Can a Project Management Office be #Agile #PMOT #PMO

Can a Project Management Office be Agile? Should it? Can agilist succeed in Project Management Office?

I must admit I had thought that a Project Management Office was one of the most non-Agile entities in an enterprise. I viewed the PMO as a command and control type of structure that primarily just created templates and enforced standards. It turns out that an enlightened PMO behaves much like an Agile coach.

The first two types of PMOs do appear to be very traditionalist. Those first two types deliver limited value to the clients.

PMO Level 1

The goal of this level of PMO is typically standardization and repeatability. The vehicle for this to be achieved is usually templates and standard project deliverables. While some level of consistency is good for projects, these templates and deliverables provide most of their value to the Information Technology organization and not the client. Given that Information Technology should be a service provider to the entire enterprise, this type of PMO is a hard sell to the clients. This type of PMO is also not very Agile as the entire focus is on obedience to the templates.

PMO Level 2

Some time after the PMO Level 1 is set up and projects are still not consistent or standard, there becomes a secondary focus on the Projects Managers themselves. This type of PMO becomes a type of Career Centre to help coach the Project Managers in their career. This type of PMO is starting to recognize that projects and project managers are unique and it isn’t as easy as just defining standard templates. There needs to be more discussions and accommodation with project team members to achieve success. This type of PMO is more Agile, but still limited in the extra value it provides client. Ideally, the extra coaching of Project Managers will deliver more value to the clients, but the focus is still Information Technology.

Thankfully, the last two types of PMOs turn and focus more on the client than Information Technology.

PMO Level 3

The third type of PMO signals an important shift in focus on the PMO. As the enterprise and the PMO grows, it becomes apparent that the PMO is still not returning much value to the clients. As moe and more projects are executed in parallel it becomes harder for the enterprise to keep track of everything. At this level the enterprise requires the PMO to produce consolidated Project Reporting and then soon after Project Resourcing. Now finally the PMO is providing value to the clients by providing brutal visibility as to the status of each project and helping to prioritize the projects, people, and initiatives across the entire organization. There is never enough hours in the day, but the PMO can help by coordinating effort towards the most important activities.

Suddenly, this type of PMO is starting to appear quite Agile. Brutal Visibility and Collaborative Prioritization!

PMO Level 4

The fourth type of PMO continues that shift in focus to providing client value. Now that the PMO has provided Brutal Visibility and Collaborative Prioritization for projects within the PMO, how can that be extended outside the PMO? This is typically done by providing Governance over an idea or innovation intake process. The PMO are the stewards of the process that provides idea and innovation information to a representative committee for approval and prioritization to become projects. Usually this type of PMO is also tasked with providing additional Financial Information that will be required to determine the number of ideas or innovations that can be turned into projects.

This type of PMO finds that an annual process to reviews ideas and innovations and approve potential projects to be too slow and cumbersome. We need to meet much more frequently. Usually these Governance Committees start out meeting quarterly and soon move to monthly Iterations. (See what I did there?)

This type of PMO is becoming more and more Agile by providing Iterative Decision Making and limiting the Backlog of Work.

Finally this type of PMO reports the final outcomes of projects, both Financial and Client Value delivered. As the PMO is now accountable for the project outcomes, the PMO conducts Project Closeouts and Lessons Learned sessions for Continuous Improvement.

Summary

Brutal Visibility and Collaborative Prioritization? Iterative Decision Making and limiting the Backlog of Work? Continuous Improvement?

Can an Agilist succeed in a PMO? Sounds to me like you have to be an Agilist to succeed in a PMO. 🙂

 

 

My #Agile Breakup

So it has been 11 months now since I’ve seen Agile. How has it been? To be honest, I haven’t missed her. I really haven’t. What has been made clear is what Agile is and what she isn’t.

First Date

I guess Agile and I started dating in 2006. We both were interested in each other and then I was able to arrange for Yves Hanoulle to be the keynote at the Software Development and Evolution Conference I was helping to organize in 2011. Yves had a great presentation on the Agile Mindset that was brilliant. I must admit I only realized how brilliant in the last few months. I think I did what many people have done when they encounter an attractive person coming out of a bad relationship. I moved too fast and fell too hard after being with Waterfall for too long.

The Agile I met was a collection of interesting, valuable methods. There was the concept of the Agile Mindset that Yves and others were promoting with wisdom. But I fell into the same trap as many others. I was going to propose to Agile and she would be the only methodology for me. All projects would be Agile. If clients didn’t like my new girlfriend, then they could go elsewhere.

