Performance assessment and drinking Kool-Aid


This last week, I provided a performance assessment to a subordinate.  Though I understand the necessity, I’m not crazy about doing them.  Regardless of how objective the scoring criteria is, there always seem to be someone who sees the cloud in the silver lining.  The first question I get asked is, “why do we have to do this”?  Let me break out my trusty PMBoK, as if I need the excuse.

Section (page 237) of the PMBoK, it states

the project management team makes ongoing formal or informal assessments of the project team’s performance.  By continually assessing the team’s performance, actions can be taken to resolve issues, modify communication, address conflict, and improve team interaction.

Though I try to be fair and balanced, I understand I sometimes must make uncomfortable and unpopular decisions.  When I completed my scoring, the results were mixed.  In some areas, this person exceeded my expectations.  In others, they fell short.  It was interesting to see the incited response.  “Why didn’t I get a perfect 10!!?”  I calmly responded, because nobody is a perfect 10.  That’s kind of a half-truth.  I do believe in outliers.  But, this person is no outlier.

I went over to the white board and drew a bell curve.  I then tried to explain that my scoring put her roughly in the middle.  There were areas which needed improvement and those were the facts.  Why do some people feel entitled to getting credit when credit is not due?  A percentage of people will exceed and a percentage will fail.  It’s simple probability distribution.

What I didn’t understand was she completely ignored the good rating and focused on the bad.  When push comes to shove, I’m the one doing the assessment.  I do believe I should explain myself.  But after that, people need to focus on themselves.  When I get assessed, I expect honest feedback, so I can do a better job.  There is always room for improvement.  Giving me 10 out of 10 across the board may make me feel good momentarily, but then what?

Don’t think I’m cold and calculated when it comes to dealing with people.  I would love to give everyone good scores, but then what would that say about me?  You’d say I’ve been drinking some strange Kool-Aid.  When people are doing a good job, I tell them.  If people are doing a poor job, I tell them.  If you don’t want an honest answer, don’t ask the question.

Does anyone out there have a recommendation for an objective (versus subjective) performance scoring?  What about ideas to motivate those who do not motivate easily?

Wise, Intelligent, and Agnostic Project Management


When it comes to branding PMs, there is always going to be a title du jour.  I see project management as one of those skills that builds with time. I don’t care if you are a PMP, CSM, CSSBB, or [insert certification title here].  I don’t believe you can just read about a process or approach, pass a test, and then suddenly be an expert.  Perhaps that is the difference between an intelligent PM and a wise PM.  The intelligent PM reads about a project management process and it become holy doctrine.  They hide behind a process blindly and operate projects on mere faith.  The wise PM reads and learns, interacts and learns, screws up and learns.  They base their decisions on human interaction, what they’ve studied, and past experiences.  It’s not perfect or predictable, but neither is life.

I used to believe, if a dynamic enough process algorithm was created, you could manage any project based on it.  I just don’t believe that anymore.

I’m not saying a Project Management Professional, Scrum Master, or Six Sigma Black Belt certification doesn’t have value.  They absolutely do if you study and practice and not just pass a test.  Studying each will increase your project management intellect.

I would describe myself as a practicing agnostic PM.  It’s not perfect.  But, if I take a little I’ve learned from each process and have a little faith (in the people I work with), I think it will provide my best chance for success.  But don’t forget that it’s still just a chance.

graphic courtesy of the bbp of Flickr
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Sneetches and Credentials or Certifications


I’ve recently discovered a new love for reading Dr. Seuss books to my son.  I can’t help but see parallel after parallel to my every day life.  I guess if you write a good enough book, like Dr. Seuss, everyone should be able to identify.  My last post about Dr. Seuss and Green Eggs and Ham seemed to resonate with a lot of people.  I had to write this post because I want to know if others see what I see.

This post is about the Sneetches and Sylvester McMonkey-McBean.  There are two kinds of Sneetches in this world, those with stars on their bellies and those who don’t.  When reading this, I want you to picture yourself as a Sneetch and your star being a credential or certification.

Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches.
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
they’d hike right on past them without even talking.

I’m going to introduce another character into this story.  His name is Sylvester McMonkey-McBean, an entrepreneur who offers hope to the plain-bellied Sneetches by offering them the use of his star-on-machine.

