Tag Archives: review

Review Successful Digital Transformation

In the book Successful Digital Transformation – A Survival Guide for Managers and Executives by Marc Beijen, we get a nice and practical overview of different possible and mutually reinforcing digital transformations that you can use when formulating your own digital transformation.

The book starts with a consideration of the digital revolution in the 21st century. What challenges lie ahead for organizations, what does this require from managers and executives, and what are the motivations for starting your own digital transformation. The author describes six clusters of drivers:

  • Emergence of new markets and business models
  • Customer needs and expectations are fundamentally changing
  • The changing relationship between man and machine
  • New technological developments offer new opportunities
  • Growing regulatory, privacy and ethical requirements
  • The increasing value of data.

To put the digital transition in perspective, the author uses a phase model containing three phases: past (product focus), present (customer orientation) and future (creating relevance and an excellent customer approach). This phase model shows that there are actually two different digital movements or phase transitions. The movement from phase 1 to phase 2 is aimed at changing from a product-oriented to a customer-oriented experience and thereby simplifying products, processes, systems, working methods and control. The second movement from phase 2 to phase 3 is aimed at realizing the company of the future (renewal, disruption and transformation). Phase 2 cannot be skipped but can/must be kept as short as possible with the right strategy.

Next, we get five chapters describing five digital breakthroughs or themes. These breakthroughs occur in both the first and second phase transitions. Depending on the organization, all five themes will occur to a greater or lesser extent. The five themes or digital breakthroughs are:

  • Data-driven organization: a data-centric organization uses facts and not gut feelings to manage.
  • Smart, digital processes: (re)design, streamline and digitize business processes, with advanced technologies dramatically improving performance.
  • Brilliant customer experience: delivering the right customer experience is a ‘business capability’, an ability that the organization possesses, consisting of a combination of knowledge, competencies, techniques, processes, and technology.
  • Agile and resilient organization: A powerful IT function that can help the organization take a prominent leadership role and ensure that the organization becomes fast, nimble, and agile.
  • New digital business models: Traditional organizations focus primarily on revenue and profit; platform organizations focus on attracting more producers and consumers.

The final choices of themes are reflected in the organization’s digital strategy. In addition to the themes, you’ll find the business strategy, drivers’ analysis, architecture sketches, a digital fitness scan and the digital roadmap. The author clearly outlines the framework for business transformation. For each theme or digital breakthrough, the author zooms in on the vision (why is it important?), the problems and challenges, capabilities (what needs to be ‘in place’ to become successful here?) and action (how and when will you do it, what actions are needed?). This is further explained with appealing examples.

The final chapter bridges the gap between digital strategy and execution. Here, the digital transformation is seen as a spiral of change cycle containing the steps digital strategy, change, run and learning & adjusting. Finally, several success and failure factors are discussed:

  • Digital transformation = business change
  • C-level ownership
  • Change under architecture
  • Work incrementally on business value as well as  digital capabilities
  • A good start is half the battle
  • Holistic thinking, autonomous action
  • Take a situational approach
  • It is also behavioral change!

Conclusion. The book is a smooth read. It gives a good and practical picture of the various possible and mutually reinforcing digital transitions (data-driven organization, smart digital processes, brilliant customer experience, agile and resilient organization, and new digital business models) and shows that organizations are going through two digital transitions (from traditional business to customer orientation and from customer orientation to the new world). 

What I find less highlighted is what such a digital transformation requires from management itself. We see many transformations fail and the culture or the missing mindshift in the organization is often to blame. I think this is an important task for management. 

The author further indicates that he was inspired in his phase model by McKinsey’s “Three horizons of growth model”. I would say that it is more in line with Marshall’s Right shifting model and that the ‘Three horizons model’ is translated into his three buckets of initiatives (maintain, growth and innovation).

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the book is highly recommended for managers and executives to organize their thoughts and formulate an answer to the necessary digitization battle.

To order Successful Digital Transformation: managementboek.nlbol.com

Review 12.5 years AGILE in the Netherlands

Xebia published an interactive e-magazine Agile NXT12.5 years AGILE in the Netherlands – more than a decade of agile captured in compelling stories and next steps for the future’. In total seven interviews and five articles.