Agile was a Methodology. I was sure of it. I would exclude using all other methodologies while Agile and I were serious. I would create an Agile Methodology by combining methods and practices. I would read and author Agile papers and presentations where we routinely challenged and chastised each other for not being ‘Agile enough’. I looked for the Agile complement for all waterfall or traditional methods. No matter the project, I promoted the Agile method.

For those of you keeping score at home, the PMBOK isn’t a methodology as well. Similar to Agile, it is a listing of processes, procedures, and knowledge that can be applied. But it is not prescriptive and does not provide governance on how to apply the methods and practices. Many companies take the PMBOK components and create their own methodology from it though.

But what about Scrum you ask? I’d say Scrum is an incomplete methodology. Although it does provide a methodology for the iterations on a project, it does lack guidance and governance in relations to the business case and pre-project intake process. Scrum also lacks guidance for the larger portfolio and enterprise governance concerns.

My Agile Mindset

My mistake was trying to take a collection of methods and assume a methodology exists. A larger mistake was then losing my Agile Mindset of constantly questioning the Agile methodology for value. That is my biggest complaint about Agile now. Many proponents seem to have lost the Agile Mindset of constantly questioning the best method to use on each project. Everyone is just promoting more and more ‘Agile’ methods without confirming that the method returns the most value for the clients. See the No Estimates discussion for this. To blindly promote no estimates for all clients does not represent an Agile Mindset.

I was going to say I’m just as Agile now and I was before, but that statement shows a non-Agile mindset – Agile is not a methodology to achieve. Let’s just say, I feel my projects achieve the maximum amount of value for client by using the Prince2 Methodology using Agile methods and practices were appropriate. Everyone I’ve worked with sees the value in Agile methods and are eager to work with them. The concept that you have to buy the entire Agile Methodology to use an Agile practice is misguided.

I mention Prince2 because that is what we use at the University of Manitoba. You could replace it with whatever you use at your company and then search where you could use Agile methods to return more value. The more I use Prince2, the most I think it is one of the best methodologies I have used though. Highly recommended.

Use an Agile Mindset, Agile isn’t about the Methodology it is about getting better little by little.

 

#Spelunking your #Backlog

it all seems so simple on first blush. Process the items in your backlog in priority sequence, rinse, and repeat. What could possibly go wrong?

Simply put if you process your backlog only by one measure of client priority, you are probably missing a lot.

The key comes when your backlog isn’t a simple list owned by one person. Like most issues in Agile, the trick always comes when you need to apply the Agile trappings to an enterprise scenario. When I have a backlog for one project with one owner and one solution, one rating system probably is sufficient. But when we move to an enterprise when we have a ticketing system for 50-60 applications, one rating system probably doesn’t suffice. In that enterprise situation, only going by one rating system probably means that entire applications or departments would be ignored and the systems would stagnate. Departments would become frustrated, write their own Excel and Access applications and create FileMaker Pro applications on the non-standard Macs they purchased.

So what to do?

Go spelunking

Mine the Data. Look for trends. Take a look at the data and see about the work required by:

  • Priority
  • Size
  • Age
  • Department
  • Technology
  • Effort
  • Strategy
  • etc…

Essentially understand your problems as much as you understand your solutions. ensure that you are not neglecting an area of the backlog. If you totally ignore an area of the backlog, the clients will create coping behaviors to address.

Although they don’t seem important, those small reporting tickets can results in a Data Warehouse being fully replicated if they never get attention. Clients will just copy data off and do the work themselves. Clients are also very reasonable when provided with the rationale between choosing between two competing priorities, but you need to give them some hope. Without that hope they will bypass IT and just do it themselves. And this will cause more work for IT in the long-term.

Recommendation

I recommend you take 80% of your budget and process the highest priority items. But then take the other 20% and ensure that IT is not ignoring departments or strategies entirely. Ensure that some tickets aren’t being left around for years and years. It is certainly proper to process less of these lower priority items, but it is fair to verify that we process some of them.

A Crisis in #Courage

mercury7

Mercury Seven

Kudos if you know the picture above is of the group of astronauts known as the Mercury Seven. Aptly described in an article in Life, the Mercury Seven were introduced to the American people as:

““Some fine early morning before another summer has come, one man chosen from the calmly intent seven . . . will embark on the greatest adventure man has ever dared to take. Dressed in an all-covering suit to protect him from explosive changes in pressure, strapped into a form-fitting couch to cushion him against the crushing forces of acceleration, surrounded in his tiny chamber by all manner of instruments designed to bring him safely home, he will catapult upward at the head of a rocket for more than 100 miles and then plunge down into the Atlantic Ocean. If he survives, he will be come the heroic symbol of a historic triumph; he will be the first American, perhaps the first man, to be rocketed into the dark stillness of space. If he does not survive, one of his six remaining comrades will go next.”

