Author: stephchambo

agile, Brexit, CIO, Investment Management, Leadership, Lean, Lean PMO, Politics, Stability, Strategy

A Nifty Article Fifty Breakdown


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If you are a UK CIO you have a lot to think about if June 8th takes article 50 to its natural conclusion…

Here is a nifty breakdown from CIO.com..

“The major milestones for CIOs to keep an eye on include the following:

  • U.K. parliamentary review of Great Repeal Bill (Late 2017): This will provide the first opportunity for an initial assessment of legal impacts on managed service agreements and other IT contract documents.
  • Royal assent of Great Repeal Bill (Mid 2018): At this point, any gaps in the legislation should be addressed, enabling IT organizations to confirm legal impacts and initiate contractual change activities.
  • Brexit negotiations wrap up (Fall 2018): This will create clarity the regulatory, operational, audit, and reporting impacts on IT services.
  • U.K. Houses of Parliament, European Council, EU Parliament, and remaining 27-member Parliament vote on deal (Early 2019): This will confirm IT impacts and enable CIOs to begin related IT change programs
  • Transition period begins (March 2019): CIOs can structure timelines for completion of IT projects to address necessary digital transition and transformation requirements.”

http://www.cio.com/article/3189040/it-industry/how-brexit-will-impact-global-cios-and-it-services.html

However, with all these (less face it) rather boring boxes to tick and cross there will be little resource to deal with the ever increasing pace of change within the wider economy.  As such, the threat of Brexit is not just one of legal and commercial wrangling (Although that will certainly feature heavily).  The real issue is going to be that already stretched IT departments are going to be hit with “Regulation, Regulation, Regulation” when they also have to deal with “Innovation, Innovation, Innovation”.

If Brexit goes ahead the latter is likely to be the biggest casualty.

So how can the CIO keep pace with this?

During this period 3 things will be key to the post-article 50 CIO:

  1. A razor sharp focus on investment in the biggest IT return.  Yes Brexit projects will HAVE to happen but others will need to be picked for their direct impact on organisational outcomes.  This might be revenue or reputation, either way it will be high on the agenda.
  2. Use of Agile to ensure that those BAU projects are kept on track.  Agile methods and techniques such as KANBAN will be needed more than ever to keep visibility high.
  3. IT departments will need to become product centric and better at marketing than the marketing department!  No-one will use your internal product let alone your external one if your team can’t break through the noise of Brexit.

Magic Milestones has a number of services specifically designed to give you maximum bang for buck in times like these.  Read more here.. https://magicmilestones.com/services/

Entrepreneurship, Gender issues, Leadership, Philosophy, Product Management

Why there are only 2 women listed in HBR’s top 100 CEOs this month


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Someone once told me that politics and business don’t mix.

I agree. Hence, I am going to be as objective as possible in this post.

I read the November 2016 edition of HBR with interest and have to admit that it took about 10 minutes for me to clock that the faces on pages 46 and 47 in “The best performing CEO’s” list were overwhelmingly, predominantly male.

Debra Calfaro tops number 43 and Marillyn Hewson number 51. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other groups missing too. Alaypal Banga is at number 64. A lone ranger by the looks of it.

So the world’s top companies are mainly run by White Men over the age of 45. I guess there are no surprises there. But the question I am really interested in, is why.. when women make up around 50% of the world’s potential workforce are they only making up 2% of the top CEO list?

One potential answer might be that there just aren’t as many women at work.

But that just isn’t true!

If we look at the worldwide female workforce there has been a decline since 2005. But it was already pretty high. Women’s worldwide participation went from 52% in 2005 to 50.2% in 2012.http://bit.ly/2i1eptj

So why has it declined so dramatically?

The US has an interesting history on this..

“Women’s labor force participation was driving the overall upward trend in labor force participation through 2000, so the plateau and then decline in women’s participation in the ensuring years is an important factor for explaining the national trend. ..In 1990, the United States had the sixth-highest female labor force participation rate amongst 22 high-income OECD countries. By 2010, its rank had fallen to 17th. Why have other high-income countries continued their climb while the United States has stalled? Research by economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn suggests that the absence of family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave in the United States is responsible for nearly a third of the U.S. decline relative to other OECD economies. As other developed countries have enacted and expanded family-friendly policies, the United States remains the lone developed nation with no paid parental leave.” http://bit.ly/2gDjCKi

43% of CEO’s on the list are from the United States. So, there are 43 slots available to women there. But guess what? Women take up 2 of them.

