Cloud Atlas—A Tale of Fractals, Fracturing and Friendship #cloudatlas


“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.” Sonmi-451

Last Friday I went to the opening night of the movie Cloud Atlas, the new movie by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski (The Matrix, V for Vendetta) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). I saw it again this evening because it has been haunting me for the past few days.

Here are my thoughts on the three themes of the movie that have resonated with me.

1. Fractals

A cloud is an example of a natural form that can be mathematically expressed as a fractal, a fractional dimension that is somewhere between the familiar two dimensions of an outline or shape and the three dimensions of a solid. The characteristic of a fractal such as a cloud, mountain, or snowflake is that its general shape tends to be repeated at smaller and smaller intervals. Take a look at the timeline of the six stories that make up the architecture of the overall story represented as one of the arms of a giant snowflake, with the framing tale of those six stories in the center. The characters, the themes, and even the music in each of those six stories at the periphery form patterns that repeat themselves throughout the other individual stories in the “snowflake”.

That’s why you can gain more of the texture of the story on repeated viewing, like hearing overtones off the main harmonic note of a song. Since I have not yet read the book by David Mitchell, the closest thing I can think of that I have read that gave me a similar feeling of echo throughout the work was James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which each chapter has a distinctive style all its own, and yet the characters and themes of the different chapters carry through the entire book.

Fig. 1 Timeline, Location of Cloud Atlas stories

2. Fracturing

One of the biggest themes running through the story is that of a society which is fractured, where socioeconomic forces are causing a centrifugal effect which separates different parts of the society from each other, with the result that one part tries to exploit the other. This necessitates the section of society that is doing the exploiting to see the other as something less than human, and absolving itself in any complicity in this exploitation by saying that it is a “natural order.”

You can see this in the 1st story as the white Yankee traders foster the enslavement of the peaceful tribe of the Moriori tribe by the warlike Maori, in the 2nd story as Nazi Germany embarks upon its persecution of Jews, and in the 5th story as the humans (“purebloods”) exploit the clones or replicants. I thought this a compelling theme for this day and age because I am now reading the book by Rick Perlstein called Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, which tells the history of Nixon’s role in the so-called Southern Strategy, the exodus of the so-called Dixiecrats from the Democratic Party into the Republican Party, a conservative backlash against the civil rights movement whose consequences we still live with today. And on the economic side, the high-water mark of the middle class reached in the 1960s has been receding for decades here in the United States. It was H. G. Wells in The Time Machine who dared to ask the provocative question, “What if the middle class were to disappear?” You see this scenario played out in the 6th story of Cloud Atlas, where there only goat-herders & cannibals on the one hand, and the technologically advanced people called the Prescients, with nothing in between.

3. Friendship

However, against this centrifugal force separating society into its various factions, the movie plays the main characters as those who make the leap of compassion and reach out to those “others” in such a way as to point the way towards healing the society back together again as a whole. In the 1st story, the hint is that the main character will become an abolitionist who will help abolish the slave trade, and the 5th story has the replicant Sonmi 451 inspiring a revolution that will end the exploitation of the replicants at the hands of the “purebloods” or humans.

This was very satisfying to me because in my networking and my volunteer work to help those who are looking for employment in these difficult economic times, I come across those with different political and religious backgrounds than myself. But as we talk about the practical needs of survival and reach out to help each other, such ideological differences seem, at least to me, to fade away in importance. That is why the movie is inspiring to me, because it really encourages you to go out and reach out with compassion to others.

4. Conclusion

The mythologist Joseph Campbell once mused how it was that one person can give his life so freely for that of another, even a stranger, in the moment of crisis. He found the answer in the writings of Schopenhauer, who said that in such a crisis moment, the “natural order” of self-preservation is suddenly dissolved, and there is a metaphysical realization that you and the other are one, that you are two aspects of the one life, and that your apparent separateness is but an effect of the way we experience forms under the conditions of space and time.  Our true reality is our identity and unity with all, and each other.

