PM Influencer Series

In our series, The Aha Moment, we chat with influencers in the project management space and get to know them better. We are asking a bunch of questions, some biz related and some not so biz related, in order to understand what makes them tick and find their aha moment.

This month’s Q&A is with Eric Naiburg. Eric is the Chief Operating Officer at Scrum.org and the co-author of UML for Database Design and UML for Mere Mortal both published by Addison Wesley.

So…let’s get started and learn more about Eric!

Q: In your experience, why do projects fail or fail to meet their deadlines?

A: Often people and the organizations they work for have unrealistic expectations of what they truly are trying to deliver.  Assuming that they know everything about the product or project up front and then heading toward the end point without getting constant feedback and adjusting their plan along the way.  We often do not know everything about a project on day one, but put a plan in place to meet the objectives without room for change based on reflection and empirical data.

Q: Have you read any books, articles or other resources that changed your perspective on project management?

A: The Scrum Guide (www.scrumguides.org) is a very short guide to how projects can be accomplished in a more agile way.  Delivering pieces along the way based on a Product Goal with short iterations (Sprints) where the overall plan is adjusted over time from feedback and learning along the way.  Rather than assuming knowledge of everything from the start, using Scrum, small teams work together to move the project forward, leveraging empirical evidence as they go to adjust both how they work and what they will work on to improve the product delivered.

Q: If you could only have five apps on your smartphone, which would you pick?

A: Phone, Email, Text Messaging, Facetime and my golf caddie app that keeps scores and shows distances. 

The first 4 are focused on communication with my family, friends and colleagues.  The last is about me and having the time to do what I want for myself.  I would eliminate all forms of social media as it is becoming a distraction and platform for people to get on their hidden soap boxes rather than sharing of information and a way to better communicate.

Q: How do you de-stress?

A: I had a birthday recently and something that really hit me as I am getting older is the need to de-stress.  What I realized is that life is too short to let the little things get to me and cause me to overthink, worry or just get annoyed, so I have started to just laugh at things.  Find humor in what I don’t like or agree with rather than fighting and getting more stressed.  Taking this has released a lot of my stress and allowed me to smile vs. frown.

Q: What led you to this career?

A: I started my career building houses after college, but quickly learned that my body would not be happy with that choice as I got older.  Being 25 and sore in the morning along with fighting with builders to get paid was not something that I felt I wanted to do as I aged.  I couldn’t imagine getting up in the morning at 40 or 50 if I felt that way at 25.  I knew I wanted to get into the software development industry, but only had a business degree and experience.  So, I found a software sales job and focused on being the best I could while learning all about the technology, how it worked and how to use it. This led me to product management and how to work with customers to understand their usages of products and what they really wanted.  From my career in product management type work, I have been able to span strategy, marketing and operations types of roles always being engaged with customers and users to deliver a product and its improvements to market.

Q: You get to be the host of a late-night talk show. Who would be your first guest?

A:  I guess to make it realistic, I would have to pick someone who is alive today. If not, there are so many people I would love to interview dating back to Adam and Eve.  But keeping it more real, I would say Ken Schwaber.  Ken is the chairman of Scrum.org where I work and co-creator of the Scrum Framework. I would love to hear and share with others how Scrum evolved from a set of ideas into a framework that is used by millions of people daily.  What impact Ken feels that Scrum has had on the creation of products and overall project management and how it has impacted him and his thinking over time.

Q: What is your favorite cereal?

A: I am not really a breakfast person, so I don’t have a favorite cereal, but I do like my sweets. So when I do eat cereal it is usually something like Cinnamon Toast Crunch because it has a nice sweetness to it while staying crunchy at the same time.

Q: What is your go-to Karaoke song?

A: You Can’t Always Get What You Want from the Rolling Stones because we always sang that to our children as they were growing up and it became one of their favorites as well.  If they ever whined about food or where we were going, etc. we would just start singing that song and it has stuck with us for more than 20 years.

Q: Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?

A: People say that I look a lot like Christopher Meloni from Law and Order, so I would go with him. He often plays a tough guy with a lot of emotion which some would say matches me pretty well too.

Q: Do you love or hate roller coasters?

A: I wouldn’t say I hate roller coasters, but I definitely do not love them. I like my stomach where it is and having it leave me when crashing down is not what I think of when I think of fun. 

If you want to learn more about Eric or get in touch – you can find him here on LinkedIn. Thank you Eric for spending time with us.