PMBOK 5 - Accepted

Acceptance Well, what an on / off / on-again relationship this has turned out to be. After explaining how I was rejected from the PMI PMBOK v5 initiative previously, I received news this week that I have been accepted onto the content creation group for the next version of the PMBOK v5 Guide.

I am not sure if this is a result of me expressing my concern to the PMI that the roughly 60% of PMI members who are engaged in IT likely want some better agile project management guidance and there seemed no one on the committee to provide that. Or simply the ripple down selection of more candidates inthe content creation categories. 

Anyway, I am grateful for the opportunity and am looking forward to contributing wherever I can, because here’s the kicker, I have been accepted onto the group to rewrite Chapter 12 on Procurement. This is odd because when volunteering to contribute we had to rank which chapters we would most like to work on. Given my agile designs on planning, scheduling and estimation these are the areas I ranked highest, ranking Procurement as the lowest.

Now, perhaps I got my high / low ends of the scales mixed up and I accidently voted Procurement highest, but I do not think so. Perhaps the selection committee thought fine, if we have to have this agile windbag onboard, put him over in Procurement where he can do least damage! Or perhaps simply not many people volunteered for Procurement and so that’s where the only opening was. I have sent an enquiry into the PMI, but am not holding my breath for a reply.

Anyways, so now I need to determine how to best influence the Procurement process with an agile perspective. It is quite applicable as I am currently going through an RFI and RFP process with my main client and last year, at the Agile Business Conference in London, I was in discussions with the developers of the new Agile Contract group which may have a tie in.

So, not the role I was looking for, but perhaps a small foot in the door, time will tell and I will keep you posted.

Agile Communications

Communicating Why so much Communication?
“We work with bits not atoms”. This phrase speaks to the distinction of IT projects from physical construction. Our tools and processes manipulate ideas, concepts, and models, not steel, concrete, or plastic. Given the intangible nature of software, it is no surprise we need more focus on communications, collaboration and information sharing to keep everyone informed and aligned towards a common goal.

Agile methods recognize this increased need for communication and provide a variety of tools and checkpoints to help avoid the classic project mistakes of mismatched expectations and confusion. In the absence of a visible physical product to point at and measure, we need to be constantly confirming understandings and aligning ideas against increments of the final solution. Otherwise we get the “That’s not what I asked for” or “That’s not what I need” of yesteryear’s IT projects.

Why So Often?
Daily Stand-Up meetings are common on agile projects, not because IT folk are more forgetful than other workers and need to discuss work goals and results more often; but instead because the potential for misunderstanding is higher when working on novel, hard to describe problems. Stand-Up meetings keep the team informed of work and issues that change quickly and also provide a forum to raise obstacles to progress so they can quickly removed before they unduly impact performance.

Why So Many Demo’s?
Software projects typically contain a lot of uncertainty. You would have to be clairvoyant to accurately predict the final business requirements of an organization 18 months out into the future in today’s rapidly changing business environment. So agile methods accept some requirements are likely to change and rather than have a change control process that should really be called a “Change Suppression Process” they welcome new ideas and then seek priority within a backlog of requested features. Obviously changes cost money, but if it is more important than some previously discussed item, then why not incorporate it and deliver some late breaking competitive advantage?

Agile methods promote the frequent demonstration of software for a couple of reasons. One, to get feedback and make sure it is fit for business purpose. Quite often it is not until we see something that we can better articulate what we really need, now with reference to a visible prototype. Another reason is that it is often during these demonstrations we learn about business changes and new requirements. Many times I have heard comments along the lines of ‘Oh, and for product ABC we will need to way of entering X” when this has been news to us. That’s OK, visual demo’s tap into the right hand side of our brain, not used much in analytical, left brain list making and requirements gathering. It is the combination of lists and visual cues that frequent demo’s provide that create our final views of what the system should encompass.

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PMBOK 5 - Rejected

PMBOK v5 Recently I volunteered to help write the PMBOK v5 Edition and encouraged other agile project managers to get involved in the initiative also. Well, last week I heard back that my application to serve on the PMBOK v5 Core Committee was not successful.

The email explained that because they “…had received over 250 applications from a highly qualified group of candidates.  Unfortunately, we had more qualified candidates than available positions…” but I can’t help wondering if my “PMBOK v5 - Raise a Little Hell” post might have set off a couple of alarm bells with them too.

Anyway, apparently they are still looking for people to work on the Content Committee and Review Committee so perhaps I will get a spot there; I hope so since I enjoyed my involvement in the PMBOK v3 Edition.

I would be really interested to hear from anyone in the agile community who was successful in gaining a spot on the core PMBOK v5 committee. I hope there are some agile proponents represented. So please drop me a line if you were successful.

New “Agility Now!” Newsletter

Agility Now! As one door closes another one opens, and Gantthead.com the online project management portal and recourse site with >470,000 members, has launched an agile newsletter called “Agility Now!” and have asked me to help.

I have been writing for them for a couple of years now as part of Doug DeCarlo’s eXtreme Project Management department and so was thrilled when they offered me the role. Each month the newsletter will contain new articles on agile project management and highlight agile blogs, tools, and events of interest to agile project managers.

