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.

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!

 

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.

 

The #1 characteristic of a great teammate #WinnipegJets #Pavelec

ondrej-pavelec-by-clint-trahan

I was watching a recent Winnipeg Jets game when I was reminded about the #1 characteristic of a great teammate.

Connor Hellebuyck was anointed as the starting goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets this year. He had a great season in the AHL last year. He had all of the great reviews as he moved through the various levels of hockey. The Winnipeg Jets had grown tired of Andrej Pavelec and his inconsistent play over the last few years. With Pavelec’s contract expiring at the end of this year, the writing was on the wall that a switch was going to be made sooner or later.

Resiliency

But we saw play from Hellebuyck that was very similar to Pavelec. Inconsistent, with a bad goal given up almost every night. Both goalies also had pure gems of games that could get you hoping of what the future could hold. But when Hellebuyck got pulled in three straight games in January, you saw a difference between the two goalies. And then when Pavelec came up to the big club and started three straight games and won you again saw the difference.

Various radio shows called it something different – ‘timely saves’ was the term most commonly used. Whatever the term, Pavelec may give up the bad goal, but then didn’t give up the next goal. He fought through the shots and kept his team in the game. And his team knew that Pavelec would fight to prevent the next goal and keep them in the game. We was a fighter and it was hard to get the ‘next’ goal on him.

Ondrej Pavelec has Resiliency that Connor Hellebuyck doesn’t have yet. The Winnipeg Jets players know that and due to that, they play better in front of Pavelec because it gives them confidence to play their game. They don’t need to worry about making a bad play, because Pavelec will overcome it if it happens. It is a larger worry making a mistake in front of a goalie where it may open the floodgates. Because of that you hold your stick a bit tighter and ironically make more mistakes.

Summary

Resiliency is the #1 characteristic of a great teammate. That trait in a teammate that they are resolute, plucky, committed, able to rebound and recover. We all make mistakes, but those people who take a shot, dust themselves off and stand tall are the special teammates we all want on our team. Give me a resilient craftsman over a fragile artisan every day.

Another example of Pavelec’s Resiliency is how he took his demotion with class and professionalism. Resilient teammates accept decisions made for the good of the team, confident in their abilities and committed to rebounding and proving themselves when the opportunity arises.

I hope Connor Hellebuyck can build these characteristics. But until then, I’d start Pavelec.

The #Agile Apprentice

I’m not sure why but I watched the Celebrity Apprentice last week. I hadn’t watched the Apprentice probably since that first season. I was quickly reminded as to why I stopped watching it. It is a show that shows all the anti-patterns to having healthy teams and projects. Their idea of the roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager is simply offensive.

The Apprentice Project Manager

So as near as I can figure it, the version of a Project Manager in Donald Trump’s world makes all the decisions, is judged solely by the success of the product and is expected to throw the weak links on his/her team under the bus. There is no mention of building teams, mentoring individuals, or collaboration. In fact, Project Managers are expected to also have the authority to make all of the decisions for the project. In short, Project Managers get to be in ‘charge’.

The Agile Project Manager

This goes totally against the concept of an Agile Project Manager. An Agile Project Manager is a servant leader who leads the facilitation and collaboration for the entire team. I have found that when I am a Project Manager on an Agile project I make very few, if any, decisions. The team members and experts make all of the decisions. The Project Manager usually just decides on how to best share progress and status with the Project sponsors.

Why?

So why then does the Apprentice have this vision of a Project Manager?

I thought about this last night and I believe it is related to what the ultimate objectives are in Donald Trump’s world. In Donald Trump’s world, projects exist to amass individual reputation and fortune. Project’s can leave a trail of bodies behind if the project results in fame and fortune. They do value the client, but as long as the client is satisfied the team members can double-cross each other. If fact, that type of behaviour seems to be rewarded.

This is the opposite of the objective of Agile Projects. The objectives of Agile Projects are to grow as a team and provide value to the client. But teams and projects need to be sustainable and repeatable. Agile Projects go to great length to discuss issues exist with systems, not individuals. We succeed and grow as a team.

