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Archive for the ‘Agile’ Category

Today I have come across an excellent article about passion in design.  It is entitled “The Game Has Changed. Design for Passion.” and has been written by Adam Nash. While Adam talks about design thinking his observations can and should easily be applied to your projects.  Hence, the question is “are you passionate about your project? are you passionate about your team members?”  If not, you better find out what it takes.  Have a look at Adam’s view below:

The Game Has Changed. Design for Passion (by Adam Nash)

One of the most exciting developments in software has been a resurgence in the focus and priority on design.  With the growing dominance of social platforms and mobile applications, more and more people are growing comfortable productively discussing and utilizing insights about human emotion in their work.

Google: The Era of Utility

The progress of the last five to seven years is really a significant breakout from the previous generations of software design.

For decades, software engineers and designers focused on utility:  value, productivity, speed, features or cost.

If it could be quantified, we optimized it.  But at a higher level, with few exceptions, we framed every problem around utility.  Even the field of human-computer interaction was obsesses with “ease of use.”  Very linear, with clear ranking.  How many clicks? How long does a task take?  What is the error rate?

In some ways, Google (circa 2005) represented the peak of this definition of progress.  Massive data.  Massive scalability. Incredibly utility.  Every decision defined by quantifying and maximizing utility by various names.

But let’s face it, only computer scientists can get really passionate about the world’s biggest database.

Social: The Era of Emotion

Like any ecosystem, consumer technology is massively competitive.  Can you be faster, cheaper, bigger or more useful than Google?  It turns out, there is a more interesting question.

Social networks helped bring the language of emotion into software.  A focus on people starts with highly quantifiable attributes, but moves quickly into action and engagement.

What do people like? What do they hate? What do they love? What do they want?

In parallel, there have been several developments that reflect similar insights on the web, in behavioral finance, and the explosion in interest in game mechanics.

Human beings are not rational, but (to borrow from Dan Ariely) they are predictably irrational.  And now, thanks to scaling social platforms to over a billion people, we have literally petabytes of data to help us understand their behavior.

Passion Matters

Once you accept that you are designing and selling a product for humans, it seems obvious that passion matters.

We don’t evaluate the food we eat based on metrics (although we’d likely be healthier if we did).  Do I want it? Do I love it? How does it make me feel?

The PayPal mafia often joke that great social software triggers at least one of the seven deadly sins. (For the record, LinkedIn has two: vanity & greed).  Human beings haven’t changed that much in the past few thousand years, and the truth is the seven deadly sins are just a proxy for a deeper insight.  We are still driven by strong emotions & desires.

In my reflection on Steve Jobs, he talks about Apple making products that people “lust” for.  Not the “the best products”, “the cheapest products”, “the most useful products” or “the easiest to use products.”

Metrics oriented product managers, engineers & designers quickly discover that designs that trigger passion outperform those based on utility by wide margins.

The Game Has Changed

One of the reasons a number of earlier web giants are struggling to compete now is that the game has changed.  Utility, as measured by functionality, time spent, ease-of-use are important, but they are no longer sufficient to be competitive. Today, you also have to build products that trigger real emotion.  Products that people will like, will want, will love.

Mobile has greatly accelerated this change.  Smartphones are personal devices.  We touch them, they buzz for us. We keep them within three feet of us at all times.

Too often in product & design we focus on utility instead of passion.  To break out today, you need to move your efforts to the next level.  The questions you need to ask yourself are softer:

  • How do I feel when I use this?
  • Do I want that feeling again?
  • What powerful emotions surround this product?

Go beyond utility.  Design for passion.

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The final version of my presentation of “The Power and Illusion of Self-Organizing Teams” held at the PMI Global Congress North America 2012 on October 21, 2012 in Vancouver is now availalbe for free download.

Please let me know if you would like to receive the original file of the presentation which I would make available under the Creative Commons agreement.

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Zen has been, is and most likely always will be one of the most influential, inspiring philosophies, perspectives of life.  Self-organizing teams on the other side seem to be a rather modern phenomenon, some people believe.  What does Zen and self-organizing teams have in common?.  Well, I don’t want to answer this question in depth at this time. However, what I can offer are two presentations I have uploaded to Slideshare.net which deal with Zen and Self-Organizing Teams.

Project Management and Zen

Today’s projects become increasingly complex and a test of our leadership. The question is how we can master this increasing complexity? Individuals in the team and the whole team need orientation and guidance or an inspiration how to do so by themselves. Personally, I have found that the philosophy of Zen offers many insights which can help us achieves this. This presentation introduces 10 Zen insights and translates them into the language of project management. It shows how to apply Zen insights in a project setting. Zen can help inspire us personally and how to interact effectively with our team, customers and stakeholders. Applying Zen in projects makes it easier to build teams, perform on a high level and deliver results which delight our customers and teams alike. It thus helps us and the team to evolve into a performing unit and excel.

