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.

 

#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!

 

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.