Drunken PM

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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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Off the Rails...

It was all going so very well. By the start of the 3rd week I was beginning to get the hang of the process. I wasn’t a shining model of productivity, but I was certainly making improvements.  I was learning a lot about how I worked and what I needed to do to become more productive. I had started making notes about all the experiments I wanted to run in the coming weeks.  I was keeping my PK Journal up to date. The only issue was that I hadn’t tried it with real work yet because I was also still on staycation. (I travel a lot for work, so when it comes to vacation, I’m totally happy to just spend the time at home becoming fully present with what a bad decision it was for someone who is horribly allergic to cats to adopt three of them.) Being at home for the first part of this experiment had allowed me to establish the physical habits of personal kanban and my hope was that this would keep me rooted in the practice once I was on the road again.

So naturally, the obvious next step was to completely screw that all up.

I had planned to be away on a retreat for a few days during the 3rd week. While I was there I picked up a slight cold that immediately turned me into a walker for about 8 days. Both of these events meant that for a period of almost 2 weeks, I was completely unable to do work on anything on my board.

Failure Bow

So… time for a Failure Bow
 


 

(If you aren't familiar with the Failure Bow, I'd like to recommend watching the Matt Smith TED talk below.)

 

While it would be easy to rip myself up for losing step, I knew that was going to happen at some point. What I was more interested in was what it would take for me to recover when it did happen.

Since I’d been keeping detailed notes on what was and was not working I turned to those to try and see what issues were causing the biggest trouble.

 

“Hi, My name is Dave… and I’m a Things-aholic.”
 

I was still using Things every day. I was recording tasks on my board and working them, but there were additional items in Things that I worked on and they never made it to the Kanban board. Most of them were personal items, but it did seem kinda of pointless to me to be working with two tools at once. It just divided my focus and make getting anything done that much more complicated.


I decided that I was going to start capturing everything I do on the board. I took everything listed in Things and created a post it for each item. I sorted and grouped the whole thing on my Kanban board. My plan was to try and go one week without using Things. During that time I would rely 100% on the Kanban board.

I made some modifications to the layout of my board as well. I added blocked boxes for some of the swimlanes and also made adjustments to my WIP limits.

I decided that I would start each day with (re)prioritization

I had learned that travel can have a very negative impact on working this way. I had a number of jobs coming up that would require travel. So, I decided to start researching electronic tools so I could test one out during my next trip.

One of the things I have found to be invaluable in this whole process is having the physical board to return to when things break down. There have been a number of events and situations that resulted in me needing to reset my approach.  I’ll be posting about them in the coming weeks. For anyone who is going to try personal kanban, my first advice would be to start out with a physical board and develop good habits with your practice. These will be an important touchstone for you as you work through the changes this approach will have on your work.

The final thing that came out of my retrospective for iterations 3 and 4, was a new question… what should I do about recurring tasks? Was it really going to be worth creating post-its for recurring each item so that there was a card for each one on each day of the week? That seemed ridiculous. I had no answer, but sometimes, just having the question is a good start. 

Posted on: March 24, 2013 10:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Personal Kanban - Week 2

Up Jumped the Devil
 

Robert Johnson "I been studyin' the rain and
I'm 'on drive my blues away"
Robert Johnson Preachin Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)

In the second week of this experiment I added a separate post-it to the board with specific goals I had for the week. These are things that in some cases included other work elements on the board, but in some cases not. To me, this was bigger picture stuff I wanted to accomplish. Being as I was on vacation, these were 50% work related and 50% personal. I didn’t accomplish all the goals initially, but this was my first step towards that. (And hopefully someday soon I will finish learning to play that Robert Johnson song.)

One of the “benefits” of Agile is not that it makes things go faster, but that it makes things you might otherwise overlook much more obvious that you can’t avoid making a choice about them one way or another. For me, this whole process has involved learning a lot about how I (personally) get things done, what motivates me, and as I’ve already mentioned, some of the dysfunction I have built into my work routines.

I should also mention that, for better or worse, I don’t keep a very strict distinction between work life and personal life. I love what I do, so none of what I do is WORK in the sense that it’s stuff I don’t want to do, but there are things that provide me with greater personal satisfaction than others. And at the same time, there is also a kind of negative weight that gloms on to the work items are inherently pleasure-neutral, but become negative because they sit around too long. (This is something I’ll be coming back to in a few weeks when I start digging more into value.)

So, my top observations I have noted for week 2…

 

  1. Prioritize the Personal - On the days when I did the things that provided personal satisfaction first, I was much happier. This is something I learned in mid-20s living in NYC. If I got up early enough to practice my guitar and hit the gym before going into work, I was pretty much okay with wherever the day took me. I’d seen to my personal stuff and that was not sitting around competing with work, waiting to be done. Understanding that this is important and actually doing it are very different things. I have found that I have to actually force myself to do (some of ) the personal stuff first. My tendency is to just dive right into the work because I perceive that need as being more important… which is not always the case.
  2. Naps are good – In the grand scheme of things I’m definitely in the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” camp. Generally I average about 4-5 hours a night. It is not a healthy way to live… but it is a choice I make happily each day. I don’t stay up because I have to, I stay up because there is just too much I want to do. There are, however, many negative side effects to living like this and if you make a choice to live functionally sleep deprived, you have to learn how to deal with it. For me, the mid afternoon has always been a dead zone… unless I find a way to sneak in a 20-minute nap in there somewhere. It’s like hitting CTRL-ALT-DELETE on your ability to focus.

