Calgary APLN Social Event

Barley Mill The Calgary Agile Project Leadership Network (Calgary APLN) 20011/2012 season kicks off with a social at the Barley Mill in Eau Claire, Thursday Oct 5, 4:00 – 6:00pm.


"To help build a vibrant Agile community in Calgary, we would like to invite you to a networking event. Come out and meet other Agile Leaders within Calgary, swap stories and share some laughs. Agile Recruiting has graciously sponsored the event by providing appetizers. Cash bar will be available.”


This is a great opportunity to meet and chat to other people in the agile project leadership community in Calgary. We have a limited capacity so register to reserve a place. I hope to see you there.


PMI-ACP Value Stream Mapping

PMI-ACP  Value Stream Mapping I have been away attending the excellent “Agile on The Beach” conference recently, but when I returned I had an email waiting requesting some PMI-ACP study help on Value Stream Mapping. So here is quick outline of the topic.

Value Stream Mapping – is a lean manufacturing technique that has been adopted by agile methods. It is used to analyze the flow of information (or materials) required to complete a process and to determine elements of waste that may be removed to improve the efficiency of the process. Value stream mapping usually involves creating visual maps of the process (value stream maps) and progresses through these stages:
1)    Identify the product or service that you are analyzing
2)    Create a value stream map of the currant process identifying steps, queues, delays and information flows
3)    Review the map to find delays, waste and constraints
4)    Create a new value stream map of the future state optimized to remove/reduce delays, waste and constraints
5)    Develop a roadmap to create the future state
6)    Plan to revisit the process in the future to continually tune and optimize

To illustrate lets optimize the value stream for buying a cake to celebrate passing your PMI-ACP exam with a friend. Let’s say this involves choosing a cake, waiting at the bakery counter to get the cake, paying for the cake at the checkout, then unpacking and slicing before enjoying the benefit of the process (the cake).

Continue reading "PMI-ACP Value Stream Mapping" »


RMC's PMI-ACP Exam Prep Book

PMI-ACP I am excited to announce I will be working with RMC to create a PMI-ACP Study Guide book for the upcoming PMI Agile Certified Practitioner exam. When I was studying for my PMP exam many years ago, I used Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Prep Study Guide and was very grateful for the plain English explanations, exam guidance, and sample questions. So it feels right and a bit of a privilege to be working with the same company to help guide people for this new exam.


Working with the other PMI-ACP Steering Committee members over the last couple of years on the Agile Community of Practice and to define the exam has been a great experience, but the hundreds of hours of unpaid volunteer time has to be made up somewhere so hopefully this endeavor will help out. Assuming people still buy books that is, I read this Guardian article today that made me wonder. Anyway, embracing today’s publishing ideas; I will be posting snippets here for anyone looking for taster portions. The big picture views, sample exam questions, and cheat sheets will be kept for the main book, but key concepts around the tools and techniques, knowledge and skill areas will be posted here.


I would love to hear your feedback on these portions, please let me know if they are useful, need more explanation, or you think I am missing anything. I can then develop additional material to improve the final product. To help collect all my PMI-ACP content together (and exclude it for those of you not interested) I have created a Category tag called “PMI-ACP” and you can use the Categories filter under “Recent Posts” in the right hand navigation on my LeadingAnswers.com home page to find content.


Summer

Mountain Biking in Jasper ♫ It is summertime, my posts are short, the days are long
Caught somewhere between work and play
(This blog just is not getting written in between)
It is summertime in North America! ♫

Summer in the Canadian Rockies is short and busy for me, I spend more time mountain biking and hiking than working, so not much gets posted here on my blog. To help fill the void I will be posting a couple of articles I wrote for Gantthead earlier this year. So unless you are an avid Gantthead reader, these articles should be new to you. Normal postings will resume at the end of summer here, i.e. much too soon.


PMI Agile Update

Agile Certified Practitioner Here is an update on the agile happenings at the PMI that I have been involved with. The pilot program for the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner filled up fast. 2,649 people opened applications for the program, a record for the PMI, and the full launch in October is looking like it will be very popular. Item writing for the exam questions is on track and Registered Education Providers (REPs) are in high-gear readying their courses.

The PMBOK v5 Guide continues to move forward too. My work is on Chapter 6 (Time Management) and we recently reviewed and incorporated the second round of approved comments. There was a meeting this weekend to review all chapter comments along with the updated Inputs, Tools, Techniques, and Outputs (ITTOs). I have suggested some agile content I am not able to discuss under the NDA, but I am hopeful it will survive the approval process. Other Chapters have agile content being suggested too. This is a slow process though and the PMBOK v5 Guide is not expected until late 2012.

I was also recently contacted about working on an Software Extension to the PMBOK Guide. This really excites me and is something I looked into leading a few years back (before I discovered the full extent of the work involved). There has been a call for Agile experts to help develop the new extension.

If you have ever looked through the Extension to the PMBOK Guide for Construction, you will know that the extension does more than add a bunch of industry related practices. It also suggests changes to the existing PMBOK’s outlines. So, for instance, instead of creating a detailed WBS, we could suggest creating a candidate feature backlog. Many of the suggestions for change to the PMBOK Guide have to be tempered with the fact that the guide has to remain industry agnostic and suitable for any project manager. An extension for the Software Industry allows us to go much deeper into agile techniques. I am looking forward to this work and learning who else is involved.

Finally the PMI Agile Community of Practice continues to grow and develop. I learned that Michele Sliger’s recent webinar had over 500 people in attendance. This is great and a sign of the levels of interest for agile present in the ever expanding PMI community. Taking agile to the PMI that used to have this “evil empire” feel felt audacious eightr years ago, now it seems natural and if anything, belated. People have strong opinions and the PMBOK Guide work has shown me that many people still dismiss agile methods, but it feels like the tide is coming in and neither King Cnute or the diehard traditionalists will stop it.


Back to Our Roots

Agile On The Beach Conference The 2011 Agile conference goes back to its roots this year, returning to Utah 10 years after the creation of the Agile Manifesto there in 2001. I won’t be there this year, since I’ll be taking advantage of Canada’s short summer to take part in the TransRockies mountain bike race.I was disappointed to be missing out on the conference, but am more excited by this multi day race through my backyard mountains.

Then, last week I heard of some other agile events that I can attend. The DSDM consortium is holding Agile roadshows in Cambridge and Newcastle. It will be great to catch up with Steve Messenger and others from Napp Pharmaceutical. Then there is “Agile on the Beach” happening in Cornwall, where I grew up, this September. So for me this year, I will not be joining my usual North American agile friends for their back to their roots conference, but will be embarking on my own back to my roots agile conference tour. Likely lower key, but I always manage to learn something new and make some good connections.


PMI Agile Cert to be called “Agile Certified Practitioner”

Agile Certified Practitioner 0 It turns out the original suggestion of “Agile Project Practitioner” (PMI-APP) was too close to “App.” as in an Application or phone app to easily trademark (in this case service mark). So the name will now be “Agile Certified Practitioner” ACP as in Fred Blogs, PMP, ACP.

The timeline for people wanting to apply will be:
•    May 23rd    - Launch of application to Public
•    Mid July    - Pilot Participants can schedule exams at Prometric test centres
•    September 15    - Pilot Program Testing begins
•    November 30    - Pilot Program Testing Concludes
•    January 1    - First set of individuals that passed the exam are notified.