That is courage and bravery exemplified. Would we ever find the same qualities in 2017?

United States

There have been many comments and critiques of the United States Government recently and they have been discussed thoroughly in the mainstream media. I would like to provide a different perspective to those discussions though. Of all the differences in the United States recently, I miss the courage and bravery. To this Canadian, the United States were always the brave soldier and Astronaut that in spite of undeniable odds would place themselves at risk for the greater good. Of course it was more safe to stay on the ground, but I’m going to sit on top of a rocket of liquid hydrogen because that is who we are as a people. The United States need to explore, advance, and progress. I loved the space program as a boy and I loved the United States.

I’m disappointed in the recent movement in the United States to close the borders because of fear. Take away all the 100% valid arguments about inclusiveness and racial and religious equality and I feel it still leaves one thing not discussed. I feel borders should be open for the same reason John Glenn got on the Mercury rocket – because it will benefit the world and the United States in the long run. Any protectionist ideology is a short-term tactic that damages the long-term health of the country or industry. I believe it is being done out of an irrational fear of a few people and what they might do. It is sacrificing the future gains of an inclusive society for a perceived short-term gain.

Winnipeg

Unfortunately the same fear is also visible in my hometown of Winnipeg. Vincent Li committed a horrific crime when he was mentally ill. After many years of treatment and being evaluated as fully recovered, he was recently released and many were calling for him to not receive a full release and to continue to be monitored or have restrictions. In short, we are fearful of what he may do again. Yes, in the short-term we limit what Vince Li can do and it gives us the perception of being safer. So whom else do we limit freedoms to? And if we limit freedoms, maybe they should just stay in jail? And how would that limit our society in the future? Do we not discover a medical cure because the person was never part of society again? Do the lack of positive role models cause even greater issues with people suffering from mental health so that they are scared to seek help?

As Winston Churchill said “fear is a reaction, courage is a decision”

Summary

It is perfectly valid to experience fear in situations like these. But, we need to remember not to trade our future for our fears

More importantly we also need to remember that we as Canadians need to support others in their hour of need. Whether they be refugees or recovering from a major life event.

Because it is the right thing to do.

The #1 characteristic of a great teammate #WinnipegJets #Pavelec

ondrej-pavelec-by-clint-trahan

I was watching a recent Winnipeg Jets game when I was reminded about the #1 characteristic of a great teammate.

Connor Hellebuyck was anointed as the starting goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets this year. He had a great season in the AHL last year. He had all of the great reviews as he moved through the various levels of hockey. The Winnipeg Jets had grown tired of Andrej Pavelec and his inconsistent play over the last few years. With Pavelec’s contract expiring at the end of this year, the writing was on the wall that a switch was going to be made sooner or later.

Resiliency

But we saw play from Hellebuyck that was very similar to Pavelec. Inconsistent, with a bad goal given up almost every night. Both goalies also had pure gems of games that could get you hoping of what the future could hold. But when Hellebuyck got pulled in three straight games in January, you saw a difference between the two goalies. And then when Pavelec came up to the big club and started three straight games and won you again saw the difference.

Various radio shows called it something different – ‘timely saves’ was the term most commonly used. Whatever the term, Pavelec may give up the bad goal, but then didn’t give up the next goal. He fought through the shots and kept his team in the game. And his team knew that Pavelec would fight to prevent the next goal and keep them in the game. We was a fighter and it was hard to get the ‘next’ goal on him.

Ondrej Pavelec has Resiliency that Connor Hellebuyck doesn’t have yet. The Winnipeg Jets players know that and due to that, they play better in front of Pavelec because it gives them confidence to play their game. They don’t need to worry about making a bad play, because Pavelec will overcome it if it happens. It is a larger worry making a mistake in front of a goalie where it may open the floodgates. Because of that you hold your stick a bit tighter and ironically make more mistakes.

Summary

Resiliency is the #1 characteristic of a great teammate. That trait in a teammate that they are resolute, plucky, committed, able to rebound and recover. We all make mistakes, but those people who take a shot, dust themselves off and stand tall are the special teammates we all want on our team. Give me a resilient craftsman over a fragile artisan every day.

