Friday, March 26, 2010

Are you part of the problem?

I am reading Karen White's book, Agile Project Management, A Mandate for the 21st Century. She uses the term adaptive problems to describe the types of problems our projects are meant to solve. I've see this term used before, it means our problems can't be solved by our traditional tools; we have to adapt out tools to meet the specific problem. Applying our standard approach just won't work on the complex problems of the 21st century.

This can apply whether your using agile or a more traditional approach to your projects. If you blindly follow a standard approach, you may be creating problems rather than solving them. We have to admit that we don't know the answer and be willing to learn as we progress through the project.

I've seen this with one of my clients. They were following agile and all the ceremony associated with it. They had their stand up meeting, iteration planning meeting, and even their retrospective, but I didn't see their approach evolve as the project progressed. The retrospective became a thing they had to do, because the methodology said so, but it wasn't helping them learn and adapt on the project.

So where do you draw the line? You don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water; abandoning the things that are working, but you have to be willing to adapt and fix the things that don't work. This is where you need to be a leader and help the team adapt while focusing on delivering the value your project was undertaking to deliver.

For example, if you are measuring progress through story points and you drop in the number of points you deliver from one iteration to the next, you need to figure out why and adapt so that next time you deliver more. So how are you helping your team evolve today?

Friday, March 19, 2010


I took a few days of vacation this week. We took a family trip to Chicago. I was almost able to completely forget about work and just enjoy myself. Now I'm back at work with a little more motivation.

There was an interesting article in the March issue of Wired. It talked about how distractions such as Twitter or Facebook can actually make us more productive at work, especially when doing creative tasks. These distractions help our mind break out of a single mode of thinking, especially when they involve activities that bring about some novel information.

When I use Twitter, it's usually to find what other people are reading or writing about, some new article about Agile or Kanban or Personal Branding. According to the article, by looking through this other material, I may unlock some idea in my mind to solve some problem that I'm currently working on. So next time you're stuck, pull out that article you've been meaning to read for the last 3 months, it may help get you through your impasse.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Evolution, Revolution, At the Edge or Out of the Box

I'm reading Seth Godin's Free Prize Inside. The book is about marketing and how to get your product out to the edge so that you have differentiation from everyone else. Being a little faster, stronger, taller won't help because then it will still be a battle just on price. He uses Trader Joe's (my favorite grocery store) as an example. They don't have stuff cheaper, they have really good stuff at a lower price than brand names because they have their own label.

So I contrast this idea of going to the edge to the project I am on. We are automating a number of manual processes, but because we also have a tight delivery timeline, one of the project themes is "evolution, not revolution." In other words, we'll look for some simple improvements but we aren't trying to re-invent the organization.

One of the criticisms of this type of approach is that is stiffles that ability to think outside the box and come up with that idea that will really set you apart from the competition. So how do you decide if you should aim for evolution or revolution? The Kaizen approach would say make the small improvements, but what is your competition doing. Did Apple set out to build a slightly better MP3 player when it invented the iPod? Can you afford to make yourself just slightly better? What is your competition up to?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Pecha Kucha competition

The PMI Agile Community of Practice is running a Pecha Kucha competition, “Confessions of an Agile Project Manager”.

Submit your own video in a Pecha Kucha format telling us your story. Perhaps it was a guerrilla project conducted quietly so as to deliver value without attracting too much attention, or maybe it was an organizational transformation. Whatever your experience, we want to hear from you, the community, about your experiences using Agile.

Anyone can submit and vote on their favorite, you don't have to be a member of PMI or the Agile CoP. Most importantly, we will have cash prizes for the three best submissions!
Submissions can be made to the PMIAgile YouTube group.

- March 5th: Contest officially begins
- May 10th: Last day to submit videos
- May 17th: Last day to vote on videos
- 1st Place: $1000
- 2nd Place: $750
- 3rd Place: $500

Anyone is eligible to submit and vote on videos

Video Format
Submitted videos should be in formatted as pecha kucha presentations. This is a power point (or similar presentation capability) showing 20 slides that auto-advance every 20 seconds, for a video that is 6:40 in length. Videos that deviate from this format significantly, while impressing us with their creativity, will not be considered for the competition.