Tag: Other

PMTimes_July13_2022

The Courage to Try Something Old – Part 1: Facilitation

We know that it often takes courage to try something new. But what about trying something old? Sometimes it takes courage to do the basics, things that we know work, but for a variety of reasons are deemed to take too long or seem too “old school.” Often the old ways are not welcome. To be sure, the old ways do not always add value. But when they do, it can take courage to convince the organization that it’s worth spending the time. The first one of these oldies but goodies that I will address is about facilitating requirements meetings. Even the concept of a meeting seems a bit old school, and when you add on the discipline needed to successfully facilitate, it can seem insurmountable.

The glorious thing about requirement meetings is that rather than interviewing many stakeholders separately, which is time-consuming, we can get the stakeholders together. It’s a chance to get issues discussed, questions answered, and direction set. But stakeholders may come unprepared or with hidden agendas. There are usually different personalities and communication styles which cause different types of disruption. And it takes courage to take the time to successfully facilitate. It takes courage to keep the meeting focused. Here are three tips that will provide you courage and increase the likelihood of success.

 

Preparation. No matter how experienced we are, no matter how many meetings we’ve facilitated, no matter how many disruptive stakeholders we’ve encountered, we face new challenges each time we facilitate a requirements session. We can’t eliminate the disruptions, but we can minimize their effect. Thoughtful preparation with the appropriate stakeholders will help us go into each requirements event with confidence. Minimally, we need enough preparation to communicate the following before the meeting:

• Objective. This is an action, stated as a verb. Examples include: to resolve issue(s), develop a process describing a current or future state, review the results of an iteration/phase, or project.
• Desired outcome. This is a thing, stated as a noun. Examples include: decisions, issues, parking lot topics, requirement models and lists, story maps, flows and other diagrams, user stories, action items, follow-up items, and responsibilities, to name a few.
• Attendees, prep work needed of each, and expectations for their contributions during the meeting.
• Topics to be covered, who owns the topic, and approximate time to be spent on each.
• Tools and techniques to be used and how, when, and by whom.

 

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Meeting agreements (ground rules, protocols). The ability to keep focus during the session requires the use of meeting agreements, or ground rules. Throughout the years we have tried to soften the use of the term “ground rule,” maybe because “rule” seems so inflexible. Regardless, these agreements help keep us grounded. Getting participants to establish and then follow them, though, is tricky but necessary—necessary because disruptive participants can make everyone miserable. If we call out the disruptor, we risk breaking the safe environment and having the other participants shut down. If we do nothing, we will not successfully meet our objectives. There is no one right way to handle disruption. What has worked best for me is to anticipate disruption, include it in the prep work, and hold pre-meetings with those most likely to be disruptive. And the use of a parking lot can be one of the many agreements established.

 

Quick decision are not decisions. The final thought is that decisions cannot always be made during the meeting. There are a myriad of reasons why trying to curtail discussions and move forward will result in frustration and future changes. We can’t demand that decisions be during the meeting. But we can have a tentative agreement, and then it’s up to us to check in with reluctant participants as needed.
Sound a bit old school? Yes, of course. These are techniques that have been around a very long time. But they work.

We tried getting rid of meetings, and that didn’t work. We tried getting rid of meeting agreements. Chaos. We tried getting quick decisions, only to be blindsided and saddled with rework later. Sometimes the old is not the most popular, but it is the best approach, even if it takes courage to get people on board.

 

[i] I use the terms requirements meetings, sessions, events, and workshops synonymously.
[ii] I once suggested the use of a parking lot and some of the attendees didn’t know that it was a list of tangential topics that would be handled outside of the meeting or at a future one. They thought that we were actually going to meet in the company’s parking lot!
PMTimes_June22_2022

What Is Expected From Businesses In a Post-Pandemic World?

By Ian Chambers, CEO  – Linea

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic represented an era-defining paradigm shift for the world of business. Even though the most noticeable impacts of the pandemic have now abated in many parts of the world, the changes it has brought about in the way businesses operate are unlikely to be undone.

 

The dramatic changes to regular working patterns brought about by pandemic-era lockdowns, combined with a renewed focus on health and wellbeing, have dramatically shifted expectations of what professionals want from their roles. At the same time, customers now also expect a more flexible and conscientious approach to service delivery and are willing to favour companies who are able to provide this.

 

As such, every organization needs to adjust the way it operates to accommodate these changing realities. By implementing the necessary changes as part of an ongoing process of business improvement, companies can put themselves in a position to capitalize and thrive.

Shifting attitudes and expectations among workers and clients

Many of the changes that the pandemic has brought about can be explained by clear practical requirements – namely, businesses were forced to be a lot more creative and flexible in the way they operated during lockdown, and their employees and customers are now reluctant to give up that flexibility.

 

For employees, this means that staff have gotten used to being able to work from home and adjust their own working patterns or are keen to retain the additional health and wellbeing benefits they may have received during the pandemic. Expectations among customers and clients, meanwhile, have evolved in complex ways: some have grown accustomed to receiving more flexible terms and conditions, or improved remote access to services, while others may have become frustrated by the lack of face-to-face interaction with customers, and would prefer to return to pre-pandemic ways of working.

 

There are also an ethical or value-driven dimensions to this evolution, as the pandemic has made many people aware of existing failings and issues of unfairness with the previous status quo. Management can no longer expect to monopolies the highest salaries, while offering only limited flexibility to the workers responsible for generating value, without a risk of undermining their own recruitment capabilities or alienating socially conscious consumers.

 

As such, the challenge for organizations operating within these rapidly evolving markets is to show they can reflect and operate by the changing values of society. If they fail to do so, they risk being left behind.

How must businesses change to adapt to post-pandemic realities?

With all of this in mind, it is essential for companies to regularly review and implement necessary changes to their operating practices and service models, committing to an ongoing process of business improvement to ensure they are meeting the expectations of modern professionals, consumers and clients.

 

Here are some of the key areas in which we have seen businesses committing their efforts and resources in the wake of the pandemic:

 

  • Developing new core business values and principles that can be closely aligned to post-pandemic norms and expectations, and working to ensure that every member of the organization has bought into these goals and can exemplify them in how they work
  • Enshrining workforce wellbeing, engagement & stability as a central business value, by embracing of flexible working models, strong staff support, and opportunities for progression, to ensure the organization can attract and retain talent
  • Mitigating actual & perceived biases that could contribute to systemic unfairness or barriers to success, by viewing decisions from different stakeholder perspectives
  • Focusing on true customer-centric value and service flexibility, aligning with modern market expectations, to stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace
  • Maximizing the use of diverse marketing channels to capitalize on current trends, while acknowledging the need for mindful content and socially conscious messaging
  • Adopting agile business strategies and approaches, informed by the lessons of the pandemic regarding how quickly circumstances can change
  • Creating and maintaining financial liquidity to provide future flexibility, giving the organization greater protection against unexpected shifts in the market
  • Driving value for money & profitability, while sensitively managing concerns around doing so, as businesses can no longer be seen to be cutting corners simply to protect the bottom line
  • Using societal appetites for progress to help accelerate the adoption of necessary change within the company, and to challenge conversative or risk-averse viewpoints within the organization

 

Not all of these changes can be implemented with immediate effect – some will involve a long-term process of change management, which will require the business to holistically review its current processes and operations to chart a gradual path of transformation, as measured by definable metrics and achievable milestones.

 

This can be difficult and time-consuming to achieve, but as the post-pandemic era continues to take shape, it will be an essential step for organizations across multiple sectors. Professional expectations and customer values are evolving quickly – and companies must do the same to remain at the forefront of their respective markets.