Zen Project Management

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Even the Best Chefs can't make a bad recipe taste good; why someone else's Agile Transformation recipe may not work for you

Zen Project Management

I've been reflecting on some of the agile transformations I've been involved in over the past few years. In some cases, I see some real progress made. Other times it seems like just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. An organization follows some recipe, but they don't get the results.

2023 130
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What is the Right Team Size?

Zen Project Management

Team in front of Computer Code, generated by DALL-E 2 What is the right size for a team? Can it be too big or too small? I worked with a team once that had 3 developers. They spent most their time mob programming in front of a 42 inch monitor, taking turns at the keyboard.

2023 130
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Is it Time for Holacracy?

Zen Project Management

I was doing some research last weekend on Holacracy for a course I’m developing for University of California - Irvine Extension. I have been teaching for them for about 8 years now and I’m helping update their agile class offering.

2020 130
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How to Measure Value

Zen Project Management

Agile is about delivering value, so it is important to understand the value you are delivering within an iteration or release. However, I seen many teams that focus on how many story points they deliver but not really thinking about the value of those story points. So are there ways to measure value? The answer is, of course there is. One way would be to use the Planning Poker approach, but instead of estimating the effort for each story you can estimate the value of the story.

2016 146
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Unlocking Business Agility: Leveraging the Power of Strategy Execution

True business agility is impossible if execution is disconnected from strategic planning. Download this eBook to learn about the key capabilities every organization must adopt to more effectively & strategically execute all work across the enterprise.

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Red Teaming

Zen Project Management

One of the things we talk about at work is eliminating group think and an approach to do this is using red teaming. For those not familiar with the term, red team comes from the military and originally stood for a team that represented the opposition. It has since expanded to include any team that might challenge the status quo.aka, group think. So how does this apply to the agile world? Even agile teams can get stuck in group think. A great example is during story estimating.

2017 109
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How to Budget For Your Company’s Technical Debt

Zen Project Management

Guest post by Dr. Mik Kersten While “technical debt” is a term that’s frequently used by technologists, the implication and understanding of it tends to be opaque to the business until it’s too late - just look at how Nokia lost the mobile market that it helped create.

Budget 100
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Estimating

Zen Project Management

I was flying home from a client visit last week at the airport getting ready to board the plane when the gate agent announced that the flight was gonna be delayed by ten minutes due to some unspecified mechanical issue. Ten minutes later they announcement another ten minute delay. They did this two more times. So what was going on? Did the airlines not want to admit upfront that they had a 40 minute delay so they fed the delays to us ten minutes at a time?

Estimate 109
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Agile 2018 wrap up

Zen Project Management

I'm on my way home after spending the week at Agile2018. It's been a great conference. I reconnected with old friends, met some new ones, and attended some great presentations. Monday's keynote was Dom Price (@domprice) from Atlassian. He shared how Atlassian tracked team health via their playbook. One interesting statistic he shared was that 78% of people don't trust their team mates. He also hit a theme that was repeated by many of the speaker; focus on outcomes, not outputs.

2018 100
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Getting Rusty

Zen Project Management

I was in the Moab, Utah area last weekend and got some mountain biking in. I haven't spent a lot of time mountain biking this year so I was a bit rusty. By the second day I was starting to get my rhythm but it took a little time. Just like mountain biking, our agile skills can get rusty. I ran a Lean Coffee last week and before it I read a couple articles because I hadn't done a Lean Coffee in a while and wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.

2018 100
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Level up Culture & EQ | Sign up for the #CultureDrop

Once a week, culture & leadership expert Galen Emanuele gives free, actionable EQ training in 5 minutes or less. Subscribe to the #CultureDrop and access free resources & content.

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Regression to the Mean or High Performing

Zen Project Management

I had an interesting conversation with one of my Product Owners this week. She thought that over time, planning poker values feel prey to Regression toward the Mean because human nature was such that people didn’t want to stand out and therefore tried to give estimates in line with what they thought others would. I countered by saying if people were afraid to state what they truely thought the value should be, there is probably a psychological safety issue going on.

2018 100
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Debriefs

Zen Project Management

I’m working on a new assignment as part of an agile coaching team leading a transformation at a large organization. One of my fellow coaches is also a former Navy officer. We’ve had a number of conversations about how many of the techniques developed by the military can be applied to make any team a high-performing one. One particular tool is debriefing. I’ll admit, I didn’t do a lot of this in my military career, but the idea is to take time after any activity to review how it went.

2017 100
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Illusions

Zen Project Management

I am still reading Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow , and I came across an interesting quote People can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers. He used the example of stock traders, who think they are successful in picking stocks even though evidence points otherwise. Two out of three mutual funds underperform the overall market in any given year.

