Pragmatic 20: The Critical Path

19 April, 2014


Many people bandy-around the expression The Critical Path but what does it mean? The truth is that it’s a part of Project Management and this phrase carries negative connotations for a lot of people but it’s a tool to help us get to where we need to be.

Transcript available
Welcome to pragmatic pragmatic is a weekly discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology exploring the real-world trade-offs we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services can change our lives nothing is as simple as it seems this episode is sponsored by type form and will talk more about them during the show on your host John Geagea and I'm joined by the show's producer Ben Alexander Heydon Ben January I am doing exceptionally well because this is episode 20 and I like you know I like round numbers for some reason every 10 episodes I display shake something up a little bit differently so are the 1st to was one thing different but the other thing is different at this particular episode is that for the first time are in the show's history I have said I asked you actually what you wanted me to talk about and it was something that was not on the list of things to talk about a new sort of threw it at me this which is going to such a dangerous thing now is legs that I got my bombing Arjan unite you know I'm either series what have I done it is funny in elegance because I was almost yellow value before is adjusted along with that was was the next one on the list are really good but learner click okay we will but sadly I think you picked a cracker of a topic and it's weird because it's a sort of thing that I've been around my whole career and I never stop to think that anyone would be interested in hearing me talk about this so arm what are we going talk would you like me to talk about today well I want to talk about the critical path and the local boughs of the one I wanted like about is the critical path method rate not Buckminster Fuller of his grace and artwork as you although it is amazing as a great show that one race I'm interested in the process rate the Azalea are because of the I wrote about a bot into and it looks really called me by Dundee gets it something they fully understand a right cool while arm very good then I suppose we should do we should dive in so ultimately it comes back to project management and honestly I do understand that is a very often hated discipline and as a litany of really good reasons as to why it's not I liked sort of discipline or function if you IPO called that but that the problem is that project managers are to quite a broad topic if you read what Wikipedia has to say on the arguments they arm source of all knowledge and wisdom apparently they have a nice definition I think says it well which is our project management is the process and activity of planning organising motivating and controlling resources procedures and protocols to achieve specific goals is pretty pretty damn broad right there but they does encapsulate what project management is all about so to get to the critical path method and understand what's how it applies how you use and what one has to do with we have to because it is an aspect of project manager we have to understand what on earth project measurement actually is which is what we starting with project management the funny thing is most don't realise that every day what any given person may do is actually a form of project manager we do it subconsciously after the most part and it may not be structured it might be written down but it actually so many tasks that we do is don't stop and think we don't realise okay I'm actually managing a little mini project whatever that project might be and I owned I keep using the word project obviously in a going to brush your teeth in the morning your caller project I guess it's project that's that's pretty often a product from me I guess it will depend on the was important riding my day is as the Arab Russ rate and the other day about the project rate that is our shall is several complex ducts and it happened in the rate order so absolutely right waltz and this is the hope this is the whole point of what will do is illustrate using a relatively simple example of everyday example now obviously you don't write all this stuff down necessarily but it ever is just to illustrate the point so arm for the next little while and they keep coming back to this example so we are going to start with I need to get some Munro apples and I have my reasons for picking that specifically and we need to get a before the kids get home are otherwise the kids will be angry or upset or hungry choose one of those is a list of activities you might need to actually perform in a certain order to complete that task all of those tasks to be broken down little subtasks and each of the subtasks need to be performed in a certain order to achieve that end result so the saying it's more than unconscious are subconscious on unconscious goodness liquor arm unless you sleep our project managing I guess anyhow are as a subconscious thing but the point that I guess that you don't write it down because I guess the bottom line is that the end result is not a big deal of the repercussion is that the kids are cranky well okay they're cranky but that's pretty not the end of the world's oldest eat something else I suppose like a no broccoli or something but anyway I think that before you even consider the detail of trying to plan something and doing actual genuine quote unquote project management using whatever tools we can talk about this three or maybe four conditions that would dictate I think when you would actually consciously choose to plan something a structured way the first one I think is when the repercussions of failing at the end at the result are extremely unpalatable expensive or dangerous when the second one is when many or most of the tasks are not straightforward and cannot be subconsciously executed third one in when there are a significant list of tasks that are difficult to keep in your head in any one moment in time so the four forces kind of the fourth one well I hate to say this one that EOL be honest in my career half the time this is the case so potentially number four fourth reason is your boss tells you need to do it and I kind of sucks and makers of a copout but frankly I've been told to produce plenty of Gantt charts over the years that really in a did not benefit me in any way shape or form and guide that's tragic but that's life right click do in rough drafts in our English class their eyes and do an animated and I was just got back out rate anything they go back and figure) I think I see it as its tool and our tool that you can use to help improve your end result that the problem is though that often it will not improve the end result will simply be a tritone drain time suck but when someone else tells you that you need to do it and you know straight from the outset that