Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Throw out the idea of comparing Actuals to Estimates!

The imprecision of the communication from customer to salesperson to marketing to development to a designer to a coder to a tester to a system that does what the customer wants is immense. The estimates are often a translation of wild guesses made during this conversation. They reflect at best a guideline for the solution based on past work or similar projects. But it does not account for the impact of new technology, a different team skill-set and capability, or a different business domain.

Organizations will often focus on improving their estimation performance by building databases of estimate versus actual development metrics. Don’t compare actual to estimates! This will cause teams to focus on delivering within the tolerances of previous estimates. This often leads to an undesired effect; a compromise on quality, standards, re-factoring, database rationalization or other value added results of delivering quality, demonstrable functionality on time. This is the effect of sub-optimal measurement; measuring one single metric without paying attention to the larger holistic picture.

Increasing the accuracy of estimating by comparing actual hours worked to estimated hours worked is a suboptimal measurement. Comparing what the Team actually produces to a desired release date and release goals is a much more appropriate measurement.

What can teams do to improve the estimation process. Effective retrospective debriefs at each milestone, iteration checkpoint, or deliverable often will uncover the real challenges the team is facing. By learning and sharing the team will determine the true capacity to do work (velocity) of the team. And they will collectively become better at estimating the effort required to complete new units of work. Comparing to the actual metrics of past projects is comparing apples and oranges, and will not ultimately deliver the intended results.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Presenting at ProjectWorld & BusinessAnalystWorld 2010

I will be presenting at the 2010 ProjectWorld & BusinessAnalystWorld, May 17-20, 2010. This event is one of the largest project management conferences in the Toronto area, and is held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Topic: Building High Performing Agile Teams

There has been much written in terms of team effectiveness in traditional development projects. Recently, there has been a rapidly emerging area of agile development methodologies. These are dynamic, iterative approaches that are strikingly different in approach over more structured waterfall development approaches.

These approaches (of which Scrum, XP, Extreme, Rational Unified Process, and Evo are among) place new and unique challenges on the traditional development organization. In particular the impact on team development and effectiveness is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

This presentation will explore the research of high performing agile development teams as well as broader team effectiveness perspectives and develop a framework for building high performing agile teams. The framework will focus on practices around:
  • Motivation and Reward
  • Skills and Team Selection
  • Organizational Impacts
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Physical and Virtual Work Environments

Check out the Conference Website for updates closer to the event!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The new role of a Project Manager on Agile Teams

Project managers traditionally have been more focused on task management, administrative functions, and team direction. The Agile model is turning this on its head. In an ideal world Agile teams would be self-directing and self-managing. In reality there is a role for the project manager, but it needs to adapt to more of a coach and someone who can remove roadblocks from the progress of the team.

The project manager will serve as the social architect. The should facilitate the work process, and provide overall project leadership for developing the multidisciplinary task groups into unified teams. They should be focusing on fostering a climate conducive to involvement, commitment, and conflict resolution.

The project manager's concern for the project team's members and enthusiasm for the project fosters a climate with high levels of motivation and involvement with the project and its management. It also promotes open communications and a collective focus on desired results.

Ensure team involvement early in the project life-cycle
This planning and involvement is especially important for technology-based project work, where high levels of complexity, uncertainty, and risk - along with the need for innovation - make it nearly impossible for the project leader to work out a project plan that is seen as realistic, unless performance is the result of collective efforts by the entire team.

Build a high-performance image

Project leaders and senior managers can help build a favourable project image by making the project visible and stressing its importance through media exposure, management involvement, and budgetary actions, as well as by emphasizing critical success factors and professional opportunities and rewards.

Stimulate enthusiasm, excitement, and professional interests

Managers should try to accommodate the professional interests and desires of the individuals on the team. Interesting and challenging work is a perception that can be enhanced by the visibility of the work, management attention and support, priority image, and the alignment of personnel values with organizational objectives.

Ensure senior management support

The manager needs to negotiate with the sponsor and support organizations for the required resources; this individual must also obtain a commitment from management that these resources will become available when these are needed. Make sure the team believes that you have their back and will make sure they are being supported by the senior leadership.

Progressive and healthy leaders tend to foster creativity in their team. Healthy leaders naturally express a sense of trust that creates the environment necessary for the team to operate. They let it be known regularly and often that relationships are important, and that connections, interdependencies, and integration are at the heart of the team success.