Tag: Agile

PMTimes_Jan25_2023

Wabi-Sabi: Embrace Imperfection to Continuously Improve

“There’s a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

– Leonard Cohen

 

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese wisdom principle that has great relevance to project management and, in fact, any management, including self-management.

The principle is to embrace imperfection, surrendering to the reality that nothing is permanent, and nothing is complete. In the complex world of projects, imperfection is inevitable.

In my forthcoming book on achieving optimal performance, I include Wabi-sabi as one of the elements that treat the cause of unnecessary stress. I tell the story of the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma who had a string break in the middle of a performance. Rather than being set off balance by the disturbance, he paused, changed the string and continued his performance. He was practicing wabi-sabi, cool and accepting. Equanimous. Imagine how it might have been had Yo-Yo Ma not been so equanimous, calmly accepting the situation. Likely, his performance would have suffered.

 

In organizations, a Wabi-sabi attitude is instrumental in promoting continuous improvement and avoiding the blaming that creates conflict, motivates people to hide errors and defects, and gets in the way of learning.

Acceptance that there will be imperfections eliminates the denial, anger, and fear that arises when the imperfections appear.

 

Active Acceptance

There is often a misunderstanding about the attitude of accepting and embracing imperfection. “What! Accept imperfection?” some might think. “Isn’t perfection what we are after. We want to be free of defects, errors, and omissions, not accept and embrace them.”

 

To clarify the misunderstanding, we have to explore what it means to accept and to embrace.

To accept in our context is to realize that things are as they are. It does not mean to accept that they will continue. Acceptance is active when we realize that everything is continuously moving, in process. Nothing is complete. Accepting the present reality, things as they are, is an ideal foundation for planning and moving forward to a desired outcome.

 

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When an error is detected, will it go away if you deny it or try to cover it up? No. It is there. Accept it. The alternative is not pretty. Deny or hide the error and it is likely to come to light again, probably when it is even less convenient. When it does, there is a sense of distrust. The error has been compounded because imperfection was not accepted.

Acceptance allows embracing. To embrace means to accept something willingly and enthusiastically. You don’t have to hug and kiss the imperfections. The method is to be grateful that the error has been identified so you can enthusiastically see what you can do with and about the particular imperfection you have encountered.

This attitude motivates project team members to bring existing imperfections to the surface (not to create new ones). Embracing imperfection leads to actively improving performance and product quality by assessing each imperfection to determine its impact, its cause, and what to about it – in the short term, to manage the impact and longer term, to learn and improve.

 

Yes, we want to be free of errors and omissions. Learning from the ones we or others have experienced, is the basis for being free of them in the future. We can’t change the past or the present moment but using the knowledge of them we can influence the future.

 

What Gets in the Way

So, if it is such a good thing, why isn’t it universally applied? What gets in the way of taking a wabi-sabi attitude? Perfectionism, emotional reactivity, and an ambiguous definition of perfection are the primary obstacles to embracing imperfection.

 

Perfectionism is the drive to make things perfect. It can be healthy or unhealthy. If it is managed, it is a highly valued trait, a success factor. But unacknowledged and uncontrolled, it comes to the surface as unhealthy self-criticism and criticism of others, frustration, anger, and overcontrol. Perfectionism is often institutionalized, making it a cultural trait as well as an individual one.

The unhealthy perfectionist is caught up in the obsession to achieve unrealistic goals. The healthy perfectionist is aware of their tendency and can moderate the emotional drive to be perfect or have everything be perfect by rationally assessing how realistic their expectation is.

When perfection includes imperfection (“There’s a crack in everything“) and the imperfection is embraced, perfectionism is channeled into continuous improvement. For example when there is an effective process for managing quality, errors, and issues, and there is more than lip service to wabi-sabi it is a sign of healthy perfectionism.

 

Emotional reactivity is the second major obstacle to adopting a wabi-sabi attitude. It is related to perfectionism and to unrealistic expectations. In a perfectionist setting the emotions that arise when things are not perfect include anger, frustration, aggression, fear, anxiety, pride, jealousy.

These, like all emotions are to be accepted as part of the perfection. But to let them take over and drive behavior is to be avoided.

