Why can’t we plan for leadership?

Glen Alleman asks “Why is it so hard?” and focuses on one of the most difficult line items for IT projects to fund: project/program management, including contract planning and controls. 

I’ve had varying success in positioning these resources, so I’m still stumped.  Arguments that worked for one initiative failed for what should have been a similar initiative. 

So here are two questions to you all:

  1. What arguments, research, findings, etc. have been EFFECTIVE in ensuring that your projects or programs have the leadership they need? 
  2. Does these “effective” factors work better for one type of project over another?  In other words, do some types of projects lend themselves to “selling” project management better than others?

More on estimation principles

I saw this comment by Dennis Stevens (Dennis’s blog is here) on Glen Alleman’s post on software estimation practices (here).  His comment hit on two points that stood out.

Effective estimating requires a strong understanding of variance in estimating and how to account for/govern this variance.

Ditto and amen… my experience in implementing logistics optimization (I worked for formerly-independent component of Descartes) helped me get comfortable with the fuzziness of estimation (e.g., variance).  Two b-school courses were also helpful: mathematical modeling for marketing and applied multivariate analysis (I keep the latter’s textbook by my desk). This background may not make me an expert, but I have a decent estimation BS detector.

Politically driven estimates are just irresponsible management. I remember a conversation with an executive where I told him “This is a 46 week effort. If you need to say 32 to get funding, then you can say 32 and deliver 14 weeks late – or we can say 46. It’s up to you.” We presented at 46 weeks, got the funding, and delivered on time. If an organization can’t afford to do a project, it shouldn’t be done based on false estimates – this is malfeasance.

As Dennis suggests in this case, pretending that the earlier delivery target does not compromise the product or mean inevitable delays is foolish, even unethical.  My experience is that this self-sabotaging approach happens because the project can’t or won’t demonstrate the impact of such decisions on the initiative’s business case.

To that point about the business case, I’ll use a future post to lay out how we used a simple illustration of our business case to justify an internal program’s proposed release schedule.

ROM Estimation training website

Rough order-of-magnitude (ROM) estimates are a long-standing way to get a feel for how big your project or program will be.  Nothing too precise of course, but that’s to be expected. 

Speaking for myself, I haven’t paid too much attention to practicing this technique.  To remedy that, I’ve been doing some visual training that you all might find useful as you prep for your next wild-ass guess ROM.  

See how good you are at “eyeballing” here.

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