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Measuring Student Learning -Winter 2012

By Sue Freese on February 05, 2013 5:00 PM

A Few Words from Jesse
 

 Dear Fissure Friends, 

Jesse

We are still "high" from the Project Management Institute's Continuing Education Product of the Year Award for SimProject®. Thank you to everyone who sent congratulations. We're busy updating marketing material, websites and our booth with the associated Best of the Best seal.

 

One of the advantages of our new location (we moved last June) is the free use of a beautiful conference/training room on the first floor of our office building. As most of you probably know I'm very active in the PMI-MN Chapter and teach the Risk evening in the Chapter's PMP Certification training. After our move I offered the use of our conference room to the Chapter should they wish to use it for an offering of the PMP Preparation training. Recently the company scheduled to host the Jan/Feb 2013 certification training withdrew their offer and now the session will be hosted by Fissure.

 

I'm currently working on a "learning through simulation" white paper and will share pieces in future newsletters. In the mean time, if you have thoughts, data and/or questions on the topic, I'd love to hear from you. The article to the left is a piece I put in the application for the PMI Product of the Year award. It shows student improvement in final project cost, schedule and quality from their first execution of the simulation, to their second execution, and then again to their third execution. The details are in the "Measuring Student Learning" article below.

 

I don't' know why we haven't used Geof Lory's article on "Practice versus Experience!" previously, but it fits really well with our other article in this newsletter. Geof's will encourage you to be more conscious when you practice and experience project management and parenthood.

 

Our computer simulation powered workshops are the most effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs.  

 

Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News). 

 

Thanks for reading and wishing you all a very joyous holiday season.

 

Jesse signature

 

 

 

 

Jesse Freese

Fissure, President

 



 

Practice versus Experience
by Geof Lory, PMP

Geof-Frame

 

I spent four years in high school studying and translating Latin with professors who were particular about the precise meaning and intention behind words. There could be many different translations for the same word based on the context in which the word was used. Of course, this is not unique to Latin. The same can be said about most languages; this was just the time in my life when that understanding surfaced for me.

 

Studying Latin cultivated what my wife says is a sometimes annoying propensity for choosing my words carefully, especially when trying to express a certain feeling. So, I chose the title of this article deliberately. It is composed of two similar but also very different words, Practice and Experience, which are often used interchangeably but can convey substantially different meanings. I'll resist the temptation to quote Webster's Dictionary, but I hope to convey the subtle differences and similarities, and how understanding them may encourage you to be more conscious when you practice and experience project management and parenthood.

 

There are some things I really enjoy practicing. As a golfer, and a self-admitted range rat, I can spend hours at the driving range hitting balls. Time like this is practice that is also an experience. By doing it, I am becoming practiced and experienced. Both are commonly thought of as positives, but I don't make the assumption that one begets the other or that either is intrinsically good, as evidenced by anyone who plays golf, but not for a living. Anyone who has ever stood on the practice green before a round and made half a dozen 3-foot putts in a row and then missed a short putt during the round to win knows the difference.

 

Before my daughters were old enough to legally drive, they practiced driving because I wanted them to build up their experience. Making circles in the parking lot was giving them practice, but not really a lot of experience behind the wheel. To me, that kind of practice is not completely real; it is only half real. It lacks the element of really being there, doing it live, in the moment, when it counts. For me, that is the experience. But, what practice lacks in real-time, it makes up for in repetition. Continual practice will create an unconscious ability to repeat just about any action, which makes the live experience more of a live practice. Practice is not experience, but they are close enough to be brothers.

 

In project management, I practice activities like risk management through early risk identification, analysis and planning. These are hopefully proactive and preemptive efforts, done deliberately with fore thought ahead of time when there is time. The practice, through risk scenarios, prepares for the potential experience of the risk itself. It also affords the critical element of learning and developing of competencies: feedback, which is necessary to complete the explicit learning process.

 

This distinction is not lost on teachers of music and sports--both practical/experiential activities--where both the experience and the repetitive practice are normal parts of the skills development process. My mother, who was quite a successful softball coach, often said, "A coach coaches during practice and watches during the game." During effective practice, feedback is immediate, intentional and direct. Situations can be set up and repeated to shorten the heuristic feedback loop. Consequences are usually geared toward learning and not otherwise meaningful. The players practice, but they are also experiencing it. During the game, only a fraction of the practiced behaviors may be experienced and only a time or two each, yet the consequences usually carry more weight. In contrast, training of other more cognitive-centric skills--such as many of those we learn during our academic years--often involves practice that to a large degree lacks any real experience. This is the dilemma most college graduates have in finding their first job: no experience.

 

Where am I going with all this? At first glance it would seem as hard to practice project management as it is to practice parenting. But how many parents with multiple children are surprised at how different their first child is from their second or third? How can two kids from the same parents growing up in the same house be so different? Is it genetics, or is it possible that we learned something from our "practice" on the first offspring? My two daughters are as different as day and night. Go figure.

 

If we stay awake for it, regular practice can be an experience and every experience can be practice. I have a project manager friend who says, "Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is." We all have experiences that would qualify as practice. All we need to do is take the time to interject the evaluation that allows us to learn from them. Failure to do this is a lost learning experience.

 

Over the past five years, I have been fortunate to be associated with a group of highly experienced and well-practiced project managers. My colleagues at Fissure Corporation have taken the concept of experiential practice and brought it to the realm of project management through computerized project management simulation. Simulations are an outstanding way to learn, as evidenced by their extensive use in other fields where lives are on the line, like flying a plane. In a simulation, teams practice the hard and soft skills of project management, compressing 20+ weeks of experiential practice into just a few days. The learnings have more staying power because the practice was an experience.

 

Most of your projects may not be life or death, even though they may feel like it, but they don't have to be to reap the benefits of this style of learning. However, I could make a case for parenting being a life or death competency, at least for the well-being of my children. If only there were a parenting simulation required of us all before becoming "certified parents

 

In the meantime, enjoy your project management and parenting experiences. Perhaps with this simple reminder we will take the time to turn them into practice and learn from them. As for me, I'm off to practice my putting. I wonder if I will ever learn.

 

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Measuring Student Learning

 

SimPwrd learn HeaderSimProject® is a project management learning simulation used by instructors and professors in teaching project management to high school, under graduate and graduate level students. The online SimProject product was released for use September 1, 2011. By the end of November, 2012, approximately 875 students had used SimProject to learn project management. Instructors determine how SimProject is used in each class and they also decide how many times they want the students to execute the simulation (up to three times maximum). The data below is based on the results from the 224 students who completed all three executions.

 

In SimProject, students read about the virtual company, virtual project and virtual people available to work on the project, and then, individually or collectively, play the role of the project manager. Acting as the project manager the student(s):

  1. Plan the project (resources and budget) and make typical project decisions each week (staff assignments, meetings, education, etc.).
  2. Run the project a week at a time, analyzing their results each week, referring to their weekly reports, and making their decisions for the next 

As they run each week they are presented with communications from people within the company, team members, or other project stakeholders. They have a choice on how to respond to these communications and all their decisions impact how their project progresses in a non-prescriptive way.

 

Student Learning Results

 

Learning was measured by the improvement in each student's project execution beginning with their first execution as a baseline, and looking at how they improve in final measures
of time (objective is 11 weeks), cost (objective is $50,000) and quality (objective is 12 or less) for their second and third executions. The charts below show a significant improvement
in student project results from their first execution to their second execution, and then another improvement in their
third execution.

  FirstExecutionChart

 

First Execution Median Values:
13.9 weeks, $65,588.50 and 15.06 final defects
 

 

SecondExecutionChart 

 

Second Execution Median Values:
12.6 weeks, $
56,774.75 and 14.08 final defects

 

ThirdExecutionChart

 

Third Execution Median Values:
11.6 weeks, $
53,092.50 and 13.1 final defects

 

The data quantitatively shows students, as a group, are improving their project management skills with respect to planning and managing their project to schedule, cost and quality. Driving a good part of the improvement is an elimination of mistakes made in the previous executions, especially in managing resources and motivating team members.

 

Just in case the quantitative data isn't enough evidence, here is some qualitative data from Professor Laurie Schatzberg of the University of New Mexico:

 

"I used the online SimProject shortly after its release in September, 2011 in our MBA Project Management course. Repeatedly, students experience "aha!" moments when they experience the impacts of their decisions on the project's time, cost and quality results. I cannot overstate the importance of this simulation in their learning."

 

Prior to using the simulation, students' contributions to class discussions are often generic and theoretical. Once they've delved into the simulation, they begin to speak as if they were a project manager and their discussions center on specific issues.

 

For example, they understand the importance of stakeholder communication. However, when they overlook a communication opportunity and suffer the inevitable consequence, they really get it. I can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices, and read it in their subsequent work. There are many such examples, where the simulation affords students an effective means to achieve a deeper level of learning.

 

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UP COMING PUBLIC CLASSES

Advanced Project Management Simulation Powered Learning® (2 of 3 PMP Track) - $1295.00 - Minneapolis - February 19-21, 2013 

Description          Register Here

 

PMI® Project Management Professional Exam Preparation (3 of 3 PMP Track) - $395.00 - Minneapolis - February 22, 2013

Description          Register Here 

 

Project Management Simulation Powered Learning® (1 of 3 PMP Track) - $1295.00    Minneapolis --March 12-14, 2013  

 

Description         Register Here


Business Analysis Simulation Powered Learning® (1 of 3 CBAP® Track) - $1495.00  Minneapolis - March 26-28, 2013  

Description          Register Here

 

 

CBAP® Certification Exam (3 of 3 CBAP® Track) - $1495.00

Minneapolis - April 9-11, 2013   

Description          Register Here

  

Eliciting & Modeling Project Requirements (2 of 3 CBAP® Track) - $995.00

Minneapolis - May 6-7, 2013  

 

Description          Register Here

 

 


 
Fissure News 
Los Angles Skyline

The number of instructors and students using SimProject is constantly growing and with the announcement of the Product of the Year Award we decided in September to be proactive in our risk management and move SimProject to its own dedicated server. The new server is somewhere in LA. At least the server is living in warm weather.

 

Guide Recognition 

 

In John S Frame  November John Skovbroten was the instructor on our monthly webinar offering. One of the attendees provided the following feedback:
 

I have done a lot of webinars and viewed probably 100's more. The one today with John Skovbroten on Key to Delivering Successful Products and Projects was outstanding. Very interactive, which is extremely hard to do on a web ex. 

Thank you for making it interactive and fun!  I'll definitely view more and recommend them in the future.

Liz

Way to go John!  

 

  

WGeof-Framealso received wonderful feedback from a client the Geof Lory has been working with to develop their Agile capability:

 

Your training and guidance on Agile really helped us build the foundation for making this such a success.

Diane

Way to go Geof
 

 

20 Year Anniversary 

In October Jesse Freese marked his 20 year anniversary with Fissure as a full-time employee. He is looking forward celebrating many more. Below is a picture of the building at 23 Empire Drive in St. Paul where Fissure had their offices when Jesse started full time. 

Jesse 2003
Empire Building

 

 
 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

 (Here is a picture of Jesse 20 years
ago but don't tell him I put it in.)

 

 

Red Earth computers

 

Free Webinars

 

Be sure to check out our FREE monthly, 1 hour webinars
 
We have had outstanding reviews and when you consider they are free - they are hard to beat.

 

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PMI Awards Fissure the Continuing Education Product of the Year Award for SimProject®

By Sue Freese on February 05, 2013 4:50 PM

For SimProject®                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The PMI® Award Seal must always be used with an attribution below that states “PMI and the PMI logo are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.



A Few Words from a Very Excited Jesse

 Dear Fissure Friends, 

Trophy

 

We have very exciting news that couldn't wait until the next newsletter! 

 

Fissure received the Project Management Institute's Continuing Education Product of the Year Award for SimProject®, our online project management simulation for colleges and universities. 

 

The purpose of this award is to recognize exceptional professional development instruction and training materials for project management students, trainees or practitioners. 

 

Fissure was recognized at the North American PMI Global Congress on October 20th in Vancouver, BC. Check out the video and pictures from the Awards dinner and formal presentation on our website. Tillery's award

 

Dave and Lori Tillery (yes, a very productive and successful husband and wife team) were responsible for all of the online simulation design, development and support work. They deserve the majority of the credit for Fissure earning this prestigious award.

 

SimProject® is our online computer based simulation used by academic institutions around the world as the experiential learning piece of their project management curriculum. At the core of SimProject® is a virtual project called the Alliance Prototype Project, which has 7 to 9 tasks and ten potential team members. Students plan and execute the project as the project manager; making weekly staffing, tasking, stakeholder, individual and team related decisions. They experience managing a real-life project from beginning to end. SimProject® can be given as homework for students (individual or teams), or utilized as a classroom activity with teams of students sharing the role of project manager.

 

Professor Laurie Schatzberg of the University of New Mexico says:

"I cannot overstate the importance of this simulation in [students'] learning"; that "students experience 'aha!' moments" and "they really get it. I can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices and read it in their subsequent work."

