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Managing a Project 02 Apr 2007 10:00 am

Topic 4: Managing a Project (Some reading materials)

Getting ready for our next meeting (April 18) on Managing a Project.

Here are some interesting materials you should read to get you thinking about the issues. Next time we will talk about what people really mean when they want to learn about how to manage a project.

To start out, it might help to get at least one definition and discussion of what “Project Management” is. A great place to start is here, this article on Project Management from Wikipedia. Wikipedia provides a really nice organized discussion about project management–no real references to hair pulling or other symptoms of most projects. So it is a good place to start. You do not have to memorize all of it, some of it is fairly technical (and probably unduly complicated). The important thing is to catch the basics, like Time, Cost, Scope (what a surprise).

For another look, here is another article from our friend Joel Spolsky at

This on is on Software Scheduling, which is a good component of many projects. I think you will find it quite helpful and stimulating. As always, Joel is both entertaining and extremely practical.

Finally, you might want to try out some of these articles about “people in groups” (which sounds a little like performance art). These are actually reasonably short and practical guides, so don’t be afraid to jump right in. I like these types of articles because they tell me about what really works (not just what we think works), how to apply our own common sense, and how to put it all in order.

Both of these articles come from links from this website: The Free Management Library under Group Dynamics


Evaluating People 21 Mar 2007 06:32 pm

Hey everyone, here is the outline from our meeting today.


We did not get to everything today, and we still haven’t solve the problem with getting good amplification on the conference call, but we got some good observations.

Everyone’s challenge in the next week is to post good interview questions. Think of questions that will help you really understand what a person is like. Remember the question about “your manager wants you to do one thing and the client wants you to do another, what do you do?” Make them up, keep them coming. We can all use these.

Next Topic: Managing a Project/Rescuing a Drowning Project. We do lots of projects, what have we learned. I think we will enlist a panel of “experts” to help us this time (that would be you, you are all experts at this one).

I’ll have some interesting materials for you shortly.

And don’t forget, Records Management Week, April 9-13.

Evaluating People 27 Feb 2007 09:41 am

Topic 3: Evaluating People

While we are talking about evaluating people, you might find this article by Malcolm Gladwell very interesting. Called “The New Boy Network”, it talks about how we evaluate people, especially in employment interviews.

(Malcolm Gladwell is also on our book club list with “The Tipping Point“. He is also the author of “Blink” and a writer for the New Yorker Magazine).

Evaluating People 22 Feb 2007 01:21 pm

Topic 3: Evaluating People

What is it about evaluating people? I found it really interesting that everyone wanted to take on this topic next.

Are there special topics you would like to cover?

  • Why do we find it hard to evaluate people?
  • How do we “evaluate” people without “judging them”?
  • Are there things that “bias” us when it comes to evaluating people? What do we do about that?

The comment lines are open.

And while you are at it, you might want to look at these three articles written by Joel Spolsky (Joel on Software on our blogroll) about how they look at prospective candidates at Fog Creek Software

Negotiation 22 Feb 2007 12:44 pm

Topic 2: Negotiation (Aftermath)

Thanks to everyone who attended either in person or on the phone. I hope that those of you on the phone could hear well enough for it to be helpful.

As an follow up, I am attaching my Negotiation Session Outline so that you can see how all the pieces were at least supposed to work together.

To put what we talked about into practice, I would welcome comments here, especially on two topics:

  • Controlling the “wringing of the washcloth” we experience in our negotiations with our clients (about time, deadlines, features or price).
  • Negotiating as if implementation mattered, is a very healthy way for both FNC and its clients to look at how it forms its agreements. What would you suggest we negotiate with our clients that would help with implementation?
  • Next Steps

    I will be adding all of the documents we refer to into the 2007 Meeting Info page under the appropriate meeting and topic. That way you will not need to track back through the different posts to find the material.