The only two female slots for top HBR CEOs are occupied by women from the USA.

The USA. Where they also suffer a larger than average struggle to juggle family and career.

So the plot thickens.

I am no statistician and the sample is small, so I will not try to deduce anything from these numbers. All I can give is my thoughts on the matter.

Maybe we can find the answer by looking at the lives of these two women.. http://nyti.ms/2gNlAUY. Debra Calfaro was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her father was an entrepreneur out of necessity. She has taken a company on the edge of bankruptcy from $217 million in equity and $1.1 billion in debt in 2000 to $5.9 billion in equity and $3.5 billion in debt today. No mean feat.

I bet you are thinking she has no kids.

She has two.

Marillyn Hewson has much in common with Debra Calfaro. http://bit.ly/2hTQAri

Although born to a middle class family, her father died when she was young, “She was born in the middle-class family as the eldest of three daughters and two sons. Her father’s death at her early age burdened the little girl with the responsibility to take care of her younger sisters and assist her single mother in every possible way.”

She has two children.

These women haven’t sacrificed their roles as mothers to get where they are. However, another thing they have in common, is gumption. Both women have been used to fighting adversity from an early age and they aren’t scared of hard work either.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the men on the list didn’t work hard. They had competition too. I’m sure when they had kids they had sleepless nights and a tough time.

But the numbers are intriguing don’t you think?

So what IS the reason for this statistical anomaly? Why did the only women that made it into the top 100, make it, despite the unsupportive family policies of their environment?

There are no obvious answers but it could be one of the following:

  1. Although the USA has unsupportive public family policy, it also harbours a culture of inclusion and ambition. Hence, there is always a place for one or two heroes (or heroines) to make it. Note that Alaypal Banga (no. 64) is based in the US too although he was born in India.
  2. The unsupportive policies of the US mean that women cannot afford to throw themselves whole-heartedly into stay at home motherhood as they do in Europe (having 1yr off on maternity leave for example). They also don’t get a chance to get a taste for it. Perversely, I would argue that the unsupportive family policies of the USA actually put women on a par with men rather than work against them simply because they have less choices than their counterparts in Europe. In for a nickel in for a dollar.

These are just theories I have. I am happy to hear arguments against them.

Interestingly, another HBR article has found that women CEO’s tend to be insiders more often than their male counterparts. (i.e. Working their way up rather than across)..

“The consistent theme in the data is that steady focus wins the day. The median long stint for these women CEOs is 23 years spent at a single company in one stretch before becoming the CEO. To understand whether this was the norm, we pulled a random sample of their male Fortune 500 CEO counterparts. For the men in the sample, the median long stint is 15 years. This means that for women, the long climb is over 50% longer than for their male peers. Moreover, 71% of the female CEOs were promoted as long-term insiders versus only 48% of the male CEOs. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for hopscotch early in women’s careers.” http://bit.ly/1smI4dD

This still leaves us with the question at the start of this article..

“Why are there only 2 women listed in HBR’s top 100 CEOs this month?”

A summary of the facts so far..

  1. Only 2% of the top CEO’s as chosen by the Harvard Business Review are female.
  2. Neither made the top 40.
  3. The ones that did make it into the top 60 both had children. Perhaps disproving the motherhood theories?
  4. Both women live, work and were born in the United States. Perhaps suggesting a unique environment in the USA.
  5. Both women faced early life challenges which one could argue single them out as ‘survivors’ in tough circumstances.
  6. There are no women represented from any other country despite the highly supportive family policies of places such as Europe.
  7. Female CEOs have to stay at a company 50% longer than their male counterparts to end up as CEO.

Potential reasons for the 2% outcome..

  1. HBR are sexist in their selection? (note they have been specific about the criteria so I doubt this)
  2. Are women just simply bad at being CEOs?
  3. Is the CEO role better suited to the male psyche?
  4. Are women too busy having children to work up to the level of CEO?
  5. Do women neglect to apply for the role of CEO for some reason?
  6. Is the CEO role too tough for women?
  7. Are women treated unfairly when applying for the CEO position?
  8. Do women generally shun the CEO role due to personal preference?
  9. Is the CEO role incompatible with family commitments?
  10. Do pro-family policies contribute to a lower participation of females at top levels of business?
  11. A bit of everything above?

