Delight Your Customer Today, Enjoy Profits Tomorrow

May 31, 2011

I enjoy Steve Denning’s writing, and my personal opinion is that he makes astute observations and provides clear, solid advice. Like pointing out in his presentation, Making the Entire Organization Agile that we need to shift from producing outputs to delighting the customer.

He’s right, delighted customers will not only bring their business back to you, they will tell others, and in this Internet age of social media there’s real value in having a larger percentage of promoters versus detractors. This is why many companies are paying greater attention to their Net Promoter Score® metric.

Agile Brings Changes to Key Roles and Responsibilities

May 27, 2011

Agile development is – or should be – a driver of change. And when change is in the air, everyone wants to understand, “How does this affect me?” This post is by no means comprehensive, but I’ll take a quick look at some key changes, and I’ll tackle one that is particularly sensitive territory: the project management role.

Developers and testers feel the impact of change because the nature of their roles changes with Agile development. For example, team members are expected to work together interchangeably and to hold each other mutually accountable for the team’s results, something that they might not be used to. And then there is the question of specialists versus generalists. I gave my opinion in a recent post, Agile Development: Specialists versus Generalists as well as discussing what I see to be problems with specialists on Agile teams in another post.

The Real Divide between Agile Development and Project Management

May 24, 2011

There are a number of polarized views on this subject, but I don't believe that the real argument should be about traditional project management versus Agile development. The PMBOK doesn’t contain evil things, and Agile development doesn’t ignore as much as many traditional project managers might believe that it does. Agile fools you because certain things are implicit.

Common Ground with PMI Agile Certification?

May 20, 2011

When you are young, you are more welcoming to change because you haven’t built a career around a certain way of doing things. Change is more difficult to contend with as you get older, particularly when you have a spouse and house along with some kids, pets, and in-laws that demand your attention, let alone how additional responsibilities pile into your work day as your career progresses. Time becomes a scarce commodity, limiting your ability to develop an understanding – let alone adapt – to change on any front.

Despite understanding that it’s a bad idea to resist change in today’s fast-paced, competitive world, people do get comfortable with established ways of working, and it can be costly.

Business Agility is More Important than Agile Development

May 17, 2011

I recall reading an article many years ago that gave advice to CIOs that annoyed the crap out of me. The article was about CIOs needing to be change agents, suggesting that in order to generate a sense of urgency in the organization – and to get people to willingly and quickly adapt to change – CIOs should create a crisis.

This advice sounded lame to me then, and my view hasn’t changed over the years. If you want to drive change, there needs to be transparency and sincerity about the nature of change, and it must be grounded in reality. If you are a leader driving artificial change, people will see through it and write you off, riding out the fire drill and returning to the same way of operating once the drill is over.

Book Review: The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers

May 13, 2011

The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before NumbersThe goal of The Talent Masters, as the authors Ram Charan and Bill Conaty put it, “is to light a path for all companies to build a better, more secure future for employees, shareholders, customers, and partners by developing robust talent pipelines and same-day succession plans.” They immediately point out a common problem with this in the opening:

“If businesses managed their money as carelessly as they manage their people, most would be bankrupt.”

Meaningful Measurements

May 10, 2011

Measuring progress is important, as is assessing how well you are performing. The two are distinctly different, however. I wrote about assessing – or diagnosing – to determine where your pain points are (and where there are noteworthy strengths) in my post, Don’t Measure. Diagnose!

While performing well improves the rate of progress, the goal of measuring progress should be about the contribution that is being made toward the success of a larger entity. Individuals must make meaningful contributions to their team, and teams must make meaningful contributions towards a larger business goal.

Functional Managers or General Managers?

May 6, 2011

In a recent post, Agile Development: Specialists versus Generalists, I discussed the trade-offs between generalists and specialists within Agile teams, agreeing with Scott Ambler that organizations should be staffed with generalizing specialists and recommending that specialists should be in the minority relative to the generalists in an Agile organization.

What about Agile management? Should there be functional managers and direct reports organized around specialties such as database administration, software development, quality assurance, documentation, etc. in an Agile organization?

Yes, but…

Do We Need Product Owners?

May 3, 2011

David Anderson recently wrote a blog post Banish “Priority” and “Prioritization” noting that he found the words “priority” and “prioritization” no longer required with Kanban systems because, “They encourage roles/positions for people who do mostly non-value-added coordination work, and they add to the transaction costs of flowing work through the system.”

Jurgen Appelo followed up with a blog post of his own: Wasteful ProductOwners? In his post, Jurgen counters this thinking with the observation that “Managing stakeholders in a complex environment is a complex task. If we can replace the PO with a set of policies, then why not the ScrumMaster and Software Testers too? It is the ‘machine-thinking fallacy’ all over again. No wonder that some old-fashioned managers find the rhetorics of Lean thinkers appealing.”

Are Product Owners providing value, or are they unnecessary middle-men/women?