#Spelunking your #Backlog

it all seems so simple on first blush. Process the items in your backlog in priority sequence, rinse, and repeat. What could possibly go wrong?

Simply put if you process your backlog only by one measure of client priority, you are probably missing a lot.

The key comes when your backlog isn’t a simple list owned by one person. Like most issues in Agile, the trick always comes when you need to apply the Agile trappings to an enterprise scenario. When I have a backlog for one project with one owner and one solution, one rating system probably is sufficient. But when we move to an enterprise when we have a ticketing system for 50-60 applications, one rating system probably doesn’t suffice. In that enterprise situation, only going by one rating system probably means that entire applications or departments would be ignored and the systems would stagnate. Departments would become frustrated, write their own Excel and Access applications and create FileMaker Pro applications on the non-standard Macs they purchased.

So what to do?

Go spelunking

Mine the Data. Look for trends. Take a look at the data and see about the work required by:

  • Priority
  • Size
  • Age
  • Department
  • Technology
  • Effort
  • Strategy
  • etc…

Essentially understand your problems as much as you understand your solutions. ensure that you are not neglecting an area of the backlog. If you totally ignore an area of the backlog, the clients will create coping behaviors to address.

Although they don’t seem important, those small reporting tickets can results in a Data Warehouse being fully replicated if they never get attention. Clients will just copy data off and do the work themselves. Clients are also very reasonable when provided with the rationale between choosing between two competing priorities, but you need to give them some hope. Without that hope they will bypass IT and just do it themselves. And this will cause more work for IT in the long-term.

Recommendation

I recommend you take 80% of your budget and process the highest priority items. But then take the other 20% and ensure that IT is not ignoring departments or strategies entirely. Ensure that some tickets aren’t being left around for years and years. It is certainly proper to process less of these lower priority items, but it is fair to verify that we process some of them.

A Crisis in #Courage

mercury7

Mercury Seven

Kudos if you know the picture above is of the group of astronauts known as the Mercury Seven. Aptly described in an article in Life, the Mercury Seven were introduced to the American people as:

““Some fine early morning before another summer has come, one man chosen from the calmly intent seven . . . will embark on the greatest adventure man has ever dared to take. Dressed in an all-covering suit to protect him from explosive changes in pressure, strapped into a form-fitting couch to cushion him against the crushing forces of acceleration, surrounded in his tiny chamber by all manner of instruments designed to bring him safely home, he will catapult upward at the head of a rocket for more than 100 miles and then plunge down into the Atlantic Ocean. If he survives, he will be come the heroic symbol of a historic triumph; he will be the first American, perhaps the first man, to be rocketed into the dark stillness of space. If he does not survive, one of his six remaining comrades will go next.”

That is courage and bravery exemplified. Would we ever find the same qualities in 2017?

United States

There have been many comments and critiques of the United States Government recently and they have been discussed thoroughly in the mainstream media. I would like to provide a different perspective to those discussions though. Of all the differences in the United States recently, I miss the courage and bravery. To this Canadian, the United States were always the brave soldier and Astronaut that in spite of undeniable odds would place themselves at risk for the greater good. Of course it was more safe to stay on the ground, but I’m going to sit on top of a rocket of liquid hydrogen because that is who we are as a people. The United States need to explore, advance, and progress. I loved the space program as a boy and I loved the United States.

I’m disappointed in the recent movement in the United States to close the borders because of fear. Take away all the 100% valid arguments about inclusiveness and racial and religious equality and I feel it still leaves one thing not discussed. I feel borders should be open for the same reason John Glenn got on the Mercury rocket – because it will benefit the world and the United States in the long run. Any protectionist ideology is a short-term tactic that damages the long-term health of the country or industry. I believe it is being done out of an irrational fear of a few people and what they might do. It is sacrificing the future gains of an inclusive society for a perceived short-term gain.

