Tag: project management tips

Risk Management and the “Inductivist Turkey” of B.Russell: the story that teaches us the importance of external risks

Risk management, what is it and how should be implemented in every business company; this is keeping in mind the great lesson taught us by the Inductivist Turkey or Russell.

In every company something unexpected happens; it can be a new client approaching with an uncommon request, an order does not arrive on time, a new competitor popping out in your product’s market, or one of your managers being stuck in a traffic jam and cannot make it on time to an important meeting.

Unexpected events can cause problems, and misunderstandings, and they can even cost money or loss of financial resources.

Reasons, why risk management should be implemented as part of a company’s strategy, are many, and managing risks should not be seen as an extraordinary event but a day-to-day thought.

When we talk about risk management it is important to distinguish between risk and threat since they are two different types of danger.

A risk is something that a company might face while a threat is a danger that is coming for real, and its nature is clear and known.

In a company’s case, a risk might be a natural disaster or even a cyberattack.

In case the company knows how it is not properly protecting its online services and database, then cyber attacks are not risks but, instead, they are threats.

In the business world, a risk is an event or a condition and it is considered normal, for a company, to face them at a certain time. For this reason, the company has to elaborate a risk management program; this identifying, first of all, the potential risks it might face.

Risk Management, what is it and how ISO 31000 helps implement it in every business company

Risk management has been theorized, thanks to internal audits, empirical and previous events that companies have faced, and a list of regulatory steps that have been emitted to help mitigate risk.

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has emitted the Risk Management Guidelines to better help companies to anticipate dangerous happenings and make a risk management plan as mitigating risk.

In ISO 31000 risk management approach there are 5 steps to follow in the decision-making process of acting to prevent the company from facing great danger.

IS0 31000 risk management 5 steps

  1. Risk Identification: it is the moment in which risk, as the name says, gets identified and it can be categorized (financial risk, cybersecurity, production chain).
    In risk identification, it is also important to evaluate how much risk might impact the project lifecycle of a company and, in general, its overall business.
  2. Risk analysis: in this second step, the company faces a qualitative problem-solving method in which software, tools, and research are used to better understand the risk and, consequently, what sort of risk control to adopt.
    The main questions that the company has to have in mind are: what are the chances that this particular risk would happen? What is the potential impact and how much this event would impact the whole company? How long the event will take to generate an enterprise risk management crisis?
  3. Risk evaluation/prioritization: not all sort of risks has the same impact on a company. Some of them might cause a little damage while others can have a great impact on the company itself. This is why it is important to prioritize the risks after having categorized them.
  4. Risk mitigation: In this step, it has been suggested to list each risk, how long each of them will take, since their manifestation, to cause impacts on the company, and what sort of impacts they would cause.
    Here the company has to think about a strategy for effective risk management and decide what sort of policy to adopt when risks occur. The company can decide to go for risk avoidance, ignoring the risk in terms of not even doing actions that might “activate” it, or accepting it.
    It is also here that the company has to decide if rely on an insurance company, “transferring” the risk to someone else and, it also has to decide if it wants to go for risk reduction introduce a policy, and take initiatives to control and keep an eye on potential risks.
  5. Risk monitoring/review: Having a 360 overview of what is going on in your company’s market, new risks brought by new technologies,  product usage, etc. is a great way to keep the company as safe as possible.
    Regulations, laws, and stakeholders’ requests imply an always-changing environment and they all might expose the company to potential risks.
    Companies, indeed, need software and reliable tools, such as Timeneye, that allow managers to keep an eye on what is going inside and outside the company and, step by step, elaborate a risk management process

Now that we have seen the ISO 31000’s steps to adopt in terms of risk reduction and management, it is important to understand what sort of risk a company might face.

The most common risks a company might face

They are usually listed in 3 potential risk categories: preventable risks, strategy risks, and external risks.

  • Preventable risks: these risks happen inside and for this reason are also called operational risks. They are usually controllable and easily avoided or taken care of.

Companies take care of preventable risks by making rules and behavioral codes that employees have to follow to keep the company in a safe zone.

Preventable risks happen, for example, when managers or employees do unethical or illicit actions that might put the company at risk.

  • Strategy risks are those types of risks that a company willingly decides to take to reach (hopefully) a higher business position on the market or a greater return in the future.

They differ from preventable risks since these latest are not wanted while strategic ones indeed are.

Asking the bank for a loan to make some new investment can be considered a strategic risk for a company.

These sorts of risks cannot be taken care of through rules or company suggestions.

In this case, what is important for a company to have is a risk management system based on the company’s capabilities to manage the events that will/would happen as a consequence.

This system is indeed designed to encourage companies to take strategic risks, even big ones, to feel comfortable and in control.

  • External risks are born, as the name says, from outside and the company will inevitably have to face them.

