Archives for category: Work

Three Michaels organized th PM Camp in Vienna, which took place last June. I am still arranging all impressions, ideas and questions in my head – so many thanks to all participants as much as to the organzational team! Looking forward to meet some of the people in Dornbirn on PM Camp 2012!

In the meantime I managed to put my Vienna speech into Prezi – let’s go!


If you are a wise man, you always add holidays to the project plan. your national as much as holidays of your customer and your best-cost-country supplier. at least two weeks between X-Mas and next year, so that nobody expects you to deliver in that period.

Every summer I’m facing the summer vacation problem: how to plan if one – two – three – many people are on the beach, but customer still expects to have proper stand in and deliverables per schedule? may I add two to three vacation weeks to my project plan?

I need to think about. if you have any suggestions or experiences, please share!

I’m not sure if you know the marshmallow challenge. this is one of that kind of simple games for everyone which brings a lot of fantastic perceptions to the visible level. e.g. about teamwork. about organizational structures. roles and responsibilities. personality types. you can play it with kids and with CEOs, all of them will have fun and – well facilitated – learn a lesson.

Usually, a marshmallow challenge lasts 18 minutes. My first challenge – played in the PM camp 2011 – was different. I thank to Sven who provided us excellent guidance and made me curious about agile way of doing things – we played the marshmallow challenge in 2 sessions each with 9 minutes. We did lessons learned between the two sessions. and – as expected, the result of the second round was much better!

In my current project, I facilitated the marshmallow challenge same way – 2 rounds, lessons learned in between. Three teams started immediately, no questions, no rules violations! We repeated the experience with the better result in the second round in all three groups. We also confirmed the known effect that mixed teams (e. g. engineers and purchasing) are more successful.we had a long discussion after the game, and there were a lot of questions – especially about “usual size” of the towers.

Now, 2 weeks later, we started to call our demanding items “marshmallow”. If you don’t know what I am speaking about, never played this game and would like to, please feel free to check out, download and use the short presentation I did.

Today I scheduled a “Silent Tuesday” for forty engineers. Every Tuesday forenoon, no meetings and no telecons are allowed in our cube farm. All Eisenhower B-tasks can now be scheduled into this magic hours to get things done. I have neither functional nor disciplinarily kind of power in this organization – I am subcontractor. But I am sure, we will use this time as planned and no one from higher management will come and disturb us.

I’ll keep my finger crossed.


Some weeks ago I went home from my customer’s office. It takes me about an hour from door to door and I usually use that time to silence all kinds of hubbub. On this special way home I had a dream: a dream about my workplace. It wasn’t bound to a device and didn’t have E-Mail. Yes. It was so simple and it looked so very realistic – in my head.

Until that evening I had tried a lot of collaborative tools. Asana, Basecamp, LeanKit, Flow and some of the agile tools. All of them were perfect for some purposes, none was perfect for me.

Two days ago I signed up for Wunderkit and I think I finally found what I was looking for. The main difference to most of the other collaboration tools is: the focus is on me, not some company or organisation. As a freelancer with many projects and many groups to work with, I love the simplicity (less functions is more!), the UI and the absence of E-Mail. Yes, no E-Mail. I can connect my workplaces with Facebook or Twitter or invite other people by E-Mail, but once they are in my workplace, I get reminded or notified in my Browser. I love it already even though I haven’t really started working with it.

I’ll write down some more details once I get more experience with my new workplace.

My customer’s engineering doesn’t care about my budget. According to the contract, all of my non-recurring costs are included until the requirements freeze milestone of the project. Probably because of this, my customer doesn’t care about dates either. Our final requirement freeze milestone was moved (by the customer) five times – from January 2010 to December 2011. The only thing my customer is asking for is to assure the quality of the product.

My customer’s management cares about my budget. They want an agreed end date for my services because every prolongation costs a lot of money. Starting this week I have to report my earned value. As requested, I did a burn up chart for 2012 based on the agile methodology (story points).