Winnipeg

Unfortunately the same fear is also visible in my hometown of Winnipeg. Vincent Li committed a horrific crime when he was mentally ill. After many years of treatment and being evaluated as fully recovered, he was recently released and many were calling for him to not receive a full release and to continue to be monitored or have restrictions. In short, we are fearful of what he may do again. Yes, in the short-term we limit what Vince Li can do and it gives us the perception of being safer. So whom else do we limit freedoms to? And if we limit freedoms, maybe they should just stay in jail? And how would that limit our society in the future? Do we not discover a medical cure because the person was never part of society again? Do the lack of positive role models cause even greater issues with people suffering from mental health so that they are scared to seek help?

As Winston Churchill said “fear is a reaction, courage is a decision”

Summary

It is perfectly valid to experience fear in situations like these. But, we need to remember not to trade our future for our fears

More importantly we also need to remember that we as Canadians need to support others in their hour of need. Whether they be refugees or recovering from a major life event.

Because it is the right thing to do.

The #1 characteristic of a great teammate #WinnipegJets #Pavelec

ondrej-pavelec-by-clint-trahan

I was watching a recent Winnipeg Jets game when I was reminded about the #1 characteristic of a great teammate.

Connor Hellebuyck was anointed as the starting goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets this year. He had a great season in the AHL last year. He had all of the great reviews as he moved through the various levels of hockey. The Winnipeg Jets had grown tired of Andrej Pavelec and his inconsistent play over the last few years. With Pavelec’s contract expiring at the end of this year, the writing was on the wall that a switch was going to be made sooner or later.

Resiliency

But we saw play from Hellebuyck that was very similar to Pavelec. Inconsistent, with a bad goal given up almost every night. Both goalies also had pure gems of games that could get you hoping of what the future could hold. But when Hellebuyck got pulled in three straight games in January, you saw a difference between the two goalies. And then when Pavelec came up to the big club and started three straight games and won you again saw the difference.

Various radio shows called it something different – ‘timely saves’ was the term most commonly used. Whatever the term, Pavelec may give up the bad goal, but then didn’t give up the next goal. He fought through the shots and kept his team in the game. And his team knew that Pavelec would fight to prevent the next goal and keep them in the game. We was a fighter and it was hard to get the ‘next’ goal on him.

Ondrej Pavelec has Resiliency that Connor Hellebuyck doesn’t have yet. The Winnipeg Jets players know that and due to that, they play better in front of Pavelec because it gives them confidence to play their game. They don’t need to worry about making a bad play, because Pavelec will overcome it if it happens. It is a larger worry making a mistake in front of a goalie where it may open the floodgates. Because of that you hold your stick a bit tighter and ironically make more mistakes.

Summary

Resiliency is the #1 characteristic of a great teammate. That trait in a teammate that they are resolute, plucky, committed, able to rebound and recover. We all make mistakes, but those people who take a shot, dust themselves off and stand tall are the special teammates we all want on our team. Give me a resilient craftsman over a fragile artisan every day.

Another example of Pavelec’s Resiliency is how he took his demotion with class and professionalism. Resilient teammates accept decisions made for the good of the team, confident in their abilities and committed to rebounding and proving themselves when the opportunity arises.

I hope Connor Hellebuyck can build these characteristics. But until then, I’d start Pavelec.

The #Agile Apprentice

I’m not sure why but I watched the Celebrity Apprentice last week. I hadn’t watched the Apprentice probably since that first season. I was quickly reminded as to why I stopped watching it. It is a show that shows all the anti-patterns to having healthy teams and projects. Their idea of the roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager is simply offensive.

The Apprentice Project Manager

So as near as I can figure it, the version of a Project Manager in Donald Trump’s world makes all the decisions, is judged solely by the success of the product and is expected to throw the weak links on his/her team under the bus. There is no mention of building teams, mentoring individuals, or collaboration. In fact, Project Managers are expected to also have the authority to make all of the decisions for the project. In short, Project Managers get to be in ‘charge’.

The Agile Project Manager

This goes totally against the concept of an Agile Project Manager. An Agile Project Manager is a servant leader who leads the facilitation and collaboration for the entire team. I have found that when I am a Project Manager on an Agile project I make very few, if any, decisions. The team members and experts make all of the decisions. The Project Manager usually just decides on how to best share progress and status with the Project sponsors.