 

We are very excited about our new online simulation technology, SimProject and obviously this wonderful recognition and award. If you're in the area, stop by our office to celebrate with us.

 

Jesse signature

 

 

 

 

 

Jesse Freese

Fissure, President

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"Train them and they may leave, or don't train them and they'll stay." - Fall 2012

By Sue Freese on February 05, 2013 4:37 PM

A Few Words from Jesse
 

 Dear Fissure Friends, 

Jesse

Many years ago I was working with Michael Krzmarcik and Best Buy to provide project management training. Mike was responsible for IT training and I'll never forget the sign that Mike had hanging in his office.  It said:

 

"Train them and they may leave, or don't train them and they'll stay."

 

I really like the quote and have used it many times in front of classes, audiences and clients.  But I rarely get any sense that the people I'm talking with appreciate the irony and comedy of the underlying message. This was recently reinforced when I was working with our graphics artist on a handout for our local International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) Chapter. Fissure had signed up to create some informative handouts to help Business Analysts (or anyone in a skilled position) justify training and attending conferences to their management. We were designing a main handout to include information on the more detailed handouts. Of course I wanted it to have a humorous aspect and had decided on the above quote. Needless to say the graphics artist didn't get it until I explained the message in detail. Thinking back to my previous experiences in sharing the quote I decided Mike and I are just one of the few with that particular understanding and sense of humor. If most people don't "get it" without great explanation, it is not going to work as a simple handout. As a result, we decided to go another direction with the handout.

 

The good thing that came out of the IIBA handout effort was some helpful tools for planning and justifying your career path development. You will find the following tools in this newsletter. 

If you want soft copies of these tools, please send an email to Sue Freese requesting any or all of them. 

 

In working on the training justification handouts and watching the Olympics I was struck by how often we are asked to justify to management that spending money on our individual development will create a long-term benefit. I'm watching athletes that are investing 10 hour days for four years to shave a minimal % off their time, add another % difficulty to their routine, or a % more distance to their throw or jump. Now I realize that Olympic athletes are an extreme example, but no one questions their need for training and the associated investment. The question, which is the same question both business professionals and Olympic athletes need to answer is; will the desired training provide the process, tool and behavior changes required to produce the desired benefit/result? It's easy to identify benefits, but will you actually receive and be able to apply those benefits to your work routine? Evaluate potential training not just on cost and topic, but also on how the training will actually help you start applying your new skills, tools and techniques in class and increase the likelihood of achieving benefits on the job.

 

We are working on expanding our presence on the social networking tools of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We will use all three networks to let you know about upcoming workshops and webinars, including workshop discounts.

 

To educate and guide us through the process we hired a recent college graduate, Nathan Plaunt. Nathan has done a great job and we are getting to the point where we need a little help from our friends. Please consider taking a few minutes to help us grow our social networking presence by:

 

Liking us on Facebook -          Like us on Facebook

 

Following us on Twitter -         Follow us on Twitter

 

Following us on Linkedin -      View our profile on LinkedIn

 

 

In his article, "Checklist? Check!", Geof Lory offers numerous uses for a checklist.  As Geof says; "I know it's low tech and not very glamorous, but chances are it may be just what is needed, and nothing more." Read Geof's article and start using more checklists.

 

Our upcoming public workshops and webinars can be found on our website (workshop schedule). 

 

Our computer simulation powered workshops are the most effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs.  

 

Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News). 

 

 Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your 2012.

 

Jesse signature

 

 

 

 

Jesse Freese

Fissure, President

 



 

Fissure News

BarrowAlaska

Barrow, Alaska

Geof Lory has earned his wings the last few months. He went as far north as you can get (without snow shoes) to deliver a Fundamentals Project Management Simulation workshop for a group of 12 people in Barrow Alaska. Two travel days to get there and two travel days to get back. Fortunately for Geof, it was June in the land of the midnight sun.   

FreeCoffeeBarrow

 

DongguanChina

Dongguan, China 

In August, Geof flew to Hong Kong and China

to deliver a Fundamentals Project Management Simulation work

shop for a group of 16 people in Dongguan China. DongguanTeamPhoto  

 

 

He had quite the experience getting his visa, but I'm sure he enjoyed his time there once he arrived. It definitely looks like there is more to do there than in Barrow.

 

 

 

 

 

New Office Location

In case you missed it, we moved to a new location in June.  We are now in the Southtown Office Park in beautiful downtown Bloomington, MN.  We really like the building, the suite and the great training rooms.

 

OfficeEntry
Southtown Office Park entrance

 

Classroom
Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come visit us!

8120 Penn Ave. S.

Suite 454

Bloomington, MN  55431

 

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WorldWideWeb

Be sure to check out our FREE monthly, 

1 hour webinars. We have had outstanding reviews and when you consider that they are free - they are hard to beat.

 

 

 



 

Checklist? Check! 

by Geof Lory, PMP


Geof-Frame

A couple years ago I wrote an article, "From Process to Discipline," that outlined the need for variable levels of process and discipline based on the two project characteristics ofuncertainty and repeatability. I wrote that article in response to two misconceptions: 1) traditional process driven projects are obsolete in today's world, and 2) agile projects don't have any processes. The truth is, every project needs some level of process, explicit or implicit, to get work done.

In my experience, there is a tendency to get carried away and over-engineer the natural flow of a process into inflexible and prescriptive procedures, in an attempt to account for all possible permutations. I'd like to think that this is a product of the technical nature of most of the teams I work with, but I have also worked with sales and business teams and am continuously surprised at the inherent propensity to
over-think things.

 

Procedures define activities, not outcomes. Solid procedures are necessary when the task is either very complex or very mundane; it ensures the task is performed with consistency, in order to get the same predefined outcome each time. Procedures are intended to make something happen in a certain way by defining specifically how things are done, not just that they are done. It can be a daunting task to accurately document the primary flow of a process, and downright impossible if you try to account for every possible exception. If we are less concerned about how something is done and are more interested in the result, we can save the mental gymnastics of creating rigid procedures. It's much simpler to monitor the process by just visibly verifying the outcomes.

 

Processes convert inputs into outputs. They create a change of state. So when it comes to simplifying a process, more often than not I have found that a simple checklist will fulfill 80% of the process governance requirements with a fraction of the effort and frustration. Checklists define the undone and done states through a simple binary process. It is either done, or not done. It tracks the process through examination of empirical evidence that something exists and can be visually verified. It can be checked off. You can't get much simpler than that.

 

The other cool thing about checklists is that they define the outcomes before the work is done. In a sense, they are the WBS-at least at some level. (I'll hedge that comment or my PMI purist friends will blog me to death.) Or, if you just reached for your PMBoK, you can think of checklists in terms of the inputs/outputs or entry and exit criteria for a process. When the people doing the work are smart and capable (and you wouldn't have them on your team if they weren't, right?) they will relish the opportunity to apply their creativity as long as they know the intended outcome.

 

But perhaps the thing I like the most about checklists is how familiar they are. Who doesn't make lists, even for things we know how to do well? Life and projects are busy, with a lot going on. Lists keep us organized so we don't forget something in the process. Grocery lists, to-do lists, and punch lists are all part of our daily habits. My father had numerous hobbies, and for each one he had an "entry checklist." Flying planes, running model trains, going fishing or hiking all started with an "are you ready for the process" checklist, mental or physical, depending on the risk. When flying his plane, the checklist was detailed and laminated. The consequences of a missed item could be fatal. When day hiking, it was just a quick confirmation: Compass, check; knife, check; matches, check; water bottle, check; mosquito spray, check. Done.

 

Besides, what is more gratifying than crossing something off your list? I get such satisfaction from crossing things off my list that I sometimes put things on my list that I have already done, just so I can check them off. I'll bet I'm not the only one that does that. Several years ago my wife saw me write something on a list I had already done and then cross it off and she accused me of being obsessive. OK, maybe that is a bit fanatical, so I no longer do that. Honest. Instead, when I start a list, the first item on my list is "Make a list." That way, when I'm done making the list I can cross it off and feel an immediate sense of satisfaction. (I didn't say I was cured, I just have things under control, most of the time.)

 

Because checklists aren't prescriptive, using them does require discipline. They offer flexibility while maintaining enough consistency to develop accountability-yet still allowing for self-learning and exception handling. They give you the wiggle room that is necessary and comforting, while providing sufficient structure and boundaries through short-term deliverables. This leaves you the freedom to do it your way, as long as at the end it can be checked off the list.

 

When I work with teams to define a process I often ask them to put their completion criteria in the form of a checklist of nouns. The use of nouns instead of verbs avoids the temptation to immediately dive into the how and keeps them at the what. A simple checklist like this is easy to put in place and maintain, easier to remember, and simpler to govern and administrate, all while being flexible enough to change. If the checklist isn't sufficient, add another deliverable. If there is something extraneous, take it off the list or make it optional. Simple as that.

 

Of course, not everything can be managed through a simple checklist. Checklists assume a level of competency on how to define and deliver on the checklist items. Therefore, checklists may not be enough if people don't know the how, are just learning, or if you are trying to overcome sloppy or lazy behavior. Under these circumstances, the prescription of a procedure may be needed for a while, to develop the competencies. However, once the competencies are built, it may be possible to simplify the procedure back to a checklist over time. If your procedures have become shelfware, you are probably there.

 

So, the next time you have to define a process and are tempted to do your best imitation of a swim lane diagram in Visio, I would challenge you to try starting with a simple checklist. I know it's low tech and not very glamorous, but chances are it may be just what is needed, and nothing more. Just start with one or two things and let the list grow. Then you can check "Document the procedure" off your list.

 

Schedule vs. Quality - Spring 2012

By Sue Freese on February 05, 2013 4:22 PM

Dear Fissure Friends, 

Jesse

  

In our last newsletter I told you about the release of our new online simulation technology. In the last 4 months of 2011 we had over 200 students run up to three executions of our University/College market product, SimProject®. The feedback was extremely positive and we have been very busy working with instructors and students to make enhancements and fix the ever-present bugs associated with any new software release.

 

A special thank you goes out to Mike Kushner and his class at the University of Maryland. Mike and his students were the first official users and a big challenge right out of the gate as Mike's approach in this particular class is to turn the students loose on the project simulation with very little upfront project management or simulation introduction - a real "learn by doing" approach, which of course we at Fissure love! Mike will contribute an article to the next newsletter describing the experience.  

 

Our monthly webinars have been a big hit with a lot of you and they are usually very well attended with very positive feedback. Lately we have received feedback from some attendees who would like us to offer webinars that dive into more detail on a specific topic, tool, or technique. This would be a natural progression and as a training company something we are qualified to deliver. The challenge for us is that when we started offering the webinars, the intent was to keep the topics at an introductory level to introduce our clients and potential clients to project management, business analysis, Agile, leadership and change management. Because the webinars were introductory, we offered them at no cost. In offering more focused webinars we move much closer to training which is how we make a living and giving it away just doesn't make good business sense. To make a good business decision we needed to know what the customer wanted.

 

At the end of 2011 we sent out a survey to see if there was a desire on your part to attend training focused webinars that lasted 90 minutes rather than 60 minutes for which you would pay a nominal fee. The result of the survey was a resounding yes on providing training focused webinars and nearly everyone was OK with paying for attending. As a result we have scheduled three training focused webinars for 2012.  

  • April 11th will be on Project Communication and will be delivered by Sandy Haydon, an experienced project manager, coach and Fissure guide.
  • May 8th will be on Stop Managing and Start Coaching, delivered by John Kaman, a certified coach and long-time Fissure guide.
  • October 10th  will be The Art of Negotiation and will be delivered by John Kaman.

We look forward to taking the webinars to this new level of training and helping you meet your learning objectives. If you have ideas for future webinars please drop me an email, jesse_freese@fissure.com.  

I have spent quite a bit of training time recently with a large company working on a very large project. I thought it would be a good time to write an article about schedule vs. quality. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

In his article, "Agile Parenting: Compassionate Courage", Geof Lory continues exploring the soft-skill side of project management and parenting. He explores exercising Courage, which is less a preference and more a binary choice. You do it or you don't. The only variance is how often you make which choice.

 

Our upcoming public workshops and webinars can be found on our website  - our computer simulation powered workshops the most effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs. Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News).

 

Now is your chance:

 

Like us on Facebook 

 

Thanks for reading and enjoy the coming spring,

 

Jesse signature

 

 

 

 

Jesse Freese

Fissure, President

 



Schedule vs. Quality 

 

Jesse

Extremely large projects are rarely completed on time and on budget. There are many reasons for this but one of the big reasons is the tradeoff between schedule and quality. By the word quality I mean not only the minimization of defects in the deliverables but also how well they meet the customer requirements. I have been delivering our simulation powered learning project management training to a good number of people currently working on one of these monster projects. During the training there have been numerous group discussions concerning how bad this project is and everyone has their opinion as to "why". Some blame management, some blame an unskilled workforce, others put the blame on worker attitude. One thing they all agree on is the symptoms: slow progress and poor quality. The reality is I think they are all right. And they prove it in the training by how they manage their simulation projects and the results they see in the simulation.

