Drunken PM

Drunken Boxing for Project Managers “The main feature of the drunkard boxing is to hide combative hits in drunkard-like, unsteady movements and actions so as to confuse the opponent. The secret of this style of boxing is maintaining a clear mind while giving a drunken appearance.” Yeah... just like that… but with network diagrams and burndown charts… and a wee bit less vodka.
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About this Blog


Recent Posts

Review: The Apprentice and the Project Manager

April 01, 2014 01:13 PM

PhilaPM March Meetup Recap

Ultra-Violent Communication

Podcast Interview with Brent Beer from GitHub on Making Distributed Teams Work

PhilaPM March Meetup Recap
Categories: Digital PM, DPM, Happy Cog, Philamade

Wednesday Night @HappyCog in Philadelphia…

@brennaheaps kicks off the March PhilaPM Meetup by asking a room full of Digital PMs if any of them have had to overcome an overwhelming challenge with a team.

By traditional PM standards, this is an odd question.

Answering it requires admitting there are times when you don’t know what you are doing and are way out of your depth. This is not the way of the traditional PM. If you admit not knowing everything, you demonstrate WEAKNESS and might lose CONTROL. If you have no CONTROL, how can you MANAGE PEOPLE?

By Agile standards, it’s not an odd question. It’s an “it depends” question.

HELP! We have to overcome an overwhelming situation. What do we do? It depends… what does the team want to do?

But the team is not here. The PM is here. The PM is supposed to conduct the mayhem and find a way to create music.


Once the question has been laid down for the room, however, the sharing begins. Several of the PMs around the table offer stories of impossible situations they’ve faced. These aren’t the kind of challenges that can be addressed with a change to a contract or a revised scoping doc. These are the “we had it sorted and then the bottom fell out of the world” problems. The ones you couldn’t have seen coming and which leave you with no good options. These are the problems you give talks about at conferences for the next five years.

Only right now… some of these folks need solutions to test out.

The Digital PMs
As the PMs in the room begin examining the different situations, it’s a crowd-sourced triage of the situation and options. Some of the suggestions offered have already been tried. Some helped a little, some not so much. There are some new ones though and some of them might work... so at least, there is hope. At the very least, there is a supportive crowd of people who do the same type of work and share the same type of challenges.


If you’ve been working in project management for any length of time, you’ve been involved with the meetings that take place at the end of projects. These project reviews or post mortems are generally a wee bit heavy on blame side and a bit light on the learning to improve side. That is, assuming you are actually doing them.

If you are working with Agile, hopefully you are doing retrospectives so that your team can get together to explore how to improve how they work together. Retrospectives are one of the best parts of Agile and a great thing for the team… but this is a little different.

This meeting, which is hosted by Happy Cog is none of the above. It is, however, one of the more interesting characteristics of this segment of the PM population. Digital PM has been around for a while, but only in the past few years has it begun to identify itself as a somewhat separate group. This meeting is full of PMs from different companies. What they have in common is that in one way or another, they all manage projects that are involved with digital media. Some of their projects are less than a month long. Some last more than a year. Some of their clients demand a traditional approach to managing the work. Some demand an Agile approach. The PMs working in these organizations are generally working with fairly small, design centric teams. Their hybrid model is evolving from needing to be able to work a variety of ways, but being able to fully lock into neither. Their agility is their flexibility and this sharing is part of their approach to continuous improvement.

Ten years ago, the project management that existed in this space was simple, basic and practiced by people who were just beginning to cut their teeth. Now it is led by experienced professional project managers and leaders who are schooled up in Agile and waterfall and are collaborating on hybrid tools and techniques that allow them to leverage the best of both. Their pragmatic, collaborative, framework agnostic approach to finding the best way to work with the team and deliver for the client is an exciting and emerging thing.

PhilaPM is organized by Brett Harned, Brenna Heaps, Sloan Miller, and Justin Handler. The group has evolved to the point where they are now working developing a new logo, name and website. Until that happens, you can find them here - http://philamade.com/

If you aren’t from Philly, but do work in digital media or if you are just a PM who could use a little inspiration, you may want to check out some of the following…


DPM2014 http://blog.dpm2013.com/2014/02/24/save-the-date-2014-digital-pm-summit/
DPMUK http://www.dpmuk.com/

