#Zoom Leadership #PMOT #pandemic

There have been many excellent articles written and discussions had around great leadership traits in recent years. The concept of Servant Leadership from the Agile Movement and the excellent writings David Marquet emphasizing the role of curiosity is but to name but two. Many of these discussions have successfully moved the perception of a leader from an authoritarian figure to one of a collaborator/facilitator.

This morning I came across an excellent article on the role of humility in a leader. You can find the article here.

The article made me realize that the new leadership traits we have been talking about are observable traits of humility or being humble. Curiosity, collaboration, listening, vulnerability, patience, seeking opposing viewpoints, and acknowledging mistakes are all driven authentically from humility.

Can you be curious and questioning without humility? Sure, but you are probably just asking to prove you are correct, not to being open to new ideas.

Can you collaborate without humility? Sure, but you are likely to be promoting your ideas with the goal of convincing others.

Can you seek opposing viewpoints without humility? Sure, but you are doing this usually with the goal of proving your hypothesis, not to advance knowledge.

Can you truly listen without humility? Sure, but you are probably waiting on the edge of your seat for others to stop talking so you can once again lead the discussion.

Humble leaders understand that while they may be accountable for the decision, the entire team is responsible for the decision. And making the best decision is a patient process.

Pandemic Zoom/Leadership

Humility in a Pandemic is needed even more. Whether you are having meetings in WebEx, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom everyone is relegated to the same real estate on the screen. The power dynamics of in-person meetings are minimized, offices and titles are less apparent, and charisma makes a journey to Flatland. Technology makes us more equal.

As a result, imbalances in collaboration, talking, listening, asking, and seeking become even more apparent. One thing I have noticed about great leaders in these Pandemic times – they ask more than they state. And they are quiet and listening the vast majority of the time.

In the past, this may have been seen as being passive, but confidence is required even more to be silent, asking, seeking, and then deciding. And confidence is required even more to admit you don’t know, were wrong, or to promote a position raised by someone else. And that confidence comes from humility.

Yes, great leaders still are decisive, but how they get to great decisions are with humility, patience, and honouring their teams.

Please give the article a read. We should all strive to have Angela Merkel’s Intellectual Humility. It is an example of that old adage – “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know everything”

Pride divides the men, humility joins them – Socrates

All I need to know about Management and Leadership I learned from Dungeons and Dragons #PMOT#Agile #D&D

Recently I had the opportunity to play Dungeons and Dragons again. I hadn’t played since I was in high school and didn’t realize how much I missed it. D&D and I drifted away  after version 3.5 and all the advanced rules. I had heard great things about the version 5 so I thought it deserved another look. The thing that really triggered it was a fascinating article about how some middle-aged Dungeon Masters are becoming professional Dungeon Masters.

If you are interested in the article here is link: How to be a professional dungeon master host

Forming the Fellowship

So it turns out that if you work in Information Technology, all you need to form a fellowship is to mention you would like to play D&D. In the space of 15 minutes, I had six people wanting to play, four of them Druids. (Don’t ask me why, Druids were always my least favourite character class)

Before I knew it we had a party formed and were going on our first campaign. Those first sessions confirmed that my Management and Leadership style was indeed formed in those early Dungeon and Dragons sessions in my youth. I was amazed how many similarities there were between a good fellowship and great team.

Shared Vision

So I started off with the typical starting point for all good campaigns – Ye Old Tavern. Unlike my first D&D experience, the fellowship didn’t just accept the fact that we found ourselves in the Tavern. The fellowship spent an inordinate amount of time discussing their backgrounds, motivations, and history that would have brought themselves to this point. The was the first metaphor that applied to all good teams – everyone needs to understand what the shared vision is and why they are there. Only once that is understood can the team take on a new mission and campaign. Unfortunately, most of the time we just group people together and expect they will function as a team or fellowship.

Collaborative Storytelling

When I started to think about playing again I found a book called “Of Dice and Men” that reminisced about the memories of Dungeons and Dragons and told some of the history behind the game. One of the concepts the book introduced to me was that Dungeons and Dragons was so successful because unlike normal games, Dungeons and Dragons involved Collaborative Storytelling. Collaborative Storytelling involves the Dungeon Master creating the genus of the story and then works in collaboration with the fellowship to modify the story to create the best story, outcomes, and enjoyment. The primary thing is to accomplish the quest, but the path or plot may change based on the actions and decisions of the team.

Second metaphor for great teams and leaders. They start out with a shared vision and genus of what they want to accomplish, but the entire team contributes and changes the story as it evolves. Especially key to this is the fact that the Dungeon Master is not separate from the team. He or She doesn’t create an exact plot that the team needs to follow. (Although some Dungeon Masters, Leaders, and Manager do try this approach with very limited success)

For a truly great team, the Dungeon Master, Leader, or Manager must view themselves as a member of the team just playing a different role.

Now that doesn’t mean the Dungeon Master, Leader or Manager makes decisions by consensus. Sometimes they need to make a decision or ruling but they need to remember why they are making the decision. What is the intent of the fellowship or campaign? And most importantly a great Dungeon Master, Leader, or Manager encourages and incorporates team feedback to change the quest and story. It isn’t their story to solely own.

Helping Each Other

And finally the behaviour I notice most in Dungeon and Dragons fellowships is the coming to the aid of each other. It is extremely common for members to heal each other and shield each other from harm. It is the one behaviour I notice in every fellowship I have ever been part of. There is something about the game that really encourages risk taking that benefits others over yourself.

Summary

Perhaps instead of other ‘team building’ activities, we just need to break out the 20 sided die and remind ourselves how we succeed together. Even better, we should all take turns as the Dungeon Master to remind ourselves that the best Dungeon Masters, Leaders, and Managers exists to help the players level up, gain treasure, and enjoy themselves while solving a quest.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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…

 

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?

The night #Canada cried

hug

August 20th, 2016. The night where Canadians will remember exactly where they were for the last Tragically Hip concert. To call it a watershed moment like Paul Henderson’s goal would be unfair. Paul Henderson’s goal uplifted the country, Gord Downie singing “Grace, too” broke our collective hearts. Even though the cancer diagnosis happened in the past, it really took this concert to make the situation real.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. The Tragically Hip were ‘the’ Canadian band. Not overly successful outside of the country, humble, polite, meaningful, and important. Full disclosure, I was always more of a Rush fan, but there I was crying over Canada’s loss in a friends back yard, listening to the music of a generation of Canada.

I loved that the hip were from a small town, I loved that the lyrics in the songs were from Canada throughout the years, and I loved the fact that the Tragically Hip were always different.

If anything August 20th, 2016 was Canada’s JFK moment. Suddenly our collective hearts were ripped out and we were left to wonder about where do you go from here. And just like JFK, Canadian’s were gathered around the country watching history being written.

Even worse, there wasn’t a person we could despise. Just a nameless, faceless disease that had taken millions before.

Thank you for the bravery, music and words Gord. Thanks for reminding us about what being Canadian really means.

Farewell my friend

Today is a sad, sad day. After 16 and a half years I have to put down a long time companion. One that has been to California, Alberta, Wisconsin, Montana, and many places in between. I first met her on an April day many years ago and she was a perfect match.

But now I can just see the age creeping up on her. She is slower and doesn’t have the same get up and go. She tries to keep up, but ultimately she just falls behind the other SUVs. I just don’t have the heart to keep on applying duct tape to the rust spots.

Yep. I’ve got to let my Pathfinder go.

This wouldn’t be so hard if she didn’t still drive nice and start every morning. She and I have been through thick and thin. That vehicle has seen me through the last 17 years and 3 girlfriends and 2 kids and 1 wife. For those of you counting at home, those 3 girlfriends were before the wife and 2 kids. 🙂

So how cruel am I?

I’m now driving the Pathfinder to Mazda, Ford, and Hyundai dealerships to test drive other cars. Jesus, how callous and insensitive can I be? I’m such a bastard.

I only hope one day she can forgive me. If it is any consolation I am sure to trade in the next SUV just like I’ve done to the Pathfinder. And I’ll do it sooner, with no regrets.

Goodbye my dear, we will always have California.

Joy and Bacon

There are certain things that inspire pure joy in this world. Seeing your children accomplish something you know they have worked so hard for. Seeing your wife beat cancer with quiet confidence. Hearing a song or seeing a scene in a movie that connects with a moment from your own life. Even better, hearing that David Gilmour guitar solo from Comfortably Numb… you know, the second one. 🙂

But for me the most of pure unadulterated joy I get to appreciate every year is spring. Yep, just that boring old spring where the snow melts and stuff gets messy.

But when you are from the heart of the prairies where it usually gets to -30 and -40 with the windchill, spring is a huge occasion. I wish I could convey the absolute elation and giddiness to my American neighbours far south. Even fellow Canadians in  Calgary and Toronto probably don’t feel the joy to the same level. They just haven’t felt the wind for all winter long.

Feeling the warm fat spring wind on your face is comforting and tender. It is strange how the wind changes through the winter as it becomes more narrow and skinny and thin as it gets colder and colder. Then eventually the wind feels like a thin sheet of ice making it hard to breathe. Eventually you get used to it and carry on.

But that first day in the spring, with a breeze and temperature above freezing is the definition of Joy. Kinda like if Bacon had a sister.

#Minecraft Code Club – Day 2 #BoysAndGirls

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Well today was Day 2 of the Minecraft Code Club. Actually it was Day 1 again for a second group. This time it was for Grade 3’s. I modified the session a little bit based upon the feedback received in the first session and I think it went even better. We increased the Silent Brainstorming activities before we got involved in looking at any code. The kids did their introductory artwork on their favorite Minecraft things but then I also asked them what they wanted to learn. As usual with Silent Brainstorming, I always see ideas I never expected.

Here are some of the things they wanted to learn today:

  • Build a portal
  • Fight an Ender Dragon (I don’t even know what that is!)
  • Ride a pig, cow, and wolf
  • How to make a castle
  • Make a pig fly
  • Make jewels

Difference between boys and girls 

One thing I was fascinated with today was the difference in a session dominated by boys versus dominated by girls. The first session was almost entirely boys, the session today was almost entirely girls.

As the kids worked through the session, I made the following observations:

1) The girls were much more collaborative and social. They went out of their way to make sure other tables were being as successful as they were.

2) The girls were not competitive. They were more concerned about everyone being successful than about being first.

3) The girls were also much more open to ask questions. There was no hesitation to ask questions and to try and get help for what they wanted to do.

I should also say that my son Matthew also helped in the session and he was awesome. Couldn’t have done it without him and I was very proud how he helped everyone. I joked with Matthew he could be a teacher – he just said maybe and smiled.

Grade 3

The other observation I had was that Grade 3 would be the absolute youngest I would do the class with. Although they picked up on items quickly, they did less exploring and problem solving if they lost their way. They still grasped the concepts quickly, but maybe were a little less comfortable in the game and with a computer. They still did review the Java code and picked out the words that made sense to them. They also grasped what would happen if I assigned a large number to length…

They did validate that the model of teaching code to them that I am showing does resonate. When I talked about giving the Minecraft program a needle with our code, they laughed and understood that we were doing something to change a large program. (although we did have to clarify that the needle would not hurt)

In the next class I’m actually going to show them how we give the program a needle… Yes boy and girls we are going to compile code!!!

Good times

Prairie Dev Con 2015 – SQL Server is cheaper than Open Source #FTW

I’ll be presenting my recent presentation on how SQL Server is cheaper than Open Source at Prairie Dev Con on Monday. If you have the chance, check out the conference. Great assortment of speakers and topics.

Here is the link to my Blog post related to the presentation:

SQL Server 2012 – Cheaper than Open Source Database options

Are #Estimates Lies? #NoEstimates

One of the statements that causes me angst is the “Estimates are Lies” that I read on the Twitterverse from time to time. So I thought I’d do some research. I decided to look up the definition of a Lie.

lie is a false statement to a person or group made by another person or group who knows it is not the whole truth, intentionally. Lies can be told for various reasons and with various amounts of success.” – Wikipedia

Under this definition, an estimate is indeed a lie. We know the estimate will be incorrect. But doesn’t the whole statement depend on what the definition for truth is? 🙂

Truth is most often used to mean in accord with fact or reality” – Wikipedia

Hmmm, so it seems that under these definitions that estimates are indeed lies.

Predictions

The only caveat to the above definitions is that estimates are a specific type of statement. They are a prediction. All predictions are lies by their very nature. We can never be exact about the future as things will always change. The further away the prediction, the greater chance our predictions or lies will be bigger.

So what is the definition of a prediction?

“A prediction (Latin præ-, “before,” and dicere, “to say”) or forecast is a statement about the way things will happen in the future, often but not always based on experience or knowledge. While there is much overlap between prediction and forecast, a prediction may be a statement that some outcome is expected, while a forecast is more specific, and may cover a range of possible outcomes.

Although guaranteed information about the future is in many cases impossible, prediction is necessary to allow plans to be made about possible developments; Howard H. Stevenson writes that prediction in business “… is at least two things: Important and hard” – Wikipedia

Summary

So it seems that estimates are both lies and predictions.

But this is a slippery slope. I tell my wife I will be home by 6 from a new location I have never driven home from before. Turns out I hit a traffic jam and I didn’t get home until 6:30. Did I lie to her? I would say no. I gave her the best answer I had at the time with the information I had and the experience I had. Sound familiar?  In my opinion, a prediction is only a lie if it isn’t my honest, and truthful best attempt at predicting the future.

Let’s state that again “In my opinion, a prediction is only a lie if it isn’t my honest, and truthful best attempt at predicting the future.”

Estimates will always be wrong, but estimates are not lies. They are a prediction given the best information we have at the time. And they are made to help the other person plan. If I refused to give an estimate of my arrival time and said I didn’t know and wouldn’t know until I got there, my wife could not have made plans to pick up the kids.  In our busy lifestyle, this is just not an option to wait until we both got home before we committed to any plans. This is a very simple example but it highlights the challenge of planning without any predictions.

To make plans that affect multiple people or groups or people, you need to make predictions. If you need to make predictions you need estimates. Whether estimates are lies or not is beside the point. We usually need them when working with different groups of people. Like businesses, families, or teams.

Final Caveat

I do agree that once you have direct experience that should replace prior estimates… Once I have traveled that route home a few times, I should use my experience to provide me with a better estimate. In Software Development projects, I should switch to using my velocity as soon as possible and not rely on the initial estimate anymore. Failure to do this corrupts the purpose of the estimate. It is only a prediction until we have more information.

Remember the definition of my estimate was “the best answer I had at the time with the information I had and the experience I had”. If I have new experience or knowledge I am obligated to use that information and re-estimate.