Why?

So why then does the Apprentice have this vision of a Project Manager?

I thought about this last night and I believe it is related to what the ultimate objectives are in Donald Trump’s world. In Donald Trump’s world, projects exist to amass individual reputation and fortune. Project’s can leave a trail of bodies behind if the project results in fame and fortune. They do value the client, but as long as the client is satisfied the team members can double-cross each other. If fact, that type of behaviour seems to be rewarded.

This is the opposite of the objective of Agile Projects. The objectives of Agile Projects are to grow as a team and provide value to the client. But teams and projects need to be sustainable and repeatable. Agile Projects go to great length to discuss issues exist with systems, not individuals. We succeed and grow as a team.

Ultimately we need to treat each other with respect. The Apprentice seems to have forgotten this and eventually this pattern is not sustainable. The Good catches up…

Why we need Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

We need Donald Trump. We really do.

Full disclosure, I didn’t want Donald Trump to be the President of the United States. I still don’t. But in hindsight, we need him.

If Hillary Clinton got elected, we would have returned to our lives, jobs, suburbs with the silent confidence that everything was good. Society was improving and being more inclusive, race relations were getting better, people were becoming more tolerant, and we finally had the first woman President in the United States. That coming off the United State’s first African-American President had to say something about tolerance and inclusiveness in the United States?

Turns out, maybe the recent Human Rights advances didn’t defeat the enemy of intolerance, but just drove it underground.

Problem is we just had too many young black men losing their lives in almost every large city in the United States. Just like how almost all penitentiaries in Canada have far to many First Nations people. As ironic as it is, Donald Trump will do more to address Black Live Matter than Hillary Clinton ever could. Not because of anything he is going to do, but because we are now more alert and looking for any indications of illegal police actions under Donald Trump. With Hillary Clinton we may have given some benefit of the doubt that will not be given to Donald Trump.

In Canada, Gord Downie undertook a project recently called ‘Secret Path’ to shine a light into the shameful part of Canadian history and what we did to First Nations families and children. As Gord Downie so eloquently put it – “Canada is not the country I thought it was”. Like the citizens of the United States, most Canadians were oblivious to the intolerance and racism that still existed and was driven underground.

Shine a light

Perhaps we need Donald Trump and others like Gord Downie that shine a light on who we still are. Only by shining a light on these uncomfortable areas can we truly address them and get better. Things wont be better in the short-term. We are going to hear things about ourselves and our fellow citizens that we can’t believe. We can’t believe that people still think like this in this day and age. But enough is enough –  it time to bring it out into the light instead of hiding it underground and fooling ourselves.

To Chanie Wenjack, I’m sorry. Sorry you had to suffer and then die alone on that path.

I’m also amazed that the article that reported this tragedy in a national magazine in 1967 was ignored in Canada. We are truly not the country I had thought. Please read the story and share – lonely death of Chanie Wenjack

Summary

Gord Downie is intentionally shining a light to help us be better, Donald Trump is doing it unintentionally. Regardless of the intention, both provide an opportunity to make ourselves better.

#NoEstimates motivations

I thought it would to be interesting to discuss the motivations behind No Estimates rather than the argument as to whether they are required or not. The motivations due go some insight into why they are being provided as an option after all. As I see it there seem to be three primary motivations behind No Estimates:

We don’t want to be wrong

IT professionals are first and foremost caring people who honestly don’t want to let people down and have to inform them that they were mistaken. In this case, it is much easier to not have to give them an estimates which we know is probably wrong. No one ever likes to have the meetings where we need to request weeks of additional effort and thousands of additional budget. The business may think that IT doesn’t care as the dollars are not from the IT budget, but IT really does take these overages seriously and hate to make these requests.

We feel that estimating itself is a waste of time and effort

We also have been on projects where estimating has gone horribly wrong and estimates were way too detailed. Excessive time was spent on estimates in the thought that additional analysis would result in more detailed estimates and a better project plan. IT has learned that estimates should be less detailed, but still those memories seem hard to forget.