This is a philosopher’s words speaking this truth, but it takes a true series of artists like the directors of this film to bring this truth home to us in the a series of stories strung together like a necklace of precious stones, each one reflecting the light of the other.

Everything is connected, after all.

UPDATE:   I had the pleasure of reading David Mitchell’s book, which connects the stories both sequentially, by linking the stories from one age to another by various means, for example, having the first story told in a series of a letters that the character in the second story reads, or having the movie version of the fourth story being watched by the character in the fifth story.    But in an interview with the directors that I watched, they had to dispense with the sequential order of the stories and go directly to a radial structure where the stories are more bound by particular incidents or images.    However, the book does definitely give me an echo of Ulysses in that each story is told in a distinctive style of its own, and this stylistic difference between the way the stories are told also carries over into the film.    What you get from the book that you don’t get from the film is more depth into the themes of the work, the socioeconomic “fracturing” and the healing “friendship” that tries to heal those breaches, as described in the paragraphs above.    I can understand why it was  chosen as such excellent source material for a movie by the directors.    It was the same way of sensing, but a different way of telling, the truths of the novel.

The Upcoming 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide—Managing Change Requests


1. Introduction

As mentioned in previous posts, the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide is coming out on December 31, 2012, and there are several topics that PMI is emphasizing in the new edition. One of these is the subject of stakeholder management, which is being elevated to the status of a new knowledge area.

Another is the subject of change requests, which is what I want to write about today. Why is PMI emphasizing this in addition to stakeholder management? They are related by the following cost/influence relationship curve, a typical example of which I found on the website http://www.ayarsayars.com/design_build.htm, a construction design firm.

As you can see, the ability of the various stakeholders to influence the cost of a project is at its maximum at the beginning of the project. It goes even before the planning stage into the initiating process when the project charter is drawn up. PMI addressed this issue by increasing the importance paid on stakeholder management, and getting stakeholders engaged in the decision-making process as early as possible in the project.

Conversely, the costs incurred by design changes is at its maximum during the executing process and monitoring & controlling process (which happen concurrently), NOT at the beginning of the project. PMI addresses this issue by increasing the importance of managing change requests in the upcoming 5th Edition of the PMBOK Guide.

2. Change Requests

In the story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three Ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future.

In an analogous way, the project manager is haunted, I mean, challenged by three types of change requests, the Change Requests of Variances Past, those of Variances Present, and those of Variances Future, better known as defect repair, corrective action, and preventive action. The language of change requests in the 5th Edition has put more emphasis on the differences between these types of action. The preference should be on those changes which prevent defects from occurring in the future, through risk analysis, rather than on corrective action or defect repair.  Corrective action can appear in two types, corrective action which brings the variance in line with the performance baseline, or one which corrects the performance baseline itself if it has turned out to be unrealistic.

However, as Rita Mulcahy points out in her excellent discussion of change requests in the 7th Edition of her PMP Exam Prep book, the best thing a project manager is to prevent change requests from occurring at all by engaging the stakeholders in the decision-making process from the very beginning of the project. This is how these two themes of stakeholder management and change requests are connected.

 I hope that this double emphasis on these topics will assist project managers in reducing scope creep and bringing their projects to a successful conclusion on time and within budget.

 This concludes the discussion of the upcoming 5th Edition of the PMBOK Guide.   Starting in January 2013, I will start analyzing the processes and their reconfigured inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs to help those preparing to take the PMP exam on or after July 31, 2013.

 The next posts will return to my discussion to Six Sigma topics based on the Six Sigma Green Belt course I am currently taking from ASQ.

The Upcoming 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—How Agile is it?


The 4th Edition PMBOK® Guide had a section before the knowledge areas, Chapter 2, which it called Project Life Cycle and Organization. It was mainly concerned with

  • splitting up a large project into phases,
  • the relationship between projects and ongoing operational work,
  • discussing the various types of stakeholders
  • the effect of organizational structure (functional, projectized, and matrix) on project management

This section is expanded in the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide to include a discussion of the more traditional waterfall methodology vs. the newer, more adaptive methodologies including agile. Note how I said “discussion”; anyone who is an actual practitioner of agile methodologies will probably find the discussion insultingly brief. This is especially true when you consider that in the IT application area, 80% of software development projects now utilize agile methodology.

