Culture Events Program Management Office

September, October and November 2016

Wow, where did September, October and November go? When I posted the recap of Agile Day Chicago 2016, I realized I hadn’t blogged since August – how can that be? A quick review of my calendar helped me see just how busy I was.

August, September and November were filled with travel – both for work and personal reasons. There was my cousin’s wedding in Canada, then there was traveling to Germany to run the Berlin Marathon (my third of the six world majors!) Then there were a bunch of friends in town, various celebrations and just a generally full social calendar, and a relaxing dive trip to Jamaica in November, along with Thanksgiving fun!

However, I did find time to attend a few notable events in these months, and below is the recap:

Monday, October 10th – Chicago Agile Open Space Meetup – “agile / antifragility – decoding ‘The State of AntiFragility in Chicago'”

We hosted this event at Centro, and it was a great panel discussion (below is the list of Panelists) on the state of AntiFragility in Chicago. (link)

  • Lowell Lindstrom  – Founder of The Oobeya Group, past exec @ Object Mentor, VersionOne, & Scrum Alliance. I help businesses expand and leverage their agile capability.
  • Anthony Mersino  – Champion for team effectiveness and organizational transformation.
  • Kieran Murphy – Team focused engineer, committed TDD’er, clean coder.
  • Joel Tosi  – Product Engineering dude.

Unfortunately, I was battling a really rough cold that evening, so I don’t have as many detailed notes, thoughts and opinions as I usually do from events. It was a great panel discussion, and I highly recommend reaching out to Bill and/or any of the panelists for their insight.

Monday, October 17th – Managing for Happiness – Games, Tools and Practices to Motivate Any Team – Lean and Agile Learning Network Chicago Meetup (link)

Huge kudos to Vijay for securing Jurgen Appelo to provide an overview of his latest book and the tips and techniques for how to incorporate and increase happiness within teams. Jurgen presented a similar presentation to what he presented at Agile2016, and it was awesome to have a small group discussion afterward vs. being in a crowd of thousands.

Later in the week, I shared an overview of the Delegation Board and Poker concept with my leadership peers where I work. If you’re interested, here is a link to the recap presentation, which includes links to Jurgen’s Agile2016 Keynote and another video on his website on how to run Delegation Poker.

October 21th – PMI Chicagoland Chapter – PM Symposium 2016 (link)

This was a day-long symposium with a few hundred local project managers in attendance.

The day opened with a two-hour block on “Planning for the Future of Project Management in a Constantly Changing World” with Dr. Harold Kerzner. Dr. Kerzner shared the story of how project management has evolved over the last several decades as it relates to many key areas (PM 1.0, PM 2.0 and PM 3.0).

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He also touched on how the definition of a Project has evolved, which I was happy to see because I’m a long believer that it doesn’t matter if a project was delivered on time and with high quality, if it 1) took too long to address the market need or 2) was the wrong solution/feature/product.

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He then shared a variety of simple ways to assess a project’s complexity/risk factor both at the beginning of the project and throughout it. The metrics he proposed met the following High-Level Information needs.

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Other points from my notes were:

  • In PM 1.0, the competing constraints were smaller in number, e.g. at Disney, they were Safety, Asthetic and Quality. Now, projects have so many competing constraints that Health Checks are needed to monitor all the metrics that share out the information on those identified constraints.
  • He stressed the importance of PMO leaders benchmarking their project management capabilities against industry leaders – and not just in the same industry/vertical. He identified Erikson and Microsoft as having strong PMO capabilities.
  • He then explained by he believed that “Agile teams don’t want project management methodologies.” It’s because they want to set up their own approach to delivery. By having process inflicted for process sake, there is a breakdown in trust.
  • He suggested a flexible approach where teams can choose from a selection of methodologies and tools. Much like how a person would create their own lunch in a cafeteria – there are plenty of options on the shelves and buffets for them to choose from. This allows trust to be embedded into the teams.
  • He cautioned against Metric Mania – don’t just measure something because it’s there. For each Metric, identify a Metric Owner who will be the steward of that metric.
  • Report on value creation as the project progresses.
  • Suggested that the time to resolve action items be tracked.
  • Pointed out that Executives don’t understand capacity, planning, skills or availability, which is where project management adds value.

The photos from the session can be found here, and once the presentation is updated, I’ll include a link.

Next, I attended the session on “Strategic Thinking: Ensuring Project Value” by Dr. Susan Heidorn.

It was a good session with lots of tactical advice to help expand thinking to other word views. She stressed hat most thinking is at the “surface level,” and we need to ask ourselves, “is there any other data?”

We as humans are great at our ability to see patterns and big pictures, but we “see the world not as it is, but as we are” and we have to “get over ourselves.”

With confirmation bias, we tend to spot things that have meaning to us and remove any data that doesn’t substantiate our views. That’s why having someone play “devil’s advocate” is so important so that we can expand our frames of reference as we observe patterns.

What we call intuition is pattern recognition, and we as project managers scan the environment outside the program and project.

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She then shared an exercise to expand frames of reference for a particular topic – Childhood Obesity – and how different roles can see various views on the cause of the problem and what the solution is.

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She shared questions that can help ensure alignment with the project and the business value.

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Other questions to ask:

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Other tips she provided were:

  • Ask questions
  • Be ready to explore
  • Challenge your assumptions
  • Seek out data that invalidates your beliefs
  • Seek out and listen to other perspectives
  • Be careful of the Six Traps
    • Instant Judgement
    • Following the crowd/groupthink
    • Being the expert
    • Seeking input from like minded people
    • Keeping the status quo
    • Not listening to the Devil’s Advocate

I really like how Dr. Heidron wrapped up with the following advice on how project management can be the connector and strategic aligner of the projects to the overall business strategy by constantly asking the questions 1) how does this align to strategy? and 2) how does this provide value?

The photos from the session can be found here, and the link to the slides will be posted here.

After lunch, the group session was “Coloring Outside the Lines: Creatively Thriving from Change” by Jeff Tobe.

Jeff puts on a great, high-energy presentation where he constantly kept the audience engaged, which in the slot after lunch is always a feat.

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His talk focused on encouraging people to take risks and “color outside the lines,” but “don’t fall off the page.” He said that every seven months, everything changes in the project management world.

He shared the differences between the concepts of Customer Service and Customer Experience. Customer Service is expected/table stakes, but a wonderful Customer Experience is something that is rare.

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He stresses the question that all companies/organizations need to ask, which is “what is my customer’s experience from end to end?”

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And the importance of “turning touchpoints into dialogues.”

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All the photos I took from this session can be found here.

Again, I like the theme of this symposium where it’s all about value creation and customer satisfaction vs. just a bunch of sessions on process.

After this session, I attended Jennifer Bridges session on “The Ripple Effect of Change.” I’m familiar with Jennifer’s work on and have watched a number of her videos.

I had high hopes for this session, but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. The first hour of a two hour block shared a few pieces of information on how small changes can have a big impact (the Butterfly/Ripple Effect), maybe I was still getting over my flu, or it was just that I was freezing in the room, but I wasn’t getting much out of the session, so I exercised the law of two feet.

Still not feeling well and cold, I decided to call it a day at the symposium, and hope that the videos from the two remaining sessions that I missed will be posted online so that I could catch up.

Wrap Up

So that’s where my time has gone the last three months! Looking forward to not traveling too much for the next six months so that I can attend more local events and blogging, not only about them, but also my other musings.

Happy Holidays!

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