Author: stephchambo

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

Uncategorized

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

Consultancy & Training, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Lean Startup, Product Management, Project Office, Stability, Strategy, Teams

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.