no matter what you do it's not going to improve the end results and eventually was going get beaten overhead by your boss and you could be wrong rate well that's true they were you could be wrong but anyway let's not dwell too much of how, before the first really one's manner so that the repercussions are is whether or not it's straightforward and it's a quantity of tasks these two great for the monthly to keep you had any one time so I think those are the three main reasons why you would want to consciously plan and structure your tasks so now you made a decision that you structure your tasks the method or the tool that is most popular in the world today shortly people heard and I mentioned before is the Gantt chart so the Gantt chart was developed by Henry Gantt who would have who would guess that arm or maybe not the first name anyway in the 1910s so it's now officially hundred years old and thereabouts and it's project planning tool that displays all the tasks in a linear rack x-axis with respect to time it's evolved to include resource allocations and couple features he remembered it's been mostly unchanged from its original design over 100 years ago and a little known fact about the Gantt chart is actually a Polish gentleman by the name of Carol and Lemke I think it's pronounced in 1896 developed what he called the high monogram which is the translation from Polish to English the high monogram through his work operating a steel mill but the problem was that it was written in Polish and there was a version of its arm translated into Russian neither of which was actually widely publicised in English until 1931 and when it was translated into English are irrigated already sort of been around for a while so Gantt was a crew actually credited as the original creator of the Gantt chart you still carries name but the truth is he wasn't actually the first tonic on the idea anyway there's a lot of software around these days that can produce Gantt charts so one of the big ones is Microsoft Project which actually I think it was Microsoft project but now they call it project professional 2013 is the current version more serious software however for construction projects that I've personally been involved with over the last saw six or seven years is actually some software bade by a little company called Oracle and it's called prime Avera its current version is actually the name it usually goes by when people say prime Avera sometimes site usually mother say P6 this is a prime Avera edition number six version 6 size I (Wayne P6 and you have a knowing nod Yep that sounds painful knowing nod you painful is the prime Avera is a primavera think of other buster well are yes it's I sounds much more seriously set well the thing is that what once you'd see some of these prime Avera Gantt charts that have come out after these projects I've been on and some of them take 36 pages of a three arm so that Satan are so that's a 11 x 17" our paper geophysics page that is enough to melt your brain basically but MET said you huge projects these are the others I $350 million pipeline so it's not like he's wanted to tasks like lay pipe turn on water you can go break that down a little bit however for all that expensive brilliant beautiful cow is a brilliant anyway professional software that there is out there there's also a few free versions and I've actually also used a one called Gantt project and there is a link assurances for the Mac there are also are think actually there is a version also the windows and these wise cross-platform answer possibly one for Lennox I've used that actually in a professional capacity the last I work for we didn't actually have a license for Microsoft project so were required as one of the tenders that we submitted to submit a Gantt chart with our project plan as part of the tender submission and so I used Gantt project to create that and CA was okay but only non-used moxa project in his method decade more and yet it was just it was not as nice an experience but frankly it did the job and honestly it's well it's it's open source is freeware and it does the job at sort of the open office equivalent of arm of project anyway or create a Gantt chart that is good enough for a lot of people need so and I've actually used it later on will talk about that so the concept is simple enough right you make a list of all tasks or subtasks you assign a duration to each one of them that represented as a bar and the buyer sort of extending the right in a bar graph like the weather bars go up and down the basket left and right and is the Bible into the bar as a duration of the task after that you've got a list of task you then can connect each task to each other task upon which it depends so otherwise you're you're creating your dependencies so I have to finish customer one Friday task number two that sort of thing and I don't have to all linked together obviously but you have to highlight the dependencies between which tasks some tasks are independent and some tasks aren't once you got that you create a map of all your tasks how they relate what the timeline is for each of those and it illustrates what needs to happen by when you can then use that plan backwards and figure out what you need to do first is old point go back to earlier example so let's say a final deliverable milestone will be six Apple six mono apples in the fruit bowl by 4 PM as the kids go behind by four and is now deadline disorder set will with restarting at 11 AM the morning so your five hours to do this and is plenty right I want to break it down with some pretty simple steps and these are not necessarily in a final all of it that the can happen empty the old the old fruit now the free box just to make your fruit now that's had it needs to go in the bin that can take time and effort so go do that sickening Faisal close and get dressed simple enough find the car keys and start the car our next one is either muesli bar why because you know will be cranky when you get home writing is Ivana somewhere are the newer dry to the gas station and fill the car up because a long gas you don't have enough fuel to make it all the way out and all my backing and at stop drive to the fruit shop or orchid if you're lucky enough to live near an orchid that actually has these apples and the drive home quite obviously and then put the beautiful apples in your empty fruit bowl and that is your final completion milestone and that's that's the end of the of the Gantt chart so the sequence of driving probably doesn't really matter. The gas station you there but you are at one point either on the way out on the way back but it's implicitly in this example that you have to stop there at some point but because we want to be forward planning is all about planning and project managing well when you do stop the gas station first and that's fine and also as a side to make sure We got we go about music Dalmatia when I cranky to but I'm not necessarily advocating that you