Agile PM Process Grid–6.5 Team Space


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

Today I start on a block of four processes that are part of the sixth knowledge area of Communication that are done during the Planning phase of the project.   The first two of these four processes are 6.3 Communication Protocols and 6.4 Information Radiators.   This post covers 6.5 Team Space.

What is a team space?   It is a physical work area with defined boundaries over which the team exercises control.    It has two characteristics:

  • It contains a common area shared by the work team that includes that open meeting areas, visual lines of sight where information radiators (process 6.4) can be seen.
  • It also contains meeting or breakaway rooms where people can meet in private or take important calls during the lunch hour.

I just experienced the importance of the latter of the two characteristics above.   I am set to take a Certified ScrumMaster course from a company called 3Back scheduled all day Monday and Tuesday of next week.   In my new volunteer position at the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute, I had also been tasked with running the executive council core team meeting that runs on the fourth Monday of every month.    Guess what day that falls on?    Right on the first day of my class!

So I contacted the instructor and told him of the importance of the phone call.   He said it was no problem:   The class runs from 9:00 to 12:00 and then 1:00 to 5:00, and he purposely allows one hour for lunch in a room that is next to some empty rooms for precisely the reason I had:   because of an important work-related call that I had to take.

If he hadn’t been flexible, I would have had to change the meeting date or change the class date, neither of which I wanted to do.   So in preparing the notes for today’s post, I immediately recognized that the second characteristic of a team space applied directly to the situation I had just faced with regards to the Scrum class.

Despite the importance of a team space where the team is co-located (a fancy term for working in the same physical space), there are some situations where a company will have to use virtual team spaces, aided by such technological tools as video-conferencing, Skype, and instant messaging.   The team needs to work with these tools in order to facilitate the idea transfer that a regular team space provides.    No matter what type of team space, regular or virtual, a team engages in, the whole point in either case is to optimize the delivery of business value to the customer!

The main purpose of the team space is to encourage collaboration, especially when using Agile Tooling, which happens to be process 6.6 and is the subject of the next post.

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Agile PM Process Grid–6.4 Information Radiators


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

Today I start on a block of four processes that are part of the sixth knowledge area of Communication that are done during the Planning phase of the project.   The first of these four processes is 6.3 Communication Protocols, which was covered in the last post.   This post covers 6.4 Information Radiators

In terms of communications on a project, there are three basic types, each of which I have followed by an example:

  1. interactive, usually meaning one-to-one (e.g., a phone call)
  2. push, usually meaning one-to-many (e.g., an e-mail sent to the group)
  3. pull, usually meaning many-to-one (e.g., documents put in Google Drive and shared with the group)

An information radiator is a form of communication which is like the second type above, with some important differences related to agile projects.

  1. The information radiators are posted in the team’s workspace.
  2. They contain various types of visual signals or cues intended to make it easier to guide activities and tasks to completion.
  3. They convey information about specific parts of the process, but are available to everyone, including stakeholders.

They are designed as a combination of status and progress report, status report meaning the cumulative progress on the project and the progress report meaning the status in the current iteration.

They also are a forecast report of sorts, meaning that they can be used to facilitate early detection of risk or problems that are ahead in the development process so that they do not become impediments towards reaching the iteration goal.

Here are examples of information radiators used in agile PM:

  • product vision
  • product backlog
  • release plan
  • burn-up and burn-down charts
  • team work agreements

Since the information radiators are put in the team workspace, let us spend the next post talking about how the team space is organized in agile projects.

Agile PM Process Grid–6.3 Communication Protocols


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

Today I start on a block of four processes that are part of the sixth knowledge area of Communication that are done during the Planning phase of the project.   The first of these four processes is 6.3 Communication Protocols.

There are two types of protocols:   organic and overt.   Organic protocols are defined as those that are inherently part of the agile framework.   Overt protocols (aka interventions) are externally imposed upon the agile framework    Agile planning can benefit from both organic and overt protocols.

