Once upon a time, there was a kingdom of people who were busy managing projects named Pee-Em-Eye Ess-Eff-BeeA Sea. They were busy doing this work, and they found themselves wondering if there was a better way than just telling people what to do, and then scurrying off to the next project.

A small group of people in the kingdom thought that there was a better way to manage the kingdom of Pee-Em-Eye Ess-Eff-BeeA Sea. They believed they could apply some of their project management skills to help all the people in the kingdom to be more successful and happy.

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The court room quieted as Paulie C. Governance took the stand. He was sworn in on a stack of PMBOK‘s and the prosecutor was ready to begin.

The following was taken from the transcript and witness accounts:

Prosecutor: Please state your name and occupation for the court

Paulie: Paulie C. Governance, trusted advisor to the board.

Prosecutor: And you are a proposing a change to the way the board operates are you not ?

Paulie: Yes, Policy Governance®.

Prosecutor: Thank you, we have your name, I was asking you about the change you are proposing.

Paulie: Yes, that is Policy Governance® .. with a capital P and a capital G.

Prosecutor: Yes, yes, and a capital C. I was asking what, not who.

Paulie: No capital C, bu there is a registered trademark, like the PMP®

Prosecutor: You don’t capitalize the C?  That IS unusual. Why would Paulie C. Governance have a registered trademark?

Paulie: Well Policy Governance® is the child of John and Mirriam Carver, and they wanted the protection of the registered trademark.

Prosecutor: Your parents gave you a registered trademark ? I think we’re way off topic here. Please tell us: what is the name of the the system you are proposing.

Paulie: Policy Governance®

Prosecutor: So the system has your name ? Are you expecting to run the board yourself.

Paulie: No, the board will use an integrated set of concepts and principles that describes the job of any governing board.

Prosecutor: Now we’re getting somewhere: what is that system called ?

Paulie: Policy Governance@

Prosecutor (clearly frustrated): Now let me get this straight: your name is Paulie C. Governance, right?

Paulie: Yes

Prosecutor: And Mirriam Carver gave birth to Paulie C. Governance ?

Paulie: No, she only added to the theory, it was John Carver’s idea.

Prosecutor (grinning): It usually is the man’s idea. Let’s try something else: you are proposing the board use an integrated set of concepts and principles that describes the job of any governing board.

Paulie: Yes

Prosecutor: and that system is called Paulie C. Governance, but it’s not named after you?

Paulie: Yes

Prosecutor: then what is your name?

Paulie (now frustrated): Paulie C. Governance is my name, and the system is Policy Governance® which is an integrated set of concepts and principles that describes the job of any governing board.

At this point, the prosecutor tried to strangle Paulie, so court had to adjourn until a new prosecutor could be found …

I was talking to my friend George Ross the other day about the job search that we both unexpectedly find ourselves in, and it occurred to me that I haven’t been approaching my career management with the same level of commitment to planning that I have when managing projects and programs.

A while ago, I made the conscious decision to pursue program management as a way to round out my skills in heading my career into the domain of technical leadership. I’d spent most of my career as a developer with my referent power derived from keeping one step ahead on the technology curve.

In my early career, I had managers and mentors who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, which was the ability to lead. Several managers tried to push me into leadership roles, and at first I pushed back, preferring to keep my head down, and learn as much as I could about everything that I could.

Well, you do that long enough, and those opportunities stop happening, so I found myself at a new place in my career where I actually understood the value of managing others. I’d finally realized that even if I was better than the people I managed, multiple people could get more done than I could as an individual. Even if they worked half as quickly as me, as long as there were enough of them, more work would get done and more quickly.

So understanding this, and meeting a few individuals who’d managed to make that transition from technical geek to technical leader, I set my sites on that CTO sort of role.

So I had an goal, and I had an inkling of an idea of how to get there, but still no formal plan. What occurred to me last night was that like any other goal, without a plan to get there, the path wanders, and you may never get there.

pwc

That said, I was conscious enough to know I needed to round my skills, and I did set my sight on some intermediate targets. First was to get some management experience, which was what led me to PwC and managing web development there.

The truth is, that I wandered a bit more in my career, not really making direct progress toward anything like the CTO role. I gathered a bit more experience as a technical architect, expanded my skills leading small teams, and learned a lot about being a consultant and managing expectations.  Still, without a plan time marched on.

Image representing Cisco as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I was exposed to solid project management at places like Cisco (which is probably the most project based organization I’ve ever worked at) and the value of true project management. It occurred to me that moving into the project management end of the process would round my skills in a way that being an architect would not. It would also round out my business and soft skills in ways that the more technical role would expose me to.

So having no idea what project management was, I talked to a few of my friends and heard about the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). From watching a few of the better PM’s that I knew go through this certification, I had no doubt that it was a challenging and as real a certification as any I’d come across.

I took a couple of PMP prep classes and studied as much as I could, in order to understand the best practices of project management. I began to understand things that I was doing right, and reasons for things I had not understood before (like what a critical path actually was).

The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Fort Point...

Image via Wikipedia

During the “downturn”, I became more involved with expanding my skills through volunteering and continuous learning. I helped to form a non-profit aimed at getting people jobs, and learned a great deal about interpersonal networking (both virtual and physical).

Continuing that growth in leadership, I’ve joined the board of directors of the PMI San Francisco Bay Area Chapter as Secretary and VP of Operations (officially starting on April 1st, 2011).

Now I’m feeling the skills are getting pretty rounded, and I still don’t have a real plan to get from here to there. So the first step in my plan is to write down that I need a plan. Next I think I’ll need a few good mentors to help me figure out a real plan ….

Today I finally finished updating my application for the PMI PMP certification. I used a spreadsheet to gather all of the information that I needed for the forms that you can see here.