 

How do projects start? Projects, especially monster projects, start slow. There is the initial ramp-up, the building of an effective project team and the inevitable learning curve. It is almost impossible to keep a monster project from falling behind schedule in the beginning. So what do we do to get back on schedule? Caving in to our overly concerned management, we often throw overtime and more workers at the project. We add, as is the case with this particular monster project, anyone who can reasonably contribute to the tasks at hand. Of course you add the best available workers first and then as time goes on you add marginally less and less skilled workers, but you keep adding workers as you keep falling further and further behind. Adding workers increases the complexity of coordinating the team and makes communication more difficult. Often the most qualified workers end up trying to work with the less qualified ones so they too see a slowdown in their productivity. Now add overtime that seems endless and a management team that constantly focuses on schedule, schedule, and schedule. What is the result? More often than not, they end up redoing completed portions of the project because they don't meet specifications and quality requirements. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes - "If you want it bad, you get it bad". Poor progress and poor quality.

 

Now let's talk about how they managed their simulation projects. The simulation project is designed to start slow, just like real life. The PMs react to the schedule slip by applying overtime and meeting with the team on schedule every week, just like they have been trained in real life. Some even try throwing resources at the critical path task that don't even have the skills to contribute to the task. This focus on schedule can improve their schedule in the short term, but soon they are watching their quality measure going in the negative direction. Reacting to the poor quality they start focusing on quality by meeting with the team on quality every week and when it really gets bad, sending people to quality training. This focus on quality can work only if they also discontinue their focus on schedule (OT and meeting on schedule). If the students continue their focus on schedule while also focusing on quality, the team members will try to do both at the same time and the result is not so poor progress and not so poor quality.

 

So what is the answer? Do you have to pick schedule or quality? During class we spent quite a bit of time focused on the productivity of the team - in lecture, in discussion, and in the running the simulation. Productivity is a function of the quality of the team members, the tools they use and the way they are managed. In their discussions the students working on this monster project came up with the answer - focus on productivity. A more motivated and productive work force will work more efficiently and produce much better quality while at the same time reducing schedule pressure. One student even shared how he had been rewarding individual performance and thus raising productivity and morale. Even though what he was doing was working, the technique "challenged the accepted process" and thus was unanimously dismissed as "not to be used" by the other students. It was sad to see a project desperate for answers work so hard to keep from finding them.

 

So did they at least apply what they learned to their simulation projects? Yes. They all realized they needed to focus on productivity and quality. Once they did that, schedule improved because the virtual team was more productive and with a higher quality, less rework was required.

 

 

Jesse Freese

Fissure, President

 



PROJECT PARENTHOOD

Agile Parenting: Compassionate Courage

by Geof Lory, PMP

Geof-Frame
Geof Lory

  

In the previous articles in this series on the Agile Parenting Manifesto I have presented tenets that focus on a choice: a choice between emphasizing  Goals and Purpose over rules and processes or Releasing Human Potential over conforming to preconceived outcomes. Both of these articles illustrated how a preference of the less tangible and more uncertain possibilities can develop children and build project teams that are better prepared for extreme project environments.

 

This month we'll continue with exploring the soft-skill side of project management and parenting and talk about exercising Courage, which is less a preference and more a binary choice. You do it or you don't. The only variance is how often you make which choice.

 

The first two values of Agile Parenting set a solid foundation for execution. Leadership and parenting that emphasize goals, purpose, curiosity and adventure will properly position children and teams for success. However, without courage there can be no execution, and in the end, we are all looking for results.

 

The reason courage is so important as a basic value is that projects-like life-extend into the future, which is by definition uncertain. This uncertainty, and the inability to control it, creates fear if the outcome is potentially negative. Sometimes it doesn't matter whether the potential outcome is perceived as positive or negative; the mere fact that it is uncertain and different creates a doubt. Put all of this together and you have the biggest productivity drain to a project team - FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

 

Courage is acting on your convictions in the face of your own fears. My fellow author Doug DeCarlo calls it "doing it scared." Courage is the ability to move forward toward a goal into the unknown with a sense of purpose. It isn't foolishly charging ahead ignoring the consequences; it is a mindful act to not allow the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt to poison or impede your progress.

 

The FUD factor on a team is a measurable quality. High FUD factors build up and clog open communications, cloud the project vision and jeopardize project success. Fortunately, project managers can combat FUD with Compassionate Courage.  

So, here is the third value of the Agile Parent Manifesto:

 

As Agile Parents, we have come to value:
Compassionate Courage  

instead of convenient complacency

 

Compassionate Courage is almost an oxymoron. They are two words you don't typically hear in the same breath. Courage has a forceful and almost machismo tone to it, while compassion sounds yielding and soft. Put them together and you can create a velvet hammer that breaks down project FUD.

 

I believe that these two words complement each other like individuals on any good team do. Neither is as good alone as they are together. Courage creates the forward motion into the unknown, but compassion engages the spirit in a way that provides meaning and purpose, passion and emotion to the action.  

 

We rarely hear people talk about passion when they are in the work place, but there is no lack of it away from the job. If you don't believe me, stop by at any grade school sporting event and watch the parents. You'll see passion. Growing up playing hockey, my mother watched almost all my games; I know because I could hear her from the stands. Sometimes I think she cared more than I did. Looking back, she was mostly just afraid I would get hurt. But I was a goalie, so I guess that's understandable. I had created an environment of high FUD that she overcame with compassionate courage and lots of hot chocolate.

 

Children recognize compassionate courage because it exudes safety, something that reduces their personal FUD factor. As parents we have an obligation to minimize the FUD factor for our children while they are developing the requisite skills to do it themselves.

Compassion understands and accepts, even if it doesn't approve or condone. It believes there is a better way and is willing to work to find it, even if it requires an element of vulnerability. Courage is the conviction and belief that the potential outcome exceeds the risk of the vulnerability. I think one without the other suffers greatly in its potential.

 

The alternative to Compassionate Courage is convenient complacency, which is really a path of self-serving least resistance. It's the unconscious way out. Face it, we all want to be loved by our children (and liked by our co-workers) and doing anything that would jeopardize that relationship, especially in an irreparable way, brings with it an amount of FUD.  

 

Doing the difficult and often painful thing, risking undesirable outcomes, but doing it because you hold true feelings for the betterment of a person or future state, shows compassion and courage. In parenting it is called tough love, at work it is a quality of a leader. Without Compassionate Courage, our other values are merely academic.

 

Unfortunately, we all too often take the easy route of complacency or social compliance with phrases like, "I didn't want to hurt his/her feelings," and "I'm running a project, not a therapy session." Or my personal self-justification when I wimp out, "It wouldn't make any difference because he/she is not willing to listen anyway." In my part of the country we call it "Minnesota nice." It is neither exclusive to Minnesota nor truly nice. It's a cop-out.

 

So, to practice Compassionate Courage and develop it in our children and project teams, as Agile Parents we follow these principles:

 

Providing family members with open and honest communications.

Live a life of continuous self-reflection and have the strength to admit and accept the truth about ourselves.

Commitment to the right path, not just the easy path
- acting with integrity.

 

Ever since my daughters were old enough to have a FUD factor, I have tried to create a world for them that was safe and certain. I monitored it through a divorce, new schools, sports, boyfriends, learning to drive and numerous other transitional life events. I would be lying if I said they all turned out perfectly and there were never any negative outcomes. I can't control the future for my children any more than I can for my projects. But I can take courageous and compassionate steps to reduce the FUD factor and increase the chance of success, and that is good enough for me, as a project manager and a parent.

 



Fissure News

LosAngles SkylineWe delivered a pilot Fundamentals Project Management Simulation workshop for a new client in Los Angeles in early February. When the internal registration was opened the 20 slots were filled in fewer than 5 minutes. That has to be a record.

 

 

 

Fissure delivered another round of training for our client in MedupiSouth Africa. This time it included the Fundamentals Project Management Simulation, the Advanced Project Management Simulation and the Leading Successful Change workshop for the construction team building the Medupi Power Station in the Northeastern part of South Africa. The training went so well we are going back again later this year. The contract was provided through our partner in South Africa, Intellect, as part of their highly successful project manager development program.

 

Susan Hydorn

Congratulations to our associate Susan Heidorn.  

 

She is now Dr. Heidorn, having completed all of her requirements in her Ed.D, Organization Development program.

 

 

   

 Be sure to check out our FREE monthly, 1 hour webinars.

RedEarthWe have had outstanding reviews and when you consider that they are free - they are hard to beat.  Schedule

 

 Want More In-Depth Webinars? 

We have added three 1.5 hour training focused webinars this year that will go into more depth on new topics for which we are charging a nominal fee. Be sure to check out these new webinars too. We know you will find them valuable and engaging. Watch for the registration emails or register @ www.fissure.com

Meet Buki - Fall 2011

By Sue Freese on February 05, 2013 1:21 PM

 

Dear Fissure Friends,

It was a big day for Fissure as it was our first trade show after the release of our brand new web-based simulation technology and supporting website:  www.simulationpoweredlearning.com. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Yes, now you will be able to run one of our many
learning simulations as an individual right from the
comfort of your office or home.
Buki framed Shake

 The first web-based simulation available is our SimProject® project management simulation for the University/College market. Our Fundamental PM, Advanced PM, Business Analysis, PM Lite, and Leadership/Change simulations will be available as they are converted to the web-based simulation technology. I'll let you know when each one becomes available. For those who want to know more detail see "Why Develop a Web Based Simulation?" for an additional short article on why we developed the new web-based simulation technology.

 Initial student and instructor feedback on the completely updated user interface is very positive and we are excited to be able to close this initial development project. Needless to say it has been a challenging project and we have learned a lot. Sometime next year (after they get a well deserved break) I'll ask the development team to share an article or two on some of the more challenging aspects of the project.

  Meet Buki!         

 In a few days, you will receive a short survey from Fissure regarding our free monthly webinars. We have received excellent feedback on the webinars which we started as a way to introduce people to basic project management, business analysis and Agile/Scrum processes and concepts. The free webinars also allowed us to "practice and perfect" our online delivery capability and give our subscribers an overview of Fissure's training capability. Recently we have been receiving more and more requests for webinars which go deeper into specific topics, processes, tools and techniques. This is something we can obviously deliver, but we have two challenges:

  • What detailed webinar topics should we offer next year?
  • Are our webinar users willing to pay for these detailed webinar offerings?

We understand the attraction of "free" and have no problem offering our current set of high level webinars for free, and we will continue to offer these on a regular basis.  

 If we offer detailed training webinars they will not be free. Training is our business and we are not a non-profit (although our accountant has been questioning that lately) so we will have to charge a small fee for attendance. Please think about what training topics you would like us to offer next year that you would be willing to pay for a 90 minute deep dive training on a specific topic, process, tool, or technique.

 In his article,  "Agile Parenting: Curiosity and Adventure" Geof Lory answers the questions: How do you stay in a state of openness to the possibilities? And how do you cultivate the potential each unique individual has to offer-your children and your team members? Of course the answers are in the title, but read Geof's article to really understand the answers.

 Our upcoming public workshops and webinars can be found on our website. Our computer simulation powered workshops the most effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs. Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News).  

 

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of 2011.

 

Jesse

 



 
Why Develop a Web Based Simulation?Buki

Ten years is not a very long time in the life-cycle of asoftware product. Many companies are running and enhancing programs originally developed decades ago. Ten years ago Fissure released a computer based simulation technology that resides on the computer.  

 

Over the last ten years we have enhanced the software and added about ten different simulations; including business analysis and several customized simulations for clients. The simulation runs great and the realism, engagement and effectiveness in developing skills is unsurpassed. So what drove Fissure to undertake a large three year effort to develop a web-based simulation technology?

 

First we always knew we would go in the web-based direction. In developing the original computer-based simulation we built the "reference documents" in HTML format, with the thought that it would facilitate the eventual transition to the web. Second, more and more training is moving to the internet. Although we can deliver online training using the computer-based simulation, it has drawbacks and limitations that an online simulation would not have. Third, even after just 10 years, the user interface needed an update. It is what I like to call the "sizzle" (looks) vs. the "steak" (realism).

 

Our computer-based simulation had plenty of "sizzle" when it was built 10 years ago, but compared to newer simulations with much less "steak", it appeared dated.  

 

As an example, many of you are aware of our use of the Microsoft Agent Peedytechnology and how we use the parrot we call Peedy to provide instructions, advice and feedback during the simulation. Some people really liked Peedy and some did not. We struggled with keeping him or replacing him in the web-based simulation with something new. Buki Happy Dance2

 

After much thought we decided to replace Peedy with a human. Her name is Buki. You may miss Peedy (I know I will), but you will find his replacement a step up in both personality and "sizzle".