Examples of organic communication protocols are:

  • Preference for face-to-face discussions
  • Collocated workspace
  • Interlinked planning meetings, such as product visioning, roadmap, release and iteration planning, daily stand-ups, and review and retrospective meetings

Examples of overt communication protocols are:

    • Risk-adjusted backlogs (process 5.4)
    • Escaped defects report
    • Variance and trends analysis

Optional open space meetings, where the team discusses ideas for dealing with technical challenges impeding delivery of the iteration goal, can be either organic or overt, depending on whether the technical challenge is coming from inside or outside the agile framework (like regulatory compliance issues, for example).

Much of the output of the meetings mentioned above is communicated to stakeholders and ends users in the form of information radiators which is the subject of the next post.

 

High Performance Leadership Project


In the last post, I described how the High Performance Leadership (HPL) Project is often the “final rung” in the ladder Toastmasters must climb to the final goal of becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster.

In this post, I want to describe the details of how to do a High Performance Leadership Project, using as an example the project I just completed last weekend, thereby earning my own Distinguished Toastmaster award.

Part I:   Learning About Leadership

  • First read the High Performance Leadership manual to learn about the theory of leadership and the six dimensions that comprise it.
  • Take a quiz to assess your knowledge of leadership and your self-assessment of the six dimensions that comprise it.    The result is your leadership profile.
  • Select suitable candidates for projects that you are interested in pursuing as an (HPL) project.
  • Recruit a guidance committee that will be the consultants on your project, to whom you will discuss the execution of your project and who will evaluate how well your projected has been executed once it has been completed
  • Meet with your guidance committee and decide upon the project you will pursue.

Part II:  Choosing Your Objective

  • Form a vision of what you would like your project to achieve as a result.
  • Turn your vision into a mission by describing objective criteria so that the guidance committee can decide the degree of success of your project in unambiguous terms.
  • Define the core values you wish to uphold as you execute your project.   These values will underpin the choices you make in achieving your goals.
  • Plan a speech to your club which explains your vision (what you want to achieve), your mission (how you want to achieve it), and your core values (in what manner you want to achieve it), and present it to your club.

Part III:   Winning Commitment to Your Objective

  • Create an action strategy (defining what you want to achieve) and an action plan (the steps you will need to achieve it) which includes goals and timetables.
  • Recruit your action team, those who will have various roles on your project and will help you executive it according to the plan.
  • Elaborate the action plan so that it now assigns various action items to those who are on your action team.

Part IV:   Working the Plan

  • Help your action team achieve the goals of the project.
  • Review your action plan periodically.
  • Deal with obstacles, both external (dealing with issues and resource problems) and internal (dealing with conflict resolution).
  • Complete the project work.

Part V:   Analyzing and Presenting Your results

  • Get feedback from the action team on your performance as a leader.
  • Present the results of your project, as compared to the acceptance criteria you established before the project started, to your club.
  • Review your final speech about your project with the guidance committee..
  • Present your final speech, including lessons learned on the project, and possible future projects that could be built upon the results you have achieved, to your club.

In my case, I knew that the second training period for club officers was often marred by the a drop-off in attendance by club officers.    The reason seemed to be that club officers were taught how to do their role in the first training period, and therefore decided that a second training period was unnecessary since they already knew how to do their roles.

In discussing the matter with Distinguished Toastmasters who also had experience as professional trainers, I came to the conclusion that the second training period would be more effective if the training were more of a “learning exchange” between club officers rather than a re-training of the club officers by the trainers.   In other words, if the trainers went in, not as teachers, but as facilitators, and initiated conversations between club officers, rather than talking to the club officers, this might create more engagement from the club officers and thus a more meaningful experience for the second round of training.