  • The first interview and 5-minute video is with Jeff Sutherland talking about the future of agile organizations, the importance of leadership and the use and impact of Scrum and Scrum at Scale (“It’s all common sense with an uncommon level of discipline” – Jeff Sutherland).
  • The article Structuring agile; paradox or silver lining by Thijs Wesselink talks about his balancing act between providing autonomy and creating structures when transforming organizations.
  • An interview with Bert Voorbraak (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand) about leading change within large enterprises, in this case the transformation within ASR where he opted for a holistic, integrated and step by step approach based on people, processes and leadership.
  • In the article Creating sustainable growth by investing in the workforce of the future by Riët Broekhuizen and Marianne Pot shows that that approach is much cheaper, helps your business to perform better but will also attract the talent you need tomorrow. Building communities of practice, using serious gaming and blended in-company learning journeys will encourage your workforce to learn.
  • The interview with Ron Kolkman, Director Joint IT Command Ministry of Defense, emphasizes on his pioneering experience with agile transformation leadership at the Dutch Kadaster (land registry) where the ‘us and them thinking’ disappeared and intent and purpose became key.
  • Rik de Groot and Daria Nozhkina explore the future by explaining the three steps that provide clarity to leaders in an organization, reduce the risk and increase the succes rate: 1) Digital & agile assessments, 2) strategic advice & design and 3) strategic exploration & preparation. 
  • The interview with Maarten van Beek, HR Director ING, is about trying and pioneering, fintech and bigtech as role models. It all started with the agile transformation in 2015 at ING Bank in the Netherlands where they moved away from functions and function houses, and match craftsmanship with the organizational strategy. He doesn’t believe in agile leadership exists. It’s all about situational leadership and a greater focus on results. It includes a link to the customer story Agile transformation at ING.
  • Keeping a grip on large international projects through transparency is the title of a next interview with Stan Bentvelsen, Pieter van Braam van Vloten from Nikhef and Theo Gerrits from Xebia discussing the agile transition within Nikhef by using agile principles instead of sticking to a standard methodology or framework. It includes a link to the customer story Agile culture change at Nikhef leads to more transparency and efficiency.
  • The interview with Martine Zeegers, HR director Unilever Benelux and Riët Broekhuizen, Xebia, describes the agile transition at Unilever Benelux as pragmatic, not too rigid, and a lot of experiments. It is the mindset that counts and not the method. Some teams only work with the mindset and some agile tools and other teams went all the way to the top. It includes links to the article People as the beating heart of change and the Unilever customer story.
  • Michael Maurer and Daniël Burm discusses in their article the data native organization (data quality, means to monetize, organizational capability, technology platform and governance to compliance are all in place) and the first iteration of the Xebia Data Native Organization Framework including a value circle and target operating model to become a data driven company. It includes a link to the article ‘Big data, but little value? How to embed data science in your organization?’
  • The interview and two-minute video with Charl Vermeer, IT Manager Dutch Kadaster, is the second interview regarding the agile transformation at Kadaster. In this interview the focus is on integrating IT, agile, cloud and data and the use of so-called culture guards.
  • In the last article Marianne Pot and Rik de Groot explain serious gaming and the impact of serious games during transformations. There are three types of serious games: problem based, trial and error and scenario-based games. It includes a link to the paper ‘Serious gaming’ from the same authors.

Conclusion. Definitely worth reading. Inspiration, insights, lessons from real life agile transformations and state of the art developments like the Date Native Organization Framework or serious gaming.

To read the e-magazine go to https://www.agilenxt.com

Review Leading with Obeya

The book Leading with Obeya – Maximizing human leadership potential by Tim Wiegel gives a complete picture of the Obeya concept. The book is built around the Leading with Obeya – reference model. The book starts with an introduction of Obeya, followed by the relevance of Obeya for leading organizations, the principles, the five visual areas on the wall and how to transform your leadership system by using a transformation approach. Throughout the book the author uses The Bike Factory case to translate the theory into practical examples and he offers many tips.

The Obeya (Japanese for ‘big room’) is a physical space where management is used to align operational teams and leadership in their efforts to translate strategy into meaningful day-to-day work and results. It helps develop the ability to have meetings that create meaningful context and avoid distractions such as bias, ego and over-complexity. When used throughout the organization, it supports the development of a systematic approach to leadership that enables consistent, coherent and effective decision-making.

