April 10, 2018

PMO as change agent!

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 5:44 pm

Agile PMO as Change Agent

I wonder what the challenges of PMO and (Agile) change management are! Some of our experienced PMO leaders think that one failure of (Agile) change management is to couple scrum master and project managers responsibilities into one role! Most of practitioners confess this as a major challenge of Agile transformation in organizations. A project manager is usually responsible for all aspects of the project; planning, scope, schedules, staffing, budget, etc. At the extreme end some project managers are even responsible for Profit and Loss (P&L)! Scrum master is a tactical (coaching) role to increase value creation of the team while training them to become a unit that creates value streams. Scrum master is a servant leader who leads by example. On the other hand, a product owner become the product’s visionary (for goal setting), with some responsibilities of a product manager.

With almost the same catch-all, the responsibilities of a program manager (in some instances) are blurred! In most enterprises project managers climb the ladder of their career, being promoted within their department. They are then asked to handle other aspects of their function, and hence are called program managers!

Agile on the other hand is the mindset, it is a way of doing things, it is not a process or set rules to do things. Agile is not bound to a given process or set of activities, rather it is a way of life! We learn if and when we do something; learn from our failure and use the lessons-learned on our next approach, and this has been how human grows old.

The PMO on the other hand has to decide and propagate the direction of programs. Some (of our) practice indicates that in certain organizations senior (and executive) mangers have high level view of how events go through their organization, while each of sub-mangers know how to handle their responsibilities in their area. Then they (the sub-managers) too, do not know how (exactly) matters move through the company! Hence the PMO shall come up with the philosophy, tools and directions to direct PMs to execute their assignments using ways that they succeed. Dysfunctions apart, the role of a PM is to be “in charge” of the (success of) project; planning, staffing, budgeting, tasks, etc. The scope of “in charge” in many cases does not include P&L, or the business success (or leadership). PMO, even though a bit clouded, is the overall owner of successful processes, tools, metrics, guidance, and practices of projects in different area and expertise. These obligations enforces PMO members to utilize any framework that leads to success. Consequently PMO members in general define how PMO (at least in a given organization) is reputed. From enterprise level - with many concurrent projects of various technical and business nature, PMO members define and lead organizational value creation processes, thus we shall incorporate re-usability and scalability of “lean Agile mindset” and promote it as a cultural change towards triumph.

Upward and Forward,
David Bakhtnia

September 5, 2017

PMO, Personality Types, Strategic/Tactical Agile; an Active Dialogue

Silicon Valley is the hub of innovative technologies and ideas to push boundaries. From novel technological advancement to collaborative production, San Francisco Bay Area incubates the forward-pushing human desires time-and-again!

I attend many professional gatherings and meet ups to meet and learn from experienced technical professionals whenever I have a chance. One of these small but highly thought-provoking is the PMO meetings of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter. Below are just a few points of interest among attendees of past couple of months:

- Based on Enneagram institute, considering nine (9) basic personality type people do not change from one basic personality type to another, even though not every description of the basic type applies to a person all the time. However, people do not accept or reject a behavioral model in its totality. Personality Types

- Agile way of accomplishing tasks is both strategic and tactical. From the planning of a software development lifecycle (strategic) to the alignment of cross functional team interacting to accomplish a set of tasks (tactical), Agile thinking and doing elevates both policies as well as methods. Applying Agile principles in our fast growing organizations is a testament of using the Agile models in both strategic planning as well tactical operations.

- Business Analysts analyze needs and define requirements (based on business needs). This set of activities help functional managers to align their (portfolio) needs. Project managers and scrum masters follow planned activities to motivate project team to execute and iteratively adapt to better creation of tools to overcome needs.

- Most hybrid method (with respect to PMOs) has been successful in many cases, especially when the C-level executives support them. This also may depend on the organizational structure (i.e. CIO & PMO inter-relations, etc.)

- The question is how to incorporate Agile into PMO? One may think that the PMO is whatever executives decide and dictate to execute! So their function is to respond to upper management needs.

Your comments and thoughts can help to better support our PMO community.

May 7, 2017

PMO Topics with Active Dialogue

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:58 pm

Last month we had another active dialogue concerning persistent (or otherwise urgent) issues with our projects and programs leads to best practices after a knowledge sharing conversation.

Below is a highlight of items we discussed at our April PMO meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter. Contributors are senior expert matters sharing their best practices regarding (technical/functional/business) PMO and Program Management issues and success stories.

