Working Up

Working Up in Project Management, Systems Engineering, Technology, and Writing

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Significant Digits: Another Forgotten Fundamental

June 9th, 2016 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips Regardless of what Excel tells us, significant digits (remember that?) tells us otherwise. Recall something called significant digits from high school math? Consider calculating something with two numbers. One number has two digits while the other number has three digits. The answer can only have two digits. For example, 23 x 123 […]

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Tags: Analysis · Clarity · Computing · Estimation · General Systems Thinking

Remote Sensing and not-so-Remote Sensing

August 17th, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips Recent experience with Pluto shows us once again that all the expert ideas about remote things are usually wrong. Sensing something from a distance, a.k.a., remote sensing is difficult. I’ve written about this before. Everyone seems to know this, but that doesn’t stop people from acting as if they are exceptional. I […]

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Tags: Estimation · General Systems Thinking · Learning · Science

Performers, Predictors, and Punishment

February 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips When a performer doesn’t perform as predicted, the predictor is in the wrong. Too bad that we usually fail to recognize that. I write this the week after all the big tech companies posted their quarterly financial reports. Some companies didn’t perform as expected, i.e., as predicted. The result was that the […]

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Tags: Competence · Estimation · Expectations · Judgment

Remote Sensing is Difficult

September 4th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips It is difficult to measure things from a distance. That distance can by in space and it can be in time. We often attempt to measure things from a distance. We take photos of the ground from 10,000 feet up in the air. We then run through geometric calculations to determine the […]

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Tags: Estimation · General Systems Thinking · Observation · Technology

Descriptions and Predictions

March 17th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips A description portrays what is now; a prediction estimate what may come. Sometimes we confuse the two at our peril. Some words are predictions. We use to them to portray our estimate of the future. Few of us are satisfactory as predictors of the future even though most of us think we […]

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Tags: Communication · Estimation · Expectations · General Systems Thinking · Reframe

The Napkin (or Envelope)

February 17th, 2014 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips The napkin or envelope is still one of the best tools for the engineer or manager or fill-in-the-blank. I have a(n old-fashioned) laptop computer, a smartphone, and a tablet – and I still write notes on a napkin. Yes, I am old, that is part of the explanation. Yet, there is something […]

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Tags: Design · Estimation · General Systems Thinking · Ideas · Notebook · Thinking · Writing

Resource Leveling

October 8th, 2012 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips Resource leveling is an obscure term in project management. It is, however, paramount to project success. You are planning a project or planning some work that involves a limited number of people. You lay out all the tasks that must be performed and record all the resources needed to perform each task. […]

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Tags: Estimation · Management · Planning

Manager Slang: Get Well

July 12th, 2012 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips Project managers often use major changes to “get well.” They use the confusion of a major change to cover over lots of problems. Projects change. That appears to be a fact of life. Every now and then, a major change occurs. Examples include, Two large organizations merge A large organization splits into […]

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Tags: Change · Communication · Estimation · Management · Uncategorized

Remember the Chaos

February 9th, 2012 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips Every new thing involves a change. A period of chaos comes with every change. If the new thing is to be short-lived, the chaos may require a large percentage of time relative to the short-lived activity. A colleague noted that the estimates for short tasks were often incorrect by large percentages. Here […]

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Tags: Change · Estimation · Work

Estimating Budgets: Excel and the Slide Rule

January 21st, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips Estimating budgets months and years into the future is difficult. I have yet to meet anyone who does it well enough to risk large amounts of anything valuable. The Excel spreadsheet calculates well enough, but it can provide a false sense of precision. Instead, I use a slide rule. The difficulty of […]

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Tags: Communication · Estimation · Management · Technology