Who knew the race condition (or racetrack problem) could blow up your project schedule?

Like every other cool project manager these days I like to be agile.  But I used to be a pretty good waterfall project manager before I found out how uncool it was.

One of the common things I used to do was called “crashing the project schedule”.  In fact it is probably the most fun part of project management. 

But one problem that always seemed to catch me out was the Race Condition (or Race Hazard).  If you look it up in wikipedia then you will find it happens to electrical circuits, but I have found it also happens to all my project plans that involve more thabn half a dozen people or more than a month long planning horizon.

Continue reading “Who knew the race condition (or racetrack problem) could blow up your project schedule?”


Can I add more scope and still deliver on time? Or should I Scamper

I often seem to face the same problem – how can I reduce my resources, increase my scope, improve quality and go faster?

The best answer is – be clear on what you really want and decrease your scope.  Sadly that is the opposite of what people want to hear, but usually delivering the right thing (done well) is better than delivering a lot (even if its done well).

But I have also found that the grinding task of trying to fit more in and failing can actually help you define what you really need.  So I often find the process worthwhile even though I end up with a different scope rather than a bigger one.  So here are some ideas I have tried:

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Using a Scrum of Scrums for a remote team – the anticipated outcome

I am working on a project where our team are spread between contries and working on multiple streams of work. We are using agile techniques, but we want to improve our cross team communication. So we are going to have a “scrum of scrums” meeting in addition to our daily scrum in each team.

The process is described pretty well in another blog but I wanted to put my own views down before we start so I can see what happens in practice.

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Going live on agile projects – where is Machiavelli when you need him?

Niccolò Machiavelli is famous for saying things like:

“At this point one may note that men must be either pampered or annihilated. They avenge light offenses; they cannot avenge severe ones; hence, the harm one does to a man must be such as to obviate any fear of revenge”

I will let you be the judge of whether that is good advice for project managers, but he is certainly a source of inspiration if you want to set up your own crime gang or evil crew of super-heroes.

However, I do think some of the things that Machiavelli commented on are useful in modern projects.

One of his lesser know observations was on the difference between “Dukes and Courtiers”.

  • Each Prince, Machiavelli noted, is likely to have a bunch of Dukes and Courtiers reporting to him and these two roles are distinctly different.
  • Dukes run their own mini-fiefdom on behalf of the prince.  They make many day-to-day decisions and are in most ways mini-princes. In fact the duke will do well if he (or she I guess these days) sends in lots of taxes to the prince and generally maintains good order (and its probably best not to rebel or attack the Prince).
  • Courtiers hang out in the palace and join committees and according to the movies I have seen, they chat girls up and indulge in lots of politics. But they also provide direct advice to the prince and also work with him to run the complex day to day matters of the kingdom or principality. As far as I can tell they should be (less evil) versions or the characters in the TV series “The Tudors”.

So Machiavelli is probably a good source of inspiration for period pieces, but how does it apply to going live with an agile project?

Continue reading “Going live on agile projects – where is Machiavelli when you need him?”