Memrise–Building the Memory Palace a Brick at a Time


In a previous post about language learning, I discussed Duolingo, a language-learning app that I use on a daily basis to learn European languages.   The ONLY criticism that I have about the program is that I wish it also offered non-European languages, that is, languages other than those in the Indo-European family which for the most part (with some exceptions such as Greek) are written with the Latin alphabet.    The languages I had in mind in particular are Chinese, and Japanese, both of which I have studied before, and Korean and Hindi, which I have not.

However, the interface can only handle the current languages based on the Latin alphabet, so I remained contented in my disappointment, until I found a recommendation by Benny Lewis, author of the blog Fluent in 3 Months (and a new book with the same name), that to memorize vocabulary in ANY language, one should try Memrise.

I tried that recommendation and now am practicing Japanese and Chinese an a daily basis along with my daily Duolingo language practice for European languages.   In the rest of this post, I would like to discuss the features I like about Memrise.

to be continued on 03/02/2015

Agile Principles


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he talks briefly about the origins of Agile Methodology, in particular the development of the Agile Alliance that grew out of a seminal meeting of seventeen luminaries in the field of software development who met in the Snowbird resort in Utah in February 2001.    Out of that Agile Alliance came the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Principles, and the Ethos of Agile Project Management.   This post describes the Agile Manifesto, the immediate outcome of the first meeting of the Agile Alliance.

The Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

John Stenbeck mentions a key point, that the manifesto is saying that, while there isvalue in the terms on the right, Agile software development values the items on the left even more.

This key point is crucial, because many people interpret the Agile Manifesto incorrectly by thinking that it says “Individuals and interactions instead of processes and tools”, etc.  This couldn’t be further from the truth:   processes and tools have their place, but individuals and interactions have priority over them.

The Agile Alliance then published the philosophical background behind the Agile Manifesto, in the Agile Principles, which I will describe in my next post.

The Agile Manifesto


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he talks briefly about the origins of Agile Methodology, in particular the development of the Agile Alliance that grew out of a seminal meeting of seventeen luminaries in the field of software development who met in the Snowbird resort in Utah in February 2001.    Out of that Agile Alliance came the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Principles, and the Ethos of Agile Project Management.   This post describes the Agile Manifesto, the immediate outcome of the first meeting of the Agile Alliance.

The Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

John Stenbeck mentions a key point, that the manifesto is saying that, while there is value in the terms on the right, Agile software development values the items on the left even more.

This key point is crucial, because many people interpret the Agile Manifesto incorrectly by thinking that it says “Individuals and interactions instead of processes and tools”, etc.  This couldn’t be further from the truth:   processes and tools have their place, but individuals and interactions have priority over them.

The Agile Alliance then published the philosophical background behind the Agile Manifesto, in the Agile Principles, which I will describe in my next post.

The Agile Alliance


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he talks briefly about the origins of Agile Methodology, in particular the development of the Agile Alliance that grew out of a seminal meeting of seventeen luminaries in the field of software development who met in the Snowbird resort in Utah in February 2001.    Out of that Agile Alliance came the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Principles, and the Ethos of Agile Project Management.

According to one of those luminaries, Martin Fowler (see his post http://martinfowler.com/articles/agileStory.html for details), there was a retreat held for various leaders in the Extreme Programming community in the Spring of 2000.   Extreme Programming was the result of the focus on newer object-oriented methods of programming rather than the typical procedural programming that had been prevalent before.   This type of programming evolved as a response to the ever shorter product cycles which the software business faced.

Kent Beck had invited extreme programmers or XPers to  discuss various issues in XP, and he also invited a number of people who were interested but separate from XP: such as Alistair Cockburn, Jim Highsmith, and Dave Thomas.

The discussion centered around the relationship between XP and other methods that were similar, which were not called Agile at the time but Lightweight Methods, as opposed to the waterfall or traditional Heavyweight Methods.     Bob Martin decided to put together a meeting of people interested in this broader range of methods.

This meeting was held at the Snowbird resort in Utah from February 11-13, 2001.   As a result of their discussions, this group called themselves the Agile Alliance (I’m glad they used that term and not the “Lightweight League”), and they created the Agile Manifesto, which is the subject of the next post.

PMI: Slouching Towards Agile


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he alludes to how the Project Management Institute has treated the subject of agile PM methodology in its various editions of the PMBOK® Guide.   Since I have studied both the 4th and 5th editions of that guide, I wanted to use this post to discuss how PMI’s treatment of Agile Methodology in its authoritative guide to traditional PM methodlogy aka the PMBOK® Guide has changed between the two.

1.  4th Edition PMBOK® Guide and Agile Methodology

The 4th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide was published in 2008, and although agile methodology was not explicitly discussed, an early precursor of agile called rolling wave planning was discussed.

Rolling wave planning can be considered a form of progressive elaboration, where the level of detail in a project management plan is increased in detail through progressive iterations as greater amounts of information and more accurate estimates become available.