Fellow PMI Agile Community of Practice cohort Jesse Fewell will be contributing a regular “Agile People” article too and I am looking forward to seeing how it develops. To sign-up go to Gantthead.com, My Account, Subscriptions and Notifications, and select the “Agility Now!” Newsletter.

Agile Preservation or Progression?

Shell Back in 1994 when we were defining DSDM, I remember our experiment of getting the user community engaged in the application architecture. (Not a successful experience!) It was at Data Sciences in Farnborough, UK and we were working on a project for a government client called ECGD. Following ideas from Enid Mumford on Participative Design we were testing how far the benefits of closer business engagement went and discovered a limit.
 
For us at least, having the business closely engaged in scope discussions, screen designs, and planning was extremely positive, but having them engaged in our architecture sessions was a net negative experience. They leapt to implementation ideas, disregarded IS strategy, and did not know enough about the architectural issues to be helpful in the discussions. We got frustrated, they got frustrated, and no body seemed better off.

So we discussed it with other DSDM Consortium members and agreed business involvement should not extend to architecture. The DSDM framework was updated and we carried on with our experiments and evolution of the method. For me this was a transformational moment, it was my first time of witnessing a failure and adaptation of a process within DSDM and how we learn and adapt. We just changed the methodology; there was no sacred cow, just good old scientific experimentation.

Business involvement in GUI design: Good
Business involvement in architecture design: Bad.
Therefore, involve them in GUI design, but not in architecture.

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Decisions: Delayed, Dated, or Done?

Decisions Burden Decision making is both analytical and emotional. We need to make decisions to move forward beyond the forks in the road, but when exactly is the best time to make them? Agilists have the automatic response of “At the last responsible moment” drummed into their heads so often that you may think they are drones rather than free thinking individuals.

Delayed
Agile and Lean gurus have explained the benefits of delaying decisions until the last responsible moment for many years. It prevents us from committing to potentially harmful decisions too soon and instead enables us to gather more information and then make a better decision when we actually need to. It keeps design options open, enhances agility, and allows agile teams to be more responsive to change than teams who have locked into a defined approach early.

Dated
Real Options adds some math to the picture. It supports the same general idea of decision delaying and providing some dates and values for our decision making calendar. This could be reassuring for people left feeling a little uneasy by all the “up in the air” decisions. Now, it is not that we are just putting them off, but instead have agreed that there is an optimal time to make each decision and when that arrives we will make them.

Done
I recently read the excellent “Rework” book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37 Signals and it was refreshing to read about their thoughts on Decision Making. They say: “Decisions are progress. Don’t wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward. You want to get into the rhythm of making choices. When you get in that flow of making decision after decision, you build momentum and boost morale. You can’t build on top of “We’ll decide later”, but you can build on top of “Done”.

Plus, you don’t have to live with a decision forever. If you make a mistake, you can correct it later. It doesn’t matter how much you plan, you will still get some stuff wrong anyway. Don’t make things worse by overanalyzing and delaying before you even get going. Long projects zap morale. Make the call, make progress, and get something out now – while you’ve got the motivation and momentum to do so.”


I like this a lot. We can often get caught up in the analysis of the perfect moment to make a decision and forget the very real motivational impact of not deciding. Decisions are emotional and our emotions impact our productivity. Yes it might be marginally better to decide on that reporting tool at the end of the month, but if everyone is non-committal until then or only 90% focussed, perhaps not sure on what will happen, then what is the real cost of this Real Option?

People’s ability to deal with ambiguity varies from person to person. However many people find it disconcerting to work with little bits of their commitment parked at each of these delayed decisions. It is foolish to try and schedule being happy on Thursday at 2pm, likewise it is foolish to assume delaying decisions comes without motivational penalties.

Like most things, we can’t live by a single mantra such a “Delay decisions to the last responsible moment”, instead we need to balance the analytical benefits of delaying decisions against the emotional costs and remember that, as Rework goes on to say: “Momentum fuels motivation. The way you build momentum is by getting something done then moving on to the next thing.” Rework keeps it real, and for that is a great read.

“…we need to balance the analytical benefits of delaying decisions against the emotional costs …”

Empowered Teams Are Dead – Long Live Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose

Demotivated Agile methods emphasize and encourage empowerment and creating empowered teams, but empowerment is not enough. Empowerment, according to Daniel Pink author of “Drive: The Surprising truth about what motivates us“, is just a slightly more civilized form of control. This control is part of a broken motivation system corporations use that he calls Motivation 2.0.

Here’s the quick summary. Motivation 1.0 is our basic desire to find food, shelter, sex, etc. Once met, people look to higher levels of rewards to motivate us. Motivation 2.0 has been traditional management’s carrot and stick motivation system. If you do this…, then you get this…. The trouble with IF-THEN rewards is that while we like them at first we quickly tire of them. Then because the reward can never continue to escalate at levels that excite us, we grow used to them and get discouraged if we fail to meet the IF condition and do not get the reward or worse, if the IF-THEN reward is removed.

Daniel Pink states several MIT studies where adults and children were rewarded for conducting work, hobbies and play activities. Once the reward is removed people stopped doing them, even if the had previously happily voluntarily done them before. Once tainted by IF-THEN rewards, the motivation was sucked right out of it.