 

Ambiguous definition of perfection is the third obstacle. On the simplest level this means to recognize that while perfection is a target, performance needs to be assessed based on realistic criteria. For example, the recognition that a given level of defect is acceptable. A performer who continuously, even after retraining, makes errors nay need to be replaced. One who makes errors occasionally, particularly when trying new things, can be a star.

On another level, recognize that an unexpected outcome is not necessarily a terrible thing. Many discoveries and breakthroughs have been the result of accidents and errors. For example, sticky notes came out of a failed attempt to develop a permanent adhesive. The ugly duckling is not so ugly when the criteria of perfection are changed.

 

Perfecting the Process

The motivation to avoid letting these obstacles drive behavior is the desire for a perfect process with a wabi-sabi attitude.

Overcoming the obstacles to accepting and embracing imperfection requires awareness and effort. If there as an imperfect process that wastes the opportunity to improve by hiding from imperfection, do the work of changing attitudes with revised training, policies, and procedures.

This implies that process awareness and improvement is valued as much as current performance. But that’s a subject for another time.

 

PMTimes_Jan11_2023

Top Business Trends to Watch for in 2023

This past year has been a bit of a respite from the chaos of the last couple of years as many people have settled into working from home, in the office, or some combination. We seem to have arrived at a new normal, at least as it relates to where we’re physically working.

Fortunately, much of what we’re working on and observing from our business training is as dynamic as ever. As members of the Educate 360 family have been doing for the last 30 years, we try to keep our finger on the pulse of what we see happening that suggests trends in various areas of our business world. This year, we are organizing our trends a little differently to better reflect the interplay between the areas we are watching, such as traditional disciplines like project management and business analysis. Further, as our Educate 360 family of specialized training brands continues to grow, we can include more topics to accommodate our broadening range of knowledge and expertise that more comprehensively reflect what’s happening in the business world.

 

With that in mind, our 2023 Trends Watchlist includes trends in:

Project Work and Product Delivery

  • PM Skills and PM Processes
  • Use Cases are Back!
  • Business Relationship Management is a Hot Certification for Everyone
  • Wither “Transformation”?
  • From “Projects” to “Products” Continues
  • Refocusing on Value
  • PMO – “Pretty Much Over”?

 

Data Science

  • Text-to-Anything Models

 

Cloud and Information Security

  • Serverless Architecture
  • The Security Risks of Digital Nomads
  • Shifting the Surface Area of Attacks in a Remote World

 

Power Skills and Leadership

  • Staying Disciplined to Priorities – Adding Less to Do More.
  • The 45-minute Meeting
  • Attracting & Retaining Talent…Continued

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts about our observations and prognostications. Join our webinar on January 5, 2023 to hear our contributors talk about these trends, get your thoughts, and answer questions. (Date has passed.)

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Project Work and Product Delivery

 

PM Skills and PM Processes

In the world of project management, we are noticing more awareness of separating project management skills and project management processes. Organizational leaders know when projects are not producing the results expected; the challenge is understanding whether that is a consequence of the knowledge and competencies of the people working on projects, how projects are managed in the organization, or both. Of course, good processes can contribute to better skills and good skills can help develop good processes, but they are two different things. In our discussions with clients, they are paying more attention to whether they need to work on developing the skills of their practitioners or improve their project management processes. As with any good problem-solving, understanding the cause of the problem makes for a more strategic and ultimately successful investment of resources to fix it.

 

Use Cases are Back!

Use cases became widely adopted in the 1990s as a core model in Rational Unified Process (RUP). They are technology independent so there are no constraints as to how they can be used. Use cases were to be written from a business perspective, in business terminology for the end users to tell a story about their expectations of the system, that is, “If I do this, this is how I expect the solution to respond.” Unfortunately, over time, use cases were co-opted by technical designers who added technical design elements to them, so they ceased to be understood by the business. Eventually, they fell out of favor except by technologists.

However, there has been a resurgence of use cases being used in agile environments and using them as they were meant to be. For example, use case diagrams are again being used to diagram conversations about which “actors” (people or other systems) will interact with the system. They are also being used to provide contextual detail to make sure everyone is on the same page about what the system will or will not do and provide a conversation holder about how the user will interact with the solution. They ensure all questions about possible alternative or exception paths are answered at the outset before these questions bog down work or slow down an agile team’s progress. They also feed nicely into test cases. All of these benefits are again being recognized – in a new type of environment.