 

 

With good reasons for the development we identified four high level goals for the web-based simulation:

  1. Convert the simulation from computer-based to web-based (client/server) - you can now run the simulation from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. (I know it works because I successfully ran the simulation from South Africa on a recent trip.)
  2. Completely update the user interface - as an example,
    we went from this:

 

Resource Plan 2   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To this: 

 

  Planning Page

for resource planning. 

 

3. Maintain the current realism of a project including the controls and relationships between decisions and results - side by side testing between the old and new simulations provides the identical results

 

4. Retain the learning effectiveness and engagement of the current simulation - based on initial feedback and our success in meeting the first three goals, we are exceeding our expectations on the effectiveness and engagement goal  

 

When you get a chance to run one of the new Fissure web-based simulations I think you will agree that we met the above goals. But we're not done. We have plans to add even more sizzle in future releases, so stay tuned.  

 

Jesse Freese

Fissure, President



Fissure News

October 2011

NewsFissure 

 Medupi

We just delivered a Fundamentals Project Management Simulation workshop and an Advanced Project Management Simulation workshop for the construction team building the
Medu
pi Power Station in the Northeastern part of South Africa. The training went so well we are going back again early in 2012. The contract was provided through our partner in South Africa, Éclat, as part of their highly successful project manager development program.

 

 

Jesse Freese conducted our Leading Successful Change PMISimulation workshop at the PMI North American Congress on October 25-26, 2011. There were people in the class from all over the country and the world. Change is impacting everyone.

 

 

Microsoft

We delivered our Fundamental Project Management Simulation workshop for Microsoft in Singapore in June. The students were Microsoft's top engineers from Singapore, India, Japan, China, and Australia.

 

 

 

Be sure to check out our FREE monthly, 1 hour webinars (link to webinar list on home page). We have had outstanding reviews and when you consider that they are free - they are hard to beat.

 

 

 

 PMI MEGA SEMINARS WORLD

PMIWorldOur Ultimate Project Management Skills Challenge workshop was selected for deliver in San Diego, CA. in December. Check out the description at the SeminarsWorld web site

 



 

 

PROJECT PARENTHOOD

Agile Parenting: Criosity and Adventure

By Geof Lory, PMP

 

In the first article in this series on the  Agile Parent's ManifestoI laid out a framework of values and principles paralleling that of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. I spoke about valuing  Goals and Purpose over rules and processes. This month we'll take one step farther away from the traditional straight and narrow and explore a behavior that can keep us awake enough to recognize when we are operating with purpose toward our goals. But first, a little on perspective.

Project management, like parenting, requires no specific industry knowledge. People from every walk of life do both. You can learn project management theory in a classroom, but most of these classes are like Lamaze for new parents: You can talk about deep breathing and relaxing, but the real learning is in the doing. So, how can we stay in a state where we can optimize the learning while doing?

When you look at parenting from the outside it appears so simple and easy, but everyone else seems to do it in a chaotic, unorganized or dysfunctional fashion. I have an older brother and a younger sister, and we had our families in reverse chronological order; my younger sister had her children before I was married, and I had two young daughters before my older brother was married. I remember watching my sister with her son and thinking, "Why doesn't she just ...?" It seemed so obvious to me, so simple. And then several years later I got to be on the receiving end of that evaluation as my brother had similar thoughts about my parenting.

As a project manager and a parent I am in awe of just how simple my job is, and just how difficult it is to do well. You would think a role requiring no prerequisites, that just about everyone is doing to some degree, would be easy-filled with routines or processes. Just follow the bouncing ball to success. Unfortunately, that is not the case for project managers or parents. Thus, the first value of the Agile Parents Manifesto is Goals and Purpose over rules and processes.

I don't want to imply that process and rules have no place in projects or parenting. They do, it's just a matter of emphasis. I received a clever e-mail from one reader who believes the two are not so far apart. He suggests that the purpose of a defined process is to take common sense and make it common knowledge, and to take common knowledge and to make it common practice. I agree with him. Most worthwhile processes are just that-common sense with a form.

Bad processes suppress the human spirit because they restrict or deny the potential of those required to follow them, limiting their potential. This brings me to the second value:  

As Agile Parents, we have come to value the:   

 Release of Human Potential
over conformity to preconceived outcomes

 

This is a key tenet for Agile Project Managers and Agile Parents because it speaks to the unlimited possibilities of team members and of our children. All parents want the best for their children. But too often we are so intent on putting in what we want them to be or what we feel is missing that we don't take the time to nurture what they naturally possess. It sounds so simple, and few of us would openly admit that we do otherwise. But, with a little reflection, we would all acknowledge it is common sense not in common practice.

So, how do you stay in a state of openness to the possibilities? How do you cultivate the potential each unique individual has to offer-your children and your team members? As Agile Parents we follow these principles:

Encouragement of curious exploration and
reflective experience maintains consciousness at
a level that can leverage possibilities.
 

 

Approaching situations with a sense of adventure
and hope creates positive energy that builds
self-esteem and respectful self-confidence.

When my daughters were very young we used to sit on the back deck and close our eyes and just listen. I would ask them to name what they heard. After they responded with the obvious external stimuli, I would ask them to listen more deeply, beyond what they knew was there. And then one more time, even more intently. Eventually, they would start to hear the "noises" within. Their breathing, heartbeat or maybe even their thoughts. Curiosity requires intent.

Cultivating curiosity is fun. In a world with so much diversity, curiosity is an asset we can't afford to be without. To me, curiosity is just a regular propensity to challenge the assumptions that both rule and protect us. It is the tool we use to approach that which is different from what we assume/know and turn it into a learning opportunity.

Daily I meet people and handle situations. I make assumptions; some are right, some are wrong, all are immediate (read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and driven by my personal filters (experience, fears, history, heritage). I don't want to eliminate these assumptions; I strive to accept them with a healthy dose of challenge, or I'll miss the chance to learn.

I don't want my children to be without their assumptions any more than I want them to stop learning. Project teams go to great lengths to create meaningful assumptions out of lessons learned through project reviews. These help teams improve and avoid mistakes in the future. Learning is inherently about building and expanding assumptions. In school, we called it knowledge. If assumptions are in the present, innovation comes from challenging those assumptions. To cultivate innovation we need to make room for adventurous curiosity wherever we can. We start by encouraging it in our children.  

Curiosity alone is a wonderful and enlightening habit. It is open, inviting and fresh. When you add hope to this equation, the sky becomes the limit. The world becomes a sea of possibilities bordered only by the energy you will commit and what you are willing to make of it. Seeing the world this way develops self-esteem because ownership for the present and the future is squarely in your hands, or at least within reach. And when this ownership becomes personalized, a new sense of respect for yourself creates the self-confidence that in turn fuels the original curiosity even more. And the circle continues almost endlessly.

Allowing time for curiosity, adventure, and challenging of assumptions is not without its caveats. There is a time and place for it. Teams, just like children, need boundaries around them. I would not let my daughter's curiosity about matches burn down the house just for the learning. Similarly, continuously introducing too much curiosity throughout a project can create uncertainty and have an unsettling effect on the team (not to mention your baseline requirements!). Like the other values of the Agile Parenting Manifesto, understanding and applying curiosity with balance is critical.

This spring my youngest daughter, Erika, will finish her senior year at high school. I am curious to see what she will pursue in college. Perhaps, like her father, she will change majors six times before finally getting a degree in Forestry. That was a lot of money to spend to be able to name every tree on a golf course-in Latin. My curiosity may have detoured my college studies, but in my career it has taken me places and offered experiences I couldn't have imagined. So, I know that whatever she pursues, if she maintains a healthy sense of curiosity, there will be no limit for her.  

As parents and Project Managers, I challenge you to openly invite curiosity in your children and your teams. I'll be curious to hear how it works for you.

 

Practice Patience for Productivity - Winter 2010

By Sue Freese on February 05, 2013 9:35 AM

A Few Words From Jesse

Dear Fissure Friends,

 

First a big "Thank you" for two recent Fissure requests! We had a very nice response to our request for volunteers for our new online Project Management Simulation workshop. See the article in this newsletter for more detailed results. We also had an excellent response to our recent survey of your training preferences and desires. It will help us in meeting your short and long-term training needs. See the article in this newsletter for summary results of the survey.

 

Second, I want to send a personal thank you to those of you who provided words of concern and encouragement regarding my last article on my climbing total cholesterol number. If you remember, I had decided to try addressing the (hopeful) cause by changing my diet and increasing my exercise. As some of you told me, it is not something to mess around with, so I gave myself just 3 months to see what impact I might have on my 240 point score. If you aren't interested in the details and just want to know the results, skip the next paragraph.

 

I did implement my exercise and diet plan. I exercised 6 mornings a week, alternating strength and aerobic exercises, getting about 30 minutes of exercise a day. It was also the middle of golf season and I walked and carried my clubs whenever possible. My diet change was mostly about cutting. I cut out red meat for 3 months except for one burger I had on our short vacation up north. I cut out all cheese, except for a no fat slice on my sandwiches. I also changed from all beef hot dogs to turkey dogs, which I can say are really very good, I never missed the beef dogs. The one thing I added was to eat more fruit and vegetables. Over the three months I lost about 4% of my weight.

 

My three months were well planned as our annual trip to the State Fair was coming up. I was tested the day before we went to the fair and a few days later the results came in. My total cholesterol number was 183. It was at the very good end of my range of expectations and needless to say, my Doctor was very pleased.Since my splurge at the fair I have kept my exercise and diet about the same with a little red meat every once in a while.

 

In his article, "Practice Patience for Productivity", Geof Lory shows us the power of patience, not only at work, but also at home.  This time Geof shares how he is still learning from his parents.  Doesn't that peak your interest to read the entire article?

 

Our upcoming public workshops and webinars can be found on our website - our computer simulation powered workshops the most effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs.  Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News).

 

Thanks for reading and take good care of yourself,

Jesse Freese

Fissure, President

 



Fissure Simulation Powered Learning Workshop
On The World Wide Web

 

In late August and early September we completed our first online delivery of our project management simulation workshop. We had 12 participants attend 12 online sessions over a 10 day period. The participants came from 10 different companies, with various experience levels in project management. A few had also previously attended our same workshop in the 3-day classroom version, so they could compare the online experience with the classroom experience. Yours truly was the instructor, or as we call them, the guide.

 

Description: WWCont

The first session was a one hour session to introduce and practice the online collaborative tool, Elluminate. The session also included participant introductions. We used the Elluminate built-in audio capability which worked fairly well, but did require everyone to have a good quality headset, including a good quality microphone. As time went on the participants realized that if they wanted to be heard, they needed good audio equipment.

 

The experience and the feedback were both very positive. Everyone liked the content and the delivery. They liked the Elluminate tool, the interactivity of the tool, and the interactive exercises. They also liked the breakout rooms where they worked together on team exercises and ran the simulation as a team. All in all the training was a success and we learned a lot about how to make it even better.

 

We learned that we can successfully deliver our high quality simulation powered workshops online and that the participants engage in the learning and come away with learning. We also learned that online delivery takes more time than classroom delivery, especially getting to know your teammates and completing team exercises. Not unexpectedly we learned that sitting in your office to take a class can make it too easy to be interrupted. Our participants also found it difficult to keep their scheduled online sessions conflict free.

 

With regards to running the simulation in teams online, we were again very pleased overall. Our new internet based simulation was still in development so the teams installed the simulation on a participant computer and shared the application to run it as a team. This presented some challenges we won't have in the internet version, but nothing the teams couldn't overcome. The biggest complaint again was to have more time to run the simulation.

 

I want to send out a special "thank-you" to our volunteer participants - I appreciated your time and effort commitment to the workshop and to providing me honest and detailed feedback upon completion. I really enjoyed having you all "in" class.

If you have specific questions or want more detail on our first online experience feel free to contact me (jesse_freese@fissure.com, 952-882-0800). Also let us know if you would like to bring this exciting new PM training delivery style to your organization.

 



PROJECT PARENTHOOD

Practice Patience for Productivity

By Geof Lory, PMP

 

I recently read a quote from General Norman Schwarzkopf: "Great leaders never tell people how to do their jobs. Great leaders tell the people what needs to be done and establish a framework within which it must be done. Then they let the people on the front lines, who know best, figure out how to get it done." This came from a man who commanded tens of thousands of troops in life and death situations in a rigidly structured hierarchical culture. I enjoyed this quote not only for its relevance and insight, but also for its audacity. As General Schwarzkopf commanded, he also acknowledged his true control is limited.

 

In previous articles, I have similarly acknowledged that as a parent of two teenage daughters my ability to command and/or control them wanes with every passing semester. As they struggle to develop their individuality, they allow me to help them less and less. I have to acknowledge that my primary job as a parent -- to work myself out of a job -- is quickly coming to its inevitable destination.

 

However, my learnings as a parent have not been exclusively from my daughters. I may be a parent, but I am also a husband to my wife Beth and the son of my parents, who fortunately are still healthy and remain great teachers in their own subtle way

 

Just recently my parents were in town for a visit. They live about 600 miles away, so we only see them a few times a year. It is always a treat when they come out, and we enjoy our time with them. I have many stories to tell from my childhood where I learned the foundation of both my project management and parenting disciplines, not through direct instruction, but indirectly through example and encouragement. Well, this time with my parents was no different than any other. I knew that if I kept my eyes and mind open to the possibility, I would again learn something from them.