Pink asserts the current IF-THEN extrinsic motivation corporations use, that he describes as Motivation 2.0 is flawed and needs an upgrade. Hence the need and rise of Motivation 3.0 based on the intrinsic concepts of:
•    Autonomy
•    Mastery
•    Purpose.


Autonomy means giving people control over how they work. Moving beyond empowered teams who are required to be in work for stand-up meetings at set times each day, instead giving them control over:
    Task – the work then do and how they undertake them
    Time – when they choose to work in the day, week, year
    Technique – How they perform tasks and from where
    Team – How they organize, interact and collaborate

I have written previously on Results Only Work Environments (ROWEs) where people are given these freedoms and Ricardo Semler’s Semco is the poster child, but Pink offered additional examples of Meddius and Best Buy headquarters. Not only do people prefer it, but productivity and profits increase as satisfaction and motivation blossom.

Mastery describes the pleasure we get from doing what we love and following our passion. This can be seen when someone is so absorbed in a task that they are in the zone, or what Pink calls finding their flow. “Flow” is a great term to describe the state of mind when time seems to disappear and we are just immersed in the task. This feeling of flow can be difficult to find when our work environment puts obstacle after obstacle in font of us, whether it is admin and rules that limit our time in the role that we love, or restrictive work processes that impinge too much to allow us to get into this flow.

Mastery comes from:
    Flow – having the time, space and freedom to find and exercise your passion for a profession
    Goldilocks Tasks – Not too difficult and not too easy, but just right. We need enough Goldilocks tasks to stretch, engage and indulge our desire for completion and satisfaction.
    Mindset of learning – people who believe intelligence and knowledge is not a fixed capacity we are endowed with, but rather a muscle or skill we can grow. People who are happy to face their limitations and continually find new learning opportunities achieve mastery easier.

Purpose describes tapping into people’s belief that there should be more to work than just making money and being successful. Instead aligning company goals with individual’s aspirations for doing good and meeting a higher guiding principle.

This is why companies like TOMS Shoes were created that give away a pair of shoes to poor countries for every pair sold. Buyers feel good since their purchase has a charitable impact and the workers at TOMS feel good since they are doing more than just generating shareholder value. Instead they are tapping into their motivation 3.0 principle of a compelling Purpose.

Motivation 3.0 for Agile Teams

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Smart Metrics Slides

This article summarizes my “Lessons Learned in Project Metrics: Are your Metrics Dumb or Smart?” presentation. It covers the following six topics
Agenda
 

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Six Project Trends Every PM Should be Aware Of

Future As we start 2010, the second decade of the 21st century, project managers really should be embracing 21st century technologies and approaches. While developers and other project members have been benefiting from improved communication and collaboration via new technology in the last 10 years, project managers have been slower to adopt them.

The plus side of being a late adopter is that most of the kinks get ironed out before you experience them and all the features you may need have probably already been developed. So, time to get with it. Perhaps it can be a New Year’s resolution to at least examine these tools and approaches if you are not already using them on your projects.

The World Has Changed – Why Haven’t Your PM Tools and Approaches?
In the last 10 years many changes have occurred in the world of managing IT projects, yet we still see the same tools and approaches being employed. Is this because they are classic and timeless? Are the traditional PM approaches so successful that they do not need to be dragged here and there following trends and immature technology fads? No, I fear it is more that people are creatures of habit, and the usually more mature project management community, are worse than most at evaluating and adopting new approaches.

Also, project management is a largely individual activity, teams of developers and business analysts are far more common than teams of project managers, so peer-to-peer learning and tool support is almost nonexistent for project managers. Plus, project management can often be a reputation based market and to some people fumbling around as a beginner in a new approach is very uncomfortable to them. Well it is time to get over it, this is how we learn anything, and if you are concerned about looking foolish, just imagine how foolish you will look when everyone else has moved with recent trends and you are in the last stand of dinosaurs.

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The Science of Empowerment

Pleasure Response Solving problems with innovative solutions is fun, exciting and rewarding. Yet, being told what to do is generally boring and not very motivating, but why is this? Why exactly do some ways of working seem enjoyable and satisfying while others the total opposite? Well, the explanation involves chemistry and electricity.

I had coffee today with Dr Michael Aucoin, author of Right Brain Project Management, that I have discussed previously. He has been in Banff working on his new book and we chatted about empowered teams and productivity.

He explained that simply presenting work as questions rather than statements can engage mental models that make work more engaging, rewarding and in turn productive. More and more research on the brain is showing that we are hard-wired to reward ourselves for solving problems. Thinking about this, it makes sense, evolution rewards problem solvers and so an appropriate response is to make it feel good so that we continue doing it.

When we solve a problem and get that “ah-ha” moment, pleasure circuits in the brain light-up and endorphins are released that give us the buzz of solving the problem.  We also generate ownership for the solution and motivation to make it work, even if we encounter obstacles during the implementation. Contrast this level of enthusiasm with the prospect of having to do mandatory administration tasks or form filling. It is no surprise people enjoy working on empowered teams more than being directed exactly what to do, and some teams are orders of magnitude more productive than others.

So, as a project manager looking to increase productivity and motivation, is it simply a case of posing all work as questions and problems to be solved?  Obviously not, asking “Can anyone get our time recording entered?”, “Or, how can we write up these meeting minutes?” is likely to elicit the deserved response of “Yes, you need to stop wasting our time with dumb questions and do it!