Ultimately we need to treat each other with respect. The Apprentice seems to have forgotten this and eventually this pattern is not sustainable. The Good catches up…

Project Manager’s #1 Challenge #PMOT

risk-vs-reward1-e1330209788902

One thing that has always perplexed me on projects is how poorly we as Project Managers and project teams manage risk. All of us have the initial Risk Management meeting and try to capture the risks and mitigations required. But even in that first meeting, we fall short in identifying and planning how we are going to address the risks on the project.

Why?

At one time I had thought it was just because we as Project Managers got busy with the work on managing the project and forgot about scheduling follow-up Risk sessions. But that wasn’t it, even when the Risk items were incorporated into weekly status reporting, the effort and attention paid to risk management was just ceremonial. There was something else at play.

I was working on another long project and we were discussing the challenges with the issues and risks encountered. In a retrospective we discussed how we managed the issues and risks looser and looser as the project executed. We did this as we became more comfortable with the client and they became more comfortable with us. Unfortunately new players came onto the project later and changed characteristics of the project. This changed the issues and risks but we were not managing them as formally as before as we became comfortable with the issues, risks, client, and the project.

One person summed this situation up perfectly. “On projects it is natural for the project team to become the project. This eventually happens with the Project Manager.”

This is where the lack of formality and process can be a problem for the Project Manager and the project.

Become the Project

“Become the Project” – sounds rather Zen-like doesn’t it?

Become the Project to me means that you have somewhat lost your objectivity and like the rest of the team you are thinking in a positive and trusting manner. You start to expect issues to be resolved very soon, that risks will not happen, and that if things happen we will address them as one homogeneous team. Well it turns out that perspective is valuable and required by some of the team members as they are working through deliverables, the Project Management and leadership need to be careful to not fall into this lack of formality.

So what to do?

What can we do? As much as we say not to do it, it is human nature. Trust will be built up and used after working with the same people for months and years.

This is where your Project Management Office or Deliver Management Team needs to help your project team by providing the independent 3rd party or sober second thought perspective. The Project Management Office or Delivery Management Team’s role is not to own the risks and issues but to facilitate the review and consult on them as an independent 3rd party. In this way, we ensure the review happens and we make decisions based on all the most current data from the project balanced with objectivity and experience.

Ultimately you want your team and Project Manager to be the project, we just need to add a check and balance to ensure issues and risks aren’t overlooked.

What a Project Manager does #PMOT

I often get questioned by my kids on what exactly I do in my job. I tell my kids that I am a Project Manager and I work on teams that create web sites but that still seems to not convey ‘what’ exactly I do on a daily basis. Then last weekend I had an experience that I was able to point at to show my kids what I do at work. So what was that experience?

Building one of those metal storage sheds.

Construction

Turns out it was my wife’s idea to get a metal shed. We needed to get it to store bikes and softball gear in it. I’m usually the person to put these types of items together but this time we had a lot of things going on during the weekend so my wife got our two nephews to help. Things were going well and the floor got put together well. The shed started to take shape with the walls and frame being put together. The top frame went into place as did the middle frame that re-inforced all of the walls.

Looking back this probably was the early part of development projects where everything is going swimmingly as components haven’t been integrated and tested yet. But very soon, we were going to experience our first integration test.

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

I hardly provided any assistance during the development, like a good Project Manager. Just let the team go. But then I was starting to hear some frustrated tones from the back yard. The last panel on the back yard wasn’t lining-up. No matter what they did, the screw holes were a centimetre apart.

They finally came in complaining about the stupid shed kit and I came out to see if I could help. I walked around and looked at the instructions and asked them to describe how they put it together and how they had tried to fix it. I checked the schematics and then they noticed that in one corner the two pieces were not flush against each other like the other three corners.

We then tried to line up the panels but the screw holes were still half a centimetre apart. sigh.

Back to the drawing board.

We then walked around the shed inside and out looking for something else that was out of line. By now we had the experience that one corner or side was probably larger than another. My nephews got the idea to measure all of the sides and sure enough one of the braces was too long. We shortened the brace and the screw hole lined up perfectly.

Summary

Over dinner that night I said to my kids that what I did on the shed was exactly what I do at work. I help project teams plan, but most importantly I help them resolve issues. Most of the time they resolve the issues themselves, I just facilitate the process.

I’m not even gonna talk about how hard the roof was to get on….