Project Manager

30 Second Agile Pitch

I was just over at the AgileScout website and read an entertaining account of his trip to the supermarket.  It went a little something like this:

This past weekend, like every weekend, I go to Whole Foods with my wife for our weekly food run. While sampling some of the very good wine, I ran into an old neighbor that I hadn’t seen in years.

We ended up having a long conversation about his company doing this whole “Agile and Scrum thing.” I found myself saying things like the following to help clarify his questions:

  • “Yes, that is Agile.”
  • “No, that’s not a Scrum principle.”
  • “Yes, that’s part of iterative development.”
  • “Well, that isn’t explicitly in Agile…”
  • “Well, Scrum doesn’t prescribe you to do…
  • “No, that would be waterfall…”
  • “Can we… I… get back to drinking free wine?…”

30 second Agile pitchThis reminded me of a very similar experience I had when my wife and I met some friends for dinner. One of them asked what I did exactly.  When I offered a 30 second explanation and included Agile, I got a quick “we do that at work” response. I was pleasantly surprised so I asked in what ways they leveraged Agile principles and approaches. Now, I’m no dogmatic Agilist but the follow-up response had me shaking my head. I wasn’t going to outright argue with her but she correlated doing something as fast as possible as being Agile. No collaboration, no planning, monitoring, or adapting. To her, anarchy and Agile were pretty much synonymous.

For all of you project managers, project leaders, facilitators, ScrumMasters, coaches or whatever you may call yourself, what would be your 30 second pitch?  Do you think you could explain what you do (to a layman) in 30 seconds?  I'd love hear some of your pitches.

Image: Pictofigo HT: AgileScout

ADD / ADHD Project Managers

While you’re probably aware that people with ADD/ADHD have trouble focusing on tasks that aren’t interesting to them, you may not know that there’s another side: a tendency to become absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and rewarding. This paradoxical symptom is called hyperfocus.  So writes I've spent my whole life with all of the symptoms but never wanted to admit actually having ADD/ADHD.  Perhaps it was out of concern someone would label me and force me to take some drug that would change me.  Though it doesn't help that I drink copious amounts of black coffee, for the most part, I think I've fared pretty well.   I think back to my childhood, remembering every report card included a comment from the teacher.

Derek has a hard time concentrating and talks too much.

Hyperfocus is actually a coping mechanism for distraction—a way of tuning out the crap and chaos. It can be so strong that I become oblivious to everything going on around me.  I still think hyperfocus is an invaluable asset.  How do you think I can sleep for 5 hours a night and get so much accomplished?  From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep, I have a thousand ideas in my head.  I scramble to keep up with them, writing them down or logging voice-notes.  I still really don't like all of the negative connotations associated with ADD/ADHD.  Sure, I have a wicked temper, I'm impulsive, and I'm very forgetful.  But, I don't think the last is an issue thanks to Evernote.  As for the first two, if you cross me, I will write you off and being impulsive just means I seize on opportunities.  Perhaps this is why I'm doing well on my current engagement.  I am asked to focus my attention on specific issues or opportunities and advise.  But seriously, you think of a successful project manager or entrepreneur and you tell me they don't have ADD/ADHD.

I hate to cut this post short but I need to...

Hey, look a butterfly!

(graphic courtesy of meggitymegs )

To PMP or not to PMP That is the question

My first exposure to the PMP® (Project Management Professional) certification was several years ago when I was dealing with a stakeholder over at National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Though I had worked in technical consulting before, I hadn't worked strictly as a PM until this point.  I remember seeing this stakeholder had this "PMP" at the end of her name and I also recall how she was horrible to deal with.  She was demanding, rude, and exhibited no control over what she did.  In retrospect, she didn't follow the PMBoK at all.  My boss at the time made things very clear to me.  He said talk to her a lot.  She liked to feel important and in charge.  I didn't have formal PM training at the time so I treated her like I would any customer.  I was polite and engaged her, listening to not just her needs but her wants.  Wow did she had a lot of wants.

Oh did I say I wanted that button in blue?  That's not the blue I wanted.  Be specific?  Bluer then that.  Make it bluer than that but not too blue.  No, I won't sign a change request.  Just do it.

I tried to understand her motivations.  But let's face it, sometime people are just miserable and mean and you have just let it go.  Because she had a PMP credential, she was suddenly justified in her actions.  I compare this with the age old question, "What do you call the people who graduate last in their medical-school class?  That answer is "Doctor".

This person clearly was hiding behind her credential.  As far as I was concerned, she gamed the system.  She passed the test but didn't learn the lessons.  That's not how I operate.  But, I saw the trend.  The PMP was getting the hype from stakeholders and hiring managers.  It suggests a PMP is a prerequisite to being able to manage a project.

My motivation was different from this "paper" PMP and many others I've met since.  I wanted to be a great project manager.  I wanted to create things and solve problems.  I wanted to be both disciplined and personal.  So, I studied and studied, with the hope of becoming a PMP and I did it.  For those out there who think they can go get the certification and be great project managers, think again.  That's like saying all great cooks are great chefs.  They aren't!  Great cooks can follow directions.  Great chefs can create something remarkable out of whatever they are given.  Just because you've been to culinary school doesn't make you a great chef.  If you don't have that creativity and passion, it's just not going to happen.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not so arrogant that I think I am a great project manager.  I am merely a student of project management who wishes to refine his craft and teach others to do it as well.  If you think getting the PMP is what you'll need to be taken seriously, do what you have to do.  I don't write the rule book.  I just try to play the game the best I can.  If I can help others out there, I will.

This post was inspired by Geoff Crane and the comment he made here on The Critical Path.

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