Building Consensus

One of the core skills of a Program Manager is to build consensus. Microsoft (like many knowledge-worker driven IT companies) is not a top-down organization. For the most part, projects, ideas, directions are taken on through a consensus building exercise at one level or another. While this can be frustrating and slow at times, it…

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The What and the How

I was talking recently with a coworker of mine about the “what” and the “how” of software projects.   The “What” is the definition of the thing you are building.  What customers should we go after? What markets should we serve? What competitors do we care about?  What scenarios matter most?  What feature should we have?…

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Thoughts on writing reviews…

Well, it is that time of year again here Microsoft – time for managers to write employee reviews (they are due 9/15 folks ;-)).  While this is the subject of much Dilbert-style joking, I thought it would be useful for me to write down a few of my opinions, habits, and observations about actually writing…

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PM tip# 11: Information is the Currency of Program Management

A huge differentiator between mediocre PMs and excellent PMs is how they deal with information.  Anyone that has been a PM for more than a few days inherently knows that information – getting, distilling, combining and distributing of ideas – is a key part of just about every PM job.   PMs that know how to…

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The Beta vs. CTP Dilemma

Over the last couple of years, the CTP or Community Technology Preview has been one of the bigger changes in the way Microsoft release software.  Microsoft introduced the concept of CTPs with the “Whidbey” .NET Framework and Visual Studio release but I was happy to see the concept spread to SqlServer, Expression, WinFX and even…

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PM Tip #72 Instant feedback…

Update: See the full list of PM Tips.   One thing I love about blogs is the instant feedback aspects.  While certainly comments on a blog are far from scientific you can get some great anecdotal  responses that can help you see problems in a new way or provide some real-world data to backup one…

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PM Tip #21: Sanity Will Prevail

Update: See the full list of PM Tips.   One of the core jobs of a PM is to hold tight to the vision of the product.  There are a million things that can distract you and set you back.  Features get cut, resources get moved, partners fail to deliver.. the list goes on and…

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PM Tip # 32: Nothing kills excitement like ambiguity

Update: See the full list of PM Tips.   As a PM, one of your key jobs is building excitement for your feature.  This excitement is important among many different audiences.  ·         Among potential customers for your feature – Customers rarely buy or adopt what they are not excited about.   ·         Within your feature team…

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PM Tip #57: Write the agenda on the board

Update: See the full list of PM Tips.   One could write a whole set of books on how to have (or not have) a great meeting… this post deals with a very specific and actionable way to improve your meetings.  The rule is very simple.  Write down the agenda on some visible surface that…

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PM Tip #73: The "Be More Visible" Sham

Update: See the full list of PM Tips.   One common message PMs get from their managers is to “be more visible” (I know I have given that feedback myself) .  The manager often says it this way: “Billybob, you are doing great work, getting the right things done on time, but you are not…

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