Seth Godin

How my Zombie PM Book Survived

It's been over a year since I published my book, Zombie Project Management, to the Amazon Kindle store. It was fun writing it and discovering the process of publishing a book.  So, you can image my surprise when Amazon sent me an email a few days ago.

During a review of your catalog, we found that one or more of your titles contain content that is freely available on the web.  Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has their work claimed and sold by anyone else.

Zombie Project Management (ASIN:B004V1GWFQ)

If, in fact, you are the sole owner of the publishing rights for the books listed above, please provide the URLs for all websites where you have previously published this or any other Kindle content. Please respond within five business days with the requested URLs so we can verify you have the sole publishing rights, or the books will be removed from sale in the Kindle Store. If the content of your book(s) are in the public domain, please confirm this and include the information you used to make this determination.

I promptly sent them a link to The Critical Path blog. I stated the origin of my book content was from my blog (which I am the sole owner of) and I had granted syndication rights to Talking Work.  I claim to have sole publishing rights to the content in the book.

The response took just a few days

Hello, Thank you for your cooperation in providing the requested information. The following book(s) will continue to be available in the Kindle Store. Zombie Project Management (ASIN:B004V1GWFQ) If you have any questions regarding the review process, you can write to us at ...

Best Regards, Aaron W. Amazon.com

I have three takeaways

  1. Don't plagiarize. We all have something to say, write, or do.  Let your work stand on its own.
  2. If you are in the right, you fight!  Don't be shy about it.
  3. Amazon was quick and they were fair.  It was a good experience.

To close, I'm going to quote Seth Godin from one of his blog posts.

Go, give a speech. Go, start a blog. Go, ship that thing that you’ve been hiding. Begin, begin, begin and then improve. Being a novice is way overrated

Image Source: Pictofigo

The Forest Through the Trees

Zombie PM WebsiteI'm coming down to the wire on the first installment of my Zombie Project Management book.  I look at my Kanban and all of the activities are one-by-one making it into the Done column.  It's actually quite exciting! I think back to reading several of Seth Godin's books and him writing "Pick a budget. Pick a ship date. Honor both. Don't ignore either. No slippage, no overruns."

I know that is easier said than done.  But halfway through writing my book I saw the forest through the trees.  This idiom personified what I'm trying to communicate.  I became a "writing" zombie.  I thought of those who came before me, puting pen to paper.  They had ideas but how many were able to actually offer their works to the general public?  What roadblocks stopped them from making their dream a reality?  To just accept the status quo without question is your first step to becoming a zombie.

Something in the book publishing business didn't seem right to me.  I didn't know what was bothering me until recently.  See, I don't like to ask permission and I don't like inefficient processes.  If a process doesn't seem to make sense to me, I want to change it.

Lightbulb Moment

Doesn't the book publishing process sound a lot more Waterfall than Agile? As the Product Owner, I take issue with that.
  • Step one was to not ask for permission.  I decided to use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • Step two was to pick a ship date and ship whatever I thought would have the greatest value first.
  • Step three is to ship more content, once a month, until I feel the body of work is comlete.
Why release the book in a series of sections or chapters rather than the entire book at once?  You all know I’m a strong proponent of Agile approaches.  When I looked at the publishing process, I compared it to tradition project management methods.  Traditionally, you plan it all out, you build, and then deliver the finalized product.  One thing I’ve learned is you can deliver value earlier, if you establish a series of deadlines and ship something at each deadline.  In that way, you lower your risk of not reaching your overall goal, by ensuring you deliver something regularly.  This will also allow you to produce something of value others can benefit from, at a lower cost.  One of my favorite books, Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber, has 9 chapters and 155 pages.  When I purchased the book at a Borders bookstore some 6 years ago, it cost me $39.99.  Though I recognize the value in reading a physical book cover to cover, I would now be willing to purchase an electronic version of the book, by the chapter.  Give me the chapters of greatest value first at a price relative its cost of production.  At $39.99, each chapter would have cost me just under $4.45.

 

So, with that in mind, I will "ship" a series of sections or chapters each month for $2.99.  I may even bundle a few chapters at a time and offer them as printed copies.

 

HT: Zombie drawings by Pictofigo

Yes, the link to the Scrum book by Ken Schwaber is an Amazon affiliate link.

Value Proposition for the Expensive Meeting

I got a lot of feedback from people after they read of my $17,902 meeting post.  I spoke to a few others in my office and they all agreed that the number sounded plausible. As I'm writing my proposal for corrective action, I will deliver it in the form of a value proposition. A value proposition is an analysis and quantified review of the benefits, costs and value that "something" an organization can deliver to customers and other constituent groups within and outside of the organization. It is also a positioning of value, where Value = Benefits / Cost (cost includes risk).  (Thank you Wikipedia for basis of that definition)

But, it's not as simple deliverable.

I use 7 stages of analysis.

  • Customer or market - Who am I creating the value proposition for?
  • Customer or market value - What do they say they value? (not what I say they value)
  • Offering - What is the product or service being proposed?
  • Benefits - What are the benefits? (Time, Money, Productivity,...)
  • Alternatives - What substitutes or alternatives are there? (like doing nothing)
  • Differentiation - How is my proposal different from anything else being offered?
  • Proof - What evidence do I have that I can do what you say?

In this case, I'm going to request a formal review of the Communications Plan, modifying it if necessary.  Because this is a status meeting (which is about reporting by one-way communication) not everyone needs to be there in person.  Before I go deep into my analysis, I'm going to bet I can apply the Pareto principle (80-20 rule) to get my point across.

If we do not devalue the benefit of the meeting, we can increase the overall value by decreasing cost.  That decreasing of cost, I would propose, would be asking 32 out of the 40 people to not attend the meeting in person.  By having 8 key linchpins (as defined by Seth Godin) attend this meeting, we could ensure the status is delivered and the message is not lost.

Other indirect communication methods could be used to ensure the information is distributed.  The slide deck and meeting minutes could be posted to a central location, allowing those who didn't attend the meeting in person to know what happened.  Whatever the final outcome, there is a big opportunity for cost savings.

Graphic: Pictofigo

Putting Things In Perspective

The last few weeks I've been focusing on numerous things.  I've been working 3-4 hours a night, preparing to launch a product to the Project Management community.  I've been writing at least one blog post every day.  I engage my client for at least 8 hours a day.  Lastly, I've been reading a lot more blogs, in the hope to understand the perspective of others.  That's just the work list!  Time I get to spend with family is limited to a brief few hours a night and on the weekends.  I thought I had figured it out.  Sleep less, drink more coffee, work harder, engage more. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  I love this roller-coaster I'm currently on.  Yesterday the roller-coaster stopped, at least momentarily.  I received an email from my work counterpart yesterday morning.

I had mild chest and shoulder pains this morning. I am in the ER waiting to see the doctor. I'll let you know the outcome and my status shortly.

I can't remember a time when I stopped and just thought what would happen if we lost her.  I'm not saying that in a selfish way, in relation to the program.  She's what Seth Godin would define as a linchpin.  Though yes, she is a very passionate and intelligent leader. I mean personally.  This is someone's daughter,  someone's wife, and many a someone's friend.

I don't think my vantage point has changed.  I'm still as stubborn as I was 2 days ago.  I'm just as determined to sleep less, drink more coffee, work harder and engage more.  But, it really did make me take pause, put things in perspective, and appreciate the people I interact with.

Your life is like a project.  It is a temporary endeavor.