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formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC
Find out what The Complete Project Manager (Englund and Bucero) and Strategies for Sponsorship (James, Rosenhead, and Taylor) have in common at Strategies4Sponsors.com
I recently cross-posted a poll in a couple of different locations. The majority of responses came from this LinkedIn poll. The biggest value of the poll is in the comments. They are worth a good read. I will be writing an article based on the information collected and my thoughts. Here are the raw results in the meantime.
A few notes:
Here is a preview of what is to come in the article.
Thank you for your participation and comments. Keep them coming!
I often think back to three specific posts when talking to project managers about the role of communication in successful projects. In fact, I have taken concepts of each of these to create my Unlock Your Project’s Potential with Great Communication presentation. This presentation was a great success and I look forward to additional presentations.
Now available – 1-Day workshop based on this collection of articles
Communication Secrets for Project Success
Here are my “best of the best” from PPS for project communication.
Enjoy and share!
IIBA and PMI Chapters, I will speak at your chapter for only the cost of travel plus a $25 honorarium. This offer is available first come, first serve at two presentations per month. Only one presentation per chapter please. The honorarium helps me to qualify as a professional member of the National Speakers Association.
I have the same thought each time I read an article or attend a workshop on “Agile Project Management.” Agile is not about project management. The title is “Manifesto for Agile Software Development.” The statement is “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” Agile is a strategy for executing the product development of a project, not a project framework.
I attended a Puget Sound PMI meeting the other day that focused on project management in an Agile world. They had a panel of four Agile experts answer the question “does the project manager have a future in Agile?” The panelist unanimously agreed that the project manager does have a future in Agile. I agree. A development project using Agile methods requires a project manager.
I was following along on Twitter to see what folks where asking in the session. What I found was evidence of why project managers are not comfortable with the idea of Agile. This is because the word “Agile” is used in regards to project management instead of keeping it within the confines of product development. Let’s start with how the decision to develop a product using Agile methods begins. Someone decides that the project is a good candidate for Agile practices during project initiation. The project comes before the product develop framework is selected. This is just one sign of how Agile is not a “project management” framework.
Project plans and delivery will be driven by Agile principles. This does not make Agile the project management framework. Look more closely at the project management planning tasks and see. Each question with the planning task stated below is an element that is not predefined in the Scrum framework (note: Scrum is the only Agile method that I have training and experience in). There is no standard process that the sponsor and team can understand and buy into with more planning. Documented answers to these questions are required for an adequately planned project.
How will this be developed and tracked within this project? Meetings, recording and tracking tool, access by others.
How will this be developed and tracked within this project? What tools will be use to develop and communicate the status within the team and to other stakeholders?
How will the project dollars be tracked and reported? The product development team does not need this information, but the organization stakeholders and sponsor will want to know the bottom line.
Who is involved in which meetings and distribution lists? What is the schedule of known communications and who is responsible? What are the team guidelines on communication for within the team? What communications do the stakeholders who are not team members need?
Projects face added risks from the organization and external factors. How will these be identified and monitored?
Who is fulfilling each of these roles? What other resources need to be identified? Are there peripheral team members supporting the project? How do team members’ capacity affect velocity and team planning? How are they accommodated in planning and communications?
There are too many aspects to the project outside of the product development that need attention. Agile projects need a project manager to give support to the entire project. These are only examples from the planning phase of the project management lifecycle. The list will grow much longer exploring the full list of project management tasks.
Below are some questions I saw via Twitter in the panel presentation on Tuesday. The answers show my opinion as stated above, based on my experience and education.
Who owns the project? Who is accountable?
The Agile team is responsible for the product development. The project manager is still responsible and accountable for the project. This includes ensuring that the direction and processes used by the development team will meet the goals of the project.
Which role or title has the most influence in Agile systems?
The product owner has the most influence in product development. She represent the user stakeholders of the system, elicit the user stories (features) to be developed, and keep up the product backlog list. The product owner is the `single wringable neck` for product development on the Scrum team.
The project sponsor has the most influence for the overall project. The project manager is responsible communicating challenges and status as well documenting and implementing any changes from the sponsor or organization stakeholders.
Could any team ever operate without a PM to coordinate, communicate, escalate, schedule, staff, coach, nurture?
No. Scrum is silent on what the structure above the development team is. The Scrum Master escalates barriers and issues. This implies that there is somewhere to escalate. Although the project manager may be the Scrum Master, the intent of Scrum is that is a member of the product development team is the Scrum Master. I believe the best model is a team member (perhaps lead developer or designer) is the Scrum Master and the project manager serves as a team coach to oversee the processes, monitor progress, and resolve project issues.
