The Future of #AI Augmented Project Management is misguided #PMOT #Agile

robot

I haven’t read a Project Management article for a long time that spurred me to write a bog entry within 24 hours. I had that experience yesterday after reading The Augmented Project Manager by Treb Gatte. This article provided an introduction to the interesting application of Artificial Intelligence to the Project Management role.

Treb discussing the three areas of Project Management that could be affected by the application of Artificial Intelligence:

  • Planning
  • Resource Allocation
  • Tracking

Planning

Treb discuss the future of AI Augmented Project Planning:

“Imagine if your scheduling bot generates a proposed project plan, based on the aggregated and anonymized experiences of similar sized companies doing the same type of project. Today, we use tools like Monte Carlo to simulate this information. The bot could incorporate real world data, potentially yielding better results.”

Let that thought percolate while we moved onto Resource Allocation.

Resource Allocation

Treb then illustrates the possible future of Resource Allocation:

“For example, your resourcing bot determines that you need a social media expert on your project on April 5th for two days of work. It searches data sources like LinkedIn and your public cloud calendar to find a list of suitable and available candidates. Three are West Coast of the U.S., one is in Paris and one is in Sydney. It then automatically reaches out to these candidates with offers. If multiple people accept, it automatically manages the negotiation. Once complete, the planning bot is informed, a virtual desktop with requisite software is provisioned, user login credentials are generated and the specific task information is sent to them. When the job is complete and rated as satisfactory, the bot coordinates with your accounts payable system to pay the freelancer. The planning bot automatically updates the plan and pushes the data to the BI dashboards.”

I’m not sure this illustration involves much Artificial Intelligence as it really if just about integrating with existing technologies and platforms – but I digress.

Tracking

And then finally Treb discusses what the future of AI Augmented Project Tracking might look like:

“Project feedback loops on work are awful. The largest challenge is incomplete data, which results from increasingly fragmented work days, limits of the worker’s memory and tools that rely on human input. It is also incomplete as it serves little benefit to the person entering the data.

Workers are overwhelmed with tasks arriving via multiple communication channels and no consolidated view.

Imagine a world where the timesheet is antiquated. Today, we have systems such as Microsoft Delve that know what content you’ve touched. We have IP-based communication systems that know what collaborations you’ve conducted. We have machine learning capabilities that can determine what you’ve discussed and the content of the documents you’ve edited. This week, we have facial recognition capabilities and other features that can track and interpret your movements. Given all of this, why is a timesheet necessary?”

Opinion

Oh boy, where to start? It seems like most of focus of AI Augmented Project Management seems to be on the collection of data that will make the results better.

  • “If we have better historical data, we can plan better”
  • “If we have better, faster access to resources, we can complete tasks better and faster”
  • “If we have better real-time data on tasks, we can report status and adapt better”

The Problem

The problem was all of these perspectives is they seem to be promoting, advocating, and recommending less human interaction between Project Managers and their teams. If we only had AI augmented Project Management, we can go back to our closed doors and avoid the pesky human interactions. Agile Project Managers realize that human interaction is he crucible of project success – AI Augmented Project Management seems to have forgotten that.

Yes, planning is hard.

Yes, resourcing and building high-performing teams are hard.

Yes, tracking and adapting the project is difficult.

But the answer is more interaction, communication, coaching, caring, and collaboration. Not less.

I’ve even seen another article promoting that chatbots could help to get status updates from team members. Oh yeah, that will greatly improve communication of information. Developers will just love getting the impersonal 9:03 am greeting of “What are you planning to do today, what did you complete yesterday?”

Summary

I believe the idea of AI Augmented Project Management will end up on the trash heap with the CASE tools that were going to replace developers in the 80’s, Artificial Intelligence can assist augmenting individual competencies, but not replacing team communication, interaction, and problem solving. Perhaps, there is a role for Artificial Intelligence in reviewing plans and highlighting possible areas of concern regarding scheduling or estimation that a human can review. But the automated  creation of plans, resource allocation, task assignment, and task tracking is misguided.

The idea that worthy Project Manager work is stakeholder management,  but not team collaboration, engagement and communication is wrong.