Answers on a post card please..

About the author

Steph is CEO and Founder of www.magicmilestones.com. She is interested in the economics of female participation in the workplace. Steph has had a positive experience throughout her career but believes that women face unique challenges in their careers. This is not necessarily a problem to be solved but a problem to be understood.

Product Management

Handing over the baby BEFORE you go on Maternity leave


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I appreciate that this is a rather niche post. However, it isn’t a post about babies and women.  It’s a post about self organising teams and empowerment.

Last week, (for the second time in my 9 years of entrepreneurship) I handed over the business for 6 months in order to have my ‘real baby’.    I always used to call Magic Milestones my first baby and indeed there are many similarities.

Just like the first time I have used belts and braces to ensure that the business can be handed over in tip top shape.  It’s amazing what a fixed deadline can do to focus the brain (even a baby brain).

However, despite a full sales pipeline and great financial results, the last 2 weeks have been very very tough.  Rather like the first time you leave your child at nursery, handing over your business needs to be a highly disciplined process.  Otherwise, the wrench can cause unforeseen consequences.

I was particularly good at handing over ‘Real baby no. 1’ to nursery..

  1. I booked an apt for the whole hour so that I had to leave her promptly.  No sulking in the corridor for me!  It was a clean break.
  2. I wrote comprehensive documentation on her current state knowing that this would change but at least there was a smooth operational handover.  As an aside, they soon knew more than I did about her bodily functions, day-time sleeping habits and cognitive abilities.
  3. I trusted the people the cared for her, even when slight mistakes were made.
  4. There was a constant feedback loop but I only found out what I needed to know.  A bump on the head.  Yep, need to know.  That Jayden yanked a toy off her and made her cry? – not so much.
  5. Most importantly, I didn’t feel jealous that she loved her key worker because I knew this meant she was happy and prospering when I wasn’t there.

I was rubbish at handing over the business the first time though..

  1. I did indeed hand over the business fairly cleanly.  Tick.  However it was to one person not a full senior team that covered every business function.  It was very much MY business.  In particular, we had no Financial Director back then and no Marketing Director. A massive error.
  2. I did write documentation but I probably did too much.  I wrote about the business I was handing over rather than the operational stuff that mattered for the first 2 weeks.  I wasted valuable time documenting business processes that got changed (for the good I may add!)
  3. I “trusted” sure.  But then I resented the mistakes that were made in my absence.  Not cool.
  4. I didn’t check in regularly.  I just checked out.  That was my view of a self-organising team.  Hire the best leader, handover, set the direction then let them find their own way.  That was empowering in my mind.  It sort of worked.  I didn’t go into the detail but then again, I wasn’t over the big stuff either.  Ultimately, I could have done with being over the big stuff because some things tripped us up later.  I could have helped.
  5. When I came back I wanted to wrestle all the power back again.  I felt challenged.  I’d made a huge leap forward by giving up control in the first place but I simply wasn’t emotionally ready for my old job to be filled permanently by somebody else.  Even though it affected my own progression.

What we’ve done differently this time..

  1. I handed over to 5 people, not just one.  They see it as their business.  We put a product based structure in place supported by a comprehensive functional one.  There is someone better than me at Finance, there is someone better than me at Marketing, someone better at HR etc.
  2. I didn’t just leave on my due date.  I concentrated on a few key tasks that would add the most strategic value and I operationally ensured that people could make it to the next meeting without me.  After that, it was down to them.
  3. I’m still working on 3.  Hey I’m only human 🙂  However, number 1 helps because I know that the collective team are better than little old me on my own trying to take over the world between the hours of 9am and 3am.  Also, we have a handful of key metrics at our disposal now and an awesome real time tool to monitor them.  So it isn’t just the captain that spotted the iceberg, everyone saw it miles back and is already steering the ship away from it.
  4. The plan is to leave them alone but we have a 1hr meeting scheduled fortnightly so that I can act as an advisor if necessary and keep everyone focused on the key metrics that count.

And 5?  Are you gong to wrestle your old job back?

That’s an interesting one and I may have to keep you posted.  However, the key thing is that the job I do now is already partially outdated.  The restructure has meant that my role is now much more focused on the key things I can bring to the table rather than spreading myself thinly across everything.  For instance, today we had an IT issue.  I didn’t solve it.  I was nervous about a meeting yesterday and felt I needed to be there.  I didn’t have to be.  The Managing Partner confidently nailed it on my behalf.  I will of course add value on my return but it will be in the areas I am most passionate about and competent in.

