Tag Archives: review

The SCRUM Fieldbook

9780525573210-480x600J.J. Sutherland wrote The SCRUM Fieldbook – A master Class on Accelerating Performance, Getting Results, and Defining the Future. I would say a virtual master class build around a backlog of approximately 40 items and clustered in 10 groups. Every chapter is dedicated to one group.

The first clusters of backlog items are related to the Agile Manifesto and the usage of Scrum itself. Important but the information can be found in other books too. The other clusters will move you into the master class. Have a look at some examples from the book related to specific backlog items:

  • Decision latency as a result of a study from The Standish Group. How much time is wasted waiting for a decision to be made? Measure your meetings. More than 40% of decisions made in meetings are overturned. Think about the last time you or your organization faced a crisis. Could you have acted more quickly? How could you change your decision-making process next time?
  • Too much structure, too much processes will have a negative impact on agility. If you have just enough structure to ride the edge of chaos, that’s where interesting things happen. Creativity blossoms and can be channeled. Ideas are generated and applied. There is freedom of expression but also some controls in place to focus.
  • A structural reorganization emerged as the goal shifted from output (making sure everybody was busy) to outcome (getting to done).
  • Know the power of no. Choices have to be made.
  • Find your ba. It’s a shared space between individuals that is the foundation for knowledge creation. When you are in a partnership or participating on a team or teams aligned on a single goal, you create something larger than the sum of the parts.
  • Your structure is your culture. And your culture is your limits. A rigid structure begets a rigid cultural and product architecture.
  • You need to create an environment that ensures the Scrum values are present. This is when you strike out at the bureaucracy that slows things down and frustrates everyone. But what structure should you have? Where do you begin? For the most part you do need some hierarchy, because you don’t want chaos, but you want just enough hierarchy – the minimal viable bureaucracy.
  • Once you reshape your structure, a new culture emerges. Organizations, families, people are all complex adaptive systems.
  • Focus maximum team effort on one item in the product backlog and get it done as soon as possible (swarming).
  • Watch out for anti-patterns. The problem with à la carte Scrum. Use data for decisions, not opinions. Don’t outsource competence. If you outsource how to do it, you don’t internalize the knowledge. Remove them one by one.

Conclusion. A book about the world behind Scrum. It will help to expand your knowledge how to use Scrum to accelerate performance and getting things done. You got a lot of examples using Scrum in and outside IT. Definitely worth reading.

To buy: The SCRUM Fieldbook

 

Review CHAOS Report 2018

Schermafdruk 2020-01-03 11.19.55Every two years the Standish Group publish a new CHAOS Report. These reports include classic CHAOS data in different forms with many charts. Most of the charts come from the CHAOS database of over 50,000 in-depth project profiles of the previous 5 years. You have probably seen some of those yellow-red-green charts showing e.g. challenged, failed and successful project percentages.

Every report contains an in-depth study regarding project performance. This CHAOS Report 2018: Decision Latency Theory: It’s All About the Interval presents the root cause of software project performance. A highlight of this report is their analysis and thought leadership what makes a project succeed with the winning hand and what makes a losing hand.

In the CHAOS Report 2018 are five main sections:

  • Decision Latency Theory
  • Winning Hand
  • Classic CHAOS
  • Factors of Success
  • Skills of the Factors of Success

Decision Latency Theory

Decision latency theory states: “The value of the interval is greater than the quality of the decision.” Or with other words, if you want to improve project success, you have to speed-up your decision-making. The Standish Group studied this decision latency for over a decade and stated that a project will create one decision for every $1,000 in project labor cost. If it takes many hours to make a decision, there is probably a lot of overhead involved (e.g. escalating to higher management layers) and you will have difficulty to stay within time and budget. You have to find ways to reduce this interval by decentralize the decision making, by eliminating steps that take time but have no value, by killing many of those crowded useless meetings, et cetera. Simply reducing decision latency can improve your project performance by 25%. In the report several graphs are shows as well as tables with the cost of decision latency and the resolution (skill level) by decision latency.

