Thursday, 21 April 2011

Agile Qualifications...

I've always been a little worried about the current clamouring for Agile qualifications.  With the PMI, SCURM Alliance and APM all trying to get in on the act my concern was that we're going to end up with a whole pile of conflicting qualifications - just like Project Management before it.

Now it seems that I was right to worry.  I've never really been a fan of the Certified SCRUM Master which seemed to be given out on courses for just turning up in some cases.  The same has been true of some project management certificates.

Apparently that's all going to change.  However, what I wonder is why anyone thinks that a "paper based" examination really gives any idea of the skills of an individual - and yet that's what we seem to keep getting.  Moving towards a more Vocational Qualification approach would not only challenge people to get the right sort of training but also encourage the use of methods & ideas back in the workplace.

If you want to see the latest comparison on Agile Qualifications then give the following article a good read.  It seemed very interesting to me!  Check it out by clicking What's the latest in Agile Project Management Qualifications?

Happy Easter


Agile isn't just for software!

Just stumbled on this Declaration of Independance site by accident - but I'm really pleased that I did.  I really believe that Agile applies to all project environments - not just software.  In some ways it reminds me of project management that, for many years, was entrenched only in the construction industry and so called "hard" projects.  Now, 20 years later, project management is found in just about every industry and organisation.

Now I'm not a real fan of the concept of "Agile Project Management".  I think that the mindset of most projects is completely different to that of an Agile implementation.  Until we can change the mindset of Leaders & Managers we're always going to struggle to make Agile work effectively.

The Declaration of Independence is just one of those starting points.  It takes the Agile Manifesto and widens it's application to a range of other possibilities and demonstrates how Agile can be applied outside of software development.

Take a look - and become a signatory if you think it's worth pursuing.

Have a great Easter


Friday, 15 April 2011

Agile & Communication

After the success of the Agile & Stress and Agile & Empowerment handouts I've now uploaded the Agile & Communications presentation.

Communications is often an undervalued part of dealing with others - especially when leading teams to deliver change.  Most of us are taught some of the basic skills of reading & writing but schools tend to forget the importance of active listening, non-verbal communciations and how to deal with the barriers that stop it happening effectively.

Our ability to be able to communicate is key to other management skills.

Without effective body language reading skills or an appreciation of what people are really trying to tell our ability to negotiate, deal with conflict & motivate others is immediately impacted.

Looking at all of the projects that I've had to turnaround in the last few years I would say that 90% of my success has been due to getting people to communicate more effectively and, making sure that I'm communicating well at the same time.

In follow-up blogs I'll deal with Negotation, Conflict Management and Consultancy Skills.  If anyone would like copies of the exercises that I use on the courses feel free to drop me a line.

Thanks for taking the time to read :-)


Thursday, 14 April 2011

Agile and Empowerment

Carrying on the presentation series from yesterday's Agile & Stress I've uploaded another session on Empowerment.

Now for me I don't really like the word "empowerment" - I prefer the word "trust".  I don't "empower" my teams I "trust" them to get on with the job they've trained for.  It reminded me of a presentation I onced attended by the then CEO of Unilever.  He had already listened to the HR Director explaining how they recruited, trained and then empowered people in Unilever.  He explained that "That's what I dislike about HR.  We don't recruit we attract.  We don't train - we develop and we don't empower we trust our people to get on with the job that we pay them for".  I'm not sure what happened to the HR Director afterwards but it seemed like a pretty strong dressing down to me in front of the Top Unilever Management.

Empowerment is covered really well in Zapp!: The Lightening of Empowerment by William C Byham. The book is written as a readable story in the same way as Goal! a process of on-going improvement and The Noah Project.  This approach makes it easy to read and appreciate the ideas without a lot of "consultancy speak".

Today's link is part of my Agile People Skills presentation and covers Empowerment in an Agile environment.  Tomorrow I'm thinking of uploading Agile & Communications (verbal & non-verbal) which most people say is the most useful part of the entire training session!