Note: I have published this presentation under the Creative Commons agreement which allows you download the PPT-file for free and re-use it for your own purposes as long as you acknowledge the copyrights.

The Power and Illusion of Self-Organizing Teams

Teams and teamwork are the heart and soul of every project. This is especially true for agile teams. It is not the individual performance or accomplishment that counts but that of the team. Just like in team sports the team succeeds and fails together. The Agile Manifesto puts the team at the center of interaction. It states, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” But what does “self-organizing” mean? Does “self-organizing” mean that team building is no longer necessary and that instead the teams do this by themselves? And, if teams are self-organizing why do so many teams and projects still fail?

I will give this presentation at the PMI Global Congress North America 2012 on October 21, 2012 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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Teams and teamwork are the heart and soul of every project.  This is especially true for agile teams. It is not the individual performance or accomplishment that counts but that of the team.  Just like in team sports the team succeeds and fails together.  The Agile Manifesto puts the team at the center of interaction.  It states, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”  But what does “self-organizing” mean?  Does “self-organizing” mean that team building is no longer necessary and that instead the teams do this by themselves? And, if teams are self-organizing why do so many teams and projects still fail?

This fall I will be answering these and other related questions at the PMI Global Congress North America in Vancouver. My whitepaper and preliminary Power Point presentation are now available for free download.

I am curious about your experiences with self-organizing teams.  Please share your thoughts and insights.

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The big and typical question you ask yourself at the end of the year how the past 12 months were, how you faired.  This year it is a simple question to answer: yes, it was a great year!  Or, shall I say another great year.  Most of my consulting this year was for an internet service provider in Karlsruhe.  Not only did were these consulting engagements challenging and intellectually rewarding it was and is convenient to our family for it is only a 35 minutes commute from Heidelberg to Karlsruhe.  One of the main reasons I am very grateful for this consulting opportunity.

Next to consulting I have been giving seminars, webinars, podcasts, presentations and interviews on numerous topics such as leadership, collaboration, learning project organizations, ethics, agile product development, team building, innovation, project management, and empowerment.  The main conferences I attended and spoke at were the PMI Global Congresses in Dublin and Dallas and the NASA Project Management Challenge in Long Beach, CA.  Wonderful events.  I can encourage every professional project managers to attend at least one of these conferences.  The learning is exceptional as are networking opportunities.

One of the major milestones in 2011 was the founding of i-Sparks I founded this summer.  i-Sparks is an open online innovation and learning community that facilitates innovation across entire systems. It provides a platform for people and institutions to discover, develop, and test new ways of operating and to put their ideas to work.  i-Sparks aims at every person or institution which is motivated to understand the root causes of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, to rethink how people and institutions live and operate, and thus to create opportunities for redesigning business models and social change protocols, working more collaboratively across groups, institutions and sectors.

At present we are working on a first prototype which we plan to launch this coming spring.  Stay tuned and follow us on our website www.i-sparks.com.

Business is only one element in our life though it absorbs most of it these days.  Luckily there are the welcome breaks called vacation.  Have a look at my online photo albums for impressions of Long Beach,

Vail,

Vals

and South Tyrol.

So, what about next year?  The outlook is more than promising.  It is funny that lots of people talk about an economic crisis.  Unemployment is at a record low in southern Germany, economic growth is strong, the overall atmosphere and outlook are positive.  And yet other European countries and their economies are struggling.  There are numerous reasons for this imbalance.  I don’t want to start this debate.  What is worrying however is that people, i.e., European politicians and so-called experts, continue to talk about the dawn of another recession in Germany.  This, of course, can have an impact – psychologically.  Rationally and ethically, this chitchat is not comprehensible.  Let’s see what next year will bring.  I am optimistic and hope you too share this enthusiasm.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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This is the third part of my impressions of the 2011 PMI Global Congress North America in Dallas.  Part 1 talks about the conference setup.  Part 2 covers my lessons learned from sessions on sustainability, ethics, innovation, and Agile.

In this 3rd part I am talking about my takeaways from sessions about Leadership, Project Winners, the Learning Project Organization, and the future PMO.  Happy reading!

Leadership

Slides of my own session “SFT02 – The 5 Team Leadership Principles for Project Success – Part of Leadership Community Track” are available for download as well as on Slideshare.  Both Links are available on my blog.

Michael O’Brochta’s session “PRJ09 – Leadership Essentials for Project Management ProfessionalsPart of Leadership Community Track

What else can I say about any of Michael’s sessions?  You have to attend them.  They are and Michael is AWESOME.

