The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world
TOPICS:

Ron Lichty

Ron Lichty has been transforming chaos to clarity and making software development “hum” for most of his 20-plus years managing software development and product organizations. Ron co-authored 2012's highly regarded Addison-Wesley title, Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams (http://www.managingtheunmanageable.net/ ), his co-author Pixar/Broderbund/Gracenote CTO Mickey Mantle. With over 70 years of combined experience, these two software industry veterans crafted a book designed to help any software manager be more successful. Having spent their careers developing software, leading software development projects, and managing programmers and teams, they distilled their experience into a book that every beginning programming manager would get value from, both to read and to pull from their bookshelves for reference. It's a book that is also helping executives who struggle sponsoring projects dependent upon software success – CEOs, COOs, CTOs, and others – to understand the craft of software development and the intricacies of how to manage software people and teams to deliver software projects successfully. Ron has repeatedly been brought in as a “VPE of Fix-It” to coach and mentor programming managers at all levels and to solve problems like painfully slow product development, past-due estimates with no delivery in sight, challenges arising from geographically dispersed teams, scalability stymied by sluggish data integration, productivity bridled by uncertainty, an "order-taking mentality" from teams that should be eagerly proactive, and teams unable to break out of research and move on to development and delivery. Ron untangles organizational knots, creates roadmaps everyone can follow, builds communications with other parts of the organization, coaches and trains organizations in agile and scrum, and gets teams productive and focused on delivery, quality and customers. Chaos to clarity.

In Praise of “Camps” (you’re going, right?)

In Praise of

“Camps,” if you’ve missed their advent entirely, are one- or two-day conferences that cost little or nothing, with content presented by the attendees. You might think content is “lesser”, given it’s typically attendee-provided, but that hasn’t been my experience. In the Bay Area, this seems to be the season for camps. Code Camp is Saturday/Sunday […]

Share

Good Product Management Matters!

Good Product Management Matters!

As a consulting CTO, I’m on the lookout for the knots in clients’ software development; untangling them has been the key to transforming chaos to clarity and making product delivery hum. As an advocate for best practices, amplified by publication of our book Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and […]

Share

Agile: Not a Magic Pill

No one on software teams believes in waterfall any longer. That’s what The 2013 Study of Product Team Performance revealed. As the correlation chart shows at a glance, agile, blended and lean teams each correlate their own method with increased profitability, but waterfall teams believe that any method other than waterfall would make their product […]

Share

Onboarding: Critical Success Factor (and mostly overlooked!)

Onboarding: Critical Success Factor (and mostly overlooked!)

It wasn’t a surprise to me to find, for two years in a row, that our Study of Product Team Performance identified that onboarding new team members highly correlates to high product team performance. Last year’s study revealed five factors that, when all are missing, is almost a guarantee of low product team performance, but […]

Share

The most convincing reason to change from waterfall to agile

The most convincing reason to change from waterfall to agile

Given virtually no one on product teams believes in waterfall – even those using waterfall (see my last post on The 2013 Study of Product Team Performance) – what to do about managers who insist upon seeing a waterfall project plan so they can “guarantee that a project will come in on time”? There is, […]

Share

No One Believes in Waterfall

No One Believes in Waterfall

The most startling result coming out of this year’s just-released Study of Product Team Performance came in response to two questions we asked: what methodology does your team use? what method do you associate with increased profits? The cross-correlation of responses to those two questions revealed the startling result: each self-identified methodology group – with […]

Share

The 2013 Study of Product Team Performance

The 2013 Study of Product Team Performance

The 2013 Study of Product Team Performance is out! The results are not quite as across-the-board extraordinary as last year’s study – that would have been hard to match – but it offers individual results that are every bit as eye-opening – and overall it’s quite revealing. What startled me in last year’s study was […]

Share

Keep Your Culture Positive!

Keep Your Culture Positive!

Which is more effective to improve team performance: positive feedback or constructive criticism? a positive culture or a negative one? The answer: both. The real question: in what proportion? The answer to the proportion question, from new research by Michigan doctoral student Emily Heaphy and team productivity consultant Marcial Losada: The ratio of positive-to-negative statements […]

Share

Colleges: Teach the “How”!

Colleges: Teach the

We’re at an inflection point. Agile practices transitioned over the last couple years from “emerging” to “predominant”. Companies are sampling if not wholesale adopting agile, from scrum and extreme programming to lean and kanban. Our study of product team productivity due out later this month documents an increase to 76% of teams incorporating at least […]

Share

Remote Pair Programming

Remote Pair Programming

I’ve been enamored of remote pair programming since briefly leading development at Socialtext, where no three developers were in the same locale. Socialtext was committed to agile approaches including pair programming (but not including colocation, I might note!). Being distributed, remote pairing was the way forward. Pair programming is controversial in being possibly the most […]

Share

What makes product teams great?

What makes product teams great? What if you were able to name just five things that: if you don’t do them, you have just a 2% chance of high level team performance if you do all of them, you have a 67% likelihood of high level team performance Last year’s Study of Product Team Performance […]

Share

Better cross-functional collaboration, trust and communication

Better cross-functional collaboration, trust and communication

In 2012’s Study of Product Team Performance, respondents were asked what they would change about the core product team. “Better cross-functional collaboration, trust and communication” was their number-one response. (You can participate in this year’s study. See below.) I was struck by how closely that aspiration aligns with a step that management took 15 years […]

Share

Motivating (and not de-motivating) Programmers

One of the great “aha”s for me as a manager was realizing that motivating people – and not de-motivating them – are two different things. It was years ago – I think I was at Apple. One of my colleagues shared a Harvard Business Review article from the 1980s that recounted Frederick Herzberg’s work in […]

Share

“PM”s

I am repeatedly in conversations with someone who refers to “PMs”. And I have to figure out which kind of PM they’re talking about. Take this sentence from a recent email: “…designed for executives, managers, PMs, BAs, developers, testers – essentially anyone in the software development value stream.” Or the recent email with the subject […]

Share

Could we make managing programmers a little easier?

Could we make managing programmers a little easier?

Programming managers have typically had years of training in programming… And no training in management. I’ve been taking a fascinating census of programming managers this fall that has shown me just how true that is. As I talk about our book Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams to […]

Share

Orchestrating Software Development

Orchestrating Software Development

For years, I’ve been pointing development and project managers to the full-length documentary, Tom Dowd & the Language of Music. (It’s rentable via Netflix, purchasable via Amazon.) Every time I watch Tom Dowd, I’m struck by how closely producing music resembles leading software development. Tom Dowd, an innovative music producer and recording engineer for over […]

Share