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Why?

Just a brief observation, but why do some PM’s try to score points off each other. There seems to be a breed of managers that try to create a situation, dissent for the hell of it purely because they can?

Wrong, bad, go to the naughty step; hate that, hate hate hate.

My job is to deliver the project, successfully, not win a p*ssing contest with the supplier/customer/partner PM.  I’ll not compromise my employers position, but my first and foremost is to deliver a profitable project, with a happy customer and partners who want to work with us again.

It should be yours also.

Taking a view on Agile requirements

I have recently been having a discussion with a colleague trying to get them to understand that, in an agile environment you don’t need to define the deliverables with finite detail but instead have a vision of what you need to achieve and work towards it in measurable chunks.

In order to do so I used the metaphor of someone who, looking into the distance can see their immediate destination close up, they can see the fences that bar their way, or shortcuts that will save time and effort and can plan their route in detail.

However as they look further into the distance and towards their eventual destination, the detail to which they can plan their route gets less and less.  It’s only as they travel their route that they get to see the new barriers, new paths to tread and that they can plan the route for the the next phase in detail.

Have a view of the long term goals of your project but you can’t plan the whole thing in detail as things change was you go, plan the next phase in detail using your experience to make informed decisions, defining the detailed requirements for the each phase in turn refining your understanding of the project deliverables as you go.

And remember, the methodology is a tool to achieve the end goal not the goal itself.

Tailoring Prince2

At the risk of seeming obsessive, I’d like to touch on one of the major issues I feel that Prince2 still has in its education program and thus its application in the ‘real world’.  It comes in part from the distinction, real or perceived between the real working environment and the classroom (or Prince2 environment).

The course runs for 5 days well 4 and a half and there are two exams in that.  During the classroom sessions you go through the methodology in full and that’s good, you need to so that you understand the how the Process, Themes and Principles work together properly.  However most, if any projects that the candidates run will never use the entire Prince2 process in full.  To their credit, the change on 2009 made allowances and put more focus on embedding and tailoring the methodology, but it’s not really covered in the course.  As a result there is a separation between the application of Prince2 and the classroom. Candidates are cut loose after taking the course and expected to tailor the methodology without it ever being shown how.

This is where the Prince2 process falls over, the result can only lead to badly tailored projects that use some of the principles or use the methodology incorrectly breaking the processes to suit the needs of the project, this may work with varying degrees of success but it’s little wonder that there is some confusion, even ridicule for Prince2, which is a perfectly valid methodology, when two companies’ can have a completely different idea of what Prince2 actually is.

The Prince2 problem

Last week I completed my course and exam for my Prince2 practitioner certification. Now it’s no secret to those that know me that I have reservations about Prince as a methodology and over prescriptive ways of working, leaning more towards agile approaches as a rule. But any methodology is just a tool and, despite what others may say, a tool is only as effective as its application and the makeup of the team using it. Prince2 is no exception.
Here’s the revelation, Prince2 is not as bad as I first thought, there is a lot there that makes sense (if applied correctly) but, there are also a couple of pretty major gotchas as well.

So where does that leave us, Prince2 is a valid and useful means of getting things done, if applied properly (a whole different subject), its definition however has lost its way a little, time to get back on track fellas.

The manual.

Let’s start with the manual, as it’s likely anyone’s first exposure to Prince2 will be through the manual.  Be it guide or manual the tome reads like a book written by a crowd, a crowd that like to use a lot of words.  As a result the manual is badly written it, repeats itself often and end up confusing the reader rather than informing and assisting. Even if you make allowances for the fact that it’s written as a reference guide not a linear read.  The manual desperately needs to be designed (note, designed not re-designed) the structure needs refining, information design is vital in products like this and this needs to be added as part of the requirements for future editions, the methodology may be mature but the reference manual most definitely isn’t.  But then you need to reference it on the exam, and that’s where it gets really interesting.

The course

Firstly the course, it’s taught in a classroom environment which on the face of it seems to fit the material, which can be bland and confusing and does not do the methodology, which is not bland and confusing, justice.  There seems to some room to spice things up a little, one of the elements of the agile movement that make it so attractive to its advocates, is its user friendliness. It set outs to make the Agile fun right from the start and its courses are designed to be fun (and a little embarrassing) Prince2 could do with adopting some of this learning, information is easier to assimilate when learn by doing as opposed to being lectured to, maybe that would help the bad rep that prince2s has as a boring management tool.

The exam

Finally you get to the exam, firstly you need to suspend reality for a while to believe that any exam is an adequate method for testing a candidates understanding of a subject.

In Prince2 you face a test the reaches new level of confusion. When you take the course they allow a day, yes a whole day, on how to sit the exam, on how to interpret the questions and decipher what they actually mean. Now, any exam that needs a day to explain how to answer the questions to relatively intelligent, mature candidates has a problem. The real scary thing is, you need that day, the questions are designed to confuse the candidate, the format, though based on a prescribed testing method, has been skewed to fit the ideas of the examiners.  The English used is deliberately confusing and as a result the test becomes more a test in your English and your ability to just pass the test, your Prince2 knowledge becomes of secondary importance, and your ability to apply the methodology isn’t tested at all.

Prince2 is a valid management tool with useful if a little over complicated processes, if it’s applied correctly but that’s a whole different discussion.

PM 101: badgers never win

Little tip, no matter how much you try and how hard you want it, as a PM you should always avoid the constant badgering of your team or resources attached to your team, to deliver ‘product’.

it never works,  when I was on the other side of the line writing code and being ‘the resource’  I often encountered tow types of PM, the ‘badgers (?)’ and the guy / girl who knew how to get the best from their team, the ‘badgers’ task where always at the bottom of the list, same is true now I am the guy.

  • Trust your team
  • Set up your communication lines and trust them
  • Ask yourself who is this meeting benefiting, me or the project *before* you call it.
  • And leave the guys alone..

*caveat this assumes you have a team of competent staff, if this is not the case adjust your communication lines and project protocols according ;)