Introduction to Performing

and the PEP Tool

Lynn Robert Carter


Macro Lifecycle Model

At the heart of the Personal Engineering Process (PEP) is a belief that lessons from the past can be leveraged to produce better results on future projects. When people are open to the patterns of the work they do, it is easy for them to see recurring activities in their projects. These patterns of work are often called lifecycles. The most fundamental lifecycle in PEP consists of four major recurring activities:
  1. Plan
  2. Perform
  3. Reflect on actual versus plan
  4. Reflect on quality

Logging Effort and Insights

The basis for predictable performance and product quality is a well-considered agreement between all parties addressing the six standard questions: who, what, why, when, where, and how. Recognizing that a plan can't really predict the future is the starting point. From there, the agreement is forged on a careful review of the work to be done and the lessons experience has taught us about similar work. When the work and lessons of others are ignored, there is a limit to what we can accomplish. When we find recurring themes and leverage proven lessons, there is no limit to what we can do.

Even a well-considered plan is meaningless if it doesn't guide our implementation. The value of lessons learned evaporates if we fail to study them and heed their insights. These two notions are at the heart of the support PEP provides the student during the performing phase of a project. The material immediately following describes how the PEP System helps you leverage your plan. Once lessons have been learned and captured in the system (via Reflect activities) the PEP System supports your access those lessons at critical points in the development process. That aspect of the PEP System will be addressed in the section titled Leveraging Lessons Learned.

The performing phase consists of the following set of activities:

To begin the process, click on the link as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1

The Perform Main Page, similar to the one shown below, is used to summarize the project progress to date, link to key aspects of the project plan, and support the logging of effort, insights, and defects. As shown below, the high-level lifecycle for the project is presented. The performing activities of the lifecycle are links to subordinate pages where planning information is available and effort logging takes place. On the right side of the page, the system provides a link to open a defect log entry as well as links to the various logs. (These link will only become active when there is something in each of the logs.)

Be careful not to click on the Finalize link until all of the effort for the project has been recorded. (Should you accidentally click the link before you have finished the performing activities, contact your professor. The system can be reset to allow you access.)

Figure 2

Clicking on one of the lifecycle tasks takes you to a subordinate page where the system displays the steps you specified for that task during the planning phase. The following figure shows that the first lifecycle task was defined to have only a single step to it. To log effort to that step, click on the link as shown below.

Figure 3

When you click on a step, the PEP System generates an effort log entry for that step. It is critical that you fill out as much of this log item as possible. (Experience has shown that people tend to forget detail as time passes. Record the information in you notebook or on-line as soon after the effort is performed as is possible. If you leave fields blank, it is likely they will remain blank until the end of the project and you'll be hard pressed to figure out what information to use to fill them in.)

The PEP System will fill in the current date and time for you. While the exact start date and time are not crucial, the information can be used to help you see how your effort was spread over the period of the project. Please adjust the date and time to reflect, as closely as you can, the actual start of the effort.

The effort field must be filled in using the number of minutes you actually spent working on the activity. If you spent 60 minutes elapsed time on a step, but found yourself interrupted to work on unrelated things, subtract the minutes of these interruptions from the 60 minutes. If you worked one long block of time and worked on several different lifecycle tasks or several steps within a task, please break that block of time into separate effort log entries. The more accurately you record how you spent your time, the more useful that data will be when it comes time to plan you next project. Dreaming up data just to earn points leaves you with a fiction as you start on your next assignment with the probability growing of lost weekends and late nights.

It is also critical for you to log the effort against the proper deliverable. During the performing phase of the project, you should be working to implement the solution to the assignment, so most of the log entries should be toward either the "Programmed solution" or "Specified solution" deliverables (or possibly a combination of them both if you have elected to write both code and specifications.)

If may be that you discover that you didn't really fully understand the assignment before you began the implementation. This is a planning defect and you should log it as such. You should also log the time against the proper planning activity, even if you are no longer doing planning. This is accomplished by clicking on the "Effort Log" link as shown in figure 3 above. Once you are at the effort log (similar to what is shown below in figure 9), click on the button at the bottom of the page to generate an appropriate effort log item for the planning activity.