However, PMI is trying to gear this book to ALL application areas, and so in my opinion they are trying to acquaint project managers with an understanding of the difference between the traditional vs. alternative methodologies, but without giving so much detail on those alternative methodologies that they become confused.

The fact that PMI has recently started a pilot program for certification in what it calls PMI Agile Certified Practitioner or PMI-ACP means that they are seriously addressing the needs of the agile community. If you look at the books recommended for study for the certification exam, they include many popular books, but there is no one-volume Agile Body of Knowledge Guide at this time, at least as far as I know.  It will be interesting to see if there is a movement within the agile community to create such a guide; my prediction if they create one is that will have to be updated more often than once every four years.

So the answer to the question: How agile is the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide? is “it’s not agile, it’s fragile” if you are in the agile community. If you are not in that community, however, “just enough” is probably the best response you can get at this point.

The Upcoming 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide—New Process Names


The 4th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide had a total of 42 processes, spread across 5 process groups and 9 knowledge areas. The 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide increases the total number of processes to 47, spread across 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas. The post from 10/26 described the new knowledge area of Stakeholder Management, and the post from 10/27 discusses the 5 new processes.  Today’s post lists the new names of some of the processes and shows how this renaming makes the process names more consistent.

1. New Process Names

Below is a chart that shows the processes whose names have been changed from the 4th Edition to the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide.

Process
Group
Knowledge
Area
4th Edition Name 5th Edition Name
1. Initiating Communications Identify Stakeholders Identify Stakeholders *
2. Planning Scope Plan Scope Management
3. Planning Time Plan Schedule Management
4. Planning Cost Plan Cost Management
5. Planning Quality Plan Quality Plan Quality Management
6. Planning Human
Resources
Develop Human
Resource Plan
Plan Human Resource Management
7. Planning Communications Plan Communications Plan Communications
Management
8. Planning Procurements Plan Procurements Plan Procurement Management
9. Planning Stakeholder Plan Stakeholder Management
10. Executing Integration Direct and Manage Project Execution Direct and Manage Project Work
11. Planning Communications Distribute Information Manage Project Communications
12. Planning Communications Manage Stakeholder Expectations Manage Stakeholders Engagement *
13. Monitoring & Controlling Scope Verify Scope Validate Scope
14. Monitoring & Controlling Quality Perform Quality
Control
Control Quality
15. Monitoring & Controlling Communications Report Performance Control Communications
16. Monitoring & Controlling Risk Monitor and Control Risks Control Risks
17. Monitoring & Controlling Procurements Administer Procurements Control Procurements
18. Monitoring & Controlling Stakeholders Control Stakeholders
Engagement

* Changes from Communications to Stakeholder Management knowledge area.

2. Increased Consistency

If you refer to the above chart, you can see how PMI has made the process names more consistent in the following ways:

  • Most processes in the Planning process group now have a name “Plan XXX Management”, where XXX is the knowledge area.
  • Most processes in the Monitoring & Controlling process group now have a name “Plan XXX”, where XXX is the knowledge area.

The other changes are minor semantic changes such as “Verify Scope” is now “Validate Scope” to reflect the fact that deliverables that have been checked and accepted by the customer are called “validated deliverables.” Also, since “Direct and Manage Project Work” is the execution of the project, the process is called that now since the former name “Direct and Manage Project Execution” is therefore a bit redundant.

NOTE: For the five entries that are blank in the 4th Edition column, that means that these processes are new for the 5th Edition and didn’t exist in the 4th Edition. Also, the name of “Identify Stakeholders” is the same, but the knowledge area is different so formally it is known as process “13.1 Identify Stakeholders” in the 5th Edition, changed from “10.1 Identify Stakeholders” in the 4th edition. The “13.1” designates that it is the first process in the knowledge area covered in section 13 of the PMBOK® Guide.

