Wednesday, September 25, 2013

5 Steps to Better Project Management

An organization must execute well. While project management can make up for mistakes in planning, excellent project management begins in the planning phase.

Project management is the art of managing the project and its deliverables with a view to produce finished products or service. There are many ways in which a project can be carried out and the way in which it is executed is PM. Without a planned approach to the task of managing the projects and achieving objectives, it would be very difficult for the organizations to successfully execute the projects within the constraints of time, scope and quality and deliver the required result.

Many of us are either new to PM or our organization is new to a structured PM approach. The key is to set up a good process and build on it through successful project deployments and understand what works best for your organization and customers.  You can build a project management methodology, but be open to tweaking it along the way – especially for newer or smaller organizations as you learn what works best for the size projects you manage.

According to, here are things you can do today quickly and easily that will make you a better PM and make your overall practice more successful:

Use a good customer management tool. There are so many cloud-based options abound for managing your customers.  It can be so easy to lose track of current clients, potential clients and those clients who want you to call them back next quarter when they have more money to spend. You need a good  CRM tool, so download a few trials and see which one works best.

Use a good PM tool. There are also a lot of cloud-based and affordable PM tools.  Search and try a few out…there are hundreds available now.  You can even use a combination of a CRM and a separate project management application, or you can evaluate CRM applications that include PM functionality.

Collect templates and planning documents. You need to plan – you need those requirements documents, communication plans and statements of work.  And, you need templates, pipelines and stages so that you can easily repeat project successes.  Project schedule templates are difficult to create from scratch, but once you have effective ones to choose from you can tailor them to get started on any type of project quickly and confidently. 

Meet with your customer regularly. We should all be scheduling weekly status meetings with our project teams, as well as reaching out regularly to your customer just to ensure that they feel all the bases are being covered. It’s better to find out early about a concern than to let it fester into something that they end up calling your CEO about later in the project. 

Be professional. You probably have at your disposal a solid group of very skilled project resources.  Treat them as such and they will follow you into battle. They won’t soon forget the recognition you give them for jobs well done.  Project managers don’t often get the praises they probably deserve for individual project successes, but that should never stop you from treating your team the way you would want to be treated.  It will pay off dividends throughout the engagement and when these same resources end up on your teams later on other projects. 

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Global Communication Begins With a Handshake or Does It!

Abbey began her conference with everyone shaking hands with everyone in the room.  This created a flurry of activity as everyone was introducing themselves to everyone else.  A handshake is a non- threatening jester used as a greeting.  The purpose of the handshake is to convey trust, respect, balance and equality. 
Abbey explained how in Russia the men do not shake hands with a woman, instead a Russian man would kiss a women’s hand.  She discussed how a firm handshake is rude in many cultures and we have to learn to be aware of the different cultures and adapt and understand.  

Abbey then shifted to attention span.  What is the average attention span of an adult? 
Unfortunately, today the attention span for adults is only five minutes. This means you now have only five minutes to convey your message clearly and concisely.

She provided some tips and tricks to demonstrate effective communication within the project team in a global environment….… where technology is constantly evolving and the importance of building a relationship is key.

·         Do not rush a decision based upon first impression
·         Communication – Safe Place
·         Understand the Noise
·         Effective Communication
·         Communication and cultural Diversity
·         Cultural Expectations
·         Belief Systems

To help with communication:
Plan, prepare, laugh, do not let them see you sweat, use templates, take meeting notes, maintain action list and know the holidays for the different cultures.
Hear the highlights in Abbey’s own word in the video below.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Marshmallow, Spaghetti Sticks and String…Oh My! How to Encourage BA and PM Collaboration

In her discussion titled “Let’s Collaborate Not Tolerate…” Paula Bell (CEO, Paula A. Bell Consulting, LLC) proclaimed early on that “Many people talk about collaboration, but few people actually collaborate.”  After this proclamation, Bell moved forward with her mission to make sure that session participants became a part of (if not already in) the population that actually collaborates – not just talks about. 
Bell emphasized the importance of first building a relationship with your partner (project manager or business analyst), next fostering a collaborative environment, and finally maintaining a positive relationship. 

As a part of building a relationship, Bell encouraged participants to

·         Learn about each other (likes/dislikes, working styles, and communication styles)

·         Set expectations for working together

·         Stay connected with one another

In terms of fostering a collaborative environment, she stressed the importance of (among other things)

·         Investing time upfront

·         Communicating goals

·         Defining roles and responsibilities

For maintaining a positive relationship, Bell advised participants to do a number of things including

·         Make good on your word

·         Admit your mistakes

·         Be realistic

To help session participants grasp and retain the key concepts above, Bell shared interesting videos, provided a template demonstrating how to apply some concepts, and directed the team in a very engaging and thought provoking activity (learned from another expert).