Another example of Pavelec’s Resiliency is how he took his demotion with class and professionalism. Resilient teammates accept decisions made for the good of the team, confident in their abilities and committed to rebounding and proving themselves when the opportunity arises.

I hope Connor Hellebuyck can build these characteristics. But until then, I’d start Pavelec.

The #Agile Apprentice

I’m not sure why but I watched the Celebrity Apprentice last week. I hadn’t watched the Apprentice probably since that first season. I was quickly reminded as to why I stopped watching it. It is a show that shows all the anti-patterns to having healthy teams and projects. Their idea of the roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager is simply offensive.

The Apprentice Project Manager

So as near as I can figure it, the version of a Project Manager in Donald Trump’s world makes all the decisions, is judged solely by the success of the product and is expected to throw the weak links on his/her team under the bus. There is no mention of building teams, mentoring individuals, or collaboration. In fact, Project Managers are expected to also have the authority to make all of the decisions for the project. In short, Project Managers get to be in ‘charge’.

The Agile Project Manager

This goes totally against the concept of an Agile Project Manager. An Agile Project Manager is a servant leader who leads the facilitation and collaboration for the entire team. I have found that when I am a Project Manager on an Agile project I make very few, if any, decisions. The team members and experts make all of the decisions. The Project Manager usually just decides on how to best share progress and status with the Project sponsors.

Why?

So why then does the Apprentice have this vision of a Project Manager?

I thought about this last night and I believe it is related to what the ultimate objectives are in Donald Trump’s world. In Donald Trump’s world, projects exist to amass individual reputation and fortune. Project’s can leave a trail of bodies behind if the project results in fame and fortune. They do value the client, but as long as the client is satisfied the team members can double-cross each other. If fact, that type of behaviour seems to be rewarded.

This is the opposite of the objective of Agile Projects. The objectives of Agile Projects are to grow as a team and provide value to the client. But teams and projects need to be sustainable and repeatable. Agile Projects go to great length to discuss issues exist with systems, not individuals. We succeed and grow as a team.

Ultimately we need to treat each other with respect. The Apprentice seems to have forgotten this and eventually this pattern is not sustainable. The Good catches up…

Why we need Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

We need Donald Trump. We really do.

Full disclosure, I didn’t want Donald Trump to be the President of the United States. I still don’t. But in hindsight, we need him.

If Hillary Clinton got elected, we would have returned to our lives, jobs, suburbs with the silent confidence that everything was good. Society was improving and being more inclusive, race relations were getting better, people were becoming more tolerant, and we finally had the first woman President in the United States. That coming off the United State’s first African-American President had to say something about tolerance and inclusiveness in the United States?

Turns out, maybe the recent Human Rights advances didn’t defeat the enemy of intolerance, but just drove it underground.

Problem is we just had too many young black men losing their lives in almost every large city in the United States. Just like how almost all penitentiaries in Canada have far to many First Nations people. As ironic as it is, Donald Trump will do more to address Black Live Matter than Hillary Clinton ever could. Not because of anything he is going to do, but because we are now more alert and looking for any indications of illegal police actions under Donald Trump. With Hillary Clinton we may have given some benefit of the doubt that will not be given to Donald Trump.

In Canada, Gord Downie undertook a project recently called ‘Secret Path’ to shine a light into the shameful part of Canadian history and what we did to First Nations families and children. As Gord Downie so eloquently put it – “Canada is not the country I thought it was”. Like the citizens of the United States, most Canadians were oblivious to the intolerance and racism that still existed and was driven underground.

Shine a light

Perhaps we need Donald Trump and others like Gord Downie that shine a light on who we still are. Only by shining a light on these uncomfortable areas can we truly address them and get better. Things wont be better in the short-term. We are going to hear things about ourselves and our fellow citizens that we can’t believe. We can’t believe that people still think like this in this day and age. But enough is enough –  it time to bring it out into the light instead of hiding it underground and fooling ourselves.

To Chanie Wenjack, I’m sorry. Sorry you had to suffer and then die alone on that path.

I’m also amazed that the article that reported this tragedy in a national magazine in 1967 was ignored in Canada. We are truly not the country I had thought. Please read the story and share – lonely death of Chanie Wenjack

Summary

Gord Downie is intentionally shining a light to help us be better, Donald Trump is doing it unintentionally. Regardless of the intention, both provide an opportunity to make ourselves better.