In my opinion, these name changes should make it easier for people to memorize the processes. Once you know the knowledge area and process group for many of these processes, the full name of the process in most cases will be automatic. This reduces the burden on the memory, and hopefully will lead to more memory capacity in the brain to memory what is IN the processes themselves.

The next post covers the controversial subject of agile methodology and how it is covered by PMI in the new 5th Edition.

The Upcoming 5th Edition of the PMBOK Guide—5 New Processes


 

The 4th Edition of the PMBOK Guide had a total of 42 processes, spread across 5 process groups and 9 knowledge areas. The 5th Edition of the PMBOK Guide increases the total number of processes to 47, spread across 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas. The post from yesterday (10/16) described the new knowledge area called Stakeholder Management. This post will discuss the 5 new processes and what they tell us about current trends in PMI’s thinking towards project management.

1. Two New Processes—Stakeholder Management

Two of the five new processes were added to the new Stakeholder Management knowledge area, which will be section 13 of the PMBOK Guide, where sections 4 through 12 contain the other 9 knowledge areas. The two new processes are listed in the chart below and are highlighted in YELLOW. The other two processes in the chart were moved from the Communications Management knowledge area into the Stakeholder Management knowledge area for the purpose of the 5th Edition PMBOK Guide.

Process

Group

Process

Number

Process
Name
Process Description
Initiating 13.1 Identify Stakeholders Identifying project stakeholders, that is, people impacted by the project, and documenting their interests, involvement, and impact on the project.

 

Planning 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management Determining the needs of project stakeholders and defining methods of satisfying those needs.
Executing 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement  

Build and maintain stakeholder engagement throughout project to maximize buy-in and minimize conflict.

 

Monitoring & Controlling 13.4 Control Stakeholders Engagement Manage any changes that are requested by stakeholders.

The significance of these two new processes are that stakeholder management needs to be addressed throughout the project, with the only process group not being represented being the Closing process group. Notice that the last two processes in the table refer to stakeholder engagement, which means not just communication, but addressing their concerns and managing any suggestions they have for scope changes in order to prevent scope creep and yet maintain their satisfaction with the project.

2. Three New Processes—Master Planning

There are three new processes devoted towards planning in the scope, cost, and time (schedule) management knowledge areas. Why did PMI add these? Wasn’t planning being done in these areas before? Well, to illustrate why PMI is making the change, let’s have a little quiz. Under the 4th Edition PMBOK Guide, in which cost management process is the cost management plan developed:

  1. Estimate Costs
  2. Determine Budget
  3. Control Costs
  4. None of the above

The surprising answer is: D, none of the above. The cost management plan is actually developed as part of the overall project management plan in the integration knowledge area process 4.2 Develop Project Management Plan.   So the very first cost management process listed, Estimate Costs, already assumes that the cost management plan has been completed.  In a similar way, the scope management plan and the cost management plan are also subsidiary plans of the overall Project Management Plan in the 4th Edition PMBOK Guide.

PMI felt that it was important that every knowledge area be given its own separate planning process.

Process

Group

Process

Number

Process
Name
Process Description
Planning 5.1 Plan Scope Management Create Scope Management Plan
Planning 6.1 Plan Schedule Management Create Schedule Management Plan
Planning 7.1 Plan Cost Management Create Cost Management Plan

Just as in the 4th Edition, the Scope Management Plan, Schedule Management Plan, and the Cost Management Plan will be created separately and then integrated in the master planning plan, the Project Management Plan. However, in the 5th Edition, these plans will be considered to have been created by a separate process in the appropriate knowledge area. The other knowledge areas already had their own planning processes, so that makes the processes most consistent across the knowledge areas, which is what PMI apparently intended.

The next post will discuss more of the “consistency” theme by discussing how the 47 processes are named in a more consistent way.   This should make it easier for those trying to understand and memorize those processes.

