Articles

Agile Methods and the Need for Speed

When asking people why they want to use agile delivery methods, one of the most common reasons I hear is that they want to “deliver faster.” It seems that there is a widespread frustration with the way administrative bureaucracy, inefficient development processes, and overburdening governance processes impede project performance. In many cases, an apparently simple, short development project cannot be delivered quickly because of the process and governance overheads that stretch the project out across the calendar and act as a multiplier on the estimated project budget.

Of course project sponsors are frustrated with this situation – I’d be frustrated too. If there is needless red tape slowing down a project, that is an evil that should be rooted out and eradicated within our organizations. The problem, however, is that agile methods are not about delivering faster; rather, their benefits are in other areas:

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He Knows What He's Doing

At a recent workshop I was going over the Work Breakdown Structure and the need break the scope down into more manageable packages. One of the attendees had a question about one of his projects. He was managing a small project that was upgrading some instrumentation at four separate locations. The design work was supposed to be the same at all four locations. When he got the project it was bundled into one package. The question was, since the work was the same, it did not appear to be any big deal to have one package so, was it necessary to break something like that up into work packages? My suggestion was to break the work down into four separate packages for the following reason: Budgets Cost control Construction Budgets

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SAFETY HAS A COST

WHAT ARE THE SAFETY COSTS? Think of your current job. If you got injured, became ill, or died what would be the affect on those around you and your company? What would be the cost? Well, here are some of those costs: - Training cost of replacements. Think of having to replace someone with experience. The training can be done but the interpersonal relationships cannot be replaced. You will never get back to where you were as it difficult to replace the experience. If it is advanced knowledge you are replacing it can be very expensive to train someone. - Damage to equipment, property, or products. As in the above example, the cost of equiment replacement can be expensive. If the accident did not happen, the money would have gone to improving the value of the plant. The cost of repairs may be covered by insurance but the increased premiums takes away money from adding value to the plant or product.

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Project Management Advice from Popular Music

I was sitting in a project team meeting yesterday where a group of us were trying to figure out the right strategy for dealing with a difficult project sponsor. The issue was that the scope of the project was constantly changing and we were being rebuffed by the sponsor when we tried to point out that our requirements gathering and analysis budget was already spent, yet new requirements were popping up daily. The sponsor was saying that they need all of their requirements documented and the impacts on the solution design analyzed – which is correct; however, the sponsor is not willing to reallocate funds from the solution build budget to the requirements budget, nor is he willing to discuss adding funds to the project overall budget.

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Handling Difficult Conversations

As Project Managers we often find ourselves needing to handle difficult conversations in order to make progress on a project. These meetings will happen with direct reports on a project team but also with other stakeholders who we have no direct authority over but are critical to the project success. How often do we plan effectively for any of these meetings, not just data and information, but around how we are going to handle the meeting and the people attending it?

There are a number of ways we can improve the way we handle our difficult and challenging conversations to make them more effective, improving individual and team productivity and our business relationships.

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Testing Strategy is Critical to Project Success

I once heard the president of a large company say that sales people were important because they increased the revenues of the company but that project managers were more important because they turned those revenues into profits. And those profits, he noted, drive an increased share price (the value of the company in the marketplace).

If we as project managers are responsible for the creation of a company’s value, then we have a professional obligation to perform that job well, as the converse would also be true: project managers performing poorly can also destroy a company’s value. How do we perform our job well? To answer this, we need to look at which project management activities have the greatest impact on achieving the project’s desired outcome, as valued in the business case.

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My Project Management New Year Resolution

As it is January, I thought it would be a good time to share with you my project management New Year resolution.  But before I share it with you, I want to share an observation: if I could make up my own personality categorization system for project managers, I might say that there are two main types:  builders and maintainers.  

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Project Startup Activities are Key to Success in Both Agile and Traditional Approaches

I recently attended the Business Analyst World conference in Ottawa, Canada. The audience was comprised of mostly (no surprise here) business analysts but also included project managers, technical leads, and a few project sponsors. What I found intriguing was that about one third of the track sessions were concerned with agile-related topics, and the buzz in the hallways between sessions and at lunch seemed to lean towards agile. I guess this means that agile is now solidly on the radar of the mainstream project community.

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Why Project Managers Should Master the Art of Bribery

In most countries around the world, bribery – the payment of secret funds to someone to get them to bypass standard processes or to alter their standard behaviour – is considered immoral and often illegal.  The codes of conduct or codes of ethics from many of our professional organizations explicitly forbid bribery.  So, for the vast majority of project managers, bribery is out of the question.

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Project Management and Office Politics

I was teaching a project management course last week and presented a module on stakeholder management. In this module, I presented some techniques for identifying project stakeholders, some criteria for evaluating them to see which ones have an important influence over the project, and strategies for dealing with stakeholders who may have some moderate influence over the project but who are not involved in the day-to-day decisions in the project. In all, I thought it was pretty standard material.

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Project Management Association of Canada

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