So how is this relevant to self organising project teams?

I appreciate I’m lucky.  I don’t have a choice in this handover business.  But next time you go on holiday (or have to leave the team to their own devices for any other reason) try testing the true extent of your self organising team.

Before you leave..

  1. Make sure everyone’s roles are clear
  2. Ensure ‘sprint goals’ or fortnightly goals are in place, that key delivery metrics have been set and most importantly that they are visible to EVERYONE on the team no matter where they sit in the hierarchy.
  3. Pick the metrics that need to go to Stakeholders and ensure that someone is in charge of getting those communicated.
  4. Review the problem that the project is trying to solve.  Use a project canvas if necessary to review all the key features.  http://www.agile42.com/en/blog/2013/04/11/lean-project-canvas/
  5. Set overarching metrics backed up by personal metrics for each team member ensuring there is a ‘golden thread’ to the overall project goal.

While you are away..

  1. Check in at pre-defined times once a week for half an hour but only if you really have to.
  2. Do not read your emails.
  3. If you don’t have to check in, then don’t!

When you return..

  1. Delete your emails from the team.  If you feel brave delete them all and follow up with stakeholders as soon as possible
  2. Be gracious about the team’s efforts
  3. Assume a coaching role on your return even if you don’t stay in that mode after the first week back
  4. Delete the words “I told you so” from your vocabulary
  5. Leave your ego at the door
  6. Realise you weren’t there at the time when decisions had to be made and that hindsight is a wonderful thing
  7. Review the metrics in detail
  8. Follow up on failures with the intention of truly learning from them rather than pointing out people’s deficiencies or worse, your own superior knowledge/ experience/ expertise
  9. See the big picture
  10. Celebrate successes

Finally and most importantly..

Bring in local delicacies, rather than photos of you and your partner in your swimmers.  No-one needs to see that at work however gorgeous the sunset, however great your body or gorgeous your other half might be.

It’s detail they just don’t need to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership, Lean, Lean Startup, Product Management, Project Management, Stability, Teams

Did you just build the wrong team?


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No-one goes to work to do a bad job.

Sometimes it may feel that way but really… they aren’t!
Some people may be in the wrong job, someone may be having a bad day, they may have a completely different agenda to you but 99.9% of the time they aren’t trying to fail.
So why do technology teams so often fail? How can we be so bad at ensuring that technology teams actually succeed?
Well my team and I have been pondering this for some time. We’ve been working on something called ‘Team Genes’. Looking at the genetics of what makes a good team so that we can replicate this for our clients. This is my current stance on the subject..

If we built software like we built teams we wouldn’t be so surprised at the outcome.

Organisations consistently go about building project teams with no purpose, design or thought behind them at all and wonder if they have built the wrong team later down the line. The usual process is this:

  1. Bill says he needs an X
  2. Jill is an X
  3. Jill is available to do X (sort of)
  4. Bill meets Jill
  5. Bill and Jill get along
  6. Jill joins the team!

So imagine the same in the software process:

  1. Bill says he needs an X
  2. Acme’s product is an X
  3. The organisation already bought 20 licenses of Acme product
  4. Bill uses Acme product for an afternoon…and he likes it!
  5. Let’s roll out Acme tomorrow!

So let’s break down where Bill went wrong on the product front and then maybe we can learn how he goes wrong on the people front..

  1. Bill’s assertion that he needed an X wasn’t really challenged by anyone.  (Ring any bells?)
  2. The organisation is already familiar with a product so it decides that’s enough to be a contender.
  3. Hence, no-one goes out to look for any other options thus assuming the organisation’s first choice of product was a good one.  Note that the requirements have had a cursory glance at best.
  4. Bill’s happy so let’s go!

The dangers of choosing a software product in this way are that:

  1. An organisation repeats its mistakes time and time again
  2. Politics tend to rule over substance
  3. There is no strategic relationship built with the supplier or investigation into common values and goals.  Hence, the organisation may find the vendor giving them less value over time.

And most CIOs would laugh at Bill.  Silly Bill.  Rash Bill.  And yet the product that Bill was assessing was worth maybe, 10K a year in licenses.  (These days probably a lot less).