Leave me some comments if you'd like me to cover some other Agile topics as well


Let me know your comments...

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Agile and Stress

For the last two weeks I've begun to realise the degree of stress that the Agile transition builds in the Project Team.  Changing from Command & Control to Servant Leadership is a difficult thing to do especially for someone who's been trained in APM or PMI.

To try and address this balance I'm going to be sharing some of my resources that I use for training SCRUM Masters and Product Managers.  Specifically I'll be uploading presentations on Conflict Management, Negotiation, Consultancy, Communications and Stress Management over the next few days.

To start us off I thought that Stress would be a good topic given the week I've had :-)

I really believe that people underestimate the impacts that stress have on project failure but most of us have seen if first hand.  This first presentation highlights the psychology of stress and where it comes from.  As anticipation is a major contributer to stress I'll mention that I'm loading the next in the series tomorrow... Empowerment.

Look here for the Agile & Stress presentation


Process will be the death of Agile

"Agile is Simple" I keep getting told by the evangelists and of course, in concept, it really is.  The trouble is that it's human nature to want to "know things" with certainty.  None of us really like anticipation.  Oh I agree it's exciting but given a choice between "knowing now" and "knowing at sometime in the future" we'll always pick NOW.

There have been a lot of studies to do with Stress and, without fail, they all show that ambiguity and uncertainty are top of the list.  So it's little wonder that when "Product Owners" and "Developers" aren't properly collaberating the whole "Agile thing" becomes more complex and frustrating.

This short video makes the point much better than I can.  Enjoy!

Another SCRUM Perspective

Agile Project Management - does it really exist?

Probably the most common question I get is "Is Agile really that much different to traditional project management - surely they're the same thing really?"  In the past I agreed.  I couldn't see why a decent project manager wouldn't be just as much at home running Agile Development as Waterfall Development.  In fact, I believed that the Agile thing was a bit of hype & bluster and was really just another way for large consultancies to realise just a bit more fees from their creaking accounts.

Now I have to admit I was wrong.  Not just "a bit" wrong but "you've completely missed the point" wrong. 

It was a friend of mind who's also a great Agile Coach, Bob Lupton, who put me on the straight and narrow.  He was passionate that I'd really missed the point.  That Agile wasn't really what we were trying to achieve - the most important aspect was Agility.  To understand that I needed to rethink my whole philosophy on how projects should be delivered.

The most important of these was understanding the mindset I needed if I really wanted to be Agile.  I had to let go of my "Command & Control" management approach, something I've built up over the last 20 years, and embrace "Servant Leadership".

Not being sure what that meant he went on to explain that I'd always seen myself as responsible for delivering the project.  If problems happened I'd take charge and escalate issues to the relevant managers.  Indeed, I'd even set up Rapid Action Teams on some of my larger programmes to deal with major issues that kept happening.  What I needed to do, he explained, was to delegate issues, get the team to take responsiblity for finding the solution and mitigating the problem.  My team would do this in full consultantion with the Product Manager.  Mainly, I had to show trust in the team and, when needed, provide leadership that supported them rather than managing them.

Actually that was what made me think about the whole way that we train our project managers.  We educate them in the ways of PRINCE2 and MSP - both of which are prescriptive processes.  Every aspect of the project is the responsiblity of the Project Manager and we make sure that we control everything.  As a result, in our efforts to control everything we stiffle innovation, relevance and benefits to meet arbitary deadlines & budgets which, quite frankly, no one cares about once the project is complete.

Do I think Project Managers can be Agile?  Absolutely - as long as they have the right mindset to lead rather than manage.

Do I think Agile Project Management exists?  I really hope not.  It seems like too much of an oxymoron for me.  You can have Agile or Management but not both.

In fact, I'm becoming more and more convinced that the time of the "project" may be over.  A project is really just a container for activity that delivers a specific outcome or change - does it really need all of the baggage that goes with it?