These risks might imply great danger to a company and they can cause fatal consequences to the future of the company itself if a risk management process does not take action.

External risks can be natural (climate change), economic (a worldwide economic crisis and inflation can cause financial risk) or even political choices (fall of a government) that can put at risk a business lifecycle.

The management needs to focus on external risk identification and it has to come up with a risk assessment and plan able to reduce the impact of these risks on the company.

The Inductivist Turkey or Bertrand Russell is an inspiring story able to teach us a lesson about external risks, and how unexpected events can happen and cause great damage.

Empirical data and, consequently, risk assessment and analysis are essential for companies to have effective time management that works.

The Inductivist Turkey of Bertrand Russell: an inspiring story able to teach us a lesson about the importance of risk management

 Scientists and philosophers thought about Inductivism as a response from science where consequential and similar events are considered as enough elements to conclude

When there is a consecutive happening of similar events, there seems to be a simple law able to describe the phenomenon. 

We might say that induction is a form of reasoning that starts from the examination of several specific cases and leads to a universal conclusion

We, as human beings, tend to think of things as related and we make a consequential relationship between them. If something happens today, tomorrow, and the next day again we unconsciously think that the same thing will happen repeatedly. This phenomenon goes under the name of Inductivism, and it has been first theorized by Francis Bacon in 1620 it became discussed later, with Bertrand Russel’s theories and thoughts; the one regarding the Inductivist Turkey. 

This story became extremely popular, thanks to Carl Popper’s re-formula

The “Inductivist Turkey” and risk management: how dangerous is it to rely on “taken for granted” situations 

The story tells that on a farm there was a turkey that every morning patiently waited to be fed by the farmer at 9 a.m. 

Every morning the turkey had the same routine: he woke up and waited for his food to be hand-in. 

Sunny days, rainy days, Mondays, Wednesdays, and even Sundays: he knew for sure that the farmer would go and feed him.  

We might say that he has an inductivist conscience concluding that every day, at 9 am he would be fed

The described routine went on and on until one day, for being precise during Thanksgiving Day, when the farmer opened the paddock and, instead of feeding him, he pulled his neck to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. 

In our everyday life, however, we constantly rely on inductions since they easily provide us with predictions about the outcomes of our actions. With no inductions, our world would be chaotic as we would have no reason to believe that the future is similar to the past and this would raise many doubts. 

In a project lifecycle, decision-makers start from a present situation and make assumptions; this also relies on past and previous experiences. Indeed, inductivism is a logical way of thinking but it can be taken wrongly since it does not concern any outbreak or changes. 

How to avoid concluding and, instead, keep an eye on what is going on 

Once the philosopher Karl Popper read the Inductivist turkey’s story, he immediately argued that the truth of universal statements is not logically justified through the truth of single propositions, as many of these are: any conclusions obtained in this way can always be false. 

So what is Popper’s proposal? His idea is that once admitted there are no inductive procedures that make it possible to establish the truth of hypotheses and theories, the pretense of being able to attribute to scientific claims a truth should be dropped. 

Science is not empirically verifiable

No matter how great the number of singular statements at our disposal is, this cannot verify universal statements, while just one singular statement can falsify

So, what do decision-makers and managers do when we talk about project management risks and how to avoid them

The story of the Inductivist Turkey teaches us that we cannot rely on similar events or a particular business case because in project management just even a single difference can change the course of a project lifecycle and its related goals and objectives. 

Despite these difficulties, it is important for project planning to keep constant track and monitor every single step to not just assume universal statements or draw conclusions but, instead, have an on-time idea of what is changing or going in another direction. 

Timeneye, the time tracking software that will help you monitor your project life while avoiding making assumptions.

To achieve their goals and objectives, managers need to monitor the project lifecycle at every single step to verify if something is interfering with it. 

Many project management tools also include one of the key features when we talk about project management methodologies: time tracking. 

On Timeneye, every minute tracked will be assigned to a project, phase, and client. Users can track time just by clicking on a single button, also, Timeneye offers in-depth reporting and monitoring tools to find where the time sinks. These features are essential for decision-makers who need to keep an eye on the project lifecycle and want to avoid bitter surprises realizing too late that they invested time, not in primary activities and tasks. 

Managers can monitor each project’s status, how much of the already decided budget it is taking, the work by receiving a weekly email recap on what the team has done, and also see what are the latest tasks a user has been working on

The Inductivist Turkey taught us that risk management methodologies help us to constantly monitor the project scope and keep an eye on the costs. 

Timeneye is aware of that, and it provides its users with a User Cost Calculator that allows them to monitor the profitability of the project at every single phase of it. If you want to avoid making assumptions and check every single step of your project lifecycle look at our time tracking software and sign up for a free 30-day Timeneye trial!