    Next Topic

    Evaluating People

Negotiation 18 Feb 2007 08:47 am

Topic 2: Negotiation (The Case Studies)

Here are 5 case studies we will be using in our discussions on Thursday, February 22. You should be thinking about them between now and then taking into account the readings we have assigned.

You will want to consider:

1. Negotiating from Interests not Positions

    People: Separate the people from the problem
    Interests: Focus on interests, not positions
    Options: Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do
    Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard

2. BATNA, or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement

3. Preparation

4. Drawing the line in price negotiations

5. Negotiating as if implementation mattered

Now, here are our case studies:

Case Study #1: Buying a Car

  • How many of you like to buy cars?
  • Why does everyone hate to buy cars?
  • Convinced you will not get the best deal (makes us anxious)?
  • Don’t enjoy the amount of time it takes to reach a decent deal?
  • Don’t feel emotionally up to the challenge?
  • Afraid you will be stuck with a car salesperson you do not like (or is not listening to you, or…)?
    • How do you prepare?

      What is your BATNA?
      How do you stage the negotiation? How does the car dealership stage the negotiation?
      What is the “I need to get my sales manager’s approval for this…” (is this the same as getting the buyer to “stop squeezing the washcloth”)
      What is the car dealership’s BATNA?

    Case Study #2: CMS Agreement

    • Does FNC have different interests in a CMS agreement depending on where you are in the organization?
      How does negotiating “interests” help?
      What are our clients interest in the CMS? What do they worry about?
      Is the CMS agreement a price negotiation?
      What has been our problem with negotiating CMS agreements?
      When does the negotiation of a CMS agreement start?
      What is the objective of the CMS agreement negotiations?
      What about “negotiation as if implementation mattered”?

    Case Study #3: Change Requests and Completion Dates

      Is a change request a negotiation?
      What our own interests in a change request or completion date?
      Does FNC have different interests in how we treat change requests?

    Case Study #4: Salary Negotiations

    Why is salary negotiation a great case study? (How many of you get chills just thinking about it?)

    Does this illustrate the importance of separating the people from the problem and the real need to understand the human side of negotiations?

    • How will “invent options” help?
      Is “salary” the only important issue? (Increase the options)
      What about different assignments?
      What about different or newer equipment?
      What about additional training?
      What about a phase in of any salary change?
      What do you say when someone says, “if I give you a raise, I have to give everyone a raise”?

    Case Study #5: Getting people to work on your project on your timetable

    • How do you negotiate with your peers?
      What are your peers’ interest?

      • Do you know?
        Can you find out?

      What can you “trade” in the negotiation?

  • Negotiation 05 Feb 2007 03:34 pm

    Topic 2: Negotiation (Some Materials)

    Here are some great materials to help everyone get ready for our next session: Negotiation. February 22, 2007. You should go ahead and download them right now.

    The first reading is called Draw the Line in Price Negotiations and is taken from a chapter in Solution Selling by Michael Bosworth

    The second reading is one of the Harvard Business Review’s On Point Collections. This one is called HBR Masterful Negotiating.

    Next week we will start laying out some quick case studies we will examine during the meeting.

    If you have not yet started reading, don’t forget that our text for this meeting is “Getting to Yes: How to Negotiate Agreement Without Giving In” by Fisher, Patton and Ury. We still have some left in the library; just ask Chip Bolton or Neil Olson for a copy—we have not only paperbacks but an audio version.

    This is a very important book on negotiations, so you will want to consider buying your own copy.HBR Masterful Negotiating 2d EditionHBR Masterful Negotiating 2d Edition

    Negotiation 19 Jan 2007 01:37 pm

    Topic 2: Negotiation (A Preview)

    Topic 2 Negotiation (A Preview for Next Meeting)

    Don’t forget to review and comment on the notes from our meeting on Collaboration (below). The price of admission to the next session is to make a comment on the blog.

