Posts Tagged With: communications

Are you being (responsibly) transparent?

We might assume that transparency should be a given when delivering value through our projects so why is it that the actions of teams or the stakeholders supporting delivery don’t always demonstrate that basic hygiene factor? Transparency is so critical that the Scrum Guide lists it as one of its three pillars and it is similarly echoed in the reference materials for many other agile delivery methods as well as in PMI’s Code of Ethics.

Transparency is a rising tide which lifts the attitudes of all stakeholders:

  • Customers benefit as they have to spend much less effort in understanding what is really going on
  • Sponsors benefit as they will develop stronger, more positive relationships with teams and are better equipped to support their teams in a more timely manner when issues arise
  • The project manager and team benefits as they don’t have to worry about putting the right “spin” on events and are less likely to get distracted or waste effort in needless status updates for stakeholders. They will also benefit if the higher levels of trust which result from increased transparency encourage enterprise groups to lean out governance requirements by focusing on the few outliers rather than punishing the majority.

I wrote a few years back about the downsides of unfiltered transparency as this could generate unnecessary panic or encourage micro-management from our stakeholders, but responsible transparency is key to creating trust.

Responsible transparency is about providing the truth, warts and all, but ensuring that sufficient context gets provided so that our stakeholders’ reactions to the truth are appropriate. Project teams have many tools and techniques available to them which can provide transparency about progress and impediments, but using these in isolation may not provide that context. For example, reviewing individual work items in a sprint backlog without also being aware of the sprint goal(s) identified by the Product Owner doesn’t help a stakeholder see the forest for the trees. Similarly, trying to interpret a burn down or burn up chart without understanding the team’s delivery approach or the contents of a sprint or release backlog might create the wrong perceptions.

So as you strive for transparency in your information radiators and other communication methods, ensure that you are providing the necessary color commentary to make the information meaningful.

The single most important ingredient in the recipe for success is transparency because transparency builds trust – Denise Morrison, (Former) CEO, Campbell Soup Company

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

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?


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

Is increasing agility a recurring resolution?

As we kickoff the final week of 2018, many of us will be making New Year’s resolutions. While some of these resolutions might relate to achieving a specific goal or objective (e.g. I resolve to run a marathon this year), most relate to changing our behavior (e.g. I resolve to eat healthier this year). But for many of us it becomes a case of déjà vu as we end up making the same resolutions we had confidently made in previous years.

Increasing organizational agility is a journey and not a one time goal.

Similar to New Year’s resolutions, some delivery teams initiate plans to become agile only to revert to long ingrained habits when things get tough. It might not be on an annual basis, but companies which have struggled with agile transformations once will often try again and many will experience more than one failed attempt.

When it comes to personal resolutions and being able to stick to them the American Psychological Association’s website provides some good advice which could be applied to agile transformations.

Start small

It might be tempting to pick the very largest product or project when starting an agile transformation to surface many key organization blockers and to glean some valuable lessons. However, the very visible impacts of potential failure as well as the higher volume of stakeholders whose behavior will need to change makes this extremely risky. Just as a casual runner shouldn’t try to run a marathon in their very first month, starting with too ambitious a set of pilot initiatives is usually a recipe for disaster.

Change one behavior at a time

There are multiple behaviors which leaders and team members might need to modify and trying to change all of those at one time is like a golfer who tries to keep multiple swing thoughts in their head when addressing the ball. Usually they will end up with a worse swing than if they had just cleared their mind of all thoughts! A transformation team should identify which behavior change might result in the biggest impact and that should become the focus of coaching and peer support.

Talk about it

To succeed with any significant organizational change we need to over-communicate. The more we can talk with stakeholders about our target operating model, the challenges we will face to get there, and the small wins we are achieving, the more we will remain committed to the journey.

Don’t beat yourself up

No agile transformation is going to go smoothly. Some initiatives might turn out worse than if a traditional approach had been used. Some staff will leave the organization. As the APA website states “Perfection is unattainable”. But as long as we have support mechanisms in place and a desire to get better, we can bounce back from such setbacks which are usually minor when viewed from the perspective of an end-to-end transformation timeline.

Ask for support

Every organization has a unique culture, but it can be easier to stick to an increased agility resolution when you have support from those who have been there and done that. The value of external support comes from the breadth and depth of experience to know which patterns of behavior or practice are likely to lead to success and which won’t.

Adapting the quote from Dr. Lynn Bufka “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle behavior change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.


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

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