I am getting lots of questions about the content of the exam, so I thought I would present a couple of ways of interpreting it. In my last post on this subject I showed the box model for reconciling the Domains with the Knowledge & Skills (KS), and Tools & Techniques (TT).

Agile Certified Practitioner 6

Here is a version with the KS and TT’s listed:


Agile Certified Practitioner 1
 
(click on any of the images above or on the continuation page to see a bigger version)

Continue reading "PMI Agile Cert to be called “Agile Certified Practitioner”" »


Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

"Calling Hallelujah Always Offends Someone"

Dangerous Statistics I am glad the PMI is finally recognizing agile methods, Ken Schwaber recently posted about the PMI Agile Certification, saying that he “…welcomes this and looks forward to PMI shifting from its previous approach to an agile approach. The test of this will be, of course, the success of the projects that adhere to its principles. In the past, the success (or yield) of their predictive approach has been less than 50% of projects (on time, on date, with the desired functionality.)”

He was quoting from the Standish CHAOS Report that comes out every couple of years and documents the success and failure rates of IT projects. The CHAOS reports have been published since 1994, the same year DSDM appeared and when many agile methods were getting going. Each year the results vary slightly, but the general theme is that many IT projects are challenged and results like the following are typical:

    * 32%   Successful (On Time, On Budget, Fully Functional)
    * 44%   Challenged (Late, Over Budget, And/Or Less than Promised Functionality)
    * 24%   Failed (Cancelled or never used)
    * 61%   Feature complete

It is interesting then that Ken attributes the poor success rates of IT projects since the start of agile to be a PMI problem. You would think that with the rise of agile methods and the success of all these Scrum, XP, FDD, and DSDM projects we hear about, that these statistics would have turned right around!

Continue reading "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics" »


Inside the PMI’s Agile Certification Examination Content Outline

The PMI has now published the Agile Certification Examination Content Outline, you can download it here. It outlines the “Tools and Techniques” and “Knowledge and Skills” areas that the exam will be broken into. As we have it now, 50% of the examination marks will be awarded for Tools and Techniques and 50% for Knowledge and Skills.

  PMI Agile Certification 1

As part of the Steering Committee it was interesting to take part the discussions around these weightings. As recent as a month ago the split being suggested for the exam weighting was 70% of the exam would be based on Tools and Techniques with just 30% on Knowledge and Skills. We had steering committee members suggest a 60, 40% split the other way, but in the end the 50%, 50% split was selected.

  PMI Agile Certification 1a      PMI Agile Certification 1b

Doubtless people are reading through these categories trying to get a handle on the scope of the exam. My recommendation would be to focus less on these divisions (that overlap anyway) and focus on the domains that underpin them.

As an example we see Knowledge and Skills Level 1 mentions “Building Empowered Teams”,  Level 2 has “Building High Performance Teams”, and the Tools and Techniques section has items for “Communications” including “daily stand-ups”  and “collaboration”. These are obviously all closely related, but listed in separate areas which could be confusing,  but if you adjust your view to focus on the domains, there is a better separation into logical areas.

PMI Agile Certification 2
 
I am hoping that there will be a reissue of the Examination Content Outline, since the current form needs word-smithing. The text we generated for it was our short hand notes. For instance Domain 1 Task 1 reads:

Define features and project work in terms of end-user and stakeholder value by focusing on maximizing value delivered and minimizing non-value-added activities in order to keep the delivery team focused on maximizing the value developed.” Is quite the mouthful that made sense to us, but could perhaps be restated along the lines of:

Define project features and work items in terms of end-user and stakeholder value, by always looking for and clarifying the business value. Focusing on maximizing value delivered by the project and try to eliminate any non-value-added activities. This keeps the delivery team focused on maximizing the business value and reduces the likelihood of wasteful activities, feature bloat and gold-plating.” While this is longer, hopefully it is in easier to absorb chunks.

Anyway, as the categories evolve and the questions get developed I will keep readers updated here.


Money For Nothing, PDUs For Free

PDU The PMI employs a Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program to encourage members to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. This basically means that to maintain your certification (be it PMP, CAPM, or PgMP) you have to meet the ongoing requirement for Professional Development Units (PDUs).


Money For Nothing
To some people this is viewed as a money grab, like selling you a cheap inkjet printer and then holding you to ransom on ink cartridges. You are now on the hook for continually paying to renew that credential you worked so hard to obtain, or lose it.

So every three years you have to prove you have taken enough courses and attended enough local meetings (both of which the PMI can happily provide to you for a fee) to ensure those valuable credentials stay on your resume.


Psst, it’s 2011, Things Have Changed!
Actually, while the picture just painted is the mindset shared by many project managers, it is out of date and severely limited. Starting March 1st, 2011 the PMI broadened the eligibility of qualifying activities and simplified the categories for PDU claims. Also, the CCR program is as much about encouraging members to give back to the PM profession as it is to learning, so your options may be much wider than you think.

For the budget conscious of you out there (and let’s face it you are here partly because the content is free) there are plenty of ways of fulfilling your 60 PDUs within a three year cycle that costs no money. Yep, all your PDU’s for free!

Continue reading "Money For Nothing, PDUs For Free" »


Agile as a Solution for "Miscalibration Errors"

Error Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink and Tipping Point) was in town a couple of weeks ago and I enjoyed a great presentation he gave on what happens when we think we have complete information on a subject.

The Problem
Gladwell asserts that the global economic crisis was largely caused by “Miscalibration Errors”. These are errors made by leaders who become over confident due to reliance on information. Those in charge of the major banks were smart, professional, and respected people at the top of their game; who, as it turns out, are prime candidates from miscalibration errors.

People who are incompetent make frequent, largely unimportant errors, and that is understandable. They are largely unimportant errors because people who are incompetent rarely get into positions of power. Yet those who are highly competent are susceptible to rare, but hugely significant errors. 

Think of the global economic crisis where bank CEOs were seemingly in denial of the impending collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market. (I don’t mean close to the end when they were secretly betting against the market while still recommending products to their clients, but earlier on when they were happy to bet their own firms on “AAA” rated derivatives that they knew were really just a collection of highly suspect subprime mortgages.)

Anyway, this phenomenon of educated, well informed leaders making rare, but catastrophic errors is not new and unlikely to go away soon, it seems to be a baked-in human flaw. When presented with increasing levels of information our perception of judgement accuracy increases when in reality their judgement may be very suspect. Let’s look at some examples:

Continue reading "Agile as a Solution for "Miscalibration Errors"" »


PMI Agile Work

San Antonio Riverwalk It has been a busy week for PMI Agile work. Last week I was in San Antonio with the PMI Agile Certification Steering Committee reviewing the latest market research and next steps for the certification launch. Things are also moving forward on the PMBOK v5 Guide with some more agile terms defined and content suggested for Chapter 6.

The PMI recently sent a detailed Agile survey out to a sample of its members and received feedback from >1,300 people. They were looking for feedback on the types of project managers using agile and their adoption of the domains and knowledge areas that comprise the Domains and Knowledge & Skills that will be in the exam.

Nearly 60% of the respondents were from the US with Canada, India, and Brazil being the next most popular. Not surprisingly the biggest industry sector was in IT, with Finance and Consulting being well represented. Most had 2 or more years’ agile experience and had participated in 4 projects or more in a leadership role. 80% held PMP certifications and nearly 30% CSM certifications.

One of the aims of the survey was to ask for rankings of the Techniques, Tools, Knowledge and Skills that will form the body of knowledge  that the exam is based upon. I would love to share these categories here but have been asked not to until after the official release on April 15th. This is understandable, and only fair, but once they are publicized I will have plenty to say about them.

