Project Management and Investments
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  • Scrum and self-organizing teams

    Posted on December 20th, 2012 Peter Tjernström No comments

    I stumbled across this article, which has a good point at the end. One that values are implicit in the methods you’re using. All organizations build on values, and when you want to change the way of working (WoW) you first need to assess if the organization’s values support the new WoW.

    Large companies that want to “go Agile” have something to learn here.

    “A good first step in introducing agile to your company is to talk about the values, and how they might impact your company’s culture. If you find that your agile adoption runs into trouble, finding the mismatch between agile values and company culture can help you smooth out the transition (or at least help you feel better by understanding why things went wrong).”

    http://www.stellman-greene.com/2012/06/10/scrum-and-self-organizing-teams/

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  • Project Management Case Study Part 1: Background and Assignment

    Posted on September 18th, 2009 Peter Tjernström No comments

    Background

    Back in 2000, Infineon Technologies was the world market leader in chip-sets for Cordless Phones, also known to many as DECT Phones. Infineon had reached that position thanks to fruitful combined efforts with its one time owner, Siemens, which then had the no 1 position in the market for these consumer products. At this time, the Vice Presidents at Infineon’s Business Group for wireless communication (WS) decided to stop all new product development in the Cordless segment in order to be able to invest in future technologies with higher growth and profitability prospects such as Bluetooth and Wireless LAN.
    In the beginning of 2005 the WS Business Group was in trouble. Its most important segment, that for cellular communication (GSM, UMTS, EDGE, etc), was still very dependent on one customer: Siemens. And Siemens was losing market share. Fast. In this environment, the newly appointed Head of the Business Group, Kin Wah Loh, decided to prioritize serving customers in segments where significant revenue and profits were generated and where Infineon in the short term could grow with its customers. This meant, amongst other things, a restart of product development efforts within the Cordless segment in order to send a very clear signal to the customers who by now were at the limits of their own imagination and engineering skill when it came to develop new phones based on Infineon´s old chip-sets. Why, you may ask, were these customers still using archaic Infineon products when there were plenty of others to choose from? The answer is twofold: Firstly, the Cordless Phone market (especially in the low-cost segment) is volume driven and margins are low. Since Infineon had decided to stop investment in the product segment, it could of course offer an attractive price and still be profitable. Secondly, the customers had developed software based on Infineon´s HW architecture that could not easily be ported to other platforms without significant effort. This effort comes at a price too high for a producer of low-cost phones were feature sets anyway were only slightly more advanced than they were four years ago.

    The Assignment

    Once the decision to restart the Cordless programme was made, a Programme Manager was announced to take care of the current business, strategy, etc. Shortly after that I was, as the second person in the programme, assigned to head up the development of the new platform for cordless phones.

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  • Malcom Gladwell insight into Recruitment and Productivity

    Posted on April 13th, 2009 Peter Tjernström 3 comments

    In an essay titled Annals of education – Most likely to suceed published in the New Yorker, Malcom Gladwell, famous author of the entertaining and sharp-wittedly written book The tipping point, brings up two topics about skills and professions relevant to any manager:

    1. No prediction possible: There are certain jobs where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they’ll do once they’re hired.

    2. Differences in productivity: An economist at Stanford estimates that one particular student’s actual learning in one school year can, depending only on the teacher’s teaching skills, vary between half a year’s and a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year.

    The example used to illustrate the first point is about drafting quarterbacks for the NFL. There is appaerently no correlation between when a quarterback was picked in the draft—that is, how highly he was rated on the basis of his college performance—and how well he later played in the pros. The reason for this, argues the author, is that the pro game is a completely different one. NFL teams can’t run the common college offence tactic called the spread, which simplifies the quarterback’s decision-making, because the pro defenders are so much faster. This will put the talented quarterback in very different, and much more stressful, position once he enters the NFL.

    This is a very interesting aspect also when you consider recruiting for project management positions. You can be 100% certian that sooner or later your PM will be put in a position where he or she will experience a lot of stress. Both of the immediate kind, (in meetings with for example important stakeholders or an external customer), and the more lingering or dwelling kind. Yet there is no way that you can determine or predict how a person will react under stress. Any question regarding this matter during the job interview is also in vain. You can be sure that the applicant’s answer won’tu provide you with any relevant guidence, simply because no one applying for a PM job will descibe to you how badly they react under stress. This is why assessment centres are so popular.

