Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Decision making tools

Recently I attended a seminar on team facilitation at UW Madison, and one of the topics we covered was decision making tools.
One of the tools we reviewed and tried out was dot voting.

Dot voting can be used on items such as identifying which projects to start first, which issues to address first, ranking items within a burn down chart, or simply using it after brainstorming to help select the items you want to focus on to move forward.

Steps to the method
1. Each person is given a 10 dots (or post-it notes work well too), and they are instructed to indicate their priorities, they are to use all their dots, but no more than 4 on any one item (4 = their top priority).

2. The items are posted on a flip chart (you may need multiple flip charts, or give participants more dot) and the participants place the dots on their priorities.

3. When everyone has placed their dots, count the dots, and typically there are a few clear winners.

4. Now the discussion starts on which projects (or items) should be ranked the highest.

This method is a good visual aid, gets people out of their seats, and should help to limit discussions on picking the top ranking items.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book review: Taming Change with Portfolio Management

Recently I received an advance reader’s copy of Taming Change with Portfolio Management: Unify Your Organization, Sharpen Your Strategy and Create Measurable Value which is now on available at Amazon (and available on the kindle).

Pat Durbin and Terry Doerscher (both from Planview) have developed a guide for managing change within the modern portfolio management that provides organizations of all types and sizes a way to effectively manage changes impacting all areas of the organization.

The book covers concepts like adapting to change:

“If you look at every change as a single, isolated event that threatens your survival, the people in your organization might respond like five-year-olds on the soccer field, “buzzing” around the ball like a swarm of bees. Using portfolio management, you will be able to see individual changes from a broader perspective and respond with fluid adjustments to your game plan. Once you understand that change is the nature of the game, it becomes a strategic tool.”

To operational planning concepts:

“A formal operational planning process establishes a methodical, consistent planning approach at the highest levels of the organization, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.”

To operational planning process:

“Successful organizations are not only open to new ideas; they also make a formal commitment to an effective and sustainable idea nurturing process.”

They also cover:

  • Implementing portfolio management
  • Managing work intake
  • Leveraging technology to help run your portfolio
  • … and many other portfolio topics

I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how portfolio management can be integrated into a program for effective project control.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Prototypes during software projects

Recently a colleague of mine told me about a short video by Tom Wujec on team building. Tom has conducted this exercise over 70 times with groups from kindergartners to CEO’s and has some pretty interesting results.


20 pieces of spaghetti
1 yard of tape
1 yard of string
1 marshmallow

Teams of 4 have to build the tallest tower they can within 18 minutes and at the end you measure from the bottom of the structure to the top of the marshmallow.

This forces people very quickly to collaborate. One of the interesting findings he has seen during these tests is that kindergartener’s tend to make prototypes and on average had taller structures than CEO’s. Where as adults would discuss, jockey for power, build and then at the very end put the marshmallow on top and hope it would stay standing.

Lesson learned:

Learn from the kindergartners and prototype your software development projects. This is especially important during long complicated builds.

Link to the Video: