Rethinking Agile as Bold, Kind and Human

Feb 26, 2021 | | 0 comments |

 This post was first published  in Projectmanagement.com. Click here to read. 

Agile has become ubiquitous in project management, with teams using it to spark out-of-the-box thinking and drive countless projects across the finish line. Yet almost as quickly as the approach popped up, companies and project leaders began to oversell it—and what seemed to be a radical way of thinking has become mired in repetition and monotony.  

Agile was about being open and transparent, and people having the utmost importance in the process. Now, if you ask anyone about agile, it’s all about the three questions: What have you completed since the last meeting? What do you plan to complete by the next meeting? What’s getting in your way? There’s also the fear of being constantly monitored and the fact your performance is measured by your team’s velocity. 

Breaking out of this mold can prove difficult—who has the time? But with much of the world working from home, now might be the best chance to rethink agile as boldkind and human



Let’s look at how that might work.

Agile is bold: Challenge the process. Question what’s right for your team and be open to experiment. To get everyone engaged, encourage team members to ask questions. And try incorporating at least one fun icebreaker in each team stand up to get people to open up and spark discussion. 

Agile is kind: Just because the data seems all over the place or you don’t achieve a desired project outcome, the team is not always wrong. Look for insights, do anonymous retrospectives, dig deeper and listen more. Avoid making assumptions. Instead, remain empathetic and open as you talk through challenges and navigate team members to arrive at a solution. 

Agile is human: Agile won’t work if the team can’t work together and it’s up to leaders to foster a sense of camaraderie. One way to build this spirit of collaboration and rapport is through simple exercises, like using a sticky note or sharable spreadsheet where team members anonymously write one thing they’re good at or that they’re proud of outside of work. Then allow other team members to guess that person’s identity. This isn’t about who wins, but it gets the entire team to communicate in a low-stakes environment.  

What are the biggest challenges your team has come across with agile—and how have you overcome them?

(Pic courtesy: Pexel)

Book Review- Digital Project Practice (managing Innovation and Change)| Giveaway

If 2021 has reading more books in your mind, you can start with this one that questions the status quo. Digital Project Practice (Managing Innovations and Change) , edited by Tobias Endress is a  collection of articles spread across 3 categories - Methods and Practices, Tools and Techniques and Culture, Soft Skill and Human resources. To check the book out please click here.

Giveaway details at the end of the post.


An advantage of having independent chapters in a book means you can start with any chapter that interests you. If you are thinking how do I know which chapter to start first start with, all of them come with a summary at the end of chapter. I found it rather interesting to see the topics that were covered  and perhaps the background of the authors from various countries and regions and profiles that make an interesting mix to not only read the book but have multiple takeaways to rethink the way you operate.

The book was written with the purpose to share the  business experience and prepare a book that introduces the methods, but also covers the practical aspect, critically acclaimed existing approaches and practices, and shows the limitations. This means the book touches on appropriate methods as well as social aspects. The social factor is actually one of the running themes in the book. I experienced in many projects that managing the human aspect can be at least as demanding as mastering the technological challenges in complex environments. It felt it might be a good idea to bring together the perspectives and experiences from various professionals with an international background and contrasting ideas in one book. 

The chapter by the editor Tobias Endress called “Ideas and Requirements for Digital Innovation” is a great place to start. Practical and yet the chapter nudges you into thinking why the initial process of ideation is ignored in so many organizations and teams and the problems it later leads to. From multiple product owners to introducing design thinking as a complementary process for Agile he writes in details how it can be of help. I have definitely seen companies who do something similar and the author cites Salesforce and their use of design thinking to bring out innovation.

He also steps into the creative area and talks why brainstorming just isn’t enough. I think the same way about brainstorming that the best idea accepted is usually from the one person who competes and wins to speak in a limited period of time (perhaps mostly extroverts). Now that might not always be the best idea and you see that’s what I like about this book that it brings up topics and issues that are humane. It’s just not technicalities and KPI and charts and graphs to track the work, it’s what really works in real scenarios where the human factor is of the utmost importance.

The author mentions: I wanted to emphasise the importance of the start phase of the project. Agile methods like SCRUM or XP seemingly support the ‘quick start’ of any project. However, even when the methods aim to provide rapid results and feedback through fast deliveries it is my experience that it’s difficult to deliver a project in time and quality when you “sprint” too often in the wrong direction. I’m convinced that it saves time and money and possibly quite some headache when the objective is well thought through in the beginning. This does not mean that it is set in stone and may not be refined during the project phase, but good preparation might significantly reduce the frictions during the following phases. The practices highlighted in our book aim is reducing frictions in the first place.

