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Making Things Happen

Book Description

In the updated edition of this critically acclaimed and bestselling book, Microsoft project veteran Scott Berkun offers a collection of essays on field-tested philosophies and strategies for defining, leading, and managing projects. Each essay distills complex concepts and challenges into practical nuggets of useful advice, and the new edition now adds more value for leaders and managers of projects everywhere.

Based on his nine years of experience as a program manager for Internet Explorer, and lead program manager for Windows and MSN, Berkun explains to technical and non-technical readers alike what it takes to get through a large software or web development project. Making Things Happen doesn't cite specific methods, but focuses on philosophy and strategy. Unlike other project management books, Berkun offers personal essays in a comfortable style and easy tone that emulate the relationship of a wise project manager who gives good, entertaining and passionate advice to those who ask.

Topics in this new edition include:

  • How to make things happen
  • Making good decisions
  • Specifications and requirements
  • Ideas and what to do with them
  • How not to annoy people
  • Leadership and trust
  • The truth about making dates
  • What to do when things go wrong
Complete with a new forward from the author and a discussion guide for forming reading groups/teams, Making Things Happen offers in-depth exercises to help you apply lessons from the book to your job. It is inspiring, funny, honest, and compelling, and definitely the one book that you and your team need to have within arm's reach throughout the life of your project.

Coming from the rare perspective of someone who fought difficult battles on Microsoft's biggest projects and taught project design and management for MSTE, Microsoft's internal best practices group, this is valuable advice indeed. It will serve you well with your current work, and on future projects to come.

Table of Contents

    1. Who should read this book
    2. Assumptions I’ve made about you in writing this book
    3. How to use this book
    4. How to contact us
    5. Safari® Books Online
  3. 1. A brief history of project management (and why you should care)
    1. Using history
      1. Learning from failure
    2. Web development, kitchens, and emergency rooms
    3. The role of project management
    4. Program and project management at Microsoft
    5. The balancing act of project management
    6. Pressure and distraction
      1. Confusing process with goals
    7. The right kind of involvement
      1. Take advantage of your perspective
      2. Project managers create unique value
    8. Summary
    9. Exercises
    1. 2. The truth about schedules
      1. Schedules have three purposes
      2. Silver bullets and methodologies
      3. What schedules look like
          1. Piecemeal development (the anti-project project)
        2. Divide and conquer (big schedules = many little schedules)
          1. Agile and traditional methods
      4. Why schedules fail
        1. Shooting blind from very, very far away
        2. A schedule is a probability
        3. Estimating is difficult
          1. The world is based on estimation
        4. Good estimates come from good designs
        5. The common oversights
        6. The snowball effect
      5. What must happen for schedules to work
      6. Summary
      7. Exercises
    2. 3. How to figure out what to do
      1. Software planning demystified
        1. Different types of projects
        2. How organizations impact planning
        3. Common planning deliverables
      2. Approaching plans: the three perspectives
        1. The business perspective
          1. Marketing is not a dirty word
        2. The technology perspective
        3. The customer perspective
      3. The magical interdisciplinary view
        1. The balance of power
      4. Asking the right questions
        1. Answering the right questions
        2. What if there’s no time?
      5. Catalog of common bad ways to decide what to do
      6. The process of planning
        1. The daily work
      7. Customer research and its abuses
      8. Bringing it all together: requirements
        1. Problems become scenarios
        2. Integrating business and technology requirements
      9. Summary
      10. Exercises
    3. 4. Writing the good vision
      1. The value of writing things down
      2. How much vision do you need?
        1. Team goals and individual goals
      3. The five qualities of good visions
        1. Simplifying
        2. Intentional (goal-driven)
        3. Consolidated
        4. Inspirational
        5. Memorable
      4. The key points to cover
      5. On writing well
        1. It’s hard to be simple
        2. Writing well requires one primary writer
        3. Volume is not quality
      6. Drafting, reviewing, and revising
      7. A catalog of lame vision statements (which should be avoided)
      8. Examples of visions and goals
        1. Supporting vision statements and goals
      9. Visions should be visual
        1. Visualizing nonvisual things
      10. The vision sanity check: daily worship
      11. Summary
      12. Exercises
    4. 5. Where ideas come from
      1. The gap from requirements to solutions
        1. Quality requirements and avoiding mistakes
        2. Design exploration
        3. Fear of the gap and the idea of progress
      2. There are bad ideas
        1. Good or bad compared to what?
      3. Thinking in and out of boxes is OK
      4. Good questions attract good ideas
        1. Focusing questions
        2. Creative questions
        3. Rhetorical questions
      5. Bad ideas lead to good ideas
        1. Good designs come from many good ideas
      6. Perspective and improvisation
        1. Improvisational rules for idea generation
        2. More approaches for generating ideas
      7. The customer experience starts the design
      8. A design is a series of conversations
      9. Summary
      10. Exercises
    5. 6. What to do with ideas once you have them
      1. Ideas get out of control
      2. Managing ideas demands a steady hand
        1. Changes cause chain reactions
        2. Creative work has momentum
      3. Checkpoints for design phases
      4. How to consolidate ideas
        1. Refine and prioritize
      5. Prototypes are your friends
        1. Where do prototypes start?
        2. Prototyping for projects with user interfaces
        3. Prototyping for projects without user interfaces
        4. Prototypes support programmers
        5. Alternatives increase the probability of success
      6. Questions for iterations
      7. The open-issues list
      8. Summary
      9. Exercises
    1. 7. Writing good specifications
      1. What specifications can and cannot do
      2. Deciding what to specify
        1. Who is responsible for specifications?
      3. Specifying is not designing
        1. Describing the final design versus how to build it
        2. Good specs simplify
        3. Ensure the right thing will happen
      4. Who, when, and how
        1. Writing for one versus writing for many
      5. When are specs complete?
        1. How much is enough?
        2. How to manage open issues
          1. Closing the spec gap
        3. The significance of hitting spec complete
      6. Reviews and feedback
        1. How to review a specification
        2. Who should be there and how does it work?
        3. The list of questions
      7. Summary
      8. Exercises
    2. 8. How to make good decisions
      1. Sizing up a decision (what’s at stake)
      2. Finding and weighing options
        1. Emotions and clarity
        2. The easy way to comparison
        3. Discuss and evaluate
        4. Sherlock Holmes, Occam’s Razor, and reflection
      3. Information is a flashlight
        1. Data does not make decisions
        2. It’s easy to misinterpret data
        3. Research as ammunition
        4. Precision is not accuracy
      4. The courage to decide
        1. Some decisions have no winning choices
        2. Good decisions can have bad results
      5. Paying attention and looking back
      6. Summary
      7. Exercises
    3. 9. Communication and relationships
      1. Management through conversation
        1. Relationships enhance communication