 

My parents are not extremely extroverted people. We grew up grounded in family behavior and lots of family activities. Friday and Saturday nights were always family time, especially in the winter. We played games, and a lot of cards. I can remember playing Pinochle when I was too young to hold all the cards, so Mom would take a flat box and turn it upside down and I'd stick the cards in the slot between the top and bottom. My daughters are no different. They grew up playing cards. My wife, the girl's stepmother, however, never really played cards growing up. Her family activities were theatre and art

 

I have always wanted Beth to learn to play cards, but she has shown little interest, and even less in hearing me try to explain the intricate nuances of Euchre or Hearts. So imagine my surprise when my parents suggested we play cards and she said "sure." This was new behavior, and a difference is always a time to learn. What was different here? Why was she open to their invitation but never open to mine? I realized that it was the environment my parents create when they are around. They are patient and unassuming, understanding and supportive. In their eyes there is no judgment, only compassion and acceptance.

 

As a project manager in a position of leadership and often command, teaching can sometimes look temptingly like an opportunity to convey my knowledge to those less informed. But I have learned that my parent's style to encourage the learning out of others and support them in the process can be more effective. This is how I remember learning to play cards. Mistakes were allowed, but after each hand or game, opportunities for learning were discussed as each helped the other learn how well it was played or how it might have been played differently

 

So, when Beth took the bait, I was all over it and got the Cribbage board out in about 10 seconds. (Actually, it took me almost 15 minutes to find the board since it hadn't been used in over seven years and I couldn't remember where I put it.) The game started with a few simple rules, pairs and fifteens, and with each hand my parents built on her experience. She was having a good time, and fate was rewarding her with some good cards. With every hand her confidence grew. Her enjoyment of what heretofore had been something she avoided was now a treat to watch. Unfortunately for me she teamed with my Dad, so my Mom and I were thoroughly humiliated -- and by a novice no less

 

I went to bed that night and reflected on how effective my parent's patience was. In a few short hours they were able to nurture out of Beth what I had been unable to coax or coach out of her for seven years. In fact, she was so interested in Cribbage that we had to have a rematch the following night. As luck would have it, Beth and Dad once again embarrassed Mom and me, and the lessons were reinforced all the more

 

Sometimes, in our parochial urgency, we try to push against resistance rather than allow it to unfold by creating an accepting and nurturing environment for it to become what it can. This applies to all of those we come in contact with, and especially in our roles as team leads and project managers. How often during meetings have we pressed our ideas, been met with skeptical resistance, and ended up frustrated or pulling out our command-and-control trump card? Not effective in the long run.

 

I don't come by patience naturally, although you would think I would have if you believe it is genetic. And I suspect I am not alone in this way among my project manager peers. So I look for places and opportunities to practice patience. Certainly, plenty of chances for this arise at home and at work. In our busy and hectic lives this may seem like heresy but, from one "Type A" person to another, it works. Your relationships with your children and your teammates will be better for it. And your blood pressure may even go down. Mine did.

 

 



We recently asked everyone in our database to complete a 10 question (really only 7 questions) survey to provide us with information relative to your training preferences and needs. Each person who completed the survey had a chance to win a $200 Visa card.  See our home page  for the name of the winner.

Thank you to all 173 people who took the time to complete the survey.  Here are the summary results:

  • Over 60% of the respondents were PMs and BAs
  • Just under 50% preferred instructor led classroom training
  • Just over 50% preferred two hour online delivery sessions
  • Almost 70% preferred one online delivery session per day
  • Advanced PM, leading change, leadership, BA, and risk management led the pack in training you would benefit from
  • Almost everyone thought they could benefit from training in the first six months of 2011
  • Your companies pay for training for just under 70% of you

If you have specific questions or want more detail on the results of the survey feel free to contact me (jesse_freese@fissure.com , 952-882-0800). 

 

 



 

Every Plan Is Wrong - Summer 2010

By Sue Freese on February 05, 2013 9:12 AM

First an announcement! We have been working hard for the last 9 months on an online version of our Project Management Simulation workshop. Now we need test students. Check out the article in this newsletter regarding this free opportunity. 

Like some of you, I have watched over the last few years as my total cholesterol number has risen steadily to the point where it is now time to either make a serious change in my diet and exercise, or start taking medication. For the previous five years (I started tracking it in 2002 - what else would a good project manager and engineer do?) I hovered in an acceptable and consistent range. It has only been in the last three years that I have seen a definite upward trend. Before my last measurement this May, I was hoping that the previous two years would turn out to be outliers and that I would see a 2010 number closer to the first five years of results, or at least be lower than 2009. I really did believe I would see a lower number and I was extremely disappointed when the number came in higher than the 2009 number. I immediately tried to "explain" the number to myself and justify to myself that I was still OK and that I would have another year to wait to see the trend finally reverse itself. Does this remind you of any projects you've managed or been part of? Have you ever had your manager say "isn't it too early to tell" when you present a schedule or cost overrun? But a message to call the Doctor about my high cholesterol and with three years of increasing numbers staring me in the face, even the optimist in me couldn't ignore the data and associated risk. It was time to start really managing this trend and the first step was to put together a recovery plan and implement it.

 

As I said in the beginning of this article, there are two basic recovery paths for high cholesterol; one, take medication, or two, change your diet and exercise more (of course there are several combinations of these two paths but I will keep the analysis simple by looking at each path separately). The quick and easy path is to start taking medication. In project terms the medication path begins with identifying the pain in the project (task, person, process, or tool) and then figuring out how to reduce, minimize, or mask the pain. Essentially you focus most of your effort on that specific pain point and the attention to that pain point typically results in the sought after improvement. What you don't know at the time is how the focus impacts the rest of the project (in medical terms the "negative side effects"), and you also don't know if the pain will come back when you eliminate the focus, or if you have cured it, or if it has moved to another place in the project waiting to be detected. In project management we call this "fire fighting", putting water on the fire of the day, week, or month. It typically works for the intended pain, but usually misses the cause of the pain and more often than not, causes other pains to appear down the road.

 

The medication path is easy and can work, at least in the short run. But it can also cause other problems that may or may not appear immediately. I am not so attracted to the medication choice. The harder path is to change my diet and increase my exercise. This choice is harder to implement because it takes thought, planning and commitment. It will also take some time to see results. In project terms the diet and exercise path begins with a thoughtful analysis of the root cause of the project pain, not the pain itself. This is accomplished through open-ended questions of the people on the project - they know the answers, we just need to listen to them. Once the answers are identified, it is important to create a plan and look at both short and long term impact, including planning for any significant changes on the project. Lastly we need commitment to the plan and resulting changes. What are the benefits of the changes to the project team, the project, and stakeholders? Are there any intellectual reasons people will understand and buy in to for committing to this plan? You really have to market and sell the plan to be successful.

 

Writing this article is one of the first tasks in my "cholesterol reduction project plan" and part of my commitment process. Stay tuned - I plan (not hope) on being able to tell you next year at this time that my thinking, planning and commitment to diet and exercise were successful in lowering my cholesterol.

 

In his article, "Every Plan is Wrong", Geof Lory discusses project plans and planning. At one point in the article he talks about "a call to a higher consciousness around the process of planning and our view of the outcomes of the process." Doesn't that peak your interest to read the entire article?

 

Our upcoming public workshops and webinars can be found on our website (http://www.fissure.com/workshop_registration.cfm) - our computer simulation powered workshops the most effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs. Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News).

 

Thanks for reading and take good care of yourself

 

Jesse

 



Fissure Workshop On The World Wide Web

 

You may already be aware that Fissure has been working on an online delivery version of our highly effective on-site simulation powered learning (SPL) workshops. We are now looking for a few good students to participate (at no cost) and provide feedback on this project to turn boring on-line training into engaging on-line learning.

 

We are at the point in the development and testing where we are ready to run a "Beta" test of the Online Project Management Simulation workshop. To have a successful test run we need students and that is where you come in as we are looking for a few students to participate in the upcoming Beta workshop. A description of the workshop is attached.

 

The benefits of participating are:

  • Test out our new on-line offering for free (expect that we will have some challenges)
  • Learn and grow (even for experienced PMs)
  • Network (we hope to limit attendance to 2 people from each company)
  • Exciting and challenging - collaborate with team members to successfully complete your project within schedule and under budget, while competing with other teams running the simulation
  • Earn 24 PDUs
  • Students who complete the workshop and provide feedback earn an additional free seat in any future Fissure public workshop (on-site or on-line)
  • Companies who participate can also take advantage of a 50% discount on the purchase of your first on-line Fissure SPL workshop.

The requirements for participating are:

  • Attend at least 10 of the 11 synchronous sessions
  • Computer, browser, internet connection (DSL or faster), and headset (headphones or ear buds and microphone)
  • Be a student during the training session
  • Provide feedback to Fissure on the training experience
  •  

The Beta On-line Project Management Simulation workshop is scheduled for:

 

August 30th - 9 to 10 am CDT (on-line tool training), 2 to 4 CDT

August 31th - 9 to 11 am CDT, 2 to 4 CDT

September 1st - 9 to 11 am CDT, 2 to 4 CDT

September 2nd - 9 to 11 am CDT, 2 to 4 CDT

September 8th - 9 to 11 am CDT

September 9th - 9 to 11 am CDT, 2 to 4 CDT

September 10th - 9 to 11 am CDT

 

If you want to register or have any questions, please contact me via email (jesse_freese@fissue.com ) or phone (952-882-0800).

 

Feel free to forward this to other people in your organization who you think will be interested. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to your response.

 

Jesse 



Planned Parenthood

 

Why Create a Plan

By Geof Lory. PMP

 

I'm currently managing a sizable renovation to a private facility and am working with the Board of Directors to establish the scope and budget for the project. We have gone through several versions, taking items out of scope and putting them back in, as we gradually narrowed in on what can be done with the allotted budget. You don't know what you can do until you do enough research to understand what is possible and for how much. This iterative process is a staple of the early design and planning phase of any project. Incremental discovery can be frustrating, but is a necessary part of any project.

 

 We are now at the point where structural drawings are complete and a preliminary budget has been established (with a contingency). So, now the Board wants to see the plan. As I have been working with the architects and builder during the design phase, we have created lots of plans in the form of drawings, but somehow I didn't think this was what they were looking for. So I asked for some clarity on what exactly they wanted to see in a plan. No surprise, I got as many different answers as there were people in the room. But they all agreed they wanted a plan. Sound familiar?
Conceptually, what they wanted was some assurance of what was going to be done (scope), when it would be done (schedule) and how much it was going to cost to do it (budget). They wanted to see "the plan." What varied was what level of detail was necessary to assure them that they knew what they were going to get and that we had done our homework. How much detail do you put in a plan?
Of course, the consultant's answer is, "Just enough, but no more." But first, I'd like to ask my favorite question-"Why?"

 

Why Create a Plan?

I don't know about you, but I have yet to see a project follow a plan, so what is the value in creating one? Wouldn't the time be better spent just doing the work? When thinking about dichotomies like this, my mind tends to wander to opposite ends of the spectrum hoping to find some answers in the absurdity of the extremes.
I started thinking about Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) in Summer Vacation. If you recall, he had their entire vacation planned out to the mile and minute, but hardly executed any of it successfully. He was behind and off schedule before leaving the house. It was a thorough plan that never saw the light of day because reality hit before they even pulled out of the driveway. It makes for great comedy, but it is not that far from reality for many projects, which is not funny at all.

 

When my daughter, Erika, was younger, she enjoyed helping me with Saturday chores. Friday night we would sit down and make a list of the things we planned to do the following morning. It was a simple plan, no more than a task list; however, it served our purpose-to guide us through the process of planning. Inviting the discussion necessary to create the plan (physical evidence that the planning process actually occurred) brought us to a common understanding of how much work we had, so she could decide how involved she wanted to be. It also addressed whether any of the work was dependent on weather, trips to the store, or anything else. From this planning process Erika could schedule her Saturday and we had a plan.

