Sunday, September 26, 2010

Should I study for the PMP exam?

I've been considering studying for the PMP exam.  So today in the bookstore I browsed a few PMP exam prep books.   Having just finished a master's in organizational leadership that has quite a focus on teams, I decided to look for areas of overlap.  Places where the PMP aspects of building a team and helping the team perform would be an easy read for me given my recent experience in gradual school.

I found a few pages in the exam prep books - less than 10 total.  They briefly covered Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Tuckman's Stages of Group Development,  Vroom's Expectancy Theory of Motivation, etc.  All very good stuff.  Having spent a year studying this 10 pages or less, appeared rather brief for an exam guide that wishes to prepare a project manager to optimize a project's performance.

In one guide the process of Manage Project Team is defined:

"3.5.5 Manage Project Team

Manage Project Team is the process of tracking team member performance, providing feedback, resolving issues, and managing changes to optimize project performance."



The goal, optimize project performance, appears very sound.  However when one examines the primary tool used to achieve optimization, that of tracking team member performance, one has to imagine some form of individual performance assessment.  Hasn't the world of management realized that the tool of bludgeoning the worker with performance reviews will only worsen the overall performance of the group?  Perhaps the PMI should read Vroom's Expectancy theory.

So is there added value in an Agile team leader to be a certified PMP?

Creativity - can you get it from a Handbook?

I enjoy reading about creativity, I hope that some of it rubs off on me.  Here's a new book I just bought, very creative, a colorful book, full of ideas and exercises.  I hope that I can work through some of the Actions & Movements discussed in the book in my next 37 days.


"Life is a Verb; 37 days to wake up, be mindful, and live intentionally" by Patti Digh

And while browsing the bookstore my wife found this book.  The title gets your attention.

"The International Handbook of Creativity" edited by James Kaufman & Robert Sternberg

However one has to wonder about the publisher, Cambridge, did they even read the book, did the editors read the chapters?  Is there one ounce of creativity in the lot of them?  Watch the video of the thumb through - then watch the video of Life is a Verb - which one would you buy? I did a video - but it got lost in the recycle bin of Google's blogger site.  So just cruise over to Amazon and check out each book...


And here is  "Life is a Verb".


So it would appear to me that creativity is not found in a handbook.  But I could be wrong - I didn't buy the handbook.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Want "super Wi-Fi" - move to Korea

I've just read that the FCC chairman is claiming that 'Super Wi-Fi' is coming to the US.  This is great news.  But is it realistic?  Don't we currently have the fastest Internet around?  We are #1 - right?

No - recent facts are that the US ranks 16th globally in Internet speed.  (source: State of the Internet Q1 2010 report by Akamai).  Yes, South Korea is #1 (12 Mbps average speed).


While I welcome the new super Wi-Fi that is being proposed - the longer wavelengths will have much better penetration and reach.  I believe fast internet is important to our economy and I believe we could do better.  The examples are available, the data is known (read the Akamai report).  Obama’s stimulus package ($789 Billion) allocated $7.2 B for broadband funding.  I don't know if the money has been spent yet, but it would not show up in the Q1 2010 report.

On a side note - I find it ironic that CNN used a picture of kids holding up their OLPC XO laptops that use peer to peer networking in the Super Wi-Fi story.  Those computers are designed to work very well with low internet speeds or no internet, just peer networking.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Golden Gates Paper Bridge - Group Initiative

The Golden Gates Paper Bridge Group Initiative

This group initiative is from the UNC-Charlotte's Venture Group Initiatives Manual.

I've used this initiative to discuss team work, leadership, followership, understanding the client and may other issues that arise during the debriefing.

In one training at SolutionsIQ the teams were given the requirements (build a bridge of 12" span - but when the customer acceptance was done the boat that had to pass under the bridge had towers and antenna that exceeded the specification height.  The teams had to negotiate with the Product Owner on the physical acceptance test - a toy boat passing under the bridge.

One team created their own "Unit-Test" - the box.


Golden Gates 

(Facilitator Info)

Materials:
60 sheets of paper per group, paper clips per group, approximately 60 feet of string, tape for the string, copies of rules (next page) for each group, a ruler, flip chart for debrief.

Set up:
•  Lay down string in two parallel lines 3 feet apart.
•  Count out the paper and paper clips for each subgroup.
•  Separate the practice materials: 5 sheets of paper and 5 clips.

Brief:
•    Divide group into sub-groups of approximately 5 people.
•    Hand out the instructions and read though them with group; allow clarifying questions. •    After 14 minutes, remind the group they need to choose a leader and have that person report the plan to the comptroller in one minute (as per instruction sheet). Comptroller (facilitator) informs the leaders that they have been hired by a new company (they must switch groups). Their task is to ensure that their company (the new one now) builds the best, most cost effective bridge possible. As per instructions they have 5 minutes to finalize plans.
•    After 5 minutes: it is time for construction; each group gets a space at the river. Start stopwatch.
•    When a group is done building they inform you and you tell them how much time has elapsed on the stopwatch. From that number they can calculate their costs. You need to keep track of the 1 minute the bridge needs to stay standing, as well as call out times for other groups as they finish.
•    Once all groups are finished, they should calculate their costs and profit margins. Have each group announce their profit- you then announce the winner.