However, most projects could greatly benefit from engaging people’s problem solving skills and the motivation from solution-finding. Rather than over analyse difficult problems and prematurely decompose complexity into simple tasks, instead invite the team to find solutions. Make use of people’s problem solving skills and increased motivation it brings to create a more rewarding environment.

Is this manipulation, a mind trick to get people to work harder? I don’t  think so, instead a more insightful and respectful way of engaging a team. After all “We manage property and lead people. If we try to manage people they will feel like property”. Research on the brain is helping us understand what we instinctively feel. I am looking forward to Mike’s next book and learning more about working smarter.


Zombieland Project Management

Zombie Zombies and Project Managers; to many people the images are synonymous, fools blindly shuffling from one goal to the next. Not too smart, but a major annoyance if you are trying to get somewhere, or get something done.

Yet, as a project manager I have a weakness for zombie films, they appeal to my inner urge to cut down those who impede progress or just don’t get it. I know you can not really do that, and these feelings are more likely a reflection on my inability to communicate effectively, but none the less, a socially acceptable demographic for outpourings of frustration seems to have wide appeal, and box office success.

So, other than some people thinking project managers are lumbering dullards, and this one occasionally thinking of chainsaws, what does the film Zombieland and project management have in common?

• The Insecurity Complex
• The Goal Obsession

In the film comedy Zombieland two mismatched characters team up to survive zombie attacks, find love and pursue a goal. Our hero is Columbus, a socially awkward young man who’s obsessions and aversions in normal life had made him a lonely misfit, now keep him alive in a time when most people have succumbed to zombies. His partner is Tallahassee a hard hitting, shoot first ask questions later, type guy who is driven by an overwhelming desire to find the world’s remaining supply of “Twinkie” cakes.

The Insecurity Complex

An Insecurity Complex is a common feeling for new project managers. Linda Hill describes it well in her book “On Becoming a Manager”. She explains how people who did well in technical and sales roles often struggle and experience “Self-Doubt” when first in a management position.

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Scrum, Bikram Yoga and The Attention Economy

Yoga

What do Scrum and Bikram Yoga have in common? They both cater for the attention economy. Humans derive a lot of their sense of security and confidence, what psychologist Albert Bandura calls “self-efficacy,” from predictable routines. Without these predictable routines we can feel uncomfortable and uncertain.

 

I was talking to a colleague, Mike McCullough, last week who was creating agile training materials and quick-start templates to help organizations adopt agile. I was teasing him on the irony of creating prescriptive templates to guide people through an adaptive process that should probably be tailored for each project. He agreed, but pointed out that definitive models (even if not optimal) are much easier to sell than open-end frameworks requiring adjustment and set-up.

 

This is true, known entities create buying confidence. Comforted by the certainty (or less uncertainty) of a well defined approach our mental search for predictability is satisfied. Plus, really, which is easier to explain and sell to sponsors:

  1. We are adopting Scrum, it has two-week iterations, a Product Owner role, and work prioritized in a Product Backlog.
  2. We will select a hybrid of agile and traditional approaches, based on project and organizational characteristics, and selectively add and subtract approaches based on stakeholder feedback and project performance.

 

Even if option 2 is better, it sounds so fuzzy and nebulous that frankly as a sponsor, I am not sure what I am buying into.

 

Scrum

At the heart of Scrum is a simple process, obviously a great deal of skill is required to make it successful in challenging environments, but the underlying model is simple and this is a great strength. Scrum is the fastest growing and most widely used agile method, due to this simplicity. It can be quickly described, the rules are clearly defined, and there is a certainty to the process guidelines that (regardless of whether they always really apply) satisfy our urge for completeness and certainty.

  • There are clearly defined activities (Release Planning Meeting, Sprint Planning Meeting, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review)
  • Sprints are fixed time periods, traditionally 30 days, but now many teams use 2 weeks
  • Only Certified Scrum Trainers can deliver Certified Scrum Master training courses

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga is a form of hot-yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury. It caused some controversy when the 26 postures were pursued under copyright and wide-scale franchising occurred. The whole commercialization of yoga for personal profit seemed, well, un-yoga -ish and spawned the “Yoga, Inc” documentary and terms like “McYoga “.  Regardless of the controversy, it has been amazingly successful. With over 600 studios worldwide, it is the fastest growing form of yoga.

  • All classes perform the same 26 Postures
  • Classes are always 90 minutes in length and conducted at 104F
  • Only certified Bikram instructors can run Bikram hot yoga classes

The Attention Economy...

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Agile Business Conference 2009

London I attended the Agile Business Conference in London this week and presented on Tracking Project Performance. I missed this conference last year and so it was especially good to catch up with people again and hear what they have been doing. Also, after working in London for six years, but then living in Canada for the last nine years, it is always interesting to see how things have changed since my last visit. This year it was video screens replacing all the paper billboards going up and down the escalators on the Underground that caught my eye.