It was the aforementioned activity that seemed to really allow session participants to practice and assess their own collaboration.  Bell divided participants into small groups that were responsible to work together to build a structure (as tall as possible).  Each group was afforded the exact same resources for building its structure (a marshmallow, some spaghetti sticks, a string and some tape).  At the end of a set time period, the group with the tallest standing structure was declared the winner.

The winning group had a structure that stood 19 inches tall.  When Bell allowed the group to share with others how they worked together, one of the group members explained “I trusted my team”.  The group member went on to explain how she never worked with the others in her group (prior to the session), so she had no reason to distrust them.  The group member’s comment tied back to one of Bell’s key bullet points on maintaining positive relationships – making good on your word.

Overall, Bell’s obvious passion for the material, interactive tools, and hands-on activity seemed to drive home the point that collaboration is not something to simply be talked about – relationships must be established, a collaborative environment must be fostered, and the positive aspects must be maintained. 

Belinda Henderson, CBAP, PSM
Senior Consultant and Business Analysis Blogger, Cardinal Solutions Group
Guest Blogger, 2013 Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lessons in Leadership from the Flight Deck

Carey Lohrenz, a leadership and strategy expert, knows what it takes to win in one of the highest pressure jobs imaginable. She has spent 10 rewarding and challenging years planning, executing and debriefing complicated missions as the first female F-14 Fighter Pilot in the U.S. Navy.

Lohrenz doesn’t work in your typical office - she spends each work day in a $45 million jet working a very high stress role with a lot of moving parts. In less than two seconds she goes from 0 to 165 mph in her jet to bring men to a target and back again.

“That speed is physically exhausting so the hardest part is staying conscious, “she explained in her keynote presentation at PW&WCBA 2013 in Disney World. “Meanwhile you are responsible for communicating on three different radios to several different people in the air and on the ground.”

Working on top of an aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous industrious worksites in the world. The job has a clear focus of mission– safely launching and recovering an aircraft. In order to complete each mission successfully, Lohrenz has to consistently exemplify stellar leadership skills.

“When you can leverage strong leadership skills, you can achieve growth and accelerate your career path.” she told the audience.

Here are some skills that Lohrenz developed to reach her goal:

Be the Catalyst
A catalyst is someone who can align people and make things happen faster. “That purpose, focus and discipline allow common people to achieve extraordinary thing,” said Lohrenz.
Also, having a winning attitude and commitment gets you far. How committed are your to your success and continued development? “If you lose sight, your loose the fight,” she added.

Be Tenacious
Early in her life, Lohrenz was drawn to doing something with an organization that put mission before self. She has to always be flexible, be able to adapt to ever-changing situations and overcome any obstacle, which she strongly advises people to do in any business.

The Commanding Officers had to identify only the people who were able to do this well. “They want to break us to get us to the point of understanding where we will break and be able to address those fears and challenges and work through them. The fear of failure is so paralyzing because it makes us pass up opportunities,” she explained. “But, breaking through this allows us to start reaching our potential.”

Be Committed to Excellence
Lohrenz really wanted to blend in and be one of the guys, but it turns out she became a pioneer in the industry. Because of this, she has learned how much perceptions matter, your personal brand, professional brand matters because it is how people perceive you.

“There can be a gap and you just need to know where you are in those gaps so you can address those perceptions,” she explained.

Lohrenz said she and her team are process people’ and tend to over-complicate things. They have highly effective processes of planning, executing and debriefing after the event. “We understood peoples’ roles and responsibilities so we can move easily into the execution phase,” she said. “In fact, one hour of effective planning can save you 200 execution errors, according to Harvard Business Review."

Be Resilient
Being a fighter pilot has its challenges. Lohrenz was used as a platform for “why we can’t have women fighter pilots” in an international discussion when she was just 24 years old She was pulled even out of her cockpit when the Navy chose to not support her because they thought the issue would simply go away. So, for a year and a half she was grounded and felt like her world was completely shattered.

“There were days that I felt like I couldn’t breadth. Everything I worked for was taken away from me,” she told us.

She later was given the opportunity to get back in the cockpit and fly admirals and generals, but it was a very different life than a fighter pilot.  Soon enough, she was back to where she was meant be as a fighter pilot.
“I stood up for what I believed in because the women came before me fought so hard and I knew women would be coming up behind me,” Lohrenz said.

