PM Survival Kit, part 1

I should have remembered all of this from my sysadmin days. Sometimes you need to get everyone in the same room. And when you do, it works a lot better if those people can have power, network connectivity and such.

Here's a list of things every PM should have in their survival kit. You are not required to have these completely in your posession, but you do need access to them (or you need to know where to steal, er, liberate or reallocate, them).

Must have (you're lost without it):
  • Network hub or switch (with at least 8 ports & of the non-wireless variety)
  • One large power strip (like 20 sockets... or two small ones)
  • Extension cord (min. 25 feet)
  • Legal-type notepads
  • Flip chart (unless you've been blessed with whiteboards)

Nice to have (you look like a pro for having it):
  • Wireless switch (see, it's there... it's just not the default way to connect everyone)
  • Laptop power supply for sharing (assuming your company has a standard build)
  • Fan (as in big comma oscillating)
  • Sriracha hot sauce (if you have to ask...)
  • Carnation French Vanilla Creamer (ditto)


Project Freakout, part 4... the long march to go-live

I kept the "Freakout" series title, though the freakout has passed. As the recent "Reorganization" post might lead you to infer, we're in the closing stages of the project.

At some point, go-live is visible. It's tantalizingly close and desperately far away all at the same time as defects appear, missed features are debated and stuff that did work doesn't work and then works again. Nerves get frayed. Days run long. Folks are thrown under buses.

Not much to add, really. We'll land the plane. It'll have both wings, a rudder and horizontal stabilizers. It might dead-stick to a gear-up touchdown on the taxiway just to the left of the active, but everyone will be able to walk away with no more than minor scratches.

Reorganization, Part 1: Stagnation

There's something percolating in my noodle about teams, projects and what it takes to close a project.

It's not fully formed yet, but here's two kernels of it:
1) Physical work arrangements
2) Inevitable drops in focus & energy

The modern cubicle arrangement kills productivity without preserving much privacy or personal space. Couple that with the second law of thermodynamics (see "entropy"), and it's not surprising that projects (or any activity, for that matter) grind to a halt.

Several interesting "asides" live in the thermodynamics comparisons. Think of your workplace in the context of friction, potential and equilibrium. Someone smarter than me has probably connected those dots more eloquently than I could (or will below).

Entropy is a measure of a system's inability to do work. The entropy of a closed system not currently at equilibrium will increase over time until it reaches a maximum value at equilibrium (that's why perpetual motion machines fail).

Nature repeats it's rules over and over, even in structures we don't anticipate (like human organizations). Think through it, and see if you agree. You might imagine exceptions. Given the human nature of organizations, and the myriad of outside variables, they're certainly valid exceptions.

Even the best organization coasts downhill on the slow road to entropy. The catch is that the second law only applies to a closed system. Few of us work in static teams with no turnover, so we're always opening a door to the system (at least by a small crack). Recognizing the slow flow to entropy, though, is important for keeping an organization vibrant.

John Boyd wrote "Suppress tendency to build‑up explicit internal arrangements that hinder interaction with external world" in his brief "Organic Design for Command and Control." That's a fast-track to organizational entropy. Most teams have a habit of closing the door to the outside, but quick. It's a very human thing to see the world in the "us" and "them" picture.

Boyd's comment is easily seen in both a micro and macro context. It could be the little relationships inside or between teams in a sub-group of an organization (like a department). Or, it could be the organization's unwillingness to face it's slowly-advancing role in the marketplace.

So, I kinda left point #1 dangling for several paragraphs, and I want to come back to it.

When we close projects, we move key team members (who share a departmental but not necessarily a managerial organizational position) into the same room. It might be for a few hours to get everyone on the same page. It might be for weeks to maintain our focus.

These ad-hoc organizations within an organization break (at least partially) the second law by un-closing a system. They can't become the de facto organization without the entropy clock beginning it's slow countdown all over again, so it's a Good Thing that they are temporary.

If all organizations will drift to maximize entropy at a point of equilibrium, one of the best ways for work to get done is to break out into these ad-hoc teams.

Most organizations are situated poorly to take advantage of that. We have large cube farms and few (if any) offices or meeting spaces that can be reserved for these ad-hoc teams. Yet that's critical to getting the work done.

