How Do You Serve Your Organization?

A recent coaching client was concerned about the progress his team was making—or really, the lack of progress his team was making. We spoke about the obstacles he had noticed. “The team doesn’t have time to write automated tests. As soon as they finish developing or testing a feature, people get yanked to another project.” “Are people, developers and testers, working together on features?” I wanted to know. “No, first a developer works on a feature for a few days, then a tester takes it. We don’t have enough testers to pair them with developers. What would a tester do for three or four days, while a developer worked on a story?” “So, to your managers, it looks as if the testers are hanging around, waiting on developers, right?” I wanted to make sure I understood at least one of his problems. “Yes, that’s exactly the problem! But the testers aren’t hanging around. They’re still working on test automation for stories we said were done. We have more technical debt than ever.” He actually moaned. “Would you like some ideas? It sounds as if you are out of ideas here.” I checked with him. “Yes, I would!” He sounded grateful. These were the ideas I suggested: Don’t mark stories as done, unless they really are done, including all the automated tests. You might need a kanban board instead of a Scrum board, to show your workflow to yourselves, inside the team. Work as developer-tester pairs, or even better, developer-developer-tester triads. Or, add even more developers, so you have enough developers to complete a story in a day or so. When the developers...

Who Removes Your Obstacles?

In self-organizing teams, teams remove their own obstacles. It’s a good idea. It can be difficult in practice. In Scrum, the Scrum Master is supposed to facilitate removing the team’s obstacles that the team can’t remove. It’s a good idea. It can be difficult in practice. And, what if you aren’t doing Scrum, or you’re transitioning to agile and you don’t yet have a self-organizing team? Maybe you have an agile project manager. Maybe you have a team facilitator. Not every team needs a titled manager-type, you know. (Even I don’t think that, and I come from project management.) Maybe the team bumps up against an obstacle they can’t remove, even if they try. Why? Because the obstacles the team can’t remove tend to fall in these categories: Cross-functional problems across several teams or across the organization Problems up the hierarchy in the organization Problems that occur both places, as in over there in another department and higher up in the hierarchy Oh boy. Someone who either used to be technical or used to be a first-line manager is supposed to talk to a VP of Support or Sales or the CIO or the CTO or “the Founder of the Company” and ask for help removing an impediment. Unless the entire organization is already agile, can you see that this is a problem or a potential problem? Chances are good that during an organization’s transition to agile, the team’s facilitator (regardless of the title) will need help from a more senior manager to remove obstacles. Not for the team. For the rest of the organization. Now, I would love...

Podcast with Cesar Abeid Posted

Cesar Abeid interviewed me, Project Management for You with Johanna Rothman. We talked about my tools for project management, whether you are managing a project for yourself or managing projects for others. We talked about how to use timeboxes in the large and small, project charters, influence, servant leadership, a whole ton of topics. I hope you listen. Also, check out Cesar’s kickstarter campaign, Project Management for...

Workshop: Influence and Authority: Using Your Personal Power to Get Things Done

Workshop Objective: We use influence all the time at work. If you have tried and not been as successful as you like, it’s time to take the next step and learn to discover your personal power and use your influence to accomplish all that you can. Workshop Overview: There is a limit to what we can accomplish alone in the organization. To accomplish what we want, we must work with other people. That often means using influence. How do we do that without feeling smarmy? Using the ideas of congruence, building rapport, building long-term and short-term solutions are all ideas that work. In addition, understanding your personal power and how that fits into the organization’s culture can help you a lot. We will explore all of these aspects of influence through interactions in this workshop. Target Audience: Managers, project managers, Scrum Masters, iteration managers, business stakeholders and anyone working collaboratively across the organization. Prerequisites: Work experience. Workshop Outline Introduction Elicit your specific problems now Prerequisites for influence Competence Trustworthiness Rapport Activity and debrief Influence with Integrity Explain the model Activity: Speed influence and debrief Where does your personal power arise? Axes of your personal power Discussion Activity and debrief Your organization’s approach to power and influence Discussion and chart your organization’s approach to power and influence Debrief What that means for your approach to influence Debrief Activity: Speed influence and debrief Summary and wrap-up Retrospective and debrief...

Become an Influential Agile Leader, Toronto and Edinburgh

Are you transitioning to agile? Is it going well? If it your transition is going well, excellent. I’m happy for you. But if you are like many of the leaders across the organization I’ve met, you have plenty of problems. Sometimes you have a problem as this colleague said, Right now we’re really struggling with Portfolio Management that is relevant to our business.  We can’t prioritize because we can’t define projects in a way that resonates with the business. Resonating with the business is an issue of influence. How influential are you? Would you like to succeed in managing the project portfolio? Or, in getting the testers/QA involved at the beginning in a real cross-functional team? Or, helping people realize that fast failing is good? Are you ready to prepare to become more influential? Join Gil Broza and me at The Influential Agile Leader in Toronto, April 8-9, 2014. If you’re in Europe, we’ll be in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 22-23, 2014. We’ll experience and practice authentic approaches to influence and coaching.  (Of course this is experiential. What did you expect?) Where is your sphere of influence? How do you expand it? How do you influence within it? You’ll have a chance to practice with your  peers in real situations. We’ll help you learn how to coach up, sideways, and down. Up is especially critical. For example, you might have to explain options in different ways when you coach up. Again, you’ll practice, using real-life situations. There’s much more that we can offer. You, the participants select the rest of the program. We will deliver, experientially, what you want at...