 

Business Relationship Management is a hot certification for everyone.

Organizations are built on relationships. Thus, every organization needs a business relationship management (BRM) capability. Many certified project managers and business analysts are recognizing the value of expanding their capability in this power skill and even pursuing certification. It does not take away from other roles or drive the individual in a different direction, but rather empowers them to thrive with a mission to evolve culture, build partnerships, drive value, and satisfy purpose. As a project manager, BRM capabilities can optimize the value of ideation, and value management. They help link projects to organizational strategy and purpose across functions. As a business analyst, BRM capabilities focus on building partnerships and recognizing, measuring, and communicating value through effective relationship management. As an organizational change manager, BRM capabilities help build strong partnerships with people to help them move from the current state to the future state. Even executives can use this certification to support and communicate organizational factors and value to support strategy and satisfy organizational purpose.

 

Wither “Transformation”?

While the word, “transformation” continues to be popular both within the Agile community and within organizations pursuing a more adaptive way of working, an emerging trend within both is a growing realization that the word actually underplays the fundamental change needed to realize the desired result. Becoming agile (note the lowercase reference to adaptability versus the uppercase reference to the Agile movement) is starting to be viewed, not as an event that can be defined, planned, executed, and closed; but instead as an evolution, a fundamental shift toward becoming an organization that values learning, along with continuous small improvements, above all else in delivery of customer value. This development will come as no surprise to the founders of the movement, but it represents a significant shift for those organizations who are just beginning to understand what being “agile” truly means.

 

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From “Projects” to “Products” Continues

While this trend began a few years back, the shift from “project-based” thinking to “product-based” thinking will continue and accelerate in the new year. The implications associated with this trend are profound. Organizations will continue to define their “products” (this is often not as easy as it sounds) and be challenged to alter how these products are staffed, funded, developed, deployed and evaluated. One specific aspect of this shift will be the continued emphasis on outcomes – the impact that a product delivery effort has on its intended users and/ or customers. This emphasis will specifically challenge organizations to truly understand who these users and customers are and identify ways to measure the value that they provide from their perspective instead of focusing on legacy measures of success such as “on-time, on-budget”.

 

Refocusing on Value

With economic tightening underway worldwide there will be increased pressure to define and deliver true value in 2023. “Value” is a word that remains misused and abused in many organizations. Who among us hasn’t been told, “that’s not value-add!” with no definition of the word accompanying that exclamation? With funding plentiful due to governmental subsidies during the pandemic and organizations dealing with the multitude of changes forced on them by COVID, it was easy to relax the definition of what was truly valuable. As the economic cycle trends downward and funding becomes more scarce, organizational discipline around defining and delivering “value” will only increase.

 

PMO – “Pretty Much Over”?

This title is a re-run of a joke that has circulated for a number of years in the Project Management and Information Technology communities. While 2023 will not see Project Management Offices (PMOs) go away, it will see a shift in both their purpose and structure.  Organizations will continue to realize that a centrally controlled office responsible for policing how individual projects are executed is not adaptive enough to accommodate the change that is ever present in today’s workplace. Instead, PMOs will shift to being smaller organizational units dedicated to laying out and fulfilling the minimum structure necessary for reporting results while, at the same time, becoming a resource that individual efforts can call upon for training and instruction in methods that speed the delivery of value (e.g., removing organizational impediments).

 

Data Science

 

Text-to-Anything Models

Recent advances in Machine Learning and GPU Cloud Computing have allowed for the creation of models that can take in text input and generate output in a completely different modality. Consumers may already be familiar with services like DALLE-2, which allows for the generation of images from a text description (text-to-image), but that is only one use case for text input generation. Recent publications have shown work in text-to-video, text-to-3dmodel, and text-to-audio. Text-to-video models allow for the generation of videos (several minutes in length) from just a text description, for example “Video of biking during a sunset” and then viewing an .mp4 output displaying the video. Text-to-3DModel has allowed for the quick creation of 3D digital assets from a simple text description and text-to-audio can generate background MP3 audio files from a simple text description, such as “audio of car alarm in background noise”. We expect to see more use of these technologies in an increasingly wider variety of applications into and beyond 2023.