Software Development is a team sport, and requires collaboration, communication, and engagement to plan, resource, and adjust. The idea that you can broadcast the skills you need and just drop a resource in to do a task and not worry about culture, fit, team dynamics, and personalities is pure hubris. These are people working on complex, nasty problems. They need time to gel, bond, and collaborate.

Sports is frequently identified as an area Artificial Intelligence has helped. Absolutely. Artificial Intelligence can refine skills like throwing a football and shooting a puck. Assisting in team dynamics and planning remains elusive. Coaches still call the plays and adjust plans. Even coaches that leverage technology realize that…

 

Best #Coaching book ever! #TheCoachingHabit www.boxofcrayons.com/the-coaching-habit-book

I must admit when I was strolling through Indigo the other day, I wasn’t looking for a coaching book. In fact, it wasn’t even on my mind. I was there to buy my son a book because he left his copy at school and needed to finish reading the book by Monday. (Sound familiar, parents?)

So while my son tried to find his book, I sauntered over to the business book section and came across this little gem.

Two Reasons

This book is a gem for two reasons; the content is awesome and the author can actually write. I point this out because I usually slog through business books because the content is great, but the delivery is lacking. This book was very different, I picked it up on a Sunday and finished it on Wednesday. The book to easy to read, has great anecdotes throughout, and also a sense of humour to lighten the mood.

Michael Bungay Steiner introduces the 7 questions that are key to a coaching discussion. I won’t go into exquisite detail here as I want you to run out and buy the book. But he starts off with the Kickstart question of “What’s on your mind?” and concludes it with the Learning question of “What was most useful for you?”. I don’t believe I have seen a Coaching method or book that includes a step for reflection and a retrospective. That combined with the question of asking “So what is the real challenge for you?” helps to cut through gossip, complaining, and unproductive coaching sessions/meetings. In short, this book is a must have for every manager and aspiring coach.

You even get a bonus of a brilliant 5 step method of facilitating a Strategy discussion. But I’m not going to tell you what it is, you have to run out and buy the book. There even is a complete set of entertaining videos to complement the chapters and reinforce the learning.

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore or amazon.

 

The #Two traits great #Managers have #PMOT #Coach

Managers and management in general usually have a bad reputation. That is probably  doubly so for middle managers. These roles are usually the first ones identified for job reduction and attrition. Why is this? Truth be told, it is an exceptionally difficult role that not many people excel at. Usually people excel at one aspect or another of the role, but not at all of the aspects.

What makes a great manager?

So what makes a great manager? The manager must be an agent for the decisions and directions that come from above AND be an advocate for the teams that ultimately execute the work. Unfortunately, most managers tend to primarily identify with either agency or advocacy, but not both. Most managers focus their effort on managing the teams, but not managing the executives. Managing-up is one of the most difficult and challenging skills and most also be welcomed by the culture of the organization.

It is a delicate balancing act that experienced managers deftly handle – the right balance of agency and advocacy that promotes high-performing teams both above and below them. If this balance is not appropriate the manager usually defaults to just concentrating on one or the other – to the detriment of both executives and teams.

But when a manager has the right balance, they build credibility with both executives and teams. Once that credibility is built, the managers are then invited in to discussion and designs to influence, contribute, coach, innovate, and inspire both executives and teams.

Two Traits

The two traits that a manager or Project Manager must have to reach this level of proficiency are Business Knowledge and Realization Knowledge.

  • The manager or Project Manager must understand the business domain, business strategy, and culture of the organization they are an agent for. Why does the Business Exist? What is the Strategic Plan? Who are their internal and external clients? Who are their competitors? What are their values and principles?
  • The manager of Project Manager must also understand the realization domain and implementation processes as well. Whether the realization practice be accounting, engineering, software development, or teaching – the manager needs to understand the work and the profession. How do we implement changes? What professional skills are required? Who are the experts and why? What are the industry-accepted best practices? What are the new methods and technologies on the horizon? What practices are no longer being used?

Only when the manager has both these traits, will they have the credibility to be invited in, contribute, coach, influence, and help to innovate the strategy of the business and the implementation of business initiatives.

This is a not an easy combination to achieve and the lack of the these traits can lead to just ‘paper-pushing’ as the manager doesn’t have the credibility or knowledge to do more. Most times a manager may have one or the other trait and while this is beneficial, true high-performing teams arise when the manager or Project Manager has both.