 

The conference was very good, and had the general theme of “Agile Grown Up”, focussing on the organizational impacts of using agile. This may not have been as much interest to technical people, but was right up my street. On Tuesday there was a great session about agile at Nokia where 1800 software developers are using agile to develop the Symbian mobile phone platform. They are using a version of Dean Leffingwell’s “Agile Train” approach for scaling agile to such a large team and most agile practices, but not pair-programming or emerging architecture. However, the main emphasis was beyond the technical process scaling and more on the ongoing coaching, mentoring and training that is required for such a large undertaking. In a discussion with the presenter Simon Buck after the talk I learned that they aim for one full time coach/trainer for each set of 5 Scrum Teams (each about 7 people). Quite the undertaking.

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Assessing Your Emotional Capital

Expectation Heart Dream Trust IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and IQ tests that attempt to measure intelligence are well known. However, IQ is not a good predictor of how successful you will be in life, or how effective and valued you will be at work.

Emotional Intelligence (EI), often measured as an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), is a different measure that describes the ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups.

“Research shows convincingly that EQ is more important than IQ in almost every role and many times more important in leadership roles. This finding is accentuated as we move from the control philosophy of the industrial age to an empowering release philosophy of the knowledge worker age.” - Stephen Covey

So since software is a knowledge worker activity, and agile methods promote an empowering release philosophy, for leaders of agile projects EQ is of special importance. How can we measure our EQ? Well Martyn Newman’s Emotional Capital Inventory (ECI) is a great place to start. This online assessment scores participants against the 10 EQ dimensions of:

1. Self-Awareness
2. Self-Confidence
3. Self-Reliance
4. Self-Actualization
5. Assertiveness
6. Relationships Skills
7. Empathy
8. Self-Control
9. Flexibility
10. Optimism

LeadingAnswers.com readers are invited to take the short version of the assessment for free, just follow this link. Free Emotional Capital Inventory Test.

EC

I recently read an early release copy of Martyn Newman’s “Emotional Capitalists: The New Leaders” book and was impressed. Several years ago I finally realized that successful projects are more about people and less about processes and tools. A Computer Science degree and 20 years of technical experience had not equipped me for the role of managing teams. Since then my studies have been focussed on the higher leverage area of people and team dynamics more than project management mechanics. You definitely need the mechanics to run projects, but usually the final outcome comes down to people.

Reuven Bar-On was amongst the pioneers to write about Emotional Intelligence and Daniel Goleman helped bring the subject to the business world with his Emotional Intelligence best seller. I liked these books and agreed with all the points raised, but often finished a book without a clear action plan for what I should start doing differently tomorrow.

What I like best about Emotional Capitalists is the practical nature of the advice given. Not only are the concepts explained clearly with entertaining stories, but each chapter is followed with a one page action plan summary, the advice is very accessible whereas some other books on EQ are more theoretical.

Sample EQ Graph  

Bad News and Good News
The bad news is your IQ peaks in your teens and from there on declines. The good news is that IQ is not a great predictor of happiness or success anyway, EQ is a better predictor of these, and EQ peaks in your late forties and early fifties so we have more time to practice and improve.

(As an aside, I think it is interesting how in our optimism we gravitate towards metrics that suit our circumstances. We are getting older and not any smarter, but hey, that’s OK, here’s a different score that we look better against! Maybe this is being wiser rather than smarter. Since turning forty my chances of running a sub 3hr marathon or sub 36 minute 10K again have approached zero, however I now use Age Weighted Scores and, problem solved, I’m not getting slower (well I am) but I can now compare my times against others my own age and use that as a metric for performance.) 

Anyway, have a look at the assessment, if nothing else it will familiarize you with some aspects of Emotional Intelligence that are critical to being successful today. Thanks again to Martyn Newman for giving a free trial of the tool for readers of this blog. The book covers many great topics that I plan to write on in the future, but for now I will end with some of my favourite quotes:


"You can’t lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse" - John Peters

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others" - Jack Welch

"What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen" - Henry David Thoreau

"To be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great" - Friedrich Hegel

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance” - Bruce Barton

"If leadership is ultimately the art of accomplishing extraordinary things with ordinary people then building emotional capital is how you achieve it" – Martyn Newman


Calgery APLN Meeting Slides Posted

On May 15 I presented on “Decomposing large programs into agile projects” and “Mapping the PMI Processes to Agile Best Practices” at the Calgary APLN meeting. I have uploaded the slides in PDF format and also a zip file containing the hyperlinked Process Groups / Knowledge Areas mapping to Agile practices. (You will need to unzip the PowerPoint slide and Word files into the same directory for the hyperlinks to work correctly.)

Calgary APLN May 15 Slides.pdf

PMI Agile Mappings.ZIP

Bridge
The timing of the presentation was very close to Michele Sliger and  Stacia Broderick’s release of their new book “The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility”. I was hoping we could give a copy of their book away as a door prize, but the book was available about a week too late. However, I received a copy this weekend (thanks Michele, Stacia) it looks good and I look forward to reading it. We also have some copies on order as door prizes for future meetings.


Travel and Training

TravelI have been traveling and training lots recently and not had much time to post new entries here.

However, the travel time has allowed me to read more and two books I am current enjoying are Leadership Agility by Joiner, Josephs and A Leader Becomes a Leader by J. Sheehan.

L2_2

L1_2

Neither is specifically about Agile methods, but both highlight great ideas that are universally applicable. I will post complete reviews when I have finished them.

