Book Review: Project to Product

There are different vocabularies employed in the discipline of Project Management. This is one reason why PMI exists, to try and help the breadth of the discipline use a common language. In my library of project vocabulary I’m familiar with the following:

  • Army Vocabulary
  • PMI’s Project Vocabulary
  • Agile
  • DevOps

One thing different than PMI’s project vocabulary and that used in agile is the term used for the deliverable at the end of the project. In project management that deliverable is the project. In Agile, that deliverable is the product. The words sound similar enough but the distinction is significant. PMI’s focus is on the process that created the deliverable, while Agile is focused on the value of the deliverable to the product owner (stakeholder/business).

In Project to Product Mik Kersten drives home the important distinction between the two and how important it is to organizational survival to adopt a product focused mentality.

As tech giants and startups disrupt every market, those who master large-scale software delivery will define the economic landscape of the 21st century, just as the masters of mass production defined the landscape in the 20th. Unfortunately, business and technology leaders are woefully ill-equipped to solve the problems posed by digital transformation. At the current rate of disruption, half of S&P 500 companies will be replaced in the next ten years. A new approach is needed.

In Project to Product, Value Stream Network pioneer and technology business leader Dr. Mik Kersten introduces the Flow Framework—a new way of seeing, measuring, and managing software delivery. The Flow Framework will enable your company’s evolution from project-oriented dinosaur to product-centric innovator that thrives in the Age of Software. If you’re driving your organization’s transformation at any level, this is the book for you.


This was a way cool book to read!!!

In general it’s easy to see smaller deliverables as products, one of the messages this book is that it teaches you to see all your deliverables as products–even big ones. This book is about connecting it to business value at scale honoring lean, TOC, six sigma and showing how the understood foundation can be leveraged for the unknown future.

Photo by Pixabay on

On the fourth floor of our building sits a very large puzzle with the last piece outside of the boarder. It’s labeled with someone’s name on it waiting for them to return and finish the puzzle. This book is the missing piece in understanding the frustration with project management and why it’s processes can leave those who remain wanting even after the checklist is complete.

This book ranks high on professional application, but also has personal application as well in helping to see stuff as products capable of more than just satisfying their initial value point.

Adobe Caslon Pro

What better way to end the week than with a new font to add to your library?  Fonts are your friends, and on Fridays it’s important to spend time with your friends.

In my book, A Heritage to Follow: Lucius Clark, I had to choose a font, and it was a bit of a toss up.  At the end of the book I explain the decision:

One of the most logical choices of fonts for this book would have been Century Schoolbook since it was designed for educational purposes, released in 1919 (with bold and italic versions released by 1923) precisely during the years Lucius was teaching. But Century Schoolbook takes up more space than what I wanted to use, and I don’t believe it works well at larger sized (chapter titles) or with numbers (0123456789).

So, the font used in this book is Adobe Caslon Pro. It’s become so well known and versatile that in Stephen Coles, The Anatomy of Type he relates the popular mantra, “when in doubt, use Caslon.” While there isn’t much variation in this book, italics and bold faces are used at different points and I believe Caslon has a cleaner expressiveness and consistency through these variations than many other font choices.

Lucius was a man who prided himself on good penmanship, so I wanted him to have a font designed by a master penman, William Caslon. Caslon’s font was first released in 1725. Among my favorite features are the swooping tail of the capital Q and the fact that the capital J extends below text line. While these aren’t very common letters they add character to the text in this book when they do appear. I smile when I see them because I feel they’re playfully doing a magic trick with the rest of the letters watching.

I may not have caught all the typos, but I did select the best type!

Download Adobe Caslon Pro here.  I’ll let your conscience dictate how you pay for it.  If you’re currently paying for a Creative Cloud subscription, you already have.

Making Work Visible

It’s that time again. I’ve been reading a new book, and it’s time for the book list to get updated. This time it’s the book Making Work Visible by Dominica Degrandis. The book started with a story I could relate to. A husband working on the honey-do-list being asked by his wife to start an entirely different project. She was asking while he was atop a rotting roof to tear it and the out building it belonged to apart. That’s a bit more dramatic than any of the situations where similar things have happened to me, but it was certainly a moment I could relate to.


Dominica does an excellent job in the piece discussing the need and techniques to make work visible in areas where work is less visible than a husband standing atop a roof. The IT sector contains many examples of areas where work is invisible to those who consume and appreciate the effort. Dominica’s techniques help to bring forth this work in ways that are digestible by the passer-by and those who deeply study the output.

This book is ideal for anyone who has done work or plans on doing work in the future.

While I’ll tell the full story another day, I can say that this book emerged in my life at the right time to help a very large project focus on the work that would add the most value and now it’s gotten the interest of the leaders who saw how effective its techniques were.  It sort of feels like having to get called into the principle’s office to explain myself, but in a good way.


Civilization Collapse

A few people I’ve gotten to know over the years have asked if I have a history degree.  When they do I refer them to my brothers who both have degrees and have taught in the subject.  Recently I came across a video that connects several of my favorite topics, history, systems theory, economics, and archeology.  I believe it’s worth sharing.

In the video the author explains how he believes that the systems society was based on prior to the ~1200 BC collapsed causing a reset for humanity.  I love how as an aside he includes a reference to the emergence and popularity of a nearly common alphabet. Remember, according to Epcot, ‘if you can read this, thank the Phoenicians.”

Thinking In Bets

Today another book is getting added to my reading list, Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke

This is an amazing book that makes the case for understanding how our lives going forward have multiple futures. Annie carefully makes the case for seeing ourselves in this way and provides tools to help the reader live and navigate understanding how possibilities can be predictive, they are not prescriptive.

Annie explains that we often find ourselves judging our decisions by our results. Early the book she demonstrates how this cause-effect thought process is good, healthy, and helped us evolve. Then she demonstrates the limitations of such linear thinking and explains how in poker (a game where chance exists) not everything can be perfectly predictive. Her book offers down-to-earth advice on how to account for the elements in life that involve chance and how to live comfortably in that world where direct cause-effect is no longer king.


I really enjoyed how the book not only makes the case for evaluating events going forward, it also makes the case for evaluating the decisions of our past. Once we can shed the results from our decision process it becomes easier to judge our actions (and those of others) based upon the environment and knowledge they had at the time. This process is perfectly in line with Tomas Sowell’s book Knowledge and Decisions, a classic book that discusses much of the same thoughts from an economics perspective.

I believe this book has other potential benefits as well that haven’t been stated. In Smarter Faster Better Charles Duhigg discusses some of the challenges Annie faced in her own life. Anyone reviewing her academic record would list her as highly functional (all doctoral coursework complete), yet Annie suffered from anxiety. From having worked around so many people in the military with PTSD and others who have anxiety I believe this book contains helpful instructions on thinking patterns that can reduce the impact of the thinking traps so common among those who live with those issues. One of the reasons why it’s been added to the Book List is because I’ll be recommending it to many of those who struggle to live now because they are haunted by their past.

The book isn’t explicitly written towards that audience. Instead it’s written with a much broader audience in mind. It’s perfectly crafted for those interested from a business, student, and personal perspective and so I’ll certainly be recommending to those in my other professional circles as well.

If you listen to the Audible version you’ll be pleased to hear Annie read the book at her own pace and with excellent inflection. I devoured the audio version on a recent family car ride. When I got home I enjoyed letting her know how much I enjoyed the book. I love living in an age where I can say thank you to someone as famous as brilliant as Annie Duke.

I also really appreciated that she read my tweet and hit the like button.

Ode to Helvetica

It’s not really that silly.  When you think about it you spend a lot of time with fonts.  I learned about their value when I saw my wife working her graphics art classes.  Fonts are real, and they require a lot of thought and detail to create.  Helvetica is a good place to start.  There’s a movie (below/Amazon) & a book.

And if you really want to get into it.  Ilene Strizver has a wonderful article up here:


The Open Organization: Book Review

Jim Whitehurst the CEO of the multibillion dollar open source company RedHat took to his keyboard to record and share the insights that have helped his company create a more inclusive culture and increase its productivity.  Typically books written by CEOs are used as long form SEC filings intended to woo shareholders.  Bill Gates predicted the iPhone in 1995 among several paragraphs of corporate doublespeak.  

Jim does take time to talk about his company in a positive light, but doesn’t get too much into specifics about predictions of the future.  Instead he’s more focussed and excited to tell you about how he’s learned to work with the many diverse people that make up his organization.  He openly shares insight on his methods for encouraging them to give their best effort to the company.  Throughout the book he covers his transition from a high ranking officer at Delta Airlines to working for a company that seemingly had an initially chaotic organizational structure.

The insights he provides work well with RedHat, but I work in a very structured hierarchical organization.  I read this skeptical of whether or not  I could apply those insights within my own sphere of influence.   Jim’s passion for the open organization was compelling and I began the experiment at work.  After a bit of transition costs I’ve noticed increased a more positive atmosphere at work.  We spend a little bit longer in the discussion phase–and sometimes it’s a bit messier–but the execution phase has become much shorter.  The wonderful people I manage are taking more of the right type of initiative in their everyday activities.  This initiative spreads the decision making across the organization and reduces decision fatigue not only for myself, but for other leaders as well giving us more time to focus on the tasks specific to our assigned roles.

I learned from this book that even with the most top down driven organizational architecture there’s room to include a more open atmosphere.  Doing so improves efficiency and morale.  Although we can’t tare down the 200 plus years of tradition that lead to our hierarchical organization’s success, we can layer on open organization principles and be successful.  The hierarchy gives us an efficient backdrop to leverage when necessary, while the open communication principles help us maximize our talent.  In my opinion this book can easily help any organization increase employee output.  If your meetings are lacking in thoughtful discussion this book is an easy roadmap to help you get them back on track.

The Open Organization
Hardcover: 256 pages
Audible Listening Length: 6 hours and 22 minutes
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (June 2, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1625275277