Category Archives: Articles

Real-Time Feedback

©2003 Esther Derby, www.estherderby.com Twice a week, I go to the gym and weight train with Brooke Darst, a Certified Personal Trainer. As I perform my exercises, Brooke provides a constant stream of feedback: Minor corrections, “Chin in! Lower your … Continue reading

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Software and Society: What it Means to Be Professional

©1998, 2002 Don Gray, www.donaldegray.com Man’s achievements rest upon the use of symbols. – Alfred Korzybski Why is our field struggling in its efforts to become and engineering discipline? The answers lies in our heritage as symbol processors and the … Continue reading

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Treaties to Deal with Communication and Conflict

©2002 Gerald M. Weinberg, www.geraldmweinberg.com On a typical day, I get 100-200 email messages, and some of my clients in large projects receive even more. Though emails improve my ability to communicate clearly and quickly, they may also prove a … Continue reading

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What to Do When Your Project Slips

©2001 Johanna Rothman, www.jrothman.com You’re not going to meet schedule. Maybe requirements have taken longer. Perhaps in the middle of implementation, you uncover something requiring redesign. Maybe developers haven’t met one milestone yet and you’re worried about the test time. … Continue reading

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Consulting Lessons From My Shiatsu Therapist

© 2000 Becky Winant Shiatsu is a type of bodywork that involves stretching and applying pressure at points to release or contain energy. Before he practiced Shiatsu, Ron had a career as an audio engineer — he understands technology and … Continue reading

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Driving from the Back Seat

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Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

©2001 Naomi Karten, www.nkarten.com It was a gray and gloomy day when we pulled into the ski area parking lot, and decided to sit a spell to see if the sun would shine. A carload of skiers pulled in next … Continue reading

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Lunches, Looks, and Loops

©2004, Don Gray Michelle works as a software engineer. Recently we discussed the utility concept (Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations, Austin)1 and she asked, Cant we just measure for the sake of learning? Measuring for learning is a wonderful … Continue reading

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What’s On Your Not-to-do List

©2005 Johanna Rothman This article originally appeared on stickyminds.com. I’ll bet you’re one of those people who have too much to do. (I haven’t met anyone in the past few years who didn’t have too much to do, so it’s not … Continue reading

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Reasons

©2001 Gerald M. Weinberg, www.geraldmweinberg.com [Note: In September, 2000, at the SEI’s Software Engineering Symposium in Washington D. C., Jerry was the recipient of the 2000 Stevens Award. The award recipient is recognized for outstanding contributions to the literature or … Continue reading

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Some Barriers to Team Coordination and Collaboration

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Twenty Years Ago

©2000 Steven M. Smith I’m forty-five, with a mainframe background. I often hear complaints from colleagues — associates who are my contemporaries — that younger workers with experience in hot, new technologies are getting paid as much or more then … Continue reading

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Where Does Your Time Go?

©2003 Esther Derby, www.estherderby.com Last week I visited a development team working on the company’s next big product. As I talked to one of the team, I could hear phones ringing, pagers beeping, and see people popping up to talk … Continue reading

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Convincing Management That Context Switching Is a Bad Idea

© 2005 Johanna Rothman (This article previously published in Better Software.) The last few times I’ve taught project management, I’ve explained that multi-project context switching wastes time. The project managers agree with me. But then they ask the question, “How … Continue reading

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Emerging

© 2001 David Irvine, www.davidirvine.com I recently had a conversation with one of my clients, a funeral director, who founded and owns a family business here in Canada. “It’s a strange thing,” he said to me. “Whether prostitutes or CEO’s, … Continue reading

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Hiring Testers

©2002 Johanna Rothman, www.jrothman.com This article originally appeared on stickyminds.com Summary: Whats the best way to wade through those thousands of resumes youve received for the new testing position? To start, you could ruthlessly weed out those who dont show … Continue reading

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Do We Have to Choose Between Management and Leadership?