Groups in the US and Canada 

Austin http://www.meetup.com/Digital-PM-Meetup-Austin/ 
Boston http://www.meetup.com/Digital-Project-Management-Boston/
Boulder http://www.meetup.com/Boulder-Web-Project-Managers/ 
Minneapolis: http://www.meetup.com/Twin-Cities-Interactive-Project-Management-Meetup/
NYC http://dpmconnect.com and http://www.meetup.com/projectmgmt-72/
Philadelphia http://philamade.com
Portland: http://pdxdigitalpm.com
Vancouver http://www.meetup.com/Vancouver-Digital-Project-Managers/

Groups in EMEA 

London, UK http://www.meetup.com/london-digital-project-managers/ 
Manchester, UK http://www.meetup.com/Northern-Digital-PM/
Oslo http://www.meetup.com/Oslo-Digital-Project-Managers/

Groups in ASIAPAC

Melbourne Digital Project Managers http://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-Digital-Project-Management/
Sydney Digital Project Managers http://www.meetup.com/Sydney-Digital-Project-Management/
Posted on: March 12, 2014 05:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ultra-Violent Communication
Categories: marshall rosenberg, non-violent communication, nvc, what we say matters

http://community.us.playstation.com/t5/image/serverpage/image-id/205039iB8E7EA6A8000423C/image-size/original?v=mpbl-1&px=-1In December I wrote about how I was going to start experimenting with adopting Non-Violent Communication. And I am, sort of. I’m finding that this is probably going to be an ongoing effort and one I will need to keeping coming back to. What I have been doing so far has helped me check in with myself and come to this:

When I see that__I am not making good on my commitment to practicing NVC_

I feel _bad/frustrated/anxious_

because my need for _trying to figure out if I can actually do it_ is/is not met.

Would you (I) be willing to _man the hell up and give it a frigging chance__?

To be fair, I do spend an inordinate amount of time pondering it each day – especially when I’m driving… and get cut off by someone who very clearly has a more urgent need to get someplace than I do.

When I see that__ some &*%^%!! has cut me off_

I feel _like I wish my car came with a rocket launcher_

because my need for _deleting him/her from the road/universe_ is/is not met.

Would you be willing to _oh nevermind__

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_deOL2nR58VE/TS_jHxgt4mI/AAAAAAAAABI/ETFNbdB0WDE/s1600/Cars%2B2%2BFin%2BMcMissile.jpgMy intent in writing about this is, in part, to express that while I am working on it, I am honestly struggling with adopting NVC. A lot of how I have learned to communicate seems to be at odds with NVC practices. It is important to me, in writing about this, that I be as transparent and honest about how it is going as I can because if there are other people like me who are struggling with this (read: grew up in Philadelphia), I would like to make sure they know that they’re not alone. And to consider that maybe having trouble with this is not necessarily a bad thing, but is perhaps more about letting the dissonance from the conflict reach a level where change happens. My experiment is to see if I can adopt NVC as a practice of (initially) communicating and (ideally) of approaching other aspects of my life.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v206/cowpat/think%20positive/thinkpositive2.gifMy practice (or not) so far has basically involved me noticing how I react to things, like being cut off while I’m driving or some other social injustice, which has been done to me by someone. Typically, the social injustice has very little to do with the other person and is really just me spazzing out in my reaction to something I have decided is a great crime against all things good in the universe. But, if I did have a rocket launcher, I’m pretty sure that by this time, very few people would be willing to cut in front of me in line at Walmart.

Because I have decided to don my cloak of self imposed guilt for not automatically laying down the communication habits I’ve developed over the past 40+ years in favor of a non-violent approach to life, the universe and everything, I have become hyper-aware of how non non-violent my speech actually is. This has led me to wonder if perhaps I am not more suited for a new approach called UVC – Ultra Violent Communication.


I do believe that this awareness, is very important. I do not know yet if I will be able to adopt NVC. I do know that while I am able to understand that it is more than just a communication pattern, I have trouble internalizing that. (Much the same way some people respond to the idea of a team being self organizing by winking at me in class and whispering “Yeah, but really… who’s really in charge?”). I also have observed that letting myself freak out about someone cutting me off on I-35, or having the insane gall to try and get past TSA with a bottle of water in their backpack (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) gives me a bit of an adrenaline rush. Yelling a string of obscenities from within the safety of my car at some motorist I do not know, helps no one, but the release of anger is a boost, and I have become aware that a) the outburst does nothing to change the situation in any way and b) the pull of the boost can be a wee bit habit forming. The more aware of this I become, the more I am finding that when I recognize an of an event and become aware of my emotional response, there is an increasing delay now before my reaction triggers. More and more, that delay is becoming large enough that I have the time to make a deliberate decision about what is going to come out of my mouth.