So I formed a team of trainers from area directors who had been in various club roles before.    I wrote a script which essentially asked each club officer to state his or her name, his or her club, and then to state the biggest problem they faced.   The trainer would then write each problem on the board, and if more than one club officer stated that this was the biggest problem, the trainer would put a check by the problem to see how many “votes” it got.   This preliminary survey would take 10 minutes at max.    NOTE:    We had between 3 and 5 people coming for each role, so there was enough time to accommodate everyone’s input.

Then the next 30 minutes were spent having the other team members offer potential solutions to the 3 or 4 problems listed on the board.  These would be preferably based on solutions that the club officer had personally tried him or herself, but they could also be solutions that the club officer was aware of.    These solutions were compiled by the trainer.

At the end of the training, e-mail addresses of the club officers were voluntarily exchanged so that the club officers could assist one another going forward.

The script was handed out to the trainers, and last Saturday we ran the project to see how it was received.    My goal was to get at least a 4 out of 5 from the trainees as to how they liked the training.   This goal was met, and exceeded:   when asked what complaints they had about the training, the ONLY one that seemed to be repeated across the board was that the training time was TOO SHORT, which showed that they enjoyed the training.   I asked the area directors who acted as my trainers their opinion as to why it was so positively received, and the best comment came from one of the area directors who said, “people want to heard.”

And this is probably the end result of the project:   rather than TELLING people how to do their roles, we LISTENED to them on how they were already doing them.   Once people knew their input mattered, they all participated enthusiastically.

My goal now is to compile the results and present them to the club, at which point I will have my guidance committee submit my application for the HPL project and thereby automatically received my Distinguished Toastmaster award.   My goal in the future is try to scale this training idea to the District at large to see if it can be implemented on a wider scale.

I’m pleased at the success of the project, and am also pleased at it being the capstone of my Toastmasters “career” so far.   I entered the Toastmasters world a little over five years ago in December 2010, after having lost my job and my self-confidence.    Joining Toastmasters not only gave me confidence in public speaking, but by achieving small wins along the way during the past five years, it has also given me confidence to take opportunities I might not have reached for otherwise:   to be a professional speaker, a professional trainer, and to be a Director at the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute.    I was the Director of Certification at the chapter and my goal was to improve the training of project managers, and that is why I chose the HPL project I did, to improve the training of club officers.    You are not only trying to impart knowledge; you also need to impart enthusiasm, engagement, and experience in the process.   I’m proud of the fact that my training program accomplished just that…

I have other projects planned for future HPL projects, but I will always remember this first one as being a dual triumph of my career as a project manager AND as a member of Toastmasters International–a Distinguished Toastmaster, as of last Saturday.

 

 

The Distinguished Toastmaster Award


If you join Toastmasters, your first goal should be to achieve the Competent Communicator award, which you receive after completing 10 speeches in the Competent Communicator manual.     There are three additional communication-based awards after that:   Advanced Communicator Bronze, Advanced Communicator Silver, Advanced Communicator Gold.    Each of these additional award levels requires doing 10 speeches, 5 from each of 2 advanced manuals, plus some additional requirements that increase as the level goes up.

Your second goal after being a Toastmaster should be to achieve the Competent Leadership award, which you receive after completing 10 projects in the Competent Leadership manual.    There are two additional leadership-based awards after that:   Advanced Leadership Bronze, Advanced Leadership Silver.    The Competent Leadership award is obtained by taking on leadership roles in the Toastmasters meetings; the Advanced Leadership Bronze award is obtained by taking on a leadership role at the club level as one of the 7 club officer roles required to keep the club functioning.    The Advanced Leadership Silver award is obtained by fulfilling the three following requirements:

  1. Be a club coach, mentor, or sponsor
  2. Be a district level officer–usually starting out by being an area director
  3. Complete a High Performance Leadership Project

The first and second requirements can take anywhere from a few months (like being a club sponsor) to a year (being an area director or an club coach).   The High Performance Leadership Project can be completed in anywhere from a month or so to over a year, depending on the complexity of the project.