 

Then, Saturday morning, and it seems like all bets are off. The alarm doesn't go off or the weather is bad and we are immediately "behind schedule." Even if we do start on time, the first job always takes longer than expected. The mower won't start, the bolt threads strip, or someone cuts themselves and we spend an hour bandaging a wound (which of course reduces productivity for the rest of the day). The plan is out the window, or at least needs to be revisited. Like Clark Griswold, we mistook the plan for reality

 

A Change of Perspective

An author friend of mine, David Schmaltz, refers to this as mistaking probability for predictability. He does not present this as a cop-out for planning, but rather a call to a higher consciousness around the process of planning and our view of the outcomes of the process. David contends that "good project managers use their plans knowing full well they are wrong, and wrong in ways they cannot explain." The more we admit the inadequacies of our planning, estimating, and predicting skills and the inherent uncertainty of the future (not to mention Murphy's Laws), the more we can see the plan as a series of probabilities rather than predictions. Acknowledging this will encourage better overall planning behaviors

 

Therefore, we would benefit most from changing our perspective on the plan. Too often we look at a plan as a roadmap of what will happen and set our expectations accordingly, rigidly anticipating that the plan will be executed and variances managed away. In reality, a plan is more like a statement of intentions (SOI) that acknowledges we are incapable of predicting the future. We know the plan is wrong, just in ways we cannot explain-otherwise, we would

 

When you know that the plan is wrong, but not how it is wrong, it ups the ante for stakeholder communication, inter-team coordination, producing empirical evidence of work completed, risk management, and every project management discipline. Most of all, it means you are constantly questioning the plan and re-planning. These are all good project management basics, but all easily forgotten or ignored when we are comfortable with the belief that the plan is right

 

A couple of months back my daughters were moving into their respective apartments at college. Each had their room dimensions, laid out a plan for where everything was to go and packed accordingly. We shared the illusion that it would be a one-trip, 3- to 4-hour event, after which we would all have time for Dad to take everyone out for dinner. It was a good and believable plan, but the only thing that came off as expected was that Dad bought dinner, and even that was much later in the evening than expected. The rest of the plan was scrapped before half of the van contents were in the elevator. So much for the plan

 

Two months later, after numerous trips to the department store, the hardware store, and back home, their rooms are still being arranged and rearranged. But they are each happy with their new homes and everything eventually worked out just fine. In the process they learned something about planning and plans, which was my real goal. I hope they learn that planning is not an event, it's a discipline. They should never stop planning, even if they realize that the plan doesn't matter. That way, future plans will be more probable, even if they are not definitively predictive. "I love it when a plan comes together" ... even when it was not what was on the plan.

 

 



Fissure News

 

Fissure guide John Kaman will be presenting "Effective Communication and Rapport-Building Techniques for Requirements Gathering" on August 12th for the Minneapolis Saint Paul Chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).Admission is very reasonable so please check it out at: http://iibamsp.org/  Fissure is a premier sponsor of the Twin Cities Chapter and an Endorsed Education Provider for the IIBA.

 

 

 

Geof Lory recently finished delivering Fissure's Project Management Simulation Powered Learning® Workshop and Microsoft Project Workshop to 26 Molex Six Sigma Black Belts in beautiful Singapore. Geof said he truly enjoyed getting back to Asia again. None of the participants other than Geof had English as their first language but as usual the instructor, courseware and the simulation performed very well. The student reviews were fantastic.  Here is just one: “The simulation taught us to focus on our goals, to use tools, to arrange and adjust the processes and above all to practice the leadership skills in a big picture”.

The Drunkards Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives Spring - 2010

By Sue Freese on February 03, 2013 2:28 PM

Dear Fissure friends,


Get to know Sandy Haydon in our continuing feature in the newsletter to introduce our instructors (guides) to our readers. The article will give you a firsthand look at their work, teaching and life experiences, and how they came to be Fissure guides. I think you will enjoy their stories and getting to know how they came to be so passionate about helping others learn and develop.

In his article, "Agile Parenting", Geof Lory is asking for input from readers and to develop an Agile Parenting Manifesto. If you're familiar with the Agile Manifesto you may already be thinking about principles that can apply to parenting. For those who aren't familiar with the Agile Manifesto read Geof's article for more information on its principles or contact Geof (geof_lory@fissure.com) for contributions to Agile Parenting.

Our upcoming public workshops and webinars can be found on our website (
http://www.fissure.com/workshop_registration.cfm) - our computer simulation powered workshops the most effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs. Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News).

I recently read the book "The Drunkard's Walk, How Randomness Rules Our Lives", By Leonard Mlodinow. In the book, Mlodinow introduces many real-life situations and then talks about the odds or probability of the potential results. He actually gives a great history of the development of mathematics and how much of it was driven by studying and trying to understand and predict games of chance (gambling). It's a very good book on randomness and statistics; topics I didn't do so well in while in college. My challenge in learning probability and statistics was "seeing" how to apply what I was learning to real life. Making it applicable is something Mlodinow does very well in his book through relevant stories and examples.

As a project manager or team member, it is important to have a good understanding of statistics and probabilities to do a good job of project estimation and risk management, but that is not what I want to talk about here. We have workshops for that.

 

For me, one of the more eye opening topics in the book had to do with distributions. How, over time, very good and very bad results can be explained by the mere fact that most situations have so many unpredictable and uncontrolled factors that a wide range of results is inevitable. I know you're thinking this is a pretty basic concept for an instructor of project estimation and risk management, and it is. The eye opening part for me was his contention that extraordinary results can be expected over time, and that the person who got those results was, for the lack of a better description, just lucky. One of his examples was the 61 homeruns Roger Maris hit to break Babe Ruth's record. In his analysis of hitters and homeruns over the relevant time span he determined, based on probabilities, that it was reasonable to assume someone would break Babe's record. He also points out that Maris never came close to 61 homeruns before or after his record breaking season. In another example he talks about a stock broker who has had an unbelievable good streak of beating the average market return. He explains the streak and how that performance still falls within the expected distribution of performance for all stock brokers over the time period. This broker just happened to be the one who was lucky enough to be on the "tail of the distribution" of all stockbroker results!

 

Just a lucky streak for both Maris and the broker? That is where I struggled with his conclusions and I'm sure many of you are already thinking about writing me to explain both Maris's season and the broker's streak. Please send your rebuttals to Mlodinow, not me. Where he really struck close to home was his question of the practice of replacing the successful coach or leader after a few losing years or seasons. He questions the current wisdom that they have lost their "touch" and proposes that it was just the many other factors that lined up against the leader to give them a losing season or year, or two, or three. In reading Mlodinow's book I had the impression that he was underestimating the influence of the leader in comparison to all the other factors that can influence results. 

 

Now as a sports fan, student of leadership, trainer of leadership, and a small company leader myself, this caused me to spend some time contemplating the question: How much influence does a leader have on the results of their organization? After thinking about my own experiences and knowledge of many leaders, I respectfully disagree with Mlodinow and would be willing to bet that most leaders don't realize just how much influence (good and bad) they really do have on their people and organization. I agree that the yearly results will vary greatly independent of the leader, and some factors like our current economic downturn can have a huge impact on an organization's results, but I think Mlodinow would agree that each leader can have vastly different "measures of central tendency". Measures of central tendency is a statistical term meaning the results of a process will group around a center point of the complete distribution of the results. Below is an example of a distribution where the center is pretty obvious.



MlodinowGraph



Relating this to leadership, good leaders will get better results than bad leaders most of the time over the same time period. But as Mlodinow pointed out in his book even very good leaders can have a bad result, while very bad leaders can have a very good result. Many of you know Mike Wold, one of our leadership instructors. What you probably don't know is that while working for a major computer company, Mike was nominated for a very prestigious leadership award given each year to the manager in the company who represented the very best in leadership. Mike was and is an excellent leader and during his time at this company he was usually very successful in managing his projects, but there was one project in particular that no matter how hard he managed and how well he led, it did not turn out well. Why was Mike unsuccessful on this project? Was it his turn to be on the wrong "tail" of the distribution or did Mike lose his "touch". If he were a coach would he or should he have been fired?

 

So is the answer to be good or to be lucky?  Mlodinow talks about perseverance as an important key to success. But I like the Roman philosopher, Seneca's answer: "Luck is a crossroad where preparation and opportunity meet". So I'm going to keep working on my own leadership skills (preparing) and keep trying new things and try to create my own luck. I encourage you all to do the same, because it can't hurt to have better leaders leading our projects, teams, groups, and organizations. Together, maybe we can push that central tendency on leadership to the good side of the distribution.

 

 

Thanks for reading and let's make this decade a positive one,

Jesse Freese


Fissure, President

 



PROJECT PARENTHOOD
Agile Parenting
by Geof Lory, PMP

 

Description: eof-FrameAs a writer, speaker, trainer and practitioner of project management, I make it a point to read daily on the subject. I have my backlog of five to ten books, all threatening to be read, as well as a number of articles, white papers and web pages on leadership, teaming, process and personal development. I enjoy the variety of thought and perspective each data-byte brings. It is one way I attempt to stay fresh and continue to develop my craft.

 

Over the past several years, there has been an increasing emphasis on a diversion from the traditional approaches to project management in favor of something less rigid and more adaptive. This continues while membership in PMI and PMP®certification are at an all time high. This divergence has caused me to think about the underlying impetus for pushing the ends of the spectrum of project management.

 

On the one hand is the traditional plan and control mindset that encourages process and seeks to measure against preconceived or committed expectations. On the other hand is the more facilitative approach: document "what is" and realign as necessary, and if you can't, reestablish expectations. And of course, like any good ice cream shop, there are at least 31 flavors in between.

 

I'm not going to advocate one approach over the other because I believe that each has its place depending on the project characteristics. I also feel that understanding both ends of the spectrum provides the flexibility to choose the approach that best fits your project. After all-as I have said many times in my articles-the goal of a project manager is to maximize the productivity of the project resources. Employing the proper project management approach is one key way to do that.

 

Since I write not only about project management but also about parenting, I can't help but see the similarities between the spectrum of project management approaches and those of parenting. I have seen both ends and even employed both extremes, as well as most of the flavors in between. It seems each situation is like a separate project, with its own unique characteristics and commensurate need for structure. Certainly every child is unique and therefore deserves at least the conscious consideration of just how much rigidity and structure is necessary or warranted.

 

The key seems to be that, in order to choose the best approach for the situation, not only do you have to know, understand and be proficient at all levels, but also be open to considering the alternative approaches rather than defaulting to a prescribed or personally comfortable modus operandi. This sounds like a lot of work-the work of a craftsman who loves his craft.

 

I was using this analogy with a software development team I was working with a few weeks ago when one of the team members posed this question: "In project management terms, how would you describe your parenting style?" Being someone who does not like to be labeled, I was at first reluctant to respond and end up boxed into a corner of prescribed parental behavior. But before I could start my tap dance around it, I blurted out, "I would be an Agile Parent."

 

Knowing that several of them were pretty familiar with the principles behind the Agile Manifesto especially as it relates to software development, I started to rattle off some of the principles, paraphrased for parenting. More specifically, they are Agile Project Management principles, as set out in the  Declaration of Interdependence from the Agile Project Leadership Network.

 

With all due respect to the pundits in this field-people like Jim Highsmith, Robert Wysocki and fellow ProjectConnections featured columnist Doug DeCarlo-I beg your tolerance as I take a few liberties with your genius.

 

The first principle that came to mind was, "Be Situationally Specific." One size does not fit all. What works for one daughter is not necessarily appropriate for the other. What works at one age may not get the desired result when they are older. Different situations require different approaches. Recognize it, and be consciously prepared to alter your methods to get the desired results.

 

The second one was, "Choose people over things, values over tasks." Task management may work when children are young and unable to make many of their own decisions, but maintaining that approach encourages a prolonged dependence that stunts their growth. Building values in children frees them to make their own decisions and own the consequences.

 

Not every principle that guides me as a parent is directly relative to a defined Agile software or project management principle, but the conversation got me thinking. Why not an Agile Parenting Manifesto, a list of core principles for parenting?

 

They would not be earth shattering, and in fact would mostly be a lot of common sense. But then again, most of the stuff you read about Agile Methods is a lot of common sense. Unfortunately, just like Agile practices, good parenting may be common sense but it is not always common practice

 

So, I decided to reach out and collaborate with Doug DeCarlo, author of several books, most recently eXtreme Project Management to create an Agile Parenting Manifesto. Doug has graciously agreed to offer up his experience in leadership and I'll propose cross-applications to parenting. Although I am far from an expert in the field of parenting-and can always learn more about project management-collaborating with Doug will provide rich material for several articles, while I get to work with someone I admire. The learning opportunity is just too good to pass up, for all of us

 

Over the years, I have been fortunate to receive many responses from people all over the world with personal stories and great ideas from their project management and parenting experiences. Therefore, in the true spirit of collaboration, and attempting to practice some principles of virtual teaming, I invite your ideas for the Agile Parenting Manifesto. I will act as the scribe and we will create something together. And maybe somewhere along this path we will all learn something. Because in spite of what my daughters believe (mostly because I have promoted it), parents don't really know everything.

 



Description: issureGuideFissure Guide:

Sandy Haydon

 

I have now reached that season in life that many people dream about ... retirement from corporate life. Yes, I'm loving it.
 I started my career in 1968 upon graduating from Winona State and immediately joining IBM in Rochester. The next 40 years brought many changes in the computer industry, at IBM, and in my life. I had a variety of roles in operating systems development, including programmer, line manager, and project manager on the IBM Rochester family of mid-range systems (System/3, System/38, AS/400, iSeries, System i). My last 8 years were the most satisfying as I managed several key programs that supported ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) that deliver industry applications that ran on the IBM mid-range systems.