I have to say, though this book initially comes across as just theories stringed together, sooner than later it turns out to be an interesting study. It definitely is for those who have spent a few years working and is well aware of the general business and process that’s being used in small or big firms. Also for newbies who want to start with the right mindset. If you are trying to think differently or look at another perspective- this book has your name written on it.

In many projects and conversation with fellow project professionals I heard statements like “yes, we use agile methods, but not like in the textbook”. This inspired the idea to prepare a book that covers not only methods but the practical application in real-world projects. I also wanted to raise awareness beyond plain software development aspects. Complex change and innovation projects require a wide range of different skills and usually involve many stakeholders. For example HR or legal teams are highly relevant, but often neglected in agile frameworks. I asked experts from my professional network if they want to contribute to such a book project and if they want to share their insights and experiences. I’m very happy with the responses and that we managed to cover so many different aspects of the business. I think it is interesting getting some insights through the perspectives from project professionals with different background. Changing perspective can help for "reflection in action".

Another chapter that might interest a lot of people specially during these time is of Time Management written by Gunter Jeschke. His concept of "bore out" amongst others are interesting where he sees the need for anyone to cut off immediately and look for another position in order to be more efficient with their time. Time management in this chapter doesn’t limit itself to personal and work time management but continues to talk about time management in projects and how to get it done well even when resources are on leave and are leaving.

If you are a hiring manager or often involved with hiring people in your team, Dr. Bernd Thommes chapter on Talent Challenges talks you through of finding the right talent and keeping them. While we all know everyone wants to belong and contribute to something bigger  the hiring manager needs to translate the company objectives into something tangible that hired employees can see as something they can contribute.

In being a book that covers all topics, I was intrigued and surprised by this one by Elena Dinman in the chapter Team and project Management Values, she talks about how in Belarus intrinsic motivation within teams is cultivated. She gives deeper insights into team motivation and a sense of belonging. What I also found very interesting is the “horizontal management” structure  she mentions which encourages any new joiner in the team to go through all the roles within the team and then start on his/her immediate role. This is a take home for any team or individuals who often complaint about team motivation and not having the right cross functionality. The focus is on flexibility and cross functionality. In creating a system to trust human values, she focuses on burnouts, emotions and even how meditation or business yoga brings the team together.

So, what will you like about the book? It’s definitely the different perspectives and attention to details and how each one if their own specialised domain/expertise handle it. 

As the editor also kindly points out The various chapters make it very clear that there are different aspects and not one single answers. However, there are tools and techniques which may help a lot to increase the performance and also the perception of project success. The various chapters cover specific aspects of project business and provide you with the personal opinion of the respective author. I hope that this input enables and encourages the reader to reflect upon the methods in the own organization.


This has definitely been a good read and if you want to check the book out, don't forget to participate in the giveaway. 

All you need to do is join the SIPM facebook community and you can read the full interview with the Editor Tobias Endress. In the comments section of this interview about the book mention why would you like to read this book. On Feb 25, I will announce the winner  and ship you the hard copy of the book (This is for India only). 

If you would like to buy the book, links here.

You have got mail :)

Feb 9, 2021 | 1 comments |

 Hi You,

Just popping by to say hello. 

I know I haven't written in a while and I am guilty in a way to keep you waiting.

I have been writing here for so long that it should come naturally to me. Some days I am not sure what to write, I have more ideas than I can count swimming in my little head. Yet, I write in my head every night :)

I am like you (or not), I tend to procrastinate. I wait and wait a bit more to clarify my ideas and then its just too late to write.

When I started this blog in 2008, I didnt think about anything at all. I just wrote. I didn't think anyone would read this blog, I didn't know if I should even let anyone know. So, in a way I was free. I wrote because it was for me. My learnings, my mistakes, my way of just keeping a simple journal.

So, when I suddenly freeze and stop writing, I am reminding myself I should remember the why. Why I started this blog, this community. I may not be a newbie by definition anymore, yet we are all learning everyday (at least I hope to). 

I hope you have been doing well this year  and getting to do things at your pace. 

Sending you good vibes and warm wishes,

Soma.


Happy New Year 2021

Jan 3, 2021 | 0 comments |

Wishing a very Happy New Year to the SIPM community. 
Stay safe and best wishes



 

(Pic courtesy: Pexel)