Winning Hand

In the previous CHAOS Report 2016 the five cards of a winning hand for project success were introduced:

  • First card: The project needs to be small
  • Second card: The product Owner or sponsor must be highly skilled
  • Third card: The process must be agile
  • Fourth card: the agile team must be highly skilled in both the agile process and the technology
  • Fifth card: The organization must be highly skilled at emotional maturity

As long as I have seen output from CHAOS reports, the project size and a committed project sponsor were always in the top 3 of their factors of success. For each card you get a graph showing the effect on challenged, failed and successful projects (effect of project size, effect of good sponsor, effect of the agile process with skilled teams, effect of using skilled teams and the effect of emotionally mature teams). And, as you can imagine, a combination of cards will increase the chance of project success, definitely when you are highly skilled at decision latency.

Classic CHAOS

The CHAOS database includes six individual attributes of success: on budget, on time, on target, value, on goal and satisfaction. The Standish Group started with a traditional metrics of success by looking at: “on time, on budget, and on target”. This means in this CHAOS Report 2018 for the year 2017: successful: 36%, challenged: 45%, failed: 19%. If they use their “modern” definition of success: “on time, on budget, with a satisfactory result.” You get almost the same results (33%, 48%, 19%).

In this report we get a new definition of success that they call “pure success.” Pure success is the combination of high customer satisfaction with high return on value to the organization. Related figures for the year 2017 are: successful: 14%, challenged: 67%, failed 19%.

Another table with figures that is presented shows the resolution of strategic goal (precise, close, loose, vague, distant and failed) versus value management (very high value, high value, average value, low value and very low value).

For each of the five cards we get a table with percentages for successful, challenged and failed. Tables for resolution by project size, resolution by project sponsor skills, and resolution by method. If you are using agile or non-agile and the project size is small the outcomes are more or less the same. When increasing project size an agile method becomes more successful. Looking at team technical skills you get two tables. One showing a four-point range and the other a five-point range of skills.

This part is finalized by looking at project resolution by industry where banking shows the highest and telecon the lowest percentage of successful projects and by project type (developed from scratch … purchased application of the shelf).

Factors of success

Every year since 1995 the Standish Group creates a list of 10 attributes and their relative weight that they call the factors of success. The top three for 2018 are decision latency, minimum scope and project sponsors. For each of the ten factors you get an explanation and a table showing percentages of successful, challenged and failed related to resolution of the specific factor (e.g. skill level).

Skills of the Factors of Success

Schermafdruk 2020-01-03 17.10.36For each of the factors of success you get a set of five skills that help to improve that factor. E.g. if you look at decision latency you can use the following skills to reduce decision latency: reducing decision latency reduces the interval between decisions, make quick decisions, distribute decisions, rapid consensus, and decision pipeline. Or if you look at minimum scope one of the skills to promote minimum scope is a simple vision. Of the features available to most mission-critical applications, 20% are used “often,” 30% “infrequently,” and a full 50% are used “almost never.” In total you get 50 skills that not only improve latency but can also be implemented at very little cost.

Conclusion. CHAOS stands for the Comprehensive Human Appraisal for Originating Software. It’s all about the human factor. If you are looking for areas of improvement of your organizational project management skills, this guide gives a great overview where you could get the highest benefits from your investments. It gives excellent insights in root causes for project failure or success.

To buy this report: www.standishgroup.com/store/

Quick Reference Cards in 2019

As a result of my book reviews in 2019, I created several Quick Reference Cards to summarize what I have read.

QRCs 2019

Overview of my year 2019 book reviews

2019 was again a fruitful book review year. I wrote around 40 book reviews including corresponding quick reference cards and several personal insights, and views on specific topics in the field of project, program and portfolio management.

books2019

Agility

Management

Project/Program/Portfolio management

Review: Portfolio Management – A practical guide

pfm guidePortfolio Management – A practical guide is a publication from the APM Portfolio Management specific Interest Group written by Steve Leary, Richard Moor, Marina Morillas Lara, Stephen Parrett, Lynne Ratcliffe and Adam Skinner.

