re:publica 12

I just decided to go to re:publica 12 to meet “people who push technology further, rethink education, mobility or finance, develop interactive designs and games, turn thought patterns upside down, pimp conventional businesses, and who screw up things the right way as part of the DIY movement.”


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!

Today Google welcomed me with the pic above.  Mark Twains birthday. I love Mark Twain. And I like Tom Sawyer. The most one story I like is about the fence, ’cause this story explain me something about project management unwritten rulez.

A project manager and Tom Sawyer. They have a great deal in common. For sure you know, what Tom says to Ben? “Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

Do we project managers get a chance to do what we do every day? To go ahead, to move, to retrieve, to help, to recover, to explain, to win? Yes! Every day in the project managers life is a very special day. Thats why I love this job so much.

By the way, Tom was a great lazy project manager. He understood to inspire and to delegate and after the first conversation with Ben, you know, he enjoyed his Saturday in the shadow looking on his friends work.

Be lazy, be happy!

It is your decision

What do you get for passing “GO” in Monopoly? Some (play) money. What do you get for taking over a troubled project? Nothing. The only thing you probably get is a warm handshake and “I am so happy to have you here, you are such an experienced project manager, you know how to master this.”

Welcome to daily madness. Everyone is on the run, due dates are late, the budget is exceeded, the customer moans, stakeholders shake their heads… And if you want to go crazy, don’t you dare to stop doing everything exactly as your predecessor did. Just continue and play your given role.

I did not. I had no wish to end with a burnout. I assessed the project and decided to experiment. I developed and stayed with some personal convictions and I tried some techniques from the Agile project management. I started with a so called “Swedish coffee”. In Sweden – so I was told by one of my team – project teams use to sit in coffee corners and discuss project relevant matters of all kind and priority. No beamer, no agenda, no minutes – just the team and the project (“just the team” means, I was very lucky to have great team members on board!). What we did while we were drinking coffee? We went through risk and actions lists – based on what every one of us had in the head – and we made decisions. Decisions about roles and responsibilities, about customer’s expectations and about priorities, even personal development, touch typing and short cuts in Excel and Word … Very simple but also very important things!

It is very easy

The next step was to involve three of project managers’ best friends in the team: Murphy, Pareto and Eisenhower.

Murphy, because unexpected events make us (project managers) happy: we can show how brilliant and how cool we are. If you have to deal with “green” projects with no issues, you are more or less useless and get totally bored. Pareto is our friend because he has shown that we only need 20% of the designated project resources to get 80% of the desired output done. This works for all team members, not only for the project manager! Eisenhower finally helps to decide which of your tasks you definitely need to do by yourself.

So we sat in the coffee corner, differentiated our tasks into “handle”, “delegate” or “leave”, discussed about soccer and weekend activities and … stressed the nerves of most of the other people in the company. While everyone else was running around like headless chicken, my team and me decided to be lazy and to work less for more fruits. As a new project manager within this organization, I had some doubts if I do experiment too much, but: our project went well, we mastered our tasks, we were nearly on budget and wonderful on time and our customer was – yes no kidding: relaxed.

You are not alone

Have you read the “4 hours week” by Tim Ferris? Some recommendations to eliminate time consuming things are very easy to implement and Tim has a huge number of followers. You want it less general and more related to project management? Read Peter Taylor!

I met Peter in 2010. He spoke about productive laziness in one project management conference, and from this day I knew: I am on the right way. I am not alone. It is possible to reduce effort and still get your project in good shape. It is great to have more free time for proactive planning and team building. And there is absolutely no need to run around as a headless chicken to have success.

My project is in the final phase now. From Peter’s book I learned that the dinosaur is fat in the end and that I need to invest some more hours now. I have enough energy for this, because I was very lazy in the past 4 to 6 months. And you can do it as well!


p.s. This article is also posted by Peter on his blog.

Getting up in the morning, do you know what will land in your stomage at the end of the day?

Sending you kids to the school, do you know, what they will ask you at lunch?

Last week we (the project) got the request from controlling to update our budget for 2012 till November 25. Today we were requested to send it out today. Sitting with the team in the coffee corner, we agreed, that learning from the past…

… we cannot predict the future (we are engineering project! Mistakes and errors happen at least once a week…)

… we will add appx. 20% of our best guess on-top for Mr. Murphy

The snapshot above shows the shortest project plan I ever used for year planning, but this “big picture” with just some sections was – acc. the feedback from my team – very helpful to see the whole picture.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.Soren Kierkegaard

Today a short video impulse about my new way to discuss changes in resource allocation. Before Stattys, we did it with PowerPoint…