Running On Ice

Summer isn’t warm enough for lots of ice but the metaphor struck me as so true in a project rescue I was discussing with an old client. Their new project manager joined to turnaround a project but seems to be making little progress.

With a little coaching, the client admitted that the project manager was being pushed to deliver fast but had no control over the things that were the causes of his predecessor’s struggles: poor portfolio management and resource churn.

When the team is constantly being churned, leaving, reassigned and re-forming, momentum is lost. Inductions and hand-overs take time that should be spent on the project. Rework become inevitable because the learning curves are being trodden every day. The lack of stability in a team means communications channels are restarted (or fail to include the right people) nearly every day. That is wasteful.

The portfolio management was broken. There was so much pressure to get projects out of pipeline and to “started” states that there were more projects in progress than the organisation had capacity to  deal with.  That meant the rare, highly skilled resources had more churn than anyone else. They were getting worn down.

Time for my client to face reality. They had to stop running on ice. We laughed at the metaphor but my client’s presentation may have a cartoon on the page were he delivers the  tough message to the senior team: be serious guys, either resource the teams for the projects we are doing or do less projects at once. In agile terms: minimise work in progress.

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scheduling decisions change atmosphere

What do Agile and the Olympics have in common?

The London 2012 Olympics have a few days left before the break to prepare the next phase (Paralympics). The home side have achieved golds (much to the relief of team officials who were beginning to worry if the pessimism of the media was correct). In fact, Team GB have had a very successful game. People have been inspired to take up sports either as fans or to stay fit – we’ll soon know if that commitment lasts

I have a new role and I’ve done my first two week travelling across London using public transport. That’s usually nightmare: rush hour is often “crush hour”. But it hasn’t been. why?

The London 2012 organisation has tried to schedule events so spectator journeys have been spread across the capital city at different start times. To keep the transport network flowing. They have invested in those areas that showed signs of  potential failure before they were needed.

The school holidays have helped and because of the dire warnings, some families have escaped the city. That removes the time constraints on the morning travel peak; “I drop the kids and dash to work” doesn’t apply.

Some employers have encourage working from home or changing working hours (one friend starts at 7 and is done by 3:30) and that means people have more flexibility over start and end times to allow them to get to evening events.

Others have taken holidays to escape the big show because they are not sport fans. They are missing the cultural events and the atmosphere. As one visitor from a more northern city commented, “this isn’t like London – it’s so friendly!” part of that is because there are more people to give directions and welcome visitors, letting the staff get on with other important tasks uninterrupted. there is also some extra capacity in the system (special buses)

The net effect is that demand is reduced and spread across more time and people are being patient with each other.   It is all about scheduling, resourcing and capacity buffers. Agile approaches aim to minimise work in progress and flatten out the resource peaks. That works in a similar way by removing the usual assumptions about scheduling constraints.

Will London change forever because of this? Unfortunately, no. The children will be back at school for fixed hours. Parents will all be heading to work at he same time pushing capacity to the max. The festival spirit and extra people running the system will disappear. Some employers will revoke flexible working.

But imagine if we could remove those constraints and keep this calm, friendly, capable transport system. Now imagine what a little rescheduling might do to remove the stress from your project.

Quality comes from Professional Responsibility

Testing is a double edge sword. Testing is done for two reasons: to catch any unintended consequence of changes and (for risk management) giving a fresh view to find anything that would be a reputation issue if it reached a customer. However, because testing is done there may be a tendency for a “I’ve got a safety net” mentality that can allow corners to be cut and process precision to be lost. Read more of this post

Kanban: visualising work in progress

“I like your Kanban” I said

“My what?” was the shocked reply. Had I said a rude word?

On the wall of the office was a cork notice board on which was pinned postcard sized coloured index cards under headings. It was a visual representation of the progress of work through the business – known as kanban in manufacturing.   Read more of this post

PRINCE2, PMBoK, Agile

A project manager is a project manager right?  Project managers should be able to manage any project.  Well, yes and no.

Do project managers need to be technical experts to manage technical projects? No. The technical content may have some impact and provided a technical expert is there to work with the project manager, all should be fine. Read more of this post

Discussions about Project Management

 I have seen 3 post and had 2 discussion this week (it is only Tuesday!) that suggested we should be more consistent about project management and not confuse people.  Agile method followers insist waterfall is dead and should be buried. Others say Agile is about product development and not project management and should get out!  There is a drive for consistency and conformance: “all businesses need to be run by project management”, “we need one method”

These are frustrating conversations and damaging to business and the project management profession.  They are also naïve. Read more of this post