 

Cloud and Information Security

 

Serverless Architecture

Most organizations that have migrated to the cloud did so by simply building out their applications in the cloud the same way they always did on-premises starting with creating virtual machines. As the cloud deployments have matured, we are seeing a shift to the serverless architecture. Instead of worrying about the size and quantity of virtual machines needed to run a given application stack, serverless allows companies to concentrate on the application itself. No longer needing to worry about the underlying instances their applications are running on (operating system and runtime updates and security patches as well as scale) developers can now focus solely on the application and its code. Services such as AWS Fargate, Azure Functions and Google Cloud Run are all examples of this serverless architecture. The move to serverless is being driven in part by cost savings. But serverless is also increasing agility and time to market of solutions.

 

The Security Risks of Digital Nomads 

The pandemic caught many companies off guard when employees needed to start working from home. It was a challenge for those organizations that must comply with regulatory requirements to make sure their staff was able to access personally identifiable information (PII), protected healthcare information (PHI), and financial information in a secure manner. Many have succeeded in creating a secure environment for those that gain access to sensitive information from home by implementing Administrative, Physical, and Technical controls. As companies continue to allow employees to work from home, a new trend will emerge to compromise the assets that support the critical business processes.

 

Shifting the Surface Area of Attacks in a Remote World

Hackers will no longer focus on directly attacking a company’s network; a new emphasis will be placed on compromising the end user’s personal accounts and applications used on the same computers gaining access to corporate data. Security professionals will need to focus their attention on the increase in social engineering attacks and phishing emails designed to gather information from the computers being used for remote access. The cached information in memory, temporary files and on the local hard drives on a compromised machine will be a treasure trove for hackers.

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Leadership

 

Staying Disciplined to Priorities – Adding Less to Do More

As 2023 brings in another year of unprecedented access to data, leaders continue to be inundated with inputs to inform decision-making and prioritization. This access to information is generally positive for leadership but it elevates the need for more disciplined prioritization. Prioritization allows individuals, teams, and organizations to ensure that they are spending time, money, and other resources on the most important initiatives. Priorities can be defined by helpful frameworks to assess the nearly unlimited options a leader has to steer a team forward.

While it may be tempting to take immediate action with the new information presented and regularly add priorities to pursue new opportunities, the best leaders will remain disciplined to ensure that new information enhances ongoing priorities and that new initiatives are not considered for addition until progress is beyond a certain point. When a leader declares something a priority, it should have a strong and clear rationale for pursuit but also have clear checkpoints of progress along the way. This allows the team to stay focused on the end vision of that priority, while also allowing for pivots and tactical changes as necessary with the infusion of new data and information. Too many priorities with too little progress can have a detrimental impact on team productivity and morale.

Priorities can also serve as a fantastic filter for a team’s time allocation – does what I’m about to work on relate to our organization’s priorities? If not, I’m going to limit my time dedicated to it so I can get back to the things that will drive the progress against our organization’s priorities! The pressure will continue to increase for leaders to help their organizations stay disciplined in their priorities, despite temptations to chase after new opportunities with continuous cycles of new data and information in order to accomplish more against their stated priorities and keep their team members engaged and energized.

 

The 45-Minute Meeting

A tactical leadership trend starting to emerge and likely to increase in popularity in the coming year is the notion of the 45-minute meeting (…or the 25-minute meeting). Three years into the remote / hybrid work environment because of the global pandemic and let’s face it: it is not uncommon to have long stretches of your day in back-to-back virtual meeting environments barely leaving room for a bio-break or scrap of food. We’re all tired!

A simple way to improve productivity and employees’ mental health in the current virtual communication environment is to reduce the duration of meetings. Just because calendar invite preferences default to 30-minute increments, does not mean that they cannot be adjusted. And as meeting durations get customized, people are being more intentional about the time spent virtually collaborating – like sending agendas in advance to help cut down on the awkward silences and gaps to figure out where to take the discussion next or sending relevant materials before the call to provide additional time for digestion and contextualization. The lack of complaints from the recipients of invitations to shorter meetings is also likely to continue. It turns out that the vast majority of people appreciate a few minutes to refill their coffee!

 

Attracting & Retaining Talent…Continued

This will sound repetitive from last year, but the key leadership issue we are still hearing about is attracting and retaining talent. While the underlying drivers are slightly different, this theme is still the same. A year ago, there was a lot of talk about returning to the office and a hot labor market making people more prone to leaving. While these issues are still there, as a return to office has happened in all sorts of grey ways, and some rumblings of the labor market getting just slightly less hot, these have become just two of multiple factors and not so much THE factors driving the attracting and retaining talent challenge.

What has become the driver is broadly making the workplace one that people want to join and at which they want to remain. This is clearly stating the obvious. However, it seems like the obvious has too many factors to consider: pay, benefits, work-life balance, mission, advancement, fulfillment, feeling welcome, and enjoyment, just to name a few. (As you can see, last year’s prominent topics of COVID-related items and hot labor market are subfactors in this list).

Balancing all of these items seems impossible considering that they are of unique and varying degrees of importance and priority to every individual. It is becoming clear that the simplest answer to hitting the mark on those factors might be the only answer and that is to focus one level up: Is this a place at which people want to work? That simpler question is easier than constantly thinking the next level down to the tens if not hundreds of levers and dials that one tries to get right. Are people happy with what they are doing, do they feel welcome, do they feel they are well-compensated at work?

We can’t get every dial perfectly right and by no means are we saying we can get things right for everyone, but in aggregate, using common sense and basic human empathy can really be the only formula – all the dial-turning is more art than science if you use your common sense and empathy as a leader. Unlike last year when leaders tried to get the exact right formula for inspiring people to return to the office, now with no one item being the most important to everyone, leaders just need to look, listen, and act wholistically to make their company a place at which people want to work.

 

 

 


Educate 360 Professional Training Partners upskills individuals with the Management & Leadership, Data Science, and IT skills needed by technology-led and innovation-driven organizations. Educate 360 is comprised of specialized training brands with footprint throughout the U.S. and Europe including Pierian Training, Project Management Academy, Six Sigma Online, United Training, Velopi, and Watermark Learning.

Jason Cassidy, PMP, is CEO of Educate 360.

Andrea Brockmeier, PMP, is Director of Project Management at Watermark Learning.

Ken Crawshaw is Senior Principal Technical Instructor for United Training.

Amy Farber is Chief Strategy & Commercial Officer, driving growth initiatives across Educate 360.

Dr. Susan Heidorn, PMP, CBAP, BRMP, is Director of Business Solutions at Watermark Learning.

Norman Kennedy, MCT, AAI, is a Cloud and Security focused Senior Technical Trainer at United Training.

Jose Marcel Portilla is Head of Data Science at Pierian Training.

Mike Stuedemann, PMP, CST, is a Scrum-Focused, Agile Agnostic Coach and Trainer at AgilityIRL and partners with Educate 360 for Scrum Alliance courses.

PMTimes_Nov9_2022

Best of PMTimes: Performance Review – Don’t Hide From Project Failure, Respond To It

Published on August 14, 2019

When you start a project you want it to succeed. But, projects fail.

 

Unless we learn from past mistakes we are destined to repeat them. To learn from the past, take a hard, unbiased and candid look at performance to discover the causes and conditions of both success and failure, document them and use them to refine your process.

I wrote about performance reviews back in 2016. Recent experience has highlighted the reality that as much as performance reviews are acknowledged to be the best way to learn from collective experience they are not always performed. This article explores the relationship between project failure and why reviews are not held and how to make them effective when they are.

Projects Fail

The article Project Management Statistics: 45 Stats You Can’t Ignore has a recent compilation of statistics regarding project performance. The article reports that project success has been rising, according to PMI and other survey sources. But, cost and schedule overruns and benefits shortfalls are still significant. For example, a “A PWC study of over 10,640 projects found that a tiny, tiny portion of companies – 2.5% – completed 100% of their projects successfully. The rest either failed to meet some of their original targets or missed the original budget or deadlines. These failures extract a heavy cost – failed IT projects alone cost the United States $50-$150B in lost revenue and productivity. (Gallup).” [2 IBID]

Responding To Failure

How do you and your organization respond to failures, or do you react? Do you make use of failures to promote ever greater probabilities of success? Or, is there fear, blaming and punishment and sweeping failures under the rug?

Some of the most successful people have said the following about failure
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powell

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” “Failure is success in progress” Albert Einstein

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas A. Edison

The common theme is the recognition that highly intelligent and successful people accept failure and do not let it get them down. They learn from failure.

