Book Review: the 7 Habits by Stephen Covey – chapter one

This is the second in a series of articles providing a chapter-by-chapter in-depth “book club” reading of Mr. Stephen Covey’s classic “the 7th habits of highly effective people”.
I’m reading from the 2004 Free Press paperback edition. This entry covers the first habit: be proactive.

What matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life.

First, a definition: proactivity means more than taking initiative, it means being responsible for our own lives, to be able to choose our response.

In contrast, reactive people are affected by their social environment: when people treat them well, they feel well, when don’t they become defensive or protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behaviour of others, empowering other people to control them. They are driven by feelings, circumstances, conditions, environment.

Proactive people are driven by values; they are still influenced by external stimuli but their response is a value-based choice. They are not pushy or aggressive, that’s not the actual meaning.

Continue reading “Book Review: the 7 Habits by Stephen Covey – chapter one”

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Die Zeit Internet Spezial

Die Zeit, one of the most reliable paper in Germany published in the last weeks a special issue about Internet in three numbers, one every week.

The parts investigated respectively how it is changing our life, our culture and our society.

Despite it was quite nicely written and complete, it remained somehow superficial.
Too many arguments and too much addressed to a public not so deep into the subject.
An interesting summary and reading for people not directly into the web otherwise too simple.

The Problem with the Waterfall software development model

The waterfall model is a sequential software development process, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall).

It should be readily apparent that the waterfall development model has its origins in the manufacturing and construction industries; highly structured physical environments in which after-the-fact changes are prohibitively costly, if not impossible. Since no formal software development methodologies existed at the time, this hardware-oriented model was simply adapted for software development.

And here is the main problem with the pure waterfall model: it’s obsolete and was not really a good model for software development in the first place; it was just easier to use already existing practices from other areas at the very beginning, but those areas were not so similar to software devlopment as initially thought.

The waterfall model maintains that one should move to a phase only when its preceding phase is completed and perfected.

This is the central idea behind Big Design Up Front (BDUF) and the waterfall model:  time spent early on making sure that requirements and design are absolutely correct will save you much time and effort later. Thus, the thinking of those who follow the waterfall process goes, one should make sure that each phase is 100% complete and absolutely correct before proceeding to the next phase of program creation.

The waterfall model is a bad idea in practice because it is impossible for any non-trivial project to get one phase of a software product’s lifecycle perfected before moving on to the next phases and learning from them.

Another criticism revolves around the model’s implicit assumption that designs can be feasibly translated into real products; this sometimes runs into roadblocks when developers actually begin implementation. Often, designs that look feasible on paper turn out to be expensive or difficult in practice, requiring a re-design and hence destroying the clear distinctions between phases of the traditional waterfall model.

Again, software devlopment is not like manufacturing a car or building a house: it’s more an art, like a chef creating a new cooking recept: you need to try and iterate, adding salt or sugar, tasting and sometimes to start over.

In response to the perceived problems with the pure waterfall model, many modified waterfall models have been introduced. These models may address some or all of the criticisms of the pure waterfall model, mostly introducing overlapping phases (you don’t need to have completed one phase before passing to hte next one) or feedbacks.
But the real changing model came with the agile and iterative models.

Next: when to use a waterfal model and when an agile one.

Book Review: the 7 habits of highly effective people, by Stephen Covey

This is the first in a series of articles providing a chapter-by-chapter in-depth “book club” reading of Mr. Stephen Covey’s classic “the 7th habits of highly effective people”.
I’m reading from the 2004 Free Press paperback edition. This entry covers the first chapter, “The inside Story” .

At the beginning, Covey writes about the personality and character ethics, the former emphasizing that success is more a function of personality, public image, attitudes and behaviours, skills and techniques.
The latter more that values are the foundation of success: things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty.

Continue reading “Book Review: the 7 habits of highly effective people, by Stephen Covey”

PMI 5 – Project Stakeholders

This is the fifth post in a series where I will write down what I learned about project management.

The project stakeholders are any individual or organization actively involved in the project or whose interest may be affected. They usually exert influence over the project’s objectives, that can be positive or negative (for example, groups which see a harm on the project’s outcomes).

It’s very important for the project manager to identify them, determine their expectations and accordingly manage their influence. This could be quite difficult as they may have different or conflicting objectives.

The key stakeholders are:

Customer / User: Who will use the project’s products.

Sponsor: who provides the financial resources and is interested into the business outcomes.

Project organization: who is directly involved into the project as the project manager, the team members, the PMO and the other organizations of the enterprise that may influence or collaborate to the project.

Influencers: who is not directly related to the use of the product but can influence, positively or negatively, the course of the project.

For example, a company decides to redesign its main product (a web application) to make it more social and engaging.
The sponsor could be the product manager, which has a list of wished features bringing more money. The software architects may instead emphasize technical excellence and new technologies, the contractors may be most interested in maximizing their profit, the users may want to have an easier to use product, the engineering director may desire low costs and the operational department may wish to have a systeam easy to maintain and with less live issues.
Finally, if the new  system of the product allowing user to leave comments is not checking for the negative, racistic or injurious some external organizations could complain and take actions against the company.