My traveling and training courses continue next week when I will be teaching a public 2 day Agile Project Management course in Scottsdale for the PMI. I will be repeating it in Seattle May 20-21 and Washington D.C. August 11, 12.

Other public courses coming up include a 1 day in Sacramento June 20 and a two day in Anchorage September 11-12. These courses are proving popular (Scottsdale and Seattle are sold-out) but I also offer private courses that can be tailored to company requirements. Please see here for a full list.

Once the Scottsdale course is over I will resume regular postings here.


Top 10 Team Practices

Team_practicesThere are some great books on agile team dynamics nowadays. My personal favorites include:

The problem is that most people do not get the time they want or need to read about these topics. So, I have created the following: Top 10 Team Practices list and one-page printer friendly version to remind us of some of the basic points.

If you lead a team then print the sheet and post it somewhere visible and do a mental inventory of the practices from time to time. If you are a member of a team that could do with a boost, print a copy and post it on your manager’s wall, I am sure they will thank you for it! (actual results may vary.)

1) Empower them – By giving control for local decision making and work sequencing to the team we gain the advantages of additional insights, better motivated teams, and more practical plans with less waiting. 

2) Listen to them – The team is closer to the technical details of the project and also best placed to determine the most successful solutions to project challenges and problems. Encouraging the team to solve the project problems has two main benefits. It demonstrates they are valued for their insight as well as their output, which makes people feel more involved and appreciated. Also, solutions suggested by the team are more likely to be embraced and executed with enthusiasm. It is better to have a 70% optimal solution executed with 80% enthusiasm than a 100% optimal solution executed with 40% enthusiasm.

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No Glory in “The Middle Way“

Balanced_approach (The “Balanced Blend” Manifesto takes Shape)

Don’t really buy into all the hype of agile? Think it works up to a point, but real-life is actually more complicated and demands more of a hybrid approach? – Don’t worry, you are not alone.

Since helping define DSDM in 1994, I have spent the last 14 years helping organizations adopt agile methods like DSDM, Scrum, XP, FDD, etc and have come to realize, like many others, that these methods are not the solution. Instead they are the over-simplified starting points that you need to blend into what already works within the organization. Then overlay and support with additional approaches to create successful project ecosystems.

We need simplified schematics of systems to assist comprehension and discussion. However, all too often these simplified models are put into production as the entire solution and then problems occur.  Like a simplified model of a car braking system, it is useful in helping us understand how the system works in theory, yet is full of design flaws for practical implementation.

Brake_schematic_2

In real life, servo’s and pumps are needed to amplify the braking force from the pedal. There is not a single shared-fluid system, but instead two diagonally opposed systems (so a leak does not result in total brake failure or pulling to one side in a left and right split system). In addition to the basic system shown here, cars also employ an array of supporting systems for fluid level monitoring, ABS, wear detection, etc.

Luckily people do not read about the basics of car braking systems and then decide to replace the one on their car with their own design. However plenty of people read about agile methods and decide to implement that as their new software production system.

Agile_lifecycle

The good news is that the state of existing software production systems is often very poor and so implementing any kind of better conceived system is an improvement. (A basic sub-optimal braking system is probably better than relying on throwing an anchor out the window and hoping it snags on something to stop you!) The problems occur when the current system is not optimal, but understood and working; and it is then replaced by an oversimplified alternative.

Continue reading "No Glory in “The Middle Way“" »


Collaboration Tools

AplnlogoLast week’s Calgary APLN meeting was on Team Collaboration and afterwards an attendee volunteered a really neat and useful team assessment questionnaire. Gerard Meszaros (author of XUnit Test Patterns) who also has strong project management and team collaboration knowledge, presented on “Using Collaboration to Build Team Commitment”. It was a great presentation and referenced some of the Jean Tabaka’s work from the book “Collaboration Explained”.

I have known Jean since her facilitation work with DSDM in the mid 90’s and she really knows about teams, motivation and working effectively with people. Chapter 4 of her book talks about characteristics of high performance teams. After the presentation, Edgardo Gonzalez sent me a spreadsheet based on these criteria that allows quick and easy team assessments.

High_performance_team

As seen from the screenshot above, the tool is a one page Excel sheet that assesses the team’s abilities in:
• Self Organizing
• Empowered to Make Decisions
• Belief in Vision and Success
• Committed Team
• Trust Each Other
• Participatory Decision Making
• Consensus-Driven
• Constructive Disagreement

In our example of a fictitious project, four people completed the questionnaire. The collective team score is shown on the left hand radar chart (indicating a weakness in the “Consensus Driven” field) and the individual scores are shown on the right hand radar diagram. Colour coding flags areas as “Red” for concern, “Yellow” for warning (“Trust…” in the example), and “Green” for good.

Not only is the spreadsheet an effective team diagnostic, but a good lesson in Excel spreadsheet formatting and validation. Thanks Edgardo for agreeing to make this available to everyone and to Gerard and Jean for their work in this important field.

You can download the spreadsheet for your own use below:

Collaborative Team Assessment.xls


Agile Project Leadership and More on Accreditation

Grasp_agileLast week I taught the “Agile Project Leadership” course with Sanjiv Augustine in Manchester, UK. The course went really well and we were looked after by Ian and Dot Tudor our hosts from TCC Training and Consultancy. They have a number of training facilities around the UK and ours was Aspen House, a converted church that retained all the arched doorways and high vaulted ceilings you would hope for.