I am sure the 1500 or so PMI Registered Education Providers  (REPs) along the Scrum CST’s who will be offering exam preparation courses will be having a busy Spring and Summer.

Meanwhile on the PMBOK v5 Guide, each of the chapter teams are busy completing the initial chapter re-writes ahead of integration and review. I have been surprised at the rigour and constraints imposed on the writing. Due to the guide being translated into a dozen languages, readability and consistency is key. As, for instance, on our latest effort one PMI reviewer commented that the Microsoft Word 2007 Readability Statistics show a Flesch Reading Ease score of 26.6, which is considered to be "very confusing" and "not easily understood by college graduates". A score between 60 and 70 is largely considered acceptable. So we have rewritten chunks and tried to simplify.

The increased accommodation of agile content is great, not just in my chapter, but I am  hearing  about agile content for the other chapters too. When the call for feedback goes out we will get to see what has been incorporated. I will publicize it here and encourage people to review the new PMBOK v5 Guide for agile content and suggest where more can be added – if appropriate.

That’s the update for now, stay tuned for more on the certification categories after the PMI reveal. Rest assured since we had a great mix of Agile Manifesto authors, PM experts, and pragmatic agilists working on it I don’t think people will be disappointed.


More Details about PMI’s Agile Certification

PMI Agile Certification News The new PMI Agile certification will come on stream in two waves. The first is the pilot program starting in May where participants get the chance to sit the 120 question, multiple choice, 3 hr exam and instead of pressing the dreaded “Submit” button at the end, they will be advised 10-12 weeks later. This long wait is to allow the PMI to score everyone in the pilot and then calibrate the cut-off scores.

For enduring the wait, and I guess being guinea pigs in the process, pilot participants will receive a 20% refund on the exam fee bringing the cost to members of $435 down to $348. To qualify to sit the exam participants must satisfy the following criteria:

• High school or equivalent education
• 2,000 hours general project management experience within the last 5 years (if you already hold a PMP you can forget this since you had to prove that for your PMP)
• 1,500 hours agile project management experience working on agile project teams or in agile methodologies within the last 2 years. These hours are in addition to the 2,000 hours required in general project management experience
• 21 hours agile project management training

 

The full certification program will be publically available in the third quarter of 2011. To maintain the credential you must earn 30 PDUs every 3 years in agile project management and these hours would also count toward fulfilling PMP requirements.

 


PMI Unveils Agile Certification Program

PMI-APP The PMI took the wraps off their new PMI Agile Certification program today. If that sounds like an oxymoron then take a closer look. There have been a growing number of agile sessions at PMI conferences over the last 6 years and an entire agile track at the last PMI Global Congress. The PMI reports that 65% of its members are involved in IT projects and Gartner are predicting agile will be used by 80% of software projects by 2012, so the demand is huge. My PMI SeminarsWorld course is popular not because anyone wants to see me, but instead the demand is high for information on how to run agile projects within PMI based organizations.

I have been working with the PMI on the program for about 18 months now, but muffled under NDA contracts so it is nice for it to be out in the open. Doubtless there will be criticism against the whole idea of certification and then again about an agile certification from the PMI. I thought long and hard before agreeing to participate, but then committed enthusiastically. Two things were clear to me.

  1. The PMI had a big elephant in the room. Many IT projects were using agile methods and project managers were offered little guidance from the PMI on how to incorporate such endeavours.
  2. The PMI were committed to providing a knowledge base, training options, and a certification program with or without me. If it was going to happen anyway, I wanted to be on the inside trying to steer it in the right direction rather than on the outside wondering if it might suddenly take a left turn.

Fortunately others felt the same way and the core team of steering committee has a wealth of grass roots agile knowledge. With Agile Manifesto authors and industry experts, we have a great pool of agile knowledge feeding into the design. Plus for some of us it was not the first go round of defining an agile project management certification. Mike Cottmeyer  and myself were engaged on the APLN effort that morphed into the DSDM program and is now quite popular in the UK. The PMI-APP materials, training and certification will provide people with vetted information based on practices found to work in these hybrid environments.

While the routes taken by agile and PMBOK methods can appear very different to the lay person (explore and validate versus plan, plan, plan) both approaches have the same ultimate destination of successful projects and satisfied stakeholders. Tools and techniques that help determine the appropriate level of planning and introduce agile team benefits are vital tools for today’s project manager’s toolbox.

While certifications do not assure competence or capability to manage projects, they are a useful learning tool for people new to the domain. In this role I welcome the certification for the training and awareness it will bring to this important and expanding field.

I am especially pleased by the quality of the agile thought leaders engaged in the design and evolution of the program. By having expert contributors from the agile field, the risk of misapplication by the uninitiated, or rejection by the agile community should be reduced (but not eliminated).

So for me it is not so much about the certification, but hopefully the training materials, studying and increased awareness of successful adoption strategies it should bring. 

What do you think? I would love you hear your thoughts…


Training in New Orleans - Updated: Now Full

New Orleans The next occurrence of my Agile Project Management class will be in New Orleans on February 28 and March 1st (Feb 18 Update: and is now full ). After that there is:

Savannah, GA - April 11, 12
Dallas, TX  - October 26, 27
Anaheim, CA - November 7,8

I enjoy delivering these courses and people enjoy attending them too, here are some feedback comments:

"Mike delivers an exceptionally well reasoned and effective presentation of agile. Thoroughly appreciated" - Bill Palace, El Sugund, CA
“The best PMI class I have ever taken.” - Scott Hall, Marriot International
"This was a very well executed course. Instructor (Mike Griffiths) was very engaging!" – Ameila White, Boeing
"The instructor was very knowledgeable, class well organized, content at the right level of detail and very comprehensive. One of the best classes I have taken regarding PM topics" – James Bernard, Scottsdale
"Excellent course with great information" – Tom Gehret, JNJ Vision Care
"Excellent facilitator. Mike is respectful and knowledgeable" - Nghiem Pauline, San Diego, CA
"The course was fantastic " - Kimberly Kehoe, San Diego, CA
"Mike is an excellent instructor and I really appreciated his organized and clear, well researched presentation. His domain and project management experience is evident from his talk. Also I appreciate his exposure/experience to multiple approaches like PRINCE2, PMBOK, Scrum, DSDM etc." - Sarah Harris, OpenText
"Great content and delivery" – Andrea Williams, Fed Ex
"Great Stuff!, Really enjoyed instructor and real-world examples" - Don Brusasco, Northridge, CA
"The instructor did an excellent job of keeping the pace, - clearly explaining topics and providing practical applications" - Cathy MacKinnon, Schering Plough Corp
"Excellent!" – Peter Colquohoun, Australian Defence

All of these classes sold out last year so if you want to attend I suggest you book early; I hope to see you in New Orleans!


Agile Mythbusters Update

Agile Myths So we had our Agile Mythbusters session and it went really well. I was a little concerned that we would present a myth to the audience and there would be no discussion, debate or dialogue, just crickets chirping and tumbleweed rolling through. However, as normal, people were great and we had some good explanation and analysis of the myths.

After a warm up round debating the likelihood of the Calgary Flames making the playoffs (currently theoretically “Plausible”) we got started with “You cannot accurately estimate agile projects”. There was a good discussion about how we estimate agile projects and how in fact the feedback from iterations provides concrete evidence for better estimating. Yet the larger issues with accurately estimating something as intangible as software were highlighted.

