Friday, January 22, 2010

Personal Retrospectives

If you're following agile practices, you're conducting the end of each iteration, the end of each release etc. You are inspecting and adapting your practices as you move through the project.

But how often do you do a personal retrospective? Are you reviewing your performance to see how you can do better in your role, whether you're the project manager, product owner, or a team member?

My company does quarterly reviews to see how we are tracking against the goals we set out at the start of the year, but even that isn't often enough. It's hard to remember what I did 3 months ago.

My solution is to sit down once a week or so and take time to journal. I use this as a way to reflect over what I've been working on and identify things that I could be doing better. It's an effective technique; I set some goals in writing and then review those goals on a regular basis. I can see if I am making progress or if I need to set a new direction. I've been doing this for a few years now, so I can look back at old journals to see if I'm facing the same challenges I've had in the past.

Give it a try. The only things you need are a notebook and a pen. I like to get away from my computer when I do this, but you may choose to use your computer instead. Make sure you can avoid distractions...turn off the phone and the IM. Take a few minutes to relax and take some deep breaths and then write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes my thoughts seem random but they usually lead somewhere.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tracking Value

Last night I spoke at the Agile KC (Kansas City) meeting. I was talking about the challenges of moving to agile when you're in an environment that seems content to do things using traditional approaches. I enjoy these meetings because it's a good blend of folks coming to learn and experienced people sharing with the group.

One idea that was brought up had to do with measuring value. The technique involves assigning value points to each feature or user story by the product owner. For example, the most important feature may get 10 points, some minor feature only gets one point.

As features are delivered, you track the points to show how much value is being delivered. So if you look at the graph below, you see for the first few iterations, the value goes up pretty quick but then it levels off. Since you're not delivering much value by the fourth or fifth iteration, you should consider ending the project and moving on to another project that would be adding higher value.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Personal Branding for Project Managers

I came across a blog post by Dan Schawbel on personal branding trends for 2010 that I found interesting. If you haven't read Dan's Personal Branding Blog, you should take a look.

The quote that stuck with me was this;
You will be judged on voice, not just your resume
Most people judge others by their resume. A resume is an account of what you’ve accomplished in the past and an attempt to show a prospective customer what you’re capable of in the future. Sorry to say that a resume won’t be powerful enough to build your brand in 2010. In addition to all that work experience and all of that credibility you’ve built up, your online conversations will be just as valuable. If you don’t blog or comment on blogs or at least update your status on social networks, then you won’t be perceived as a valuable contributor. Your opinions and thoughts is what people will want to hear in 2010 and beyond, not just previous projects that get outdated really fast.
When I was interviewing for jobs back in 2008, the company that hired me told me they looked at my on-line brand. I had gone through a series of interviews, included a day at the company. It was after they went and read my blog that they decided to make me an offer. This trend will continue to grow. How is your on-line brand?

One topic I’ve touched on when doing public speaking is personal branding. Back when I got my PMP certification, that was something that made me stand out. Now, it’s expected that any project manager will have that. What are you doing to make yourself stand above the crowd? Have you thought about other certifications such as ITIL or Six Sigma or Scrum Master? Having said that, don't chase after other certifications just to add letters to your name, go after those things you are passionate about. In my case, I've always been involved in process improvement, so Six Sigma made sense to me. However, I look at the new Scheduling Certification from PMI and have no interest in that. As an agile guy, the thought of building complex schedules is not something I care about.

So for this year, set a couple branding goals for yourself. Start a blog, get tweeting, write some articles for other blogs...something to show your passion for what you do.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Burning Bowl Ceremony

Our church has an interesting ceremony on the first weekend of the year, the burning bowl ceremony. Everyone receives a slip of paper. On it, they write something they don’t want to carry into the new year…a bad habit, negative thought, etc. Anything that they don't want to keep doing. They put the slip of paper into a bowl that has a small fire and let it burn, so they don’t carry this new trait into the coming year.

Often people spend this time of year setting goals for what they want to accomplish…exercise more, lose weight etc. What don’t you want to do this year? Are you ready to throw that away?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Book Review - Career Renegade

One of the books I received for Christmas was Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields. I'm about done with it and have really enjoyed it.

The focus of the book is on how to take something you like to do and make money at it. For example, one story in the book is about an artist that was able to find a niche market painting wineries and then selling them at the winery. The example was meant to show how even in a field that in general is hard to make money, this person was able to find a unique market.

A large part of the book focused on the on-line world. Topics like becoming a better blogger, using tools like Twitter or LinkedIn. The book has some very specific suggestions and places to go for help. Even if you aren't looking to start a new career, this book can help you improve your presence on line. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some ideas on increasing their personal brand awareness.