Aspen_house_3It was a rare treat to teach in such nice surroundings and the church setting made evangelising agile all the more fun. In truth we were “preaching to the choir” as most of the delegates were already familiar with the benefits of agile and were looking for practical tools and more leadership techniques to move their organizations to the next level.

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The DOI, Made to Slip?

SlipNearly three years on, why is the Declaration Of Interdependence (DOI) still not widely known or referenced?

The chances are that most readers will not be familiar with the DOI, yet it is a great piece of work. The DOI lists principles that, like the Agile Manifesto principles, help point the way for teams working on agile projects. It was created by the founders of the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) to guide agile project management and rally support for an uprising of new project management thinking.

Other than believing some of the wording was a little too clever for its own good and general consumption. I did not fully understand why it had been avoided. Then I read “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath and I realized that it has the stickiness and appeal of a greased electric eel.

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Right-Brain Project Management

Right_brain_pm Last week I attended an excellent presentation on “Right-Brain Project Management” by Dr Michael Aucoin. I attend lots of presentations during the course of a year, mainly at North America events but a sprinkling of international conferences too, and few presentations stand out as being excellent. This one was exceptional from the content (that connected some loose ends in my Agile-Leadership-Project Management mental model) to the materials and delivery.

So, what was so good about it and what does it have to do with Agile Leadership? Well it outlined a parallel view of project management that supports and reinforces agile leadership and fills in some gaps along the way.

Michael started off by talking about today’s Stretch projects. He defined a Stretch project as a project that causes traditional project management challenges. They are characterized by:

• Schedule challenges and resource challenges
• Ambiguous specifications
• Dealing with new technology, new groups, new people
• Dispersed teams
• Many mid-project scope changes
• Challenging people issues

In these circumstances the old project management approaches that are good for predictable projects break down. Michael did not use the words Traditional and Agile, but he might as well have been giving an agile presentation because through his research he had arrived at the same conclusions, but interestingly, offered additional insights.

Why Does Project Management Fail?
Many people are frustrated by the mismatch between project management theory and its application on real-life projects. This is due largely to trying to employ approaches designed for predictable projects on today’s Stretch projects and seeing them come up short.

Yet, in many walks of life outside of project management, people succeed in unpredictable environments everyday. Doctors, farmers, and teachers all work in difficult to predict environments yet, on the whole, are successful. So why do project manager’s struggle with stretch projects? There are three main reasons.

1. Mismatched project model and environment
2. Projects lack emotional involvement
3. Personal challenges created by stretch projects

Let's look at each in turn...

Continue reading "Right-Brain Project Management" »


Changing Jobs

Is_the_grass_greener_2 In April I will be leaving Quadrus Development to go independent again. I have found an interesting contract at local company, Husky Energy, where they have an agile project to manage and some other interesting initiatives underway and I am looking forward to my new role.

End With the Beginning in Mind
I have been at Quadrus for over six years and I enjoyed my role there tremendously. Someone very wise (Christopher Avery) once told me that when a relationship comes to an end that you should always End With the Beginning in Mind i.e. remember the reasons why the relationship started in the first place and focus on these points when wrapping up. Not only is end-with-the-beginning-in-mind, a great twist on Stephen Covey’s "begin-with-the-end-in-mind", it is also very wise advice I wish I had appreciated when I was much younger.

In his book “Teamwork is an Individual Skill”, Chris says the following about ending partnerships:

“…people so seldom end relationships well. Maybe because we all want so much to win - and endings are associated with losing. Maybe it’s because we are embarrassed that we don’t know how to derive any more benefits from a partnership. Maybe we are embarrassed because of un-kept promises, real or imagined…endings are as inevitable as beginnings and we can improve the quality of endings by avoiding three things:

1) Burning bridges
2) Harming reputations
3) Being inhumane to oneself or others”

Chris then goes on to recommend some positive steps that include:

"1) End the collaboration by bringing to mind the positive intentions and positive results that the partnership produced.
2) Thank your partners for the opportunities, results, and trust they provided you.
3) …"

I think this is great advice, and personally think back with fond memories of when I started at Quadrus. Having enjoyed several years holidays snowboarding and hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, my wife and I decided to emigrate to Canada. It seems foolhardy now, but we both quit our jobs, sold our house in England and moved to Calgary without new jobs to go to. I was fortunate to interview with Quadrus my second week in Canada and was offered a position the same day.

Quadrus took a chance hiring me and I am very grateful for that, I arrived here with my PRINCE2 project management certification that no one had heard of and quickly sat my PMP exam to at least gain some traditional project management accreditation. Fortunately my methodology experience was more transferable, with RUP, Scrum, and XP being well understood in Canada.

I had some cultural challenges as Canada and England are two nations separated by a common language. I learned how to “get my ducks in a row”, “ramp” on new technologies and avoid “kack” while explaining how long a “fortnight” is and what “knackered” means.

Quadrus encouraged me to develop training courses, speak at conferences and publish articles. Without these opportunities I would have missed meeting so many smart people and becoming enthralled by research and lifelong learning. Quadrus has a great set of dedicated IT professionals and I will miss their skills and community.

