Author Archives: Kiron Bondale

About Kiron Bondale

Measurable business value can be realized through the successful initiation, prioritization, planning & execution of strategic projects. Striking a pragmatic, value-based balance between people, process & technology is a key to achieving success with Project Portfolio Management initiatives. Effective change management is crucial when trying to improve PPM or PM capabilities. Having been involved with multiple capability improvement initiatives, what I've learned is that "it's easy in theory, difficult in practice"! Continuous improvement of hard & soft skills gained by assisting organizations in the achievement of their business goals through the execution of the right projects in the right way is my ongoing mission.

Songs to put you in a project management state of mind

As a teenager who had an eclectic taste in music, one of my hobbies was attempting to create the perfect mix tape to fit the theme of different activities I would do such as studying, working out or just relaxing.

So how about project management? To quote Barney Stinson: “Challenge accepted!”

  1. Can I Play With Madness (Iron Maiden): You know those projects where it seems no one has a clue about what we are trying to achieve? “Can I play with madness? The prophet stared at his crystal ball ; Can I play with madness? There’s no vision there at all
  2. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones): There is no better song to help set stakeholder expectations about focusing on their needs.
  3. The Gambler (Kenny Rogers): This would make a good level setting tune for a risk response workshop, especially for those who feel the glass is always half full. “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em ; Know when to fold ’em ; Know when to walk away ; And know when to run
  4. That’s Life (Frank Sinatra): After the team has just received some bad news or is recovering after a painful issue, this song helps to put things into perspective. “Each time I find myself flat on my face ; I pick myself up and get back in the race
  5. Nothing Else Matters (Metallica): This is a good song for building self-reliance, self-organization and the willingness to inspect and adapt in teams. “Trust I seek and I find in you, Every day for us something new, Open mind for a different view
  6. In The End (Linkin Park): “Time is a valuable thing ; Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings ; Watch it count down to the end of the day ; The clock ticks life away“. ‘Nuff said!
  7. People Are People (Depeche Mode): When the team is storming and what makes us different is dividing us. “So we’re different colours ; And we’re different creeds ; And different people have different needs
  8. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley): What could be a more cheerful and uplifting song to kick off a daily standup for your team? “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be all right.
  9. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (The Animals): Whenever you feel there has been a breakdown in the basic communication model, just sing “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good ; Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood
  10. We Are The Champions (Queen): A gracious project manager will always acknowledge the contribution of the entire team. “I’ve taken my bows ; And my curtain calls ; You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it ; I thank you all

So what would you add for YOUR project management mix tape?

 

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Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Evaluate your ceremonies with a W5 check

I’m midway through Priya Parker’s book The Art of Gathering and her insights into how to make an event a meaningful gathering rather than “just another boring meeting” are apropos to ceremonies. A common complaint many team members raise in the early days of an agile journey is that it feels like they are in too many meetings. This shows that they aren’t perceiving the value of the ceremonies and, if these concerns aren’t addressed quickly, the team members are likely to disengage.

One way to evaluate your ceremonies is to do a W5 assessment on them.

Why

Without a shared understanding of the purpose for the ceremonies, misalignment of expectations and behaviors may emerge. It is critical that a newly formed team understands why each ceremony is needed, but as the team evolves, the purpose of each should be reviewed to ensure it remains relevant. One way to gauge this is to ask each team member to summarize what they believe the purpose of the ceremony to be in three words or less.

What

Once there is clarity on why, we need to confirm that the outcomes of ceremonies are being realized and are in line with the purpose for conducting the ceremonies. Poll team members on their perception of the effectiveness and efficiency of producing those outcomes.

Who

A common challenge with agile ceremonies and most recurring events is that, over time, you might pick up a number of participants who “just want to observe” or “need to be kept in the loop”. If everyone is needed, no one is needed. A self-disciplined, self-managing team will weed out those stakeholders who aren’t required but will be equally diligent on ensuring the right participants are at each ceremony. For example, conducting a sprint review without adequate representation from those who will be consuming the outputs of the team is a waste of time. Who is also about the role each participant plays. While new teams might lean on the Scrum Master to facilitate most ceremonies, over time, this can become a shared responsibility, giving each team member a chance to develop their facilitation abilities.

When

It is a good practice to hold ceremonies at the same day and time but the timing that seemed ideal in earlier sprints may not suit all participants in later ones. It is also worth evaluating the duration of the ceremonies as they should be long enough to meet the purpose and achieve the expected outcomes and no longer. If certain team members are missing certain ceremonies, it is worth confirming whether the timing is still suitable for all participants.

Where

Whether it is physical meeting rooms or virtual video conferences or collaboration environments, it is important to ensure that the location supports the purpose and approach and doesn’t detract from it. In physical settings, this could be as simple as the arrangement of chairs around a table and the availability of white board space for spontaneous collaborative activity. Consider alternative environments for physical ceremonies. Could it be possible to conduct some in a more dynamic manner – perhaps as a walking meeting? In virtual sessions, this means ensuring that the tools provided (e.g. polls, whiteboards) are functional and everyone knows how to use them in advance of the ceremony.

How frequently ceremony reviews should take place will vary and one trigger for a health check might be to have team members vote every few weeks or every couple of sprints on how valuable they feel each ceremony is.

To paraphrase Chris Fussell “If your team is trying to be more agile, stop and think, ‘Are my ceremonies actually productive, or are we merely having ceremonies for ceremonies’ sake?’

Categories: Agile, Project Management | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Breaking habits requires substituting one routine for another

I was asked to facilitate a lessons learned session for a program team using a retrospective format. After the team had brainstormed, prioritized and discussed most of the challenges they had faced, it became clear to them that there were only a couple of root causes for most of the main pain points they had identified. Neither of those root causes was a true learning but rather they were just simple reminders of good practices to follow for large, complex programs. I then asked them the somewhat rhetorical question: “Remembering now what should have been done then, how will you ensure that this doesn’t happen on a future program?”

A project team I’ve been working with has struggled with judging how many work items they can successfully complete within a sprint. In the retrospective for their last sprint, they identified a number of simple, effective ideas for resolving this chronic concern. Again, I challenged them with the same question: “You’ve come up with a great list of ideas, but how will you ensure that you actually act on those the next time you are sprint planning?”

Both of these experiences reminded me of how difficult it is to break habits.

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg has written about the three part neurological loop governing habits which was discovered by MIT researchers: a cue, a routine and a reward.

In the project team’s case, the routine has been to accept more work items than they can complete in a sprint even when historical evidence shows this tactic hasn’t worked out well. The cue is that moment in the sprint planning ceremony when the team makes their sprint forecast. It’s hard to say what the reward has been but perhaps it’s the temporary high which comes when we take on a significant challenge as a team.

To break habits, we need to find a way to substitute a different routine for the old one and soliciting the help of a close, trusted colleague might be one way to do this.

The team could designate a single individual to come to the sprint planning ceremony with a stuffed pig or some other visual gag which represents gluttony. Then, when the team is about to forecast how much they will accept in the sprint, that team member could hold up the pig and say “Oink! Oink!” to remind all of them to be a little more conservative. While the team might not bask in the short term glow of having accepted a bloated sprint forecast, they will enjoy the much more rewarding experience during their sprint review when the product owner and other stakeholders congratulate them for improving their predictability.

Breaking habits is hard to do but by identifying cues and implementing good routines to swap in for the old ones, we can prevail.

 

 

Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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