Some reasons to use Obeya are: better alignment between teams and alignment of purpose, more effective meetings, better insights & decision-making, people development, trust & collaboration and rewarding.

In the Obeya, the five key responsibilities are visualized: lead successful strategies, drive performance, deliver value, solve problems and act & respond. But only the visuals will not add value unless you put the principles into practice. The team must also follow the seven principles for behaviour: think in systems  & accountability, share context & problems visually, develop people, rhythm & routine (kata), keep improving, go & see and cascade & connect.

To start with an Obeya it is recommended to use a transformation approach (approach agreed, Obeya explained, commit, set the stage, refine the information, starting the routines and continuous improvement).

Conclusion: A very practical book to get a good understanding of the Obeya concept. The usage of a single case throughout the book makes it very easy to understand the theory. Definitely a must read for management teams who want to improve their organization’s performance.

To order Leading with Obeya: managementboek.nlbol.com

Bestellen Nederlandse versie Leiderschap met Obeya: managementboek.nl, bol.com

For more information on Obeya (including the reference model): https://leadingwithobeya.com

Some minor issues from my side regarding the content of the book: 

  • is it ‘succesful’ or ‘successful’ (In the Obeya model and related pictures ‘succesful’ is used)? I think it has to be ‘successful’.
  • Headings in the text related to the pictures are not synchronized (figure 1.5 – table 1.3, figure 5.1 and paragraph headers)
  • Process efficiency in figure 4.24: processing time 105 minutes, waiting time 130 minutes. The process efficiency showed in the picture is 81%. I would say to total lead time is 105 + 130 = 235 minutes. The process efficiency is 105/235 = 45%
  • Figure 5.3: step 8 or step 6?

Virtual Obeya: make it look & feel like the physical one!

Review Blue Striped Frog – The agile community – Magazine (2nd edition)

I just had a sneak preview of the second edition of the Blue Striped Frog magazine. Several articles clustered around the themes: the age of agility, best practices, organizational agility and articles.

My compliments to the editor team. They can be proud of the result. This second magazine offers interesting stories, new insights and real life cases at UWV, NN, Praktijkschool Oost ter Hout, BAM, New10 and ABN Amro and last but not least a new agile framework.

The article – Leaders Beware: Four Megatrends Shaping the Age of Agility – by Ron Meyer and Ronald Meijers, provides elaborations on the following four megatrends: the pressure towards more organizational agility, organizational diversity, the rise of employee empowerment and career diversity. To cope with these trends you require flexible, adaptive and responsive leaders. In line with the article you get and interview with Ron Meyer, one of the authors, talking about the VUCA world and the comparison between an intersection with traffic lights and a roundabout without traffic lights.

The interview with Fred Hoekstra, director of the department Social Medical Affairs at UWV gives some insights in the agile journey of UWV. They established four important pillars “happy employee”, “satisfied execution”, “cooperation” and “hygiene in place”. For them, agile working is a daily quest for how they learn and develop without having major incidents causing a social disturbance. The interview ends with some critical success factors.

The Organizational Agility Heartbeat (TOAH) by Vincent Snijder, Henk Venema and Arthur Waterham describes a lightweight framework for organizational agility. The main characteristic of this framework is the quarterly rhythm in which organizations update their strategy, adjust their course based on this, and translate it into predictable execution. Within The TOAH the rhythmic interaction of three parallel tracks creates organizational agility: strategic planning, prepare for execution and execution. I will add The Organizational Agility Heartbeat (TOAH) framework to my Bird’s eye view on the agile forest as number 92! (https://toahframework.com).

In Organizational Agility at New10 and ABN Amro, Joost Brouwer is interviewed about the agile journey within the New10 startup and what ABN Amro can learn from the New10 lessons and vice versa.

In – Use discomfort to learn forward in a continuous dialogue – Jindra Kessener shares her experiences how we manage to handle the discomfort that is necessary to challenge our results, ideas and premises, without our defense mechanism taking over our capacity to think and observe clearly. She gives some insights on how knowledge about our autonomous nervous system could be used in Agile practice.

Culture makes or breaks your agile transition is an article of myself. In this article I explain what I mean with culture, I make some references to books and articles explaining culture and I make a link to my Bird’s eye view on the agile forest and elaborate on the, what I call, culture-targeted frameworks or ways of working.