Overall, her message today is: “Good enough is only your entry ticket into the game. Be innovative in your path to success that will get you where you want to go.”

So, be brave. Take risks. What are you going to do to make a difference?

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 
Enhanced by Zemanta

It's the Goal Not The Role

Best Practice in PM/BA Collaboration Track

Ellen Gottesdiener, Founder/Principal Consultant of EBG Consulting began with a breakout session each team with the Agile Manifesto principles and had them write down what needs to happen to have those principles work.   Through this exercise she was showing the similarities and differences in PM and BA roles. 
Ellen talked about how Product Management is a newer discipline, which is intertwined in project management and business analysis.  She began to explain the roles and Project Management is the “How,” Product Management is the “Why,” and the Business Analysis is the “What” of a project.

She provided a great example and asked if anyone had heard the saying “A fool with a tool is still a fool.”  How it is important to know how to use the tools if the tools are useful.

Hear some highlights in her own words in the link below:


For Pete’s Sake…Consider the Impact of Change on Others

Keynote Naomi Karten (Author of Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change) opened her discussion on “Embracing Change…” by warning “There is a prerequisite for this session – It is only for people who have experienced change.”  She then advised anyone who has not experienced change to stay after the session, so she could “introduce them to someone who has experienced change.”  This witty way of emphasizing that change happens to everyone went over well with the audience and made for a smooth transition into the real life example of someone who had experienced an interesting change – a gentleman Karten met by the name of Pete (or Project Pete as Karten called him).

Karten met Project Pete at a previous conference.  She told how Project Pete went to work one day and was told to “pack up” his area.  He (and the rest of his team) was being moved to another office in 24 hours.  Karten described how this unexpected “jolt” to Pete’s normal way of life threw him into chaos.  She went on to reference Project Pete throughout the discussion, in order to tie how we experience change back to a real life scenario.  

One point Karten emphasized is that session participants (as project managers and business analysts) are often responsible for introducing “jolts” into the lives of others – the same types of “jolts” that Pete experienced.  BAs and PMs cause jolts by carrying out expected tasks like offering ideas, introducing options, and trying to influence others.  Since BAs and PMS are “possible sources of chaos”, Karten stressed the importance of understanding how chaos is caused and how people respond to it.   

Understanding that successful BAs and PMs cannot completely avoid introducing change (jolts), Karten shared some guidelines on how to best handle such situations.  A few of those guidelines are listed below.

·       Minimize the compounding effects of chaos:  If you know someone is still dealing with the effects of another change, consider adjusting the timing of the change you are preparing to introduce.

·       Regularly communicate the status of the change and its impact:  Communicating the status of change builds trust.  However, be careful that you don’t overdo it – Don’t communicate so much that you become a larger source of stress than the change itself.

·       Give people a say about the change:  In many cases you will not be able to eliminate the change altogether.  However, if you have areas where you can give them some say on how to carry out the change – do so.

·       Recognize the power of listening and empathy as change management tools:  Sometimes having someone to just listen makes it a little easier for those involved to handle change.   

·      Absolutely, positively, do not put down the old way:  Putting down the old way of doing something may offend those involved, because people often find a sense of security in the old way. 

·      Don’t Mollycoddle: Don’t spoil, overprotect, cosset, humor, pander, overindulge, or baby those who have to endure the change. Listening and empathy are important (as noted above), but don’t overdo it.

·      Don’t forget that there is chaos involved with change:  Change is naturally messy.  Understand that those involved with change are experiencing some degree of chaos. Accordingly, they may not respond to things in a logical or rational way for a period of time.

·      Build trust:  Before introducing change for others, build trust. 

Karten also touched on how participants personally should handle change.  She emphasized that when going through a change personally, it is important to recognize when you are in a state of chaos, as well as be able to resist the urge to make decisions that have permanent results.

Overall, session participants seemed to take away the importance of considering the impact of change on those going through it (others like Pete - as well as themselves).

Belinda Henderson, CBAP, PSM
Senior Consultant and Business Analysis Blogger, Cardinal Solutions Group
Guest Blogger, 2013 Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts

Soft Skills for Effective Collaboration

Maureen McWhite, Business Apps analyst, Fed Ex began with K-I-S-S  Keep  It Short and Simple.  Keep your emails and personal messages short and simple.  Communication are important, but leave out unnecessary information.  She believes you should always set expectations, know your audience, own it or have accountability.