The work breakdown structure, which takes the deliverables of a project and breaks them down into units for which cost and duration can be readily estimated and managed, which are called work packages.   Those portions of the project which are not filled in detail in the initial iteration of the project management plan are broken down into placeholders called planning packages, which are then broken down into work packages in successive iterations of the progressive elaboration.

Rolling wave planning is where this progressive elaboration is done while the project is being executed.   One informal definition of this process which I am particularly fond is “laying down the tracks of the railroad while the train is meanwhile coming down the tracks behind you.”    You can see that the flexibility that this approach demands is in the spirit of agile methodology, although again PMI does not explicitly name it as such.

2.  What Happened Between the 4th Edition and 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide?

As John Stenbeck mentions in his book, a seminal event in agile project management was the introduction of the iPad in April 2010.   For details of this development, you can read Walter Isaacson’s masterful biography of Steve Jobs, but in a nutshell, the iPad was a full function device that included a minimum marketable feature set focused on what the customer wanted, but it was not yet a full feature tablet PC.   It was a phenomenal success, selling 15 million devices by the end of the year and achieving a 75% market share penetration.

For those who wanted to emulate Steve Jobs’ achievements, they were going to have to challenge themselves to adopt a similar agile methodology.

3.  5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide

The 5th Edition was published in 2013, and here PMI acknowledged the existence of agile methodology by placing it on a continuum from Predictive to Iterative/Incremental to Adaptive.

a.  Predictive

This is where the scope of the project, and the time and cost required to deliver that scope, are determined as early in the project as possible.    This is traditional or waterfall PM methodlogy.

b.  Iterative/Incremental

This is where certain activities of the project are iterated or repeated as the project team’s understanding of the product is increased.   Iterations develop the project scope, wheres increments add to the functionality of the project.    This is the realm of the hybrid project.

c.  Adaptive (Agile)

Adaptive methodology takes the iterative and incremental approach to the development of project scope seen in the previous paragraph, but differ in two respects:   the iterations are 1) very rapid (in the order of 2 to 4 weeks), and 2) are fixed in time and cost.

So PMI has finally embraced Agile Methodology in its discussion of project management methodologies (see pp. 42-46) as part of its 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide, although descriptions of that methodology are very high-level and not very detailed.

My prediction is that future versions of the PMBOK® Guide will have to elaborate further on Hybrid (Iterative/Incremental) and Agile (Adaptive) Methodologies as the profession as a whole moves in the direction of using increasingly hybrid methodologies in the actual projects done in the real world.

The next post will cover the origins of Agile Methodology, in particular the development of the Agile Alliance that grew out of a seminal meeting of seventeen luminaries in the field of software development who met in the Snowbird resort in Utah in February 2001.   Out of that Agile Alliance came the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Principles, and the Ethos of Agile Project Management.

The Agile Value Proposition


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he starts out the first chapter “Agile Project Management Value Proposition” with the answer to the question “Why should a project manager study Agile Project Management?”

Actually, he gives several answers to that question.

1)  Agile Project Management will help your company thrive

Whether an organization thrives, survives, or fails in today’s competitive environment depends on its ability to be agile and innovatiive in order to respond to ever-changing business needs.  In order to help one’s company to thrive, therefore, a project manager needs it to become agile and innovative, and Agile Project Management can help a project manager do just that.

2)  Agile Project Management will help your company put an innovative strategic vision into operation

A company does a project for two reasons, because it fulfills a business need and because it coincides with the company’s strategic vision.   If the competitive environments creates a business need which demands innovation, then the strategic vision that lines up with this business need will also need to innovative.   Agile Project Management will help a project manager maximize the positive impact of the company’s assets, including the people deployed to deliver them.

3) Agile Project Management will help you as a project manager to use the correct project management framework

Organizations need for professional project managers to synthesize the best practices of traditional and agile frameworks to respond to the challenges their companies face.   The received wisdom that Agile Project Management is for software projects is just not true–most projects in the next 20 years will not be Agile or traditional, but rather Hybrid projects that combine elements of both.   A project manager that wants to be on the cutting edge of project management will have to acquaint him or herself with the agile framework as well as the traditional framework, and then have the experience to know which elements of each to combine into a hybrid framework.

Agile Project Management, therefore, helps a company adapt to business needs, to operationalize an innovative strategic vision, and to have available the fullest possible palette of project management possible in order to bring what is appropriate to the company and to the project at hand.

This process of hybridization of projects is not happening in the future, but is happening now.   As an example, in one of the sessions of our PMI Chicagoland Chapter dinner meeting in the Fall of 2014, there was a presentation made on the Lessons Learned project.   Traditionally, this is done at the end of the project, but more companies are following the practice of doing lessons learned exercises periodically while the project is going on.   When I asked the person giving the presentation where this idea came from, he said it came from Agile Project Management.   This is one example, but I’m sure if I surveyed the project managers in the Chicagoland area, they would be able to supply other examples of variations to traditional project management practices which have been inspired by the Agile Project Management framework.

With these three reasons for learning Agile Project Management, the question is not “why study Agile Project Management”, but rather, why wouldn’t you?