Purpose driven people is the title of the last article and the title of the book Alize Hofmeester wrote. In this article she elaborates why the journey to agility is about people and purpose and why she wrote a book to make that clear. 

To emphasize that the Blue Striped Frog is not only a magazine but also a community we get an impression of the first four Blue Striped Frog Tastings: Leading with Obeya by Tim Wiegel (soon I publish a review of the book Leading with Obeya on this blog), Programs in an agile organization, curse or blessing by Henk Venema, Culture makes or breaks your agile transition (from myself) and Purpose Driven People – Creating business agility and sustainable growth by Alize Hofmeester. To become part of the Blue Striped Frog community you can join the community on LinkedIn to be inspired, to learn and to share: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8762445/

A top 10 with agile related songs and a few agile myths and tips finalizes the magazine.

Conclusion: A must read. And, if you haven’t subscribed yet be fast and you will receive this one and all the upcoming issues of the Blue Striped Frog Magazine for free (physical and/or digital edition). You can subscribe at https://www.bluestripedfrog.com

Review Standish Group – CHAOS 2020: Beyond Infinity

A few weeks ago, I received the latest report from the Standish Group – CHAOS 2020: Beyond Infinity – written by Jim Johnson. Every 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. 

The book contains ten sections and an epilogue:

  • Section I: Factors of Success describes the three factors (good sponsor, good team and good place) the Standish Group has determined most seriously affect the outcome of a software project. Specific attention has been given how poor decision latency and emotional maturity level affect outcomes and the success ladder benchmark.
  • Section II: Classic CHAOS provides the familiar charts and information generally found in CHAOS reports. E.g., resolution by traditional measurement, modern measurements, pure measurements and “Bull’s Eye” measurements.
  • Section III: Type and styles of projects breaks down project resolution by measurement types and styles of delivery method.

In the next three sections we get an overview of the principles for the good sponsor, the good team and the good place. Each principle is explained in detail, including the required skills to improve the principle and a related chart showing the resolution of all software projects due to poorly skilled, moderately skilled, skilled and very skilled.

  • Section IV: The Good Sponsor discusses the skills needed to be a good sponsor. The good sponsor is the soul of the project. The sponsor breathes life into a project, and without the sponsor there is no project. Improving the skills of the project sponsor is the number-one factor of success – and also the easiest to improve upon, since each project has only one. Principles for a good sponsor are: 
    • The Decision Latency principle
    • The Vision Principle
    • The Work Smart Principle
    • The Daydream Principle
    • The Influence Principle 
    • The Passionate Principle
    • The People Principle
    • The Tension Principle 
    • The Torque Principle
    • The Progress Principle.
  • Section V: The Good Team discusses the skills involved in being a good team. The good team is the project’s workhorse. They do the heavy lifting. The sponsor breathes life into the project, but the team takes that breath and uses it to create a viable product that the organization can use and from which it derives value. Since we recommend small teams, this is the second easiest area to improve. Principles for a good team are: 
    • The Influential Principle
    • The Mindfulness Principle
    • The Five Deadly Sins Principle
    • The Problem-Solver Principle
    • The Communication Principle
    • The Acceptance Principle
    • The Respectfulness Principle
    • The Confrontationist Principle
    • The Civility Principle
    • The Driven Principle.
  • Section VI: The Good Place covers what’s needed to provide a good place for projects to thrive. The good place is where the sponsor and team work to create the product. It’s made up of the people who support both sponsor and team. These people can be helpful or destructive. It’s imperative that the organization work to improve their skills if a project is to succeed. This area is the hardest to mitigate, since each project is touched by so many people. Principles for a good place are: 
    • The Decision Latency Principle
    • The Emotional Maturity Principle
    • The Communication Principle
    • The User Involvement Principle
    • The Five Deadly Sins Principle
    • The Negotiation Principle
    • The Competency Principle
    • The Optimization Principle
    • The Rapid Execution Principle
    • The Enterprise Architecture Principle.
  • Section VII: Overview of the CHAOS Database explains the process of creating project cases and adjudicating them for inclusion in the CHAOS database.
  • Section VIII: New Resolution Benchmark offers an overview of this new benchmark, which will replace the original in the CHAOS database. The Project Resolution Benchmark is a self-service instrument that uses a three-step method to help benchmark your organization against similar organizations on the basis of size, industry, project mix, types, and capability.
  • Section IX: The Dutch Connection describes and celebrates the contributions made by our colleagues in the Netherlands and Belgium and their effect on our research.
  • Section X: Myths and Illusions debunks some typical beliefs about “project improvement.” By using the data points from the database. The busted myths are:
    • Successful projects have a highly skilled project manager
    • Project management tools help project success
    • All projects must have clear business objectives
    • Incomplete requirements cause challenged and failed projects.
  • The Epilogue takes a look at 60 years of software development. Thew Standish Group has come up with four distinct evolutionary periods of developing software. The first period, which ran roughly from 1960 to 1980, is called “the Wild West”. The Waterfall Period ran from 1980 to about 2000. The Agile Period started around the year 2000 – and their prediction is that it will end shortly. They are now seeing the beginning of what they call the Infinite Flow Period, and they imagine that the Flow Period will last at least 20 years. In the Flow Period, there will be no project budgets, project plans, project managers, or Scrum masters. There will be a budget for the pipeline, which is a pure direct cost of the output. There will also be a cost to manage the pipeline, which will reduce the current project overhead cost by as much as 90%. This will be accomplished by reducing and eliminating most of the current project management activities. Functional description of work will come into the pipeline and out of the pipeline fully usable. Change will happen continuously, but in small increments that will keep everything current, useful, and more acceptable to users, rather than startling them with a “big bang boom” result (in a next blog I will dive into some details of the Flow method).

