PM#6 – You were right and I was wrong

If you make a mistake, I’d like to think you would be man enough to admit it.

The trouble is, and I’ve seen this in so many places, there are a lot of folks out there who seem to be unable to admit that they made a mistake. I’m sure that we’re all guilty of covering up a the odd faux pas here and there, but there are folks out there who take the cover up to new [stellar] levels. These stellar levels include such things as poor decisions or incorrect decisions (more here) and choices that have led to projects going off on a tangent for months on end all because of parochial approaches that prevent acceptance of the bigger picture (i.e. focusing on one small part of the project without understanding the project as a whole).

Saving face is not all that important, doing the right thing is. In a project-based environment, saving face for long periods is detrimental [to the project]. When driving, if you accidentally take a left instead of a right, you will endeavour to correct the mistake as soon as possible…you shrug your shoulders and get on with the course correction. Please take this analogy to your current and future projects: if you make a mistake, your cheeks go red, you blush, whatever, please raise your hand and announce your mistake. Team members will thank you for it, the project will run smoother and will stand “one more” chance of coming in on time and/or on budget.

Whatever you do, don’t try to ignore the mistake, cover it up or keep running with the mistake as if it were normality. And accept that team members might point out the mistake and ask you to do something about it: don’t fob them off with pithy excuses whilst you insist that you are right and they are wrong. Project rarely have “get out of jail free” cards, if you think you’ve got one please be aware that the card expires very very quickly after use: expect to be found out. Long running cover ups or long running changes in direction are catastrophic for the project and the team member morale. Do not think of yourself, think of the project and the team members (learn from what Derek Laud had to say about a lack of selfishness) – it’s not your project, it belongs to the team and the end users.

Don’t ever be afraid to say: “you were right and I was wrong”, it’s the best thing for you, the project and the team members. And say it as early as possible (mistakes and oversights are typically cheaper to fix earlier in a project).

In this series:
PM#11 – Management By Shouting Loudest (MSBL)
PM#10 – The truth is best…admit it…
PM#9 – Avoid duplication of effort
PM#8 – Multi-tasking is evil
PM#7 – High workload means lower productivity…
PM#6 – You were right and I was wrong
PM#5 – Whose schedule is it anyway?
PM#4 – Start it…finish it
PM#3 – Use e-mail properly
PM#2 – Focus on the project
PM#1 – decision making

David Anderson interviewed by Robert Scoble

Channel 9 do a good job of getting life inside Microsoft presented to the outside world…here’s another fine example.

David Anderson, who has previously spoken at Agile Scotland meetings, was quizzed by Robert Scoble about “Agile Management and what we are doing with MSF for CMMI Process Improvement”.

Download and watch the video here.

The interview was littered with good advice, but I homed in on a couple:

developers don’t like two things

  1. interfering management, i.e. micro-management
  2. management not doing something when something abnormal happens

“Incremental development (Ed.with regard to TDD) only works when refactoring is part of the equation”, Ron Jefferies

It’s well worth the download, do take the time to watch it. Clarke sums David’s style up rather well: “David has a nice way of simplifying complex things”

Shopping for an MP3 player…

I’ve been introducing the in-laws to “Internet shopping”.

I struggled to explain this one to them:

mp3 players

“£29.99, you say, nice price, fully featured, state-of-the-art, tell me more.”

Clicking on the first link took us here:

mp3 player

And the second link took us here:

mp3 player

Two totally different prices, nothing like “Our price: £29.99” at all.

Granted, these prices are a little more realistic…

Derek leaves the Big Brother house…

Derek Laud, was evicted from Channel 4’s Big Brother reality TV programme on Friday. What he had to say once he left the house was somewhat inspiring, and he said it with considerable eloquence, grace and civility.

First and foremost:

…team effort is absolutely everything..and that’s fundamentally what works

Unfortunately, I’m not sure his housemates really grasped that concept on the whole (irony accepted). Team effort is everything: in a group of 10 or more people, it’s not worth being the only person, or the only two people trying to do all the work. Delegation is part of the game, but so it responsibility – it’s no use just sitting watching one or two people trying to do all the work, chip in a help them (especially if they ask you to!)

“team effort” == community.

Followed closely by:

it’s a lack of selfishness that’s very very important in life

The World doesn’t revolve around you. If you didn’t do your job, it wouldn’t be the end of the World. It’s not about “me me me” [cf].

I found this quote interesting and somewhat close to home:

other people are much better about making their problems seem more important than anybody else’s

Me me me. My problems are more important than yours ,listen to me, let me talk your ears off. Yes, a lack of selfishness is important, but so is taking your turn. Everybody has their problems, we just have to prioritise the solutions by importance and need.

And to finish:

listen more, talk less

Feedback is important, there’s little point soliciting feedback if you don’t listen to it and act upon it. Similarly, there’s little point in a one-sided conversation (which by its very nature is at least a two-way thing). And if team members bring problems to your attention, they’re doing it for a good reason, be sure you listen to them and act upon them.

