[amsat-bb] Re: Volunteered

Timothy J. Salo salo at saloits.com
Sat Sep 12 21:30:48 PDT 2009

> ... missed a deadline.  That is a foundation of project
> management no matter if it is paid or unpaid.  ... it means
> someone (or group) is not capable of good project management.

I think this focus on project management is probably both
unfair and misdirected.

First, it is unfair because very, very few organizations are
really good at project management.  A few organizations are
really good at project management because they invest
considerable resources in developing a strong project management
organization, including people, data, processes, and culture.
It is highly unreasonable to expect AMSAT to even be able to
make this sort of investment, much less actually do it.  A few
organizations are good at project management because they do
the same thing over and over with a stable, experienced crew.
After you have built ten bridges, you have a pretty good
idea how long it will take your crew to build the eleventh.
AMSAT  simply doesn't build enough satellites or, I believe,
have enough depth in its development organization, to be able
to either accurately estimate the resources required to build a
satellite, or to reliably execute according to a realistic plan.
And, a lot of organizations, in essence, cheat.  They overestimate
in hopes that hitting their schedule,  Or, they throw more
resources at the project that is behind in order to meet the
schedule.  Or, they reduce the scope of the project.  Or, if
they are government contractors, they keep negotiating
changes-in-scope to their contract in order to pay for any cost

The truth is, development projects, by their very nature, are
risky (in the sense that success is uncertain).  In fact,
most development projects fail -- but, we just don't hear
about them.

I also believe that this focus on project management is
misdirected.  In my view, the focus should be on
_development_ management, not project management.  While the
scope and authority of the project management function
varies across organizations, in general, its job is to
support the development management.  And, I believe that
AMSAT does need to substantially improve its management
of development projects.  But, that is obviously difficult,
in part because successfully managing development projects
requires skills that are often in shorter supply than those
required to actually build a satellite.  But, that is another
long, topic...

By the way, someone else wrote:

 > ... There is no such thing as "good project mamagement" in an
 > all volunteer effort where all the critical work gets done by
 > techincally skilled and motivated volunteers.

I don't believe that this is at all true.  I do believe,
however, that managing a volunteer development team is
much more challenging.


 > ... The last thing we need is a bunch of clueless managers ...

Again, _good_ development management is rare.  But, good
development management significantly increases the chances
of success.  Of course, one the skills of a good development
manager is managing technical people who consider all managers
to be clueless.


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