Our responsibilities as managers is not to just perform administrative duties, but to relentlessly inquire and learn both about the business domain and the realization domain. Only then will the manager be an integral member that makes the executive and team members better by coaching up and down.

#PMO Visual Management Tools #PMOT #Agile

I have now been the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University for Manitoba for over two years. One of the first items I struggled with was trying to determine how to visually communicate the status of the portfolio of projects in a visual, intuitive way. I was a huge proponent of visual reporting and communication from my days as an Agile consultant. A textual or tabular report of the portfolio of projects just doesn’t inform stakeholders easily as to the breadth, depth, and status of the portfolio of projects.

Epiphany

Late one day, I had a discussion with our CIO in regards to how he had seen a radar diagram used as a means to communicate the life-cycle of Infrastructure within an environment. After a short discussion, we had formulated a plan as to how it could be used to display the portfolios of our projects.

We had devised a template to show the following:

  • Separate portfolio sections with
    • Projects represented by coloured circles of different sizes
    • Status of projects indicated by circle colour
    • Projects on hold indicated by a diamond
    • New projects shown by a distinct circle icon
    • Size of project indicated by size of circle
    • Indication of a project being over budget by a halo around the circle
    • Project phase indicated by the circle’s proximity to center of the radar
    • Project’s progress indicated by the circle’s overlay to show percentage complete

Results

The Portfolio Radar diagram has been refined over the months. but it is probably the most requested document the Project Management Office produces.

Recently, I have created a personal radar that I use to track my to-do items. Like a lot of managers, I usually have 10-20 items on the go that need periodic attention. These items can usually be categorized into 3-4 “portfolios”. The radar template is much more appropriate than the standard kanban board used for projects as the items can be recurring and of extended duration. Some of them can be standing items which are never really done. The “Personal Radar” is a great diagram for showing which items need to have attention paid to them next week and which ones can wait.

Like the Portfolio Radar, the Personal Radar indicates:

  • Separate portfolio sections with
    • Items represented by stickies
    • Urgency of attention indicated by stickie colour
    • Stickie phase indicated by the Stickie’s proximity to center of the radar

This “Personal Radar” for the PMO Manager has been a great assistance to stay of top of multitude of items required in the PMO. The Personal Radar gets reviewed at the start of the week to plan the week and at the end of the week to ensure the items received the attention they deserved.

So far, this is becoming a key deliverable to stay on top of items. An example of the Personal Radar is show below:

Summary

The Portfolio Radar and Personal Radar have been excellent diagrams to use for communication of project status and task management. I’d love to hear your experiences with other means of visual methods for Project Management and personal management.

Student of the Game #PMOT #NHLJETS @srogalsky @MarkScheifele55

As I sit down to author my first Blog entry of 2019, I reviewed my recent Blogs. Although I knew I hadn’t Blogged for a while, I wasn’t aware that I had not Blogged since July 2018. I had gotten quite busy in my new role of Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba, but I was unaware just how busy I had become. So one of my resolutions for 2019 is to create a new Blog entry every month.

In hindsight, joining the University of Manitoba was one of the best career moves I have ever made. I have grown immensely over the last 2+ years and learned so much from colleagues both within Information Services and Technology and with external units and faculties. I would highly recommend the experience working in Higher Education. The people are brilliant problem solvers and the problems are complicated and have high impact. But that isn’t the reason for this first post of 2019.

Student of the Game

I was fortunate enough to have worked with Red River College during my career and was honoured to be invited to Keynote the BTM Tech mash-up they were putting on. All I had to do was come up with a topic! I talked about options with the organizers and we discussed presenting on how projects are managed at the University of Manitoba and how the work environment is different between Private Companies, Government. Consulting, and Higher Education. I still wanted something to leave with the students in regards to habits and practices of successful team mates. I eventually landed on a Student of the Game summary at the end of the presentation. I remember talking multiple times with Steve Rogalsky on the concept of Student of the Game, We both had felt it described a set of behaviours that were inherent in all the great team mates we had worked with. Even better I was going to connect it with Mark Scheifele for a Winnipeg Jets connection. I think I had a winner!

