Agile adoption notes

In my new role as a Scrum Master, there are some fun things happening. One of which is that we are trying to move the team from a world of Agile ‘theatre’ to living and working the Agile principles.

Yes, there are technical limitations too – but people use technology so all the CI in the world is no good unless people understand the work and design it Agile to enter the CI sausage machine… (IMHO)

Four PM principles taught over the past 3 weeks to 2 people by 1 little baby

3 weeks ago, I was blessed with the greatest responsibility ever – a small baby boy. I love him, I also love my job… this seemed like a great opportunity to mash-up some tenderling parental reflections with the 9-to-5. So here and some thoughts about what a baby has taught my PM career fundamentals.

1. With a baby, you can’t really do anything else, stop thinking that you can
Having a baby is going to be great, we thought. There will be spare time at home doing things like finishing Xmas shopping, writing letters and thank you notes, starting a small business empire. After all, someone said baby’s sleep 16 hours a day. Right? Hell no. I am not sometimes sure where the time goes… maybe babies have developed time travelling abilities that I haven’t realised (and mind control even!). Babies are all time consuming because they need us. All the time, so that they can grow and develop uninhibited from a bundle of awesomeness into an Olympic this, world champion that or just a beach bum if that’s what makes them happy.

Sometimes, we need to realise that we are focussed on things that don’t need our attention. Instead of multitasking, care and attention is best given like a cupcake, undivided.

2. Priorities change at the least convenient time
There are those moments when something is holding your attention, it may be serious like your mother-in-law’s wisdom or not but suddenly the game changes. It may be fart, puke or a smile, but everything that is not baby related becomes inconsequential. Like the point above, baby is number one and even within baby world things change. My finger may have been the flavour of the moment, but now I want mommy. Or just milk (I keep telling myself to avoid becoming an emotional wreck).

Things change. It is inevitable and just like a baby changes the list of demands; company strategies, budgets and project objectives change as needed. Babies cry when their needs aren’t met and that is painful. Project boards just carry on despite a changes in objectives or context. Babies may have the more mature response. Just saying.

3. What worked yesterday and even today, won’t necessarily work tomorrow
Bouncing and walking settled baby last night, in fact last week too. But tonight, bouncing like a beach ball at a rock concert is not settling his royal highness. Perhaps walking and rocking him will – but alas. Babies can’t talk yet; they can’t indicate in any way what is wrong or needed. Fact.

And sometimes, neither can our stakeholders. Not because they are babies… well maybe. But more likely is that they don’t know how to articulate what good looks or feels like. And both are also prone to changing their minds – even on validated and agreed requirements and terms. Ever tried to show a baby the noted meeting minutes? Don’t as it won’t sway their resolve. Trust me.

4. Big-bang change is sometimes best
Our little bundle of joy arrived a week early. We were mildly prepared, as one usually is given it was 39 weeks in. But still, ready to head home only to be stopped and then put on a drip to coax baby out kind of threw us. We went for a quick check-in to confirm we were ok, and came home 48 hours later with an actual real life baby. We were astounded and stunned. But elated. And now we cannot imagine life without him.

There is never a right time, a time where you are best prepared. There is always more that could have been done. But in the end, we are all happy and in good health – sometimes getting on with it is better… getting on with it brings the happy times and ends the panic.

I have so much still to learn. About babies of course.

Risk and perception

Risk, project management risk that is, is all about perception and not facts.

In fact, it is possible to believe that risk scoring – probability, likelihood, etc – is a completely subjective exercise and thus complex to assess in context.

Arguably, relevant context variables should set the tone for the attributes that influence the risk scoring such as risk appetite, prior collective organisational experience, governance frameworks in place, etc.

However, in my relatively short career to date, I can say that I haven’t been involved with a set of stakeholders who would reliably score / rank a risk the same way twice – even in one session.

There are just too many opinions, combinations and variances to produce a systematic result to the question: “what is the rating, likelihood, probability or impact score of the risk to the project and/or business?”

  • Ratings – some use conefficients, some add, some multiply and projects can vary. A lot.
  • Likelihood – though there maybe reams of empirical data to support a figure or ranking, previous behaviour is not indicative of future behaviour at all. In a million to one, it is NEVER the millionth occurrence of the event that is the positive outcome
  • Probability – similar to the above, but I have seen this used as a broader attribute alongside ‘likelihood’ (but never understood why)
  • Impact – there are so many impacts that can be calculated and measured, yet for convenience one mainly sees the H/M/L style score – too subjective. But on the flip side, things like attrition impact are not only measurable as the cost of recruiting a new staff member, there are several more subtle and not so subtle costs – how can we reliably measure these?
  • I guess the points above illustrate just how difficult it can be to score risks. At least they are the things I have experienced as pushing the envelope of subjectivity and this prolonging the process of risk management and inhibiting effective management of the project – because now it is a refereeing situation between stakeholder views.

    Top tip – get a risk scoring plan together with the stakeholder group and stick to it. Like Velcro.