Effective product management

Too many projects go off the rails, and it always relates to:

  1. Deliverables.
  2. Timeline.
  3. People

Successful projects are a harmonious balance of these three attributes. Every failure is the result of some leg of the stool not holding its weight.

But all is not lost! A project can recover at any point by revisiting its first principles, and closing the identified gaps. Simply ask yourself some guided questions.

Have we identified all of the work to be completed?

Project management is the art and science of getting people to work together. And the more people involved in a project, the more challenging it is to get them headed in the right direction.

The project manager takes ownership of ensuring the project is deconstructed to its requisite components, and those tasks are delegated to their relevant parties. Any failure in this process is a failure of the project manager.

Identify the work to be completed, and make sure someone is responsible for it.

Does everyone have the information they need?

Communication is the most important skill for a project manager. It can make or break the entire project. It's the single most important fulcrum in the whole process.

The tool itself doesn’t matter. Slack, email, Zoom, Google Spreadsheets, Basecamp, Asana, and Jira are all forms of communication.

Communication ensures everyone knows what they need to know.

But this sounds like a bunch of heady mumbo jumbo?

You’re right. It’s up to you to translate these principles to the real world.

New person cc’ed into an email thread? Reply with a recap of the project to bring them up to speed.

Details and nuance getting lost in text? Offer a catch-up call to take advantage of higher-bandwidth communication.

Something not getting done? Make sure the task is actually defined, that there’s a person responsible for it, and that the person is capable of completing the work in the time allotted.

Leading a meeting? Share the agenda for review beforehand, set time limits for each discussion, and identify key takeaways and next steps that serve as the tangible results for the meeting.

General confusion about the project? Synthesize key details into a document everyone has access to, and keep it up to date.

Keep it up!

Malcolm events

Management is the care and feeding of the invisible. You’re doing your best when it appears the least is happening. I love the thrill of the last month of a release as much of the next guy, but I suspect the reason we’re yelling at each other, working weekends, and feeling the depressing weight of compromise is because we’re surrounded by Malcolm events [, seemingly insignificant events that are intent on screwing you in an unlikely way.]

Michael Lopp — Managing Humans

Software Inventory

The bug database is obviously a great thing to have. Bug reports should be complete, accurate, and actionable. But I have noticed that in many real-world companies, the desire never to miss any bug report leads to bug bankrupcy, where you wake up one day and discover that there are 3000 open bugs in the database, some of which are so old they may not apply any more, some of which can never be reproduced, and most of which are not even worth fixing because they’re so tiny. When you look closely you realize that months or years of work has gone into preparing those bug reports, and you ask yourself, how could we have 3000 bugs in the database while our product is delightful and customers love it and use it every day? At some point you realize that you’ve put too much work into the bug database and not quite enough work into the product.

  • Suggestion: use a triage system to decide if a bug is even worth recording.
  • Do not allow more than two weeks (in fix time) of bugs to get into the bug database.
  • If you have more than that, stop and fix bugs until you feel like you’re fixing stupid bugs. Then close as “won’t fix” everything left in the bug database. Don’t worry, the severe bugs will come back.

Joel Spolsky — Software Inventory

Tracking data on everything: Web team projects

Data makes the world more visible.

At the end of March, I embarked on a personal initiative at the J-School to quantify as many of our processes as possible. My working thesis: if we can generate enough data about a system, and have a framework to understand it, we can be far more effective in what we do. Quite possibly way over 5-6%. Continue reading “Tracking data on everything: Web team projects”

WordCamp and journalism conferences

When you speak at a journalism conference I want to hear about what the top idea in your mind is. I want to hear about what experiments you are trying, how you are measuring them, and how they are affecting your success.

WordCamp and journalism conferences. Ideas, action, measurement, and iteration, all for the win.