So what do we refer to when Steve and I mentioned team mates that were “students of the game”? I came across a great article “How to become a Student of the Game” by Anthony Iannarino. In this article, Tony makes the following three excellent points:

  1. Study the Fundamentals
    • The best performers in any endeavor spend a great deal of time studying the fundamentals. They read, study, and practice the basics. The best performers are willing to spend time on the plateaus, plugging away at the basics, even when it feels like they aren’t making any real progress.
  2. Make Distinctions
    • Reading, studying, and practicing are what allow high performers to make distinctions. They start to notice things. They notice things about themselves, and they notice things about others. They start to see how tiny changes produce outsized results.
  3. Teaching and Learning
    • The highest performers seek out teachers. They know that someone who has already had the experiences and made the distinctions can help them understand their own experiences and make their own distinctions. They’re excited about the prospect of someone facilitating their learning.
    • These high performers also learn by teaching others. The very act of sharing what you have learned takes your mastery to new levels. It means you have to think deeply about the how, what, and why something works.

Mark Scheifele

I then connected the concept of “Student of the Game” with Mark Scheifele and reviewed how Mark is a great example of being a “Student of the Game”

  • Selected 7th overall in 2011 in NHL Entry draft
  • Sought out Dale Hawerchuk at 17 to seek advice and counsel
  • Added Hall of Famer and skills coach Adam Oates to his off-season workouts
  • Attended Gary Roberts Summer Hockey Boot Camps every year for 6 years
  • Never swears on the ice – Respect for the Game

Summary

I added the connection to Mark Scheifele because of the concept of having Respect for the Game. This is something Tony did not mention but I think is critical for being a Student of the Game. The presentation even allowed me to connect the “Student of the Game” concept to the Agile Principles!

  • Continuous Learning
    • Find a Mentor or Role Model
    • Get on Twitter – follow other experts and read
  • Reflection
    • Review your work and others to spot opportunities
  • Collaborate and Learn from others
    • Review others work and practices
    • We are smarter than me
  • No Ego
    • Be respectful of others and their contributions
    • Understand that there are always things to learn and get better at
  • Be Brave to be wrong
    • Help to create a safe space to experiment

All in all, I think this presentation touched all the bases and it was very well received. I encourage you to read Anthony Iannarino’s article and watch a Winnipeg Jets game. GO JETS GO!

 

How to #Innovate – an Example

How to Innovate

In my last post, I was stressing how encouraging Innovation is not simply about layering Innovation over existing processes and culture, but how it really is a change management project about changing the culture of an organization. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Reading through the Winnipeg Free Press today, I was provided with an example of how Winnipeg is not really committed to Innovation, but only interested in it.

The Example

So it turns out that the city of Winnipeg, is building a new library named in honour of former Mayor Bill Norrie and his wife Helen. This is a good announcement for something that is really needed. You can read the story here. I listed the CBC link instead of the Winnipeg Free Press because the Winnipeg Free Press has a pay wall. (but that lack of Innovation is for a later post at another time)

I say this is only a good announcement because libraries are always good things and the library will be addressing some shortcomings in other libraries in regards to accessibility, natural light, and outdoor spaces. And it is also beneficial that it will be connected to other facilities and public transportation. But it could have been so much more if Winnipeg’s leaders were committed to Innovation.

I’m reminded of the old joke about how the chicken is only interested about breakfast while the pig is committed to breakfast. Winnipeg is definitely interested in Innovation in Libraries as they have created Maker Spaces among other Innovations at some libraries.

How could they be committed to Innovation you ask? Well I’m glad you asked.

Empowerment

A key factor in Innovation is breaking down the hierarchy of control and empowering others – changing the culture. This involves those in control letting go of their authority. They no longer ‘approve’ the Innovations recommended by others and plan and design in isolation.

How would this look?