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 (good sponsor, good team and good place), 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.

A pity this is the last CHAOS report (there will be an updated version in 2021, but that will not be a completely new CHAOS report). Given that The Standish Group are recommending you move to Flow, they state that there is no need for them to continue to research software projects. I would say not all projects are software projects, why not collect datapoints from non-software projects and start building a database and analyze the impact of the good sponsor, the good team and the good place for these projects too.

To order CHAOS 2020: Beyond Infinity

Review Intention

Two weeks ago, I received a blurb request. “I saw on your blog that you reviewed Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, and I’d like to ask whether you’d be willing to consider giving a blurb to a similar book”.

The book ‘Intention: Building Capabilities To Transform Your Story’ is written by Dr. Ian D. Brooks. This book provides direction for leveraging our greatest ability to realize change by expanding our personal awareness and taking specific action. This is a book outside my comfort zone but a training class was rescheduled due to Covid-19 regulations, so I started reading.

Business agility is key, and many organizations started some years ago with the implementation of Scrum. Soon it became clear that when working with more teams you need some form of coordination and these organizations started to implement a scaled agile framework to manage e.g. the team dependencies. But the results were for many organizations still disappointing. Study after study showed that for those organizations, among other factors, their organizational culture was at odds with agile values. New frameworks popped up to use together with the scaled agile frameworks to work on this agile culture. In my ‘bird’s eye view on the agile forest’, I already covered more than 80 agile ways of working including those culture targeted frameworks. But it looks like we still haven’t found the silver bullet, agile transitions fail in many cases. I see for example management teams struggling with the product owner role. And then a senior manager said to his colleagues … ”Yeah sure PO, you have a mandate” and they started laughing. They don’t trust the teams, they don’t empower the teams, they aren’t willing to decentralize decision-making, and facilitating leadership doesn’t belong to their vocabulare. And that brings me back to this book. Will this be the missing piece to help senior managers to transform themselves towards a manager that supports an organization on its agile journey? It could be the case, but only when these managers pick up the gauntlet to work on themselves.

In this book, the author helps you to make your own personal transformation. This can be work-related as mentioned earlier when you are part of your journey to more business agility but could also be a much more personal non-business-related goal, e.g., losing weight.

The author defines intention as a state of mind with which an act is done. It’s having the mindset, attention, or personal will to concentrate on something or some end or purpose. Intention provides a priority of wants and needs that offers us direction, but it is flexible enough to meet changes in your environment, circumstances, or life.

Changes are important individual actions, but also lead to bigger behavioral outcomes and results. Changes tend to be event-driven. Transformations are the collection of changes that lead to a broader outcome. Thus, the actions become a newly adopted lifestyle, a new way of life.