should be eating when you're driving but it's a muesli bar EEE minimal distraction it's like a bowl of soup or something which I can't imagine directly when you're driving anyway irrespective please respect your local laws and do not take this as any kind of advice for the purposes of illustration we can have our muesli bar in one hand while driving at some point in our inner Gantt chart because we can do that task in parallel where we should not the question the Lord to decide common sense to decide if it's ice on the road and is so that it is the thing though is about emptying the fruit bowl is we don't technically have to empty the bowl of fruit arm of our winter before you leave the house when we get back but we have to do it before we put the fresh apples in so because we side to side forward plan as well will do that first before we go out the door to make sure everything all adduction arousal Meissen good going home for the upper limit with that were done so the rest of the activities beyond the ones I just put I've quoted individually are essentially are the sequential media close on before you get the car keys and start the car and drive out the garage because my going around naked or in some criminal close I guess maybe it doesn't matter that when assuming you have some, level of decency and theology that you need to do is to start the car so you can't drive a car around and find his vessel pretty straightforward obvious and very sequential so what I've done is I've created a Gantt chart for this using Gantt project and is linked to in the show nice I've got our PNG file are and also have the RGA and file which can be opened by the software if you're really curious and what does is it illustrates arm the float switch will talk available later after emptying out the fruit bowl and a muesli bar and all the dependencies between the tasks will come back to that in a little bit and experiment a little bit further are and for those unable sort of reader notes as you go then feel free to check out later if you're if you're interested so that orders press pause on the Gantt charts and now I talk a bit about perchance per charts I'm not sure have you heard of perchance performing I've well I've seen these simple example of it on the our project management with you. I think I'm the crick about method is to be up yet it looks like nothing is in before a very different country it is an the reason I bring up her chances because there is a sort of a loose may be a causal connection perhaps between the critical path method and is are and per charts and that's why I'm bringing up they were developed around the same time so what is per stand for and how is it different from a Gantt chart or pert stands for project evaluation and review technique was developed in 1957 by the U.S. Navy and a pert chart resembles more of a state transition diagram if you know what that means the tasks are referred to as nodes and each node contains the information about that task or at least the arm information is in the node style does the original purchaser actually did the original are pert chart had was referred to now is activity on arrow so as the arrows go between the different states she would put the detail of the activity on the arrow whereas its former that's all for now favour now and it's now more of an activity on the node see show the details of your activity on the individual nodes and the arrows going between the states are in facts are empty lives to narrow with no other information on Caesar a subtle difference but in any case it that's what was become popular for a bunch of reasons will get to each of these nodes will contain information about the task in question though obviously have the name of the task the expected otherwise known as normal duration an early start time an early finish time a late start time in the late finish time and the crowd favourite it contains slack slack I know contains slack unknown also known as float which I mentioned about a few minutes ago which responsive slack you work me I wish I I hope that they do, because honestly slack is pretty cool unfortunately not think they need to advertise these seem to have figured out how to create a analyst without spending any money so exactly exactly you but like Apple sort of in some respects anyhow so the point is that Saddam is a point yes there is are the point is each of the tasks is connected to each of its dependent tasks and ends up looking a little bit like a web sort of lookalike spies were Connor now mostly items in that list of things early start time Ellie finished metal pretty self-explanatory but the one that isn't so much is the idea of float is one of his float was it was me the idea of a float has to do with task concurrency whereby I guess if a task must be completed by the end milestone but you could be conducted to conduct that task in parallel to another set of tasks then technically you could float that up and back down the timeline you could say I could bring that forward I could push back so long as it doesn't go any further than this line I will still get it done in time to meet my milestone my final milestone that's the less the whole point of five of float and float is meaningless if you have a single path pert or single path Gantt chart it only applies if you have set a series of tasks that you that are in parallel I guess it's our interval software that the developing purchase is not uncommon for people to prepare purchase are in conventional drawing tools that the cheaper you are more readily available such as video even for example or even PowerPoint I've seen and done in PowerPoint but honestly both projects and primavera have got pert analysis tools including them so you can use them and you know it works boats are in any case the last pert I was involved with was actually back it more tell in 1997 and I haven't come across them in any of the projects I've worked on incense (Australia and where does Mena not used it as I haven't seen them and I'm come across them in my line of work there may be very popular and in some industry just not part of that psycho couldn't say for sure but 100 years on certainly my observation based on all the projects I've been involved with and what I've heard in and seen the Gantt chart is still the king so hundred years on the Gantt is still looking basically anyway on my talk anymore really about purchase but the interesting because as I say they relate to that same time time and they were partly a part of the inspiration for the critical path method so before we go any further I was wondering that if you tell us a little bit about time form forms are a key component in asking questions online but up until now the Miller work to design configure and administer and after all that the results of usually unflattering the formulas out of the ticker some of the problems make it easier to get something basic up the creek something great with them still hard we need is a tool that is