About Glenn Briskin

Glenn is an experienced project manager, consultant, and IT leader working for the Washington State Patrol.

Major Pat

SOS page.jpgI was thinking about focusing on what can go right more than what can go wrong.  I remembered Major Pat.

Pat McAdoo was the leader of our flight in Squadron Officers School (SOS) in 1977 when I was an Air Force officer.  I think that my three months at SOS were my best three months ever in some ways.  Marcia gave birth to our son.  I was busy from early to late with 11 other people trying to get through the same challenges.  We were expected to learn and grow and commit to one another.  We did sports and PT every day.

Major McAdoo was (probably still is) a fiery little fighter pilot sort of guy.  Fighter pilots tended to be like that because they had to be tough, brave, and fit into a small space.  Pat was also a scholar and really embraced the leadership and management learning he wanted to impart to us.  The thing I remember most vividly was about how we should focus on what can go right.

Our flight had many virtues, but sports wasn’t one of them.  The 78 SOS flights in a class at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama all competed in 3 sports – soccer, volleyball, and flickerball.  Volleyball was played per standard rules.  Soccer was modified to take out headers.  Flickerball was a mash-up of basketball, football, rugby, and maybe some other games.

We played 3 matches of each sport.  One each Friday.  Nine in all.  We finished the class about 4 wins and 5 losses.  Our first four Friday Night Lights were losses.  3 soccer games and one volleyball game.  At volleyball game 2, we finally played well enough to win.  Maybe the other team wasn’t very good, but we felt great.  During the yelling and celebrating at the end, something different happened.  After each loss, Major Pat, always an active player on the team, would ask “What can we do better?”  We’d think of things and work on them at practice.  In the midst of our celebration after the long delayed win, one of our more with it guys yelled “What can we do better?”  We started to blurt stuff out.  Pat stopped us.  He said “Wrong question.  Ask your self ‘What did we do right?’ Knowing what you did right is more important than knowing what you did wrong.”

So, that stuck with me and has always proved true.  Understand and reinforce what can go right.

Thanks for reading.

P.S.  While all this fun learning and struggle was going on, my amazing (pregnant) wife was living with me in Montgomery in late fall in a single wide trailer in a park with 300 other single wide trailers exactly the same.  We had 300 pounds of our regular stuff with the rest in transit from overseas to the Pacific Northwest.  She helped me, read about Lamaze in a book, showed up at all our games, and was the calm one at the birth of our son.  What a woman!  The things we do for love.  Thanks, Marcia.

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Come Back?

I’ve been semi-retired for six months and turned 67 this week.  Why am I thinking I need to start-up this blog again?

I left it behind because everyday I’d hear or see something that would make me think “blog post!”.  It was like when I was a photographer for the school paper and yearbook.  Everything was about the photo, not being in the action.  So I stopped carrying a camera everywhere.  With writing, if you are writing you have your camera (brain) wherever you go.  So, I stopped writing.

But I’m starting to think that writing about stuff made me think more deeply about what I was experiencing.  Now, I think “That’s a good or useful thought” and I forget it 5 minutes later.  Kind of like “I’m going to look that up” and then when you sit down to do a search you forget what it was you were going to search.  Sigh.

I read a book from a Google scientist Tan called Search Inside Yourself about being mindful.  Maybe writing is a form of meditation.  You are mostly just thinking about what you are writing and other stuff can wait.

I still work part time helping people with their projects.  Part of me wants to always do that.  It’s the hobby that I’m best at.  But, there are other things to do, too and I’m not great at balancing things out.  Part time grows into a full time obsession.  So, will writing this blog help with that?

My last job was less about project management and more about strategic planning.  Strategic technology planning.  How we apply our money to technology in the ways that get the best results for the organization.  I think I came up with some pretty good ideas.  They were rooted in ideas that evolved over years and were somewhat captured in this blog.  I’d like to write more about strategic planning, technology roadmaps, portfolio management, etc.

So, I guess I’ve restarted.  Let’s see where it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Taking a Break

Dear Readers,

I haven’t written a post in almost a month.  It feels pretty good.  When I was in the middle of my streak of about 75 weekly posts, it seemed like every article I read, radio feature I heard, or conversation was a source of a new blog post about the other side of risk.  That isn’t happening now.

I think my idea of writing about how my projects over the years trended to success when I paid attention to what could go right more than what could go wrong has run its course.  Finding new ways to express the same theme isn’t saying enough new things anymore.  Recent posts have been looking for new direction.lounging

I’m going to take a break, read through all the posts, consider what I’m trying to do in portfolio management and IT governance in my new job, and figure out where to go next with blogging, writing, and teaching.  There’s a bigger picture to paint.