    But unless you have the benefit of knowing someone who has previoulsy worked with the applicant during stressful times, you just have to accept the fact that some things just aren’t predictable and go by your instict in this case. After all, you weren’t hired because you can make predictions for the future based on numbers from the past, but because you can select and develop the right people. Right?

    The topic of productivity variation is also very related to PM work. Based on experience from product development enviornments, I’d say that even when comparing developers with what appears to be similar experience, (same education, same number of years in the profession, seemingly similar tasks), the difference in productivity can easily reach a factor of five. Meaning that the more productive developer does in one day what takes the other guy one week. In some cases, this can even reach a factor of ten and software development is where these extreme case are found.

    It’s easy to understand that when salary differences for the same job at the same workplace never can reach even a factor of two, it is crucial to recruit and retain the more productive employees.

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  • Principles of Project Management, Part 1: Forming your core team

    Posted on April 1st, 2009 Peter Tjernström No comments

    If you haven’t managed a project yet, but are interested in doing so, one way of preparing for that task would be to read a book on the topic. However, I am the first one to admit that while many books give you a good insight into the technicalities and the techniques of Project Management, they can’t prepare you for the parts more related to leadership such as how to form a team and manage conflicts in the project. [1]

    The simple reason for starting with the team is that if your core team isn’t working as a unit, you can forget about the project charter, the plan, the risk assessment and all the other stuff. In the face of even the smallest challenge, your project is going to fail anyway.

    So, how to do it? The first step is to realise that you are in charge of forming your team and of the team’s performance. Hence, you should preferably pick the team members yourself. Here you must strike the balance between specialized experts and good team leaders. If a certain position in your core team implies leading a sub-project with 10 members or more, you should definitely select the person with the best team management skills.

    You may object that your company’s way of working doesn’t allow you to freely choose your team members. This is quite often the case, but you should nevertheless try to negotiate a compromise with the project sponsor. There are often positions in a project core team, which will be more critical than others. Argue that for these positions it is essential that you’ll have Mark and Susan (or whatever their names are) on your team.

    My advice is to go with the people that you know will be committed and work hard to achieve the project targets, even if they potentially have controversial opinions or will cause disagreements from time to time. Of course, you shouldn’t inject permanent sources of conflict into your core team, but remember that a project team without intense discussions isn’t a working one.

    One team selection principle that I would caution against is to choose weak and even incompetent members with the purpose to make you seem better and stronger in comparison. One person famous for practicing this principle is the former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, who after the election in 2002 announced as ministers at least six previously rather unknown individuals with merits inadequate for their respective positions. Mr Persson himself failed to get re-elected in 2006, not because the Swedish electorate so much preferred the opposition but because they were fed up with the Prime Minister.

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    [1] The techniques are of course important, and one good example of a rather condensed book on Project Management is this one from Verzuh.

    It is worth mentioning that in this version from 2008, Verzuh has added a Chapter 10: “Building a high-performance project team”, which wasn’t present in the first version released in 1999.

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  • Who is managing your most important project?

    Posted on March 30th, 2009 Peter Tjernström No comments

    The world is in the middle of the toughest economic downturn in decades. Company spending and investment is being slashed everywhere. As a businessman, chief executive of a Fortune 500 company or a self-made entrepreneur, you are probably thinking about which projects you really can afford moving forward.

    You should also be asking yourself: Who is managing my most important project? What challenges must this person be able to overcome? And what are the  required qualifications and skills to make that project a success?

    As for the challenges, I am rather convinced that you will end up with a list similar to this one (at least if your company is of the bigger kind):

    First of all, your most important project is critical for your business. Since it is critical for your business many people are interested in the status, and hence the project manager (PM) has to be able to deal with all sorts of important internal and possibly external stakeholders.

    If you’re operating in a global environment, the project is inevitably spread over many sites and involves people of many different cultures. Hence, your PM can’t be afraid of travelling, he or she does not only need to have language skills, he or she must also be able to interpret messages depending on the cultural background of the messenger.  Of course your most important projects carries many high risks, and yes, it just happens to be on a tight schedule.  Does this sound familiar? That’s great! We can help you with your project!

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