We talked about if you changed the phrase from “You cannot accurately estimate agile projects” to “You cannot accurately estimate software projects” people were happier to label it as “Confirmed” so the debate was really about if agile software projects are easier or more difficult to estimate than traditional projects. Anyway, after nearly 30 minutes on the first agile myth we wanted to move on, so we labelled this one "Confirmed" and continued.

“Agile will increase Quality” was the next one and we had some frank discussion about the poor quality agile projects that occur. Like many things “it depends” was the consensus. Clearly there are opportunities for improved quality, but often a lack of discipline prevents these opportunities from occurring. So in the end “Agile will increase Quality” was labelled  “Plausible”.

Next up was “Since empowered teams self organize and self-select work, the role of the project manager goes away”.  This one was not contentious and several useful lists of project manager roles were generated. Our most unanimous myth decision, “… the role of the PM goes away” was "Busted".

The last myth we debated was “It is very difficult to negotiate contracts for agile work”.  This triggered some interesting accounts of contracting and the goals of suppliers and buyers. Many people struggle with agile contracting and are not aware of all the work done in this field. I was looking for a topic for this month’s “Agility Now” newsletter at Gantthead.com so I wrote up an account of agile contracting that may be of interest if this is an issue for you.

Anyway, it was a fun session and thanks to Mike Haden and Janice Aston for facilitating.


Agile Mythbusters

Agile Myths I like myths and have written on Leadership Myths previoulsy. For our next Calgary APLN Meeting we are hosting an Agile Mythbusters discussion. The idea being to debate some agile myths and through group discussion determine if they are Busted, Confirmed, or Plausible.

Now, likely an APLN audience might have a little bias, since the “A” in APLN stands for "Agile", but I hope that since we have cross posted the invitation to the local PMI group we might even things out.

Through my teaching for the PMI I get to hear many questions and rebuttals to agile’s claims and I think it is good to question benefits and have an honest reality check from time to time. Some of the myths proposed for discussion so far include:

•    You cannot accurately estimate agile projects
•    Agile methods promote scope creep
•    It is very difficult to negotiate contracts for agile work
•    Agile projects cannot be tracked with earned value
•    Agile projects employ counter intuitive planning practices
•    Stage gates don't work for agile projects
•    Agile methods avoid accountability
•    Agile projects are cheaper
•    Without specifications you do not know when you are done
•    You would not allow a housing contractor to proceed without a clear plan and estimate, why develop SW this way?
•    Agile scales naturally
•    Agile teams are happier
•    Since empowered teams self-organize and self-select work, the role of the project manager goes away
•    Agile methods erode the gains made towards recognizing SW development as a serious engineering discipline
•    Agile methods ignore enterprise architecture
•    Agile is quicker


Please send me your own agile myths for us to discuss. We will be choosing 5-6 to run through at the meeting. If you are in Calgary on January 26 please join us for the session. Registration details here at the Calgary APLN site.

If you cannot make it in person, I will write up some findings and publish them here later.


8th in Top 50 Leadership Blogs

Top 50 LeadingAnswers recently placed 8th in the Top 50 Leadership blogs list, rated by The Entrepreneur Blog. This was a great surprise and I did not even know it was nominated for reader voting. First and second spots went to Seth Godin and Daniel Pink so I am honoured to be listed in this kind of company.

Many of the other sites were new to me and I am guessing new to you also, check out the full list and maybe discover some other sources of leadership information.


Agile Project Wins PMI Award

PMI Award This was a regional competition, not the national one, but I am really pleased to report that the IPS project I managed for the last 3+ years won the PMI-SAC Business & IT “Project of the Year” award at last week’s PMI Gala and Conference.

The Integrated Pipeline Solution (IPS) manages about a third of Canada’s heavy oil transportation. While you may think tracking oil moving through a pipeline sounds pretty simple, like anything, the devil is in the details. Husky has about 30,000km of pipeline and complications such as blending products, forecasting production, optimizing capacity, custody transfers, billing, accruals, etc and the fact that billions of dollars are at stake mean that the rules, regulations and complexity adds up pretty quickly.

We had an amazing team and engaged, savvy business representatives – these were the real reasons for success, not the methods we followed. However, there were lots of challenges too and our approach helped us here. We “inherited” the project $1.1M behind budget after an outsourced vendor doubled their estimate following a year of analysis. They were asked to leave and the project was brought in-house, but with no adjustment to the original budget.

Agile methods excel at fixed budget projects providing the sponsor is willing to flex functionality. This is what occurred and we actually ended up delivering more functionality that originally scoped within the initial budget.

The PMI Awards assess projects on a variety of criteria and asks for submissions in a specific 10 page format. I will spare you the 10 page version and instead list a quick summary of the benefits:

  • Enhanced Business and IT relations – against a backdrop of varying degrees of business / IT co-operation, the project stood out as an example of completing a long and challenging project through close cooperation. The stakeholders were practical and pragmatic about decision making and priorities. The increased trust built on this project has been useful for launching subsequent projects.
  • Business Benefits – the business benefits of creating a single, integrated pipeline system are numerous. User configurable calculations, better data quality, faster calculation speeds, and improved reporting are just some of the tangible benefits.
  • Improved resilience and support – The IPS project moved the Pipeline group from a set of unsupported, legacy systems to a new platform of state of the art .Net and Oracle 11g solutions. User developed spreadsheets with questionable data integrity were also replaced.
  • Project Objectives met – The project delivered all the requested functionality within the defined project schedule. This functionality was delivered to a very high level of quality, and while there have been some changes and minor fixes since April 2010, there have been no production outages. The project finished just under the $6.1M budget frozen in 2006 despite having to incorporate late breaking business changes in 2009.

Continue reading "Agile Project Wins PMI Award" »


Traditional and Agile PM Integration Pains - a Positive Sign?

 Integration There has been some hubbub on the PMI Agile Yahoo Group these last couple of weeks. A lively back-and-forth about a slide deck published by the PMI Network magazine entitled “Is Agile Right for your project?

The original slides were here, but interestingly the slides appear to have been taken down now, or perhaps they have been temporarily lost in the recent PMI web site reorganization. An example of some of the feedback can be seen here. On the one hand I think the PMI should be applauded for making some steps towards providing information for its members. On the other hand the material could have been vetted by some members of the PMI Agile Community of Practice before release to smooth out the contentious issues and avoid the backlash.

I recall the original request for information on agile adoption guidance was sent to the PMI Agile Community of Practice. I submitted my thoughts on the topic (posted previously here) and many other people joined in the discussion thread, but I am not aware of what, or if any, of this information made it to the original requestor.

Anyway, my point is not so much on the content of the slides and what was right or wrong, but more on the reconciliation of agile and traditional PMI mindsets.

Social Integration Problems
Whenever two different groups come together for the first time, we get some friction, clashing of norms, exposing of preconceptions and good old fashioned faux pas by one or more groups. But, hey, it at least means the two groups are coming together and providing we have thick enough skins to tolerate the friction progress can be made.

Jane Jenson, from the University of Montreal, provides a model for social integration that lists 5 characteristics that need to be in place to create good social cohesion between different groups:

1)    Recognition – Both groups need to recognize the other group’s position
2)    Legitimacy – Both groups need to acknowledge the validity of the other group’s point of view
3)    Inclusion – Neither group should be excluded from events, roles, or functions
4)    Belonging – The benefits of belonging to a combined whole need to be understood
5)    Participation – Both groups need to work alongside each other on shared initiatives

Researchers also provide the following model of how social cohesion works:

Continue reading "Traditional and Agile PM Integration Pains - a Positive Sign?" »


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.