So, in on the whole transparency front, I’m not really delivering on my intent with non-violent communication yet, but in my continuing efforts to get there, the awareness is helping me cultivate a slightly less-violent communication… at least most of the time.

Posted on: February 26, 2014 11:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Podcast Interview with Brent Beer from GitHub on Making Distributed Teams Work
Categories: Brent Beer, Distributed Teams, Github, Øredev

Click here for the interview

Just before Christmas I got the chance to interview BrentBeer from GitHub. Brent and I met while we were both at Øredev last November presenting during the conference.

If you aren’t already familiar GitHub, the interview provides a quick overview of it’s capabilities and what it does. If you are a PM and you use Github, Brent is currently working on reaching out to the PM community learn more about of how project managers can leverage source control applications to make their jobs easier.

During the conversations we had in Malmo, one of the most interesting things Brent and I discussed was how GitHub works from a distributed employee standpoint. They are based in San Francisco, but 70% of the staff work remotely. If you are struggling to cope with the challenges of distributed teams, check out the interview to hear some of the ways that GitHub has managed to establish itself as an organization that was able to function in a distributed way.  Brent shares a lot of the critical things that GitHub does to make sure the relationships and interactions are deeply established despite the virtual nature of the organization.

One of the exploding lightbulb moments for me during the interview was at 9:40 in when Brent says that during the previous day he had been “trying not to work”. This struck me because I often struggle with the same thing when I am home, and I wonder if this will be a new challenge distributed organizations have to learn to cope with. When you have a group of highly motivated, energized people who work for your company, and they enjoy what they do so much that the hard part is getting them to stop and take a break, how does that impact sustainable pace? In the same way that teams are sometimes forced to work all night and all weekend, I’m wondering if we may reach a point where we have to stop teams from working all night and all weekend.

Here is Brent's Twitter

Brent's Github Page

Free Training on GitHub

Brent's Øredev Presentations

GitHub's You Tube Channel

Posted on: January 28, 2014 12:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interview with David J Anderson
Categories: David Anderson, David J Anderson, Flight Levels, Kanban, Lean Kanban University

Click here for the interview

David J. Anderson is the leading voice in IT when it comes to taking the practices introduced in Lean Manufacturing’s kanban system and adjusting it to serve software development with Kanban (capital K). He’s also the driving force behind Lean Kanban University.

In this interview David shares the primary goals he had when beginning to work on his version of Kanban, how the practices have changed, and how they have evolved over time.

With respect to scaling Agile, David provides an update on Lean Kanban University’s new programing for advanced practitioners of Kanban who want to use it at an enterprise level. He also shares his thoughts on how some of the other popular approaches to scaling Agile are trying to make use of Kanban. 

Here some of the links mentioned in the interview:

Alistair Cockburn’s article on the end of methodologies
Klaus Leopold's Flight Levels of Kanban
David J Anderson @ Associates
Lean Kanban University
David’s Books on Amazon
David on Twitter

Posted on: January 28, 2014 12:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Øredev 2013 Presentation Videos (My Favorites)
Categories: Adrian Howard, Angela Harms, Anna Beatrice Scott, Denise Jacobs, Fred George, J.B. Rainsberger, Jessica Kerr, Jutta Eckstein, Kate Sullivan, Oredev, Øredev, Woody Zuill

I've written before about how much I value Øredev. One of the best things about the event is that each year they post the videos from the presentations.

Here are a few of my favorites from this year:


Anna Beatrice Scott (@doctoradancer)


Denise Jacobs (@denisejacobs)

The Creativity (R)



Fred George (@fgeorge52)

Implementing Programmer Anarchy


Roy “Woody” Zull (@WoodyZuill)

No Estimates: Let’s Explore the Possibilities

Mob Programming

J.B. Rainsberger (@jbrains)
Practical Tools for Playing Well With Others
Extreme Personal Finance
Agile Lightning Talks (J.B. Rainsberger, Dave Prior (Me), Woody Zuill

Adrian Howard (@adrianh)
Lean UX: Building Products People Want


Angela Harms (@angelaharms)
Does Pair Programming Have to Suck?

Jutta Eckstein (http://www.jeckstein.com/)

The Art of Learning and Mentoring

Jessica Kerr (@jessitron)
Functional Principles for Object Oriented Developers

Kate Sullivan (@DrGorgonzola)
New Frontiers for In-House Legal Practice
Posted on: December 26, 2013 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you."

- Charlie Parker