Then ONE day, it seems while the Plain-Belly Sneetches
Were moping and doping alone on the beaches,
Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars,
A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!

“My friends”, he announced in a voice clear and clean,
“My name is Sylvester McMonkey-McBean.
And I’ve heard of your troubles. I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that, I’m the Fix-It-Up Chappie.

However, it soon becomes clear that Mr. McMonkey-McBean is no champion of the Plain-Belly Sneetches; in fact all he cares about is making money.  He is quite happy modifying the machine to remove stars from Sneetches who want to stand apart again.

I’ve come here to help you.
I have what you need.
And my prices are low. And I work with great speed.
And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!”

Then, quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean
Put together a very peculiar machine.
And he said, “You want stars like a Star-Belly Sneetch?
My friends, you can have them for three dollars each!”

“Just pay me your money and hop right aboard!”
So they clambered inside. Then the big machine roared.
And it klonked. And it bonked. And it jerked. And it berked.
And it bopped them about. But the thing really worked!
When the Plain-Belly Sneetches popped out, they had stars!
They actually did. They had stars upon thars!

Then they yelled at the ones who had stars at the start,
“We’re still the best Sneetches and they are the worst.
But now, how in the world will we know”, they all frowned,
“If which kind is what, or the other way round?”

Then up came McBean with a very sly wink.
And he said, “Things are not quite as bad as you think.
So you don’t know who’s who. That is perfectly true.
But come with me, friends. Do you know what I’ll do?
I’ll make you, again, the best Sneetches on the beaches.
And all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches.”

He encourages the Sneetches to continually go from the star-on-machine to the star-off-machine and back to the star-on-machine.

All the rest of that day, on those wild screaming beaches,
The Fix-It-Up Chappie kept fixing up Sneetches.
Off again! On again! In again! Out again!
Through the machines they raced round and about again,

Changing their stars every minute or two. They kept paying money.
They kept running through until the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
Whether this one was that one or that one was this one. Or which one
Was what one or what one was who.

Eventually, Mr. McMonkey-McBean vanishes once the Sneetches run out of money.

Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up. And he went.
And he laughed as he drove In his car up the beach,
“They never will learn. No. You can’t Teach a Sneetch!”

Fortunately, in the end, the Sneetches have no idea who is who and both Star-bellied Sneetches and Plain-bellied Sneetches learn to live together.

But McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say.
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day.
The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches.
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether
They had one, or not, upon thars.

In the project management community, I think a lot of people will recognize Sylvester McMonkey-McBean as the Project Management Institute or the Certification Boot Camps.  But, I’m certain this is not unique to my industry.  Are they there to help or are they there to make money?  I’m not going to crucify either because I have a certification.  But, just because I have 2 stars on my belly doesn’t make me any better than someone with none upon thars.

What do you think?

What happens when you walk your own critical path


Last night we deployed HueCubed v1.0 to Production.  A year ago, I had an idea for a product that would inexpensively help people study for the PMP® Exam and other certifications or tests.  The result?  HueCubed.

HueCubed is a web application which will display randomized flash cards.  Upon reviewing the question, you simply click on the Flip button.  The card flips and displays the answer.  You then have several buttons you can click.  If you click on skip, incorrect, or correct, the system will log your selection.  You can then, at any time, click on Check Progress.  If you click on Flip, the card flips to the other side.  If you click Back, you will navigate to the previous card.

So let’s say you want to see your progress and click Check Progress.  Your choices will be broken down by categories of study.  Think of them as mini decks of cards.  There is one big deck (All) and then you have it broken down into 23 categories.  At any time, you can click one of the squares and it will return you to that card for review.  e.g. if there were 28 cards in a deck and you click on 14, you can go directly to card 14 of 28. (see image)

Anyway, I can go on an on about this product.  The idea came to me after I was asked over and over again to recommend products to help people study for the PMP® Exam.  Sure, the products are out there.  But, each one had something I didn’t like or thought could be improved upon.  I wanted something Simple, Powerful, and Cost-Effective.  So, I created HueCubed.