 

In the late '90's, IBM became a big proponent of PMI (Project Management Institute) certified project managers and made a large investment in establishing it as a profession. After a careful assessment of my strengths (planning, organizing, coordinating, and working with others), this new career path was an excellent fit for me. I proceeded to earn my PMP certification in 1998 and a Masters in Management in 2001. IBM uses the PMP certification as the basis for its own highly respected certification program. After managing several large ISV projects and meeting other stringent requirements, I became an IBM Certified Senior Project Manager in 2004.

 

As my 40th anniversary started approaching and I had thoughts of retirement, I knew that I needed something else to move unto. Several years earlier, through a PMI Minnesota Outreach event held in Rochester, I met another Fissure Guide. This led me to contact Fissure to explore using my project management experience in helping others to develop their skills in managing projects. After several meetings, playing with the simulation software and seeing their teaching materials and approach, I was convinced that I wanted to be part of this team. I have found being a guide and meeting people from other industries to be rewarding and just plain fun.

 

Retirement has provided me with several opportunities to serve others: First, as a board member for the Rochester A Better Chance Foundation. It is a non-profit that provides high potential, inner-city, minority high school students with an opportunity to live in Rochester and receive an excellent education and a "better chance" to succeed in life. As part of my board role, I chair the committee responsible for maintaining the 100+ year old house used to house the students. Last summer, I led over 100 volunteers to make important improvements. Second, I lead the women's mentoring program at my church.

 

Retirement also needs to provide fun. Along with spending time with my two grown children and enjoying traveling, gardening, and sewing, I discovered ballroom dancing; this has become my "fun time" passion. Last year, I competed in several local and regional competitions; plans for this year include a national competition. 
 

 

 

Futures Forecast - Winter 2010

By Sue Freese on February 03, 2013 1:54 PM

Dear Fissure Friends,

 

First I have to apologize to Brett Favre and everyone else for misspelling his name in the last newsletter. No excuses, just poor spelling and poor quality review.

 

It's easy to get caught up in the "new year" this year. We have the normal beginning of a new year with the usual resolutions - did you make any this year? Are you still following them? It's not something I usually do, except to lose the extra pounds I always manage to put on over the Holiday season. I'm not sure what the lack of New Year's resolutions says about me, I guess I'll have to let those of you who know me tell me what it means.

 

Another aspect of the "new year" this year is the beginning of a new decade. I have seen a few of these (OK, more than a few) through the years and the biggest difference I find is that now when I write the year part of the date 1/2/10, I have to catch myself immediately. Going from "08" to "09" I could start with the "0" and still catch myself before writing the "8" by habit, or at least it was easy to change an "8" to a "9". It's pretty hard to change "09" to "10". Beyond my own challenge with remembering to write the new date, associated with each new decade is the challenge to find a description of the previous decade. The phrase I have heard most often for the last ten years lately is the "lost" decade. I'm thinking I don't have all that many decades in my life span and I'd hate to think I lost one. The "Naughty Aughties" and "Uh-Ohs" can also be found on the web as potential names. I'm not too crazy about thinking the decade was naughty or a mistake either. As an optimist, and I think leaders especially need to be realistically optimistic, I would like to see a more positive name for the decade. If you have one, send it to me and I'll share them in the next newsletter.

 

Obviously a big reason for the negative view of the past decade is the severe economic downturn we suffered the last 18 months or so. The loss of income, jobs, homes and savings has left a pretty bad taste in our mouths. It will probably be there for quite some time and may take a prolonged period of economic growth for us to start feeling confident again. Is there anything else we can do to start feeling more confident? As we closed the Fissure books on 2009 I easily fell into a negative view of the year (and decade). It was easy to do as revenue was down, we struggled and we had to let a valued employee go. When people would ask how I was doing, lately I would usually end up describing the negative impact the economy was having on Fissure and me personally.

 

With the New Year and the new decade I have decided to make one serious New Year's resolution this year and that will be to stay focused on the good things that happened in 2009 and to be positive about 2010. As I'm writing this article I can identify several good business things that happened in 2009:

  •  We added a good number of new clients
  •  Our new Business Analysis classes have been a huge hit
  •  We started a new development project that we are extremely excited about (more to come in later newsletters)
  •  We celebrated twenty years as a company at the end of 2009

I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to list some positives (professional and personal) about 2009 and then make a resolution to be just a little more positive about the potential of 2010 because at this time next year, there will be positives for 2010 too.

 

Speaking of positives, many positives can come from volunteering, consider the volunteer need Tim Firnstahl shares in "Fissure News".

 

Make sure you checkout our new feature continuing in this issue. For the next several issues one of our instructors (guides) will give you a firsthand look at their work, teaching and life experiences, and how they came to be Fissure guides. I think you will enjoy their stories and getting to know how they came to be so passionate about helping others learn and develop. This month is John Kaman.

 

We're replacing Geof Lory's usual article with a timely article from Brian Toren, our resident futurist. Brian has collected some future predictions in technology, population, jobs, and education. Project managers appreciate the ability to understand and predict the future. We all know the relationship between knowledge and certainty. If only there was certainty in my golf swing

 

Our upcoming public workshops can be found on our website www.fissure.com - our computer simulation powered workshops the most effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs. Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News).

 

Thanks for reading and let's make this decade a positive one,

 

Jesse Freese


Fissure, President

 



Futures Forecast - 2010 and Beyond
by Brian Toren

 

Description: rianIt's the first of the year and time for forecasts. These are summarized from reading the Star Tribune the past few weeks. The specific author is listed after each category title. The forecasts focus for the most part on Minnesota, but most apply to all states. Some thoughts are my own(in italics & blue). Read them and consider the impact on project management and your own role in project management.

Population and Jobs Source 

Suzanne Ziegler

The forecast is for a 40% increase in the population of Minnesotans 65 and older. This is coupled with a decrease in the number of children born. There will continue to be opportunities in the medical services sector including the building and hiring for more senior facilities. There will be a need for more family physicians and doctors trained in geriatrics and home health care services.

There may possibly be less work for pediatricians due to fewer children.

The new millenniums (people born between 1980 and 2000) will arrive in college just in time to train for the new jobs in nanotechnology, robotics, and energy industry related activities like hydrologists and automation. While some of these jobs require new skills and jobs, automation will mean elimination of jobs in sales, and services as these jobs move to on site computers for self service access on line.

McDonalds could even become a "McHorn" and "McHardarts." Someday in the far far future, you may even be able to print out your pizza order on your 3D home printer.

 

Education

Source, Norman Draper

 

There will be more high school students opting for enrolling in college courses while in high school, thus getting a better education and getting their college degrees more quickly since students will graduate early and attend college with some credits already earned

(this could mean more immature people getting through school and into the job market before their brains are fully developed).

 

Schools may be sharing space with other agencies and even senior citizen housing facilities (gyms, student housing, etc),

helping public schools with their funding as underutilized facilities are used and paid for.
 
There will be more charter schools as parents become dissatisfied with the pubic school system. There will be more on line courses available and as a consequence more home schooling. A new and powerful source of on-line training is a web site called Second Life. This started as, and still is, a social networking site, however several education institutions including Harvard and Yale are using it to provide a realistic classroom experience on-line. You can actually walk (or fly if you rather), in the form of an avatar into a classroom, sit down and see an avatar instructor give a lecture. The instructor will lecture, show videos, slide shows, share notes and have interactive discussions with the students. The students will interact with each other and stay after class to talk to the instructor and other students. The instructor also sees the student avatars sitting in the classroom; many still sit in the back of the classroom just as in real life
 
All of theses innovations are going to reduce the funds available public schools, hence the requirement of sharing facilities for a rental price or maybe even laying off employees.

 

Technology Source 
Randy A Salas, quoting Joel Barker

 

E-book readers are still in an early adopter phase. Joel believes that they will take off when color is introduced. He feels that once the color is introduced they will become another cell phone phenomenon. There are a few of us, however, who will be hold outs and prefer to sit in a comfortable chair and read a good hard cover book. If it's your own you can tip pages and write in the margins. It's not the same in an e-book. I will probably feel this way until the book is pried out of my cold dead hands.

 

There will be refinements in personal technology, but not necessarily any innovation over the next decade. Cell phones will become more ergonomically comfortable, but it's doubtful that 3D will be added.

 

This is all there was in the Star Tribune under Technology, So, what are some other things we can look forward to in science and technology?

 

Nanotech Scientific American - July 24, 2006

 

While the article did mention nanotechnology it did not go into any detail. Over the next couple of decades, nanotech will evolve through four overlapping stages of industrial prototyping and early commercialization

 

2010 - The development of three dimensional nanostructure circuits and devices.

These can be used to build, or address rejection of, implants; or creating scaffolds on which to regenerate tissue or even creating the artificial organs themselves. This would reduce the rejection problems of implants.

 

After 2015-2020 - The next step is producing molecular nanosystems creating molecular structures as distinct devices. These will function better then proteins inside cells in that they will function in more adverse environments then the body's proteins and could be much faster.

 

Computers and robots could be reduced to extraordinarily small sizes. Medical applications might be as ambitious as new types of genetic therapies and antiaging treatments. New interfaces linking people directly to electronics could change telecommunications.

 

Eventually nanotechnology will benefit manufacturing, health, the environment and many other aspects of life. Nanotech does, increase risk in some areas. Will nanodust create health problems if ingested or inhaled? Will little robots run amuck and do nasty things? Will terrorists use them? All of these indicate a need for some regulation oversight and the winning over of the general population to this new and exciting technology.

 

Some of the many possibilities:

  • Batteries embedded in paper
  • Mutation of wildlife
  • Industrial and medical use of nanodevices which bend under the force of light
  • Nanotube coatings for electromagnetic shielding
  • Using the Casimir Effect for breakthrough technology
  • Smart pills
  • Drug dispensing contact lens
  • Dirt resisting and self cleaning materials
  • Solar shingle manufacturing
  • Oil spill cleanup
  • Synfuel manufacturing
  • Cell imaging
  • Artery cleaning robots
  • Drug dispensing robots
  • Tumor and cancer cell warriors
  • Someday, singularity?

For a long list of other future technologies, not necessarily Minnesota bound, go to http://www.futureforall.org/whatspossible.htm

 

Inspiration and source for this document: Minneapolis Star Tribune January 1, 2010.

 

http://www.startribune.com/local/80447717.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU

 
http://www.startribune.com/local/east/80451547.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUs

 

 

 



Description: issureGuideA Fissure Guide

Month YearA

 

John Kaman

Description: ohn KamanIt has been an interesting ride to 2010--sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth, and sometimes circuitous. But always interesting!
 
I started off my career as a co-op student in mechanical engineering at 3M Company back in 1967. This may seem to be a long time ago, but I have very fond memories of working in 3M's Duplicating Products Division laboratory, where we designed and developed copying machines. By the time I had joined the division, 3M was in fierce competition with Xerox for market share. You see, 3M invented the first dry copying process with the introduction of Thermo-Fax™ copiers, and during the 1950s 3M had an overwhelming market share. Then in the early 1960s along came Xerox with the first plain paper copier, and they stole the show. So by the time I finished my college degree in 1970 and became a permanent 3M employee, we were playing catch-up and trying to get our market share back from Xerox. 
 
Thus began what would turn out to be a 25-year career for me at 3M. During my 13 years in the Duplicating Products Division, I contributed to the development of five different copiers and in doing so I grew my career to become a laboratory manager. As many of you know, 3M is divided into approximately 40 divisions, each with independent business operations and so in 1983 I decided to moved into the Magnetic Audio Video Division. I then spent ten years there, managing projects to reduce cost an

The Importance of Hope - Fall 2009

By Sue Freese on February 03, 2013 1:40 PM

Dear Fissure Friends,
Make sure you checkout a new feature beginning with this issue.  For the next several issues one of our instructors (guides) will give you a firsthand look at their work, teaching and life experiences, and how they came to be Fissure guides.  I think you will enjoy their stories and getting to know how they came to be so passionate about helping others learn and develop.

We deal with change constantly, but we're still not handling the transitions very well.  For a great example we only have to look at the million or more Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings fans that now all have to find a new routine involving Bret Farve.  Now I know not all of our readers are football fans, but most everyone is aware of Bret Farve's return to football after a "hall of fame" career with the Green Bay Packers.  Bret is having his own trouble with change and transition, but that is another topic for another day.

The Packer fans who loved Bret when he played for them, don't quite know how to deal with him playing for the hated Vikings.  The Vikings fans who hated him when he played for the Packers, don't quite know how to deal with him playing for their beloved Vikings.  Let's see what we can do to help all these frustrated fans.
In our change management and leadership training we define change as the event that causes your current routine to "be no more" while transition is the process we all go through to finally arrive at our new routine.  The part of the transition process that currently relates to most of the Vikings and Packers fans is the "Chaos" phase.  It's the part of the transition where you have already "Let Go" of the old routine (Packers fans have definitely let go, check out "We'll Never Forget you Brent" on Google), but haven't quite arrived at what the new routine is going to look like. The Chaos phase is best described as a time of opportunity where you are open to the possibilities of what the new routine will be.  The chaos phase is characterized by ups - a result of an idea you have of what the new routine is going to look like, and downs - a realization that your idea is not the right or
final answer.