The insight field is used to capture information about the effort you performed that will help you makes sense of the project in the future. Leaving this field blank robs you of key facts that may help you do a better job on future activities. Take advantage of the opportunity and capture insights you have gained from the effort you have expended. It will make the reflection activities and future planning much easier.

Once all of the fields have been filled out, click on the Update link as shown below to save the information into the PEP System database. Ignoring this action will result in your data being discarded.

Figure 4

Once you have finished logging effort and insights against this lifecycle task, click on the Return link as shown below.

Figure 5

Notice how the Perform Main Page display has changed now that you have logged effort against the second lifecycle task. The PEP System can't be sure whether or not you have finished a task or not, so the status field simply indicates "Active". The system also sums all of the effort for that particular task and displays the current running sum.

Remember that your grade is not based on how close your actual comes to the plan. This is especially true for the first few assignments where you were asked to plan with no real data to support your estimates. It is far better for you (both personally as well as from a grading perspective) to log all of the time you have spent on the task. The grade you receive will be based on the quality of your analysis of your performance during the Reflect (AvP) phase of the project. Should your actuals exactly match your plan and yet you fail to write about your experience, no credit will be awarded.

The third lifecycle task is more interesting. Clicking on this link takes you to a subordinate page where all of the steps for that task are displayed.

Figure 6

The third lifecycle task was defined (in this example) with three subordinate steps. Those three steps come back here to remind you of your intent during planning. It may well be that you realize during implementation that these steps are not particularly helpful. This is the kind of information you really do need to capture in the insight fields of your effort log entries.

Clicking on these entries, as shown below, will generate effort log forms ready for you to update and complete. Again, the quality of your data will determine the usefulness of the system to you on future assignments.

Figure 7

In order to review the effort log, update the effort log, or insert an effort log item for some lifecycle task other than a performing task, you must go to the effort log. This is accomplished by clicking on the "Effort log" link as shown below. The "(n=?)" tells you the number of log entries in that log. In this example, there are six effort log entries in the effort log.

Figure 8

The effort log shows a summary of your effort log entries. Since the log can be larger than will fit on your screen, the PEP System blocks the display and provides a "Next" and "Previous" links to move you forward or backward through the log. In the case below, there are just enough entries to fill the screen, so the links are missing. (The PEP System does not know the size of your screen. If your browser window is small, the system may paint a page that exceeds the window. All browsers display vertical and horizontal scroll bars to allow you to access information that can't be displayed. You may need to use these as well as the links to access all of the log entries.)

Should you wish to view all of the fields of a log entry or update a log entry, click on the serial number on the left side of the page for the entry you wish to expand. The system will take you to a view / update page where you can alter most of the fields of the entry. If you need to change the lifecycle task for a log entry, you are forced to delete the log entry and create a new one. To delete log entry, click on the Delete link on the right side of the page. A page nearly identical to the log page will be shown. On this page, click on the sequence number of an entry will delete it.

Should you need to generate a new effort log for some task other than a perform lifecycle task, select the appropriate lifecycle task in the pulldown list and click the create button on the bottom of the form.

Figure 9

Logging Defects

During the performing phase, you are likely to discover errors in your previous work. Rather than ignoring these errors and losing the opportunity to learn from them, log those errors as defects. The PEP System was designed to help you log these defects for two purposes: the first is to help you recall that some of these defects may not have been corrected, and the second is to support you in the generation of lessons learned during the Reflect (Defect) phase.

While defects are a pain, nothing is more painful that to waste time more than once on the same kind of defect. If you fail to log your defects and processes them systematically, you are likely to generate more defects just like the one you just experienced.