He uses a framework to help you to make the necessary steps to transform yourself in the direction you set for yourself based on five capabilities to use iteratively:

  1. Discovery: The intention is to expand your awareness beyond the challenges presented, exploring deeper into what you wish to solve.
  2. Principle of You: What we identify as targets of change usually overlook acknowledgment of who we are inherently and the symbols we associate with our pasts.
  3. Direction: Here, you will intentionally plan a transformation specific to you and practice forethought toward developing behaviors and routines that will move you forward.
  4. Experience: This capability is usually where changes first become noticeable. It focuses on acting in the now and regulating emotions that may arise at the moment.
  5. Attunement: This allows you to reflect on progress and learn from adjustments for building consistency in new behaviors. 

It is important to realize, however, that the building and refinement of your capabilities will occur over time, not in a singular moment. To build capabilities over time, transformation requires management of your P.A.C.E. (patience, accountability, commitment, emotions).

There will be times when the emotion from what you discover is daunting and you will rush to quick conclusions. To address these thoughts and manage your P.A.C.E. You need to operate with intention: pause your time, process, and reflect for self-awareness.

Conclusion. If you want to transform your behavior, e.g., move away from a command-and-control management style to a more facilitating leadership style or non-business/private personal behavior, this book offers you a framework, steps to take, points of attention, advice, and many real-life examples to support you in your journey. For sure you will have thoughts and actions you want to change but always postpone and then this book could be the trigger to make your next move.

To order: Will be available in March 2021

Review Engaging stakeholders on projects

The book Engaging stakeholders on projects – How to harness people power, written by Elizabeth Harrin is the starting point if you want to get a better understanding of stakeholder engagement and it gives you a lot of practical advice, tips for improving practice key takeaways and action steps for successful stakeholder engagement.

The book starts with an introduction of the topic by explaining that you can’t manage your stakeholders, you can’t manage stakeholder’s behaviour and actions, but you can engage them. Stakeholder engagement is the systematic identification, analysis, planning and implementation of actions designed to influence stakeholders.

In the stakeholder life cycle you see the following four steps: identification, early engagement, mature engagement and dissolution. 

The first chapter focusses on stakeholder identification. You can use a workshop to create a stakeholder list or start with stakeholder segments and you can ask already known stakeholders who must be involved too. Not all stakeholders are equal. Who are your primary, secondary, interested and hidden stakeholders? Next you must get clarity on stakeholder involvement. You can talk to them directly or ask colleagues about other stakeholders. You can use a stakeholder saliency model to understand who your definitive, dangerous, dominant and dependent stakeholders are, based on legitimacy, power and urgency measures for each of your stakeholders. You can also build an influence/interest grid to understand who of your stakeholders must be fully engaged, keep informed about progress, asked for input and identify their concerns and last a group who must informed from time to time. Be aware that stakeholder influence, interest and power are transitory and only as relevant as the day it was produced and that you must keep your analysis confidential.

The following chapter brings your stakeholder analysis to the next level. It gives you the instruments to understand how the social system works in your organization. A social system is the network of relationships and how they interact and influence each other as a whole. To understand the social system for your project you can review the team structure (functional, weak matrix, matrix or strong matrix and the project structure), use your network, talk to stakeholders or think strategically. Next you have to model your stakeholder engagement by plotting your stakeholders’ current and desired engagement level (resistant, indifferent, supportive and proactive). Besides the stakeholders influencing your project, you have to understand the organizational influences (or constraints) like policies, processes, procedures, standards, et cetera.

Now you know your stakeholders and how they interact and influence each other it’s time to engage them. 

Engagement = understanding + action + influence

You have to understand the stakeholder’s perspectives. How do they feel about the project and the effect it will have on them (emotional appeal) and how confident they feel that the work being done is the right work (rational appeal)? Next you have to build credible, trusted relationships otherwise you can’t influence them. There are two things that you should be engaging your project stakeholders throughout the project life cycle in: the project deliverables (purpose, why) and the project management process (what, roles, responsibilities). Engagement can be formal or informal by using on or more engagement techniques, e.g., expectation mapping, concerns mapping, personal contacts notebook, using others, celebrating success, active project marketing and actively seek input and using informal opportunities. A large element of engagement is communicating with the right people at the right time, in the right level of detail and with a specific goal in mind to help them take action. Communication can be conversations, facilitation, training or presentations. Special attention has been given how to make the best of your relationship with your project sponsor, and engagement in a crisis.