Kanban vs Scrum. How do they work and which Agile method suits you the most?

 Kanban and Scrum are the most famous and used Agile Project Management methods. But how do they manage the flow of work and which method meets your project necessities?

Kanban and Scrum are two agile project management methodologies that are not only used by software houses or IT companies, but they are starting to be appreciated and used also by companies in other fields (marketing, pharmaceutical, etc.).

To better understand what Kanban and Scrum are, it is useful to have an overview of what agile project management is and how it works.

What agile project management is and how it handles the flow of work

Agile project management is an approach to project management that, as we already know, is a way, supported by knowledge, skills, methodologies, and tools (such as project management software) to develop new products and services.

Project management, and consequently agile project management and Kanban and Scrum approach, follows 3 phases: initiation, planning, and execution.

In developing a project plan these 3 phases must be followed respecting the budget and time of release.

Agile methodology derives from project management and, indeed, it also shares the aim to achieve a goal in different stages and steps.

With project management, we have a big launch or product update, while, with agile management, the goal is split into small chunks (all of them with a specific prioritization) and it has the goal to continuously deliver product updates and new features respecting the planned deliverables.

Agile methodology answers to the nowadays market needs that want competitors able to constantly develop new product/service features or product iterations putting clients ’ feedback and requests first.

Agile is based on 4 principles:

-Individuals and clients ‘necessities come before tools;

-Answering people’s needs instead of following a planned and strict workflow;

-Customer’s listening putting collaboration first;

-Useful and functioning software development over comprehensive documentation.

Agile project management offers a way to be more competitive, fast, and malleable and this is the reason why software houses tend to adopt it instead of the more traditional and “structured” project management one.

If you evaluated that agile methodology is the approach that might help you the most to better work on your project, then you just need to make up your mind and adopt Kanban or Scrum approach.

Both Kanban and Scrum are efficient ways to manage a project and its continuous improvement but, while the Kanban approach has a more fluid and malleable approach, Scrum is more rigid but very fast since it is structured in a brief but intense flow of work (sprints).

To better evaluate which approach suits you better let’s see what Kanban and Scrum work

Kanban, an agile methodology

Kanban is a fluid and continuous agile approach that focus the attention on a brief, but well-planned and structured flow of work.

It comes from the Japanese word “visual signal” and it helps managers to have a more visual management system since project phases and tasks are represented by cards and find a graphical location on a workflow board.

Kanban was born in the 1940s thanks to the industrial designer at Toyota, Taiichi Ohno, who was looking for an efficient way to keep an eye on every production step and the company’s work in progress.

Kanban mainly focuses on the possibility to visualize work; already completed work, work in progress, and the one that has to come maximizing the efficiency of teams and the project’s process.

Kanban teams have the so-called user stories as their main end goal, and they aim to express the software user’s perspective.

In Kanban methods, the development teams work on software features shaping them based on the user’s perspective and needs.

As we already mentioned in the agile values, we know that high importance is given to stakeholders and their necessities rather than to the tool itself. For this reason, user stories utilize non-technical language to better give team members a “down-to-earth” context that will help them shape human software functionality.

After having understood the user story, the development team knows what its potential client needs to create something valuable.

User stories are at the core of an agile program; without them, the product/service cannot be considered user-focused.

Kanban boards: how a Kanban approach looks like

Kanban was thought to visualize work and, for this reason, it relies on boards, cards, columns, work in progress (WIP), commitment points, and delivery points.

All of them help the team to acknowledge and visualize the right amount of work that needs to be done and the current work in progress.

  • Visual signals are visual cards, and they are normally used by team members to write on them work items and tasks, usually one per card. This helps the development team to keep an eye on what they are working on.
  • Columns represent a specific activity that together composes a “workflow”. So cards compose the workflow and are piled one onto another (with a focus on prioritization) until the project is completed.
  • With Work in progress (WIP), Kanban acknowledges that there has to be a maximum of 3 cards piled in one column.
    Work in progress aims to suggest to the team that it cannot work on more than 3 tasks otherwise employees risk losing focus on the prioritized activities.
  • Commitment point: Kanban teams have a product backlog for their board and it is here that both teammates and users write down the ideas for the projects. It is a shared and collaborative way to develop great products!
  • Delivery point is the final one in the workflow. What the team aims to do is to reduce the so-called lead time: the time between the beginning of the project and its end represented, indeed, by the delivery point.

So it is here that the team makes its evaluation and decides if the project has been handled well or not.

The Kanban method can be easily applied to each project or project-based business but is a great approach for all those companies that are working on many projects for different clients with different deadlines and priorities. Indeed, more cards can be added and put before others to pursue a new order of prioritization in the workflow.