use feature rich and something that looks and works great on any device and this is what that one comes in tape forms are beautifully designed and have cross-platform compatibility baked in the killer to look and work differently on dust tarps on smart phones and tablets design is about how it works in tape forms are built to really work regardless of the device the platform itself is a joy use of this customer creating a tape form and is user and reacting with one UI sexy clean fast and design in complex series of questions meet simple to the dashboard experiences focused on asking and answering one question at a time so it doesn't feel overwhelming and nobody gets lost tape from champions good user experience in design this helps you to create a space in which users will be more willing to answer and were likely to give honest answers from customer feedback and surveys can't assume many pages that organisation in the classroom tape from lesser imagination fly people using tape forms and a variety of ways to make interactive stories holiday cards giving presentations Avatar creation the list goes on and on tape forms the only online form builder that lets you get unlimited responses for free as many questions as you want as many entries as you get tape from doesn't limit your interaction it just lets you ask I suddenly for a limited time tape forms offering a three month free trial of the new tape form pro service checkup we can build by visiting www.duct tape form dark calm/Fiat Lux if you like what you see and sign up you should use the coupon code Fiat Lux to get your free three months thank you tape five sputtering the shell and to make it easier for people to getting knowledge of the better Tyson they so much that Ben's are now I'd like to talk about the critical path methods were absorbed in building up to and so hopefully is not too much of a letdown only you may be thinking at anything I just talked about thanks for the high level crash course in project management John see it as one of the reasons I ate wanted to dog about is starting with arm with our Ida engineer Lorenzo a couple but we could go about arm yes you used only focus and Adam and I could say was never able to get into it and is often struggled with this for a long time I cannot organise my own time and when you do work on doing unite around even our staff and getting things done and you know it just I get it I get the ADF is not really work for me and it's always seemed like it just was: holding a little bit you and you and and and I know all that's unite sounds bad and admit it is bad and disorganised but every time I've tried some sort of time management or personal productivity thing it just ends up being more a work rate like we're talking about with your son and your boss asked you to do it greatly I and so that we would like in a good task which is our new IIs out that basically it combines all your calendars as well as reminders which I love reminders like I really like reminders that seems to me in the one thing at our stuff and it has a URL since it is a really cool happens we were talking about a boat in really stuck with me to make what why is this weird thing the thing I like and I don't wake things like the lake clearer or are you was really minimal but it just seems to be like when I just use a ductile nine helix should have a clinic checklist should I should use some I only focus on weight spend two months learning how to do it and because only this is this so for likes and these projects redoing minutes is a huge amount of stuff rate and I think I hit all three of the horrors that all four of those things greatly mostly the kinky design they had shall so understanding what it even means is really helpful it is good that you wonder that okay cool well that's good and I'm glad you've got something out of that and hopefully the people was well but I guess the point I'm getting at is that in order to understand what on earth are critical path method as it applies to project management and it improved and the tool that you use typically federating is a pert chart or a Gantt chart so anyway I guess what would gets me about the critical path" is that it's become used as an expression and I really hate it when that happens but his expressions I've heard are and all that these expressions distill air quotes and frontier head with our you had tilted to the side Roy Rosler ROI slightly and our little tone of sarcasm again where on the critical path right now this is a critical path activity it does some pretty intense and we are critical path here people and I buy here it too often and it is it's like fingers and the chalkboard right it it is DSS that that irritating thing in the in in the back of my spine and I just it frustrates me because the critical path method is a good thing but it's not ASI everyone likes to say I wet wet wet critical path at site will easily critical path activity yes or no know then stop saying that it is anyway so I guess like all good expressions that encapsulate what it was originally a good idea attending overused usually by people don't understand what they mean and that devalues the expression overall such that when it is used in the correct context people tend to roll their eyes and go buzzword bingo and like I just kinda did write like disruption and while I was in a state at two more examples I can name. My head up proactive and disruption synergies in our hay synergies and Awami wetness energy are voluntary there was one Stephen Covey's right why Gosling was so surprised the Big Dipper ordered by gads is beyond me as I go with we need to be proactive about this and I hear that I once a week is what is that even means even know what that means when people when people say that to me I might thinking to myself DDX you know what that means being proactive would be not actually test would be you not come to me and telling me I need to be proactive in fact if you're being proactive you would have come to me at all to tell me that slap slap slap slap slap come online so that the correct usage as you pointed out is not the critical path but if it's full exactly the critical path method is a good couple are linked in the shallows please check them out it was developed in the late 1950s are around about the same time as per chart was was was developed by the U.S. Navy but it was done by our two people guy called Morgan Walker he was from DuPont collaborating with James Kelly Jr of Remington Rand and the thing is that of my guess was little arm little known fact is that the year an early form of the critical path method was used and partly attributed to the success of the Manhattan Project are during the Second World War which is rather interesting wasn't fully fleshed out here with all the maths and editing behind it until later on till the late 50s and everything and name of it was also partly attributed to our one of the expressions that was used in the ER that the paper was put out on per chart