  • Understanding Agile processes as a guideline, and optimizing the golden triangle (of Scope, Schedule, and Cost) of project management to optimize outcome as value-add to our organization.
  • How PMO can add value to smaller organization where C-Suite and managers are working shoulder to shoulder?
  • Engage upper management to buy their influence, especially in a scrum (creating product backlog, backlog building/grooming, etc.) if possible. Create engagement and visibility.
  • Once executives are present and engaged, the processes would increase conversion factors = trust.
  • Concentrate on the results than methodology of doing how; action builds trust, that builds value-add.
  • Remember that in Agile method everyone shall see the process and org. based collaboration and creates value.
  • Involving C-level at project/program level makes that project/program a strategic value-add.
April 9, 2017

Knowledge Sharing Among PMO Members

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:38 pm

Dynamic discussion regarding PMO and pressing issues leads to practical knowledge sharing.

Below is a short snippet of items discussed at our past PMO meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter where participants shared their views and experience regarding PMO and (technical/functional/business) Program Management issues and success stories.

  • PMO contribution to executive committee consists of strategic setting of capital/budget of programs, programs benefit definition, and mobilization plan and report (to upper management) REF1. PMO also shall plan/conduct rescue plans (for various scenarios) REF2.
  • PMO deals with business cases much more (and in higher level) than they oversee the requirements.
  • PMOs provide check list of healthy metrics, hidden problem corners, while they do not have ownership, they keep track of the health of projects and programs with guideline to move from “range” to “green” health lines. Online search of these issues would lead to hundreds of useful resources.
  • What brings people to PMO meetings? We talk about different projects/programs and their health.
  • PMO acts as a diplomat in real life, especially with respect to customer-facing programs.
  • PMOs do not have a fixed ID in different organizations (consult PMO member of i.e. PG&E, Kaiser, Salesforce and cross-reference their input!)
  • PMOs are more fit to waterfall method than Agile, as for instance, there is no start-end in scrum setting! However, one may argue that PMO can help to streamline other Agile driven methods (like Kanban or Lean Manufacturing).

REF1: More on this can be found on IBM’s developer Works

REF2: More on rescue plans of PMO are available on Top-10 PMO Tips and other resources such as “Business Driven PMO Setup” and “Rescuing the Problem Project

January 22, 2017

PMO Thoughts & Experiences (1)

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:41 pm

Following is a blog made from Discussion Topics of 01/11/2017 PMO meeting

PMO thoughts an dexperiences - 1
I attended PMO breakfast meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter where participants shared their views and experience regarding PMO and (technical/functional/business) Program Management issues and success stories. Below are bulleted items of a few points made by attendees. I appreciate suggestions and comments by viewers to further enrich PMO topics.

  • How to create/promote PMO from the grass root? How to create it from foundation in any organization?
  • - Recently many have perceived the significance of project management principles. Apparently most team players realize that some projects are falling through cracks as the number of projects become overwhelming while well-equipped PMs stretched in schedule, cost, or scope of their endeavors!

  • How to change project management culture in a matrix organization?
    - The iron triangle (cost/time/scope) works fine, yet what about resource availability? Doing projects without qualified resources leads to disasters! The (main) success of the “iron triangle“ is to “focus” on for instance, one leg and accept proceeding of other legs! As an example, on January breakfast meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter in Mountain View one member commented on the lack of qualified developers, causing lag of time/schedule/scope!
    - Another option is to create a manpower schedule and get management approval.
    - Support of leadership in necessary to a successful PMO & PMs in general.
    - For every successful project, there are 3-4 failures! How to change this trend is another task of PMO.
    - Another factor is being consistent in processes and follow-throughs.
    - Also, getting people to engage and participate requires “repeated” efforts! Especially when we are required to change course (change management!)
  • In small-to-Mid size organizations need-to-have PMO starts somewhat late, or only when the needs grow to necessity!
    - This may not be true when comparing to military units as their projects are usually well defined.
    - How about promoting PMO as cultural change-agent on the organization (to properly manage projects)? As in some establishments, mid-level managers resist implementation of proper Project Management processes (waterfall or agile) as deterrent to their established positions!
  • It’s suggested trying the PMO handbook (by PMI) as guideline, or at least as a reference point helps in many occasions.
    - The standards then can be expanded based on organizational needs and culture.
    - Following the standards (and building on top of it) is helpful base point regardless of PMO, Agile (Scrum, Kanban, etc.) or hybrid PM methodologies.
    - Creating a (color-coded) chart (of KPIs and metrics) as percentage of progress sharing with the team would help to streamline efforts. This (heat map) can also help in determining budget or resource allocation/shortage to communicate with upper management. This shows data and allows smart decision making and proper change (management).

Your comments and thoughts can help us all to better support our PMs.

September 22, 2016

PMI-way of maneuvering challenges of complex projects!

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 6:35 pm

We are getting close to 2016 Symposium of PMI in Silicon Valley. A closer look at the speakers and topics (available at PMISV website) portrays real benefits of attending the Symposium. Online search of professional gatherings indicates that PMI chapters hold a high number of symposiums, seminars and conferences with high number of attendees. That’s no surprise as you could see the evidence from the number and quality of speakers at 2016 Symposium of PMISV. 24 keynotes and speakers sharing their experience to overcome challenges and risks in projects; the collective knowledge that cannot be easily grouped together and would require a few graduate-level course to address the issues they resolved.

