Category Archives: teamwork

ABZ's of Communication for PM's and Techies...R: it's all about Relationships and Rework

As we talk in the grander scheme of overall corporate communications, it all comes down to

R: RELATIONSHIPS and REWORK.

Two different concepts but related as we’ll go into later.  Let’s start with RELATIONSHIPS.  If someone likes you and respects you, they will listen to what you have to say. If they don’t for whatever reason (that may or may not have anything to do with you!) – then getting them to listen to you will be an uphill battle.

Beca Lewis said:

“Yearn to understand first and to be understood second.”

This ties into a recent blog posting I discovered called “3 Deadly Sins of Business Relationships” by Diane Helbig.  The highlights of the post were that so many people go to networking events with an end goal in mind and in the process discard the importance of building the relationship first.  I know many of these goal-driven people (they are colleagues who brush past me on their way to the “kill” or prospects!) – they go to an event to get a preset number of qualified leads and work their way around the gathering like a fox on a hunt.  They are interesting to watch as they scope out their prey, approach the prospect, exchange their card, make their pitch and within 1.5 minutes move on to the next potential buyer in the room.  Often these “movers and shakers” end up leaving the meeting with what they consider to be a treasure cache of business cards – and think their time was well spent.

I’ve always approached networking functions with a different and likely less overall successful strategy – I simply like to meet new people.  People like me,  people who are different, people who have problems and opportunities and challenges and who are simply out to meet others.  At the end of the evening, it is as likely as not that I will have met a few new acquaintances and exchanged information.  Often it is simply a pleasant exchange whereby I’ve given them some information or a new idea that might further their business.  In the big karma bank of life, I might be truly naive in thinking that goodness given is repaid somewhere somehow when I need to make a withdrawal from the karma bank.  Certainly this is not a sales-focused approach, nor has it gained me any direct business ever!

I find the same situation arises when I attend or speak at major industry conferences. Perhaps I should have mined the lists of attendees, scoped out prospects and gone in for the leads, but that’s just never been my style.  Over the years, many colleagues have asked me why I bother to talk to people who won’t give me business – and my answer has always been that I genuinely like to meet like-minded people and that is satisfaction enough.  I believe that many of the contracts that I’ve gotten through word-of-mouth have come to me simply because I did not pursue people for their buying ability – and instead talk to them as people.

Read the 3 Deadly Sins of Building Business Relationships and let me know if you like it as much as I do!

Next posting – Rework and how much effort (and waste) it takes in communication.  Just this week alone, I’m quite certain that 1/3 of my time was spent on emailing people, following up when they didn’t answer, emailing yet again, calling and leaving voice mails and then still doing more.  What a total waste of time and energy chasing rainbows and promises that don’t deliver in the end!

Wishing you great relationships in all aspects of your life – and the communication success that comes from putting relationships before leads!

Carol
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The "Dog Chasing its Tail" Syndrome in Project Estimating

Software estimating is plagued by dysfunction, not the least of which is estimation based on under-reported historical hours from previously completed projects.  See posting IT Performance Measurement… Time Bandits for a discussion about this problem.

BUT, other problems are prevalent when launching a project estimating initiative which I call the “Dog Chasing Its Tail” syndrome.  It symptomizes dysfunctional project behavior that is established and continues to be reinforced to the detriment of the organization. As a result the pattern repeats and process improvement is seldom realized.

What is the Dog Chasing its Tail Syndrome? It’s a noble goal to increase the predictability and reliability of project estimates – when estimating is based on sound principles.  However, estimating is often a misnomer for what should be called “guesstimating” because the data on which estimates are based is sketchy at best.

Here’s the process epitomized in the “Dog Chasing its Tail”:

1. Incomplete (or preliminary) requirements and sketchy quality/performance requirements. While preliminary (no formal requirements or  use cases are known), it is customary for management (customer or supplier or both) to demand a project estimate for budget or planning purposes. Labelled initially as a “ball park estimate” (a rough order of magnitude (ROM) guess of whether the effort is going to be bigger than a breadbox or smaller than a football field), the sketchy requirements are used as the basis to get the ROM.

2. The (Guess)timate becomes the project budget and plan. While management initially understands that an estimate is impossible without knowledge of what is to be done, estimators contribute to the reliance on the guesses by providing them with a feigned level of accuracy (e.g., if requirements span a total of two sentences, the resultant estimate may include hours or dollar figures with the ones digit filled in.  As a result, too often the (guess)timate becomes the approved upper limit budget or effort allowance.  Of course these figures will be proven wrong once the solid requirements are documented and known, but we are now stuck with this project estimate.

3. Changes challenge the status quo budget and schedule. When a change or clarification to requirements emerges (as they always do when human beings are involved), there is often a period of blame where suppliers allege that the item in question is a change (addition) to the original requirements on which the estimate was based, while the customer alleges that it is simply clarifies existing requirements.  Of course, neither one can be proven correct because the requirements on which the estimate was based were sketchy, incomplete and poorly documented. Once the dust settles and it becomes clear that the item will impact the project budget and schedule, the change/clarification is deferred to the next phase (“thrown over the fence” as an enhancement to be done in the next release) where it will be poorly documented but we will estimate it anyways, and so the cycle continues.

Dog chasing its tailIf you’ve ever had a dog – you know that this is similar to a dog-chasing-its-tail whereby the behavior goes on until either the dog gets tired or gets distracted by other things going on (such as food being served).  As smart software engineers we ought to be smarter than dogs!  And, given a scope management approach, we can be!  Break the cycle off dysfunctional estimation and investigate scope management – you and your customers will be glad to move forward rather than facing the insanity of repeating the same process over and over and expecting different results (along the lines of the Einstein quote!)  See www.qualityplustech.com for information on scope management training and resources available to break the “Dog Chasing its Tail” syndrome on your projects

Watch for the upcoming post on the hidden dangers in project hours…

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/

Carol Dekkers provides realistic, honest, and transparent approaches to software measurement, software estimating, process improvement and scope management.  Call her office (727 393 6048) or email her (dekkers@qualityplustech.com) for a free initial consultation on how to get started to solve your IT project management and development issues.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Florida  — April 26-30, 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest solutions that work in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

Crosstalk article on Scope Management

CrossTalk - The Journal of Defense Software Engineering

CrossTalk Jan/Feb 2010 Scope Management: 12 Steps for ICT Program Recovery

by Carol Dekkers, Quality Plus Technologies, Inc.
Pekka Forselius, 4SUM Partners, Inc.

ABSTRACT:
The information and communications technology (ICT) world is “addicted” to dysfunctional behavior and the problem is spreading globally. The sad truth is that the parties in the ICT relationship (the customer and the supplier) are largely co-dependent on a pattern of dysfunction characterized by ineffective communication, fixed price contracts with changing requirements, and eroding trust. This article focuses specifically on the northernSCOPE TM 12-step process for ICT program recovery.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Florida  — April 26-30, 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest expertise that works in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======