We feel bad estimates will led to bad projects and poor quality

Finally, we feel that once given, estimates will be imprinted on the clients and everything else will be sacrificed in order to abide by the estimates. Weekends, personal time, quality, documentation, everything will be sacrificed so we can meet the vastly inaccurate estimate provided at the start of the project when we knew so little.

Let us agree

So let us first agree that all these reasons are valid and noble reasons. We may disagree whether Estimates are valid, but I doubt believe there can be any disagreement that the motivations behind the No Estimate movement are true and valid.

The night #Canada cried

hug

August 20th, 2016. The night where Canadians will remember exactly where they were for the last Tragically Hip concert. To call it a watershed moment like Paul Henderson’s goal would be unfair. Paul Henderson’s goal uplifted the country, Gord Downie singing “Grace, too” broke our collective hearts. Even though the cancer diagnosis happened in the past, it really took this concert to make the situation real.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. The Tragically Hip were ‘the’ Canadian band. Not overly successful outside of the country, humble, polite, meaningful, and important. Full disclosure, I was always more of a Rush fan, but there I was crying over Canada’s loss in a friends back yard, listening to the music of a generation of Canada.

I loved that the hip were from a small town, I loved that the lyrics in the songs were from Canada throughout the years, and I loved the fact that the Tragically Hip were always different.

If anything August 20th, 2016 was Canada’s JFK moment. Suddenly our collective hearts were ripped out and we were left to wonder about where do you go from here. And just like JFK, Canadian’s were gathered around the country watching history being written.

Even worse, there wasn’t a person we could despise. Just a nameless, faceless disease that had taken millions before.

Thank you for the bravery, music and words Gord. Thanks for reminding us about what being Canadian really means.

Farewell my friend

Today is a sad, sad day. After 16 and a half years I have to put down a long time companion. One that has been to California, Alberta, Wisconsin, Montana, and many places in between. I first met her on an April day many years ago and she was a perfect match.

But now I can just see the age creeping up on her. She is slower and doesn’t have the same get up and go. She tries to keep up, but ultimately she just falls behind the other SUVs. I just don’t have the heart to keep on applying duct tape to the rust spots.

Yep. I’ve got to let my Pathfinder go.

This wouldn’t be so hard if she didn’t still drive nice and start every morning. She and I have been through thick and thin. That vehicle has seen me through the last 17 years and 3 girlfriends and 2 kids and 1 wife. For those of you counting at home, those 3 girlfriends were before the wife and 2 kids. 🙂

So how cruel am I?

I’m now driving the Pathfinder to Mazda, Ford, and Hyundai dealerships to test drive other cars. Jesus, how callous and insensitive can I be? I’m such a bastard.

I only hope one day she can forgive me. If it is any consolation I am sure to trade in the next SUV just like I’ve done to the Pathfinder. And I’ll do it sooner, with no regrets.

Goodbye my dear, we will always have California.

Confessions of an #Agilist – Agile is dead #Pasunashi

Businessman at fork of stone pathway in water

So I’ve recently taken a job as the Manager of a Project Management Office, and I have a confession to make:

Agile is dead. I’ve seen the body.

All about perspective

When you are on the receiving end of funding, Agile makes perfect sense as it is optimizing the individual project. I give 10 projects $200K and they will deliver the best value they can individually. no problem.

But when I am on the sending end of funding, did I select the right projects? How do I decide which ones to select? If two fail, then what does that do to the company’s bottom line? Could I have used those people on more important projects? How do I justify how I selected the projects?

The Good News

The good news is certain things from how Agile lived his life has been incorporated. Iterative planning and execution is alive and well, as is User Story Mapping, and automated testing, and specification by example. A lot of the Agile practices have had a profound impact on the Software Development methods used. In some places, even Pair Programming is alive and well.

The Bad News

Sadly, the entire patient could not be saved. Now this is for a corporate environment and one that has more freedom than most corporate environments.

No Estimates is dead, Pure flow is dead, no design is dead.