But the person that Bill is assessing in the first example is going to cost the business between £200 and £800+ PER DAY!! People often cost between 10 – 20 x more than software does and yet we use MORE RIGOUR in choosing the former than the latter!

Here’s where you might be thinking the following..

This doesn’t apply to my company as we always create job specs for all roles

Newsflash.  A job spec isn’t a requirement.

Do we write a product spec when we go looking for software?  Hell no! We write user requirements.  We state the problem and not the solution.  (Well most of the time anyway).  A person specification would be something like this.. “My name is Bill.  I’m a busy Product Owner with a day job and I’m currently writing all my own user stories.  It would be great if I had someone who could reduce the team’s reliance on my time by creating user stories for me.  I could then spend the time I do have with the team answering their day to day questions about business processes.”   Yes the answer might be to get a business analyst in.  Or, it might be to utilise the test team differently.  Or, it might be that the Dev team lead is totally happy to help out here.  Unfortunately, because we are so used to the status quo we leap to the solution in the blink of an eye.  This is partly because we want our problem solved and partly because in most people’s hiring process, the quickest way to get your problem solved is to ring up an agent and say,

“I want a business analyst please.  For the rest of the project. 3 months would be good and I want them ASAP please”

Let’s look at the next part of the process.  Jill is available.  So Jill is suitable.  That’s the problem with hiring ASAP.  Suddenly there’s a drought for the thing you need the most.  So we look at who is available.

Are you now throwing things at your computer?

Of course I only hire people who are available!!  Why would I do anything else?

Well this point is kind of related to the last one.

Sure someone may not be available, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help you.

Being lean is about minimising waste and waste (when applied to people) comes in the form of under-utilisation.  But how many companies truly assess this ruthlessly before going off and hiring?

Finally, let’s look at the 3rd part of Bill’s process.

He likes her.  He hires her.

Well here’s where I can totally disagree with you.   We hire people using personality assessments as well as those for competency.

Okay not bad.  What if Jill hates doing X? Wants to move away from X and you are just making her do more Xing?? We rarely find out if people are interested in roles just whether they are competent enough.She might be good at it sure but is she passionate about it?

Last but not least, Bill and Jill may not even be working together to produce the same stuff. Jill gets parachuted into a brand new team and left to fend for herself. We used to let software out of the packaging to fend for itself but we soon stopped that. We realised it was insane to impose software on people without due care and attention and yet this is exactly what we do when we impose one person on a whole group of people and vice versa.

Doesn’t that sound a little insane?

How about we do this instead?..

  1. Write a problem statement not a job spec, rather like we do for products
  2. Let the team interview the person rather than their prospective manager or someone who ‘knows’ about the area in which you are hiring
  3. Test where Jill naturally sits in a team and assess if Jill would clash with anyone else or whether there is still a gap.
  4. Ideally do an assessment of your team before you hire ANYONE.  Then you can use this information to inform your choice of both role and the type of person you need.
  5. If they are costing more than around £8K per month, try them out for an afternoon.
  6. Be prepared to accept a failure has occurred – fast – and take action if necessary.  People are rarely fired for swift action provided it’s backed up by evidence.

But that sounds a bit of a long winded process.

Really?  How many hrs did you spend interviewing people last week?  You probably did at least 3.  That’s 3 hrs of your time.  That doesn’t include anyone else’s either.   HR?  Your boss?

We think life’s too short for endless interviewing.

So.. here’s the news.  Magic Milestones can set this up in under 24hrs and it saves time beyond just the first hire.  No-one gets near us without a competency check anyhow so that bit’s done.

To be a member of the Team Genes club our people are tested all year not just when you ask for their services.

Using a different method of hiring is brave.  We know that people’s habits are hard to change.  Why don’t you start the ball rolling and find out more here.

In the meantime, I’m just going off to help Bill out of a fix..

 

 

Investment Management, Negotiation, Product Management, Project Management, Project Office, Stakeholder Management

Plagued by Seagulls


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Looking out onto the Cornish coast this morning I was having a lovely relaxing time. Then the gulls came..

Apologies if there are any gull lovers out there but for me these creatures are pretty awful. Ever since one nicked my cheesecake next to the Sydney Opera House I’ve never quite forgiven them as a species. They have circled me menacingly and dive-bombed me in a Kayak. They have kept me awake at 4am with their incessant child-like wailing. They have deposited the unthinkable over my lovely new coat. They are something I could live without. However, they are there and I do unfortunately, have to live with them.