Everyone had a great time participating in an exercise on communication using balloons and a pin. This exercise helped to demonstrate what the stakeholder asked for versus what was the result.  Had everyone stood still and did not pop any balloons everyone could have won.  It is human nature to react and not take the step back to plan and organize.  You can see this fun exercise in the video below.

Maureen also talked about the how to communicate with different personality types.  She divided up the room by “Drill Sergeant”, “Rational”; “We are the world” and “Life of the party” of personality types.  She was able to demonstrate how each of these personality types communicate and negotiate with different personality types. 
It is important to build relationships with teams, sponsors, customers to be successful.  Always have meeting notes to refer to later and keep your project on track.

You can hear the highlights from Maureen in the video link below:


PW&WCBA Day TWO Begins!!!!!!

Welcome to Day Two of the PW&WCBA 2013!  Chuck Millhollan, Director of Program Management, Churchill Downs Incorporated, kicked off the session with some great professional advice for your career, as a PM or BA.

1.       Join a professional Group and get involved
2.       Subscribe to professional journal
3.       Earn professional certification
4.       Understand your value proposition
Learning does not stop with graduation, learning continues throughout your career.

Ralph Luck, UK Olympic Delivery Authority (London 2012 Olympics) was our first keynote speaker.  He built the foundation of the project and then handed the project off others to run the Olympics.  Ralph took us through the master plan of creating the stage for the 2012 London Olympics.  A stadium must be able to contain 80,000 people for the opening and closing ceremony. A new shopping center was required for the Olympics and remains today.  This was a huge challenge, a railroad even had to be covered over temporary.  Temporary buildings were up at least a two years.  The one important note is after the Olympics the work was far from over.  The temporary buildings and constructions had to be removed.  A skeleton crew was kept to accomplish this task.  The aquatic center, basketball center were temporary and can be removed.  The basketball center is no longer standing and homes are now being built in the current location.

Needless to say the project had several challenges.  The biggest challenge came after funding was agreed upon for the huge Olympic village.  Unfortunately, there was an economic crash.  The team became very creative and innovative and pre-sold the Olympic homes to future owners in order to fund the construction.  This money was used to help create the Olympic village.  The committee also tried many other ways to earn the money required to fund such a large project.

You can still see the Olympic village today until Spring 2014.  If you have the opportunity, go to London and see this great accomplishment!

The next keynote speaker was Naomi Karten, on Embracing Change: Transforming Ideas and Challenges into Opportunities. Naomi describes what we go through with change, how things are currently, the jolt, chaos, bumpy adjustments and the new normal.  Change can be expected or unexpected, planned or unplanned.  She began to explain how everyday things cause the jolt, which moves you to chaos.  Chaos is normal when change happens.  Below are some high level highlights:

Universal Truths
·         People vary in their receptiveness to change.  Some thrive on change
·         People’s responses are more emotional than logical or rational
·         Change involves loss
·         Significant chaos entails a temporary drop in productivity.
·         People need time to adjust to change
Naomi also provided some guidelines below are just a few highlights:
·         Minimize the compounding effect of chaos
·         Communicate the status of change
·         Let people talk about the change
·         Listen and empathize with the team
·         Do not put down how things were operating previously, discuss commonalities between the new and old
·         Do not “Mollycoddle” the team, in other words do not go overboard on empathy and understandings continue to move forward.
·         Try not to make any irreversible decisions during chaos

Above all trust must be built within the teams!  People are adaptable and will make it through the change.   Naomi wishes everyone success in managing chaos in their life.
 Hear the highlights in Naomi’s own words in the link below:



News Alert! Bigfoot Sighting – We Have Evidence!

In a session titled “Business and IT Alignment:  Turning Agility into a Reality”, Robert Woods (IT Project Manager & Agile Coach/Trainer) used his hands-on experience at Aarons, Inc. to advise participants on the importance of establishing Business and IT alignment, when trying to get the value out of an Agile transformation.   He described this alignment as being elusive – “…sort of like a Bigfoot sighting.”   He went on to reassure the audience, however, that he observed this alignment working at Aarons.

Woods explained that the success of Aaron’s Agile transformation was evident in the release of the developed product to 500 stores - as planned.  The journey was not without challenges, though.  A lack of product ownership and a lack of properly trained team facilitators are 2 of the key challenges the team faced.  These challenges were acknowledged and steps were taken to create engaged product ownership and to train team facilitators.  