Other Items, Business as Usual
While I am changing my 9-5 job, my other activities will continue. Quadrus has agreed to continue hosting the Calgary APLN Drupal web site and I look forward to seeing Quadrus folks at future APLN meetings. I will still be writing articles for the Agile Journal and Gantthead and continue to be actively involved with the Agile Alliance, the APLN, CAMUG, and Cambrian House. I will still be presenting on Agile Project Management at Agile 2007 in August and the PMI Global Congress in Atlanta this October. Not least of course, I will continue blogging here, so there will be no end to totally biased leadership and project management ideas.

I will be having some leaving drinks in Ceili’s (803 8th Avenue) on Friday 30th at 4:30pm, anyone who knows me is welcome to drop by for a beer if you are in the neighbourhood.


Agile Methods and the Rise of Mass Collaboration

Flock Last week I attended a great presentation by Don Tapscott author of “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything”. It was organized by Cambrian House (full disclosure: a company I have an investment and advisory role at) and spoke to the rise of peer collaboration over command-and-control management shown by the explosion of user-generated content sites and new work models. For me it generated some “ah-ha” moments and connected several ideas related to agile methods and new organizational structures.

Don Tapscott writes ahead of his time (either that or I’m just slow on the uptake), in his previous book “Growing Up Digital: the rise of the Net Generation”, he explained how modern generations are growing up comfortable with new communication methods. Instead of gamers and internet junkies having poor communication skills and few friends, most youngsters who use the internet have stronger social networks, large groups of friends (Facebook, MySpace) and can readily connect with others of similar interests. As I wrote in my post on Verifying Motivators the Gen. Y and Millennial generations value “feeling in on things” and “social values” more than say, “job security” and “good working conditions”.

People (especially younger workers) want to work on agile projects because techniques like empowered teams, increased communication, and shared leadership better match their internal values of inclusion, openness, and equality. When we align working practices with individual values we getter better involvement and commitment. Try to engage team members with a misaligned model and you will see poor commitment, detachment, and resistance. This is not just naive idealism either, youngsters have a healthy scepticism and a good radar for BS, spotting phoney claims and representations that often fool the majority of older workers.

Another of Don’s books “The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business” addresses how tools like the internet make it almost impossible for organizations to hide dodgy dealings and bad behaviour. People communicate and share information more than ever and organizations will need to be more open and transparent in their practices in order to prosper in the future. Innovative companies like Semco described in "The Seven Day Weekend", use worker empowerment, collaboration and total transparency to attract the best talent and successfully blaze trails into new markets.

Agile projects practice "naked metrics" and process transparency. No longer is project status hidden behind process phase names like “in analysis” or “75% through coding” that mean little to most project stakeholders. Instead business features are delivered and demonstrated at the end of every iteration. The customer and business are included within the team and development process. To some this can seem good and bad; good when things are going well as the business can sing the praises of the project, but bad when things go wrong or progress is slow. However, we all know that sharing bad news, while hard, is best done early too. When project velocities indicate that the project will not be done on time, or unanticipated feature complexity is causing rewrites and problems, often the business folks on the inside have power and credibility with the project sponsors that is hard to achieve. Once they see that the team in not jerking around, but working hard and some stuff takes a long time, they can be great allies in scope and budget discussions.

Continue reading "Agile Methods and the Rise of Mass Collaboration" »


Don’t (Just) Drink The Kool-Aid

Kool_aidThe next CAMUG meeting looks very interesting. Jonathan Kohl will be presenting "Don't Drink the Kool-Aid! Avoiding Process Pitfalls". Here is an excerpt from his presentation outline:

“… merely applying an Agile (or any other) process is not a guarantee of success. As with anything else in life, there are trade-offs, and unintended consequences when applying a tool or process. This talk will explore some common Agile process practices that may work well in some contexts, and have unintended consequences in others.

The intention of this talk is to encourage us all to keep striving to build the best software we can. It's tempting to think we have the formula for success, but in a rapidly changing industry, we must adapt and change accordingly.

Amen to that, there is no standard recipe for successful projects, instead, as the DOI advises, solutions need to be “context specific”, or as Alistair Cockburn reminds us, a new methodology per project.

This is not to say we should discourage passionate implementation of agile methods. Following my Agile Project Management Assessment Quiz post I was contacted by Simon Baker of Think Box who scored an impressive “Uber Agile” score. You can read an account of his project team practices and successes following the quiz and I commend him and his team on their work.

Rather, the point I want to make, is that our intent should focus on successful stakeholder engagement and better software. If this is achieved via agile methods then great, or if, say, via better communications, then so be it. We run the risk of ignoring the “Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools” value if we focus only on process.

For the last couple of months I have been reviewing draft chapters from Preston Smith’s new book “Flexible Product Development” due to be published later this year. I met Preston through the APLN board and I have learned a lot from reading the draft chapters. A portion that really hit home for me was his description of people over process...

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Prioritized Reading List

Prioritized_reading_list_1Jim Highsmith recently posted a reference to a CIO Magazine article entitled “30 Books That Can Make You a Better Leader”.

Jim was floating the idea of an APLN recommended reading list which I think would be a great resource and discussion point for the group. I hope it happens and have volunteered to help get it started.

In the mean time, it got me thinking about what books I would recommend. The CIO Magazine’s recommended list was...

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