New Postings

New Product I am posting my recent Gantthead articles here for those of you without Gantthead access. This is also a ploy on my part to keep some regular contributions coming to this site during the short Canadian summer while I am out enjoying the trail running and mountain biking prime time. Summers in the mountains here are just spectacular and every event and race in the high elevations is crammed into a short 2-3 month window.
 
So, for now I will post my recent Gantthead articles to keep the content rolling. There are also some exciting developments at the PMI I am itching to tell you about, but am sworn to secrecy under a non-disclosure agreement for now, but stay tuned.

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.

Continue reading "Agile Preservation or Progression?" »


PMBOK v5 – Raise a Little Hell

Change Something If you don't like
What you got
Why don't you change it?
If your world is all screwed up
Rearrange it


The PMI is calling for volunteers to help write and shape PMBOK v5 Guide Link. Here is your chance to inject more recognition and support for agile methods. I was involved in The PMBOK v3 Guide rewrite and got two small changes accepted in 2004 when agile methods and the PMBOK were hardly being talk about and I was a bit of a lone voice at the party.
 
If you don't like what you see
Why don't you fight it
If you know there's something wrong
Why don't you right it

 
Since then the tides have changed and now the PMI Agile Community of Practice is the largest and fastest growing PMI community. In the last PMI Network Magazine sent to members there were two full articles on Agile project management. Of the PMI’s 340,000 members an estimated 65% are in IT and the demand for agile guidance that has proliferated in other disciplines of IT (development, analysis, QA) is very apparent to the PMI, who need to serve their members.

In the end it comes down to your thinking
And there's really nobody to blame
When it feels like your ship is sinking
And you're too tired to play the game

Continue reading "PMBOK v5 – Raise a Little Hell" »


High Performance Team

Ips_poster_small For the last 25 years I have been learning about high performing teams and trying to create high performing teams. Well, I finally got to work with one for 3 years solid and I totally loved it.

For the last 3 years I have been working on the IPS project at Husky Energy with the best team and project I have experienced or reviewed. More of a program than a project, we rewrote a number of legacy pipeline control and billing systems in .NET and removed a clutter of spreadsheets and Access applications that had sprung up to fill the gaps left by difficult to upgrade legacy systems.

I had worked with great people before, I have seen the difference good executive support, and engaged business representatives make. However, as the cliché goes, when you bring them together, and add enough freedom to make big changes, the result is much more than the sum of its parts.

Why So Successful?

Freedom to reset and redo - This was a project restart. After several unsuccessful attempts to kick-off the project and then a failed experience with a vendor to out-source it, the project was brought back in house and restarted. I was fortunate to join at a time when management was open to fresh approaches. Already $1M behind budget and 2 years delayed, we were able to introduce changes into an organization receptive to hearing new ideas and changing process.

Executive Support and Business Champion
– These terms “Executive Support” and “Business Champion” are often just titles, mere names or nouns. For our project they were verbs that described their everyday jobs. The sponsor fought to retain our budget during cut backs, the business champion repeatedly went to battle to retain resources, gain exceptions from harmful processes and ensure we had access to the very best business resources.

An experienced, pragmatic team – Most of them had “been there and done that with pure agile”, they had seen the benefits and costs associated with pure TDD, XP, and Scrum. They knew all the theory and had heard the theological debates and just wanted to work now. They were exceptionally strong technically, with mature use of design patterns and layer abstraction. Mainly experienced contractors and some experienced full time staff, humility was high and ego’s low.

Great domain knowledge
– We had an insider, an architect from some of the original systems we were replacing on our team. The bugs, the flaws, the big chunks of tricky logic from the original systems could all be highlighted and explained rather than rediscovered, a great time saver.

Embedded with our business users – Being away from the IT group and in with the business was critical in learning their day job and building rapport. By seeing their business cycles, busy days and deadlines we were better able to plan iterations, demos and meetings. Being face to face and sharing a kitchen helped with conversations and quick questions too.


Right Process – Way behind our people’s influence on success was our process, using a relaxed interpretation of agile, we worked with two week iterations, daily stand-ups, user stories, and empowered teams. Given we were replacing existing required functionality it meant prioritization and detailed task estimates were less valuable. From a perspective of minimizing waste we naturally gravitated to do less story point estimation and lighter iteration planning sessions. It was reassuring to hear David Anderson in 2008 talking about Kanban and viewing estimation and iteration rigour as waste. We were not just being lazy; we needed a certain fidelity of estimation for planning, but beyond that got diminishing returns.

The Outcomes
High Productivity - The last release contained over 1400 function points that were developed in one month by 6 developers. This is approximately 12 function points per developer per day, over three times the industry average and other releases had similar productivity. This was despite the domain being complex, we had a full time PhD mathematician SME (subject mater expert) on the team to define and test the linear programming, and iterative calculations being used.

Continue reading "High Performance Team" »


A Peek at Personas

PersonasPersonas get little mention in project management guidelines, yet they can energise the dullest of requirements and remind us of absent stakeholders. So I was pleased we Mike Haden suggested the topic for our next Calgary APLN meeting. Here’s the outline:

Title: "Using Persona to Move Your Project Forward"

Outline:
The use of personas has received scant attention in project management literature. First utilized in the late '90s as a tool of business analysis, a persona is a detailed description of a fictional end-user including how they use and perceive the product you're delivering. However, personas can have a strong impact on projects by providing a project team with a human face to enhance otherwise abstract data about customers. From streamlining communications, to managing stake-holder expectations, to maintaining the team's alignment with the project goals, personas can engage your team and enhance your capability to move the project forward rapidly.

This presentation touches on the origins and definitions of personas, the benefits and criticisms of their use, and includes a case study of persona implementation on a complex application development effort. Focused on how personas can galvanize a project team into action, it is an engaging, interactive presentation lasting of interest to all members of systems and application development teams.

Bio:
Mike Haden is an independent consultant with over 20-year's experience in Application Development, Project / Product Management, and Global Product Development. Throughout his career, he has delivered complex data analysis tools to the demanding Canadian oil and gas industry. Mike has experience in bridging the business and technical domains, balancing the communication needs of multiple stake-holders, and aligning project teams to the end-user.

While working in commercial software firms leading development teams that utilize agile project methods, Mike gained valuable experience in delivering application development projects ranging from true R&D through new commercial developments to replacements of “industry-flagship” applications. His current role at EnergyIQ is focused on a new data analysis product for the US oil and gas industry, developing business processes and technology to support distributed product development.

Mike is a Project Management Professional, a Certified ScrumMaster, and a Six Sigma Green Belt. He is presently the VP Communications for the Southern Alberta Chapter of PMI. He dreams of eventually finishing the rejuvenation of a 100-year-old house and having more time for his outdoor pursuits in the mountains near Calgary.

Date: Wednesday April 28, 2010  Noon-1:00pm

Location: Fifth Avenue Place (Conference Room) Map

Register: Attendance is free, but please register in advance to guarantee your spot.


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
 

Continue reading "Smart Metrics Slides" »


2010 Training Courses and Events

Training Course 2010 is shaping up to be a good year for training courses and events. I have the following public enrolment courses available through the PMI.


March 10-11 Anaheim, CA

April 13-14 Scottsdale, AZ

September 15-16 Las Vegas, NV

November 10-11 Scottsdale, AZ

December 15-16 San Diego, CA

 
My private courses are available year round, see here for a list and course outlines, and I am also hoping to head back to Alaska this summer to teach a class for the PMI Alaska Chapter there again.