        
         Transition-chart
So how do we help all these Vikings and Packers fans stuck in Chaos?  People in Chaos can be helped through the process by encouraging them to look for answers to the new routine and by helping them be as creative as possible in coming up with innovative answers.  I have a personal reason for thinking about how to help the Farve fans get through Chaos.  As a transplanted Minnesotan, married to a Minnesotan, I have spent the last 20 years watching my wife watching the Green Bay Farve.  To put it nicely, she didn't like him much and I would say "if he played for the Vikings you would love him".  I won't share with you in writing her response to that statement.  So now that he is playing for the Vikings I am having a firsthand look at a fan in Chaos.  One moment she can almost see him as the Viking's quarterback and the next moment she is seeing him as Green Bay Farve.  It is the classic case of the ups and downs of Chaos as she looks for the answer that will allow her to actually cheer for Farve's success, rather than his failure.

You can encourage their answers, as I have done with my wife, but be careful of trying to give them the answer, as I have learned not to do with her (at least for the most part).  Ask questions to trigger their creativity.  An example for my wife might be "Doesn't Bret look good in purple?"  The key is giving people in Chaos the time they need to find their own answer.  Some like the feeling of the unknown and will take longer, some don't like the unknown and will arrive at their new routine more quickly.  We all need to just give the Green Bay and Vikings fans time to find
their answers.


It has been a while, and worth the wait as Mike Wold has contributed a very nice article on hope.  He shows us why it is important as project managers and people to have hope, and that it also needs to be realistic hope.
In his article in this issue Geof Lory asks a great question: We spend a lot of time measuring things like schedules, budgets, and requirements. But is that really what's most important to our projects?

Our upcoming public workshops can be found on ourFissure website  - our computer simulation powered workshops are an effective and fun way to learn AND EARN PDUs.  Make sure you also check out what's happening at Fissure (Fissure News). 

Thanks for reading and I wish you all a beautiful summer,

Jesse Freese
Fissure, President

 



The Importance of Hope

by Mike Wold, PMP

  Description: ike WoldI have a friend who unfortunately has a very negative view of life. As I was talking to him on the phone the other night it was both amazing and sad to see how many negative things he could find in the world in a short conversation - the economy, the unemployment, the terrorists, people dying, marriages breaking up, ... As my mentor and founder of Fissure, Ed Tilford would say "he was looking for the bad and finding it in abundance". As I listened to my friend and tried to give him a more positive view, it suddenly struck me how important it is for people to have a sense of hope. It also struck me how debilitating it is if this is lacking. My friend's success is being limited by a scarcity of hope in his view. 

 

 

 

This experience pointed out to me once again the importance of us as project leaders (or any leaders for that matter) that we instill a sense of hope in our teams. I am not talking here about painting an unrealistically positive picture of reality - that only has the effect of ruining our credibility. (And as project managers we certainly have enough opportunities to do that without yet another way!) We all know that managing a complex project is really difficult and that hardly a day goes by when there is not an unpleasant "surprise" awaiting us that will impact our cost, schedule and/or scope... What I am talking about is the idea of instilling the hope of success in our team while facing cold reality.

 

 

 

 

This is the concept that Admiral James Stockdale learned as prisoner of war for seven years in Vietnam. On September 9, 1965 Stockdale, who was then Commander of Carrier Air Wing 16 aboard the carrier USS Oriskany, was shot down over enemy territory. He was so resistant to his captors and provided so much leadership to other prisoners that he was put into solitary confinement where he was routinely tortured. In a conversation with Jim Collins, author of the popular book Good to Great, about his coping strategy during his seven years of captivity he said:

 

 

 

 

"I never lost faith on the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."

 

 

 

When Collins asked who did not make it, Stockdale replied: 

 

 

 

"Oh that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas." And Christmas would come and Christmas would go. Then they'd say 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving and then Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.

 

 

 

He then added:

 

 

 

"This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never lose - with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts in your current reality, whatever they might be."

 

 

 

This concept of never losing hope while never being afraid to face cold reality is now called The Stockdale Paradox.

 

 

 

Another man who lived through a terrible experience was Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist who survived the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. In his book Man's Search for Meaning he describes one of his talks to his fellow prisoners. He, like Stockdale, took upon himself the role of leader, attempting to soothe the pain of his fellow prisoners. In his book he describes a talk he had with his fellow prisoners:

 

 

 

"I told my comrades (who lay motionless, although occasionally a sigh could be heard) that human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death. I asked the poor creatures who listened to me attentively in the darkness of the hut to face up to seriousness of our position. They must not lose hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity and meaning."

 

 

 

I think this idea of facing the reality but never losing hope has a lot of value for us as we lead our teams. In spite of all the pressure as a project leader to "present the best case" and the temptation to lose hope, we owe it to our team to instill hope while constantly facing (and asking them to face) the reality of the current situation. This could be one of the most important abilities of a great project manager.

 



A Few Closing Words
by Geof Lory

Description: eof-Frame

Every year at this time my wife, Beth, and I get away to spend a little time together to relax, recall, reflect, and recommit. It is a special time, an annual milestone if you will, and a time to re-baseline our plan for the coming year. As is standard practice, we set some goals for the new year that will require certain changes in behavior. We are deliberate in making these commitments to ourselves and to each other so that collectively we agree to help each other be aware and responsible. Hold on to those words, aware and responsible-they are going to come up again.

 

This year, instead of some of the more physically challenging New Year's resolutions like eating better or working out, I've decided to do a little work from the inside out. I'm going to watch what comes out of my mouth rather than what goes in it. I plan to recommit to using words that are open, internal, and reflect choice. Keep those words in mind too. We'll combine them with the two from above.
I am a big believer in the power of words and in fact receive a daily dose from
A.Word.A.Day to keep my vocabulary challenged and fresh. What I find most interesting about words is how they can be used to optimally express my true intent when communicating. The more specific the word, the more specific the meaning, which hopefully better expresses intent. I find that it is easy to get lazy with the use of certain words that, over time, program beliefs and behaviors we might not consciously choose.

While it may be true that many words are colloquially used interchangeably, I contend that the subtle differences in the undertones or implicit meanings of words set a framework for our actions and values. And when it comes to programming our core system, our operating system, we can't be too careful with the quality of our code.

Furthermore, the words we choose and use not only program ourselves, but, with habitual use, also affect those we speak with regularly. Consistent use of a certain style or flavor of words sets an expectation in others that becomes their filter through which our words are heard. This filter in turn predisposes their interpretation of our words, often in spite of our best intentions. Choose your words carefully because over time they will establish the way you think, act, and are perceived.

In a previous article, Measure What Matters, I spoke about a few of these words and how I was deliberate with my daughters in using words that are open to the possibilities, represent internal motivation, and express personal choice. These words develop awareness and responsibility in the person speaking the words and builds trust in the person hearing the words.

Words may appear similar on the surface but underneath, and especially through repetition, they subtly program the speaker and the receiver differently. So, by pre-programming myself consciously to use these words, I am programming others' subconscious perception. They learn to expect a certain perspective from me that is open, responsible, and conscious, setting the stage for better interactions. Let's look at some of these words.

Open vs. Closed
Closed words limit possibilities by expressing a situation as absolute or pre-judged. Rarely is anything absolute or without possibility. Plus, absolute and judgmental words are indicative of a closed mind, a prime target for practicing some challenging inquiry that can loosen even the tightest grip on these unrealities. My ears perk up whenever I hear words like always and never because I know that within them is the opportunity for new thinking that can bring about easy change if I can move the conversation to open words. My daughters accuse me of always golfing. I may golf a lot, but I'm not ALWAYS golfing. What is it they are really trying to tell me? Listening for the ALWAYS opens up the possibility for the real conversation.

External vs. Internal Motivation
These are words that reveal my mental and emotional position relative to the situations and consequences of life. Words that reflect an external motivation like should and need to imply we are victims of our circumstances and have little control over our current or future condition. This position of innocence is a seductively alluring, but it sets us on the slippery path to abdicating personal responsibility. At a societal or organizational level it begs oversight and judgment, as external forces are left to dictate not only what we do, but who we are or can be. Over time, conformability settles in with this position and it eventually leads to determinism and ...

Denying Choice
Ultimately, these words express a lack of choice on our part. By limiting the possibilities and giving up control to external forces, we lose the sense of responsibility for our life. We feel the forces from outside have control and defensively we take comfort in the protective shield of blame. Blame is a major source of productivity loss in organizations. Blame cultures limit our willingness to take risks and accept responsibility, which in turn discourages innovation and creativity out of fear of criticism or prosecution. It is a sign of immaturity in individuals, teams, and leadership. Listen to the words of young children; you will hear this kind of speech because that is their chronological point of reference.

The Awareness and Responsibility Check with Teams
Here's a little exercise I do with my teams and family that helps increase awareness while encouraging responsibility by maintaining a frame of reference that is positive and open, internally motivated, and acknowledges living life by choice.

We start by brainstorming words to "check" each other on because they are closed, external or deny choice. If there is a documented Team Operating Agreement we may even add them to that. These could be words like "never, got to, always, can't, should, have to, must, need to" and my all time favorite, "the problem is..."

Then, team members are challenged to listen for (practice awareness of) use of these words in team interactions. Whenever someone uses one of those words, rather than correcting them or having them pay a fine (a practice I've never been able to effectively administer) the observer is to challenge the speaker's position in a curious and respectful way. This could sound like: "The problem is I'm always working. I really should work less, but I can't get any time off."

Hearing this from a team member, assuming it is not just a moment of venting that is out of the ordinary, I would be compelled to respond with some reality. It may be how the person is feeling, but it is probably far from reality. I may call them out on why it is a problem, or the true numbers of hours worked, or even ask them why they are working so much. But eventually the conversation will turn to the fact that it is really their choice to work as much as they do. And until they can accept that reality, they will lack the awareness and responsibility necessary to contribute optimally to the team.

You get the idea. It's not an attack on the speaker; mostly it is just clarifying and bringing a little consciousness to the conversation. With some practice, the game becomes self-perpetuating as people look more to the possibilities and begin to take responsibility for conditions and situations. Over time, team members know that others are listening intently (this game will also encourage better listening skills) and people will choose their words more consciously and deliberately. The end result is that not only will overall communication improve (more conscious speaking and listening), but you will develop a culture that is positive, open, internally motivated, and choice-filled.

As teams learn to work together, they often get stuck in the Storming stage. In my next article, I will touch on the impact of developing awareness and responsibility as a prerequisite for getting out of Storming, and how to use the Team Check as a barometer for building high performing teams.

 



A Fissure Guide

Month YearA
John Skovbroten

John S Frame

I am a 37 year survivor of the technology wars. In 1972, after completing a degree in Physics, and sampling grad school for a couple of years, I realized that I was more energized by software development than by lab research and started work as a rookie programmer at Mayo Clinic. The first phase of my career, I spent 23 years performing various combinations of technical work, business analysis and project management for major corporations in the region, including Mayo Clinic, West Publishing, National Car Rental and Northwest Airlines. During this time, I also when to school in the evenings and completed a Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

However, as you may know, those last three corporations have now been acquired by other larger entities. As I reflected on the uncertainties of corporate America, I decided to begin the second phase of my career, spending 8 years as a consultant. During this period, I contributed business analysis and project management to many projects, and also assisted some major corporations in establishing best practices in project management and setting up project offices. Clients included Carlson Companies, Cargill, Best Buy and United Health Group.

During this second phase, I also discovered Project Management Institute (PMI), and passed their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam in 1996. I then started teaching PMP exam classes for the Minnesota chapter of PMI, and ended up leading their team of eight instructors for five years and serving on the board of directors for two of those years.

Finally, when the younger of my two daughters became college age, I decided to stop consulting by day and teaching by night, and launched phase three. For the last six years, I've been a full-time instructor guiding various workshops including business analysis and project management offerings from Fissure, and also serving as an adjunct professor for the University of Minnesota, teaching the project management class in their Masters of Science in Software Engineering.
Of the classes I teach, I find the Fissure Simulation Powered Learning (SPL®) workshops particularly rewarding. The students are much more engaged and enthusiastic when a simulation is part of the class, and it's clear that more of the learning sticks with them and gets put to use.

During my years with Northwest Airlines, I developed a passion for travel and intercultural understanding that continues today. In those years, I met many people and learned many things traveling to Europe, Japan and Hong Kong. I'm now finding that teaching can also be a wonderful cultural opportunity. In recent years, my teaching assignments have taken me to locations as diverse and fascinating as Tokyo, Cairo and even Peoria Illinois.

When I'm not teaching or nurturing the plants in the large yard that my wife and I maintain, I can be found playing the many musical instruments that clutter our house, or navigating the wonderful bicycle trails near our home in search of the fountain of yout

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