I think I have about 20 – 50 people who regularly look at this blog, and lots more who happen on to it via searches for topics.  To all of you, thanks very much for reading and occasionally commenting on what I have written.  It’s been very satisfying for me to write about the other side of risk in hopes of helping others have more successful projects.  If you are just finding this, enjoy poking through the words and pictures.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll let you know on this blog where I will be going next when I figure it out.

Glenn Briskin

Project Management and Scrum

I’m feeling guilty for being a little late on this post.  Went to a class last week and I’m getting ready to go on vacation.  Hang in there with me during June as I will be travelling.

I took a great class on being a Scrum Product Owner from SolutionsIQ in Redmond last week.  I want to share my class experience because it provided a great example of how agile is important to project managers who want to find the other side of risk.  Agile structures your work so you are constantly challenging uncertainty to drive out opportunities.

old-classroom-720695The class content was great, the instructors were engaging and knowledgeable, and the class was run in a way that allowed students to learn from one another.  At the end of the class, I was happy with what I learned.  But, I paged through my class notebook and saw lots of pages we didn’t cover.  They all looked like really interesting ideas.  Was the class a success from a project management perspective?  This is the project manager’s dilemma with agile.  How do we commit to scope, schedule, and budget to meet our client’s expectations?  Let’s look closer.

The class was run as an “agile” class.  We used the agile Scrum process to understand and decide on what we wanted to learn within the curriculum; and how we learned it.

Time and cost were fixed constraints.  We finished on time and the class cost exactly what it was supposed to cost.  We got a book of slides and articles at the start of class – the potential scope, but we didn’t cover all of them.  But, everything in the book seemed important.  Shouldn’t I expect everything in the curriculum to be covered?  Would we be successful if we didn’t cover all the slides made available?   How much scope we could complete within fixed time and budget constraints was an uncertainty.  Sound familiar?  Continue reading

Improvisational Projects

Project management success can be as much improvising and adapting as it is planning and controlling. Opportunities to find what can go right constantly present themselves.

contact_improvisation
How to effectively improvise can be the challenge. An old friend posted the secret to improvising success on Facebook quoting from a commencement address by Stephen Colbert at Northwestern University. Thanks, David. Enjoy.

“AFTER I GRADUATED FROM HERE, I MOVED DOWN TO CHICAGO AND DID IMPROV. NOW THERE ARE VERY FEW RULES TO IMPROVISATION, BUT ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS TAUGHT EARLY ON IS THAT YOU ARE NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE SCENE. EVERYBODY ELSE IS. AND IF THEY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE SCENE, YOU WILL NATURALLY PAY ATTENTION TO THEM AND SERVE THEM. BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU’RE IN THE SCENE TOO. SO HOPEFULLY TO THEM YOU’RE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON, AND THEY WILL SERVE YOU. NO ONE IS LEADING, YOU’RE ALL FOLLOWING THE FOLLOWER, SERVING THE SERVANT. YOU CANNOT WIN IMPROV.

AND LIFE IS AN IMPROVISATION. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT AND YOU ARE MOSTLY JUST MAKING THINGS UP AS YOU GO ALONG.

AND LIKE IMPROV, YOU CANNOT WIN YOUR LIFE.

EVEN WHEN IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE YOU’RE WINNING.

I HAVE MY OWN SHOW, WHICH I LOVE DOING. FULL OF VERY TALENTED PEOPLE READY TO SERVE ME. AND IT’S GREAT. BUT AT MY BEST, I AM SERVING THEM JUST AS HARD, AND TOGETHER, WE SERVE A COMMON IDEA, IN THIS CASE THE CHARACTER STEPHEN COLBERT, WHO IT’S CLEAR, ISN’T INTERESTED IN SERVING ANYONE. AND A SURE SIGN THAT THINGS ARE GOING WELL IS WHEN NO ONE CAN REALLY REMEMBER WHOSE IDEA WAS WHOSE, OR WHO SHOULD GET CREDIT FOR WHAT JOKES.”

My first iPhone post.

Thanks for reading.

Photo credit:http://www.sunflowerfestival.de/programm-2010/band-details/article/78/contact-impr.html

Risk Management, Outcomes, and Benefits Realization

If you apply risk management completely, identifying opportunities as well as risks, you can better define the outcomes and benefits of your project.

Risk management is how we deal with uncertainty on a project. Things that can go wrong are the risks we typically look for:

  • Rising or underestimated costs
  • Client dissatisfaction
  • Employee turnover
  • Delayed or incorrect material delivery
  • Technology disappointments, etc.

After all, we consider a risk to be something bad. It’s the way we use the word “risk.”

flip pancakeBut, uncertainty also applies to things that can go right – opportunities for more positive outcomes. Any time we find a negative risk, a useful exercise is to flip the way we look at it. Sometimes we can find opportunities. Let’s look at the earlier list and flip the risks to express them as opportunities:

Continue reading