Posts Tagged ‘Project Management’

First off.  Yes, I admit it.  There has been some Big Bang Theory in my life recently, leading to an overly cute blog title.  But who really needs an excuse to go a bit geeky on a blog post title.  Certainly not myself.

Anyway, stripped down to the basics, this is a concept that I’ve been playing with since living with my first off campus roommate in college (which was much longer ago that I want to think about).  Neither of us were complete neat freaks.  Actually by my current standards we were probably both somewhat slovenly.  But our relative neatness (or messiness) was pretty close to the same.  Hence a reasonably decent roommate relationship.  However, I had just a bit more tolerance for the height of the stack of dirty dishes in the sink than he did.  So he almost always ended up doing the dishes and it drove him a bit batty. I swear if he could have just brought himself to leave the dishes just a little a bit longer I would have been bothered enough that I would have done the dishes.

Since that time I’ve been on the other side of that equation many times and it drives me batty, too.  Okay, only a couple of times have I been on the other side of the equation with respect to dirty dishes.  But the general hypothesis applies to many other things in life.

For instance, I’m a planner.  So when working with others it’s almost always the case that I want to have a schedule set before anyone else.  Which means that I end up driving the schedule and often doing extra work to keep everyone on track.  Which isn’t always appreciated, can you imagine? And you can see the people on the other side of that saying “Mellow out dude, if you just hold your horses for a (few minutes, few hours, few days) we’ll get to it our own selves!”

How early does a lesson have to be planned for it to feel comfortable?  How much buffer do you need in a schedule to ship a piece of software on time?  How many minutes past a scheduled meeting time do you have to be to ‘be late?’  How far or how long do you have to stray off the topic of a meeting for it to be counterproductive? 

Or back closer to the core hypothesis –  How many shoes scattered in the mudroom make it messy? If its one less that the anyone who shares the mudroom you may never end up pickup up shoes.

What’s your favorite corollary to the DDCM hypothesis?

I had this crazy idea that we should have the kids write a game of their own choosing as their final project for the semester.  I was particularly interested in doing this because even though many of the kids were still struggling with some pretty basic concepts, I felt like we were not tapping into their full potential in situations where we carefully designed each game for them, setting up a smooth path to success.

This was particularly twisted as even when we set up exercises leading up to each unit project, making sure that we had given them all the tools they needed and having helped them solve the hard problems, they still required extensive leading to get to working games.  When they got there at all.  So what made me think that giving them a relatively free hand to write a game of their own choosing would be a good idea?  Am I insane?

Well, possibly.  But I think back to when I was their age and what motivated me to spend hours on end learning the ins and outs of how computers work.  And it really was the idea of being able to create something out of thin air (and bits, bytes, and nibbles) that kept me up nights pounding away on my Apple II keyboard.  So why not take a chance and give them their heads?  So to speak.

Of course if we’re going to let them build their own games we need to introduce them to some software engineering and project management, right?  Oooops!!!  I carefully set up a schedule including time for design and design review.  Built templates for feature and technical specifications.  Sat down with each team to get them to talk about expectations and force them to draw lines either higher or lower on their feature lists depending on whether they were overly ambitious or entirely apathetic (one of the students put “I don’t care” for all three game ideas).  And setting things up so that they had a deadline to get a working “minimally marketable” game by the halfway point.

So despite a crazy month of January labs every team made it through.  But here is the craziest thing:  The students were almost completely flipped between their ambition level and the completeness of their final games.  Now don’t get me wrong, the kids that were totally into it had cool graphics, neat ideas, and all sorts of bells and whistles.  But their games hardly worked.  The kids that were most resistant to doing anything original (including the “I don’t care” team)  walked away with complete and relatively polished games.

In any case, the fact that we got 13 and 14 year olds to actually meet deadlines (at least mostly) was something of a miracle.  So may you don’t need to lock me up and throw away the key for this one.  But the jury is still out if I ever try something like that again.  After all, it’s hard enough to get highly trained (and paid) professionals to code to a deadline…