Agile DNA Webinar

Agile_dna_webinarI am excited to announce a free webinar with RMC Learning Solutions entitled “Agile DNA: The People and Process Elements of Successful Agile Projects” that will be taking place on January 11th 2017 at 12:00pm Central Time.

This is an introductory level presentation about agile approaches that qualifies participants for 1 PDU. The “Agile DNA” title comes from the twin strands of People and Process that are woven into agile approaches and uniquely define what they are. Please join me for this review of agile through the twin lens of People and Process to get a deeper understanding of the building blocks of agile.

Register now for this event here.


Back to the Future Slides

Back to the FutureHere are my slides from the recent PMI-SAC Professional Development Conference: Download Managing the Unknown with Marty McFly .The theme for the conference was Back to The Future and my presentation explained how projects throughout history have managed uncertainty and how we do it today. I also introduced a half-serious idea that the PMI accidently removed most of the theory on managing uncertainty in their attempt to simplify and serialize project management so they could document it in the PMBOK Guide and create multiple choice questions based on it.

It was great to catch up with old friends at the conference and receive such positive feedback about my presentation. It was a bit of a departure for me, delving into history, but an enjoyable one and I learned lots researching it.


LeadingAnswers in 2015

PathwayI am well overdue for posting to this site, but it is not through lack of interest or ideas. There is an inverse relationship between postings and with how busy I have been. When I have time to post here it generally means I am getting some spare time. When you see nothing for weeks (or months) it means I have been busy doing “real-work” which I guess is a good thing. Since I last published some articles here I have been working with APMG on a PMBOK and DSDM Cross Reference and White Paper. This prompted me to update my “PMBOK Guide to Agile Mappings” and bring it up to the latest PMBOK V5 Guide version.

I have been doing some PMI-ACP Exam Prep training courses and taught a Collaborative Risk Management workshop. I gave a keynote presentation at an excellent PMI Conference in Poland and have been working with the PMI on the next version of the Exam Content Outline for the PMI-ACP exam refresh. I have also been teaching at the local university, writing for Gantthead (ProjectManagmeent.com), moved house and doing my regular day job.

These activities have provided me with lots of things to write about here and over the next few weeks I hope to post more regularly and share some cool new content. Thanks for your patience and stay tuned for some more articles soon.


PMI-ACP Book Discount

PMI-ACP Exam Prep CoverI picked up a copy of my PMI-ACPSM Exam Prep book on a visit to RMC Project Management over the weekend. It was good to see it printed up for the first time, and with all the exercises and 120 sample exam questions, it was thicker than I expected at over 350 full-size pages.

The extra weight also comes from the case studies of agile projects I have worked on over the years and the additional materials I included to link the exam topics together. These items that are not in the exam are clearly marked so you can skip over them if you want. However, I am sure some people will find they add value by making the ideas more real. These additional materials also supply useful information to allow readers to fully understand the topics, rather than just memorize the information for the exam.

I am very grateful to the staff at RMC for pulling together my thoughts and ideas into this book, and for the people who reviewed it. Alistair Cockburn and Dennis Stevens were particularly helpful, and after reviewing it, they wrote the following quotes for the cover:


“As one of the authors of the Agile Manifesto, I am delighted to see this book by Mike Griffiths. It is great that such an exam guide was prepared by someone with a deep understanding of both project management and Agile development. Personally, I hope that everyone reads this book, not just to pass the PMI-ACP exam, but to learn Agile development safely and effectively!”

– Dr. Alistair Cockburn, Manifesto for Agile Software Development Co-Author, International Consortium for Agile Co-Founder, and Current Member of the PMI-ACP Steering Committee.


“This is a VERY enjoyable book to read, due to Mike's firm grasp of the underlying concepts of Agile, and his articulate and entertaining writing style. My favorite part is the fact that it is organized into a framework that helps all of the Agile concepts hang together, so they will be easier to recall when taking the PMI-ACP exam.

But Mike's book is more than just the best PMI-ACP prep book out there. It is also the best consolidated source of Agile knowledge, tools, and techniques available today. Even if you are not planning on sitting for the PMI-ACP exam in the near future you need to buy this book, read it, and keep it as a reference for how to responsibly be Agile!”

Dennis Stevens, PMI-ACP Steering Committee Member, PMI Agile Community of Practice Council Leader, and Partner at Leading Agile.


Thanks to you both, working with you over the years has been a blast. I would also like to thank the visitors of my blog here, too, for reading my posts and submitting insightful comments that kept me motivated to write. RMC has provided me a limited time promotion code that gives readers a further $10 off their currently discounted price for the book. If you follow this link and enter promo codeXTENMGBD”, you can get the additional $10 discount up until May 18th 2012. This is a 25% reduction on the retail price.


Agile Conspiracies

Agile ConspiracyConspiracies can be fun. Based on just enough superficial evidence or correlation, they allow us to indulge our imaginations and let off some steam. But what happens if we stumble onto a hush-hush cover-up that we were never supposed to find? Is your system just slow today, or is there a key logger running? You better conceal that camera on your monitor (hey, it’s not being paranoid when everyone is out to get you!) We are about to explore some agile conspiracies, so get your cover-up ready...

1. Agile as a Means to Prevent Outsourcing

Outsourcing software development to smart people working for less money overseas loomed large over the IT industry in the 1990s as giants like IBM and Fujitsu opened mega data centers in India and China. Fortunately, a ragtag band of visionaries met in Snowbird, Utah to thwart the threat before it became a reality.

Understanding that detailed specifications and good plans allowed for work to be successfully handed off to third parties, they set about undoing these best practices. If they could successfully sabotage the building blocks of successful handoffs, then the outsourcing trend could be stopped--or at least slowed.

By insisting that customers did not know what they wanted (and couldn’t explain it anyway), they undermined years of progress in requirements specification and project planning. When challenged on these claims, they played their ace card by saying that since publishing their findings there had been no business groups complaining or refuting their findings--so they must be true (when in fact no one outside of the software world had any idea what agile was or that anything had been published). Yet without anyone to call “Foul!”, their message stuck and began to grow.

Some early adopters saw the end goal and jumped on the bandwagon, reinforcing the cause through their own findings; others blindly followed the new calling, thinking it made sense. Even the agile manifesto founders were amazed when the real benefits were not discussed at the first Agile Conference as more and more people joined the cause. Knowingly or unknowingly, the movement grew.


2. Agile as an Excuse to Avoid Documentation

Continue reading "Agile Conspiracies" »


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" »


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.


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?" »


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.


Blog Award Nomination

Pmisac I am very pleased to announce that this blog has been selected as a finalist in the PMI-SAC award for Project Management Literature.

The other entries include Dr. Janaka Ruwanpura , Dr. George Jergeas, and Mohamed Moussa  who have written (amongst other things) some great material on decision tree simulation and civil engineering PM best practices. So, while I do not expect to win, being selected as a finalist is a great endorsement and encouraging that a PMI body recognizes agile and leadership based material.

This is an emerging trend, three or four years ago agile awareness and acceptance within traditional project management was the anomaly, now it appears the norm. When I spoke at the PMI Global Congress in Anaheim in 2004 I had the only agile session there, at this year’s conference in Atlanta there will be six others with me. The reasons are clear, many companies are achieving success with agile methods and many others want to mirror them. The high change world of today’s software endeavours are “not your father’s projects” and so we need “not your father’s project management” to lead them.

The winner of the literary award will be announced next Tuesday; I’ll post the result here.


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.