    Also, on the sleep topic, I am finding that meditating for 20-30 minutes before going to sleep at night is having a massive impact on the quality of my sleep. The only hitch is I have to do this before I am too tired to meditate without drifting off to sleep.
  3. Down Days – In tracking how I am working, I’m becoming more aware of something I have suspected for quite awhile… I have some days of very high productivity, but they are often followed by days of very low productivity. I’ve not tried to measure this, but I’m noticing, on average, I have about 1 day during the work-week where I am far less productive than the others. Typically, this happens after one of those days where I work into the wee hours and am amazed at my productivity. Since I’m not tracking it, I can’t say for certain, but it does seem like an ebb and flow kind of thing. I’m okay with that for now.

So the most important things I learned in the second week have nothing much to do with Kanban. As far as my practice of using the board, I’m getting better at not obsessing about the cards, but I am maintaining discipline with moving them. I’ve abandoned my attempts to keep them all color coordinated because it doesn’t seem to matter right now – a card is a card.

One issue I do have is that I’m still depending on Things and I’m still working items I enter into Things that I don’t have on my board. This should not be necessary, but I see three main reasons for it:

  1. My Kanban board is not always with me, my iPhone (with Things) is
  2. Over the past few years, Things has become a deeply ingrained part of how I work. I’m habitually and emotionally invested in it – as much as Evernote.
  3. I’m still afraid things will slip through the cracks. Things is part of how I mitigate that risk.

 

I’d like to break myself of the Things habit and just do Kanban, but I’m going to have to find a way to do it that is as simple as my use of Things.

I am reprioritizing my board every morning and every afternoon. This is probably overkill, but I am still becoming familiar with the work.

I have accomplished some major work items that were not on the board or in my goals. I would like to become better at making sure everything is on the board.

There is one other major change I have noticed since I began using the board. I added a post it last week to remind myself to spend time playing Dungeons and Dragons with my daughter each day. At first, that seemed horrible to me – what kind of crap father must I be if I have to make a task card to play with my kid. But you know what… since I’ve put that card up there. She and I have played every day for 1-2 hours. And it’s awesome. We spend time together, having creative fun, I’m not working and she’d not lost in some video game. So, while my original goal of taking Personal Kanban on was to get better at managing the things I have to do at work, what I’m finding is that it is helping me get better at managing the things I have to do that are not work. This is resulting in me enjoying my life more, making more time for the things I need to do keep sane and making time for my family. My expectation is that this will also have a much greater positive impact on my life as a knowledge worker than I would get from just having a better way to juggle too much at once.

Posted on: March 04, 2013 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

#46(ish) Using Social Media. Two Years Later

Posted on: September 23, 2011 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Agile and Project Management Talks at SXSW 2012

 

Last year I attended SXSW for the first time. While I had intended to spend my days basking in the onslaught of music and film that it is known for, what I actually spent my time doing was focusing mostly on the talks that centered on Agile and Project Management. Each of the presentations on PM and Agile were very well attended. In some cases there was a line waiting to get in, so there is a definite hunger for information at the event. Unfortunately, with the exception of one talk (given by Brett Harned and Pamela Villacorta) the content presented in most of the PM and Agile talks was disappointing.

SXSW 2012 is right around the corner and they’ve opened the area where people can vote on proposed topics. If you’ve got a few minutes, follow the links below to become an SXSW 2012 Panel Picker, search for Agile and PM presentations vote Thumbs Up for the ones you think look interesting.  This Spring, there will be another crowd of PMs in Austin who are interested in learning about project management and how to do it better.  Help make sure the talks they get to choose from are going to help them raise their game. Who knows… you may end up working with some of them someday.

SXSW 2012 Interactive Panel Picker  http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/index/10

SXSW 2012 Music Panel Picker http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/index/12

SXSW 2012 Film Panel Picker http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/index/11

And while you’re voting, you may want to consider…

Project Leadership Through Personal Branding
(ProjectShrink Bas de Baar and Dave Prior)
http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/10995

Developing Music and Software Across a Distance
(Dave Prior with Panda Transport’s Kathy Compton and Thierry Holweck)
http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/12133

Posted on: August 23, 2011 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Project Management on the Mac and the iPad

Over the past few weeks I've been able to give a few presentations about doing project management on the Mac and on the iPad. I had a few requests so I thought I would post them.

The first is the presentation I gave in the Philadelphia Walnut St. Apple Store on how to manage projects using a Mac. Managing Projects on a Mac

The second is the one I gave at the PMI Lehigh Valley Professional Development Day on how to use the iPad as a Project Management tool. The iPad and Project Management

Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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