J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

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  • Blog Post: Program Management Blog Posts at Your Fingertips

    “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra.” — H.E. Luccock Welcome to my roundup of blog posts from across Microsoft on the art and science of Program Management . The Program Manager role is a very powerful one. I think of it as a technical entrepreneur that...
  • Blog Post: Write the Story for Your Project

    Are you leading an epic adventure and don’t even know it? When you are leading a project, it helps you and those around you to have a simple story of the impact you plan to make. As one of my mentors always challenged me, “How will the world be different when you're done?” For example, when I was kicking...
  • Blog Post: Inspire a Vision with Skill

    One of the most important skills of an effective Program Manager is to inspire a vision.  If you can’t paint a story of a better future, then all bets are off. Change is tough enough.  People need a good reason.  They need to see a better future in their mind’s-eye.   They need...
  • Blog Post: The Key to Agility: Breaking Things Down

    If you find you can't keep up with the world around you, then break things down.  Breaking things down is the key to finishing faster. Breaking things down is also the key to agility . One of the toughest project management lessons I had to learn was breaking things down into more modular chunks...
  • Blog Post: The Art of the Agile Retrospective

    I’ve been asked to do a lot of Agile retrospectives around Microsoft over the years.  I don’t know how it started, but it started several years ago when somebody recommended that I lead a retrospective for their team, and then it caught fire from there.   In this post, I’ll share a simple...
  • Blog Post: Team Execution Patterns and How the Work Gets Done

    I was white boarding and naming some team execution patterns the other day with a few colleagues.  Here's what we ended up with: Core Team "One-Man Band" + Best Efforts vTeam “Community Will Do It” Matrix Projects Just because you're on a team, doesn't mean it's teamwork. I've seen the...
  • Blog Post: Agile Life-Cycle Frame

    As a program manager, it’s tough to shape a process with the team, if the team can’t “see” it.  When you have a mental model you can share with the team, things move a lot faster.   The problem with life cycles and end-to-end processes, is that people don’t usually know what the end-to...
  • Blog Post: Presenting Numbers with Skill

    At Microsoft, we get a lot of chances to present numbers.   Whether it’s making a project pitch, or writing our reviews and quantifying our impact, numbers are everywhere.   And when we aren’t the one presenting, we are often reviewing the numbers that other people are presenting...
  • Blog Post: Spend $100 to Prioritize Your Opportunities

    The key to shipping value is making sure your users, value what you ship.  On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we used a technique we called "Spend $100."  This was a highly effective way to prioritize our backlog and bubble up the most valuable things to do.  It...
  • Blog Post: Value is the Short-Cut for Building Better Products

    It's easy to build what's possible.  It's tough to build what's valued. If there's one thing I've learned from shipping stuff, doing competitive assessments, working closely with customers, and doing a lot of in-depth feature analysis ... it's that value is the short-cut for building better products...
  • Blog Post: Agile Methodology in Microsoft patterns & practices

    “I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” -- Vincent Van Gogh I find myself mentoring on Agile practices and Agile methodology on a regular basis.  More and more teams are needing to stay connected with customers, respond to change, and flow value along the...
  • Blog Post: Job Creation

    The cycle of change is short in the knowledge age and digital economy.  Jobs end.  We create new ones.   Do we create new ones fast enough?  Do we have the durable and evolvable skills to make it in our emerging landscape? The cycle of change used to be longer.  One reason...
  • Blog Post: Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Framework

    Here is a quick map of the process groups, knowledge areas, and processes in the PMBOK ( Project Management Body of Knowledge ).  Regardless of the PMI certification, I think it’s useful to know how the knowledge for project management is organized by experts and professionals.   This...
  • Blog Post: Elevator Pitches for Projects

    As a Program Manager, one of the things I’ve had to do a lot is, “pitch projects.”   Whether it’s pitching a project or talking about a project in the hall, it helps to have an elevator pitch that sticks.  The ideal elevator pitch for a project is simple, sticky, and makes the point fast...
  • Blog Post: Why Teams Fail

    One of the questions I get asked is, “Why do teams fail?” While there are lots of reasons, here are some of the most common patterns I see: Lack of clarity on the customer Lack of priorities Too much open work Not enough doers (aka ... too many chiefs, not enough Indians) Single points of failure One...
  • Blog Post: Quick Tips on Work Breakdown Structures

    I’m a fan of Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) for project success.  For me, they’ve been the closest thing to a “Silver Bullet” when it comes to project management. Early in the project, I like to co-create the Work Breakdown Structure for the overall project with the team, so everybody knows the...
  • Blog Post: Visualizing Roadmaps for Execution Excellence

    One of the first things I do to get a handle on execution is to map out the work in flight in the form of a roadmap. When there are multiple teams shipping stuff, one of the best ways to improve coordination, collaboration, and planning is to make a simple roadmap. Just even putting the roadmap together...
  • Blog Post: Benefits Realization Over ROI

    Picking projects purely based on ROI is a narrow lens. Sandra A. Swanson writes about  using a broader approach for picking projects in her article, “All Things Considered”, in PM Network magazine. Swanson quotes R. Max Wideman, author of A Management Framework for Project, Program, and Portfolio...
  • Blog Post: Product Success Frame for High Customer Impact

    What proven practices have you seen are vital behaviors that significantly contribute to customer success? … That’s a common question I get, having spent the bulk of my time at Microsoft in patterns & practices.  In fact, that’s a question the Windows Azure team asked me last Summer, as a way...
  • Blog Post: Test-Driven Product Design

    One way to drive more effective product design is to start with scenarios.  One way to think of this is “Persona-based scenarios with goals.”  You can use the scenarios as test cases.  The scenarios can help you evaluate the design and they can help you evaluate implementation.  Simply...
  • Blog Post: You Against Your Lists

    As a PM (Program Manager) at Microsoft, one of the things I end up doing a lot is making lists.  Lists of priorities, lists of features, lists of scenarios, lists of open issues, lists of ideas, etc. I know a lot of people makes lists.  But what's the difference that makes the difference? I...
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