The process of filling out the application turned out to be a lot more involved than I had expected it to be for a number of reasons.

My original thought was that I would be able to use information from my resume as a starting point. That turned out to be much more difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the resume is far too condensed to contain individual project start and stop times.

So my fallback plan (part of my risk management plan for my PMP quest) was to wade through my timesheets and emails to get as detailed information as I could find.

Since 1994, I’ve been doing work through my own business, so I have detailed timesheets for every week I’ve worked. This is where I ran into my first SNAFU: file corruption.

Over the years I’ve kept backups of my files in all sorts of places: external hard drives, thumb drives, and network backups, and email folders (PST files). At one point in the not too distant past, I had backups scattered across a number of devices, all from different points in time. I had an external hard drive crash on me, which made me realize I should probably have multiple copies of the same data, so I built backup folders on several different machines from the data on my thumb drive.

That, I believe, was my biggest mistake. Because when I started looking at the files, I found quite a few that were unreadable. Thinking it was an isolated problem, I checked every location I had a backup of the files, and (no surprise), they were all corrupt. So for a half a dozen weeks or so out of those years, I didn’t have the detailed timesheet.

This turned out not to be a huge problem, because I had invoices from those same periods, and was able to at least get the hours to add up in my spreadsheet. I proceeded to print out the entire book of timesheets that were still valid, and note the missing hours in the binder I filled with them.

My next issue turned out to be with the way I kept the timesheets when I first was working on my own. I was billing through another company to Cisco, and was reporting my status to Cisco separately, so I didn’t bother to fill in very detailed information on a daily basis. The timesheets said things like “analysis for FDF project”, or “design of component X”, so I knew my estimates were going to be based on my own memory (the worst type of historical records according to the PMBOK).

So now I figured I needed to dig through my emails, which once again turned out not to be as simple as I had hoped. I have copies of archive files from every project I’ve worked on since the early 90′s, so I thought this would be easy. But of course, nothing is ever easy. Always prepared with my fall back plan for this part of the project, I dug out my email archives, and realized that I didn’t have a copy of Outlook running (I’d switched to Entourage on my Mac a while back, and Microsoft in their infinite wisdom didn’t build a way for Entourage to read PST files).

I went to my wife’s desktop, and clicked on the “switch user” button, where I thought I’d be able to open the PST files using that copy of Outlook, only to be thwarted by some mystery on that machine. Immediately after logging in as “Rob”, the mouse stopped responding. I tried a couple of times, even deleting the new user and adding another one, with no luck. This mystery was obviously something I’d need to deal with later, but this wasn’t helping my quest for information.

So I decided to pollute my wife’s Outlook by opening my PST files while logged in as her. I clicked on “open user data file”, and started looking for my projects, only to see that not everything was there. There were folders for each project, but some of them were empty, and others were incomplete. I was beginning to feel like this was a project that was doomed to fail.

I poked around all my old backups, and found a few more PST files, and after much hunting, found the missing data in an archive file (victim of autoarchive I suspect, gotta love Outlook, archiving an archive file).  So finally I had folders for each project, and could figure out the start and stop dates, and look at email to see if I could find the missing timesheets.

Once I figured out the start and stop dates, and thought I remembered enough about each project to get started on the application, I went back to see if I could find the missing timesheets. I then ran into yet another place where I had outsmarted myself. At one point I had a much smaller hard disk, and my Outlook files were approaching several gigabytes in size.

I had just rolled off a project where I had to write a VBA macro that sent attachments to a client using MAPI, so I did an experiment: I wrote a macro that would automatically save message attachments to a folder, and place a link in the message to that file. I played with it for a while and it worked pretty well, and it made a HUGE difference in the size of the PST file.

Well, needless to say, when my external hard drive crashed, the folder that all of those attachments were saved to disappeared with it. Which means that all of the emails that have attachments in them, really only have links, which means no help there either. That was OK (other than reminding me that I need to try not to be so smart sometimes), since I had all the information I needed for the application already.

Now prior to 1994, I worked for another consulting company, so all of my time and email should have been in the backup from that job. But when I searched, I didn’t find the backup for that, so I had to resort to a combination of email (luckily the work was also at Cisco, so the emails were in the same PST file as I had been using) and estimates based on work days.

Finally after assembling all of this it was time to fill out the spreadsheet with the details about the specific time for the process groups. Being a good PM, I decided to do a PERT estimate, using the hours from the timesheet as the pessimistic (since timesheets always only reflect billable time, and not time that is above the cap), 8 hours a day, with vacation as the most likely, and 9 hours a day with vacation as the optimistic value, I calculated total likely hours for each project (formula is [P+4M+O]/6).

I then took my understanding of what I’d done on each project, and tried to come fairly close to that number (although in most cases I actually ended up arriving at something closer to the lower number).

Finally, this morning at around 10am, after almost two weeks of work, I have a reasonable spreadsheet, and I start sending it out to the people I’ve identified as my contact for validation. Once I hear from them, I will hit submit, and hopefully I’ll be on my way again to being a PMP …

After many conversations with the support people at Rita Mulcahy, I got an email telling me that they would extend me a special offer to extend my license for an additional 90 days for $75.

While I still have a problem with the whole idea of software license expiring, I understand the idea, and have politely suggested that they increase the visibility of this in their sales literature and product packaging. Software as a service is becoming more common, but extending that to shrink wrapped software is by no means normal (at least in my experience as a software professional).

If I still had a copy of Windows 3.x, I could install it.  In fact, if I took inventory, I’d bet way over half of the software I use is many years old, and far from the latest version. Anyway, I may pony up the $75 next week to get the license for long enough for me to get through my PMP certification.