Author Archive

IT Infrastructure Implementation Agile Project Kanban Process and Toolkit

March 3, 2015 Leave a comment

This is not a typical Waterfall process but a hybrid that combines Agile, Kanban and continuous improvement techniques to deliver IT infrastructure projects. Create your first Kanban and use it to pull work through steps from build, configure to ready for users and production.  Read more about it here.

IT Infra Implem Agile Kanban Process Toolkit image jpeg



Risk Management Kanban & FMEA Toolkit

March 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Kanban is a very effective visual tool that does more than just help teams manage work. It actually stimulates continuous thinking and team participation in the risk management process: a risk management Kanban is an interactive tool for the project team whereas a traditional risk management plan document is a distinct tool for the project manager. Project teams interact with the Kanban board, reducing or eliminating risks over the course of the project life cycle so risks do not become issues.

Risk Management Kanban & FMEA Toolkit image jpeg

FMEA is one of the best tools for risk management because it helps teams focus on business process vulnerabilities and failures, the leading causes of project failure. Most failures result from process inputs or activities that are not in control or those that are new and not previously tested. FMEA can help you identify and address these critical processes and lower the probability of risk occurrence.

This is a different approach to risk management using a combination of Kanban and Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (FMEA) techniques. Create a Kanban based on FMEA to define, evaluate and manage process risks and mitigation tasks before risks become issues.  Get this toolkit here.

How Large Companies Go Agile: A Prologue

February 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Big consulting companies are waiting to take advantage of you. The Agile transition process is simple, but the work involved in doing so is not. My goal is to provide information to ease your transition so take the time to read and consider it before you make the $ plunge.

The scenario in this blog post actually happened at a large company and my conclusions about what went wrong come from my observations of the event, past experiences re-valuing PMOs and current research on best practices that cover an array of related topics. I’m going to explain how a large company can learn from these mistakes, starting with some important fundamentals to set you on the right path.


Get the Right People Together

The Transition Team protects and guides individual business units through the transition process. It should include a good mix of people who have tribal knowledge of the company and creative thinkers who may not. Start with skilled people who know the business culture and the current business processes used throughout the company. Also consider thought leaders and change agents who think and work outside the box. People excluded from company politics but with the skills to leverage the knowledge of the tribe. This series of 4 articles about charting a path to change explains how to avoid pitfalls if you fail to acknowledge the human side of business change.

Forming a transition team is challenging to do if politics and bias exist in your company culture. Chaos lurks when everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and everyone on the wagon wants things that benefit them. Have the courage to exclude people who want to boost experience on their resume. They typically devalue transition teams because they often express the oppressive and burdensome behaviors listed here.


Get the Right Knowledge

Sending everyone to Scrum school can be a waste of time and money early on. Scrum is one of many Agile methods and large companies will most likely end up with a hybrid of Agile techniques that form one enterprise framework. Company management and employees on the Agile transition team need a basic understanding of each Agile method so I recommend “Agile & Iterative Development, A Manager’s Guide”, by Craig Larman as a good starting point. More training and experience comes as your company moves through the transition process.

Know the Business Processes…then put them aside for a little while

Agile transition is not about creating an Agile process and fitting cross-functional teams and work into it. It is about building an Agile environment around how work gets done. Most functional teams accept, process and deliver work in either a linear or non-linear fashion so the type of Agile method they select starts with an understanding of the suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs and customers they work with. A simple SIPOC is all you need to get started. Capture your business processes but don’t try to improve them yet. That comes later.

SIPOC image

More to come in the next post.

How Not to Go Agile

February 8, 2015 Leave a comment

Just about every company wants to go Agile, but for large companies what it takes to go Agile may stop Agile in its tracks.

To some people being Agile means they can deliver products and services more rapidly. Smaller product increments delivered using lean processes with low overhead are attractive and make customers happy. To others Agile means accelerated revenue, money saved or a better competitive edge. Some smaller organizations are lucky to experience all of these benefits rather quickly, but recent studies show large companies continue to struggle with Agile implementation and some say being Agile falls short of expectations. Here’s one example.Chaos2

A large company’s IT department uses a Waterfall process to deliver cross-functional projects quite successfully for many years. When they decided to go Agile, someone in the IT organization took the Waterfall process and added Agile activities to it. This became their new Agile project management process with more than 180 activities and deliverables. Then a PM came on board and tried to use it to deliver a project with a team of people from IT and engineering. The project was placed on hold not too long after it started, and $2m was spent on the project with nothing to show for it.

What happened?

  1. Someone in the company created a process, called it Agile and tried to fit a cross-functional organization into it. The new process confused people and most became irritated and disengaged.
  2. No Product Owner role, no Project Sponsor role, no product backlog or project charter. The design and development teams didn’t know what to build so they made assumptions that didn’t work.
  3. The new process was actually a disconnected Waterfall/Agile hybrid process. Scope changes made by the Sprint Team caused delays and rework for those on the Waterfall side of the process. No clear hand-offs meant long delays.
  4. Agile transition is an iterative progression and little thought went into this. The process was not tested and no one understood how to integrate it with other business processes.
  5. Making a significant change like this one also means managing how the change impacts the business culture and the way people work together. Little thought went into preparing the people.

