Posts Tagged With: improving project management

Change management helps when implementing risk responses

A student in a project management class I taught shared the concern that it was very hard for her to get risk responses implemented. This is a fairly common problem and is likely one of the reasons that the volunteers who updated the PMBOK Guide, Sixth Edition added Implement Risk Responses as a new process within the Project Risk Management knowledge area.

Most companies which have project management standards require teams to identify and analyze risks, but merely capturing information in risk registers is worthless if nothing is actually done to manage those risks. Acceptance is a risk response strategy, but project managers are not supposed to just report on accidents, they are expected to prevent them. But there’s only so much that they can do by themselves. Risk management requires investment from stakeholders outside of the project team to really make a difference.

Getting a reluctant stakeholder to commit themselves to a risk response requires change management so let’s see if Prosci’s ADKAR® change model could be used as a framework to achieve this objective.

Awareness & Desire: If the proposed risk response owner is not aware of the need for them to participate, nothing will happen. Sending them a risk register by e-mail and asking them to review the risks which they can help with isn’t likely to generate a prompt response. Meeting with them in person and clearly articulating the nature of the risks and the proposed responses might work better. Response owner awareness is a good starting point, but why should they expend their valuable time, money or political influence? Helping them understand how they have “skin in the game” for the project’s success will be critical if you want them to commit themselves.

Knowledge & Ability: Does the response owner clearly understand what you’d like them to do and do they possess sufficient context regarding the risk? Do they already have the necessary knowledge to plan and execute the response, and if not, how can you simplify that learning curve?

Reinforcement: Just because you’ve had a meeting with the response owner and they’ve bought in to the need for their action doesn’t mean that you can wash your hands of the risk. Regularly reporting on the status of implementing risk responses to your sponsor and key stakeholders as well as following up with response owners will be needed to increase the likelihood of follow through.

Read any of the case studies which are published in PMI’s monthly PM Network magazine and effective risk management is nearly always identified as a contributor to a team’s success on large, complex projects. But without addressing the need for personal change, your risk management efforts are likely to remain an academic exercise.

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Do you need a Definition of Ready for your agile ceremonies?

A Definition of Ready (DoR) is an agreement established by some agile teams to help them assess if a given product backlog item can safely be accepted by the team to be worked on. It is not expected to be used as a gate but rather as guidance.

I frequently hear from teams who are frustrated with one or more of their ceremonies. There can be many reasons for such perceptions but some times the root cause relates more to what wasn’t completed in advance rather than what actually transpired during the ceremony. This made me realize that there could be some benefit in inviting such teams to come up with a DoR for their agile ceremonies.

Depending on the method or framework you follow there are likely to be different events, so I will focus on the standard ceremonies as defined within the Scrum Guide.

Sprint Planning

  • Has the product backlog been refined recently?
  • Is there shared understanding between the product owner and team as to what the items at the top of the product backlog mean and why those are important?
  • If the team has established a backlog work item DoR, do the items near the top of the backlog satisfy the essence of that DoR?
  • Has the product owner determined what they would like to achieve within the next sprint?
  • If the team came up with some improvement ideas in the previous sprint retrospective which they would like to implement right away, have they sized the level of effort needed?
  • Has each team member assessed whether there are any activities outside of product delivery work which will consume their capacity over the upcoming sprint?
  • Is the product owner and whole team present, in body AND in mind?

Scrum/Daily Standup

  • Are information radiators (e.g. work boards, burn down charts) up to date?
  • Has each team member spent some time thinking about the upcoming day to identify potential and realized impediments?
  • Is the whole team present, in body AND in mind?

Sprint Review

  • Does each work item which the team intends to review satisfy the essence of their DoD?
  • Has a dry run been done before the review to ensure that what was working before is still working now?
  • Have the “right” stakeholders been invited and confirmed that they can attend the review?
  • Has the product owner defined the order in which the completed work items will be reviewed?
  • Has the team decided how the work item reviews will be done (e.g. one team member demonstrates everything)?

Sprint Retrospective

  • Has the team had sufficient time after the sprint review to gather their thoughts?
  • Is the whole team present, in body AND in mind?
  • Are information radiators (e.g. burn down charts) up to date?
  • Has the Scrum Master or whoever will be facilitating the retrospective identified a theme or recipe for the retrospective?

Like all DoR’s or Definitions of Done (DoD), the list above is only intended to generate ideas for your team and not to be adopted “as is” as context counts.

The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato

Categories: Agile | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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