But why are seagulls relevant to delivery management?

The seagull is the person who circles overhead or stalks you on the ground. For some reason your project is both enticing and toxic to them. They poop from on high over your delivery efforts or else they just peck at your feet. Either way dealing with Sea Gulls on a project is irritating and tricky.

Pellet guns are not allowed

As tempting as it may be, shooting Seagulls is illegal. Likewise on a project that option is not the best to pursue and may indeed get you fired.

So what is the best approach, if circled by a seagull?

Identification

Know your Seagulls. They could be lurking anywhere and strike at any time. The common ones are:

  1. Security experts. They play a vital role and that role involves swooping in when you least expect it.
  2. Technical Architects. Beware not having this person on side. If you break the rules be prepared for the inevitable whitewash of your technical plans.
  3. Finance bods. Less Seagulls and more rug pullers but the effect is the same. If they aren’t bought in they will ruin your delivery plans.
  4. Members of department under-going change. Perhaps the least expected and most prevalent they can undermine a change at the last possible moment leading to certain failure and a possible pecked head. These guys tend to come in pairs.

Don’t

  • Try to get them fired. This may backfire like the pellet gun approach.
  • Avoid them. Ever tried avoiding a Seagull? They don’t get the hint.
  • Feed them. If you are doing a bad job at delivery or stakeholder management you are doing their job for them. Try not to get distracted or they will nick your cheesecake when you aren’t looking. They may even tell everyone it was theirs to begin with.

Do

  • Involve them as soon as it is practical to do so
  • See their point of view. Seagulls have their own agenda. They are feathering their own nests. How can your project help them? Work it out and see if your agenda can align more with theirs. It may not be possible but worth some thought.
  • Keep them out of pecking distance but make sure you know they aren’t roosting nearby. Keep them in the communication loop and make sure that others know their intentions. Otherwise, they could potentially shoot you out of the water with an argument that disrupts your project entirely.
  • Pre-empt their arguments and prepare your defence.

sunSince I’ve been writing this the Seagulls have gone and the sun has even come out.  Waiting is another option as Seagulls are often on the look out for other threatening projects and their attention can be deflected elsewhere.

Just make sure yours isn’t their focus today and grab a large umbrella if they start losing their proverbial cannons.

 

 

 

 

Entrepreneurship, Failure, Investment Management, Philosophy, Product Management, Strategy, Teams, Uncategorized

The Boy and the Starfish


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When the tide is coming in..

You need a team or a consultancy that can focus on solving one problem at a time.

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.
Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,”I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied,

“I made a huge difference to that one!”

Author Unknown

 

agile, Failure, Investment Management, Lean, Project Management, Project Office, Scrum, Strategy, Uncategorized

Why do only 2.5% of companies successfully deliver 100% of their projects?


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PricewaterhouseCoopers reviewed 10,640 projects worldwide and found that only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects.

Is this because people are incompetent?   It’s a sad look out for man kind if so.  However, the reality is likely more complicated..

  1.  People can’t concentrate on more than one thing at a time http://bit.ly/1etgh4B so as organisations are made up of people, that applies collectively to organisations as well.
  2. The more time we have to do something the less we achieve.  Take Kickstarter projects as just one example http://kck.st/1VjLaSi  Kickstarter changed the maximum length of a campaign from 90 days to 60 days in 2011 after realising that campaigns that ran for the full 90 days were successful only 24% of the time much less successful than shorter campaigns (over 44%).
  3. As humans we naturally radically under or over estimate what we can achieve.  Unlike pigeons(!) we use contextual information which can lead to biased judgments of interval duration, thereby reducing the precision of these estimates.  http://bit.ly/1XDbbKU

This is why at Magic Milestones we work on 3 themes:

  1. Creating a stable focused team Agile Experts
  2. Focusing on ‘the next right thing’ Lean PMO
  3. Creating a delivery culture using Lean Start-Up and Agile techniques.  Using hard data as a basis for predictions and planning we baseline performance then improve an organisation through  Consultancy & Training

Read more about why we do what we do via Our Story

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Making delivery a habit rather than a fluke


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More and more people are arguing that agile doesn’t work..

Even more people argue that – we’ve been doing this anyway! It’s the old stuff re-packaged!