originally and 57 as well so there is a muscle and connections there that dialogue so I thought was interesting to me with mentioning so okay what the hell is it was build up essentially the method is the idea of mapping the path between the longest paths between tasks to get to the end deliverable or milestone and you take into account the earliest and the latest each activity can start and finish without making a project any longer so if that doesn't really make sense it's not so much about the path but it's the idea of iteration that matters the method is about iteration so once you plan your project are there ways that you can shuffle around tasks and say what I get this task done before that task had the dependencies one by one a fire unable to break into subtasks and an shuffle the order of them work and run some in parallel will that improve my final deliverable date will because what was a critical path item can be broken down into sub- items and set okay wealth of the supplements really need is one item that is actually on the critical path between start to finish therefore I should throw resources at that so if I can do that I can reduce the amount of time for that individual task or subtasks and that therefore means logically I've just reduced the amount of time it takes to get from start to finish so what it does is it if it's a method of analysing your perch out of your Gantt chart and you can there's a bunch of mathematics monologue to go into that if you want is some stuff in the article we can qualitatively assess that I mean I have issues with the qualitative assessment of schedules which will talk about the minute but honestly arm it was the first I think first real attempts with the pert sort of started out I guess but that the method of iterating and spitting out tasks and identifying what the critical path was sort of goes hand-in-hand with either a Gantt chart perch up with a management tool you try to use to plan so in terms of concurrency concurrency is what a project manager wants to achieve they will have concurrency and people she can throw out a project because what you try do with with critical path is is a I guess is you're trying to optimise for end date for overall duration not cost because you try to reduce your duration you say okay I've got an infant budget I can add 10,000 people are to do one task so serve it taking arm 10,000 hours if I take one hour is over 10,000 people working in parallel course in others that's BS that's not the way it works exactly but in there sometimes is difficult to do that with mortal inanimate as well but that the issue is likely let's say in our example okay arm so will go back to our Apple example so by increasing the number of people we can now start to form some activities concurrently so let's they are now serving a person a person be personalised the ones going onto the driving person be as their assistant who is at home one person is getting dressed person bigger be finding the keys and stain the car in parallel okay that works that's just saved us one of our elements of time monitor task for the time now the other thing is that while person a is out of the house person beacon into the fruit bowl is nothing we just put in parallel with the yellow way of another person so now they can come along and what we've done is we've reduce the overall project schedule by 2/7 of the total duration just by adding an extra person examining the critical path and saying you know what I can now add resources to reduce and bring back my end date and time now maybe didn't have to do that and on the Gantt chart i.e. I've done earlier again hand up near I'm sorry there's limitations to the tool because what I've done is I've gone and said our every task is a day because these management tools don't work in terms of hours I couldn't create a chart that started at 11 AM and finish at 4 PM I tried no can do it only works in whole days unfortunately and I even I left the weekend thing turned on so you please ignore the numbers on the top of the charts and and yes every task is a day-long okay whatever army assume it's like 30 minutes each task it doesn't really matter it is meant to be illustrative of a gate so this whole exercise of what we're doing here by adding an extra person there is a name for that and this is another buzzword that has been overused but as per the critical path and arm method they describe that activity is fast tracking so that is the origin as I understand it anyway the expression fast tracking so now we have a whole bunch of extra words never cabin we can all speak management BS whenever we like in the great okay so to be honest I know too much else to say about critical path to what I do have something else to say is how do you use these tools to actually be a useful project manager is one of things that I realise it's a little bit on the friends but frankly what's the good of having tools if you don't use them correctly I think that there are two big issues but is a lot more than just two issues in total but the two big issues with effective project management but so often drive the negative behaviours and responses that people have when they are affected by schedule or a timeline or a deadline milestone up against and that sort of the NEC then feed into mistrust and lack of faith lack of belief in the usefulness of the schedule the pert the Gantt chart whatever the heck they're using and of course by extension a project manager that put them together so the first and biggest when I think is incorrectly broken down tasks durations and dependencies the problem is that too many people in project management are disconnected from what they are actually managing so in construction projects below involve a lot of construction projects and there are numerous occurrences when the project manager simply does not appreciate what is required with the software development because their experiences in civil construction there once you set your concrete breakup and iterate on sale maybe we could lay little bit better if we know tried again but iterations unheard of right unless a simpler major drama like I was that the concrete ancestors after three days of starting a powder and fall apart okay what is real can fly right this bridge may fall down as a direct result of not careful now I might do that again but was software iteration is part of the process whereas with setting concrete is not so that they are but but they attack their schedule in such a way that leads to essentially it wet where there is no iteration of the software and I say why cable you have a task complete software when you're done you're done in that city move onto the next the next thing what about bugs without the defects without iteration rate that is none of that because this is like pouring concrete right now that's like is making me think of the doomed start-up here which we like about patterns that are how the pattern one UK abs authority of the assets in its summer