The following chapter looks at techniques for running efficient meetings and facilitation. How can you work with groups in a collaborative way to create energy and make it easy for the group to solve problems? To get the best results from a meeting with full preparation beforehand, strong leadership during the meeting and a professional follow up.

Projects and programmes change things. And not everyone embraces change. How can you identify resistance to engagement and engage resisters? Don’t be difficult to work with, you have to be realistic with your expectations, acknowledge you’ve notice, listen, ask for their help and thank them. If needed go via a gatekeeper, don’t make things worse and persuade with data and stories. And sometimes escalate to your project sponsor or ignore them (but use with care). Disengaged stakeholders present project risk so you have to identify and act on resistance.

What causes conflict on projects, how can you spot it and how can you resolve them? Conflicts can be found during project kick off, project planning, project delivery and/or project closure. The Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument is a common model for considering approaches to dealing with conflict (avoiding, accommodating, competing, collaboration and compromising). A basic process for addressing conflict breaks down in the following steps: pick the location and environment, gather the facts, research and recognize stakeholder power and personal views, meet and agree on the issue, reflect and discuss and, if necessary, escalate.

The last part of the book is a deeper dive into interpersonal and technical skills and behaviours that are beneficial to stakeholder engagement. Besides the already extensively discussed communication and conflict resolution we get insights and tips in the following areas: negotiation, influencing, listening, business acumen, resilience, credibility, assertiveness, contextual, cultural and ethical awareness.

Conclusion

The book is easy to read and it’s a valuable aid to get a good understanding of stakeholder engagement in line with the APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition. The book gives you a lot of practical advice, tools, tips for improving practice, key takeaways and action steps for successful stakeholder engagement. I would say a must read for project, programme and portfolio managers.

To order Engaging stakeholders on projects: Amazon.com

The 2020 Scrum Guide launch

Yesterday, November 18th, there was a 3-hour virtual event to celebrate the launch of the 2020 Scrum Guide with nearly 20,000 registrants. I connected 15 minutes before the start but received a message that the limit of 1000 participants was reached, and I couldn’t participate. Luckily the event was streamed, and you can now watch it on demand (see below). Can you imagine It’s been 25 years since the launch of the first Scrum Guide?

The guide is now crisper, leaner (only 13 pages), more transparent and even less prescriptive. The concept of a separate development team within the team is now eliminated. Just the self-managing Scrum team with three sets of accountabilities (PO, SM, and Developers). Each of the three artifacts now contain ‘commitments’ to them. For the Product Backlog it is the Product Goal, the Sprint Backlog has the Sprint Goal to be defined during the Sprint Planning when discussing the “Why”, and the Increment has the Definition of Done. They exist to bring transparency and focus on the progress of each artifact.

A pity the guide only contains plain text. I think some pictures could add value too. On the other hand, other organizations, e.g., Scaled Agile could take an example to bring back the framework to being a minimally sufficient framework. With every new release of SAFe, the framework is growing without any removements, and as a consequence making it more complicated.

To download the 2020 Scrum Guide

To watch the event

Review Being a Project Manager

Being a Project Manager – A different Book on Project Management by Hamutal Weisz and Daniel Zitter focuses on the essentials and practice of project management. 

I love the process of baking bread as a metaphor for project management and all those related colorful pictures throughout the book. 

Project management is the ‘flour’, the base; its function is to create the path to the goal. Project control is the ‘yeast’; its function is to influence all the other ingredients and ensure that the project progresses according to plan as it moves towards its goals. Communication in the project is the ‘water’; its role is to unite the efforts of all those who are working on the project.

The back cover explains that this book is suitable for managing any project of any size, subject and control. And here, I have my doubts. Looking back at the metaphor, I think this only works for more traditional projects or waterfall projects. If I want to use a more agile approach, the metaphor and the book will be of no help. This book is very prescriptive and explains a very bureaucratic way of working. 

But after narrowing the scope (only traditional waterfall projects) there is still a lot of value in the book. In line with the metaphor the book is divided into three sections project planning, project control and project communication. Every chapter ends with a conclusion and a summary of corresponding tasks for the project manager. Within every chapter one or more stories to explain the theory.