  1. Libraries are a key service provided by the municipality and would be an area where the city can control Innovation if it was interested. So it seems like a very good example.
  2. Define a Library Strategy of what Winnipeg wants to achieve with their libraries. Start with the mandatory items that are legislated like accessibility so it is clear what is non-negotiable.
  3. Create working sessions and involve City of Winnipeg Council, City of Winnipeg Administration, Citizens, Universities, Educational Professionals, and children to help to define the Strategy. The only existing Library Strategy I could find was one to discuss whether we should build or lease libraries. That just made me sad. 😦
  4. Once we have the Strategy, have the same group define what the short-term and long-term objectives are and how we will measure if we are successful.
  5. Once we have the Strategy, Objectives, and Success Factors we can innovate and discuss the features that satisfy the Strategy best. A Library has to be more that just building with books inside. For example:
    1. What is the content we should provide?
    2. Ask the current administration how libraries can be improved?
    3. Ask City Council what their constituents are asking for?
    4. Ask the Teachers what is lacking in the libraries currently?
    5. Ask the students why they study at a Starbucks instead of a Library?
    6. How does the Library change with e-readers? Do we rent e-readers with content? Could we offer books in multi-languages easier this way?
    7. There is a movement to more group spaces in other libraries. Should we dedicate more group spaces?
    8. What other services could be partnered with Libraries?
    9. How do libraries change with Social Media? Do they?
    10. Are libraries next on the cusp of a Blockbuster/Netflix moment? Should we investigate streaming content?

These are just a few ideas. The key is to communicate what you want to achieve and then listen to your clients.

And here is the scary part, implement what they recommend. Majority rules!

That is the scariest part of Innovation. Executives still want to ‘approve’ innovations. A culture of Innovation believes that everyone has great ideas and majority rules. There is no knowing where the great ideas come from, but it is likely to come from those closest to the value.

Usually announcements like this are made once all those things are decided.  Getting everyone involved early and empowering them with real decision making would make these announcements great.

 

How to hire a Chief #Innovation Officer #FTW

Innovation

Innovation. We want to innovate. Everyone tells us we need to innovate. Everyone else is innovating and we need to keep up to them. If we don’t innovate we will be left behind. To this end, many companies are hiring Innovation Officers, Innovation Directors, or God forbid a Chief Innovation Officer. Some companies include Innovation in their name hoping to imply they are innovative just by having that name. Governments are adding Innovation to a Ministers Portfolio name in the hopes that they may generate Innovation. Even in my own city, Winnipeg, they hired a Chief Innovation Officer and are trying to innovate.

Problem

So what is the problem? Surely it is a laudable goal to innovate, improve, and excel? Absolutely it is. The unfortunate fact is that the way people are addressing innovation has very little chance for success.

Why

Innovation processes can’t simply be overlaid on a corporate structure that wasn’t innovative in the past and Innovation will occur. In the case of the City of Winnipeg, a call went out for people to submit their ideas and those ideas would be reviewed by the Chief Innovation Officer, the Chef Administration Officer, Chief Corporate Services Officer and Chief Transportation and Utilities Officer.

Oh boy, where do I start on this one? Lets use bullet points:

  • The people at the highest level are talented individuals but probably are not aware of Innovations required throughout the corporation. They are going to miss a ton of great ideas.
  • What is the Strategy that Innovation is required to address? What are the objectives? A general call for Innovation will probably generate a lot of wasted time as Innovations are submitted that aren’t a priority and people will wonder why their submissions weren’t chosen. (Unless a meeting is held to do a retrospective on every submission, but my experience is that doesn’t happen in these Innovation Beauty Contests)
  • If the Culture of the corporation was not open to ideas in the past, people may be hesitant to submit ideas formally via email. Some ideas may highlight inefficient processes that could implicate co-workers. So people are likely to just not respond. (especially if they would implicate supervisors and managers who hold power over them)

How to Innovate

So how would I create an Innovation Culture?

  1. Just that. Realize that it isn’t about generating Innovations in your current corporate structure. Innovation is about a change project to change culture profoundly.
  2. Invite people from across the corporation to participate in the Strategy Creation. If that isn’t feasible, at least communicate the Strategy in a meaningful way after it is decided. (i.e. a face to face meetings and not just sending a Strategy document out for people to read)
  3. Engage the people who are interested in face to face Innovation meetings where groups can submit, discuss, and shape Innovation ideas with their co-workers. These sessions need representation from front-line staff, supervisors, managers, and executives.
  4. Ongoing efforts to create a culture that is a safe culture for new ideas and suggestions. This is important. You can’t have Innovation if you don’t have a culture of Safety. You can’t have an open door for Innovation and a closed-door for everything else.

This would be a start, but it isn’t guarantee. It takes hard work and lots of communication between people and time. But there is no shortcut to Innovation.

Especially hiring a Chief Innovation Officer.