      2. A basic model of communication
      3. Common communication problems
      4. Projects depend on relationships
        1. Defining roles
      5. The best work attitude
        1. How to get people’s best work
        2. The motivation to help others do their best
      6. Summary
      7. Exercises
    4. 10. How not to annoy people: process, email, and meetings
      1. A summary of why people get annoyed
      2. The effects of good process
        1. A formula for good processes
        2. How to create and roll out processes
        3. Managing process from below
      3. Non-annoying email
        1. The good piece of email
        2. An example of bad email
        3. An example of good email
      4. How to run the non-annoying meeting
        1. The art of facilitation
        2. Facilitation pointers
        3. Three kinds of meetings
        4. The evil of recurring meetings
        5. Meeting pointers
      5. Summary
      6. Exercises
    5. 11. What to do when things go wrong
      1. Apply the rough guide
      2. Common situations to expect
        1. How to know you are in a difficult situation
        2. The list of difficult situations
        3. Make practice and training difficult
      3. Take responsibility
      4. Damage control
      5. Conflict resolution and negotiation
      6. Roles and clear authority
        1. Everyone should know who the decision maker is
      7. An emotional toolkit: pressure, feelings about feelings, and the hero complex
        1. Pressure
          1. Natural and artificial pressure
        2. Feelings about feelings
        3. The hero complex
      8. Summary
      9. Exercises
    1. 12. Why leadership is based on trust
      1. Building and losing trust
        1. Trust is built through commitment
          1. The elements of effective commitment
        2. Trust is lost through inconsistent behavior
      2. Make trust clear (create green lights)
      3. The different kinds of power
        1. Do not rely on granted power
        2. Work to develop earned power
        3. Persuasion is stronger than dictation
        4. Be autocratic when necessary
      4. Trusting others
        1. Delegation of authority
      5. Trust is insurance against adversity
      6. Models, questions, and conflicts
        1. Leaders define their feedback process
      7. Trust and making mistakes
        1. Never reprimand in real time
      8. Trust in yourself (self-reliance)
      9. Summary
      10. Exercises
    2. 13. Making things happen
      1. Priorities make things happen
        1. Common ordered lists
        2. Priority 1 versus everything else
        3. Priorities are power
        4. Be a prioritization machine
      2. Things happen when you say no
        1. Master the many ways to say no
      3. Keeping it real
      4. Know the critical path
      5. Be relentless
      6. Be savvy
        1. Guerilla tactics
      7. Summary
      8. Exercises
    3. 14. Middle-game strategy
      1. Flying ahead of the plane
        1. Check your sanity
        2. Tactical (daily) questions for staying ahead
        3. Strategic (weekly/monthly) questions for staying ahead
      2. Taking safe action
        1. Breaking commitments
      3. The coding pipeline
        1. Aggressive and conservative pipelining
        2. The coding pipeline becomes the bug fix pipeline
        3. Tracking progress
      4. Hitting moving targets
        1. Dealing with mystery management
          1. Exploring the impact of change
          2. The potential reach of change
        2. Managing changes (change control)
      5. Summary
      6. Exercises
    4. 15. End-game strategy
      1. Big deadlines are just several small deadlines
        1. Defining exit criteria
        2. Why hitting dates is like landing airplanes
          1. Angle of descent
          2. Why changing the angle can’t work
        3. Why it gets worse
        4. The rough guide to correct angles of approach
      2. Elements of measurement
        1. The daily build
        2. Bug/defect management
        3. The activity chart
          1. Keep it simple
        4. Evaluating trends
        5. Useful bug measurements
      3. Elements of control
        1. Review meeting
          1. Customer/client reviews
        2. Triage
          1. Daily/weekly triage
          2. Directed triage
        3. War team
      4. The end of end-game
        1. The release candidate (RC)
        2. Rollout and operations
        3. The project postmortem
      5. Party time
      6. Summary
      7. Exercises
    5. 16. Power and politics
      1. The day I became political
      2. The sources of power
      3. The misuse of power
        1. Process causes for misuse of power
        2. Motivational causes for misuse of power
        3. Preventing misuse of power
      4. How to solve political problems
        1. Clarify what you need
          1. Managing up
        2. Who has the power to give what you need?
          1. Understanding their perspective
          2. Who do they trust and respect?
          3. The illusion of group power
        3. Make an assessment
        4. Tactics for influencing power
          1. The direct request
          2. The conversation
          3. The use of influence (flank your objective)
          4. The multistage use of influence
          5. The indirect use of influence
          6. The group meeting
          7. Make them think it’s their idea
          8. References for other tactics
      5. Know the playing field
        1. Creating your own political field
      6. Summary
      7. Exercises
  7. A. A guide for discussion groups
    1. Introducing the project management clinic
    2. How to start your own discussion group
      1. Finding people
      2. Launching the group
      3. The follow-through
    3. Sample discussion topics
      1. Balancing my time with team time
      2. Customers versus team
      3. To innovate or not to innovate
      4. My boss is a blowhard
      5. Keeping meetings lean
      6. Death by disaster
      7. Train wreck in progress
      8. The fight against featuritis
      9. Ultimate fighting championship-style team meetings
      10. In-house or off-the-shelf
      11. Everything is urgent
    1. For this revised edition
    2. From the previous edition
  11. Index
  12. About the Author
  14. Copyright