Here are some of my tweets and insights I took away from this exceptional session:

  • Servant leadership: how can I help? What can I do to help?
  • Powerful leadership styles: collaboration, trust, empathy, ethical use of power
  • Situational leadership: participating, selling, telling, delegating
  • Transformational leadership behavior: inspiring change beyond self-interest
  • PMP + Leadership = Success
Thomas Juli and Michael O'Brochta

Thomas Juli and Michael O'Brochta

Lazy Project Managers

Peter Taylor’s session “ISS09 – The Lazy Project Manager Salutes the Project Superstars

Peter Taylor explains why we should think of us as superstars.  Why?  Because project management is – or shall we say, ought to be – more prevalent than most of think.

One of my tweets during this great session was:

  • Famous historical project managers: Leonardo da Vinci, Henry Ford, Nelson Mandela

The Learning Project Organization

Slides of my second presentation “ISS13 – The Learning Project Organization Part of Learning, Education & Development Community Track” can be downloaded from my blog at  or viewed on Slideshare.

The Future PMO

What I have said about Michael O’Brochta applies to Jack Duggal, too.  His sessions fall in the category “Must attend”.  In Dallas Jack talked about “Reinventing the PMO for the Next Decade”.

My tweets during this session included:

  • A high degree of compliance (80% and more) to project management processes did not correlate to project success, according to a recent study by Jack Duggal.
  • Today’s project environment: Dynamic and changing, ambiguous and uncertain, non-linear, complex, emerging
  • Bob Dylan: If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying.
  • The focus of the future PMO will and has to change:
From focus on … to focus on …
Service & support Ownership & accountability
Delivery Adoption and usability
Delivery-oriented governance Business-oriented governance
Delivery of projects & deliverables Benefits revitalization and value
Configuration-oriented change management Change leadership
Dealing with the pain of the day Holistic, balanced and adaptive approach

… what about the other sessions?

There were so many sessions I wanted to attend.  Often it has been very difficult to make a choice.  Luckily there are papers and presentations to download from the Congress’ websites.

Future Congresses

Oh yes, there will be many Congresses to come. And I hope that I too can participate in them.

So, tell me and all other readers what you have experienced in Dallas.  What were your highlights?  What did you miss?  And what did you take away from the Congress?

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This is the second part of my impressions of the 2011 PMI Global Congress North America in Dallas.  Part 1 talks about the conference setup.  You can read it here.

In this second part I am talking about my takeaways from the sessions I attended.  In other words, what have I learned?

Sustainability

On Saturday Oct 21 I attended the day-long research workshop “Sustainability and Project Management”.  It was a good mix of lecture, workshop / breakouts, discussions. If you prefer smaller crowds and like interactive sessions, these research workshops can be very good choice.  My own expectations were met.  Alas, it would have been nice if reading material would have been made available prior to the Congress.  Something PMI and future hosts should seriously consider.

Insights I tweeted during the workshop:

  • Corporations will not survive without embracing sustainability.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage. It hence makes holistic rather than one-dimensional investment analysis mandatory.
  • Accounting for sustainability principles ensures a holistic project setup.
  • Frame projects as learning opportunities.
  • Benefits of considering sustainability principles: cope with the complexity and dynamics of projects.
  • Investing in sustainability means having greater flexibility and more options in the future.
  • Sustainability is about effective project management and opportunities.
  • Understanding the project goals the desired sustainable outcomes forces innovation and out of the box thinking.
  • Sustainability requires a holistic management and leadership approach.

Ethics

PRJ15 – Really…Are You a Professional Project Manager? Presented by the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct Implementation Advisory Committee (CIAC)

Speakers: Christiaan Kindermans, MSc, PMP; Saji Madapat, MBA, CSSMBB, PMP; Peter Pfeiffer, PhD, PMP; Michael O’Brochta, MPM, PMP

This session was a pleasant surprise.  Not only was the content really valuable, the structure of the session was wonderful, involved attendants from the very beginning.  After a few Pecha-Kucha style presentations (3-5 minutes each) the audience split into 4 groups discussing how to improve applying the code of ethics (1) responsibility, 2) honesty, 3) fairness, 4) respect) in our everyday project life.  Each group discussed the various codes for 5 minutes, then moved on to the next topic.  The session concluded with the presentation of the group discussions.

This session was exceptionally well prepared.  It proves that you can interact even with a big audience and get a lot out of 75 minutes.  Congrats!

My tweets during this session included:

  • You will attract more with honey than will vinegar. Hence, lead through your own positive example.
  • Saying what you mean and meaning what you say = integrity.
  • Opposite of professional conduct? An empty suit.

Maxwell Gladwell’s Keynote on innovation and the right organizational culture

Excellent keynote if you are interested in innovation in your project environment.  I loved it.

My tweets during this session:

  • You have to understand the social dimension of technology.
  • Innovation is a mass phenomenon and not an elite one.
  • We privilege resources too much.
  • Innovative tweakers take someone else’s ideas and turn them into money makers.  Perfect example: Google.

