Meaningful versus mundane

 We all deal with project management. Leads and program managers (PMs) deal with it constantly. There are meetings, status reports, charts, and dashboards. Project management beats project chaos, but how much of it really matters? What’s meaningful versus mundane? You can tell the new or incompetent leads and PMs from the capable ones by the…

1

On budget

 When you become a dev manager, new responsibilities may arise that you are utterly unprepared to handle. I’m talking about recruiting, firing and layoffs, vendor management, and budgeting. You get very limited exposure to these duties prior to becoming a manager, and as a techie you took roughly zero classes about them in school. Most…

1

To be precise

 On August 5, 2012, the NASA rover Curiosity completed its six-month journey from Earth to Mars, touching down near the middle of its roughly 40-square-mile targeted landing area. Many news outlets compared the landing to making a hole-in-one at a Scotland golf course after teeing off in Los Angeles. Many people and project managers expect…

3

You can’t have it all

 There are two executive planning strategies: go for it all (cut later), and do a few things well (add later). Executives follow the strategy that best reflects their belief system. They use that planning strategy to drive work throughout the product cycle. Executives who go for it all believe their staffs produce the most when…

0

Out of focus

 Are you sensing a rush coming as we complete midyear career discussions at Microsoft and head into the stretch toward annual reviews? Worried about keeping up with your peers when you already have far too much to do and far too little time in which to do it? Feeling lost already? Please. Get a grip…

0

Who’s in charge here?

 I was talking with a friend from another Microsoft division. He complained about gridlock on his team because “no one can make a decision.” He lamented, “We discuss issues and come to some conclusions, but rarely get a resolution that sticks.” I bit my tongue. He is a friend. Later in that same conversation, my…

0

Coordinated agility

 I’ve been using Scrum for seven years and writing about it for the last six. Scrum’s concept is fantastic—multidiscipline, self-directed teams, iterating on short scenarios (stories), in small batches from start to finish, within short, fixed-length, continuous-improvement cycles. Given the success many Microsoft® teams have had with Scrum, it’s stunning that such a strong disconnect…

3

Right on schedule

My older son can now drive. This adds two new worries to my life—how ancient I feel and thoughts of my son in a ditch somewhere. To mitigate the second worry, my wife and I enforce a curfew and insist my son call if he’s running late. The other night, he arrived home 20 minutes…

0

It starts with shipping

Call me “old school” but I believe in shipping. Trying isn’t enough. Getting close isn’t enough. Good ideas aren’t enough. You’ve got to ship. It used to be that interviews started with, “What have you shipped?” If you hadn’t shipped recently, “Why?” Why? Because you can’t deliver customer value if you don’t deliver. You can’t…

4

I would estimate

When I’m discussing challenges with fellow engineers, the first topic that comes up isn’t estimation—it’s career and people challenges. That’s why those issues are so rampant in these rants. However, “How do you generate task estimates?” is always among the top non-moaning-about-your-manager-or-mates topics. After all, estimation is predicting the future. There are so many unknowns…

6