Once you complete the three requirements, you get the Advanced Leadership Silver award, which, if you combine it with having received the Advanced Communication Gold award, makes you automatically eligible to receive the Distinguished Toastmaster award, the highest level of personal achievement in the Toastmasters educational award system.   It shows you have completed a total of 7 awards, 4 communication awards and 3 leadership awards.

The reason why I’m writing this post is to say that, for most people, the third requirement for the Advanced Leadership Silver award, the High Performance Leadership Project, is the last hurdle they need to overcome before obtaining the Advanced Leadership Silver award, which then makes them eligible for the Distinguished Toastmaster award.

This is what my situation was and in the next post, I want to describe what I did for my High Performance Leadership Project, which I finished yesterday (Saturday, January 16th) and thus making me eligible to finally become a Distinguished Toastmaster …

 

Agile PM Process Grid–5.5 Regulatory Compliance


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

These next two posts deal with the processes related to the fifth knowledge area of Risk Management that are performed in the Planning stage:   5.4 Risk-Adjusted Backlog and 5.5 Regulatory Compliance.

Risk-adjusted backlog was discussed in detail in the last post, but its content dovetails with that of the current process, Regulatory Compliance.

Risk-adjusted backlogs are a risk management practice where features that are prioritized are those that include industry best practice compliance, such as Six Sigma or Lean features, or regulatory compliance features.

Regulatory compliance features have the HIGHEST priority, because if they are not met, the product may not even be allowed into the market.   From the end user’s point of view, that feature may have not any direct perceived value, but it has indirectly an EXTREMELY high perceived value, because it that regulatory compliance feature is not met, there wouldn’t even BE a product on the market for the customer to use.

These features require experts who know about these regulatory compliance features, and so the team may have to reach out to expertise outside of the team or even outside of the company.

But the fact that industry and regulatory compliance issues do NOT effect an individual company has two positive benefits for the company doing the project.   First of all, the compliance issue effects the competition in the exact same way, so it levels the playing field, so to speak.    Secondly, since it effects all of the products in a certain market segment the same way, if a company handles one set of regulatory compliance issues for a product, any subsequent product is going to face similar issues and therefore the learning done on the first project will transfer over to subsequent projects.   You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, in other words.

Knowledge of these regulatory compliance issues will help the development team prioritize those features that are effected by them–they are “must have” features which must be dealt with first.   Then, and only then, can the development team discuss features over which there is at least some degree of freedom.

After taking tomorrow off and discussing another topic, I will return in two days to discuss the next knowledge area of Communication and the processes related to this topic that are done during the planning phase of a project.

Agile PM Process Grid–5.4 Risk-Adjusted Backlog


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

These next two posts deal with the processes related to the fifth knowledge area of Risk Management that are performed in the Planning stage.

The agile framework is affected by the environment in which projects are done, which include the industry framework and the regulatory (governmental) framework.    So risk-related backlogs are a risk management practice where feature priorities are included that include requirements for industry best practice compliance, such as Six Sigma, Lean, etc., OR regulatory requirements.    Although these features may appear to have little direct business value to the customer, NOT having these features would result in sanctions and penalties, which of course would prevent the customer from receiving the benefit of the product in any case.

It is a way of prioritizing work that mitigates or avoids risk associated with nonconformance with these industry or regulatory standards.

The next post is on the process of 5.5 Regulatory Compliance.

Agile PM Process Grid–4.6 Motivation/Empowerment


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

The next block of three processes I am going to describe are those belonging to the “Team Performance” knowledge area (equivalent to the “HR Management” knowledge area in traditional PM) that are done during the Planning phase of the project.

The first process 4.4  Coaching/Facilitation, was described in the first post in the series.  In the last post, I covered 4.5 Collaboration/Negotiation.    This is almost a description of a soft skillset as opposed to a process, although it is most often used during the iteration planning meeting.   In this post, I cover process 4.6 Motivation/Empowerment.