Why? Predictability is king. There needs to be some business case for every project. it doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but some analysis and design needs to be done. Some recommendation needs to exist for what the solution will look like and what the potential costs and benefits would be.

Profound

See the point isn’t about doing the project right, it is about doing the right projects. Any practice that doesn’t help us to pick the right project isn’t Agile, it is PasunashiPasunashi is Japanese for ‘Without Path’.

Selecting projects without a path and executing them without a path is not something I feel comfortable recommending.

But really Agile is not dead because once we pick the right projects, we can do them in an Agile manner and according to “Pasu ika” – Following the Path…

 

 

 

Why #Goalies make the best Project Managers and Leaders #PMOT

Penney_History

I was driving with my brother back from a family event and we started talking about the upcoming Jets and Flames hockey seasons. After some speculating on free agent signings, we started to talk about the qualities of good Project Manager and Leaders. That balance good leaders have between being persistent and committed and being able to admit a mistake and change course. There is a whole continuum of leaders that give in too quickly and some that never give in at all. What makes once person able to move on quicker than another?

We agreed that while we aren’t sure where those points are for every situation,  but we did agree on one thing. If you have been a goalie, you will find that point easier than other people. Here are the five reasons your next leader or Project Manager should be a goalie.

Goalies know they can’t win by themselves – focus on the project

No matter how good a goalie is, they can’t win games by themselves. This helps immensely to keep egos in check. They know they need forwards to score goals and defenceman to help keep goals out of their own net. More than any other position, you are brutally aware on how the entire team is needed.

In addition, your role as a Goalie is to give the rest of the team confidence as well. The rest of the team should not have to worry about bad goals in our own goal. Our team should have the freedom to challenge and rush when the opportunity arises.

Goalies know that the focus needs to be on the wins and not the goals. It is about the project and not the tasks.

Goalies know you can’t win them all – look forward

Goalies are perfectionists in their craft and in all things except having a good memory. Goalies are also extremely forgiving with their teammates and their mistakes. This provides an interesting dichotomy. I am a perfectionist until that pucks is in the net, then I need to be able to wipe the slate clean and move on. Usually there is a quick re-evaluation process and then you need to move on. This requires a short memory and a good amount of confidence.

Even more, Goalies understand that the games is made up of 20-30 mini-games and they need to be ready for the next one. You can’t get too high or too low.

Bad decisions and mistakes are part of the game. Everyone makes them so it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time on persecuting the guilty. Fish the puck out and move on….

Goalies know about perfect shots or deflections – don’t over plan, over analyze

You can have the perfect angle and sometimes a shot is going to beat you or is going to be deflected. That is just life and it is no ones fault. Good Goalies spend minimal time looking backward and almost all their time looking forward.

This also help Goalies to not over plan. People can over plan or over analyze because their believe it will increase the chances of success. Goalies realize that even if you spend two weeks working on something, a deflection is still likely. Rather than spending all that time planning, spend time on how you will recover because you know a deflection is going to happen.

Goalies realize communication is the key – communicate

For those of you that haven’t been on ice level, Goalies are probably the chattiest players on the ice. Always chirping our information to the defencemen – ‘time’ , ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘point’, ‘DUCK’

Goalies realize the key is rebound control – deal with issues immediately

Goalies and Project Managers and Leaders realize that issues happen. What they all realize is that it doesn’t matter how or why the issue arose, just how can we get it resolved. Having an issue is not a bad thing, booting the issue around in front of the net for 3 or 4 shots is a bad thing and will lead to a goal.

Find the issue, locate the issue, cover the damn thin up a get a whistle.

Goalies guide projects to where they want them to go – minimize risk

When I played a lot, I had a great glove hand. My brother had great lower body reflexes. So what did we do? We showed more or less to influence the shots to go to our strengths.

Similarly, a great Project Manager or leader will guide the project to where he knows the project is prepared. He or she will know the high-risk areas and compensate for those areas. I always used to hug the stick side post.

Summary

But Terry, you say, ‘I’m not a goalie, does that mean I can’t be a Project Manager?’

Not at all. But if you are a good Project Manager, it means you probably would be a good goalie. 🙂