Politics aside, a combination of Derek and Boris Johnson would revive the Tory party, perhaps? Just a thought.

National Lottery…

I don’t know what’s more annoying, the National Lottery site going down just after I click submit whilst buying the office syndicate’s tickets or the fact that they’ve got a happy smiley face highlighting a little anticipation of it coming back up…

…I certainly won’t have a happy smiley face if the tickets weren’t bought: I’ll probably be lynched.

But anyway, rant, rant, etc. Can you believe that they’ve actually put a Trademark on the “site down” message?

lottery down

Hillwalk – Ben Lawers

Last month saw a few of us climb Ben Lawers, amongst other associated peaks.

Apart from the fun element, this was Scottish Developers way of showing appreciation for the sterling presentation Dr.Neil gave the group the day before.

Here’s the Google Earth image, tilted to show terrain:

Ben Lawers via Google Earth
Google Earth shows off the terrain rather well

hillwalk
Craig admires the view. CodeZone caps get everywhere!

hillwalk
That loch in the background is Loch a’Chait

hillwalk
Dr.Neil, myself, Dave, and James

hillwalk
Dave, James and Barry – posing for the camera just before Craig decides to “leg it” with Barry’s camera…3000 feet up and in the middle of nowhere!

hillwalk
Dr.Neil, Dave and myself at the top of An Stuc

hillwalk
A triumphant Barry reaches the top of Meall Greigh

Thanks to James and Barry for the photographs!

Security hype “stifling new technologies”

It seems that security concerns are preventing us making progress. Robert Jaques has an interesting piece in the September 2005 issue of PCW (UK). Yes, I know August has just descended upon us, however PCW does seem to be published some two months ahead of the actual month it represents!

Whilst the rest of the world are making progress with IP telephony/VOIP and wireless networking and wireless hotspots, etc. it would appear that there are some folks who are thwarting progress by following the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Well, in this situation, that maxim doesn’t hold true. For example, I’ve just returned from Microsoft TechEd in Amsterdam, where Microsoft was kind enough to provide [potentially] 6,500 of us with wireless access to the Internet. It was a remarkably liberating experience. I was able to check my e-mail whilst attending sessions, blog “live”, provide session feedback within minutes of the session finishing, etc. It was truly amazing.

How did we ever live without wireless? I can’t imagine the Internet without it now, never mind the connectivity gains that I’ve acquired after pushing the wired LAN into the dark and distant past (OK, so I’ve a wireless ‘bridge converting the wireless into wired for use in the study…it still means that I don’t have wires running all over the house, much to my wife’s delight!)

Life without wireless/VOIP might not be secure according to the hype mongers; however, can we believe them? True, wireless networks do open themselves up to a wider range of potential attacker – the attack surface extends itself to the far reaches of the wireless broadcast. And yes, early wireless kit was delivered (out of the box) with all the security options turned off or disabled…but I seem to recall that some operating systems were delivered in a similar fashion. Nowadays of course, virtually all wireless kit (and the aforementioned operating systems too) arrive with all the security bells and whistles enabled so much so it’s sometimes difficult to miss. With a little care, it is possible to secure a wireless network and/or VOIP such that there is considerable business benefit.

Life without wireless/VOIP means a mess of cables. It means a laptop, a rucksack and a bag full of various network cables and adaptors – I carry five RJ45 cables of various lengths and an RJ45-to-RJ45 extender that allows me to daisy-chain two RJ45 cables together if required. I didn’t carry such excess baggage to Microsoft TechEd…the only wires I saw there were those leading to from laptops to power sockets and from the VOIP handsets to the controlling PC.

Life without wireless/VOIP means having to find landlines or worse, mobile ‘phones. It means having to stretch a fixed line ‘phone across tables/desks to get it close to your laptop which is plugged in to the network and the mains – and because neither the network provider or the electrician spoke to each other, they both kept their infrastructure as far apart as possible. If you’re lucky enough to have a network provider and an electrician who speak the same language, the floor sockets that house their respective outlets/sockets, and this is especially true of electrical outlets, are sunk into the floor, hidden underneath a tightly fitting lid that soon comes away in your hand the minute you lift it open. And if that wasn’t bad enough, you try to plug your laptop’s power adaptor in, oh, the huge transformer prevents you from plugging it in…or, worse, you have a regular-sized plug fitted with a less than flexible cable…the power outlet’s live/neutral plugs so close to the edge of the housing that you can’t even bend the cable to fit.

And just think of the triangulation involved in plugging a laptop into the mains at point A, the telephone at point B and the network at point C. The resulting mesh is a potential safety hazard.

Just in case you had forgotten what life without wireless looks like, here’s a very tame reminder:

not wireless