Also keeping an eye on a visual workflow help the user to immediately understand what is finished, what needs more effort, and what needs some changes.

To see if everything is going as supposed to, it is important to monitor lead time and cycle time.

With Timeneye you can track the time spent on each project, and its phases, in real-time, keep an eye on your team members’ work, and set email reminders.

Thanks to detailed reports it is possible to receive insightful knowledge about how you and your team have managed the project life cycle and if you were able to stay on time and within budget.

Combining time-tracking software with a project management one is the perfect way to improve a company’s efficiency and productivity and make future project releases easy and stress-free.

Scrum, the most used agile methodology

Scrum is the most common and used agile project management approach in the whole world, and it was designed for all of those companies that are in a fluid market exposed to changes.

This agile method is stricter than the Kanban approach, but it implies a shorter amount of time, called sprint, that has the main goal to release a feature, product iterations, or a new service.

Scrum methodology is usually adopted by software houses that structure their work on projects, tasks, and activities; all of them at the same time.

Companies that focus a specific amount of time on getting that activity, and tasks done thanks to a great focus of all of the company members, find the scrum method perfect for them.

Scrums usually last 2 weeks and they, indeed, are broken up into sprints that have the goal to focus on single, split tasks.

The team splits complex projects into smaller tasks and activities and each of them is prioritized and put into the calendar with its related deadline.

Scrum steps and how to manage the flow of work

To better organize the amount of work and its work in progress, the sprints are precisely organized in steps:

·  Sprint planning: The goal of this step is to evaluate and decide what has to be done in the sprint and how it should be done (how many employees will be working on it, for how long, etc.). At the beginning of each sprint, in the sprint planning, activities and their deadlines, have to be written down in the sprint backlog.

·  Daily Scrum: At the beginning of each sprint day, the team members meet up and decide what are the daily tasks and what they should do, how they have to do it, and if there are common tasks that need reciprocal work. All of these always keep an eye on the sprint backlog.
What matters here is to all be aligned knowing what has been done the day before, what should be done during the day, and if there is a task that needs a collaborative approach.

·  Sprint review: In this sprint step the team members should show each other what has been done (acknowledging the priorities written down in the backlog) and talk about what needs to be done in the next future

·  Sprint retrospective: The sprint is completed so it is now time to discuss what has been handled well and what, instead, needs some improvement.
This step is extremely important since it has the goal to find process improvements that might be inspirational for the next sprint.

 Scrum and the importance of team roles

Scrum is different from Kanban also for what regards the team, its size, and the team members’ roles.

If in the Kanban approach, the development team members work on different tasks of the same project, in Scrum it is possible to do it only when a single task and the role of each team member is strictly related to the single task of the sprint.

The Scrum team usually includes three important roles:

·  Scrum master: s/he is the one who leads the team and guides team members with the proper methodology and approach. It is her/his responsibility to meet the deadline, stay on budget and release the product update or feature on time. This also inspires, supports, and motivates the team members to not only reach the goal but, while doing so, improve their competencies and find a better way to collaborate. S/he also has the responsibility to stop the sprint in case something does not go in the right direction.

·  Product Owner (PO): S/he brings to the whole team customers and stakeholders feedback. Her/his role is extremely important since it represents the agile project management values for whom the individual comes before the tool. The Product owner translates the user story into a practical need and helps the team to find the proper direction to develop the feature that the clients need.

Daily s/he prioritizes the team activities in the backlog prioritizing what the client needs first.

·  Team: the employees who work on the project, translating the user story into product features and developing the sprint project from beginning to end. 

Kanban vs Scrum; which one suits you the most?

Kanban and Scrum methods are agile project management methodologies that help companies to work in an always-changing and competitive environment where users demand useful, easy-to-use, and always new devices.

While the Kanban method is a fluid and continuous approach that makes time and project tasks visualizable, Scrum is a stricter approach that focuses all the team energies on a single sprint.

Both Kanban and Scrum aim to help companies to make better services or products but, while Kanban aims to limit work in progress in favor of maximizing efficiency, Scrum aims to focus on the incrementation of work splitting it into sprints.

Kanban wants to reduce the amount of time that a project takes using Kanban boards while continually improving the workflow.

Scrum adopts specific roles and rules to follow daily to reach the goal in the amount of time decided at first.

What is different is the time approach: in Kanban, the time has to be followed and controlled during the flow of work while, in Scrum, it is already decided and not put into question.

But both of them consider time as the main way to measure if a project has been handled well.

It is indeed important to keep an eye on time integrating your project management tool into Timeneye!

Timeneye is a time tracking software that helps you and your team to track time in real-time, both online and offline, and, thanks to insightful reports, it helps you get the data you need to evaluate if the agile project management you adopted was the right one!

Sign up now and receive your 30-day free trial!

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