The Upcoming 5th Edition of the PMBOK Guide—The New Knowledge Area


In the last post I summarized some of the new features in the 5th Edition of the PMBOK guide. In the next series of posts, I will examine each of these features to see what they tell us about current trends within PMI regarding project management.

This post looks at the fact that, whereas there are no process groups in the 5th edition, there is one new knowledge area called Stakeholder Management for a total now of 10 knowledge areas (the others are Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communications, Risk, and Procurements).

Stakeholder management used to be part of the Communications knowledge area. However, PMI recognizes that an increasing number of studies show that it is important to not only inform stakeholders, but to engage them in the decision-making process where appropriate in order to have a successful project.   This new knowledge area focuses on the importance of doing just that.

1. Stakeholder Management—From 4th Edition to 5th Edition

Here are the processes in the Communications Management knowledge area in the 4th edition.

Figure 1. Communications Management processes in the 4th Edition PMBOK® Guide.

Process

Group

Process

Number

Process
Name
Process Description
Initiating 10.1 Identify Stakeholders Identifying project stakeholders, that is, people impacted by the project, and documenting their interests, involvement, and impact on the project.
Planning 10.2 Plan Communications Determining the needs of project stakeholders for information and defining a communication approach.
Executing 10.3 Distribute Information Making relevant information available to project stakeholders.
10.4 Manage Stakeholder Expectations Communicating with project stakeholders to meet their needs and address issues as they occur.
Monitoring & Controlling 10.5 Report Performance Collecting and distributing performance information (status reports, progress measurements, forecasts) to project stakeholders.

I have highlighted those two processes, process 10.1 Identify Stakeholders and 10.4 Manage Stakeholder Expectations, which are being transferred in the 5th edition to the new Stakeholder Management knowledge area. In addition to these two processes, there will be two new processes in the Planning process group and the Monitoring & Controlling process group, called Plan Stakeholder Management and Control Stakeholders Engagement. Here’s a chart containing the new Stakeholder Management knowledge area processes.

Figure 2. Stakeholder Management processes in the 5th PMBOK® Guide

Process

Group

Process

Number

Process
Name
Process Description
Initiating 13.1 Identify Stakeholders Identifying project stakeholders, that is, people impacted by the project, and documenting their interests, involvement, and impact on the project.

 

Planning 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management  

Determining the needs of project stakeholders and defining methods of satisfying those needs.

 

Executing 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement

 

 

Build and maintain stakeholder engagement throughout project to maximize buy-in and minimize conflict.
Monitoring & Controlling 13.4 Control Stakeholders Engagement Manage any changes that are requested by stakeholders.

Note how the new process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement in the 5th Edition used to be the old process 10.4 Manage Stakeholder Expectations in the 4th Edition, with the word “Expectations” being changed now to “Engagement.” It’s just a change of one word, but understanding what is behind this change is the key to understanding the higher priority PMI now gives to Stakeholder Management.

2. Stakeholder Engagement—Wider than Communications

When you have a large number of stakeholders, you analyze them at the Initiating stage to see what level of power and interest they have with relationship to the project.

Here’s a grid, based on the horizontal axis of low interest on the left and high interest on the right, and the vertical axis of low interest on the bottom and high interest on the top. Each sector of stakeholder requires a different strategy. Each level of engagement, from Monitor, to Inform, to Satisfy, to Manage engages the group of stakeholders at a level of increasing intensity, and this intensity is reflected visually in the darkness of the shade of red in the diagram.

But it also shows that the old shoehorning of Stakeholder Management under Communications really only dealt with one quadrant of the Stakeholder Engagement process. And it is that more dimensional view of stakeholder engagement that PMI wanted to promote by making Stakeholder Management its own knowledge area.

The next post will deal with the 5 new processes that comprise the now 47 process groups in the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide.

The Upcoming 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide—10 Questions Answered


I am a member of the Orange County, California chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI-OC). I took the PMP exam prep class they put on this summer, and have been blogging since that time about various topics of project management as presented in the 4th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide.