As normal I’m keeping the bulk of the summer free to take full advantage of the short, but fantastic hiking and mountain biking season we get here around Calgary. I was hoping to attend the Agile 2010 Conference in Nashville, but the dates August 9-13 clash with the TransRockies Mountain Bike Race August 8-14 that comes right through my backyard of Kananaskis and is too good to pass up.

Instead of the Nashville agile conference, I hope to attend another agile conference in the fall, perhaps the Agile Business Conference in England again, or a Scrum Gathering event. Then of course there is the PMI Global Congress conference in Washington, DC in October. With the PMI Agile Community of Practice now the largest PMI community with >1700 members there will be a large Agile contingent attending and many great agile sessions to go to. Once again so many events and so little time!

Are Your Metrics Dumb or Smart?

Agile Estimates On February the 16th I will be presenting at the Calgary Software Quality Discussion Group. This was the first group I presented for when I moved to Calgary nearly 10 years ago and I am very happy to go back and talk about a topic I really care about: Project Metrics. I care not in the sense that I think they are fantastic, instead I care because I think the majority of common metrics are counter productive and misguided. Here’s the outline:

Lessons Learned in Project Metrics - Are Your Metrics Dumb or Smart?


Collecting and reporting effective metrics can be a tricky business. Einstein captured it well when he noted "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted".

Software projects have a history of measuring irrelevant and even counter-productive progress tracking metrics. The "Hawthorne Effect" should teach us that we will influence what we measure, yet companies continue to overtly track things like hours worked and lines of code written, unaware that they send the message of valuing long hours over results, and discourage simplifications and healthy refactoring. Quite often the metrics we want to track are intangible and subjective and so people tend to shy away from them.

More fundamentally, why are we even tracking these metrics? Is it to report on what has already occurred or help steer our future course? Often an imperfect view of the future is more useful than a perfect view of the past. In the real world, rear-view mirrors are much smaller than windshields for good reason, yet the accuracy of hind-sight and our attraction to certainty often creates too much of an emphasis on lagging, already occurred measurements compared to leading metrics. So we get fancy graphs of project spend and defect rates, but no better insights into what we should be doing differently in order to meet our goal.

In this presentation I will review many common project metrics and explain why they are largely misguided and counter productive. An alternative set of "Design Factory" metrics will be presented that are "simple and relevant to the true project goal", these metrics leverage the Hawthorne effect and focus on leading metrics to support smarter decision making.
 

Registration Link

Building Trust and Respect

Agile I have just started my second season of mentoring for our local PMI chapter. This week’s launch workshop was facilitated by Right Management and they introduced a great model for building (and rebuilding) Trust and Respect that I would like to share. It was used to help explain how to build trust and respect with those we are mentoring, but it is a useful model that has much wider applications.

Establishing trust and respect can build tremendous support for goals, and likewise losing trust and respect puts us back at the beginning in a relationship or even further behind and the process has to start again. I am sure we have all experienced it, I know I have. Trust is a slow process to build and can be quickly eroded by a single bad deed or poor choice, as shown in the graph below.

Trust and Respect Lifecyle
 

While this is common sense stuff, what I liked about the workshop is the Howard Jackson Model for systematically building trust and respect. It is a repeatable series of steps that build on from each other in sequence to establish better collaboration.
 
Respect Pyramid
 
In this model we start at the bottom of the pyramid with Straight Talk, and move through the steps of Listening for Understanding, Making Commitments, being Reliable, creating Trust, and then finally earning Respect.

Straight Talk

Straight Talk  - Open and direct communication is the first building block for trust and respect.

Listen
Listening for Understanding – Focus your attention on understanding the meaning behind what people are saying. There is a big difference between waiting for your turn to speak and really listening. Hear, Understand, Interpret, and then Respond.

Make Commitments
Making Commitments – Be clear about what you will do. Agree on the What, By When, By Whom, and How steps. Communicate your intentions and stick to them.

Reliability
Reliability – Do what you say you will do without fail. If circumstances have changed and it no longer makes sense to do what you said you would do, communicate back and explain why, and discuss and agree on the new steps.  Follow through over-and-over, be reliable, unfailing, dependable.

Trust
Trust – Trust results from the firm belief that another person can be relied upon. Trust is the result of straight talk, making sure you understand and are understood, and keeping confidences as well as commitments.

Respect
Respect – Although there are many levels of respect, the respect that follows trust leads to deep esteem for another person. We value their thoughts and input, and we know we can count on them because they have proven themselves out to us.

Why so much focus on soft skills for an Agile PM Blog?
When I started this blog in 2006 I wanted to explain the new techniques used on agile projects in an easy to understand format, with real life examples. Now I find myself writing more on soft skills than agile techniques.

This is because people are the engine that drives a high performance project. Without a good team that embodies trust and respect, the best process and tools in the world will not help you. I am as geeky about process as the next agilist, I love experimenting with Kanban and Lean and know that they offer better ways of executing projects. However, bigger improvements can be had from the people side of things.

Another passion of mine is mountain biking. I lust after lightweight exotic bikes like the Super Fly 100 and S-Works Epic, imagining how much faster I could go, the hills I could finally climb. I am sure they would help, but the advantages are small, a good rider will dwarf the performance gains of the machinery and it comes down to the person powering the bike not the bike its self. It is like this with people and process too. Yes we can tweak and improve the process and I encourage you to, but the biggest gains come from within the team. From trust and respect comes great commitment and creativity which cannot be made up for with tools and processes. We undoubtedly need a combination of soft skills, tools, and process, but when considering where to focus effort I believe the biggest payback is on the people side.

"From trust and respect comes great commitment and creativity which cannot be made up for with tools and processes."

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.

Continue reading "Six Project Trends Every PM Should be Aware Of" »


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.


Hiring for an Agile Team

Agile Team What characteristics do you look for when hiring for an agile team? Our next Calgary APLN meeting is a panel discussion on the topic and looks set be a great one.

 

Some broad characteristics identified in the planning emails for the panel include:

Characteristics of a high performing team:

  • Collaborative / effective communicator
  • Willing to cross boundaries
  • Work side by side / discuss work out problems real time
  • A lot of face to face communication required
  • Humility - accept feedback
  • Able to compromise / support team decisions
  • Able to reflect back on events and provide insights (critical for retrospectives)
  • Always looking to improve
  • Think about things rather than blinding moving forward…..
  • Pragmatic - Knows what “just” enough is, Do what it takes
  • Adaptive / Flexible - Change direction as required
  • Takes initiative / self motivated
  • Willing to try new things (may be evident by a desire for continuous learning)
  • Can figure out the most important thing to do next. Doesn’t need to be told what to do.
  • Risk tolerant – able to make a decision and act based on the information known
  • Able to work in fast pace / intense
  • Willing to work in a team room – little privacy, very noisy, no prestige
  • Can challenge ideas in a respectful manner
  • Work incrementally - Willing to revisit work
  • Accepting that the big picture will evolve over time

Detecting these characteristics:

  • Behavioural descriptive questions – tell me a time when….give me an example of….
  • Interests / desires may be evidence of the characteristics
  • Informal references from prior projects / peers etc.
  • Auditions – pairing on an activity
  • Trial periods

The panel members have also identified a set of technical requirements based on the various roles (developer, test, architect, etc), but I am most excited about who we have on our panel...