Want to learn more of what I am thinking and doing about innovation?  – Visit and follow www.i-sparks.com.

Agile

TRN10 – Agile Collaboration in a Virtual World: Harnessing Social Media, Web 2.0 and Beyond Presented by PMI’s New Media Counsel

Speakers: Elizabeth Harrin; Cornelius Fichtner; and (sorry, forgot the name of the 3rd speaker)

Very good session.  It was hands-on.  The speakers did not elaborate on abstract theories but covered what matters in day-to-day work when you are working with and for virtual teams in an agile setting.

Among my tweets during this session was:

  • The best architecture, requirements and design emerge from self-organizing teams.  However, even self-organizing teams still need a strategic decision.

Jesse Fewell’s session “PRJ26 – Fixed Price Agile Projects: Making the Impossible Possible Part of Agile Community Track

Boy, let me tell you Jesse does understand and live Agile. He is the person to go to if you have any questions about Agile.  Excellent session!  Thank you, Jesse, for sharing your experience.

——

Part III of my impressions and take-aways coming soon.  Topics will include leadership, the lazy project manager, the learning project organization, the future PMO, and upcoming conferences.  Stay tuned!

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It was a crystal-clear mission.  Thought the management.  Develop and launch a new software product.  The project objectives were defined and announced.  It was not the first time the various teams from product development, software development, IT operations, marketing and sales faced a challenge this big.  After all, processes were defined and worked in the past.  Still, this time things were different.  Given that product requirements were permanently in a flux and management wanted to have the flexibility to react to changing market demands all team teams agreed to embrace an agile approach to product development.  That is, software was planned to be rolled out every 2-3 weeks rather than at the end of the project in a big bang.  Dedicated teams were formed, regular stand-up meetings to synchronize the teams were set up.  From an organizational point of view things were well prepared.

And yet, things did not quite work out as planned:  Software could not be rolled out every other week because the various teams did not synchronize their efforts across teams.  There was a widening gap between the functional teams, i.e., between the requirements side, the software development teams, marketing, sales and IT Ops.  Information was not openly shared and got lost in translation between teams and organizations.  While some teams applied Scrum for software development, IT operations and other software development teams favored a sequential waterfall approach and blocked all agile efforts.  In consequence, gained productivity gains from agile teams evaporated in conjunction with non-agile teams.  In addition, there was disagreement about what would happen after the product launch.

There were a number of reasons for the suboptimal outcome.  Project objectives were clearly defined at the beginning of the project.  Alas, some project objectives competed against others, were not compatible or did not account for other dependent projects and organizations.  Plus, there was no common vision of the product in the first place which would have given every team a direction of the journey.  When you asked 3 or 4 teams about the vision of the product and project you got 3-4 different answers.  Productive teams were moving into different directions.  Energy and effort were wasted.

At the end of the day, project objectives were achieved.  The product launch was successful.  However, overall spent effort was much greater than principally possible and originally thought.  Consequently, team morale and confidence in agile product development approaches were at fairly low levels.

This need not be the case.  When you choose an agile approach to product development the first and foremost thing you have to ensure at the very beginning of your endeavor is making sure that people and organizations involved in this project have the same vision and share the same values.  In other words, invest time with your teams to develop this vision and let them share it with others.  Developing a project or product vision which works requires involving all key parties that will actively work on and in your project.  This process may be time-consuming.  But it pays off.  If you cut it short for short-term gains, chances are you will have to pay the bill in the form of greater effort toward the end of your project. 

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We all thrive for success.  The big question is, how do we get there?  I have provided a number of answers to this question in my book “Leadership Principles for Project Success“.  More and more people are applying the 5 leadership principles laid out in this book.  This is great as more people will experience how to ensure project success through leadership.

Now Rod Collins wrote the  latest book review on Amazon by Rod Collins.  Rod is the author of “Leadership in a Wiki World” and the owner of Wiki-Management, a company that helps companies dramatically increase their performance. As the former Chief Operating Executive of the largest health insurance business alliance in the U. S., he pioneered an innovative management discipline that produced unprecedented operational and financial performance.  His company’s website is www.wiki-management.com.

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Today is the second day of the PMI Global Congress EMEA 2011 in Dublin.  More than 800 people came to Dublin to share their stories about project management and get inspired by new ideas.  A fabulous event!

My own presentation “The Good and Evil of Collaboration Tools” went very well I think and was well received.  I will uploaded the final version of my presentation tomorrow to Slideshare.  Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime I have started a new discussion on the LinkedIn Group of the Congress.  It is entitled “Can baselining and agile go together? I think this may be possible. Actually, I believe that baselining has to incorporate agile elements, otherwise it is doomed to fail. ” If you are on LinkedIn, join the discussion at  http://lnkd.in/x9g_Gq.

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