It was brought to my attention by someone in PMI-OC that the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide is coming out at the end of this year, and that this had implications both for a) those studying for the PMP exam and b) for those who have their PMP certification, but would like to remain involved about current trends in project management.

I have gleaned as much information I could that is available about the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide based on those that have read the draft of the upcoming guide. This post contains some questions and answers that I felt many project managers would like to know about it.

1. When does the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide get published?

It is scheduled to be published on December 31, 2012.

2. Why is a 5th Edition coming out at this time?

The Project Management Institute comes out with a new edition of its PMBOK® Guide every 4 years, and the 4th Edition came out at the end of 2008.

3. How much will it cost?

I haven’t been able to find it listed yet on Amazon, although I will check back in November and update this post when the pricing information does come out.

4. When will the PMP exam be changed to reflect the changes in the 5th Edition?

If you take the exam on July 31st, 2013, you will be tested based on the 5th Edition. If you have been studying for the PMP exam based on the 4th Edition, you need to take the exam by July 30th, 2013.

5. How long is the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide?

Andy Crowe, author of the popular PMP exam prep book The PMP Exam: How To Pass On Your First Try, has expressed his concern that the 5th Edition would be longer and more cumbersome than the 4th Edition because of the increased number of processes and inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs (ITTOs).   However, much of the content has been streamlined (especially in section 3, an overview of the 47 processes), so the “meat” of the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide (minus the Annexes and Glossary) is contained in 248 pages rather than the current 345 pages for the 4th Edition, according to Ojiugo Ajunwa at Ritetrac Consulting.

6. Are there any new process groups?

No, the same five process groups of Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing apply in the 5th edition.

7. Are there any new knowledge areas?

Yes, there is one new knowledge area called Stakeholder Management, so there are now a total of 10 knowledge areas instead of nine. This topic was included as a part of the Communications Management knowledge area, and it now has its own knowledge area in Section 13 in the PMBOK® Guide (the first nine knowledge areas comprise Sections 4 through 12). It was included because it is not just important to communicate with stakeholders, but to make sure that the appropriate stakeholders are engaged in the decision-making process.

Two of the processes that used to be under the Communications Management knowledge area, Identify Stakeholders and Manage Stakeholder Expectations, have been moved to the new Stakeholder Management knowledge area. Identify Stakeholders is called the same thing in the 5th Edition but Manage Stakeholder Expectations is now called Manage Stakeholder Engagement in the 5th Edition.

8. Are there are any new processes?

There are 47 processes instead of 42. Two of the five new processes are in the new Stakeholder Management knowledge area:

  • Plan Stakeholder Management
  • Control Stakeholder Engagement

Three of the five new processes are in the Planning process group under various knowledge areas:

  • Plan Scope Management
  • Plan Schedule Management
  • Plan Cost Management

These planning activities had been considered part of the Integration knowledge area process called Develop Project Management Plan; they are considered to be their own separate process now.

9. Are there any new inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs of the processes?

According to Andy Crowe, the author of one the most popular PMP exam prep guides, The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try, there are a total of 614 inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs (ITTOs), a 19% increase from the 4th edition. As opposed to the 47 processes, the number of ITTOs makes it impractical to memorize them; trying to understand their purpose in the various processes is something that I have been concentrating on for many posts on the 4th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, and will continue to do so for the 5th Edition.

10. Does the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide take into account some of the new methodologies such as Agile?

It appears that the Section on the Project Life Cycle includes a description of the distinction between the traditional waterfall approach and the newer adaptive or agile approach which is increasingly influential in the IT application area.

This will enough for those in non-IT application areas to understand a little about what agile is about, but it probably will be insufficient for an actual practitioner of agile methodology.  They do offer a new certification called PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Professional); whether PMI will put out a corresponding Agile Body of Knowledge in the future is an important question that remains to be answered.

In the next posts I will discuss some of the implications of the contents of the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide on current trends within the practice of Project Management.