Hey, it could happen! A contrarian's approach to predictions

As we head into a new year, lots of folks have marvelous predictions about how great or terrible this year will be. Well, I'm a contrarian with an opaque crystal ball, so I have a different take on predictions for the new year. Here goes a contrarian's approach to predictions: In 2004 ...

In January, one chief technology officer will stop arbitrarily cutting project schedules by 20%. Instead, he will trust the project managers to estimate to the best of their ability and to explain the risks and rewards of the projects.

February will bring two more project teams that are ready to perform project retrospectives. They will build timelines of the events on their projects and learn what happened for each project participant. They will use this learning to reduce the time on the next projects and avoid repeating mistakes.

Johanna Rothman
Johanna Rothman

In March, three project teams and their managers will learn that agile techniques aren't a license to hack. Instead, they will learn that the agile techniques are highly disciplined. To truly use the agile techniques requires a mind-set that the whole product is greater than the piece any one person works on and that all work is reviewable and needs review.
In April, not only will the rain fall in the Northeast and create mud season, but four project managers will recognize the value of a plan written in natural language and a separate project schedule. They will develop a plan and a schedule at the beginning of the project, scheduling what they know. They will evolve the schedule as they learn more and will maintain it.
May flowers will prompt five sets of developers to integrate technical reviews into their development processes. These reviews will help them reduce the number of defects the customers discover, and they will become heroes to their organizations.
In June, six organizations will stop tracking their defects by e-mail and move to a defect-tracking system. They will discover how many defects arrive when and where their defects cluster. They will start addressing the problem modules, based on the number of defects they find in the modules.
July will bring seven managers who start managing their project portfolios. They will rank each project's importance to the organization, determine when the project can be completely funded, staffed and started. They will reduce the number of concurrent projects so that each project isn't starved of resources and projects can be completed more quickly.

In the August heat, eight hiring managers will stop writing job descriptions as if people were the sum of their skills and instead will write down what people do in their jobs as part of the job descriptions. Those managers will also learn how to use behavior-description interview questions and auditions to interview candidates. They will hire fabulous people.
As the kids return to school in September, nine managers will rebel against the rank-and-yank technique of evaluating employee performance. Instead, these managers will start writing employee evaluations based on what's important from the job description, using examples of what people have accomplished throughout the year (or not). The senior executives who are so enamored of ranking each employee will be so overwhelmed by the value in the evaluations that they will stop the ranking activities.
In October, 10 mangers will change they way they run their weekly group meetings. The managers will first define what they want to accomplish in these meetings. Instead of serial status meetings ("Dave, what did you do last week?"), the managers will use the meetings to solve problems, define processes, review books or columns and in general use them as a way to help their staffs learn new skills and solve problems jointly.
In November, 11 managers will start weekly one-on-one meetings with their employees. They will learn what each employee has accomplished in the past week, what obstacles have arisen and where the employee wants career coaching. These managers will become so successful that other employees will want to work for them.
In December, as a holiday present to themselves, 12 developers, 12 testers and 12 project managers will start a program of reading at least one book or article related to their profession every month. They will realize that ongoing learning is the key to staying current and not being a commodity (and therefore outsourced).
At the end of the year, these people will be better off than they were before.
Hey, it could happen!
Johanna Rothman consults on managing high-tech product development, focusing on project management, risk management and people management. You can reach her at jr@jrothman.com or by visiting www.jrothman.com.

(Copyright 2003 Johanna Rothman)

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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