Add to that the dubious quality of cube privacy and personal space. I'm just disconnected enough from the organization to reduce my efficiency, but it's not private enough to have an actual, private conversation about a personal matter. And it's not really a place to which I can escape for an hour or day of personal focus.

Again, I don't have a fully-formed proposal here. I'm working to one, and I'll share the details.

Suffice to say that I'd like to see:
A) More semi-private "ad-hoc team" spaces where 4-14 people can comfortably segregate themselves to overcome entropy
B) Actual "private" space to which individuals can escape for an hour or a day (developers, for example, may need to spend days or weeks at a time in this space)
C) An open workspace for the rest of the area. Keep the cubes if you want, but they seem like a waste



New Resume Format

Manager Tools... love it, love it, love it.

By the way, they've made two points over the years:
1) My resume (and probably yours) stinks
2) Even when you fix it, it may still stink

Fortunately, they also have some suggestions. I took them to heart and made a first pass...

James A. Stagg Jr (Jim)
Street | City State Zip | Phone | jstagg@gmail.com

Sept. 2006 to present: Project Manager/Application Administrator, S.P. Richards Co., Smyrna GA
Responsible for managing projects as required by the Director of Development; day-to-day operations of the ERP system for a $110M subsidiary company.
+ Leading $750k subsidiary ERP system integration project

+ Consulting on other projects & issues as needed

Jan. 2001 to Aug. 2006: Senior Systems Administrator, S.P. Richards Co.
, Smyrna GA
Responsible for designing, implementing & supporting Windows solutions; assisting in departmental & project budgeting; mentoring junior team members
+ Led $1M legacy system replacement project
+ Led $250k subsidiary network & hardware migration project
+ Led $50k Canadian subsidiary network migration project
+ Designed, implemented and supported Windows disaster recovery strategies
+ Implemented library-based backup system for Windows servers

Sept. 2000 to December 2000: Systems Administrator, Dealergain.com, Norcross GA
Responsible for designing, implementing & supporting Windows solutions
+ Implemented patch management strategy for Windows systems
(Company dissolved in early 2001)

April 1998 to Aug. 2000: Systems Administrator/Web Designer, Expo.net/Websitesfast.com, Norcross GA
Responsible for designing, implementing & supporting FreeBSD, Linux & Windows solutions; creating customer web solutions
+ Designed, implemented and supported several web solutions for large and small customers
+ Worked directly with potential and existing customers on requirements

Oct. 1996 to April 1998: Systems Analyst, Sportime International, Norcross GA
Responsible for supporting Windows, Apple Macintosh, Novell & AS/400 solutions
+ Created first company web sites for each catalog brand
+ Installed company's first IP-related services (DHCP & DNS)
+ Learned and implemented fundamentals of directory services

Aug. 1994 to Sep. 1996: Graphic Designer, Sportime International
, Norcross GA
Responsible for catalog production as well as creating special projects and advertising
+ Managed technical piece of $150k catalog publishing system implementation project
+ Managed pre-press process of all catalog production for a resulting cost savings of $90k annually
+ Supported Apple Macintosh catalog publishing systems

Sept. 1993 to Aug. 1994: Art Director, Fulton County Daily Report, Atlanta GA
Responsible for managing art department team of 5 on daily newspaper production and special projects deadlines. Also responsible for working with editorial staff to lay out daily front page
+ Designed and produced annual "Georgia Bench Book" in house for the first time
+ Mentored and trained a Press Assistant into becoming a key Art Assistant

1992 to Aug. 1993: Assistant Art Director, Fulton County Daily Report, Atlanta GA
Responsible for creating & managing special projects (books, special supplements, magazines) as well as supporting daily newspaper deadlines
+ Managed art department team for 6 months during Art Director search
+ Supported Apple Macintosh newspaper publishing systems

Sept. 1990 to May 1992: Art Assistant, Fulton County Daily Report, Atlanta GA
Responsible for producing daily legal notices section as well as designing newspaper ads
+ Assisted in implementing newspaper publishing system


Lead Sled

Here's the Giant Cadex 980c, clean and with a new paint job:

Cadex 980C Side

Cadex 980C Front, Close

Early 90s Giant logo