Agile Project Management–the Next Generation of Project Management


Today I am launching a new blogging project which will end up taking months, if not the rest of the year. I intend to go through a major Agile Project Management textbook and take detailed notes for my future use and for use in conjunction with future study groups that are studying Agile Project Management. But before I launch the project, I want to explain what motivated me to undertake this project.

1.   Traditional Project Management

On this blog, I have written posts covering every single chapter in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge or PMBOK® Guide for short.    I did this as an outgrowth of a study group I was running out in Orange County, CA when I was a member of PMI out there until 2013.    The PMI Orange County chapter ran its own PMP/CAPM Exam Prep course, and after I took the CAPM exam, I helped the VP Education Dan Healey run the next three exam prep courses.    I organized study groups for those taking the course to ensure that after they completed the exam prep course, they signed up for the exam and reviewed the material to the point that they felt comfortable in sitting for the exam and passing it.  The study groups were effective; those who joined them were 50% more likely to pass the exam within 3 months of taking it than those who did not participate in such a group.

Then in 2013, I moved to Chicago, and in July 2014, I became the Director of Certification.   The PMI Chicagoland chapter does not run its own PMP/CAPM Exam Prep course; we have outsourced the courses to two vendors:  Becker Educational Association, which puts on a classroom-style course, and PM Enterprises, which puts on an online course.    However, I still felt we needed to add a study group for those who completed these courses, because some people who took them went on to take the exam, but others felt that the material came at them too quickly, and they needed a study group to take them to the point where they felt comfortable in signing up for the exam and taking it.

Since Chicagoland is a lot more spread out than Orange County was, we are doing the study group online, which I run twice a week, Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon.    I started the study group in January, and have been gradually adding people to the group as word has gotten out.

2.   PM–The Next Generation

This was the title of the keynote speech done by our keynote speaker, Bill Fournet from the Persimmon Group, at our PMI Chicagoland chapter’s 4th annual Professional Development Day event for 2014.   I was the Chief Project Manager for the event, and I was pleased that his talk was well received by the 200+ attendees to the event.    He talked about several technological and social trends that would help shape the profession of Project Management over the next 20 years.    One of these trends was the increasing importance of Agile Project Management.    The phrase that he mentioned that surprised me was that most projects in 2030 would not be using Traditional Project Management methodology or Agile Project Management methodology, but rather a hybrid of the two.

Most people outside of IT think that Agile Methodology is mainly used in the IT industry, but its effectiveness has caused many in the traditional PM community to experiment with adopting some of its methods.    For example, at our PMI Chicagoland chapter dinner meeting last year, we had someone talking about the importance of Lessons Learned, and he said that a new trend is for organizations to do Lessons Learned periodically during the course of the project, rather than at the end of the project, as is traditional.   This initiative, he said, came from the Agile PM community, but is now starting to become more prevalent in the traditional PM community.

So the conclusion is inescapable–if you want to be on the cutting edge of project management, you need to learn about Agile Project Management methodology.

3.  Agile Project Management Certification

Since the importance of Agile Project Management is being recognized, the importance of PMI’s new agile certification, the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification, has increased as well.  This spring our PMI Chicagoland chapter is arranging for a vendor to put on a PMI-ACP Exam Prep Course as an addition to our offerings for PMP/CAPM Exam Prep.    But if the 4-day boot camp type courses for Agile are like the ones for the PMP/CAPM Exam, then I anticipate the new for a study group for that course as well for some of those who have completed the regular course.

I realized, however, that I was in no position to put on a study group because of my own professional lack of knowledge about what Agile Project Management is all about.    Well, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum, so I decided to combine my own personal need to learn about Agile with my professional need to be conversant with Agile as the Director of Certification for my PMI Chicagoland chapter.

Therefore I looked around for a suitable textbook for the Agile Project Management curriculum.

4.  GR8PM

I was looking around, but found that, as opposed to PMP/CAPM Exam, which has the PMBOK® Guide as the standard authoritative volume to study from, and numerous reputable textbooks byAndy Crowe, Rita Mulcahy, Crosswinds, among others, PMI recommends a list of 11 textbooks and there is no authoritative text equivalent to the PMBOK® Guide.    However, there was a lucky coincidence when John Stenbeck, the author of “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, approached me about putting out an informative webinar for those in the PMI Chicagoland chapter educating them about the benefits of the Agile Methodology, whether or not they go on to certify for the PMI-ACP® or not.

When he sent me his textbook, I looked it up on the Internet and saw that it had great reviews, as did his company GR8PM, which puts on an exam prep course based on the book.    After obtaining the book, I realized this was an excellent book for my own education, let alone for the members of the chapter.

That’s when it all gelled together in my mind.   I would use John Stenbeck’s “Desk Reference” textbook and go through it chapter by chapter and make notes about it on my blog.    I contacted him and asked him for permission, and he graciously consented.

I had been so busy setting up the PMP/CAPM Exam Prep study group in January and February, however, that I didn’t start the blog project until now.   But I realized that I need to start it now, because well, that bright, shiny future that Bill Fournet described in his talk on PM–The Next Generation can start right here, right now, by opening John Stenbeck’s book and sharing it with everyone!

 

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