Performance Reviews

Surveys point to causes of failure and to correlations between project success and process maturity, among other factors. The surveys are useful starting points for learning. Survey data is based on a looking back at project performance to identify general tendencies.

However, to succeed, go beyond generalities. In project management, the performance review is the primary forum for learning from past performance by reflecting on how successful a project has been and the specific causes and conditions that influence success and failure. Therefore, it is a best practice to make sure project performance reviews are held and that they are effective vehicles for learning and continuous improvement.

 

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The Goal

The goal of a performance review is to identify practices that will inform future behavior. There is a commitment to continuously improve the process. Improvement comes out of the exploration of the things that have led to success and those that have contributed to failure. The focus is on the process. Lessons learned are transformed into proposed process changes.

Who doesn’t want to improve performance? Yet, there is resistance to doing the work to achieve it.

Step Back To Objectively Observe

It is highly effective to step back and objectively observe what you are doing and have done. There are two kinds of stepping back. One is so subtle and natural that you can be observing what you are doing while you are doing it. The other requires that you stop, observe and reflect.

Ideally, you as an individual are doing the subtle kind as you go through life – mindfully aware of what you are doing and adjusting your behavior as you go. The other kind of stepping back – to stop, observe and reflect – is equally important. The performance review is just that – a stepping back. Reflecting on whether what you are doing is what you think you should be doing, enables you to find the best way to proceed.

Stepping back allows you to choose and respond rather than react. When you document your observations and reflections during project life, you set yourself and your team up for a successful project performance review. When you do reflect on the current state of your project, go beyond the typical focus on deliverables, schedule and budget to include a sense of the health of relationships and levels of stress. Add questions like, Are there unproductive arguments? Are stakeholders enthusiastic? Are people happy?

Why Reviews Are Not Held

Project reviews are widely supported as the best way to learn from past performance. Yet, they are not always held and sometimes, when they are, they can be useless and boring. Why are project reviews not held? There are a number of causes interacting with one another – fear and blame, a history of useless reviews, poor facilitation, and not recognizing the value of performance review and improvement.

In one organization, a product development project’s review was held after the project was deemed a failure. The event was videotaped to make sure lessons learned were captured. Many months later, a consultant was called in to help the organization develop effective project management and performance methodologies. He discovered that the video was “lost”. It had been deemed too contentious and embarrassing.

The organization wanted to investigate how to avoid failure of future reviews and the video would have been a great starting point for that investigation. As the team remembered the event, they found that fear of confronting failure, blaming, lack of facilitation which led to the review devolving into a shouting match among a few assertive participants, and a lack of concrete factual material captured during the project were the primary factors that led to the review fiasco.

Summary

Some projects will fail. When they do, you can make the best of the situation by learning from the experience. Avoid a reaction that views failure as something to hide.

Instead, candidly review the experience, identify the causes of failure (and success) and use the lessons learned to refine procedures and guidelines for use in future projects. Remember, if you don’t learn from failure, you are likely going to repeat it.

Change the culture from one characterized by fear, blame and punishment, to one that values an open-minded view of failure and uses effective reviews and retrospectives to continuously improve. Establish an effective review process – the subject of the next article in this series.

PMTimes_Oct25_2022

Software Tools or not Software Tools? That is the question. The way to achieve Enterprise Agility

The way to achieve Enterprise Agility

How many times we have heard about agile, Jira, Kanban, etc., and everything related to agile philosophy? Today we can find a lot of software tools to manage projects or processes using agile methods. However, can enterprises implement agile through implementing a software tool?

What is Agile?

Agile is a philosophy, a way to act, to collaborate in an organization to achieve a goal, to complete activities and tasks, in a process to ensure and encourage participation, leadership, and collaboration among every team.

Enterprise Agile Transformation

Business Agility is an ability for enterprises to react to changes using an evolved system in the way they work. From this system, we can extract its essence and adapt it to any professional field.

The Process

Figure 1. Enterprise Agile Transformation Framework

Before implementing software to manage agile projects or processes, we need to make a change in our processes, our organizational and leadership and people mindset, and our belief, to create an agile environment in processes and people. We must begin to change our minds and our organization. This is the way to implement agile in any organization. How?