How does Agile work for (IT) infrastructure projects?
Agile is a software development manifesto. It was not developed to cover all projects of all types. It has been adapted in some cases beyond software development, but this does not mean it is appropriate to all projects. The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) does a good job of discussing how to choose an right approach for product development based on if the project is `plan-driven` or `change-driven` within the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK®). An infrastructure project is likely to be a plan-driven project, meaning, “requirements can effectively be defined in advance of implementation.” Agile development processes are not recommended in this case.
Is Waterfall bad?
This goes with the previous answer. Agile and Waterfall both have a place in projects depending on the nature of the project. Michele Sliger pointed out several times that Waterfall practice today does not align with the Dr. Royce’s intention. We picked page 2 of a 9-page report and ran with it without due diligence or notice of the statement “…the implementation described above is risky and invites failure.” When defects are found in test “either the requirements must be modified, or a substantial change in the design is required…one can expect up to a 100-percent overrun in schedule and/or costs.” Dr. Royce remedied this shortfall with continuous feedback loops between all team members and end users throughout the process. Waterfall projects today rarely include this feedback loop early and often enough.
Waterfall is not bad. Agile may be better suited to projects where there is a high level of uncertainty in where the business value of the product will be found through requirements (aka “change-driven”).
Paper available at http://Agileconsortium.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/52184636/Waterfall.pdf
Should Agile be announced or just done?
The manifesto begins “we believe…” This “we” needs be the team’s voice to be successful. I have run two separate projects where Scrum was mandated. The challenge is that time, resources, and training was not available to the team members to give them a proper introduction and practical practice for team members to have trust in the processes. Especially in a matrix managed organization, gaining trust with unconvinced team members is a huge challenge. Simply announcing Agile processes is not enough, the members need training, and commitment, or the project will suffer a new set of risks.
I welcome all feedback in support of or opposition to this article. It should be an interesting conversation and I hope you will take part.
I wanted to just take a moment to say thank you to the Puget Sound PMI for pulling this event together. The open discussion was interesting. The questions by Tweet helped to keep me engaged long after the presentation was over. Thank you to panelists Bryan Tew, Michele Sliger, Mitch Lacey, Werner Koepf, and Dominica DeGrandis for facilitating.
“The Plan is nothing, Planning is Everything!” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
You probably have heard this quote. Have you spent much time thinking about it? If the value of planning is not the plan but the process, the thinking that goes into the planning , then doesn’t it make sense to involve as many people in that process as possible (and reasonable), to spread that value around? When people have a shared vision of the future that they have worked together to generate, then they know better how to make decisions in the moment, in the trenches. This results in two highly valuable benefits. It makes progress occur faster, because the team isn’t waiting for leadership to make decisions they could make themselves. It also frees up your project leadership who are (I bet) already overworked and have a hard time getting to issues in a timely manner anyway.
As a servant leader it is critically important that you be comfortable, no not just comfortable, that you passionately desire, that the team can self-manage and solve as many problems as possible, without you. For beginning project leaders this can be threatening. But in the end it allows you to leverage yourself into larger and more challenging opportunities.
So, If the planning is everything then the planning should be done by as much of the team as possible.
Lately, the word “focus” has come up repeatedly as essential to identifying and achieving business success. I know I struggle in this area in starting Professional Project Services. There are so many fun and exciting things to do, who can pick where to start?
Last Saturday I made the right decision on where to spend my energy. I saw the date for an event creeping up on my calendar and had a hard time getting excited. I hoped that it turned out to be an inspiring morning and happily, I was not let down. The National Speakers Association Northwest event was a four-hour seminar lead by Mark LeBlanc on Growing Your Business When You are the Business. I walked away with two simple strategies involving “focus” that will help me become more profitable with my business in less time.
The first strategy is to focus on the single “profit center” that will most help you meet your financial targets for the month.
These do not have to be big things. In fact, Mark says he rarely spends more than an hour a day working on his three baby steps each day. Just do three things that will support generating new revenue in that area.
The other strategy is the idea to reach out to connect with one contact in support of your primary business each day. Mark recommends that this be a phone call and I can see how much more meaningful that phone call will be compared to an email or social network tools. I have written in earlier posts about how powerful a connection can prove to be without any insight and or idea of what benefits they can bring. You help make sure that your connections remain your connections by reaching out to – remind them that you are out there with the services you offer and gain insights into where you could be of help in their lives.