Continue reading "Hiring for an Agile Team" »


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.

Continue reading "Agile Business Conference 2009" »


PMBOK v4 and Agile mappings

PMBOK pdf For the attendees of my recent Las Vegas course, below is a link to the PMBOK v4 to Agile mappings we discussed. My previous course material mappings were based on PMBOK v3, and before that the 2000 edition, which are out of date now.

 

Quite a lot changed from the PMBOK v3 to v4; all the processes were renamed into the new verb-noun format. Six of the old processes were merged into four new ones, two processes were deleted, and two new ones added. So it seemed like time to redo the mappings and post them online this time.

 

Cautions

Process guidelines and templates are not an acceptable replacement for common sense, thought, dialog, or collaboration. A fool with a tool is still a fool, but can be especially dangerous since they give the impression that they have a potential solution to tricky problems. Beware of simply following any project guidelines that seem counter to your objectives.

 

So, why would you want to be mapping the PMBOK v4 to Agile techniques anyway?...

Continue reading "PMBOK v4 and Agile mappings" »


Calgary APLN Social

Barley Mill 1

The Calgary Agile Project Leadership Network (Calgary APLN) 2009/2010 season kicks off this week with a social at the Barley Mill in Eau Claire, Thursday Oct 1, 4:30 – 6:30pm.

“To help build a vibrant Agile community in Calgary, we would like to invite you to a networking event. Come out and meet other Agile Leaders within Calgary, swap stories and share some laughs. Agile Recruiting has graciously sponsored the event by providing appetizers. Cash bar will be available.”

This is a chance to meet and chat to other people in the agile project leadership community in Calgary. We have a limited capacity so register to reserve a place. I hope to see you there.


PMI Agile Launch Event

Agile 2009 Chicago On Tuesday I was in Chicago for the PMI Agile Community of Practice launch event. It was hosted by Thoughtworks and kicked off by Martin Fowler and Jim Highsmith. Jesse Fewell and I introduced the community and outlined the goals.

With getting on for half a million PMI members worldwide, many in the knowledge-worker domain, agile methods have a lot to offer this already huge community. It is set to get larger too, PMI member growth progresses at about 20% per year, and PMI research indicates there are up to 20 million people engaged in knowledge-worker projects worldwide.

The spread of agile ideas to the PMI is inevitable and already happening on many fronts. I was concerned that it would be adopted incorrectly, fail and then be dismissed. This is still a risk, but with the launch event at Agile 2009 and an open invitation to Agile Alliance members to get involved and drive the initiative, the hope is that the initiative will succeed.

For an event that proposed bringing agile and PMI groups together, there was surprisingly little conflict or debate. But, then I suppose those people opposed self-selected and chose not to attend. Besides, few people subscribe to a purely agile or purely traditional approach to all projects anyway. We have to be pragmatic and chose our approach based on project and organizational circumstances.

The “PMI-Agile Community of Practice” is a free to join group aimed at “Equipping PMI members with Agile knowledge and skills".  For more details see the community wiki.


Back Blogging Again

Boomerang OK, I'm back and I really need to post here more often. Summers in Canada are so short that I try to pack a year’s worth of adventures into 3-4 short months. We (hopefully) still have plenty of summer left, but I intend to post more frequently as there is lots going on in the agile project management space too.

In a couple of weeks we have the Agile Conference in Chicago and I’m looking forward to the PMI-Agile Community Launch. (See this week’s GanttHead article). In September I’ll be teaching my 2 day class in Las Vegas (Sep. 14-15). In October I’ll be presenting at the Agile Business Conference in London (Oct 11- 15). Then training again in November in Savannah (Nov 7-11) and San Diego (Dec 12-16).

 

This summer’s silly idea was to try competitive mountain biking. A sport in which I quickly progressed beyond my ability and paid the penalty with crashes and injuries. So for now, I’m keeping the extreme to the projects and would like to thank Kelly Waters for pointing out that my site needed some long over due maintenance (one link was now an “off-topic” site.) Kelly runs the great site www.allaboutagile.com check it out if it is not on your regular list of sites.


Launch of the PMI Agile Community

Agile 2009 The “PMI Agile Community” will be officially launched at the Agile 2009 Conference in Chicago, August 24. This has been made possible by Jesse Fewell and the strong team of volunteers pushing through the red tape of the PMI and the help from supportive PMI members.

For over eight years now I have been promoting taking agile principles to the PMI. In 2001-2003 my proposals for the PMI Global Congress conference (that were pretty derogatory of command and control approaches) were rejected. It was not until 2004 I smartened up and was successful in getting my paper (Using Agile Alongside the PMBOK) accepted and went to Anaheim to present at the PMI conference.  That was the only agile presentation that year at the conference, but year on year since, there have been more and more agile sessions at the PMI conferences. In 2007 when I met Jesse at the PMI Global Congress in Atlanta (where I presented on Developments in Agile Project Management) there were about 10 other agile related sessions.

This year I had decided to skip the Agile Conference, only because August is prime hiking, biking and climbing season in Canada’s short summer in the mountains. Yet, I cannot miss this launch; it has been so long coming, so I’m flying in for a couple of days for the community kick-off. I am glad to be attending, if only for a short time.

The PMI Agile Community is a grass-roots initiative between a group of Agilists and the Project Management Institute (PMI) to create a new Agile Community of Practice (CoP) within the PMI, with the stated purpose "to equip PMI members with Agile knowledge and skills". To read more about the PMI Agile Community see the Community Wiki

Thanks to the Scrum Alliance for sponsoring our launch event and the Agile Alliance for helping us kick this off at the best event of the year, the Agile Conference . I am looking forward to it.

2004 PMI Paper - Using Agile Alongside the PMBOK

2007 PMI Paper - Developments in Agile Project Management


Project Success?

Measuring Success What defines project success? On “time and budget”, or “to specification and quality requirements”, maybe all of these? No, we are missing some less tangible, but critical components; how do people feel about the project once it is done.

On May 12 the PMI-SAC Awards for the best projects and the best project managers will be held in Calgary and Captain James Lovell, Commander of Apollo 13 will be giving the keynote “Apollo 13 – A Successful Failure”. This year I am a judge for the awards ceremony and in reviewing the applicants I have been thinking about what constitutes a successful project which prompted the recollection of some famous projects...

Apollo 13
Let’s consider Apollo 13. The third manned mission by NASA intended to land on the moon that experienced electrical problems 2 days after liftoff. An explosion occurred resulting in the loss of oxygen and power and the "Houston, we've had a problem" quote from Lovell (that is widely misquoted as, "Houston, we have a problem".)

The crew shut down the Command Module and used the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat" during the return trip to earth. Despite great hardship caused by limited electrical power, extreme cold, and a shortage of water, the crew returned safely to Earth and while missing the main moon-based scope, it was a very successful rescue, allowing future missions. “A Successful Failure

Titanic
(The 1997 film not the original ship). This film was six months late, massively over budget and finished with a bloated 194-minute running time. Seemingly not a good performance given the original schedule, budget and scope requirements. Yet the film turned into an enormous critical and commercial success, winning eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and became the highest-grossing film of all time.

Continue reading "Project Success?" »


Upcoming Events

2009 Calendar After returning from teaching a PMI class in New Orleans, the PMI have added some additional venues for the course later in the year. This is a good sign for agile methods within the PMI community; the course sold out quickly which hopefully indicates that many companies are still able to invest in training.