2018 100
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What the Military can teach us about Sprint Planning

Zen Project Management

As a coach, I've seen many Sprint Planning sessions. Some are more effective than others. When it comes to planning, the military has a long history and we can learn a few things from them.

2018 100
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Modern Data Architecture for Embedded Analytics

Data has gone from a mere result of applications & processes to being crowned king. Picking the right avenue to data architecture depends on your organization’s needs. Development teams should build in stages, starting with a task that can be solved.

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Interview at Agile2018

Zen Project Management

A long-time colleague and friend, Dave Prior, interviewed me at Agile2018 about my presentation on being an agile coach at Toyota. You can find it here

2018 100
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If You're Going to Offshore, Get it Right

Zen Project Management

In general, I prefer having fully co-located teams but I've been working with a number of organizations that use off-shoring as part of their delivery model. Some have the right approach, others are missing the mark. When one organization I worked with decided to move to a Scrum framework, they were also setting up an off-shore model with developers in India. In this case, they brought those developers to the U.S.

2018 100
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Empathy Mapping

Zen Project Management

I ran an exercise at the beginning of a new project last week; Empathy Mapping. This is part of an overall approach of using Design Thinking along with agile development. The idea to empathy mapping is to get to understand your users. Per the diagram below, you want to get an understanding of what your user thinks, says, feels, and does (though I have seen other examples that are slightly different than this).

2016 130
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Design, Agile, and Gall's Law

Zen Project Management

The topic of design has been crossing my path lately. I see a lot of overlap with Agile principles. One of the principles I came across is called Gall’s law. It states that "all complex systems that work evolved from simpler systems that worked.” It was introduced by John Gall in his book Systematics in 1975. This is very similar to the Agile principle of simplicity. It can be seen in the practice of Test Driven Development.

2015 126
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How to Improve Team Effectiveness & Reduce Workplace Stressors Through Exceptional Culture

Speaker: Galen Emanuele - President, Shift Yes LLC

Having a great workplace culture increases engagement and performance, yet many leadership teams lack the tools they need to successfully develop one. In this webinar, you will receive guidance on how to adapt your workplace culture and improve your employee experience.

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Divergence and Convergence

Zen Project Management

There's another idea from Tim Brown's Change by Design I thought was worth writing about. It's the idea of divergence and convergence. Early in a design project (or any project), we want to collect lots of ideas. This is divergence.creating lots of possible choices. Linus Pauling , winner of 2 Nobel prizes, stated "To have a good ide, you must first have lots of ideas." If you're writing user stories, don't try to limit story creation.

2016 109
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Are You Experimenting?

Zen Project Management

I came across another interesting idea in Change By Design. It was presented as Toyota's ideas around training and had 4 principles: There is no substitute for direct observation Proposed changes should always be structured as experiments Workers and managers should experiment as frequently as possible Managers should coach, not fix This idea of experimenting caught my attention.

2016 130
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Ready Ready

Zen Project Management

I heard the term "Ready Ready" being used at work last week. I've heard of "Done Done" but this was a new one on me. I remember the first time I heard the concept of done done. When a developer finishes coding, the story is done but not done done. There are a number of other steps that have to be completed before it is really done, that is done done. The team should come up with the definition of done at the start of a project.

2016 126
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Team of Teams

Zen Project Management

I recently completed the book Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal , a retired Army General and former commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, operating in Iraq. It's the story of how he transformed that command in order to more effectively execute their mission. The book explores the ideas of complicated and complex. I kept thinking about the Cynefin framework , though McChrystal does not specifically mention it in the book.

2018 100
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Blueprint to Modernize Analytics

The longer you wait to modernize your application’s analytics, the longer it will take for you to realize this value. A blueprint helps you define your new solution, plot out how to get there, and determine what you’ll need in terms of time and resources.

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Situational Awareness

Zen Project Management

I have been exploring techniques to help my Scrum teams become more effective and one of the techniques I've been looking at is Crew Resource Management (CRM). CRM came about because of a number of airplane crashes in the 70s that were attributed to human error. More recently, it is cited as one of the reasons there were no causalities in the US Air flight 1549 (Miracle on the Hudson). One component of Crew Resource Management is Situation Awareness.

2018 100
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Nemawashi

Zen Project Management

I am speaking this week at the Projects to the Point (P2P) conference in Cairo, Egypt. The focus of the conference is the book "How Successful Organizations Implement Change" and the speakers (myself included) each wrote one of the chapters of the book by the same title. We have an interesting approach for implementing change where I'm working, a technique call Nemawashi. It's a Japanese term that literally translates to "digging around the roots" but the meaning is much more than that.

