  Yeah, it doesn’t account for weekends properly, but I liked playing around with it.  Here’s my chart below:

It is nice having that 7 hours of unplanned time.  Of course, you might notice that I can count on one “white night” a week.  Thank you jet lag!

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