    Topic 2 is negotiation and the book club selection that goes along with it is the book “Getting to Yes: How to Negotiate Agreement Without Giving In” by Fisher, Patton and Urby

    To get everyone started we have ordered 10 copies of the book for the Oxford office along with an audio version that will be in a lending library. Talk to Chip Bolton next week if you would like to borrow a copy. We will also have 5 copies in California along with an audio version for use as well.

    Collaboration 18 Jan 2007 04:25 pm

    Topic 1: Collaboration Case Studies Results

    Here are some of the preliminary notes from our discussion yesterday. To allow everyone to keep track, I have reproduced the case studies then placed the notes underneath in italics.

    Since this session is a little different—it is the opening discussion about how we might better collaborate and communicate–we will be posting more updates about this and asking people to help out with new developments as they come.

    In the following case studies, we were looking at

    • How are we managing the case/circumstance today?
    • What are the advantages of how we are managing today?
    • Are there different ways that we might manage these cases in the future that would be better?
    • What tools, processes or changes would we need to make to take advantage of those different ways we have identified?

    Here are the some of the results of our conversation on Wednesday, to the best of my notes. Feel free to comment and correct any of these observations.

    Case Studies

    1. Writing Specifications. We are all working on writing specifications for a client CMS.

    • How do we share?
    • Where is the specification “located”?
    • What “form” is it in?
    • Is someone the “author”? (Who is in charge of the document?)
    • How do we assert version control?
    • Are there places for comments to be stored if we are having a discussion about a topic?

    How do we share and collaborate (DIAGNOSTICS)?

    [It may not be true, but I am taking it that the term “specifications” can cover more than formal specifications and we can use it to refer to nearly any document we develop for or with a client. Is that true?]

    • We share specifications through Portal, VSS and e-mail
    • People get lost in the versions, not sure whether they have the most recent version or not (not “automatically updated”)
    • Too many people in the process to keep coordinated
    • Client requirements do not necessarily come in through a predictable path, or find their way into the mainstream

    • There is an “author”, single “gate keeper” [is this true?] but heavy burden on the single author to manage the process

    • Sharepoint has version control but many people do not trust the version tool, so hesitant to rely on it.

    • May be issues with file naming [?]

    • VSS is considered more reliable but cannot gain access when outside the office (which is often the case with interested parties), except through VPN

    • Many clients do not allow FNC employees to gain access to the Internet through their systems while on client premises.
    • People have very different experiences with VPN and Internet access. Some find VPN connections work well, while others have persistent problems with it, so not necessarily good basis for FNC wide process
    • People use Sharepoint when the specification is considered “done”. However, even when done, the specifications are still alive.
    • After the specifications are “done” they are really distributed by e-mail, so it is very easy to lose track of versions.
    o While it is possible to distribute a document by link to Sharepoint, that is really only considered reliable for people inside the network. Those outside the office are more likely to receive the document by e-mail.


    o There are Internet versions of VSS
    o But, there still needs to be rules

    • Source code should not be available in the same place as the design documents (not clear whether source code should ever be available through unprotected means)
    • What portion of the specifications would we make available on an Internet based VSS?
    • What portion of those specifications would we make “public”, that is, available to clients (and using what protections)
    • What portion of those specifications would we make available only to FNC
    • How do we decide? How do we do that?
    In general, everyone is unhappy with the way this works

    2. Client Meeting. We are all meeting today to make some decisions about a client, such as how to approach a specific issue they have raised.

    How do we get everyone together?
    How do we set follow up meetings?
    How do we distribute documents to everyone?
    How do we assign tasks, and track those tasks?
    How do we “report back” on our assignments to each other?

    • Results of my assignment
    • Make information available to everyone who needs to know it

    How do we report the final results of our discussions?
    Do we keep a permanent record of our discussions?
    How do we weave this information into the general discussions and information we maintain about a client?

    • Where do we keep general information about a client?
    • Where do we keep track of past decisions and actions about clients?

    5. Panic Phone Call. We just received a panicky phone call from one of our clients saying that their flux capacitor is broken and they need it fixed before 10:04 pm, when they need it for a very quick spin.