Common Debrief Question Focused on Leadership:
•    It is helpful to let each subgroup do their own mini-processing with suggested questions.
•    In your small groups, please answer the following questions:
     How was the original leader chosen?
     What criteria were used?
     What effect did the new leader have on the group?
     What are the characteristics of effective leadership?
•    Come back together in large group and have sub-groups share their thoughts.

--- page break ---


GOLDEN GATES

Contractor Guidelines

Your bridge-building company has been contracted to build a paper bridge over the 'river' which has been marked out in the middle of the room. The only materials you may use in this enterprise are the paper clips and scrap paper provided. You will be given a planning/ practice phase before construction begins.

The bridge must be:
•    capable of standing for 1 minute without any extra support (other than provided materials
•    at least 30 cm (12") above the river at its central point

Finances:

Your group will be paid $10,000.00 for a bridge built according to this briefing. From this you should deduct construction costs as follows:
•    $100 for every sheet of paper used (paper clips are free)
•    $2,000 for every support/stanchion which is built in the river
•    $100 for every 10 seconds (or part of 10 seconds) it takes you to build the bridge
•    Your profit is $10,000.00 minus your construction costs.

Time Frame:

     Phase I = Planning and Practice (15 minutes)
     Phase II = Group leader presents plans to comptroller
     Phase III = Final planning (5 minutes)
     Phase IV = Timed construction of bridge

Considerations:
•    During the initial planning phase you will be given only 10 sheets of paper and 5 paper clips with which to practice.
•    At the end of the initial planning phase, you must select a group leader who will present your plans (including projected costs) to the comptroller for approval.
•    You will be given a final 5 minutes planning before the construction phase begins.
•    During the construction phase each group may use up to 50 sheets of paper and up to 20 paper clips.
•    The 'river' is one meter wide
•    The group who makes the greatest profit, will be awarded the contract.

# Remember, you need to build a bridge quickly while using as little paper and as few supports as possible; and it must stand freely for one continuous minute.

Personal Agility - How we planned the Month of Chassing Snow.

In a blog post by Michele Sliger - Personal Agile she has asked her twitter base if people are using Agile techniques to manage their personal lives.  Does the Agile mind set creep into personal lives?  I would hope so, and expect it if the philosophy is sound.

Here is my experience.  Written about the trip my wife and I planned to take when the Banking Meltdown, had dried up most of the software projects back in the winter of 2009.  I walked into my director and suggested that I could take a month without pay and that might be a good thing.  He didn't bat an eye lash - yes, when would you like to leave, are you really coming back?  Yes, I did wish to come back, I enjoyed working for SolutionsIQ.  The timing was great, it was January, 2009 and there were no new projects coming into the pipeline, layoffs were looming and I wanted a sabbatical.  A chance to go ski the best snow between Seattle and Denver.


We have packed up the camper and headed out for a month long ski trip.  We don’t have puppy dogs any more so we took along some old friends, Pokey & Gumby. Here we are passing the Amazon dot COM building.
 
Because of this shot, we missed the I90 exit and had to make the first U-turn, there will be more of these I’m sure.

Tracy & I used a Scrum style task board to prepare for the trip.  To Do items on stickies on the left, In Progress in the middle, Done items on the right. The map has a highlighted proposed route from Seattle through upper ID into MT then to UT and finally to CO.

Day one we change the plan, based on weather reports, doesn’t look like Big Sky has any fresh snow in days... bummer.  We head straight to Utah - it is snowing there now, can we catch up?

 Deer Valley - the best snow grooming on the planet.  And a host told us where to find the deep stash in the woods.  The next day we went to Alta - Telemark HQ.
That is thigh deep power, quite a change from the Sierra Cement in WA.

The trip continues, and we end up finding power days all the way to Denver and back to Seattle.


 Maybe you cannot read the name of Tracy's skies but it sums up the trip "Work Stinx".  This is at Sundance - we use to live 12 miles from this little resort, and had to go back for a day.

This is the "Chasing the Snow" rig, our Starcraft pop-top camper on a F150.

On the boarder of Utah is a land that time forgot - Dinosaur National Monument, with a nice museum in Vernal, UT.
At the RV campground we try to find Wi-Fi to check email and do some image processing.


When we hit Denver, Tracy takes a vacation from the snow and goes on a cruise with her friend, Kelly.  I head to Winston-Salem, NC and visit family.  Then on our return we stop in at Yellowstone NP and took a winter tour to Old Faithful on the Snow Coach.