My 2 day Agile Project Management courses will be offered:

Of course PMI events go on throughout the year (full schedule), but this year I have deliberately kept the summer free from work events to enjoy some outdoor things closer to home. I am currently signed up for the Police Half Marathon, Calgary Marathon, Canmore 24hrs of Adrenaline, The Canadian Death Race, The TransRockies Bike Race, and Half Moon Adventure Race. Time will tell if I survive them all or stub my toe on the first one and miss the rest – hopefully not! I will report any remotely work related news back here.

Other agile events that look interesting this year include:
Atern Road Shows in the UK: London May 14, Bristol June 18, Manchester June 25.
XP 2009 Sardinia, Italy May 25-29
Agile 2009 Conference, Chicago August 24-28
Agile Business Conference, London October 13, 14

So many events, so little time!


Agile in New Orleans

New Orleans Next week I’ll be teaching a two day Agile Project Management course for the PMI in New Orleans. The class sold out quickly; I only teach 3 or 4 times a year for the PMI and I wondered if registration numbers would be down this year. The fact that it filled up so quickly is very positive and perhaps more people are tuning to agile as a way to get more work done with less budget.

This year’s Agile Business Conference in London has the theme of “Driving Success in Adversity” and I have submitted a presentation outline and plan to attend. There submission system states “This year we invite presentations and tutorials emphasising how Agile practices promote efficiency in project delivery, guarantee business value and optimise return on investment.” This seems a great theme, agile is all about maximizing business value, and I am looking forward to the conference.
 
Meanwhile, in New Orleans next week, I am keen to hear how organizations are currently using agile methods within their organizations to add value. (I am also looking forward to sampling the food and feeling some warmer weather after a long Canadian winter!)


The "Realization, Suck, Advance" Progression

S Ski Many skills go through a familiar progression:
1) Poor Performance
2) The Point of Realization
3) The “Sucking” Phase
4) The Advancement Phase

I went through this with TDD, then with a switch from management to leadership, more recently with learning to ski down hill in control on cross-country skis.


Realization Suck Advance

1) Poor Performance – Some things you just cannot do, or you have a lack of recognition about. The end result is that performance is poor.

2) The Point Realization – this is when you realize what you are supposed to be doing and the “a-ha” moment occurs. It feels good to now know what you need to do, but usually we are not practiced at it and still continue to fail for a while.

3) The “Suck” Phase – We know what we should do, but despite our best efforts we fail at doing it. This is because we have had no practice and we have not developed our skills yet. It can be frustrating that after making the mental leap that our performance hardly improves at all. From an external view observers may see no discernable improvement between before and immediately after the Point of Realization. Yet the seed has been sown and with practice we will get better.

4) The Advancement Phase – Now at last we start to make progress as we practice, continue to make mistakes, but get better and better. Our performance improves, we still fail occasionally, but less often and we get longer periods of high performance in between.

Applied Behavioral Analysis Science
My latest Point of Realization came during a presentation by Tony Parrottino at a recent PMI-SAC meeting. Tony was talking about Applied Behavioral Analysis Science as outlined by Aubrey Daniels.

Continue reading "The "Realization, Suck, Advance" Progression" »


VUCA Lessons For Agile

Project Uncertainty Bob Johansen author of “Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present” outlines the challenges of VUCA projects. VUCA is a military term used to describe environments characterized by:

Volatility
Uncertainty
Complexity
Ambiguity

In such environments standard Command-and-Control processes are not effective.

I recently attended a great presentation by Denise Caron who outlined Bob’s description of VUCA challenges and the new leadership models that lend themselves to these circumstances. Many of today’s software projects exhibit Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity and there are numerous parallels between agile leadership and the VUCA leadership model.

Low complexity, fixed targets and “knowable” problems can be solved with a Command-and-Control approach. Here careful upfront planning and then methodical execution pay dividends. However, projects with high complexity, moving targets and initially unclear end-goals cannot be planned in detail upfront and then simply executed. This is where the advantages agile approaches come into play gaining the benefits of adaption over a traditional “Plan-the-work, work-the-plan” approach.

Johansen brings some useful parallels to the agile model, focusing on the role of a leader when faced with a dilemma involving Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. He highlights a Foresight to Insight to Action cycle as shown next...

Continue reading "VUCA Lessons For Agile" »


Reinvigorate Your Retrospectives

APLNLogo Come and see Jennitta Andrea present on how to reinvigorate your retrospectives at the Calgary APLN meeting this Friday 27 February.

From the outline:
“You know you should be performing regular retrospectives, but you can't convince management or the team that it's a worthwhile investment of time ... Your team has been performing retrospectives every iteration, and they have become monotonous and have stopped producing valuable insights ... You've heard about retrospectives, but don't even know how to get started ...”

Jennitta is a thought leader in the agile community and serves on the board of the Agile Alliance. I am sure the talk will promote many ideas to make retrospectives extra productive.

To register for this free event visit the Calgary APLN Site


Agile Organizations

Agile Organizations The week before last I was in Regina teaching a two day Agile Project Leadership course for the Regina .NET User Group. One of the side conversations we had there was about Agile Organizations. Companies who not only embrace agile principles on their projects, but also within the behaviour and execution of their entire business. There is a big difference between running projects in an agile way within a traditional organization and orienting an entire company around principles that match agile values. Here are four well known and some not so well known examples:

1) Toyota
Toyota’s lean approach is well publicized. Through their passion for worker-led continual improvement they review, learn, adapt and improve at an impressive pace. Much has been written about Toyota’s capacity to innovate and nearly all of it comes from the incorporation of many small internal suggestions. In “The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation” author Mathew May describes how Toyota implements over 1 million employee suggestions per year, that is about 3000 per working day, a truly staggering number.

The Elegant Solution
There is no big prize for the best suggestion picked each month. Instead all suggestions are valued equally and thanked in a small way. Toyota believes the biggest improvements come about from implementing thousands of small improvements, not waiting for the next big idea.

How do we learn from this? By creating ways for people to contribute, canvas their ideas frequently and recognize all suggestions for improvement; whether they are ultimately successful or not.

Continue reading "Agile Organizations" »


Living the Theory of Constraints

Hourglass This past week I have had an opportunity to experience some hospital process control and contrast it with traditional project process controls. In doing so, I saw many instances of where today’s projects that exhibit uncertainty could be better managed via prioritization and collaborative decision making than preset plans.

How did we get to Traditional Project Management?
Project management is a fairly young discipline, yet because its repeatable process scales so well, and is easy to duplicate and automate; it rapidly became the dominant process for running projects. Frederick Taylor published his studies on “Scientific Management” in 1911 outlining the process of decomposing complex work into simpler and simpler steps until localized labour could be employed to perform each simple task. Embraced by Henry Ford and others, Scientific Management became the prevailing way of problem solving for entire industries.

It was not until the 1950’s when Peter Drucker and then later Michael Porter convinced the world that centralization and command-and-control structures were flawed. Respect for workers and a holistic value based view of systems can produce better results and more sustainable organizations. Yet traditional project management persisted.

Continue reading "Living the Theory of Constraints" »


Upcoming Calgary APLN Meeting

The next Calgary Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) meeting will be on Wednesday November 26 at the 5th Avenue Place Meeting room.

At the meeting Mike McCullough from Quadrus Development will be presenting  a re-run of his Agile 2008 conference session “Learning Games For the Agile Practitioner”. At the Agile 2008 conference the session was voted back for a re-run and was very popular. I hope you can make it out to the event.

To register for this free event visit the Calgary APLN site here.