The first section – Planning the project – focusses on the preliminary planning and the detailed planning. It starts with the need, objectives and the stakeholder identification and involvement. Based on assumptions and constraints the project lifecycle is defined and a work breakdown structure and rough estimates are developed resulting in a preliminary work plan and risk identification (NB only threats no opportunities).  Next, the project is broken down into tasks and dependencies between tasks are identified and task constraints are determined. Resources are identified and allocated to tasks. As a final step a risk management plan is developed, and the baseline plan is finalized. 

To control the project you need ongoing, periodic and special controls. Ongoing controls are task controls based on the work plan, routine task, resource, deliverables and quality controls and permits, authorization and approval controls. Periodic controls on quality, schedule and critical path, budget, milestone, give & get, tasks, changes and risks. Goal and gate controls, evaluating priorities, issues, estimating project completion and lessons learned are special controls.

The last part – Communication in the project – focuses on formal and informal communication. In total twelve (!) different types of formal meetings are explained. Next the reasons behind and the participants of informal meetings are described as well as the development of informal communication channels and the execution of informal communication itself.

In the appendices a task checklist for the project manager, a glossary and an overview of excluded topics (NB to exclude financial topics, e.g. cashflow, life cycle costs, financial analysis and ROI and say that all financial matters that are essential to the project should be referred to the financial manager, is a little bit too easy. For me a project manager must be able to build and maintain a business case to substantiate continuous business justification).

Throughout the book you find many references to practical tools to be used in your own traditional project. On www.beingaprojectmanager.com (NB the link in the book isn’t working) you can download 23 Word, PowerPoint, Excel and MS-Project templates.

To order Being a Project Manager: Amazon

Review Project Optimism Bias in Capital Investment Decision Making

In the whitepaper Project Optimism Bias in Capital Investment Decision Making, the author Milvio DiBartolomeo brings us in the world of biases.

The whitepaper is divided into four parts. It starts with a discussion about the need for realistic estimates and assumptions, and clear project plans for mitigating know risks to make the right decisions.

The next part is about project optimism bias and its effect to inaccurately estimate time and cost requirements. The third part put the spotlights on some APMG related guidance like better business cases, managing benefits and the Praxis framework. The last part discusses some techniques to adjust for optimism bias. 

The author describes optimism bias as a cognitive bias that causes someone to believe that they themselves are less likely to experience a negative event despite previous experience and lessons captured resulting in overestimate benefits and underestimate total cost of ownership in terms of capital, maintenance, and support.

The following related concepts and biases are explained: planning fallacy, sunk cost fallacy, anchoring, and risk contingency.

To minimize optimism bias prior to full capital investment the following standalone or combined techniques can be used: reference class forecasting, data trust, data range (I assume 3-point estimating?), control points (gate way reviews, project validating reviews, pre-mortem, post-implementation review) and confidence level (cost accuracy: P50 or P80). 

Conclusion. The whitepaper definitely helps to get a basic understanding of optimism bias and techniques to minimize it. The P50/P80 was new for me and a little bit difficult to understand. If I read the Defining P50 and P80 manual from the Australian Government Department of finance, it mentions “P80 is a cost that will not be exceeded 80% of the time”. And this is something I can understand but is in my opinion something different than the sentence in the whitepaper “P80 is an indicative total cost of ownership estimate that will not exceed 80% of the timescale for the project which is why having sufficient contingency in place is so important for the sponsoring organization”. But maybe I am wrong, I am not a native English speaker. Next I think in a whitepaper about optimism bias, some words about illusory superiority, the illusion of control and the impact of hindsight bias, self-serving bias and confirmation bias on optimism bias could make sense too.

To download the whitepaper

Talking about risk assessment biases the following overview will help too (source unknown):

We overestimate risks:(chance and/or impact)We underestimate these risks
SpectacularNot spectacular 
Rare, out-of-the-blueCommon
PersonalAnonymous
You are/feel not in controlYou are/feel in control 
Discussed a lot latelyNot talked about  
Inflicted by people, on purpose Natural origin
Damage comes directly Damage in the long term 
Different, new Has always been there 
Event without positive outcomeEvent also has positive sides 
Just happens to youChoosen, done by free will
Concerns other peopleConcerns yourself