We insert defects into our work primarily due to the approach we take to doing our work. Everyone generates defects. Some learn from their painful experiences and improve. Most do not. Improvement is not having a list of all of the things that could go wrong. Improvement is recognizing how your approach to doing your work makes it easy for defects to occur. Once you see that your work processes generate the bulk of your defects, you will start to explore ways to improve your processes to avoid these defects.

The whole process begins when we admit to ourselves that our work isn't perfect and there's room for improvement. This needs to happen whenever you realize that:

To log a defect, you begin by open a defect. This is accomplished as shown in the page below.

Figure 10

To obtain the greatest value from the defect log, you must complete as much of the log entry as possible. If you've already solved the problem, you should be able to complete all of the fields. If you only known the symptoms and haven't yet solved the problem, fill in as much as you can and specify that the status of the defect is Open. (The PEP system provides access to a subset of the defect log to allow you to examine just the open log entries. This can be useful when you discover problems but don't have time now to resolve them.)

The first field on the page is the Type of defect. The choices are from the list provided above: planning, rework, and quality. Planning defects are usually created during the Reflect (AvP) activity. Quality defects are usually reported to you from the customer. Most of the defects you will discover during the performing phase should be logged as Rework defects.

When you have completed all of the fields of a defect log form and you have resolved the defect, change the status of the defect from Open to Closed. This will remove the entry from the Open log and will allow you to focus your effort more easily on what remains to be done.

As your insights about the defect grow, you will understand when the waste occurred as well as when the defect occurred. For example, if you failed to read an important reference during the planning phase and began your implementation with an erroneous understanding, you are likely to run into a problem during the performing phase. The work done during the performing phase that must be discarded and redone is the waste. The amount of time producing the code that will be thrown away is the Effort wasted. The Waste occurred during one of the perform lifecycle tasks and the Defect occurred during the "Plan the approach" lifecycle task. Capturing this information is vital if the PEP System is to help you generate timely lessons learned for use during future assignments.

Capturing the symptom and the root cause is also critical. The form provides guidance on how to determine what kind of information to provide. If you leave these fields blank, you will be hard pressed to generate much of a lesson learned during the Reflect (Defect) phase of the project.

Once you have filled out as much information as you can about the defect, be sure to press the Update link. Otherwise, all of your changes to the form will be lost (you'll be left with an empty open log item.)

If you have erroneously created a defect log entry, you may delete it by clicking on the Delete link on the right side of the page.

Figure 11

After you have updated the defect log entry, the PEP System takes you to the defect log page as shown below. You may view the details of a log entry or update it by clicking on the sequence number for that entry.

As with the effort log, the defect log may not fit on one page. Should that occur, the system will generate "Next" and "Previous" links as required to allow you to see the various batches of defects.

If you need to delete a log entry after it has been created, click on the Delete link on the form below, and then click on the sequence number of the entry you wish to delete.

When you have finished with the log, click on the return link to proceed back to the Perform Main Page (as shown below.)

Figure 12

The following figure shows a representation of the Perform Main Page after all of the effort log entries have been made. It is good to scan over all of the effort log entries to see if any critical data is missing. The following figure shows the user click the link to examine the effort log.

Figure 13

Notice that this effort log display has more than enough entries to fit on the page, so the system has generated a "Previous" or "Next" (or possibly both) on the upper right side of the page. Using these links, you can examine all of the blocks of effort log entries. Should you wish to see the details of any log item, click on its sequence number.

Figure 14

Once you are satisfied that all of the effort has been properly logged, all of the defects have been logged and closed, and all of the work needed to deliver the product to the customer has been performed, it is time to Finalize the Perform phase of the project. This is accomplished as shown below. Please don't click this link if you haven't finished your implementation. (If you do so by accident, you professor can reset the system to allow you back to these pages.)

Figure 15

Pressing the Finalize link takes you back to the Course Main Page where you can see that the status of the project has advanced to the Reflect (AvP) phase. This is where you consider what you have just experienced and capture lessons for improvement for future planning.

Figure 16


lrc@sei.cmu.edu
Revision 1.2 (1999/09/10 08:49:00)