Posts Tagged With: Peer-level support

Does knowledge transfer change with agile?

We have all experienced this: a key contributor announces their departure and a mad scramble ensues to transition their knowledge to the rest of the team.

But does this change when the team is using an agile lifecycle?

On the surface, it might appear that there wouldn’t be any significant differences in how it is done regardless of the nature of the work or how it is performed. After all, knowledge transfer is usually a case of a subject matter expert educating others through either a live session or through some sort of persistent record such as a wiki, a video or an audio recording.

While this is true, there are characteristics and specific practices in agile delivery which can impact knowledge transfer.

Traditional delivery usually relies on individual specialists who remain focused on their role and area of expertise. On the other hand, agile delivery encourages the development of generalizing specialists who will develop a broader set of skills and knowledge. Higher levels of collaboration are also expected in such contexts which increases the amount of exposure that individual team members have to each other’s knowledge.

While this won’t translate into full fungibility across a team, there is less likelihood of only one team member possessing critical information. This won’t happen over night. It will take many weeks of working together as well as explicit encouragement by supporting stakeholders such as functional managers for generalizing specialists to develop.

Another enabler is non-solo work – pair programming, hackathons, mob programming and model storming are all practices using this principle. While the primary purpose of these practices is not knowledge transfer but rather quality and speed, it is a valuable side benefit. Rather than having experts share knowledge in an academic manner, demonstrating how their knowledge can be applied towards completing work items is more effective.

Whereas traditional delivery tended to emphasize documentation as the medium for passing work between roles, agile approaches focus on minimal sufficiency. While a newly formed team might require more documentation to facilitate shared understanding, a long lived team might successfully deliver with much less. The challenge becomes when a new or junior team member joins as there may be insufficient reference material to enable self-learning. But this should not cause any major issues if someone on the team volunteers to pair up with the newcomer to help fill in the blanks.

While the need for shared knowledge is there in all contexts, effective agile delivery can reduce the critical of explicit knowledge transfer.





Categories: Agile, Project Management | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Respect the 5 R’s of project transition!

transitionWith shifting business priorities caused by internal strategic or external environmental changes, it is not uncommon to find yourself pulled off one project to manage a new, higher priority one. In some cases, the project you had been previously leading is put on hold or could even get cancelled but other times, the previous project is handed over to a different project manager.

Under such circumstances, you are likely going to be under some pressure to start planning and leading your new project, so you might be forgiven for just pointing your replacement in the direction of your project control book and introducing them to the sponsor, key stakeholders and the team. If you really want to reduce the likelihood of getting pulled back in when things start to go wrong, it would be much better to negotiate with your leadership team for some breathing room to help you complete the following activities.

  1. Refresh your project control book. If it has been a few days (or weeks!) since you last reviewed and updated your schedule, RAID log and other living project control knowledge, do it now to save your successor from the frustration of having to bridge gaps between the documented and actual state of the project.
  2. Review open risks, actions & issues with the new project manager but also walk them through key decisions which were made over the project’s lifetime and any critical assumptions which haven’t been validated. A detailed review of the stakeholder register, project schedule and financials is also required.
  3. Request the new project manager to facilitate a short lessons identification workshop with the team and some stakeholders. This not only gives you the chance to share lessons you’ve identified to date before you leave the project, but it also provides your successor with insights into the personalities of the key players on their new project.
  4. Recognize your team members – just because a transition is happening shouldn’t mean that the good work they’ve done so far gets forgotten. Thank your old team members personally, and if your relationship with them supports it, meet with them individually to coach them on any opportunities for development. Send their people managers a brief note highlighting their accomplishments.
  5. Reset access. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken over the leadership of a project only to find that I’m lacking the appropriate level of access required to work with key systems or documents. Credibility and precious time gets lost in resolving this if the transition has already happened. As part of the transition, the new project manager’s access privileges should be configured and yours should get reduced or removed.

Running for the hills might seem a natural reaction to being handed a new project, but resist this temptation and review the 5 R’s!



Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t be a project management lemming!

lemmings-350x220Given the progressive decline in oil prices over the past year, economic slowdowns in Asia impacting other global markets, and poor performance to date across multiple stock exchanges, it is not a surprise that many investors are tempted to sell their investments at a loss and make like Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow, planning to re-enter the market only when the bulls start a sustained run.

This is generally not a good idea as markets will eventually recover and the upside opportunities of buying during a bear run can be a worthwhile prize for those who are able to control the reaction to their fears.

In the project management domain, you might have witnessed project teams panicking in the face of some looming crisis. Decisions made by the teams or their project managers under these sorts of conditions are usually driven more by emotions more than measured analysis. Fear is contagious – all it takes is one influential team member or stakeholder to succumb and it will spread like wildfire.

We know that uncertainty and unrealistic expectations are as much part of the DNA of projects as they are stock markets so how can you help your team avoid a “fight or flight” response?

  1. Inoculate yourself – assuming you haven’t succumbed to the fear contagion, breathe deeply and step away from the problem long enough to create perspective. Mindfulness techniques can provide you with different approaches of preparing to handle the stress of the situation. Recognize that the events which led up to the current crisis cannot be rewritten, and that the future is uncertain so focus on what you can control which is your current behavior. If you still feel yourself panicking, meet with a trusted peer or mentor who isn’t directly involved with the project – sometimes just speaking about your fears can help to defuse them.
  2. Buy yourself some time – delaying critical decisions can have negative outcomes, but rushing to make such decisions under stressful conditions can be worse, especially if there isn’t a pressing reason to do so. If the decision can wait for a little while, focus your efforts on elevating team morale and lowering their stress levels. Meet with them individually or as a team and listen to their concerns. Empathize with them and help them understand that things are not as bleak as they seem. Encourage them to draw upon their past experiences and the strength of the team to overcome the current problem.
  3. Use the tools of your trade – our project management utility belts contain multiple tools for making good decisions during a crisis including assumptions analysis, risk identification, cost/benefit analysis, decisions trees and expected monetary value.
Rudyard Kipling – If you can keep your head when all about you, Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it









Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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