The last year has been hard.  I went through 3 development teams before I got a winner.  I’m not demanding or anything.  It’s just hard to find the right team sometimes.  I spent countless hours eating my own dogfood.  I created UI wireframes, I created fnctional designs.  I created a WBS.  I used a Kanban to manage my work.  We iterated and iterated.

HueCubed v1.0 was my critical path.  All of the required deliverables are there.  It will be a solid platform to build upon.  I hope I didn’t drive me wife too crazy with the idea of this first product.  I still have a group of offerings I want to provide.

In closing, I want to quote 2 great people who inspired me to do what I did.

Jason Calacanis said “Starting is easy; Finishing is hard.”

Seth Godin wrote “Pick a budget. Pick a ship date. Honor both. Don’t ignore either. No slippage, no overruns.”

I had an idea on March 22, 2009, that seemed simple enough to finish.  How hard could it be?  The answer was “very”.

I had a budget and stuck with it.  I gave myself 1 year to get it done or move on with my life.

I bootstrapped the effort and got it delivered.

HueCubed v1.0 went live at 11:28PM last night.
Yep, March 22, 2010.

New Look for Real Time Reputation Scores for #PMOT

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The only constant in the universe is change.  That couldn’t be more true then on the The Plan Is website.  They created an interface that displays real time reputation scores for Project Managers on Twitter.

The new interface displays not only the rank, name and score of the account trending the highest over at Twitter, but also which way they are trending.

Yes, #FollowFriday is an excellent way to discover people Tweeting about like topics.  But, this list is dedicated to Project Managers on Twitter.  Want a reputation score tracker for your own site?  They are offering that as well.  What I find so compelling is this list is impartial and dynamic.  If I’m not engaging with people, I fall off the list.  Considering this thing tracks by the hour and by the day, it provides a good feedback loop.

Just a note, the graphic above was captured an hour before this post was written.  The list below was just taken from the The Plan Is site.  By the time you read this, both will be out of date.

Rank Name Score Last hour Last day
1. crgpm 6890 -210 in the last hour 780 in the last day
2. derekhuether 5365 No change in the last hour 960 in the last day
3. pmstudent 5000 -200 in the last hour 1600 in the last day
4. purpleprojects 4835 175 in the last hour -215 in the last day
5. projectrecovery 3720 395 in the last hour 670 in the last day
6. sara_broca 3385 -210 in the last hour 790 in the last day
7. ppmcommunity 3220 420 in the last hour 3115 in the last day
8. unlikebefore 3205 50 in the last hour 225 in the last day
9. kareemshaker 3100 100 in the last hour 425 in the last day
10. thegreenpm 2995 No change in the last hour -2785 in the last day

Check out The Plan Is website and then follow them on Twitter @ThePlanIs

Let’s see show them some Twitter love.

Green Eggs and Ham are…


Green Eggs And HamLast night I read Green Eggs and Ham to my Son.  Because nothing is sacred in my world of blogging and project management, I drew a parallel between Sam and myself.

If you don’t know the story, Sam offers Green Eggs and Ham to an unnamed character.  This character adamantly states he does not like them.

Sam looks for different opportunities and scenarios where the character may enjoy the green eggs and ham.  Every time, he’s dismissed.  I will not eat them here or there.  I will not eat them anywhere!

Still, Sam persists.

You do not like them.  So you say.  Try them!  Try them!  And you may.  Try them and you may, I say.

The character finally laments and tries the green eggs and ham.  Guess what?  He likes them.  He likes them a lot!  All of a sudden, he realized all of the scenarios Sam recommended really are perfect opportunities to enjoy green eggs and ham.

So, what are green eggs and ham?  I think they are ideas and opportunities. Yes, the same ones your colleagues had that got shot down.  The same ones you had but were also dismissed.  It’s Agile, Scrum, Kanban, or some other approach the customer has never tried before, therefore, they don’t even want to try it.

Next time someone has an idea or opportunity, try it!  Try it!
And you may.  Deliver value in that way.

Image courtesy of themouseforless

If you liked this post, check out Compassion is the “Killer App” over at the Guerrilla Project Management website.

I also recommend reading Chug, Chug, Vroom, and Expectancy Theory, a blog post by Todd Williams, who explains its applicability in The Little Engine That Could.