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Where Does All This Nonsense Come From?

(Image of J. Smith, trailblazer)

With my sincere apologies to those (like me) who could really care less about improving software practice, but who might have an interest in historical patterns, I submit this excerpt from an overlong post to a Yahoo Discussion Group. The conversation was centered around the announcement that the Software Engineering Institute had published a new guide to using "agile" practices within the framework of SEI's 'more mature' and widely sanctioned CMM method. Here goes:

Within SEI, there were (probably still are) two factions. I heard (just hearsay) that two principals at SEI approached two of the Agile Manifesto signatories to wish them luck shortly after the manifesto was made public. Apparently they had carried the same intentions in founding the SEI, but were compromised when the suits showed up. Slip over here for more ...


Unchained Melody

Interesting piece in a recent American Scientist on the critical importance of metaphor to the forward progress of science. While objective observation and rigorous measurement are important to science, narrative and metaphor are no less crucial. It is through translating discoveries into stories that real meaning and real understanding emerge for the author no less than for the reader.

Metaphors paint pictures we can see, and imagine ourselves stepping into. Arguably less real than the science bits, they unchain the door to deeper understanding. Even science depends upon myth-making and story-telling to make real progress.


Mangled Apple Pie

"When I ask a project manager to describe her ethics, I usually get a bit of mumbled motherhood and some mangled apple pie. Sometimes fife and drum music wafts in the distant background. I ask to encourage her mindfulness, not to test her knowledge of what’s wrong and right. I couldn’t possibly know for her, and neither of us are situated, in that moment, to choose exactly what either of us should do. I am genuinely curious, though, how she will go about choosing when that moment comes."

The final installment of my series considering The Ethical Responsibilities of Project Work appeared last week in Projects@Work. Slip over here for more ...


Tickle Point

We're all familiar with the concept of Tipping Point, that point in a progression where one trajectory turns into another, cannot help but turn. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a bestseller about it. He spoke of mavens and connectors and social networks and transformation. Where word of mouth transformed unknowns into unforgettables. This posting isn't about Tipping Points. Slip over here for more ...

Economies of Snail

A few years ago, I was invited to give a presentation to a very large financial services company's project managers. I spoke about maturity, which was a hot topic at that time there. Their definition of maturity included consistency, prescription, prediction, where big things proposed become big things achieved. I presented a different notion of maturity, one which more closely matches what I've experienced as I've matured. I am, for instance, no better at predicting outcomes than I ever was, unless I'm doing something I've done many, many, many times before. Of course, no one's ever done their latest project before, so project maturity might be about out-growing the naive notion that one could consistently achieve by prescribing and predicting. Slip over here for more ...

The Dismal Science

Whoever labeled economics 'The Dismal Science' was right on the money. Maybe even right on the money supply. But probably not right about anything else. Economists specialize in counting uncountable things, gathering statistics that serve as 'indicators', and posing future scenarios based upon schools of thought. Dismal. Slip over here for more ...


Projects@Work published the third installment of my Project Ethics series this morning.

Project Ethics (Part III)

There's a link back to the second installment there, too.

This series, the final installment will be posted next week, encapsulates what I've retained about project work. The distillation might make some of it hard for you to swallow, but this is how it is for me over here. What seemed at first necessary knowledge has evaporated in practice to become beside the point. What wouldn't even register then on my innocent radar has taken central position in my understanding now.

The executive summary: Project Ethics are about choice. Once any action becomes a must-do mandate, ethics evaporates. Without choice, there can be no ethics. Does it follow then that creating choice is the key to satisfying the ethical responsibilities of project work?

The challenge is that the choice points are cloaked, hidden from casual observation. It might even be true for you, as it most certainly has been for me, that the greater the choice point, the less it feels like one in that moment where my choice might make all the difference.

The series became a treatise on mindfulness. Please feel free to comment on the P@W site. The editor there likes people to leave comments, and so do I, though I don't always know how to respond to them.



Chuck Spinney is at it again. This time, he unwraps what might well be the strategy behind Obama's remarkable election victory (although I did hear a Faux News commentator yesterday wondering why he only won by such a narrow popular vote margin---had his strategy been mindless, he suggested, he should have won by a much greater margin...). Anyway, this explanation (the one linked to below, not the Faux commentator's) is interesting, even if it isn't really explaining anything remarkable. Slip over here for more ...

Requiem for International Project Managers' Day

Two years ago, I celebrated International Project Managers' Day by publishing a rant entitled Why Project Managers Can't Manage Projects. Last year, I celebrated by preparing for a workshop, and posting a small prayer. This year, I'm not celebrating.

News yesterday from a Silicon Valley correspondent reports that PMI meetings there have swelled with attendants. Why? Lots and lots of PMs looking for work. It's been several years since I attended any PM-related conference where the out-of-work PMs and PM consultant wanna-bes didn't greatly outnumber those who were there to share information.

Just yesterday, I reviewed yet another job description claiming to want someone capable of bringing projects in consistently on-time, on-budget, and on-spec. Slip over here for more ...


Election Day

Just before election day in 1968, a fellow in advertising who worked for Nixon wrote a newspaper ad that began,
"It will be quiet on Tuesday. No speeches. No motorcades. No paid political announcements. It's a very special day, just for grown-ups. America votes Tuesday…and . . . on Tuesday, the shouting and the begging and the threatening and the heckling will be silenced. It's very quiet in a voting booth. And nobody's going to help you make up your mind. So - just for that instant - you'll know what the man you're voting for will do a thousand times a day for the next four years. Now it's your turn." (from Bill Moyers Journal October 31, 2008 essay)


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