it's on the list the number is non-specific this is is a guideline anyway I've been the programmer on the electrical design I've been though you listen to electrical site supervisor a lot of what you do and I sort of roles is trying to explain to project management how long things are going take because it's that masturbating to do is a need to assemble this into a schedule report back to their management deigned in come back down to you and say you need to do this quicker you are the critical path of a bar or lesson thing right so the other issue arm with the breaking down also still on the issue of breaking down tasks durations and dependencies on the duration and the parallelism problem of the year concurrency problem sorry is a better programming term if you prefer in the end the three more people at mentality so if you've got six concrete footings you got poor for your building or your structure if you had six cement trucks and six crews you could actually do that all the same time okay that would work but when you doing software does does not is not how it works in fact when you doing a lot of design activities that's not how it works CA presupposes you have a fixed designer presupposes you've got the end design result you have everything you need to run in parallel that's not the case generally speaking with software software is a little bit more like a like a living thing little bit entirely little bit my absolute favourite example of this problem illustration this problem is from the source software famous book called the mythical man month have you read that all been arm you your required reading if you're programmer for goodness sake read it I know it's what 35 years old now while by denying solid dollars me now so 38 rereading that book reading that bike was kind you was life altering rate partial especially since it's 35 years old and I looked at them as a way to 2nd the figure this out yes I know what white why do we keep forgetting this yet exactly I read this later in my career like my old dog be honest I put my hand up and say only rated four years ago how and I felt just the same emotional my how do I not read this before and apparently nobody read the book until they've experienced some sort of horrible disaster in software their pre-March it's a fantastic book if you're in software development any doing larger projects frankly you have to read this book I cannot recommend it enough anyhow there is one part of in particular that that the book by the way is some days written by Frederick Brooks okay and this one particular part is referred to as Brooks Law which is that you can't say adding more people to a project makes ago longer rate again but the one quote is a sort of film is not quite maybe submit a throwaway comment may be reasons but it's my favourite which is nine women can't make a baby in one month it absolutely beautifully simply illustrates the problem but project managers fail to get time and time again and it doesn't apply just a software it's its iterative design and development so it doesn't matter what that it that designees and this is one of the big problems and I I've got so much flak on another's a lot of programmers out there that have gone up through the ranks and end up doing some degree of project management or reporting schedule to project managers and were asked time and again Helen's gonna take Allen's intake and he say okay will it see we got our arm all the tests to run on it and then we've got our own additional period of time for RDO iteration fixing bugs cleanup and so on before we get factory acceptance test for a go-to site and the procurators come back within a straightahead psycho ignition key And half do you really need to do the testing can we just go out with something and as it becomes this long protracted painful body experience where you're trying to negotiate with these guys that have no idea exactly how software development is done how design is done rate in the trade and trade are treated to Megan are an analogy to something else typically something that's like an engine profession that has been understood for over a late neglect building which was you like it's just like building a house know what it wasn't I thought it was the beginning and didn't turn out that way you don't have to do redesign the basement of the house three times during the price of building a house we know how to exactly exactly right and in many respects your software is different insofar as most software is not reused men sure there's libraries they get reused and all that but honestly between companies and between projects there is nowhere near enough code reuse rate it if you look at like I am iOS development is crazy how and is getting a lot better really quickly but arm compared to do a ruby study comparing the amount of crazy huge numbers of libraries and jams and all that stuff there that moving already trading doing iOS Lake sleep videos do you share anything I hear no so anyway armed and were identified in a hole either but the point of illustration is our you cannot do a lot of tasks concurrently or if you can it with with some past development and that's a whole other topic that that is how project schedules can get screwed up so settle two things to big issues with you being effective project managers dealing with projects and some is if you understand what it is what's required then you can more appropriately break down the tasks set correct durations and getting dependencies right that was the first big one a second big one is the tendency to use the schedule as a motivational tool rather than a planning tool and this is a trap that so many project managers fall into it stops being about planning for the future and helping your team achieve the result and starts to become a negotiation and the thing is after the negotiation has been had then they use that renegotiated schedule to apply pressure more pressure to those performing the tasks in question so it's funny because I'd sit down this project manager in the last major project that I was I was software lean on and I would's and he would say to me I can initiate a couple of days of this task and unlike well of course I could shave a couple days off with the other things go well and and so on but we need a sum, buffers of what we don't have time for that so arm you said we can take up a basil take three days off will while the guy doesn't know how it works gets to choose that set right because he is the project manager right he gets to tell you and that and then it then it becomes your responsibility menaces you and and of course the next week I get told while you committed to this date rape and I laughed in his face and I said actually know you committed me to that date but thanks for playing how they go well with it took as long as it took Melbourne other gobies of the deal yeah we are frosty for a while but you know that that the problem is your heart is a long story video recommend was or is it