From risk leadership to addressing possible threats in the design phase, from KISS to dealing with uncertainty while keeping all manners cool, we will hear about selection of challenges with variable ambiguities posing daunting risks and causing projects failure! As the opening keynote, Nick will take an ironic look at risks and its various forms that we’ll face everywhere on our modern-days projects. Other speakers will share their first-hand encounters of challenges in their practices including defies of value-driven organizations, acting fast regarding risk and strategic risk management, dealing with changes and challenges of lean methods, risks of organizational agility, surprises ahead and managing uncertainties. First day’s folding keynote, Richard will share his unique skills of turning risks to values of a mega-project of California Bay Bridge project. Second day starts with Gavin’s KISS method of risk management, following with other speakers sharing their experience regarding QA/QC and critical risk management, schedule and process challenges, dealing with complex risks and the power of communications. Symposium closing keynote will explores the catalytic mechanism when delivering results in projects.

Looking at the quality of shared knowledge I wonder if there is any educational institution providing this wealth of information in such a short time! We have read and heard about risk management and how to identify, analyze, register, and apply appropriate control to “risks”. Yet, knowing first-hand application of risk control in complex projects are not easily found in publications. I personally have the pleasure of idea sharing with a few of the speakers via for instance, assisting Tom Kendrick with a variety of PMI-SV activities and communicating with Joel Bancroft-Connors regarding agile/scrum related topics in the past meetings and professional gatherings.

I am looking forward to seeing many of my colleagues at 2016 Symposium of PMI-Silicon Valley.

A few benefits of attending professional symposiums:

* Online search on benefits of attending professional symposiums/seminars results in:
* To expand skills, learn more about the work, discover industry specific trends and knowledge
* learn from the experiences of your peers, and about valuable resources
* Renew excitement about the work you do while applying new approaches
* Develop ideas that can be implement in your business or career
* Make (new) connections, meet thought-leaders within the industry, share and expand ideas
* Get out of Dodge, show commitment to your profession, find prospects to give back ,and just have fun
* Gain insights and ideas that you can use to establish/increase your credibility and expertise
* Visit interesting new locations where the conference is being held
* Connect with sponsors and other supporters of the conference
* See competitors, learn more about competitive edge, and discover professional strengths/weaknesses
* Meet with and market to potential customers/clients, and study various market needs

September 14, 2014

What is a SCRUM – once again!

Category: CSM, Kanban, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management, SCPO, Scrum — David @ 5:57 pm

This is a question that some project and program managers ask often-times! Not just probing its verbatim meaning, but for its real-life significance and value. Is Agile framework specific for software or it can also be used in other types of projects like hardware and construction?

Let’s first recall Agile Manifesto posted on the “Agilemanifesto” website that I have also included at the end of this entry. Even though we all have heard about Agile framework’s rapid / sustainable development, customer-driven, lightweight, competitive advantage, iterative, yet simplicity approaches towards development, I would like to add a few more points! Scrum however, is a special implementation of Agile as short sprints (of actions) to iteratively define-implement-test work cycles or time-boxed team efforts. One thing most people agree is that sprints have deliverables that might not be the end-product! I know many experienced managers who have used Agile in completely nontechnical environments such as hydroelectric smart meter implementations, change management, medical device hardware sub-systems, and other related projects. They all claim they promptly create their teams, make lists (of requirements, etc.), prioritize the action items, flow their planned efforts collaboratively, produce planned deliverables, and iteratively handle next sprint in their list.

However and beyond regular philosophies and proven practical norms, Agile method of managing is more like a mindset to me than the process itself. Many scholars have dug up how human aspects impressed Agile framework, how behavioral-based project management applies to successful delivery, how to improve organizational success Agile-way, and how VUCA is used in emerging ideas of strategic leadership development, even at times of change . We can easily quote the adoption information curve when referring to the adoption of technology and ideas by a population. But when it comes to Agile change adoption, we mostly address the indirect changes (process) rather than understanding the human nature, resistance to change, improved substitutes, and continuous improvements!

I think besides the technique, Agile addresses the mind-set of how to collaboratively achieve a task (or a project) in a flat level among team members where everyone (from customers, to product owners, managers, developers, and implementers) work towards common goals in an iterative progression. Agile is more like conviction to the concept of the crowd (or scrum team) working towards continuous achievements! In this practice all players shall commit to the crowd strength, in a coordinated and collaborative manner.

As per the nature of its applicability, I have seen managers who successfully applied Agile process to technical and nontechnical projects, as well as pure hardware and even construction based projects. We all have heard about “Water-Scrum-Fall” where experienced leaders merge two distinct frameworks to plan, execute, and produce their needed result in a hybrid way.

AGILE MANIFESTO:

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’ competitive advantage.
3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.