  1. Change the mindset. Today, project team members, and employees, are one of the main parts of the business. Without them, an enterprise can’t work and achieve strategic goals. As leaders, we should recognize their value and encourage their collaboration and participation in every process. In this context, leaders, from executives to supervision levels, should impulse a leadership model based on:
    1. Motivation
    2. Empowerment
    3. Share responsibilities with the team

 

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Focus attention on the main wealth generators of your organization.  It is important to transform their mindset and their way of facing changes with agility. If moving the boat (an entire company) is complex, then in parallel a BOAT is built that moves faster.  A flexible and small structure. A self-sufficient team, empowered and specialized in facing market changes.

  1. Change your processes. It is important to review your processes to create lean ones that include support to manage changes. Reduce bureaucracy through employee empowerment, giving them enough authority to make decisions and eliminating unnecessary steps.
  2. Change your organization. We must break with the idea of working by departments – by silos. Unite the diversity of professionals in an area, a flatter structure, or a HUB. Common mental, digital, and physical spaces favor agility.
  3. Customer Centric and focused on clients’ needs. Nowadays, clients change their needs and preferences. It is imperative to know their expectations, and how you can address those to manage their preferences and make changes. Listen to customer needs. Orient the attention of your entire crew towards a customer-centric objective. The goal of agile teams is to meet customer demands. And to hear it, it is important to focus attention on a 360º view: sales data, navigation data, and direct customer data.
  4. Frameworks. To face changing environments, it is important to organize teams with new ways of working. For this, Agile business methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Design Thinking, OKRs, and Management 3.0 can be implemented. For example, you can work with SCRUM frameworks used within teams that handle high-uncertainty and complex projects. This will allow you to set new work rules, such as working in short periods called sprints, carrying out daily follow-up or daily meetings, working with the initial features that offer value to customers and the organization such as MPVs; and organizing teams in another way:  product owner, scrum master and development teams.
  5. MVP Culture. The minimum viable product must be above complete products. An MVP culture should be established to deliver constant value to the customer. Instead of developing an entire product for years and waiting until it is complete, the MVP allows us to launch the minimum value of this product to the market, check how it is received by the customer, and continue to evolve with new developments in the right direction.

Software tools

After you have begun changes in your mindset leadership and employees, your organization, and your processes, you can implement software tools that can help you to measure and improve your processes, fix issues, and achieve Enterprise Agility. By means of software tools, your enterprise can start a transformational agile way, face changes, adapt processes through automation, and respond fast and efficiently to customer changes by analyzing their behavior.

Enterprise Agile Transformation Benefits

  1. Focus on people. Collaborative and multidisciplinary work makes talent prevail over processes and organizational charts.
  2. Empowerment and motivation. Collaborative work, fluid communication, and the equal participation of all team members generate autonomy, transparency, and accountability in all its members, which empowers and motivates employees
  3. Risk Minimization. The continuous review model allows adaptation to change in a faster and more efficient way, finding solutions during the process that minimize the risks of failure
  4. Response Speed. Agile transformation provides a flexible structure that allows the delivery of projects/services versions within short deadlines.
  5. Improved results. The closeness with the client allows having a more excellent knowledge of it providing a differential added value and generating savings in costs.
PMTimes_Sep27_2022

Achieving Quality Performance and Results

Projects are performed to deliver quality products/services and satisfy budget, and schedule expectations.  This article focuses in on quality deliverables, their relationship to quality performance, and the quality management process that seeks to ensure that quality criteria are met.

The quality of performance (the work required to deliver results) and the quality of the outcome (a service or product) are intimately related. Every outcome is the result of performance, a process. High quality performance delivers high quality outcomes. The process is the key. If it is a good one, it makes sure that quality is defined and mutually understood by stakeholders and that “critical assessment” is done with positive attitudes.

 

Quality Management

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.
W. Edwards Deming

Quality management (QM) is a process. It is well described in PM standards, yet poorly defined quality criteria and personal reactions to critical assessment, if it is done at all, get in the way of applying quality management principles.

The goal of quality management is to improve the probability of achieving quality outcomes. It makes sure results are being developed in a way that leads to success and whether success has been achieved.

Effective quality management relies on a simple model:

  • Set quality criteria
  • Define the process for controlling quality, including roles and responsibilities
  • Assess performance against the criteria
  • Learn
  • Adjust
  • Continue.

