Every man, however wise, who begins by worshipping success, must end in mere mediocrity - G. K. Chesterson
If you're looking for the sure fire formula for success, be it business success or project success, you're going to be disappointed. There are ways to increase the probability of success. But only increase not assure.
Dan Ward has six suggested ways to success
Naivete - believing something can be done, even if it has never been done before
Recklessness - taking action even when a positive outcome is not guaranteed
Monomania - single-minded dedication to a particular goal
Cheating - doing the right thing even when no one else does
Spying - collecting, sorting, storing, accessing, using, and sharing information
Lt Col Dan Ward is the Test & Evaluation lead for the Theater Battle Control division of the USAF's new Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom AFB.
I'm writing a book on Performance-Based Project Management. This quote has guided me in my efforts. Short, quick, directed edits to emerging ideas, one chapter at a time. Then off to the editor, back with markups, then a dedicated review of the content, themes, and narrative flow.
The creation of strategy resembles Penelope's web - beautiful loom work by day, unraveling at night
-- Eliot A. Cohen, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesman, and Leadership in Wartime in Command in Air War: Centralized Versus Decentralized Control of Combat Airpower, Michael W, Kometer, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF, Air University Press, June 2007.
When we speak of strategy, we must consider it a hypothesis that can be tested by experiment. These tests produce Measures of Effectiveness, Measures of Performance, Key Performance Parameters, and Technical Performance Measures resulting from the work activities of the project employes to implement the strategy.
Each of these measures is derived from the performance of the work. But each measure starts with the definition of the needed capabilities that result from the project in support of the strategy. Project success can only occur when strategy and implementation are connected through these measures. Otherwise project success is limited to measuring cost, schedule, and technical performance of the product or service.
Without Project Governance, the business value of the project has no home. Project managers are left to the technocrat activities of managing cost, schedule, and technical performance. These of course are mandatory for success. But business or mission success will be difficult without strategy and governance of the project's processes.
I'm writing a review for John's new book. This is one of those myst read books, not because of the project management information, but because John describes the missing pieces for most enterprise projects. Pieces that would be found on ACAT1 defense procurements. What capabilities do we need for mission success? How will we recognize these capabilities? John bases the discussion of Value, the mystical value produced by agile methods, but rarely is spoken about in tangible units of measure.
The review is coming soon, but wanted to get started in the benefits.
Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty, a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry. - BERTRAND RUSSELL, Study of Mathematics
"I don't see much sense in that," said the Rabbit. "No," said Pooh humbly, "there isn't." "But there was going to be when I began it. It's just that something happened along the way." - A.A. Milne
In the management of projects, we must be adaptive to emerging situations. Incremental and iterative everything is a critical success factor. Having a Plan means we have a strategy. This strategy needs to be constantly tested to determine it is still a valid strategy. If not, the Plan needs to change. If it is, then continue to the next assessment point.
This has been described in many ways, in many contexts, by many people, but still not well understood and even less well applied.
When we using Incremental and Iterative, we cannot forget to start with "end in mind," but without the steps along the way to the"end," the project will fail. There is a Big Design Up Front issue, but there are also Big Vision Up Front issues as well.
Here's a simple example:
We're doing an Earned Value Management Self-Assessment for DCMA. The Guideline Evaluation (GLE) forms for each of the 32 Guidelines in ANSI-748-B have several "boxes" on them that all have to be filled out before submission of the Self-Assessment package
The first step is to do the data traces of the data needed for each of the 32 GLEs. Without the data traces, the processes for the Guideline are of little value.
One approach is to fill out the form in its entirety. This is good if you've got all the time you need. You NEVER have all the time you need.
So what is a Pooh to do? Start with the show stopper parts of the GL Evaluation (GLE). Go find all the data used by that guideline, confirm it is compliant, capture that knowledge, move the captured data to a safe location, and document that no data is missing.
Repeate for all 32 Guidelines.
Only then fill out the remaining fields in the form. Because without this data trace, the other boxes on the form are meaningless.
Again and again and again — what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell," avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" — what are the facts, and to how many decimal places?
You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!
The “Master Mind” may be defined as: “Coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose. No individual may have great power without availing himself of the “Master Mind." - Napolean Hill (1883-1970)
Architecture is the set of decisions about any system that keeps its implementers and maintainers from exercising needless creativity. - Objects, Components, and Frameworks with UML: The Catalysis Approach, D. F. D’Souza and AS. C. Wills, Addison Wesley, 1999.
It's a good principle that when people don't want to tell you when they will get something finished, or how much it will cost, it is not because they are worried that the good news will pitch you into a paroxysm of ecstasy.
"No More Time: We need an F-35IOC date and debate," Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 28. 2103, pp. 12
This is a core issue when thinking of deploying agile software development in the absence of an overarching set of needed capabilities, a master plan for delivering those capabilities, and some form of measuring actual progress to that plan.
So when we are spending other peoples money, we need to make some attempt to do it on time and on specification.
I took a course in speed reading, and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It's about Russia - Woody Allen
When we hear about EV lite, "simple steps to project success," and "How to save the world, in 87 pages," I smile and think of Woody Allen's quote.
Then I smile more with my favorite H.L. Mencken's advice -
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
The notion that complex problems can be solved with simple and simple minded approaches is nonsense. The financial crisis, Defense Spending, flying to low earth orbit with people onboard, sustainable energy, food production, effective education, global warming, effective governance, both public and private, and the myraid of other complex issues we face in today's world, all require solutions that are usually equivalent to the complexity of the problem.
Of all the tasks which are set before man in life, the education and management of his character is the most important, and, in order that it should be successfully pursued, it is necessary that he should make a calm and careful survey of his own tendencies, unblinded either by the self-deception which conceals errors and magnifies excellences, or by the indiscriminate pessimism which refuses to recognize his powers for good.
He must avoid the fatalism which would persuade him that he has no power over his nature, and he must also clearly recognize that this power is not unlimited.