Taking a Break

Dear Readers,

I haven’t written a post in almost a month.  It feels pretty good.  When I was in the middle of my streak of about 75 weekly posts, it seemed like every article I read, radio feature I heard, or conversation was a source of a new blog post about the other side of risk.  That isn’t happening now.

I think my idea of writing about how my projects over the years trended to success when I paid attention to what could go right more than what could go wrong has run its course.  Finding new ways to express the same theme isn’t saying enough new things anymore.  Recent posts have been looking for new direction.lounging

I’m going to take a break, read through all the posts, consider what I’m trying to do in portfolio management and IT governance in my new job, and figure out where to go next with blogging, writing, and teaching.  There’s a bigger picture to paint.

I think I have about 20 – 50 people who regularly look at this blog, and lots more who happen on to it via searches for topics.  To all of you, thanks very much for reading and occasionally commenting on what I have written.  It’s been very satisfying for me to write about the other side of risk in hopes of helping others have more successful projects.  If you are just finding this, enjoy poking through the words and pictures.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll let you know on this blog where I will be going next when I figure it out.

Glenn Briskin

Advertisements

Agile and Portfolio Management

puzzle-pieces_blank_cropped_smallIn my new role, we are looking at using agile methods for both project and portfolio management.  We have to look closely at the pieces to put together the puzzle.

To better understand Agile, let’s look at it’s origins.  The Agile Manifesto says:

“Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

I write about:

balancing consulting practices with project management to

imagine perfect outcomes and a perfect journey to get there

that leaves the organization and its people better than we found them.

So, when I read the Agile Manifesto, it says to me that:

  • A way to find a perfect journey to a perfect outcome is to focus on the people and how they will work together more than on the processes and tools.  The perfect journey is the interactions that produce ideas and results, not a perfectly followed process.
  • Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation because a team working one step at a time can better express what it understands via a working product than a complete document.  We often complete documents to lock things down and drive out risk.  Opportunities for growth come from trying things and learning from them.  I think documentation is important, it just has to be in step with product building, not way out in front of it.
  • Customer collaboration is more important than contract negotiation because it values seeking what can go right over what can go wrong.  Collaboration leads to a commitment to leave an organization better as a result of our efforts.  The contract focuses on a commitment to do something for consideration from someone.  It protects against risk, but can drive out opportunities it if becomes the focus.  The focus needs to be on how people collaborate to improve the organization.
  • Responding to change is more important than following a plan because the plan is only a tool that helps you know when things are changing.  I think you have to have a plan that covers all the steps in your perfect journey to the perfect outcome.  But, you also have to understand that part of a perfect journey is recognizing its unpredictability and learning to respond to discovery.

I think that Agile will be useful applied to portfolio management as well as software development.  The PMI standard for portfolio management says that ‘portfolio management is a framework that provides the means to translate the organizational strategy into a portfolio of strategic and operational initiatives.  It manages the actualization of those initiatives through the use of organizational resources.’

Agile suggests that the organizational resources are its people.  People pursue the organization’s desired strategic (perfect) outcomes by working together and with its customers to discover the best mix of opportunities for improvement.  These opportunities are pursued incrementally so that each completed step delivers progress toward the objectives and a clearer understanding of the next step.

I like the mix of Agile, portfolio management, and the other side of risk.  Writing about it gets me a little closer to using it productively.  Let me know if you think it all fits together.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2013, Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk”

Mosh Pit Portfolio Management

Should managing a portfolio of projects be like a mosh pit at a heavy metal concert, or like a waltz at the royal ball?  Maybe both.liturgy

This week showed good progress toward setting up portfolio management at my new organization.  But, by Friday afternoon I was really tired.  You know how your thoughts wander a bit when that happens.  Since I’ve been writing this blog, too often thoughts or experiences click on ideas for blog posts.  When we are really into something, our experiences all feed into our own frame of reference.  I was worried that I’m becoming unproductively obsessed.  Fortunately, I found out this week that I’m not unusual.

Continue reading

Pull is Better Than Push

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how organizations change.  The bottom line seems to be that successful change comes from people pulling it in.  You can’t push change in.  Do our projects focus on push or pull?

PullI’m part of planning for a project where thousands of people will have to change how they do their work.  The old system is about 30 years old.  The change will require thousands of people to redo 30 years of process and system connections to unplug the old and plug in the new.  How will they get ready to do this?

Continue reading

Project Management Patience

In my new role I feel a sense of urgency to get things moving.  I think this is common for project managers.  We are brought in to make a difference and we are excited about that.  But patience is important, too.

I’ve blogged about patience before in June and December.  In those posts I advised project managers to be patient so that they build partnerships; and understand and build the capacity and commitment of their team.  Then, I was still a crusty consultant advising others on their projects.  Shortly after the second post, I accepted a job that requires me to help a very large organization come together in support of organization-wide business and systems transformation.  Can I take my own advice?  I’m trying.

skaters-001

To reinforce my patience, I looked for updates from my consulting guru, Peter Block, on the Internet.  Peter’s books and classes have shaped my approach to what I do. Peter recently posted a video that helped.

Continue reading

Inattentional Blindness and Project Management

Projects are more successful when all the participants – project managers, builders, and clients – find ways to understand and learn from one another.  But, that’s not easy.  Why is that?  Don’t we want to understand and support one another?  We probably do. But, our different perspectives can get in the way.

Most people on a project are looking for different things when they look at the project.  The project manager is looking to define and manage objectives, scope, schedule, budget, and risks.  The other people on the project are looking at what they will be creating or what they will have when the project is completed.  They see what interests them.  And, they see what they are directed to look for.  Science backs up my assertion.

Listening to NPR earlier in the week, I heard a story about the invisible gorilla.  It wasn’t about the 900 pound gorilla that comes to most of our project meetings that we all see but don’t talk about.  (Or, maybe it was…).  It was about a gorilla in plain sight that we don’t see because we are looking for something else.

gorilla Continue reading

Who’s the Quarterback on Your Project?

“The Buck Stops Here” – plaque on President Harry Truman’s desk.

Watching the national championship college football game earlier this month (for my international readers, that’s American football, not soccer), I saw a great example of the need for clear roles and responsibilities among decision makers.

Football, perhaps more than any other, is a sport where complex relationships require clear roles and responsibilities.  11 offensive players line up against 11 defensive players.  On each play, several players may call out plays.  Key players have responsibilities to read what is going on and then shout instructions.  From a fan’s perspective, it seems to go pretty well and it’s fun to watch players adjust based on calls from the quarterback, the center, or the middle linebacker.  But, sometimes it doesn’t go well.

alabama QA fightAlabama was leading Notre Dame 42 to 14 near the end of the game. You’d think the Alabama players would be relaxed.  Alabama had the ball, lined up, and quarterback and the center started calling signals.  The quarterback was suddenly very annoyed.  He stood up and jumped around behind the line yelling instructions.  He was angry.  The players looked confused.  The result was a delay of game penalty. The center stood up, the quarterback screamed something in his face, and the center gave his quarterback a shove.  All this from a team with an insurmountable lead about to win the national championship.  The TV commentators, shaking off their surprise, explained that the coach and quarterback were both known for being intense perfectionists.  Clearly, it paid off in their performance.  Just as clearly, we can note that a team striving for high performance can suffer if the leaders get confused about their roles and responsibilities.

Continue reading