It is a variation on the classic Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) model. So simple and rational. Yet, there is still need to raise quality consciousness and overcome the obstacles to a practical effective quality management process.

 

What Gets in the Way?

There are three primary obstacles to achieving quality outcomes: lack of clear definition of quality attributes (specifications), poor collaboration, and resistance to critical assessment. These are strongly influenced by people’s attitudes (mindset) and their setting – organizational values, processes, and relationships.

 

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Fuzzy Specs – Lack of Objective Criteria

If you and other stakeholders don’t know what quality is how can you achieve it?

Clarity and agreement regarding what you and other stakeholders mean by quality in each case, avoid subjective expectations and the inevitable conflicts that occur between those who deliver and those who receive and/or assess results. One person’s sense of quality is often not the same as another’s, so it is important to get into details about what is expected.

This obstacle seems easy to overcome. All you have to do is specify the product and performance with objective quality criteria.

But anyone with experience knows that it is not so easy. It takes time, skill, effort and most of all collaboration among performers  requirements analysts, quality management staff,  users, and clients.

For example, performance quality can be defined in terms of error or defect rates and productivity. Product quality, in terms of measurable attributes such as resiliency, duration, reliability, and customer satisfaction. Service quality can be specified with parameters for response time, customer satisfaction, etc.

Defining requirements takes time and effort. And it is hard to specify the less quantifiable quality criteria like color and texture, look and feel, refined finishing, absence of subtle flaws.

Clients often say that they’ll know quality when they see it. That tells you that when it comes to specifying quality look and feel requirements, it is best to use examples, CAD renderings, prototypes, and an agile approach.

 

Collaboration

Collaboration is the key to success. A collaborative process helps to get everyone to own the definition and to make sure that what is expected is feasible and fits within time and cost constraints. When quality specifications are set by the client without involvement of the people who must deliver and test, the stage is set for conflict and unnecessary pressure on the delivery team.

In a collaborative process, the delivery team can give feedback about the costs of quality features while clients and others can bring in cost of quality (for example the cost of errors and maintenance) to enable the team to justify costs related to higher quality. The quality control people can set expectations and engineer the best testing approach.

Together, stakeholders, deliverers, clients, quality assurance and control staff, users agree upon a set of criteria that is likely to be met with expected levels of cost, time, and effort and on the process they will use to make sure quality is achieved..

Whether you are taking an agile approach in which the team is working together to evolve the product throughout the project, a hybrid approach, or a more waterfall like approach, the time and effort required for collaborative work more than pays off by minimizing unnecessary conflict and unmet expectations.

 

Resistance to Assessment

Setting criteria is critical. Once set, assessment is a natural, obvious follow up.

How hard could that be? You just measure interim and final outcomes against quality criteria, when there is a diversion, determine cause, decide how to proceed?

However, overcoming resistance to assessment is even more difficult than overcoming the “fuzzy specs” obstacle. Here we are confronted with cultural, procedural, and psychological barriers.

The psychological level is the most important. Many people take criticism of their work as personal assault. There may be cultural issues regarding critical assessment. Some fear being fired. Old personal issues are triggered. Some fear saying something that might upset key performers and co-workers. Sometimes performers get angry at testers and reviewers when they come up with errors or performance issues.

Its complex. The secret ingredient is clear communication regarding what assessment is all about and how to do it in a way that continuously reinforces the sense that criticism is a positive thing that contributes to ever increasing quality. Acknowledge the obstacles.

If below par performance is not confronted it will continue. Individuals will not have the opportunity to learn and improve their performance. If errors and omissions are not discovered during controlled testing, they will be discovered after the product is released for use, at a far higher cost than if detected earlier.

 

Quality Process

Quality process leads to quality outcomes. We are addressing the quality management process. Its success relies on mutual understanding and collaborative effort by stakeholders. Together they address the obstacles of fuzzy specifications, lack of collaboration, and resistance to critical assessment.

Spend the time and effort on continually refining the quality management process to avoid unnecessary conflict, dissatisfaction, and poor-quality outcomes. Start with a review of your current situation – Is there a documented process? Is everyone happy with the way things are being done and the results?

 

See the article The Key to Performance Improvement: Candid Performance Assessment
https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/the-key-to-performance-improvement-candid-perfromance-assessment/