After explaining some of the challenges (and tips to overcome them), Woods left participants with a key take away “Agile transformation is not department specific.  It is a culture change for the entire organization.”  He explained that if an organization can think of Agile transformation from this perspective, it is more likely to be successful in that transformation.

Belinda Henderson, CBAP, PSM
Senior Consultant and Business Analysis Blogger, Cardinal Solutions Group
Guest Blogger, 2013 Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Creating Engagement Summit: Virtual Teams

Leading  Virtual Teams in 2012: A Successful Methodology
Paul A. Capello, Engagement Leader, Cerner Corporation
Developing a methodology for virtual teams.  Paul stated, the most important aspect is the soft skills of PMs and the biggest concept is “communication.”  He believes there is no such thing as over communicating. The next most important is documentation. 
Virtual teams have responsibilities to meet regularly with management and discuss ways to improve the virtual team process. Metrics are needed for comparative studies and to make the necessary adjustments.  Self assessments are important to keep the team motivated and refocused on the target.
A quality virtual team plan allows you to record and comment on specific activities; Adherence to standards, Quality control and Strategic quality adjustment.

Hear the highlights from Paul in the video below:

 The slides are available at ProjectWorld Connect App:

Embracing Chaos: A Normal Response to Change

In PW&WCBA 2013 this morning, Naomi Karten, author of Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals, Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change, Gaps and How to Close Them and Managing Expectations, had the audience at the edge of their seats as she gave a keynote presentation on Embracing Change: Transforming Ideas and Challenges into Opportunities.

As we all have experienced, the way things are can sometimes get thrown into a jolt which causes chaos and many people affected by this change go through a very bumpy adjustment through the chaos created form the jolt.

Karten explained that jolts can be brief or prolonged, expected or unexpected, planned or unplanned, positive or negative, etc. Jolts like mergers, new manager, project cancellation, new tools, new job, or demanding sponsor can be very familiar jolts in your workplace because they can throw the people involved into a state of chaos.

“Chaos is a normal response to change and therefore is predictable,” added Karten. “People may be absent minded, tired, and have difficulty concentrating when people experience chaos. People may experience stronger emotions in general.”

So, how may they react? Karten said that some people actually love chaos – they thrive on the adrenaline rush and get charged up, while others not so much. Others may resist and refuse to cooperate because they don’t like the uncertainty. But don’t worry, Karten said resisting is normal because it’s the way we naturally react to change

“At home and at work, we are dealing with a lot of chaos all at one time. It’s amazing how good we feel when dealing with chaos,” she explained.

According to Karten, BAs and PMs are the people that throw the jolt into the mix and create chaos - by creating new ideas, giving bad news, introducing new methods, and trying to change people’s minds.  Ultimately, how BAs and PMs communicate with their team can greatly influence the duration and intensity of chaos.

So how do manage chaos? Here are some of Karten’s guidelines you can follow:
  1. Minimize the compounding effect of chaos.
  2. Regularly communicate the status of the change and its impact.
  3. Give people a say about the change.
  4. Recognize the power of listening and empathy as change management tools.
  5. Absolutely, positively do not put down the old way.
  6. Don’t mollycoddle.
  7. Avoid the biggest mistake people make by implementing change.
  8. When you are in chaos, try not to make any irreversible decisions.

Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA in New York City, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.  She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 
Enhanced by Zemanta

Creating Engagement Summit: The Value of Diversity

Creating Engagement in Project Teams Summit

The Summit began with some opening remarks from Chuck Millholan.  He shared a great quote, “Knowledge is only potential, proficiency is power!” Author unknown.
The first half of the summit included several great presenters:

·         Chuck Millholan, Director of Program Management, Churchill Downs Incorporated

·         Joy Toney, Manager, ALSAC/St. Jude’s Children’s Research

·         Mario Simmons Director, ALSAC/St Jude Children’s Research Hospital

The Value of Diversity: Increasing the Odds for Success in Decision Making,

This is a great and energetic presentation, the focus was on Diversity and how important diversity is to success.  People tend to pick people like yourself, this is normal.  However, you should strive to pick people different than yourself.  Diversity is all people and all cultures.
Mario stressed, to not assimilate into one entity, be an individual and respect individuals. Over 116 Million People or 36 percent of the population are of some ethnicity.  This continues to grow and we need to include a diverse team to be successful.

Joy led some volunteers on different scenarios and how each would handle the different scenarios.  She was able to focus on different aspect of diversity used or needed in each scenario.  The message is not one person knows everything.  She expressed the importance to speak up on a team and make a difference.

