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.

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…

Confessions of an #Agilist – Agile is dead #Pasunashi

Businessman at fork of stone pathway in water

So I’ve recently taken a job as the Manager of a Project Management Office, and I have a confession to make:

Agile is dead. I’ve seen the body.

All about perspective

When you are on the receiving end of funding, Agile makes perfect sense as it is optimizing the individual project. I give 10 projects $200K and they will deliver the best value they can individually. no problem.

But when I am on the sending end of funding, did I select the right projects? How do I decide which ones to select? If two fail, then what does that do to the company’s bottom line? Could I have used those people on more important projects? How do I justify how I selected the projects?

The Good News

The good news is certain things from how Agile lived his life has been incorporated. Iterative planning and execution is alive and well, as is User Story Mapping, and automated testing, and specification by example. A lot of the Agile practices have had a profound impact on the Software Development methods used. In some places, even Pair Programming is alive and well.

The Bad News

Sadly, the entire patient could not be saved. Now this is for a corporate environment and one that has more freedom than most corporate environments.

No Estimates is dead, Pure flow is dead, no design is dead.

Why? Predictability is king. There needs to be some business case for every project. it doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but some analysis and design needs to be done. Some recommendation needs to exist for what the solution will look like and what the potential costs and benefits would be.

Profound

See the point isn’t about doing the project right, it is about doing the right projects. Any practice that doesn’t help us to pick the right project isn’t Agile, it is PasunashiPasunashi is Japanese for ‘Without Path’.

Selecting projects without a path and executing them without a path is not something I feel comfortable recommending.

But really Agile is not dead because once we pick the right projects, we can do them in an Agile manner and according to “Pasu ika” – Following the Path…

 

 

 

#Three Deadly Sins of Software Development #agile #hubris

hubris

In my experience, I have encountered three deadly sins in Software Development. Project teams can overcome almost any problems if they don’t fall victim to these three deadly sins. Unfortunately we seem to have progressed through these deadly sins throughout the years as we get more and more experienced in Software Development.

Technology-Centric

Our first deadly sin was the sin of being technology-centric. The first aspect of this was the behaviour in the 1970’s where Information Technology professionals had a belief that they knew what was best for clients and would essentially decide for the clients as to the specific type of functionality delivered. I can remember early on when we still gathered requirements from the users, but we sought no validation on the design or interface. We as professionals know best in regards to how those components should be designed. Even our terminology set the stage for the principle that the business was not informed enough to make decisions on their own. They were only ‘users’ after all. Information Technology professionals would create the system and the business could simply ‘use’ the system we created. Nothing more.

The second aspect of being technology-centric came after we begrudgingly accepted that the business were more than just users and should validate the system design and interfaces. OK, we will let you control that aspect, but Information Technology Professionals will control the selection of all the technology and patterns that lie beneath the interfaces. All of those technology choices must remain with the Information Technology professionals and it would be beyond business users to provide input on technology and patterns selected. Information Technology Professionals will decide on all architecture without collaboration.

Thankfully we now understand that if a technology or architecture is truly better, that should result in more value for the client early and often.

Methodology-Centric

Shortly after being technology-centric, we flowed right into the methodology-centric phase. Alright Mr Client, you define the requirements and value that the project will deliver, but we will define exactly how we will deliver the project. This started out by defining a very specific process for the Waterfall Software Development Methodology, but has evolved throughout the years to be equally specific and constraining processes for hybrid and Agile Methodologies.

In short, any methodology that a project follows without customization for a client, project team, or project is flawed. I’ve always thought how curious it was that Agile proponents once freed of the shackles of Waterfall were so eager to put Agile shackles on every project they saw.

Topology-Centric

And the final deadly sin is one that is a bit recent to the dance, topology-centric. I use topology-centric to refer to the desire by Information Technology project teams to be embedded at a very senior, strategic level for the project. Many times the Information Technology solution can be made better if Information Technology Professionals can work together on the business problem and not just the solution. It is ironic that early on Informational Technology was trying to limit the access the business had to Information Technology components of the project and now the business is in charge to limiting the access Information technology has to the business components of the project.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

To be clear, the deadly sin is not to that Information Technology is denied access, but rather that Information Technology demands that they should be granted access by default.

Summary

Information Technology Professionals have to remind ourselves we are a service and need to embrace the servant leadership in all aspects of project delivery.  We as Technology Professionals only encounter these deadly sins when we think we know better than the clients. If we avoid these types of Information Technology Hubris, our projects have a much better chance of success.