    How do we get everyone together who can help?
    Where do we find the necessary tools and information to fix the flux capacitor?
    How do we coordinate?
    How do we keep everyone up to date on progress
    How do we know when we are successful?

    We combined the two (case #2 and #5) for purposes of our discussions.

    • This process seems to work, except [see below]
    • The “author” or “director” in this case is the Project Manager
    • Project Manager sets up the meeting

    • Uses meeting function in Outlook

    • Sets time
    • Distributes materials (attached to meeting notice)
    • Helps with assessment of both severity of the problem and its priority within all of the other tasks (for this client, for all clients)

    The Project Manager is the record keeper and reports out to the group

    Most typical action is a “change request” which is a very organizing document, since it incorporates essentially all the issues into a single format and has an established process associated with it

    • Once a specific action has entered the “change request” process, it tends to document itself.
    • Next step is to enter RAID, which tracks all changes
    • Note also that once a project is in process (which is bigger than the “issue” based discussion we started with here), it tends to be documented in the project logs

    This method is less successful when the issues are “non-critical”

    • No further details on this. Can someone elaborate?
    • Does the problem become an “orphan” somehow?

    System breakdown. This method also breaks down when it involves a “joint project”(a term I am using for projects involving more than one project manager, such as a joint CMS and Data and Analytics project with two project managers).
    • There is no real “integration” project manager
    • No system for tying the two projects together (no one is really in charge at this point)

    3. We are having a series of management roundtables. People walk out of the meeting and think of things they want to share, or discuss after the meeting, and before the next meeting.

    How do we add reference materials?
    How do we suggest additional reading?
    How do we allow people to post and circulate comments?
    The current blog is a good start, but it does not have the capacity for managing documents, only postings and links.
    • We will have to see over time how this works.
    • More people need to start using it to see.
    • We may need to look at other programs.

    4. Knowledge Base. We have a boatload of knowledge about how to do many things, from how to format Word documents to how to solve the most arcane issues inside of CMS.

    How do we record (or perhaps retrieve) this information?
    How do we share this information?
    How do we organize?
    Who should be in charge? Or should it be a Wiki where no one is “in charge”?

    There was considerable interest in this issue, however,
    There was serious concern about
    • Who would be in charge? That is, take authorship of the documents
    • Can anyone be an author? Not sure everyone was in favor of this.
    There needs to be a standardized location for everything
    • Some place everyone can reach
    • Adopted by everyone
    • Maintained
    Need to explore the idea of knowledge base
    Is the knowledge base just a place for answering people’s questions or is it a general index to all issues, projects?

    6. Corporate Calendar/Corporate Awareness. What is the best way to keep people apprised of corporate issues and events?

    Where and what should the corporate calendar be?
    • What are the important dates?
    • What should be on it?
    • How do we make sure that everyone can see it?
    What about the Monday Morning Memo?
    • What is the function of the Monday morning memo?
    • Does it satisfy that function?
    • Does it need to be reformed or discontinued?
    I keep getting confused about all our products and service
    • What are our products and services?
    • What are do all those acronyms mean?
    o PDF scan, OCR, AP Pro, XMS, etc
    And what about all those other offices? What do they do?

    Monday Morning Memo. There was the feeling that this was not doing what it was originally intended to do (not clear what it was originally intended to do).
    • Perhaps issue it less frequently
    • Perhaps introduce new employees (how about a photo?)

    Corporate Calendar
    • This was much more popular.
    • There was the feeling that it was hard to plan with respect to all of the events that occur
    • Would like to see a nice central location for a corporate calendar
    • Might be nice to receive reminders of upcoming events (is that a calendar function?)

    Collaboration 17 Jan 2007 09:02 am

    Topic 1: Collaboration and Intranet Design

    Here is a quick reference to the “top 10” Intranet sites, from Jakob Nielsen’s blog. He is well known in the usability area.

    This is good context on how we can collaborate using an Intranet.

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