So even if my project is planned in days and measured in $$, I want to measure the value of my project based on the product, especially on product quality. In points. Agreed with the team, to be agreed with the management. Uff.

We never have time to do things right, but we always have time to do things twice.

In 2012 I do not care about my milestones and I also do not care about my budget. No, I am not kidding. There are two ways to spend too much of both: doing things wrong and doing wrong things. I will take care about quality. That’s all. In other words: It is better to have a happy customer than an earned value above 1.

May the force be with me.

There is no better time to eliminate and delegate as now. Big chance to get more by doing less, let’s try:

– remove all yellow sticky notes from your desk. Yes, put them in trash. Delete them. Destroy them.

– do the same with all other loose notes and reminders on your desk. If something is really important (need your review or signature e.g.), put it into your 2013 tray. So delete all printed minutes, plans and so ones. Let them disappear from your desk.

– clean your desk. Dispose 2012 calendars. Remove all souvenirs and destructive stuff into a drawer or box.

– for those of the task and things to do which are still in your head, forget your own. You don’t need to think about them during the holiday season. Have the heart to do so!

– for those of the tasks and things to do which are still in your head but belong to someone else, delegate it. I write letters, similar to: “Dear Xxxx, this short notice is to say Hello to 2013. I’m glad to have you in my team (bla bla bla, personal message with some feedback – every feedback is s gift!). In 2012, we had good progress and some ambitions for 2013. To start well please think about #Task#. It is one of most important in our current project phase bla bla. Good start! Nadja”. As also my team members have the right to forget, I will give them the letters next year.

Summarized: Eliminate! Forget! Delegate! Everything what is really important, will come back to you early enough.

Merry Christmas and Happy lazy New Year!

p.s. you can get a wonderful calendar for 2013 HERE

My project is out of budget. In the budget review 2012 we were kindly asked to implement earned value process to watch our progress. I rejected this request last 3 years because we are in the engineering project, where too many changes happen (requirements, materials, durations, authorities requests), but now the budget is spent, nerves are on edge – the micromanagement phase starts.

So how to calculate earned value in an engineering project? Well, lets start with deliverables. We have about 30 hardware parts to be delivered to the customer for the brand new aircraft. Every of this equipment is different in complexity, some are simple, some have very new product development parts, never seen before. For this reason, the testing and documenting is partially more important and more difficult as usual. We had a lot trouble with some of the parts already in the engineering testing, no one knows, how many Murphys will visit us in the next weeks and months. So, most of the time we do much more than planned and still behind schedule. How to calculate this?

Currently we agreed on using agile thinking and the burn up chart. Every change – every unpredictable change – will be added on top to the scope. If the management wants earned value management, they will get the whole truth. I will report about the progress here.

If you read this and have similar experience or helpful ideas, I would be glad to learn from you!

I am a bad project manager. Seems to be so. I have a date. I have a customer who really needs my product at this date. I was able to speed up ordering parts, but I forgot Murphy. Murphy took two of three needed resources in the needed week.

To write a report and to say that we need to move the date would take me five minutes. Than I would need some more minutes on the phone with the customer to explain. Than some more hours with the management to explain why customer called them. Then some more time to get other resources and to try to reach the goal with them.

There is no project management book that says that non-technical project manager is not allowed to do technical stuff. And if there would be one, it is on time to write another books. Mixing up roles and responsibilities in a good team can add a lot of fun to what we do, I believe. From all the engineers around me that’s me who knows the product from the first day – so I rolled up my sleeves and had a wonderful day in the factory. As I am not allowed to show you the product, imagine you can see first functional prototypes of a brand new aircraft cabin equipment…



Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions, said my lovely friend Mark Twain.
I play a lot at work. My team (engineers) live the lego project plan and for judgment help we have Yoda, the wise man. As long as our acts are affected by fears, Yoda quotes helps us in every decision.
I have seen a lot examples of playing. A change country map, a speaking team crocodile, project mascots, eat-after-closure action lists (chocolate!), playmobil stakeholder land… Scrum cards are an example too :-)
Let’s play!