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.

 

 

Is my #PMO #Agile?

I recently presented on Agile Project Management Offices at Canheit 2018 at the lovely Simon Fraser University Campus in Burnaby. The conference was extremely well-organized and had many great sessions. The only complaint I have is that there was no bacon, but that is a small point. 🙂

In putting together my presentation, I had a to think about what makes a PMO Agile? We all know what makes a Project Agile, but how did that translate to the PMO? To further complicate the matter there are different types of PMOs. There are PMOs that deliver templates, those that dictate a methodology, those that provide a Career Centre for wayward Project Managers, and others that try to do all of these things.

I’ve always felt that an Agile Project at its heart does three things:

  1. Provides Brutal Visibility
  2. Minimizes Inventory
  3. Uses the Brutal Visibility and Minimize Inventory to deliver more value

Agile PMO

On first blush, those factors translated pretty well to an Agile PMO. But I still had to ask myself how did the Agile PMO deliver more value? I looked at Agile Projects again and how do they deliver more value? The one word that kept popping in my mind was that Agile Projects use Brutal Visibility and Minimal Inventory to Pivot or change the direction of the project. More important than that, the Brutal Visibility and Minimal Inventory allow the Pivot to be done in ‘an informed manner with limited waste’.

So ultimately I felt Agile Projects or Agile PMOs do three things:

  1. Provide Brutal Visibility
  2. Minimize Inventory
  3. Pivot in an Informed Manner with Minimal Waste

Summary

So for projects, this means Pivoting to allow the scheduling/trading/exchanging of features to deliver the most value.

For a Project Management Office, these means Pivotting to allow for the scheduling/trading/exchanging of projects to deliver the most value. And for Project Management Offices this means understanding the best way to allocate people and budget to the work required. In my expeience, budget is far easier to allocate than people with the team dynamics and role mixtures that are required on a project.

Sadly, most Project Management Offices struggle with Resource Management and manage resources in a series of Excel Spreadsheets that are usually out of date by at least a couple of months. When Project pivot decisions are required, the Project Management Office is guessing at people’s true allocation. More importantly, the Resource Management system usually doesn’t track actual hours that would indicate the leading edge of problems on projects.

To be a true Agile PMO, a Resource Management system must be used where your Resource allocation is current and the ability to Pivot exists every day. We recently implemented a Resource Management solution and the data being generated/captured is just showing how impactful it can be.

Now how many of our Project Management Offices could be considered truly Agile?

You just have to work #here #HigherEducation

Here? Specifically? Well kinda.

But I’ve always said that it is best for an individual to have a breadth of work experience. In the past I have mentioned that I felt it was important for a person to have experience in a private company, a government agency, and a consulting company for a least a couple of years each. Each one of these models operate very differently and distinctly. And the interesting things is that no one model is better than any others. Each model has different drivers and priorities that drive their behaviours.

University

I’ve now found a found category to add to the list – University. University is a bit of a mix between Private, Consulting, and Government, but it also has characteristics present in none of them.

University does have the drive to improve and innovate from Private, the challenges of people coaching and change management from Government, and the lack of direct authority in a Consulting environment where you need to rely on the your skills as a facilitator, negotiator, and influencer.

But at University you need to do three models all at the same time and realize two additional truths:

  1. Every Faculty and Department are/can be a company on its own. There are limits to any authority over them so the focus really need to be on bridge-building and selling the benefits of your ideas.
  2. University culture is about questioning. But rather than questioning to show their own knowledge, questioning at University are done to make the idea better. While this can be frustrating, once you realize the questions are following the method of Socratic Questioning,  they are easier to accommodate.

Oh yeah, and with the need to facilitate and influence and answer people’s Socratic Questions, things just take longer….

But the solutions and ideas are really better.

 

First deadly sin of #Agile

I’ve always thought that for all that Agile got right, it almost got the same amount wrong. And most of what it got wrong had to do how it distanced the client from the project team.

Surprised?