Please listen to Joy and Mario highlights in their own words at the link below:


Successful Projects Across Borders

Successful Projects Across Borders: How to Achieve Team Unity

Malgorzata Kusyk, Sr. Project Manager, Thomson Reuters

Malgorzata prefers to be known as Gosia for short.  She began by telling us of her home country of Poland and how cultures are different. She stated the world is changing so quickly and we need to learn how to adapt and change with it.  She explained how culture is like an iceberg.  There is a lot more below the surface of every person.  There are different culture types, reactors, relationship and linear.  She briefly described each culture through the Lewis model. 
Collaboration is one of the most important aspects. Collaboration includes: Commitment to success, ownership of shared goals, relationships with a purpose.  The other side of collaboration is trust. 

Challenges to Collabortion are difficulty building a collaborative team atmosphere, not enough time to focus on the team, not enough resources and many more.  These challenges require good leaders with integrity, be able to manage change, empower team members and focus to help overcome the challenges and succeed.

Different types of trust: Cognitive, institutional, personality. All of these exist on a team. Trust your team.

Recognize the team and celebrate successes.  Just say, “Thank you.”
To have a great virtual team you must have:
  • Commitment and Engagement
  • Shared Process for Decision Making
  • Right info to the right people
Here the highlights from Gosia in the link below:

 The slides are available at ProjectWorld Connect App:


Monday, September 9, 2013

How Fascinating! Learning to Speak the Truth about Agile Adoption

Ellen Gottesdiener (EBG Consulting) and Ainsley Nies (Acorn Consulting) kicked off the first Agile workshop of the 2013 PW&WCBA by emphasizing truth-telling with regard to Agile adoption.  When we discuss the who, what and why of Agile, we must be willing to be honest about where we are in our progress.  This includes being honest about the adoption challenges we face.  Once we are transparent, we can take steps to overcome the challenges and advance our Agile implementation.

The duo went on to encourage each person to identify her progress on the spectrum of traditional versus Agile practices in areas like management focus, culture, design, change, and value. As participants physically moved up and down the spectrum (created by Ellen and Ainsley standing at opposite ends of the room), discussion ensued about how participants may be more mature in some areas of Agile, but have opportunities for improvement in other areas.  The activity also revealed that an individual participant may be at one place on the spectrum, where the actual organization in which the participant works is somewhere else on the spectrum.  Participants were encouraged that identifying these types of opportunities and gaps is the starting point for addressing related challenges and maturing in Agile adoption.

The traditional versus Agile spectrum activity was a nice transition in to the being Agile versus doing Agile discussion, where Ellen and Ainsley emphasized that “many implementations fail because people are so focused on doing Agile instead of being Agile.”   The duo stressed that being Agile means a change in mindset, where values and principles guide behavior and enable success.  Some of the key values and principles discussed included thinking with a systems perspective, tolerating ambiguity, building relationships, and being transparent.   To help participants take the next steps in being more Agile Ellen and Ainsley directed everyone in starting a development plan with actions to address the opportunities for improvement identified during the session. 

Ellen and Ainsley shared a number of other insights regarding who is involved with Agile (the Agile teams) and what those teams do.  One of the more impressive ways I have seen to demonstrate what teams do (versus just lecturing on it) is the way that the duo structured the agenda.  The agenda items were listed in an actual backlog.   Ellen and Ainsley explained that the session participants were the users for this backlog.  As the duo progressed through the backlog, they moved items from the backlog to the doing board and finally to the done board.  Participants were treated like actual users in that they were allowed to add items to the backlog during the meeting.  Towards the end of the meeting Ellen and Ainsley asked participants to choose which backlog items they wanted to pull into the current sprint, given that there was only X amount of time left in the session.  This really drove home the concepts of backlog management and time-boxing. 

Finally, in the spirit of being transparent (according to Agile principles) Ellen and Ainsley shared with the group a technique they use for handling unexpected change (which they learned from another expert).  Instead of handling unexpected change with fret and dismay, they instructed participants to simply shout out “how fascinating!” This takes the initial sting out of change and allows the necessary steps to be taken for handling that change.  Ellen and Ainsley encouraged participants to apply the technique during the meeting.  The participants did just that.  By the end of the session, everyone seemed to get the point that change happens and you have to be prepared to handle it – not ignore it or get so worked up that you are unable to move forward. 

Overall this session reinforced key Agile principles in an interactive way that gained (and maintained) participants’ attention.  To that I give a genuine - how fascinating!

Belinda Henderson, CBAP, PSM
Senior Consultant and Business Analysis Blogger, Cardinal Solutions Group