The only time Crossderry will beat Herding Cats

I found out that Crossderry was named to another one of those best PM blog lists (here).  Thanks Nicole…

One must, however, wonder about a list that has me listed above Glen, Bas, Rich, Elizabeth, and Craig.  I appreciate the mention, but I’m afraid my ranking may overpromise and I’ll underdeliver!

Tom Peters: 80% good, 20% overboard

Tom Peters has a list on how to lead during what he calls “weird” times (post here, also read the comments here).  As always, he’s thought-provoking.  My biggest concern is that folks like to cherry-pick from Tom without understanding that the points in his “lists” often build on or reinforce each other. 

With that caveat, here is Tom’s list.  My comments are below in bold.

  1. Be conscious in the Zen sense. Think about what you are doing more than usual. Think about how you project.  (Crossderry: The last is critical at these times.)
  2. Meet daily, first thing, with your leadership team—to discuss whatever, check assumptions. Perhaps meet again late afternoon. Meetings max 30 minutes. (Crossderry: All good, harder for me to implement in a global team.)
  3. If you are a “big boss,” use a private sounding board—check in daily. (Crossderry: Interesting… hadn’t thought of that.)
  4. Concoct scenarios by the bushel, test ’em, play with ’em, short-term, long-term, sane, insane. (Crossderry: Too many leaders think that this means “just throw s*** against the wall” by rearranging everything or withdrawing to a bunker to do scenario planning.  Prime example of a topic that gets cherry-picked from a list. If you aren’t doing this w/ managing by walking around [MBWA] and working the phones, experts, customers, vendors, etc., you’re missing the point.)
  5. MBWA. Wander. Sample attitudes. Visible but not frenzied.  (Crossderry: The last is critical at these times.)
  6. Work the phones, chat up experts, customers, vendors. Seek enormous diversity of opinion.  (Crossderry: Oh yeah, no time to head for the bunker!) 
  7. “Over”communicate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (Crossderry: Yup.)
  8. Exercise—encourage your leadership team to double up on their exercise.  (Crossderry: This verges on “double plus good” Motivation-speak.  How about “If you don’t exercise, start; if you’re not exercising enough, do more; if you’re already exercising enough, don’t stop.”)
  9. Underscore “excellence in every transaction.”    (Crossderry: You betcha… and it’s a nice loop back to point 1.)

Hat tip: Bas de Baar

How much complexity theory can we apply in IT?

I’m fascinated by complexity theory and attempts to apply its insights to the software business.  If you’re interested in those topics you could do worse that to add two bloggers — Jurgen and Bas — to your newsreader (don’t forget about Crossderry). 

Both touch on complexity regularly (Jurgen’s latest here, Bas’s latest here) and they’re clearly big fans of the theory and its implications.  I agree there’s much that’s applicable, especially the concepts of iteration and feedback, which can even be used in “waterfall” approaches (here and here).  My academic background makes me especially sympathetic to the limits of central planning (start here re: Hayek).

That said, I’m not sure we can rely on self-organization for everything.  The most effective models of complex adaptive systems are derived from simple rules that generate complex phenomena.  This approach is mimicked effectively in agile, iterative, and other rapid development techniques (list of SW methodologies here).  Simple feature lists, regular interactions with stakeholders, short cycles, many versions of usable work product, etc. can generate feature-rich and useful applications.

However, the scalability and stability of these applications is often problematic.  IMO, this result is to be expected given the evolution of complexity among living things.  We like to point to complex creatures and structures — e.g., human brains — to support applications of complexity theory. 

But do we remember that most life is still very simple (about half of the biomass is microscopic)?  Also, aren’t complex creatures the ones that have had the spectacular denouements over the eons?  Betting on self-organization isn’t always a winning bet.  As I said, I instinctively like leveraging complexity concepts, but we must remember that they cut both ways.

Inbound Comments and Links — July 2008

Stealing a march from the folks over at RelentlessPR, thanks to all linkers and commenters.  Links and comments are the about the only way for me to know if I’m writing something interesting, useful, or at least provocative.  I appreciate each and every one.

NOTE: I’ve registered at http://technorati.com as a way of viewing all my comments and links in one place.  It also helps direct folks to your blog.  I’ve you haven’t registered there, I recommend it.

INBOUND LINKS

INBOUND COMMENTS

Don’t over-interpret the PMBOK Guide…

I just got turned on to Glen Alleman’s Herding Cats blog via Bas’s Shared Blog.  Bas’s link was to one post, but Glen’s post on Mis-Misinterpretations of PMBOK caught my eye (the comments are a good read also).  Glen hits on one of my favorite mis-steps: claiming a methodology isn’t PMBOK-compliant because it isn’t structured according the process groups (hint: the project life cycle discussion is in Chapter 2 of the Third Edition). 

Getting caught up in memorizing and regurgitating such industry standards is a pet peeve.  It is akin to being an expert on Black Letter Law: how interesting or useful is it to be an expert on something basic and elementary?

Q2 Inbound Links and Comments — Thanks and Kudos

Links and comments are the about the only way for me to know if I’m writing something interesting, useful, or at least provocative.  I appreciate each and every one.

Thanks to the following folks for linking to Crossderry this past quarter…

  • The folks over at relentless PR, especially Leo Bottary (here and here)
  • Bas at Project Shrink (here)
  • Scott Middleton (here)
  • Mary Adams at Hybrid Vigor (here)
  • Rafael at Better Projects (here)
  • Miguel at eme ka eme (here)

Also, thank you to those who commented… (many of the folks above commented as well, but I won’t duplicate)

  • Vinnie Mirchandani at Deal Architect (here)
  • Charles Green at Trusted Advisor (here)
  • Jonathan Becher at Manage by Walking Around (here)
  • Michael Krigsman at IT Project Failures (here)
  • Patti Choby (here)
  • Rich Maltzman at Scope Crepe (here)
  • Markus at Leadership Briefing (here)
  • One of the gang at PM Think (here)
  • Craig Brown at Better Projects (here)
  • Bill at Projects Possible (here)
  • lazymale at lap31 (here)

Apologies if I missed anyone…  Thanks again, Paul

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