Remember that although Agile was promoting co-located teams, the clients certainly had a different status than the other members of the project team. I’m still amazed that the Scrum segregation of clients and team members into chickens and pigs is tolerated. The basic premise is that although the clients are interested in ‘breakfast’ they aren’t as committed as the ‘pigs’. This of course is ridiculous and in many projects the clients have more on the line than the development team. But the most disappointing thing is that Agile seemed to inherently promote a hierarchy. Even outside of Scrum, Agile still seemed to confuse who defines value and the project team typically over steps their bounds and decide for the client. For example, the No Estimates movement deems Estimates a waste repeatedly although the only people who can determine what is waste are the clients.

Semantics

Much of this can be tied up in Semantics. The terms of Client, Customer, Business User – all separate.

It wasn’t until we were talking terminology in a more traditional project structure that we decided there was a much more appropriate term:

Colleague – ‘A person with whom one works in a profession or business.’

Or even better, from the Latin collega or ‘partner in office’. Finally a term that does not imply a hierarchy and instills the promise of a partnership working toward a common goal.  All colleagues working to create the highest quality solution to a problem.

Colleagues delivering frequently to minimize Inventory and shorten Feedback Loops.

Now that is Agile.

 

Death of #Agile #PMOT

OK, so maybe Agile isn’t dead yet. But I think it is certainly starting to suffer from the same disease that ultimately claimed Waterfall and other methodologies. As usual, Steve Jobs saw the issues years ago:

Content over process

Process over Content

Once the focus is on process over content, the patient starts to decline. Process is supposed to improve content by providing guidance and predictability. But if the process is followed blindly and no autonomy is given to team members to customize process, we have placed Process over Content. This happened late in the Waterfall days with additional focus on CMMI ranking and achieving other process certifications.

Most troubling is a lot of the discussion is the Agile world lately is about process and not content. We are talking about who is more Agile than whom. We are talking about absolutes as to how estimating is bad and that estimates should NEVER be done. We are talking about absolutes rather than compromises. You are ignoring Content when discussions gravitate toward absolutes. Is it a key indicator that you are no longer evaluating what needs to be accomplished or what value is. The discussion now is darn it, come hell of high water, we will be doing User Stories, with relative estimating, or not estimating at all. And it doesn’t matter what the clients think or what success is.

I know this because people are writing books about absolutes and not about how to compromise.

But Terry, we do listen to our clients you’ll say. We wouldn’t be doing our professional duty if we didn’t promote our preferred approach. We then customize after.

Fair enough. But your preferred approach is all about process and not content. Process enables content, but process is not content. Your focus is on the process….

I’ll let that sink in…

 

#1 difference working at the University of Manitoba #books

I’ve worked at a number of different enterprises throughout my career. I’ve seen even more of them when I was a consultant. In one way or another I have seen all the following organizations in action:

  • Manitoba Hydro
  • Great West Life
  • Investors Group
  • Multiple departments in the Province of Manitoba
  • Assante Asset Management
  • Manitoba Blue Cross
  • Manitoba Public Insurance
  • I could go on…

What is the most interesting to me is how the University of Manitoba differs from all of these in one important way. I imagine that this observation can be applied to other educational institutions as well.

I see books everywhere.

Books

What I’ve noticed is that almost everyone reads books specific to their career. Beyond that, there is a commitment to education. I guess this should not be surprising since this is a University, but the focus is profoundly different from anything I’ve seen in the private sector. Now before you jump to conclusions, I’m not saying the education budgets are larger. I don’t get that sense. But almost every project that delivers has a focus on education and training. There is just a profound focus that we need to educate people and train them and we should not expect people to just pick up new skills without training and effort.

Hand in hand with this focus on education and training comes an increased focus on innovation and improvement. Perhaps because our main clients are students who learn, we are eager to share information and learn ourselves. This gets magnified as Universities are very collaborative and we are eager to share information and innovations. This creates a larger eco-system of innovation with the goal to improve the educational system and our support of higher learning.

Since private companies are in competition, you rarely see professionals between companies sharing new methods and procedures that could help others in the industry. As a result, innovations have to be ‘discovered’ multiple times in private industries.

System Thinking

Which brings us back to System Thinking. I remember reading a book on System Thinking that proposed IT systems are designed within the larger enterprise context and can’t help but mimic the overall company culture and values. An open company’s IT systems will have less formal procedures that a company that is very hierarchical. The IT systems reflect the company.

So I guess it should not be surprising that our systems and our IT organization and culture have been modeled after the University as a whole.