yeah his day wetware frenzy and now it but you because another thing I think a lot of like programmers not push back with you but I am easily irritable I suppose you okay I can't take it when someone says to me arm you you need to do better go faster and so on when you know that these guys are been under the pump for 12 months and you're telling them you know you need to pull in more need to give more like how they can give any more we get more people are really in the last people that we got in how wanted that go you and an additional goes out to the right and why I want to get rid of the people that are underperforming we can't do that there are resource because I see the value in resources so well you got six people on your staff and Errol equal no then aunts I've got two people doing 80% of the work in a pennyweight look that is a bad still festering saw the need to just move on with my life has moved on and I do forget about anyway I think were both working through I'm working through my issues this is to show is becoming my therapy on a stop that okay right so ultimately I guess is ultimately that that that the point of all this is that get charts per chance using the critical path method that is tools to help you to understand the best way to plan your activities to get the end result you want in unknown period of time and just like any tool out there for any purpose it can be abused if it's incorrectly are if it's incorrectly applied so you should be very careful when you use them otherwise go take that parent time and think it through and be honest with yourself how long things take what really are the dependencies because if you don't take that time up front you miss use those tools you will inevitably get a bad result and then you'll blame the method is not the method it's how supplied for all the aches and frustration I have with project managers through my experiences with them and they were generally not good I don't hate Gantt charts and don't hate per chance although the critical matter path method to any of that stuff for fast tracking I don't hate any of it it's the way it was applied and misapplied that I have issue with and the key is to apply rate because I have you had good management good project managers they were zero is Eric is something you can see that's the one tape doesn't want doesn't get a good it's a good point on I been very negative about this whole thing but the truth is you're right there are there have been examples of project management that has been done right the two things that the project managers had in common on most projects were one they knew what it was that they were managing similar words you had electrical engineer for example doing a schedule on the project for that it contained electrical components they knew exactly what was required in constructing and testing a switchboard out and they knew that you couldn't save time off here and as I didn't ask they understood how software was developed to appoint release were more accommodating an interest in talking about here illegally listened bits are the other thing that they have in common I think it was that they did not turn it into a whip they took it from the perspective of my many uses as a tool to figure out what you need when and this is one meeting in particular I will room that I will remind remember crystal-clear because it's the only time that I've ever like been truly grateful to a project manager where the end of the meeting we mapped it all out on the whiteboard and he turned to me and he said you need to more people here and I sort of looked up and I said yes I do but I'm told I can't hire anyone and he said smiles many goes you know what Lemme take care that and within a few weeks I had two more guys problem solved the problem is that's generally not what happens and I can count the number of times I've had good project management on one hand in well with the 20 as that's the thing but what you're describing to me doesn't sound like management is that leadership rate that's sure he's gonna go to bat for you is figuring out the prime in his getting off like someone here so you don't have to how often to project managers get sucked in by the tool and simply so you know what my job is to manage the project and I will map out all the dependencies and I will say okay will get this going you'll get that going there and so on and someone else go do it that's different from the next step which as you say is more leadership step not now I know what needs to be done I am going to be the person that makes it happen I am going to Greece this we all I am going to make sure that they have what they need when they need it in all respects not just I need to order a yellow box from wherever so that it arrives in time not just that personnel as well and that next step so few of them in my experience ever took my because that's actually really horrid work because what if you don't know what you actually need you now I suppose it we we presuppose that that is known rate but how many of project manager you have to really think I'm in because you're dealing with people rate so you gotta know when you when you're when that guy you're working with them and that that situation like you really you guarded greatly he did you get did you realise you needed them or the attribute of repeated or know now I was not sure I was much younger at a point and I I sort of saw it my sort of you had a sense that something was not quite right and you are you could see the Australia crunch was like thinking our case can be tough but will probably do it and then once he saw to put his finger on it unlike you have a lawyer this guy is writer know any spot on and not as that is gonna make sure that I get the people in need the same was that it wasn't a huge project and it was a long time it was while ago now be charged 10 nine years ago, and it was an isolated incident mount I spent years trying to figure out what on earth is it exactly what's the difference between me know these tools are correctly applied incorrectly applied and it comes back to those two things knowledge of what Murphy managing and I guess you to paraphrase you taking that next step and being being a leader and helping as opposed to whipping so I shouldn't get arm I've never used on the focus from from my site saying is is overdoing rate like I don't need to worry about value doesn't matter when you want to talk about the critical path method it sounds to me like it's you will thinking more about thinking about it like it was our productivity to link that you late but somehow the day they had the wrong tool so maybe productivity yes it is the thing is I am thinking about am I organised rate because of so much stuff going on when the training before and we are about you nonimmune it's it's it's a light well honestly I think that the problem is ask yourself the question do you believe that a project like like tasks reminders calendar any of those do they do they