I have many ideas when it comes to what I want to do in my business and often feel like a pinball in deciding what to work on each day. My 3-5 year vision is that I am on the speaking circuit and writing books to help project professionals and leaders realize the greatest success in the projects they take on. My project experience tells me that greater success comes from focusing on the activities that will bring the biggest benefit to my business. What brings me the biggest value five years from now is not what is of value to build my business and reputation as I work toward that long-term vision. Instead, I need to ask myself, “What is most valuable to me today?” Hearing Mark’s strategies is what has convinced me I need to adjust my short-term focus. Each day I will do three things, plus make one contact, that help me book technical training events for project managers and business analysts. My other business strategies will benefit from this focus and help me to achieve my vision.
Have you experienced this? You buy a new car, a make and model you had not paid any particular attention to in the past. All of a sudden, you see your new car everywhere. That is what has happened to me since I had this Mark inspired epiphany on my business. Yesterday I ran across an article on Harvard Business Review that talks about how Steve Jobs turned Apple around by making them streamline their product line and focus on what their consumers needed most. Then today again, I get my highly anticipated CBSNews email and find an article on Three Key Mistakes to Avoid in Setting Goals. Can you guess what number 2 on the list was? That is right, too many goals. We need focus.
You can help. I am looking for opportunities to go on the road to speak. I would love to come to your local PMI or IIBA event to a present any of my one-hour presentations. I am working on solidifying the curriculum on a program specifically designed for Business Analysts. I will offer this BA training in your local area as part of my travel plan. I may ask for a little help in marketing the program in your area as well.
Just one more tiny favor to ask. Please check out Mark’s website and found out how he can help you or your organization.
I recently read The 2 Most Important Words in Business (forbes.com) and liked the idea that two words describing my philosophy will help shape my business and help others understand me. When it came to thinking of my words, I fell flat. My initial thought was “better” and “value.” While it is true that I want to provide better value to my clients (small local business, government and corporate clients, and students of project management or business analysis alike), it is not the definitive description of me. It was a personal struggle that made me take a second look. What I found is that the values I appreciate most in others are what drives me in my everyday interactions when these values are lacking.
Empathy is not just the ability to imagine yourself in the other’s situation, but also the ability to think ahead to possible situations. This means that before I provide you information, I am going to ask myself “how would I take this information?”, “knowing what I do about the person, how are they likely to receive it?” This does not mean that all information I pass on will be welcomed. It is important that I be able to share any observation or recommendation so that I can provide you benefit as your consultant or coach. Being empathetic means that I will think through options, provide additional information as to why, and support the other person in whatever action they must take.
“Say what you mean, and do as you say.”
The other day I was heads down in my computer when I glanced at the calendar on my phone and realized I was 10-minutes late to meet with a potential business connection. WOW! How I missed the reminders for that I will never know, but I did. I called her immediately, apologized, and told her I could be at our meeting spot in 10 minutes. She had already given up and left but thanked me profusely for the call. I felt horrible about missing our appointment time and still do. This is so rare for me. I have since added more reminders tools on my laptop and phone in hopes that it never happens again. I share this story to let you know that those rare times where I make an mistake I am quick to own up to it, apologize, and try to make things right.
I am always truthful and candid. Bad news makes for better decisions then sugarcoated news. Sugarcoating is for cereal! I deliver bad news empathically and truthfully. It may mean additional research into options to present, or simply lending an ear to the receiver to help work through the problem.
You can always count on me to keep my commitments. I will let you know as soon as possible if I find there is a chance I will not be able keep a deadline or appointment. The thought of wasting somebody’s time is comparable to wasting his money and is not acceptable. The best way to avoid wasting others’ time is to be early or on time. The second best way is to provide ample time to the other so they may adjust their plans.
PPS delivers information with empathy and integrity to those who seek to understand better ways to achieve their goals.
Yesterday was Oscar day. Not only for the Film Academy, but for project managers and business analysts around globe. PDU Of The Day (OTD) Tweeted their pics for PM Oscars throughout the day and I was one of many lucky recipients.
For more award or information on the latest PDU opportunities visit
List of awards:
WOW! 93 awards in 8 hours. That is a phenomenal amount of work. Thank you so much! Now I’m off to follow some new award winning tweeps!
I am thrilled to announce that I, along with Peter Taylor and Ron Rosenhead, have signed on with Management Concepts Press to embark on a new research and writing project, Strategies for Project Sponsorship. The book is at least a year out as we gather our research, write the text, and then work through the publication process.
We are asking for you assistance. Visit the book page at http://www.strategies4sponsors.com to respond to our survey, share your sponsor story, or both. More information on the project and my fellow authors is also available. Please use the link on the right to join the Campaign for Project Sponsorship to get the latest news and opportunities on the project.
Just too funny because it is so true.