©2006-2007 Esther Derby This column originally appeared on stickyminds.com In a recent discussion on the state of a software company, a programmer declared, “We don’t need managers around here, we need leaders!” I’m always puzzled by statements like this. “How … Continue reading

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On Second Thought

© 2003 Dwayne Phillips, home.att.net/~dwayne.phillips I spend most of my professional life attempting to solve problems. I face some of these problems privately, but I face the rest with other people. Sometimes people working a problem will ask me for … Continue reading

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Rethinking Stand-Up Meetings

©2007 Steven M Smith Stand up meetings are popular in software development organizations now. What makes a stand-up meeting more effective than a traditional meeting to socialize status information? Nothing. The effectiveness of a stand-up meeting, like the traditional status … Continue reading

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So, Sue Me

©2007, Gerald M. Weinberg This morning’s news brings a story of a small manufacturer of add-on hardware suing large computer manufacturers for alleged illegal price-cutting. I was surprised. I thought the lawyers had finally learned the futility of suing hardware … Continue reading

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Two Left Feet

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You Can’t Test the Wings Back on an Airplane

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The Dismal Theorems of Contract Negotiation

©1999 Gerald M. Weinberg My friend Brad, a Los Angeles cop, mentioned that he regularly sold traffic tickets. “But it’s not what you think,” Brad smiled. “I work at night and go to school during the day. If I have … Continue reading

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Entomology

© 2003 Laurent Bossavit, www.bossavit.com Some words set alarm bells ringing in our heads whenever we hear them, because in the past we’ve repeatedly found them at the core of some problem or troubled situation. One of my alarm bell … Continue reading

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How 2 Buddy

©2004 Johanna Rothman www.jrothman.com Introduction If you’ve hired new people or transferred people into your group, you know that they’re not immediately productive when they start. If you’re lucky, they start to be useful in a month, but you most … Continue reading

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Our Management Process Can’t Tell us How to Get From "Repeatable" to "Defined"

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Overcoming Resistance

©2007 George Dinwiddie As a software development consultant and coach, I help software developers become more effective at developing software. Helping a team become more effective takes more than technical expertise. Sometimes helping does involve teaching technical skills. Sometimes, it … Continue reading

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Rethinking Stand-Up Meetings, Part 2

©2007 Steven M Smith I argued in my first article about stand-up meetings that the right participants were the key to a successful meeting rather than whether the participants were standing up or sitting down. Despite my dislike for forcing … Continue reading

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Spending As If There’s No Tomorrow

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Two Rights Make a Wrong

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Yielding to Pressure

©2005 Gerald M. Weinberg In a previous article, I wrote about the usefulness of treaties between technical teams, but I didn’t give much detail about the actual negotiation process that goes into making a successful treaty. To learn about such … Continue reading

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Creativity in Accounts Receivable

©2003 Gerald M. Weinberg, www.geraldmweinberg.com The introduction of the new $20 bill has me thinking about the Bureau of Printing and Engraving today. They’re one client I ever had who couldnt use the slow-payment excuse that they’re short of cash, … Continue reading

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Estimates: Precision vs. Accuracy

©2003 Johanna Rothman www.jrothman.com Jim, a new project manager, struggled to define the projects parameters: schedule estimate, people estimate, requirements outline, and necessary capital equipment. Jim proudly walked into his managers office, and proceeded to walk through his project plan … Continue reading

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How did This Happen

©2005 Don Gray It was Saturday afternoon when the house phone rang. “Don, this is John. I know we haven’t talked in 10 years, but I have a client who has a problem.” In 20 years I’ve never had a … Continue reading

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Planning for Technical Management Time

©2005 Johanna Rothman I recently spoke with a manager who’d just incorporated another group of four people to his original three. “I was doing fine with my three people before I took over this group. I had time to manage, … Continue reading

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Incorporating Part-time Team Members

©2006, Esther Derby This article originally appeared on stickyminds.com. “Part-timers just don’t seem to fit in with the team,” a manager complained. “I do everything I can to impress on them the importance of team work and team spirit, but … Continue reading

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Rewriting the Story of Resistance

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Staying Sharp

©2003 Gerald M. Weinberg, www.geraldmweinberg.com I’m not the kind of person who hangs out in nightclubs. In fact, the last nightclub I can remember visiting was in Miami Beach in 1957. What I remember about it is what the stand-up … Continue reading

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The Big Picture: Four Different Ways of Participating

©1999 Gerald M. Weinberg External consultants are seldom sent to classes by their customers, but often pay for their own professional development. As such, they’re eager to get full value for their time and tuition. Moreover, external consultants often find … Continue reading

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Danger: Couple at Work

I swore I wouldn’t write about consulting done by married couples. It’s a trite discussion, as far as I’m concerned. But then I read Dilbert on December 12, 1999. The Pointy-Haired Boss hired two new engineers — a couple. The … Continue reading

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The Exception is the Rule

©2005 Gerald M. Weinberg The other day, I was trying to help a client (let me call them “StartupCompany”) mired in conflicts, exceptions, errors, anomalies, lapses, modifications and other deviations from the norm. These annoying exceptions were playing tricks with … Continue reading

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How Much Work Can You Do?