describe dependencies and also the answer is not do they describe dual durations no I don't think they generally do are they effective tool for managing everything that is going on right now with what you're trying what what what with with what you're pushing for with the direction of Felix is it is it sufficient to my answer that would be no I think that you would benefit now not if there is not necessary but insufficient lady down calendar yes arm and setting up that big gigantic your shared calendar with 24-hour review like that's beautiful because now I can see everything I know when you're available I know when people recording in an old out by the yard that's that's not enough and then setting up a reminder to call back are you now are someone who wanted to show in a couple weeks later Dallas lately that's helpful but not enough but I just don't I just date it was the issue was a gate can I find a tool that is is enough and I sorta think that maybe that tool is something relating to action greatly got something holds it together because I just can't give up on Lake eight don't know how to draw a map that covers everything unused to how them so I'm not going to try and wanted to do something else and that's why one document is invented like my opinion are if you want your that way that's obviously up to you but if it if it was up to me that is not the way I would do it and what I would while what I would do as I would start and going back to something that my arm when my favourite managers of all time Rob McKenzie taught me and it wasn't one of his car it was something he got from someone else evaluate the ideas you start within the mind start with a detail of where you want to be we want to get to exactly and once you've got that point you simply work backwards and break it down into the subtasks required to get you there and as you do that you are essentially creating a Gantt chart of her chart you can figure out how long roughly each of them is in a very agile work where I want to be is to have a base on moral status can be more difficult old maybe 80 to think more short short-term year you made into right but that's the thing I got what if what if the goal is a is years long rates while and that's okay because for example arm the last project that I was the massive one that I was on and I was finally feedback on the northern pipeline now interconnect that one it had several charts and several Gantt charts and the top-level chart which will summarise all of them it was the rollup chart right so it was the top-level three-year plan and then underneath that you have short-term plans for different components would finish at different points along the development of the project so it's perfectly okay I'm pretty dumb so as lovely as there are loads not it maybe it is maybe Barbie in the end stop the high-level plan and keep a high level and then look at the next big milestone so you know what I'm in a plan out to the next big milestone and so maybe next big milestone is on an update to the website under whatever it is you don't love me to save you say and then you can start iterating down the detail of that going down to tasks and subtasks to get you there seated gradually getting more focus rate exactly and then once you've done that it will literally jump out at you it will become obvious to you and maybe it's okay to rely on intuition to an extent that the reason that these tools were created was because intuition alone cannot guarantee you a reliable consistent discount result that the problem with Lake chaos is not endemic in big intuition is great because I you can meet jumps rate you can ceilings and follow follow follow through by its rhyming mommy which at Munich you know what my schedule is like it's a it's a world mentally sure I'll die if I don't change the rate but it's not about this it is the funny thing is that everyone is busy) I don't have time for this at times that the funny thing about planning is that planning takes more of your time and as the natural reaction people so that's gonna take more time on Activa planning book actually you do need to make to our planning because if you do it means that what time you do have left you will spend on the right things rate and that's what matters is the eight time time is time as a form of currency really in different currencies for different things right but honestly you have to learn how to spend your time on the right things and if you do that you will get a better result and that's the truth that wasn't there was little wasn't what I expected but I a I like the answer I like it all right I'm gonna redo that omitted our medical tool thank you I'm honestly are I think that some of you will be more relaxed and more relieved with the end result so that's it actually that's I want to read about anxiety you now is on hold you a picture you think you picked a good topic, help people enjoy it imagine lots of listeners I'm sure actually operate we just decided rate everyone has products absolutely if you feel the urge to create a 300 pages long Gantt chart the rest of your life however I was just to resist the urge but apart from that hopefully something can be a benefit to our to everyone and I think that it is useful thing to tab look into so soul since you put the script through either supper so I actually wanted to do a collar arm just out to a listener that didn't get in touch by I found something that they wrote about us doing them in a -looking terrace dad's arm and the referral lives and its solicitor cookie who is on green power students start free wrote for anyone interested in it in engineering as a career brothers is life easier if you hear is very likely pragmatic in the URL is a great arc as a covers all kinds of tubs across the spectrum of engineering anyone else something to lecture and this is I love this because this is a little forum for are not even sure looks like I deserve one survivor corrugated silver reasoning being a witch sounds interesting anyone any reserve letters on your condign rotary research self no cookie O'Donnell your are highly into future diet should contact us the CI because you think that your treasure hope Greensboro students is doing well cool thanks 11 if you want talk more about this you can reach me on Twitter and John Geagea the same and you can check out my site take if you like if you would like to send an email you sent to John and take you can also find the show accounts at pragmatic show on Twitter to see show announcement and other related materials final thank you to our sponsor type form for sponsoring this episode actually check them out and thank you for listening´┐Ż
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Show Notes

TechDistortion Companion Article:

Project Management:

Gantt Charts:


The Critical Path:

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Ben Alexander

Ben Alexander

Ben created and runs and Fiat Lux

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.