2017 100
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PMI Conference observations

Zen Project Management

The PMI Conference was held this past weekend in Chicago. They've changed the format a bit and even changed the name to reflect the changes. When I first started attending almost 20 years ago, it was the PMI Symposium, then Global Congress and now the PMI Conference. They had 3 different keynote speakers (though I only saw 2 of them), one each day.

PMI 100
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Design the Poster

Zen Project Management

Anyone that's been around Agile for a while has probably heard of the Design the Box exercise. The idea is to help the team define and understand the product vision. I'm getting near the end of a project. We've had some challenges in terms of making the right decisions on scope. This has manifested itself in completing user stories only to have the business team say "I know that's what I asked for, but I don't think it's right." We didn't do a Design the Box at the start of the project.

2016 100
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Best Practices for Deploying & Scaling Embedded Analytics

Today, sophisticated capabilities such as adaptive security, predictive analytics, workflow, and writeback are taking analytics far beyond basic dashboards and reports. With cutting-edge capabilities like these, application teams are able to differentiate their products from the competition.

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Tools

Zen Project Management

When I was young, I had a riding lawn mower. We had a big yard out in the suburbs and the riding mower made the job quicker. Today I live closer to downtown in a house with a smaller yard. I’m currently using an old fashion reel mower…no motor, just foot power to make it work. For the yard I have, it’s all I need. With all the technology around us, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest thing. Tools can make us more effective, but sometimes they can be distractions.

2015 100
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The Canvas Strategy

Zen Project Management

I’m making my way through the Tim Ferris' book Tools of Titans. It’s well over 600 pages but it has a lot of useful, interesting advice, though I'll admit some of it is a bit out there. He breaks the book up into three areas; Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. The book is really just a summary of podcasts done over the years with some other advice added in. One piece of advice I appreciated is what he called the canvas strategy. The idea really came from Ryan Holiday.

Strategy 109
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The Bullet Journal

Zen Project Management

I started something new in February, a bullet journal. I've played with different tools to help me keep organized and remember stuff, and this is my latest. I went back to using paper over electronic tools for notes over a year ago based on research that showed you remembered things better when you took notes the old fashion way. Even then, I wasn't sure of the best approach. For a long time I was using standard legal pads, but I didn't want to take them with me when I traveled.

2017 100
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Eliminate Death Marches

Zen Project Management

This is part 2 of a 12 part series on the Principles of Agile Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage. Another challenge for people new to agile is this idea about welcoming change late in the project. It's not that they don't expect changes, it's the approach taken to deal with it. Usually there is a Byzantine approach that involves change review boards, change request forms and impact assessments.

2014 122
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Enhance Employee Wellness to Retain High-Performing Teams

Speaker: Eric Torigian - Managing Director, Advisory Services, CHRO Solutions

During this informative webinar, Eric Torigian, Managing Director at CHRO Solutions, will explore how organizations are emphasizing employee wellness, how that has helped workers attain a healthy "life balance", and how, as a result, this has contributed to corporate success.

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Tom Peters and Soft Skills

Zen Project Management

I recently had the opportunity to hear Tom Peters speak and I have to say that even at the age of 71, he still has a lot of energy and passion. He began the talk with his experience coming out of college with an engineering degree. He found the math and science classes did little to prepare him for the real world, the people part of the equation, or the “all important last 99%” of being successful.

2014 122
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Empathy and the Sponsored User

Zen Project Management

Empathy is an important attribute in Design Thinking. In order to solve our customer's problems, we really need to understand them. We need to walk in their shoes. But there's a limit to how far we can take this. We can spend hours talking to an astronaut, but we will never truly understand what it's like to walk in space. Agile has this idea of the Product Owner, but you don't see much written in agile about empathy.

2016 100
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Time for a Demo?

Zen Project Management

When I first learned Scrum , the idea was to have 30-day (4 week) iterations with a demo at the end of each iteration. Today I see teams that have iterations from 1 to 4 weeks, or in the case of Kanban, no iterations at all. So the question is, how often should there be a demo? I’m a believer of getting sign off on a user story once it's done. This usually comes from the person who wrote it, who may be a proxy to the product owner.

2015 100
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Design Thinking and Constraints

Zen Project Management

I've been reading the book Change by Design by Tim Brown. It's part of my overall interest in design in general. I have found a number of interesting ideas in the book so far, and I'm not even half way through it. One concept had to do with constraints. Anyone that has worked much on projects know that constraints are a big part of it. He talks about three aspects of constraint; feasibility, desirability, and viability.

2016 100
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Employee Wellbeing & DEI: Supporting Inclusivity Throughout the Employee Life Cycle

Speaker: Catherine Mattice - Culture Consultant, Business Coach, Strategic HR Expert

Join Catherine Mattice as she details actionable steps for encouraging and reinforcing inclusive behavior from the employees’ first day all the way to their last.