Developing and Managing Your Project Portfolio (c) 2005 Johanna Rothman This article appeared previously on stickyminds.com. I meet many managers in the course of my work, and they all share a common complaint: They have too much work to do. … Continue reading

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Managing the Group Meeting

©2003 Johanna Rothman, www.jrothman.com Does your staff look forward to flu season so they don’t have to attend your group meetings? Are you looking for ways to escape your manager’s meetings? Boring group meetings tend to be a result of … Continue reading

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Peer-to-Peer Feedback

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Starting With Rolling Wave Planning

©2006 Johanna Rothman Some project managers considering moving to iterative, incremental, or agile lifecycles, stumble when it comes time to move to rolling wave planning. They aren’t sure how to start it, how to continue it, or how to see … Continue reading

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Humor and Stress, or How the Universe Gave Me an Opportunity to Practice

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Use All Four Parts of Project Estimation

©2004 Johanna Rothman. Project work estimation has three components: the initial first cut, commonly known as a SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess), tracking the estimate against the actuals, and using the schedule to see what’s happening in your project. If … Continue reading

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Decide As a Team

©2007 Steven M Smith Do some members of your team make agreements during meetings but fail to support them afterwards?If this behavior is happening, I suspect your team is using an obscure process to make decisions. Identifying Obscure Process An … Continue reading

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An Exercise in Ambiguity

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How to Kill a Software Company

©2002 Don Gray A Software Project By Any Other Name Most software practitioners and managers are aware of a project’s three legs. These legs are features, schedule and quality. (1) While all of these are important for a successful project, … Continue reading

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Managing in Mayberry: An examination of three distinct leadership styles

2001 Don Gray and Dan Starr Near the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, not far from where you think it should be, there really is a town called Mayberry. Although the main highway bypassed the town years ago, the … Continue reading

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Pennywise

©2005 Esther Derby This column originally appeared on Stickyminds.com Back in the late 90s, both demand for qualified people and salaries were high. Hiring managers scrambled to make offers within hours of seeing a promising resume and bidding for the … Continue reading

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The ROTI Method of Gauging Meeting Effectiveness

©2003 Esther Derby. This column originally appeared on Stickyminds.com If you lead meetings, you can make improvements starting tomorrow. For a small investment of your time, you can return time to your staff by eliminating unnecessary meetings and improving the … Continue reading

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Safety Margin

©2005 Steven M Smith Jake tossed and turned. He looked at the bedside clock. 3 AM. “I need sleep,” he thought to himself. But sleep would not come. Only worry about tomorrow’s meeting. Edmund, Jake’s manager’s manager, enjoyed probing managers … Continue reading

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Using Appreciations, Personalized Thank-You’s

©2003 Johanna Rothman, www.jrothman.com The project retrospective was proceeding nicely. We’d had lunch, and we entered the mid-afternoon low-energy lull. I decided it was time to change gears for a few minutes, to move the energy back up a couple … Continue reading

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Decisions, Decisions

© 2000 Sue Peterson, www.cowgirlcoder.com My husband bought his father’s business last month. It was not an easy decision. Like most modern managers, I’ve been taught that the best decisions are the product of logical, deductive thinking. But we didn’t … Continue reading

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Extreme Testing

© 2000 Todd Berbert Kent Beck is the author of Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change, and his book is causing programmers and managers to rethink the way programming is done. After listening to a group of developers here at Intel … Continue reading

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Humor and General Systems

© Michael Bolton Jonathan Miller is one of the great Renaissance men of popular culture. He has been a medical doctor, an opera director, a television documentary writer and producer, but he first gained prominence as a performer in the … Continue reading

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Managing a Struggling Employee

©2003 Esther Derby, www.estherderby.com Sooner or later every manager faces the same dilemma: What do I do when I inherit or hire an employee who turns out to be a poor fit for the job? Tom was the development manager … Continue reading

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Performance Without Appraisal

©2007 Esther Derby The idea of merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for;motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is … Continue reading

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Safety Check

©2005 Steven M Smith He is wearing his traditional garb — dark suit, white button down shirt, red tie, and black tasseled shoes. The glare off his wire rimmed glasses makes it difficult to see those steely blue eyes. Harry … Continue reading

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Tao of Communication and the Constancy of Change

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Waiting For People Who Arrive Late

©2007 Steven M Smith What does it say about the participants of a weekly meeting when the meeting consistently starts 5-10 minutes behind schedule? Answer, the participants are cooperating with each other to start late. Starting late is the status … Continue reading

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Delivering Effective Feedback

©2003, Esther Derby, www.estherderby.com Josh was dumbfounded when his boss, Brad, fired him. As far as he knew, his work was just fine. But Brad believed hed given Josh ample warning that his work and work habits werent up to … Continue reading

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Facing Up to the Truth

©2002 Esther Derby www.estherderby.com This column originally appeared in STQE magazine November/December 2001 “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” William Shakespeares Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act II, Scene 2 The other day I was … Continue reading

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Move Past Distractions: Give Yourself an Ice Cream Cone

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Managing the Interview

This article is an excerpt from Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People, (Chapter 9: Planning and Conducting the In-Person Interview, p. 182-184) by Johanna Rothman. Published by Dorset House, 2004. … Continue reading

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Planning for Delays

©2000 Gerald M. Weinberg, www.geraldmweinberg.com As some of you know, a group of consultants are producing a conference for our colleagues and clients. It’s called AYE, for “Amplifying Your Effectiveness.” One of the main goals of this distributed project is … Continue reading

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Schedule Chicken

2005 Johanna Rothman I perform project and process assessments as part of my consulting work. During one assessment, a senior manager took me aside, and said, “I want you to tell me what you think of our testers.” “All of … Continue reading

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Tell Him?

©2006 Steven M Smith It’s ironic that the Baseball Writers Association of America named Joe Girardi the National League’s 2006 Manager of the Year. Giardi was recently fired by the Florida Marlins despite managing a young, low-rated team into contention. … Continue reading

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Watch for Falling Rocks: Unpredictable Risks

©2000 Johanna Rothman, www.jrothman.com I was recently driving on some back roads in New Mexico, and saw the sign “Watch for Falling Rocks.” I turned to my husband, Mark, and said “Now, why do they tell us to watch for … Continue reading

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Designing Useful Metrics: Using Observation, Modeling, and Measurement to Make Decisions

©2000 Esther Derby www.estherderby.com Originally published in STQE magazine, May/June 2000 As a manager, you want to increase effectiveness and improve the quality of software. Using measurement as a tool for accomplishing this, however, may be something you’re skeptical about. … Continue reading

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A Guide to Fine Whines

© 2001 Mark Manduke In teaching software process improvement and discipline, I sometimes encounter a phenomenon I describe as “The Tsunami of Whining.” (Tsunami is a Japanese word for “Tidal Wave.”) Some students complain about certain issues and often do … Continue reading

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The Identified Patient Pattern

©2006 Don Gray and Jerry Weinberg Engelbert frowned, trying to understand why Pamela had been acting strangely. Her programming skills were among the best in the company. She had a way of getting things completed. That’s why he made her … Continue reading

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Measuring Up

©2003 Esther Derby, www.estherderby.com This column originally appeared on Stickyminds.com It’s 10 a.m. You’re about to ship to five beta sites. You’ve met the date, you’re within budget, and the defect counts have been steadily declining for the last four … Continue reading

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Plan to Re-plan

©2003 Johanna Rothman, www.jrothman.com Do you sometimes feel partway through a project, that you now have some key information that would have helped you plan the project’s tasks better? If so, you’re not alone. Software projects typically unfold in unforeseen … Continue reading

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Should a ScrumMaster Give Performance Appraisals?

©2006 Esther Derby A ScrumMaster recently asked me if he should take over responsibility for year-end performance evaluations since he was closer to the work than the functional manager for the team. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this … Continue reading

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Test Trimming: A Fable about Testing

©2007 Gerald M. Weinberg Throughout my career, I’ve watched in dismay as one software manager after another falls into the trap of achieving delivery schedules by trimming tests. Some managers shortcut test work by skipping reviewing and unit testing in … Continue reading

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Welcoming New Hires

©2000 Johanna Rothman, www.jrothman.com You’ve hired a candidate. She starts on Monday. What will she think at the end of her first day? Will she be in the “honeymoon” phase, or will she be disappointed with your organization? Being a … Continue reading

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Amy the Architect

© 2002 Bob King, www.rc-king.com Can you get more than three people to agree on the definition of project architect? How does someone called architect figure out how to add value – or even what to do? Come along as … Continue reading

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Amplifying a Book’s Effectiveness

© 2000 Naomi Karten, www.nkarten.com Good Editing is far more than adjusting the punctuation. Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to experience expert editing, as I’ve worked closely with a Dorset House editor to finalize a book … Continue reading

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