Whatever your view, one thing is clear.  Delivery needs to become a habit not a fluke. If one agile project can’t be delivered to the satisfaction of stakeholders and customers alike, then it sure as hell means that none of the others will totally be either.

Agile is about practise but it is also about doing a certain number of things in a VERY disciplined way.  The problem we have today with the proliferation of the ‘expert’ on the internet, (self-proclaimed ones mostly) is that the academic foundations of agile/ Scrum/ Lean are often ignored. Without the proper homework under-lying these methodologies, there is a weakening of them that leads to a dilution at scale.  This is why the proper training is so important.

What’s more, lip service to an agile way of working is not good enough either and will not lead to a delivery culture.  Agile challenges the command and control manager.  If the organisational culture incentives this way of working then there is little hope for Agile to flourish in this environment.

Empowerment is an easy word to write but a very hard thing to teach.  Empowerment comes from changing behaviours and this is what many who start on the agile journey don’t recognise up front.

Here is the guide we suggest for the agile journey:

1. Observe what’s broken and also what’s working well

2. Baseline where you are

3. Work with senior executives on culture and prioritisation of projects.  Gain buy in.

4. Build a course that gives everyone a common understanding

5. Create champions

6. Coach and follow up as necessary

Check out some of my colleague Fiona’s ideas on embedding empowerment: http://www.valuingyou.co.uk/

 

But I have to agree with these guys:

http://www.netobjectives.com/blogs/why-agile-may-not-work-you-lean-agile-will

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2012/04/17/the-case-against-agile-ten-perennial-management-objections/

http://r-stylelab.com/company/blog/software-product-development/12-fatal-mistakes-in-agile-development

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Why the “Intrapreneur” has self-discipline beyond any entrepreneur


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Eric Ries (the author of ‘The Lean Start Up’) has written that people can apply entrepreneurial principles within the corporate world.  “It’s not ‘intrepreneurship,’ it’s not ‘like entrepreneurship,”’  Ries says.  “Corporate entrepreneurship is regular entrepreneurship.”

In a recent Birmingham meetup we had a great conversation around this..  One of the things that came out of the discussion was that people in the corporate world actually face a set of challenges that largely come from over-resourcing.  If you think about it, there is a pattern, a path that many have already walked.  However, the intrapreneur needs to reject this path.  Why?  Well, because if they walk it, they just fall into the same trap as everyone else in their organisation.  They are unlikely to change the outcome by doing what everyone else has done before.  If a project manager, a product manager, a DBA, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, a tester, a designer, a UX specialist etc. etc. all get hired straight off, this is fishy to me.  Someone is hiring the Rolls Royce Team for a Fiat Punto job.  However, if the smallest possible team is hired and later skills are begged, borrowed or stolen then this is the equivalent to acting more like an entrepreneur would.  Sorry… I will amend that.  This is tantamount to acting like an entrepreneur should.

However, entrepreneurs are only human.  Just like everyone else.  People like people. Entrepreneurs don’t set up businesses to sit around by themselves.  They want a team around them.  In fact having met and talked to well over 100 of my fellow business owners over the years..  I’d even go so far as saying they NEED them.  So even entrepreneurs, with their tight budgets, cash flow constraints etc. etc. are prone to a little ‘pushing the boat out’ when it comes to hiring people.

But what about Intrapreneurs?  Well, I have to confess here that I haven’t ever been an intrapreneur but I have worked alongside many people tasked with the job of making something work.  Generally, something other people have failed at.  Although they all had the best of intentions I can think of more than a one or two who decided to hire based on the standard template.  And who would blame them?  Entrepreneurs are constrained by the fact they HAVE NO MONEY.  Much of the time it hits their own pocket!  Yet they still OVER HIRE!!  I have done this.  Many times.  It does not end well.

So who can blame the intrapreneurs for acting in the exact same way?  The only difference being that they have more money to waste.

Hence, the actions of an intrapreneur must be more measured, more calculated.  Their resistance to following the status quo must be second to none.  They must have the grit to be able to deliver on a shoestring with all the risks involved.

They are putting themselves in the line of fire by acting in the best interests of the organisation.  WOW.

To me, it kind of feels like an intrapreneur needs to be way more disciplined, way more entrepreneurial, than the entrepreneur ever was.

Stephanie Chamberlain runs Magic Milestones Limited, which is a Delivery Management Consultancy.  She is a serial entrepreneur, published author on Agile Methods and a visiting industrial fellow at Aston Business School.