 

Portfolio management contributes to organizations in many crucial ways:

  • Provides a focal point for strategic goals
  • Ensures the prioritization of the goals, with prioritization rules for projects and programs that are clear and unambiguous
  • Helps ensure the whole board and executives are fully behind the approach, are sponsoring the portfolio and are actively championing portfolio management and empowering a capable team
  • Provides the capability to assess all key change factors
  • Considers in-flight projects and programs and business as usual (BAU) in the same way and ensure full alignment to the strategic goals
  • Ensures ‘tactical’ projects contribute to the strategic goals – if they don’t, don’t do them
  • Embeds portfolio governance into the organization’s controls and makes it robust
  • Critically assesses what information is really needed to make portfolio decisions
  • Provides the means to be consistent and fair across the portfolio, irrespective of the program or project sponsor’s influence.

QRC (PfM A practical guide, 191129) v1.0

To download: QRC (PfM A practical guide, 191129) v1.0

The guide is divided into four main sections. The first section – Introduction to portfolio management explains the basics of portfolio management. How it can contribute to organizations, when you can benefit from portfolio management and where it fits in your organization.

The second part – Adopting portfolio management deals with the link to the existing organizational processes like strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, risk management and benefits. Different delivery methodologies (traditional, agile, hybrid) and their impact are discussed.

Part three – Portfolio management core processes looks at the underlying processes of portfolio management. See the QRC for the flow of processes: create strategic plan, construct & prioritize portfolio, review portfolio, assess performance of portfolio, reporting on the portfolio and develop, monitor & control the portfolio.

The last section – Implementing portfolio management illustrates how an organization will need to clearly and unambiguously identify what will deliver value for them, and then adapt the practice of portfolio management to their needs. Governance roles and the relationship to organizational governance are explained.

The book ends with an overview of challenges for portfolio management:

  • Lack of clarity of the organization’s vision, goals and strategy
  • Lack of board-level consensus
  • Priorities not clearly defined or understand
  • Resources and their allocation not optimized
  • Lack of portfolio management skills
  • Inadequate or overly bureaucratic portfolio controls
  • The cultural challenge
  • Limited perception of portfolio management
  • Portfolio management is seen as just the latest management idea.

Conclusion: If you are new to portfolio management or a senior manager this book will help to understand the basics of portfolio management. If you are an expert in portfolio management, you will recognize most of it and you can use this book to promote the added value of portfolio management.

To order: Portfolio Management – A practical guide

 

 

Review: Exponential organizations

9781626814233-480x600Salim Ismail wrote, together with Yuri van Geest and Michael S. Malone, Exponential organizations – Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it). These exponential organizations are able to show an exponential growth curve due to the integral application of communities, big data, smart algorithms and new, innovative technologies. The authors used research into hundreds of startups and interviews with CEO’s of the fast-growing companies (Airbnb, Netflix, Tesla, Waze, et cetera).

The book consists of two parts and an introduction. The first part explores the characteristics and implications of exponential organizations. The second part deals with the practical implementation and future vision of these organizations. You get tools to implement the exponential organization model in your own organization too.

Moore’s law will be known to many. Every eighteen months the price / performance of computing power doubles. And this has already been applicable for the last sixty years. However, this exponential doubling is much more common, but predicting a technology when it doubles is always dangerous. The Human Genome Project was set up in 1990 with the aim of completely unraveling a single human genome. According to various predictions, the project would take 15 years and cost $ 6 million. Every expert called the project a failure in 1997, pointing out that if only 1 percent were unraveled in 1997, it would take seven hundred years for the entire genome to be mapped. According to Ray Kurzweil, the 1% meant they were halfway. Double 1% seven times was 100%. The project was completed in 2001!

Almost by definition, exponential organizations (ExOs) all think big and this is reflected in the higher ambitious goal of the organization. The massive transformative purpose (MTP) statement is formulated for this purpose.

QRC (ExO EN, 191021) v1.0To download: QRC (ExO EN, 191021) v1.0

ExO’s are described by five external (SCALE) and five internal (IDEAS) elements. To classify as an ExO you need to have a Massive Transformation Purpose (MTP) and at least 3-4 of the ExO-elements. In the appendix you can find a questionnaire to calculate your own exponential score. SCALE- and IDEAS-elements are self-reinforcing and integrating.

The external elements (SCALE) to improve your performance are: Staff on demand, Community & Crowd, Algorithms, Leveraged assets, Engagement. ExOs scale up beyond the boundaries of their own organization by using or gaining access to people, assets and platforms to maximize flexibility, speed, agility and learning processes.

