Book Review: Getting Things Done – 2nd and 3rd parts

This is the sixth article in a series providing a summary “book club” reading of Mr. David Allen’s  “Getting Things Done”. I’m reading from the 2001  Penguin Books edition.

The second phase of the book is about implementation and setting the method up: tools, time, space.
Basically stating that you need to set some time in advance to start and regularly to review, you need a proper space and a couple of tools (trays, paper, pen, labeler, calendar and so on).
This part goes quite into details and they can be read in the book.

The third and last phase is summarizing the key principles and explain a bit more why they are so powerful: the collection habit, the next action and the outcome focus.

All in all, I can only recommend the book: it’s full of practical hints and ideas and can bring some structure to your productivity effort.
More on how I implemented the GTD method in a future post.

Agile or Waterfall?

In my previous posts, I touched briefly the waterfall model and the agile models for software development.

Assuming that the pure waterfall model is always a bad idea, when do you use an adapted one as an iterative or spiral model and when an agile model?

Here’s a rule of thumb: use waterfall for projects where there isn’t any invention and/or where the problem domain is well-understood, e.g., building a house, installing a server.

Use Agile for projects where the problem domain is not well-understood, e.g., creating a new software product, rewriting an existing system using a new environment (mainframe app to client-server).

A well-understood problem domain is one where the changes during the project are less than 1% of the scope.

My preference for agile projects is to use Scrum for all but the simplest projects, or Lean for cyclic projects like sustained engineering.

And, regardless of the methodology, you still have to do it right. No silver bullets here.

Book review: the 7 Habits by Stephen Covey – Habit 2 or Begin with the end in mind

This is the third 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 second habit.

The second habit is based on the principle that all things are first created mentally and then physically. As building a house, you first start to think about it, plan and visualize it, before hammering the first nail. The same can be applied to business or our own life.

The most effective way to begin with the end in mind suggested by Stephen Covey is to write a personal mission statement or philosophy. It should contain what you want to be and to do and the principles upon which are based.

It then follows some practical tips on how to write such a statement, stating that it’s not a quick task: it takes deep introspection, analysis and many rewrites. After having written it, you should review it regularly and update it if necessary.

Next: habit 3

PMI 6 – Projects in an organization

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

From a project point of view, organizations can be divided in three categories:

  1. Functional
    project coordination is split among the functional managers who also control the budget;
    the project manager role doesn’t exist or has little authority;
    project team members are taken from the different functional groups.
  2. Projectized
    most of organization resources are involved in project work;
    the project manager have a great deal of authority and controls the budget;
    project team members are collocated.
  3. Matrix
    These organizations are a mix of functional (weak matrix) and projectized (strong matrix) characteristics

A PMO  can exist in any of the above structures and can have just an advisory influence or a formal project authority (in this case all project managers belong to the PMO).

Book Review: Getting Things Done – Planning

This is the fifith article in a series providing a summary “book club” reading of Mr. David Allen’s  “Getting Things Done”. I’m reading from the 2001  Penguin Books edition.

Allen is using an approach to the project planning that he is calling the horizontal focus which key ingredients are:

  • clearly defined outcomes and next actions
  • reminders reviewed regularly

Allen expects that the two ingredients are sufficient most of the time to gain control and perspective on the majority of tasks and projects. However, there are some cases in which more involved planning and thinking are necessary. This leads to the natural planning method which has a “vertical” focus on planning projects and thinking through topics. The planning model consists of 5 stages:

1. Defining the purpose and principles. –> Why?

2. Envisioning the outcome –> What?

3. Brainstorming –> Define the details of the project

4. Organizing –> How? Which actions?

5. Identifying next actions –> put the identified actions in sequence, according to priorities

Continue reading “Book Review: Getting Things Done – Planning”