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Articles in the Project-Management Category

Business, Leadership, Project-Management »

[15 Dec 2009 | Comments Off | ]
Customer, Problem, Competition, and Success

This is a simple frame for testing your vision, your pitch for a project, or your proposed solution. One of my mentors uses it all the time to test the thinking and to make sure the team stays on track. I’ve adopted because it’s a great way to stay focused on the basics. Don’t let the basics get in the way of great results.

patterns & practices, Project-Management »

[24 Sep 2009 | One Comment | ]
Vision Scope Examples

On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we use Vision / Scope as a key milestone. It’s where we frame the problem, identify the business opportunity, and paint a vision of the solution. It’s a forcing function to get clarity on the customer, their scenarios, and our scope for the project. We generally use a “fix time, flex scope” pattern, so this means having a candidate backlog that we prioritize with customers.

Project-Management »

[9 Aug 2009 | 4 Comments | ]
Vision Scope Template

At patterns & practices, we use Vision Scope milestones to sell management on how we’ll change the world. Knowing the vision and scope for a project is actually pretty key. The vision will motivate you and your team in the darkest of times. It gets you back on your horse when you get knocked off. The scope is important because it’s where you’ll usually have to manage the most expectations of what you will and won’t do.

Project-Management »

[31 May 2009 | 2 Comments | ]
Key Project Practices

The following is a short list of some of the project practices that have helped me maximize impact, while shipping on time and on budget.


Dog fooding. Throughout the project, I have the team dog food what we build. See Dog fooding (WIkipedia.)
5 customers. This is an critical check throughout the project that 5 customers stand behind the project. They key is these are 5 customers that actually use the deliverable.

Design, Project-Management »

[31 May 2009 | 2 Comments | ]
Scenario Frames

One of the best ways I’ve found to map out a problem space is to create what I call, “Scenario Frames.” I call them scenario frames because they are an organizing frame of scenarios. Simply put, they’re a set of one-liner stories or scenarios organized by categories. The beauty of a scenario frame is that it can contain macro-level or micro-level scenarios and, because it’s a tickler list, it’s easy to traverse.

Design, Project-Management »

[31 May 2009 | Comments Off | ]
Scenario and Feature Matrix

One of the most effective approaches I’ve found for chunking up a project for incremental value is using a Scenario and Feature Matrix.

Scenarios are Your Rows, Features are Your Columns
A Scenario and Feature Matrix organizes scenarios and features into a simple view. The scenarios are your rows. The features are your columns. You list your scenarios in order of “MUST”, “SHOULD”, and “COULD” (or Pri 1, 2, and 3) .. through vNext. You list your features by cross-cutting and vertical. By cross-cutting, I mean that feature applies to multiple scenarios. By vertical, I mean that feature applies to just one scenario. It helps to think of scenarios in this case as goals customers achieve.

Frames, Project-Management »

[31 May 2009 | Comments Off | ]
Framing the Landscape

At Microsoft, we use the term “frame” or “framing a problem” in the context of project management. You might hear somebody ask, “what’s the frame?” or “how have you framed the problem?” A Frame is simply a way to partition a problem. The heart of a frame is coming up with a context to understand the dimensions that matter and figure out how to prioritize and scope. One way teams often frame a space is by building a catalog of user stories and then organizing them into themes.

Design, patterns & practices, Process, Project-Management, Requirements »

[19 May 2009 | 6 Comments | ]
Customer Connected Engineering

Customer Connected Engineering (CCE) is a practices we use across our patterns & practices teams for engaging customers throughout the life cycle. We involved customers during the planning, development, and release of our deliverables. This is a draft slide set that shares how we do Customer Connected Engineering inside patterns & practices, including our key practices and guiding principles.

Career, Headline, Patterns, Project-Management »

[31 Dec 2008 | One Comment | ]
10 Success Patterns for PMs

Photo by Christian Revival Network
Here’s a brief set of success patterns for program managers and project managers that I’ve shared with a few colleagues.  These are the patterns I see that make a difference in getting results.
10 Success Patterns

Empathic listening.
Rapport before influence
Character trumps emotion trumps logic
Match their style
Distinguish between responsibility and authority
Turn chickens into pigs
Adapt, adjust, or avoid situations
Know the system.
Analyze it over time.

Success Patterns ExplainedHere’s the essence of each:

Empathic listening.  Listen until the other person “feels” they’ve been heard.  Once they feel heard, they’re more …

Project-Management »

[2 Dec 2008 | One Comment | ]
7 Habits of Highly Effective Program Managers

Photo by woodleywonderworks
What does it take to be an effective Program Manager at Microsoft?  I’m responding to some requests for my take on what it takes to be an effective PM.  I figured I could use a familiar 7 habits approach to help frame out a start.
To pick a set of habits, I started with a set of reference examples.  I used the most effective and ineffective PMs that I’ve seen over time.  I considered their track record, their ability to influence, and their leadership skills.  Most importantly …

Project-Management »

[12 Oct 2008 | Comments Off | ]
Visualization Checklist

Photo by Lilly
How do you visualize the goal?  Whenever you work on a project, one of the most important things to know is how the world will be different when you’re done.  This is where expectations are set and how people get excited about what they’ll work on.  This is how you’ll keep yourself going day in and day out throughout the project.  In How to Run Successful Projects III: The Silver Bullet (3rd Edition), Fergus O’Connell provides a visualization checklist to help you visualize the end in …

Project-Management »

[11 Oct 2008 | One Comment | ]
Scenario and Feature Frame

A Scenario and Feature Frame is a quick way to show your project’s incremental value and dependencies.  It’s helpful for showing your management what you’ll deliver in terms of a baseline release.  It’s helpful for you in terms of finding ways to reduce dependencies.  If you have a bunch of scenarios that depend on certain features, then you don’t have cuttable scope.  The key is to find ways to factor your scope into incremental value.

Scenario and Feature FrameA Scenario and Feature Frame is a powerful tool for analyzing …

Project-Management, Requirements »

[11 Oct 2008 | Comments Off | ]
What’s a Scenario

Photo by Wonderlane
What’s a scenario?  Not everybody uses the term “scenario” the same way.  In the software industry, there’s three common usages of scenario:

The same as a use case.
A path through a use case.
An instance of a use case.

Usually, the most helpful one is “an instance of a use case.”  Why?  Because if a scenario is an instance of a use case, then it’s testable with concrete data.

Lessons Learned at Microsoft
At Microsoft, when there’s a customer challenge to solve, it’s common to ask “what’s the scenario?”  This …

Book Nuggets, Project-Management »

[28 Sep 2008 | Comments Off | ]

How do you create an effective work breakdown structure?  A Work breakdown structure (WBS) is a powerful tool for improving your project success.   An effective work breakdown structure is an informed list of the jobs for your project.  You can think of a work breakdown structure as a map of the jobs to be done to complete the project.  You can use the map to guide yourself, guide your team, and guide your stake holders.  You can use your work breakdown structure to help understand time and budget requirements.  …

Project-Management »

[9 Sep 2008 | One Comment | ]

How do you cure optimitis?  Optimitis is an unhealthy, overly optimistic, unrealistic agreement to solving a problem.  It ignores the tradeoffs.  In Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully, Gerald M. Weinberg writes about how to cure optimitis.
OptimitisOptimitis is an overly optimistic and unrealistic agreement.  Weinberg writes:
Optimitis can be found in anyone who is asked to produce solutions to problems.  It is an inflammation of the optimization nerve, that part of the nervous system which responds to such requests as

“Give us the minimum cost solution.”
“Get …

Project-Management »

[4 Sep 2008 | One Comment | ]

Just how much can people factors influence your project cost and effort?  24.6 percent!  In other words, the least experienced team (the bottom 15 percent) can require up to 24.6 times as much effort to complete a project as the most experienced team (top 10 percent.) In Professional Software Development: Shorter Schedules, Higher Quality Products, More Successful Projects, Enhanced Careers, Steve McConnell writes about the Cocomo II model and how personnel factors influence project cost and effort.
The Cocomo II ModelHow much do personnel factors influence the project’s cost and effort …

Book Nuggets, Project-Management »

[18 Aug 2008 | Comments Off | ]

How can you leverage XP practices in a fixed-price contract?   One approach is to fix the price and the schedule, but somewhat vary the scope.  You reduce risk by fixing the cost and schedule.  Flexing the scope means that you can respond to the customer’s changing needs as you deliver value.  You can think of this as the customer subscribing to your development team’s service for a period of time.  In Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change (2nd Edition) (The XP Series), Kent Beck writes about how to deal with fixed …

Project-Management »

[18 Aug 2008 | Comments Off | ]

How do you gradually shift responsibility for a system to the customer?  How do you reduce the risk of a customer inheriting a system they can’t sustain?  Rather than outsourcing, you can consider “insourcing.”   In Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change (2nd Edition) (The XP Series), Kent Beck writes that insourcing is where you gradually replace the members of the team with technical folks from the customer.
Gradually Replace Team Members with the Customer
Beck writes:
The “big thump” delivery of outsourcing violates the incremental change principle.  There is a slight twist on outsourcing …

Project-Management »

[17 Aug 2008 | Comments Off | ]

How can you be prepared to go in whatever direction the business or the system demands?  Do you need to prepare for every possibility?  No.  Instead, you give up explicit preparation for any change.  In Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change (2nd Edition) (The XP Series), Ken Beck writes that if you expect nothing, you can no longer be surprised.
Now You Are Ready to Learn
Beck writes about a student learning to become a swordsman.  The master strikes the student each time his attention slips.  The student becomes paranoid about getting whacked …

Project-Management »

[4 Aug 2008 | 5 Comments | ]

Adding people to late projects makes them later.  This can be counter-intuitive.  In Requirements-Led Project Management: Discovering David’s Slingshot, by Suzanne Robertson and James Robertson explain how adding people to late projects makes them later.
The Least Knowledgeable People Prevent the Most Knowledgeable People from WorkingAccording to Suzanne and James, adding people to a late project, makes the project later:
The problem of adding people means disrupting the rhythm that your existing team has established.  It increases the number of communication paths. New people penalize the existing team.  When new members arrive, …