In addition, the controlling framework of the five internal elements (IDEAS) is described, which manages the abundant output of the external SCALE elements: Interfaces, Dashboards, Experimentation, Autonomy, Social.

In addition to the aforementioned characteristics, the authors have determined nine key dynamics at play for the ExO ecosystem:

  1. Information accelerates everything
  2. Drive to demonetization
  3. Disruption is the new norm
  4. Beware the “expert”
  5. Death to the five-year plan
  6. Smaller beats bigger
  7. Rent, don’t own
  8. Trust beats control, open beats closed
  9. Everything is measurable and anything is knowable.

In the second part the authors explain how to start an ExO by using examples and they offer a step-by-step plan:

  1. Select a massive transformative purpose (MTP)
  2. Join or create relevant MTP communities
  3. Compose a team
  4. Breakthrough idea
  5. Build a Business Model Canvas
  6. Find a business model
  7. Build the MVP
  8. Validate marketing and sales
  9. Implement SCALE and IDEAS
  10. Establish the culture
  11. Ask key questions periodically
  12. Building and maintaining a platform.

In addition to setting up, attention is also paid to how you can grow an organization in the mid-market company segment, exponentially. Through examples from TED, GitHub, Coyote Logistics, Studio Roosegaarde, GoPro and how they score on the ExO elements, you get a good overview of what is possible. Finally, a number of strategies are discussed with which large organizations can align themselves with ExO concepts while retaining their core activities transform leadership, partner with, invest in or acquire ExOs, disrupt and implement ExO lite internally.

By using examples from Bridgewater, Coca-Cola, Haier, Xiaomi, The Guardian, GE, Amazon, Zappos, Tangerine, and Google Ventures, among others, the authors explain how these strategies have been put into practice by showing their exponential score. The book concludes with a chapter on exponential executives including the CEO, CMO, CFO, CTO / CIO, Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), COO, Chief Legal Officer (CLO), and the CHRO.

Conclusion. Is this era of agile transitions, a must read for senior management to understand that scaling of agile teams is not enough to survive in this twenty first century? The book offers a practical framework to experiment with one or more of the ExO elements.

To order: Exponential organizations

See my blog for the Dutch translation of this book.

Review: A Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery

agile-coverThis guide (2017) is a result of the working group of the Association for Project Management’s Assurance Special Interest group (APM’s Assurance SIG).

The guide addresses assurance in relation to the areas that are considered the fundamental aspects (and key differences form traditional waterfall approach) of agile project management and assurance.

Like the other book I reviewed (Agile Governance and Audit), this book too focusses on temporary project organizations using an agile way of delivery (compare PRINCE2 Agile, AgilePM, DAD, PMI Agile where we have agile teams using e.g. Scrum) and not on organizations using e.g. SAFe, LeSS or Nexus. The four areas described, are (each in a separate chapter):

  • Approaching reviews in an agile way provides guidance on how to plan and conduct reviews. It starts with early engagement to obtain an understanding how the organization applies agile project management, what methodologies, (reporting) tools and approaches it employs. A Terms of Reference (ToR) focusing on the specifics of an agile way of working, the planning of the review and the the output.
  • Environments focus on the agile ways of working and the physical working environment. You get ten general health indicators to assess an agile team. Furthermore, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the whitboards/walls the, preferably co-located, teams are using to understand their Kanbans.
  • Governance starts with an overview of generic governance topics that are applicable too for agile projects. On top of this you get some additional characteristics of agile projects that you, as an assessor, should keep in mind. E.g. the agile approach and terminology, the way the backlog is managed, the agile specific roles like an agile team, a product owner and a scrum master and their behaviors.
  • Risk management mechanisms are probably leaner than for traditional projects. Incremental and iterative delivery with regular client feedback reduces the chance to deliver the wrong product. An overview of specific risks for agile projects and how to cope with them is provided.

At the end of the book you get checklists for the four areas (approaching review, environments, governance and risk checklists) and references to further reading including links to National audit Office and HM Government documents and several agile related sites.

Conclusion: This easy to read book focusses, as stated, on temporary projects with an agile delivery team. I would say it’s a good starting point, and it helps to get an understanding how to perform an assessment on agile projects.

To order: A Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery