Project management - past and current practices within SENSORICA

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This page describes the project management processes within SENSORICA and their associated tools. But what do we mean by project management. If the term "management" applicable to the OVN model? Perhaps not... In essence, we want to talk about ways to make processes (and projects) deterministic, to do whatever they are expected to do, in effective time and with some level of quality standard.

Type of projects

We can distinguish different types of projects. Small scale projects or swarm projects.

How projects are created

Any SENSORICA affiliate can start a project. There is no group decision. Free initiative is encouraged, as long as it remains within the mission of our network. We believe that the cohesion of a value network is insured by a set of common interests. In the past, a few project propositions have been advised against because their topic didn't match SENSORICA's mission. Non-affiliates must join SENSORICA and adhere to the value accounting system to create projects.

The (S)HELP - Create a new project explains the procedure. See other procedures shared by SENSORICA affiliates.

Online tools

The website

Every project has a dedicated Project page on SENSORICA's website, which is the main repository of information. See project list. The project page is a template page that contains a few sections. At the time this article is written, the Mosquito project is the most developed one.

Problem: These Project pages are passive, i.e. they don't communicate priorities back to affiliates. Affiliates rarely visit them and don't participate to their maintenance.

Projects that create products and services have a Path to market page. This page informs project management as well as product design. It also explicates incentives for participation.

Every project has a VAS page (value accounting system) associated with them. It contains information pulled from the NRP-VAS, displays participation and provides lists of processes and tasks. This page leads to project management tools in the NRP-VAS.

The database

SENSORICA is using Google Drive as repository of project-related content and others. Every project has a Project main doc, which is updated along the project development path.

Other tools

In order to structure tasks, SENSORICA affiliates have also experimented in the past with

  • Lists, which is a page template part of Gooogle Sites,
  • Spreadsheet-based Gantt Charts,
  • Trello,
  • Pivotal Tracker.

These tools have been embedded within SENSORICA's website using iframes. Steve pushed their use a lot in 2012

Problem: Non of these project management tools have stuck with the community. In realty, the value accounting system was incompatible with all of them and there was some resistance within the community to invest time into a project management system that would in fact be abandoned.

Meetings

SENSORICA affiliates used to meet every Thursday 3pm Montreal time for a "technical meeting" and a "general business meeting". The meetings were on Hangout. Some of them were broadcasted live on the Internet. Some of them were are also recorded and openly shared on Youtube. Meeting minutes were recorded into a Google doc.

A special meeting page is used for meetings. A special meeting organization procedure was proposed and documented.

Problem: affiliates usually don't go back to the minutes to remember priorities and tasks that were recorded during the meeting.

Setting priorities

Priorities are set informally by affiliates during meetings or during communication on our mailing list. A few SENSORICA affiliates have emerged playing the role of coordination and of setting priorities more often then others. Affiliates decide to contribute to projects based on their interest, passion, possibilities...

No one can force anyone to do anything. Peer pressure has emerged as an effective mechanism to align the activity of one affiliate with the goals of the group. Phil was the first to verbalize this method.

The NRP-VAS has priorities attached to processes and priority is also a modulator that can be used in the value equation in order to differentially incentivise activity in order of importance. In other words, important tasks are rewarded more than non-important ones. These tools have not been used yet.

Project coordination and facilitation

Some projects within the SENSORICA OVN are old enough and provide enough data to perform an analysis and to extract some trends. The Mosquito project is the oldest one, the original project on which SENSORICA was buit, and the Manipulator project (originaly called Mantis) has enough history too. We observed that longer projects fluctuate in activity. There are periods with a lot of activity, when everyone is motivated and the group is highly coordinated, with regular meetings and good documentation. At times, there is a fatigue that set's in. We also need to mention that no SENSORICA projects has reached the scale a swarm project. After a calm period, usually someone comes in and takes the role of facilitator or coordinator. This individual uses different techniques to pull attention back to the project, by asking more questions, organizing activities, meetings, and "work parties".


The following is the most common practice in SENSORICA for project coordination:

Content, transparency, stigmergy. As soon as a project is proposed, a central space for the project is created. This space integrates content relevant to the project, it is a on-stop shop, the starting point from where one gets access to everything else. This tool is part of the content management module of the OVN's infrastructure (OVNi). More concretely, a Project page is created on SENSORICA's website. It can be a wiki page, etc. Other spaces are created for other type of content, like a folder in our database, a place where photos are stored and shared across the network and beyond, a tag for shared URLs in Diigo, etc.

Documentation has multiple purposes: captures knowledge, organizes workflow, attributes and surfaces talents and skills, coordination, signals activity, needs and wants, etc. Almost all content is shareable not only within the community, but also across the web.

Signaling. An announcement tool is tightly connected to the central content space. The role of this module is to keep people informed with what's happening and what's important. Announcements are designed to spread beyond the community. They also have a role in coordination. They are implemented using an announcement template page part of Google Sites. It produces an RSS feed that can be syndicated.

A Project main document is created with the most important information. This document is contineously updated during the life of the project.

Coordination happens in Google documents, using comments and the "@" function to call someone's attention to something specific. Direct email communication is also extensively used for coordination.

Work party

A work party is a day-long activity where a group of individual coordinate to accomplish some tasks. the day might be very complex, with activities in different areas of expertise: optics, electronics, mechanics, etc. The morning starts with a meeting and a rough planning. Parts of the puzzle are presented on a white board and a plan for the day is presented. All the relationships are mapped, who depends on who, timing, etc. At noon, the work stops and the group assesses progress in a relaxed environment. The goals of the day are revised and the work starts again. Throughout the day the white board is updated.

Tools for project and task management

SENSORICA needs proactive project and task management systems, i.e. systems where tasks and priorities are recorded, affiliates can take tasks and the system can send reminders and alerts.

SENSORICA needs a project management system that interfaces with the value accounting system, because carrying out tasks within projects is a form of contribution, along with financial, material, social capital, etc. If the two systems are well-integrated, contributions are automatically logged. Moreover, some activities lead to the creation of resources within SENSORICA, which may be tangible and persistent, and can be applied to other projects. The project management system needs to talk to the Reputation system, since commitment to tasks is a dimension of reputation.

The NRP has already a few features that can be used in project management

Planning tools

To-Dos

Are easy ways to assign tasks to oneself and to others. Once the tasks are done, they can be marked as such and that action constitutes a contribution log.

Recipes

See more on Recipe page.

Requirements

Processes allow unplanned contributions and required contributions. Required contributions, or requirements, are essentially ways to plan work, use or consumption of materials and space, or use of citations.

External Links

  1. No boss no chaos - Tibi's presentation (find in there link to presentation doc).
  2. On leadership - Tibi's presentation.