By following a well thought out iterative progression path and by taking into account the impacts to the organization as a whole, large companies can make the transition to Agile.



Portfolios and the Strategy to Action Life Cycle

May 18, 2013 2 comments

As a project manager, you lead the organization towards innovative thinking about how to realistically meet strategic objectives.  Through managing people and projects, you have a vast array of knowledge of the organization, business practices, organizational culture, power players and influential people.  Most importantly, you know where the bottlenecks are in the many business processes at work.  You know the people who enable and those who do not.  You are among the most valuable assets at your company because you know how to get things done.

Having all of this knowledge and experience, how can you become a major contributor to corporate strategy development and project alignment?  Take all of that knowledge and use it to think and act like a strategic enabler and solution partner.

Portfolio Framework

Portfolio management requires both business managers and solution partners working together to align, plan and manage a “strategy to action life cycle” for new and legacy corporate initiatives.  This collaboration encourages critical thinking to discover how to use your social and political capital to strengthen corporate strategies.

  • Portfolios help organize and prioritize project investments.  If you are familiar with Agile practices, a Product Backlog can be compared to a portfolio.  As Product Owners and customers examine the business value of product features and prioritize each feature in the Product Backlog based on value and risk, business managers and solution partners examine the business value of proposed projects and prioritize each project in the portfolio based on value and risk.  This guides companies to make decisions about project and resource investments.
  • Portfolios help inspire innovation to reduce cost.  Examining the business value of legacy technologies and business processes helps identify areas of improvement or replacement as some elements may no longer support business strategy or may be too costly to sustain.  The goal here is to reduce the number of elements that have low business impact.  Technology retirement or replacement may lead to new, smarter technologies that enable corporations to achieve business goals smarter and faster.

An influential PMO can and should impact business decisions about projects.  When opportunity to reduce cost or improve business value is present, members of the PMO should be at the forefront when business leaders ask what the best alternatives are.  The “strategy to action life cycle” is a continuous process with direct participation and influential input from project managers strategically poised to add the most value.  You don’t need to hire a portfolio manager to manage a portfolio.  Project Managers can lead strategy to action management activities using portfolios and this critical contribution can increase the value of your PMO.


Project Managers are Solution Partners

April 21, 2013 Leave a comment

A project manager agrees to manage a technical project that was two years old and had two previous project managers.  Given repeated failures and lack of progress, the assigned engineering team had little faith that the new project manager would make a difference.  But the project had the attention of the executive steering committee and canceling it was not an option.  So the project manager went on a mission to turn things around, and discovered that disruptions and other work requests interrupted engineers to the point that they were unable to complete project work.  The engineering team did not have a proper intake and tracking process for engineering work, so the project manager created an automated solution to track new work requests.  Once in place, productivity increased more than 60% for the entire engineering organization and the project manager was promoted to portfolio manager.


Some business executives and managers see project managers as service suppliers, delivering projects as a service, and they see value in that when they have a solution to deliver and it is delivered to their satisfaction.  But think about the social and political capital you pick up during your journey to deliver projects, and how you can use that to inspire others to think outside the project and consider the many other benefits you can bring to management as their partner.

ESI’s Project Management 2013 trend number 3 claims, “Project management is not just for project managers anymore”, so expect to see more non-project managers becoming “project manager by accident” this year, a trend that can either make or break us.  Inexperience will show as more projects fail this year, adding to another ongoing problem that shows up in the 2013 survey as business leaders continue to question the value of project management and whether or not to invest in experienced project management resources.   Experienced project managers know how to think outside their project and add value in other ways, so don’t’ limit yourself to project delivery as a service; contribute to the big picture through solution delivery as a service.  Be a solution partner and you will help move the project management profession to the next level.

Project Managers are Strategic Enablers

April 13, 2013 Leave a comment

The project manager says to the PMO manager, “2013 is going to be a busy year for us, with all of the new projects starting in just a few short weeks.  I hope we have enough project managers to handle the workload.”  The boss agrees, “Yeah, I just received this year’s list of projects and I think we are in for a busy year too.  We may have to hire a PM or two.  Can you start collecting resumes so we can start the hiring process?”  The project manager goes off to start the screening process and in a few weeks, two new project managers join the team.  Then the finance team decides to cut the budget and some of the new projects.  The PMO manager says, “We seem to have more project managers then we do projects, so let’s have the two new PMs evaluate some project management software for next year’s budget.  I’m sure a new project or two will pop up sooner or later.”


What’s wrong with this PMO?  The PMO is not engaged in the strategic planning process so the PMO manager uses duct tape as a remedy.  The PMO manager makes a resource plan and hires new staff based on a list of projects, then once the company cuts the budget, the new project managers have no projects to manage so the PMO manager assigns them to work on something that is not part of the strategic plan, hoping a new project or two pops up in the near future.

Business leaders will invest money in technology and human resources that help companies reach strategic goals and they see value in project management professionals who invest in themselves to become savvy business management leaders.  Today’s project manager adds value when business leaders see them as “strategic enablers”, planning and managing projects that add value to the company’s bottom line.  Just as IT organizations enable their companies to achieve their goals through technology and service management, PMOs enable companies to achieve their goals through strategic solution delivery.  Companies make it possible for PMOs to deliver strategic solutions by engaging them in the strategic planning process.