Thursday, March 27, 2008


Years ago during my MBA I read the book Getting to Yes by Fisher, Ury, & Patton. The book focuses on conflict resolution and negotiation techniques to create that (sorry for the phase) win-win situation. Maybe it’s not win-win, but they try to manage against lose-lose. The technique is called BANTA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).

It was a good read. I should have taken better notes though so I could get quick refreshers of the techniques. Isn’t the internet is great … I found a few sites that shared their notes and insights from the book. There are easy, full outlines ( to quick tips (

I don’t have the time to read everything I want. Time becomes a more valuable commodity as I get older (and the family grows). These sites help me get that quick refresher while maximizing my time. If you haven’t read the book, these sites might be good for you.

At the highest level, here’s what I took away from the text.

· Know yourself and others (audience analysis)

· Understand your walk-away alternatives, wiggle room, your relative power, your relative authority

· Understand others’ walk-away alternatives, potential wiggle room, power, and authority to make a decision. Does the person have the authority to make a decision?

· Focus time to understand items of influence

· Listen more than you talk – that’s can be a hard one

· Don’t react emotionally – that can be hard too

· Understand concessions and be open to splitting the difference

Being a Generalist

There are many technical and business functions in my firm. I’ve done many of the technical functions such as development, testing, building hardware, and more. Yet, I haven’t kept current in all of these areas over the years. I keep familiar but not detailed knowledge. For the business functions, I’m familiar and have a deeper understanding when my project deems necessary.

I consider myself a generalist; I have high-to-mid level knowledge of the technical and business domains I support. I don’t intend to be a one person shop that has the knowledge and skills to do everything myself. My brain is only so big. Gathering a team of people provides the needed skills sets and establishes the project for better success – collapses critical path, balancing staffing and resources, and reduces stress.

For my personal training, I focus on having more detailed knowledge in PM tools and techniques. That’s where I can add the most value for the collective team. As a technical and business generalist, I’m familiar with these areas which enable me to ask intelligent questions on process, strategy, risk, and progress. Mostly, I’m able to concentrate on managing tasks and activities (and the people who make the project get done).

I don’t know the intricacies of building a house. However, I know that you need to dig the foundation and frame easily in the process. There are building inspections (external specs/requirements to follow) and many specialties involved (plumbing, electrical, framing, drywall, etc). As I continue with the house project, I’ll gain more specific knowledge. Over time, I’ll better understand dependent and parallel tasks. I’ll understand the flexibility of building inspections and more. I started as a generalist. As the project proceeded, I had the mid (or better) level knowledge of a house project. I gained the right knowledge, at the right time, to get the job done.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Kano Analysis

I stumbled upon Kano analysis a few months ago. It provides a nice technique for driving to “real” requirements that drive customer satisfaction.

I’m not fully utilizing Kano analysis yet; I’m not jumping into the deep end of the pool. As a starting point, I’ve refocused my requirements prioritization/justification techniques. I use the following labels – 1 Must-Haves and cancel the project if I don’t have these, 3 Differentiators in the market place, and 5 nice-to-haves. I allow for some ambiguity by using a 5 point system instead of a 3 point system.

If I get weighted too much in the 1 Must-Haves, then I delve into some Kano-type questions to help justify that level of must-haves. Kano suggests using a multiple question approach to double check answers, come at it from different ways. Questions styles could involve exploring boundaries or implications of taking-away to name just a few. This tries to understand if this is an indifferent requirement where “out of sight out of mind” does not impact product satisfaction. On the flip side, does adding this feature increase customer satisfaction. For instance in MS Word, I’m guessing that the Web Layout feature was not a must-have in Word 2003 original version. It’s a good differentiator from similar products but there were likely more important features to deliver successfully with proper quality.

Search the internet for Kano analysis and see what insights you find.

Creative Communication

I’ve learned that some people don’t like to talk during meetings. Some don’t want to interrupt, it may be tangential, unsure if others would want to hear it, or generally more reserved.

At my firm, we have an instant message (IM) program available. When people are calling into meetings from their desks, I periodically get questions and comments via IM. We then decide via IM if we want to share more broadly at the meeting. IM can be a good tool to share information and let the PM introduce the topic or contributor.

Why only do this for conference calls? At my firm, many people bring their laptops to meetings. For those who don’t want to raise their voice publicly, IM can be a good tool to share information and let the PM introduce the topic or contributor.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Parking Sign

At the 2007 AYE (Amplify Your Effectiveness) conference, I met a nice gentleman named Michael. In the QA Testing (software quality assurance) field, he’s known as the Braidy Tester. Michael has great insights and creative methods to get you thinking. And sometime just to get you smiling. Michael will write QA Testing lyrics to accompany tunes that we are familiar like Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" or Van Halen's “Finish What Ya Started.”

You don’t have to be in the QA Testing field to appreciate the Braidy Tester. Recently, he posted a Parking Sign (click the link) and asked readers to write requirements about the sign content. It was a great exercise in ambiguity and context/domain-knowledge assumptions that we sometimes build into requirements (or parking signs). He shared the results and his brainstorming techniques. He shared some good heuristics such as emphasizing different words and using synonyms to view other interpretations. Take a few minutes and read that blog article and maybe more.