I’m feeling guilty for being a little late on this post. Went to a class last week and I’m getting ready to go on vacation. Hang in there with me during June as I will be travelling.
I took a great class on being a Scrum Product Owner from SolutionsIQ in Redmond last week. I want to share my class experience because it provided a great example of how agile is important to project managers who want to find the other side of risk. Agile structures your work so you are constantly challenging uncertainty to drive out opportunities.
The class content was great, the instructors were engaging and knowledgeable, and the class was run in a way that allowed students to learn from one another. At the end of the class, I was happy with what I learned. But, I paged through my class notebook and saw lots of pages we didn’t cover. They all looked like really interesting ideas. Was the class a success from a project management perspective? This is the project manager’s dilemma with agile. How do we commit to scope, schedule, and budget to meet our client’s expectations? Let’s look closer.
The class was run as an “agile” class. We used the agile Scrum process to understand and decide on what we wanted to learn within the curriculum; and how we learned it.
Time and cost were fixed constraints. We finished on time and the class cost exactly what it was supposed to cost. We got a book of slides and articles at the start of class – the potential scope, but we didn’t cover all of them. But, everything in the book seemed important. Shouldn’t I expect everything in the curriculum to be covered? Would we be successful if we didn’t cover all the slides made available? How much scope we could complete within fixed time and budget constraints was an uncertainty. Sound familiar? Continue reading
Project management success can be as much improvising and adapting as it is planning and controlling. Opportunities to find what can go right constantly present themselves.
How to effectively improvise can be the challenge. An old friend posted the secret to improvising success on Facebook quoting from a commencement address by Stephen Colbert at Northwestern University. Thanks, David. Enjoy.
“AFTER I GRADUATED FROM HERE, I MOVED DOWN TO CHICAGO AND DID IMPROV. NOW THERE ARE VERY FEW RULES TO IMPROVISATION, BUT ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS TAUGHT EARLY ON IS THAT YOU ARE NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE SCENE. EVERYBODY ELSE IS. AND IF THEY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE SCENE, YOU WILL NATURALLY PAY ATTENTION TO THEM AND SERVE THEM. BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU’RE IN THE SCENE TOO. SO HOPEFULLY TO THEM YOU’RE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON, AND THEY WILL SERVE YOU. NO ONE IS LEADING, YOU’RE ALL FOLLOWING THE FOLLOWER, SERVING THE SERVANT. YOU CANNOT WIN IMPROV.
AND LIFE IS AN IMPROVISATION. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT AND YOU ARE MOSTLY JUST MAKING THINGS UP AS YOU GO ALONG.
AND LIKE IMPROV, YOU CANNOT WIN YOUR LIFE.
EVEN WHEN IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE YOU’RE WINNING.
I HAVE MY OWN SHOW, WHICH I LOVE DOING. FULL OF VERY TALENTED PEOPLE READY TO SERVE ME. AND IT’S GREAT. BUT AT MY BEST, I AM SERVING THEM JUST AS HARD, AND TOGETHER, WE SERVE A COMMON IDEA, IN THIS CASE THE CHARACTER STEPHEN COLBERT, WHO IT’S CLEAR, ISN’T INTERESTED IN SERVING ANYONE. AND A SURE SIGN THAT THINGS ARE GOING WELL IS WHEN NO ONE CAN REALLY REMEMBER WHOSE IDEA WAS WHOSE, OR WHO SHOULD GET CREDIT FOR WHAT JOKES.”
My first iPhone post.
Thanks for reading.
If you apply risk management completely, identifying opportunities as well as risks, you can better define the outcomes and benefits of your project.
Risk management is how we deal with uncertainty on a project. Things that can go wrong are the risks we typically look for:
- Rising or underestimated costs
- Client dissatisfaction
- Employee turnover
- Delayed or incorrect material delivery
- Technology disappointments, etc.
After all, we consider a risk to be something bad. It’s the way we use the word “risk.”
But, uncertainty also applies to things that can go right – opportunities for more positive outcomes. Any time we find a negative risk, a useful exercise is to flip the way we look at it. Sometimes we can find opportunities. Let’s look at the earlier list and flip the risks to express them as opportunities:
Maybe our projects should be more like virtual races. In a virtual race, the organizers:
- Come up with a race idea and a plan to make it happen
- Set a timeframe and define contributions needed from participants and what they will get in return
- Invite people to participate and sign up those who want to get involved
- Give participants lots of flexibility and make it easy for them to contribute on their own terms
- Track incremental progress, keep participants posted about how things are developing, and make adjustments and provide incentives as things evolve
- Celebrate what got done and send people medals.
This seems like it could be an efficient way to run a project if you had some flexibility about what could happen. It would be a virtual project.
Marcia and I ran (walked) our first virtual race, the “May the Fourth (Be With You) 5K” put on by Nerd Herd Running. My daughter, Joelle, and her husband, Mike, are two of the founding members of Nerd Herd Running. The group was formed by runners who love to do Disney races as part of organizations who raise funds to fight cancer and support other good causes. But, organizing, paying, and preparing for the Disney races is a big deal. So, Nerd Herd Running leveraged their nerdiness to start a virtual race series with nerdy themes to support Stupidcancer.org.
At first I thought “That’s not a real race.” I mean, a real race is about a bunch of people getting together, starting at the same time, and finishing at the same place. Continue reading