John Stenbeck relates how Alistair Cockburn describes three pride-related factors in his book “Agile Software Development:  The Cooperative Game” that are related to team motivation.

  1. Pride in work–team members are intrinsically motivated to deliver a quality product.
  2. Pride in accomplishment–the act of winning is a small reward unto itself; 12 small monthly wins are superior to the promise of a large win at the end of the year.
  3. Pride in contribution–individual members find more motivation and satisfaction in their team being acknowledged than in receiving an individual award, so they are motivated to achieving team goals.
These motivational concepts are not exclusive to agile, but the need for them in agile is becoming more and more important.Pr

 

 

Agile PM Process Grid–4.5 Collaboration/Negotiation


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

The next block of three processes I am going to describe are those belonging to the “Team Performance” knowledge area (equivalent to the “HR Management” knowledge area in traditional PM) that are done during the Planning phase of the project.

The first process 4.4  Coaching/Facilitation, was described in the last post.   In this post, I cover 4.5 Collaboration/Negotiation.    This is almost a description of a soft skillset as opposed to a process, although it is most often used during the iteration planning meeting.

Why are iteration planning meetings so important?   Well, for one, they are the most frequent type of meeting you will have in agile project management, so setting the tone of collaboration and negotiation in these meetings will really set the tone for the entire project.

Also, it is the “front line” for negotiating on scope.   To enter negotiation and aim for a win-win situation should be the goal.

What is the goal of iteration planning?   To choose a group of stories the team can successfully complete within the timeframe of the iteration.

It is not just the number of stories that needs to be agreed upon, but the optimal combination of those stories so that there will be a potentially shippable increment.   And to make sure that this potentially shippable increment meets high quality standards, there needs to be a mutual agreement on a concrete and explicit definition of done.    If this issue is NOT adequately addressed during the iteration planning meeting, then the results of the iteration could be disappointing for the customer/proxy or the team, and the trust factor between the two may be eroded.

Yes, there is a tension between the customer/proxy and the team that is inherent in the fact that one may be pushing for efficiency (i.e., getting as many stories completed as possible), while one may be pushing for effectiveness (getting all the stories given as complete as possible).   But this is a natural tension and it is always important to realize that the two have different perspectives on (hopefully) the same reality and goals.

The next process is 4.6 Motivation/Empowerment, and that is the subject of the next post.

 

 

Agile PM Process Grid–4.4 Coaching/Facilitation


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

The next block of three processes I am going to describe are those belonging to the “Team Performance” knowledge area (equivalent to the “HR Management” knowledge area in traditional PM) that are done during the Planning phase of the project.

Why is coaching and facilitation by outside consultants recommended in agile?   For two reasons:   first of all, the team needs to adapt to change rapidly, and having someone who is familiar with the process is helpful.    Secondly, since team members are co-equals, it is often helpful to have an outsider be the one to coax the team towards change, rather than one member of the team trying to do this for the sake of other team members.

There are four environments where formal coaching and facilitation are very important.

  1. Implementing eXtreme Programming (XP).   This is a highly disciplined agile framework, and having an experience coach and facilitator is helpful for the team to learn and master practices such as test-driven development.
  2. Scaling agile to the enterprise.   When transferring an agile framework from the level of the team to the level of the entire enterprise, an external coach can be helpful in onboarding agile with both teams and management.
  3. Conducting large retrospectives.   When the retrospective involves more than one team, or more than one product or even business unit, an external coach can guide how to conduct the meeting to cover such a large area in an effective and meaningful way.
  4. Having customers or senior management attend team meetings.   If customers, functional managers, or senior managers ask to attend a daily meeting or a retrospective, and they are new to agile practices, a coach is helpful to make them aware ahead of what the rules are allowable participation so that they do not derail the meeting.

In the next post, I cover process 4.5 Collaboration/Negotiation.