Elizabeth Larson (27)
This is the third and final part of a three-part series on the lessons learned from jury duty. In Part 1 I explored the analogy of potential jurors waiting for assignments to stakeholders waiting for their end product. In Part 2 I examined the importance of communicating the complete scope, and in Part 3 I will talk about the importance of communicating the plan. Communicate the plan and provide updates. What could be more obvious—right? Then why is it so hard?
Develop a realistic plan. I think many of us have been trained to develop a plan suitable to the project, but often our project management training is forgotten in the midst of impossible deadlines and unrealistic stakeholder expectations. Many of us are either overly optimistic (“oh this shouldn’t take too long”) or pessimistic (“let’s give them the worst case so we’ll look good”), when what most stakeholders want is for us to communicate what we know when we know it. Often our overly optimistic estimates come from too little detail in our scope and tasks. Our pessimistic estimates often happen when we assume every risk is likely to occur, so we build mitigating tasks into the schedule.
In Part 1 of this jury duty blog I discussed how when called to serve for jury duty, I had no idea that so much of my time would be spent waiting for something to happen. I compared this wait time to the frustration many of our business stakeholders experience waiting for their end product. In Part 2 I will examine the importance of understanding and communicating the whole project scope.
Communicate the scope before tasks.
When we reported for jury duty, we were told to wait in a large room with over a hundred other potential jurors. We were shown a video about the jury process with high-level tasks, but not the scope of our service. It would have been helpful to know the scope of our involvement if we were selected, such as jury panel selection, security screening, jury questioning (voire dire), jury selection, presentation of evidence, deliberation, and dismissal. Such scope information would have given me the big picture and would have helped set my expectations.
So what is scope? We have found in our project management and business analysis training courses that there is a great deal of confusion between tasks and scope. We often think of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) as a list of tasks, not a hierarchy of deliverables, and we assume scope includes all the tasks that will be completed on the project. Scope is not the activities that are performed, but rather the deliverables that are produced. Scope is comprised of things, of outcomes-- nouns not verbs.
Recently I saw the movie “42,” based on the true story of Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 bravely fought custom, bigotry, and violent hostility to become the first African American to play major league baseball. His courage came from his inner strength which allowed him to withstand with dignity the cruel behavior from fans, other team managers and players, and at first some of his own teammates.
As I watched the movie, I was equally taken with the story of Robinson’s “scribe,” Wendell Smith. Also an African American, Smith bravely fought many of the same obstacles as Robinson, but not as visibly, to become a respected sports writer who in 1994 was posthumously inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Wendell Smith introduces himself to Robinson early in the movie as Robinson’s “Boswell,” a reference to James Boswell, the biographer of the 18th-century writer, Samuel Johnson. In his Life of Johnson, Boswell chronicles his conversations with Johnson written on their travels together. Like Boswell, Smith chronicles his travels with Robinson. The movie describes the relationship between these two black men struggling to do what each does so well; Robinson to play baseball and Smith to depict the fight to be able to play the game.
The close of one year tends to make one reflect on what has occurred in the past year and ponder the future. Here we ponder some trends in the Project Management and Business Analysis fields for 2013. This year we want to concentrate on trends for 2013 relating to an emphasis on competencies.
As people become skilled and certified, their base knowledge and abilities are in place. PM, BA, CSM, and BPM practitioners also need to apply their tangible skills to solving problems and helping our organizations achieve their objectives. For example, let’s say Jane knows how to model business processes and how to improve them. But, she may not always get time from stakeholders to understand their process, or establish trust with them to learn the root causes of process problems. She may also run into sharp disagreements about how a new process should be designed or conflicting priorities for what to improve first.
The close of one year tends to make one reflect on what has occurred in the past year related to and ponder the future. Here we ponder some trends in the Project Management and Business Analysis fields for 2012. Here are our top seven predictions for business analysts (BAs) and project managers (PMs) in 2012.Divergence of the PM and BA Role. In 2009 we predicted that as the economy tightened, organizations would decrease their project budgets and combine the role of PM and BA. For 2012 we believe that organizations will see the need for both roles, particularly on strategic projects, and move away from a combined role. There are several factors for this trend:
Recently I talked to a colleague with a communications dilemma. She wondered how she should communicate with her various stakeholder groups. Thinking out loud she pondered, “When I’m with business people, I always try to use business language, including their acronyms, which I’ve gone out of my way to learn. But what about when I’m talking to the technical experts? Should I talk techie to them?” She went on to say, “I write a lot of proposals. I have some stakeholders who let me know right away about typos or if my grammar is not exactly right. I have other stakeholders who have told me that my writing style is too formal and that I shouldn’t use such correct grammar. They feel it’s intimidating and unfriendly.”
I recently saw the “The King’s Speech,” a movie about the relationship between the stammering King George VI of England and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. The movie begins when the future king is still the Duke of York, Albert. At first the relationship is a rocky one. Although he eventually becomes the king’s trusted advisor, Mr. Logue doesn’t begin the relationship as such. He has little to recommend him, since neither his credentials nor his social status grant him instant credibility. The disparity in their births, culture (Logue was Australian), and breeding is daunting. So how is this commoner able to help the monarch and become his life-long friend? He is a master at influencing with absolutely no authority.
OK, you Stieg Larson fans, I'm not Lisbeth Salander, the heroine of the best-selling trilogy. I have neither her wits nor her strength. But I have kicked a few hornet's nests in my career. Some of these nests were full of angry hornets and some full of non-aggressive bumblebees. However, every instance reinforced the importance of doing the right thing for the organization, even if it meant getting stung.
Last month's blog was the first in a series about organizational readiness-ready, that is, to provide resources necessary to succeed in an agile environment. We asked these four questions on our Agile organizational readiness checklist:
- Will your organization provide a dedicated product owner for each scrum team?
- Will your organization provide dedicated team members?
- Does your organization support time-boxing each iteration?
- Does your organizational culture support just-in-time requirements?
Lately I’ve been getting questions from Agile seminar participants about how to apply Scrum to “real life,” as though these methods are “good in theory, but not at my company!” Some organizations may not be ready to adopt agile methods completely, so I encourage students to take an organizational readiness self-assessment to see if Agile in general and Scrum in particular is right for them. The questions on the self-assessment can be used to begin conversations as a way to raise issues that need to be resolved in organizations thinking about adopting Scrum.