jueves, noviembre 17, 2011

¿Es Darth Vader un buen Project Manager o no?

El temible y malvado Darth Vader, uno de los personajes mas famosos de la saga de Star Wars, puede ser visto como un project manager, uno muy efectivo. O a lo sumo eso piensa Brandon Koeller en su entretenido e interesante artículo en Geekwire. Acá les dejo las diez razones que el autor enuncia:

Number 10: Vader prioritized brutally. Over the course of Vader’s pursuit of the Rebel Alliance, you see him set and pursue priorities according to their strategic value. When he knew the plans for the Death Star had been leaked, he focused on mitigating that risk. When Luke came on the scene, he shifted priorities to recruit him to the Dark Side! Vader paid close attention to the happenings of the galaxy, evaluated the impacts of any given issue, and went after the highest priorities…time after time. No emotional attachments, no personal agendas…just the right thing to do to preserve the Imperium, and see his project through to successful completion. In project management, if you can’t prioritize, you won’t get anything done, let alone anything done well.

Number 9: Vader made decisions based on objective data, not whims. Remember that Imperial officer who had to report to Vader that they had lost Han Solo in the asteroid field, and he choked him? That was some decisive action! Vader consistently evaluated the performance of his team, and made changes to fix problems when the team didn’t perform. Sure, there may have been some fear and terror, but put all that aside. The inclination to objectively evaluate the performance of your team and not accept substandard performance is an important one. Project teams needs to feel safe and supported, but they also need to know that the project goals need to get met, and if you aren’t delivering on your commitments, changes need to get made. Thank you, Vader, for making tough choices to accomplish your goals!

Number 8: Vader made commitments, and worked hard to keep them. If you think of the Galactic Empire as something of a SCRUM project, the Emperor would have to be playing the Product Owner role. Of course, in SCRUM/Agile, the team makes commitments to achieve predefined goals over the course of any given sprint or iteration. Darth did this with the Emperor many times, and he worked REAL hard to make sure those commitments were met. I mean, how did he manage to get that second Death Star operational so quickly anyway? Hard work, that’s how. Vader understood the importance of commitments, and more importantly, the significance of fulfilling them. Trust in teams is built on commitments.

Number 7:
Vader took time to re-charge, relax, and get some perspective. Projects and the achievement of project goals can often feel like super-high stakes. Everyone on the team is motivated to solve the problem, and get to done. Conflict is inevitable in that kind of environment, and a good project manager needs to get in there and confront those issues head-on. Of course, this can be exhausting, emotionally and intellectually. Vader understood this, and was careful to take time out of his busy project schedule to relax, meditate, and give himself room to gain some perspective about what was really important. Remember that awesome rehab egg thing he had in his quarters? Good project managers care, and they need to express that care, but they also need to maintain objectivity, which means they need to give themselves the time and space to regain perspective.

Number 6: Vader managed risk and expectations…pre-emptively. Remember that time when Darth Vader went to Cloud City, bought off the management, then lured Han, Leia, and Chewbacca into a trap? Genius. The amount of planning and forethought that went in to that little exercise must have been epic. After some serious prioritizations, Vader perceived the highest risk to his Galaxy, and made a plan to mitigate the risk stat! Additionally, you saw him having conversations with team members all over the place making sure they understood clearly what his expectations were with regards to the achievement of goals. Good project managers think about their projects defensively, and act to protect them aggressively.

Number 5: Such a persuasive fellow. Of all Vader’s substantial capabilities, perhaps his most effective one was his ability to persuade people to do what he needed done. With the exception of his own kids (in his defense, have you ever tried to get your kids to do something?), he did a pretty great job of getting people to cooperate (whether through fear, obligation, or The Force!). The Imperium was so enormous, so full of complexities…it must have been a serious challenge to navigate that and convince people that his vision of the project was one that they could all get behind.

Number 4: Vader picked a methodology and stuck with it…until it didn’t work. In keeping with the commitment to objectivity in performance, Vader picked his methodology of fear, manipulation, and aggression, and stuck with it, until it was clear that the methodology was not working anymore. Everyone knows that Vader betrayed his Emperor to save Luke from certain death upon Luke’s refusal to join the team in a certain role. Vader saw that his previous methods of fear and intimidation didn’t seem to work with Luke, or any of the rebels any longer. Boom! Change of tactics to get the job done.

Number 3: No problem is too big to tackle. Sure, Vader had an enormous skepticism that served him well in managing risk. All good project managers need that ability. But good project managers also have to be optimistic enough to push through tough challenges and look for solutions, however improbable their success. The point at which the Rebels had slipped off the imperial radar screen, and holed up on Hoth…Vader was feeling pretty lost at that point, you know? Where the devil had those pesky rebels gone off to? How the bantha poodoo was Vader going to find them in the enormity of the galaxy? What is that? Send out thousands of spy droids to random planets and see what turns up? Low probability of success, but still better than zero? Done! Vader’s optimism and confidence in his team’s ability to overcome all obstacles is an excellent lesson in persistence.

Number 2: It is never too late to do the right thing. Everyone is presented with choices that have questionable moral consequences. The right thing is almost always something to be wrestled with. One of the most profound moments in Vader’s career came when he took responsibility for all the morally wrong things he did, and did the right thing. He never thought it could atone, but he did the right thing anyway. Project managers will make thousands of choices in the course of a project…some of which may be of questionable moral fiber including the omissions of details, avoided conversations, hidden pieces of data all to paint a better picture of the project. Good project managers will take the time to reflect on their choices, and re-make the choices they don’t feel good about. The right thing is crucial to trust on a team, even if the right thing is a hard thing.

Number 1: Vader was never afraid of getting his hands dirty. Every project will have boundaries drawn around the responsibilities of specific roles being played, and Vader knew his own role in the imperial project. But he never asked anyone to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself, and he made sure he had a clear understanding and appreciation for the hard things that his team had to execute on. This, I think, is what made Vader better than just good. No detail was overlooked. He didn’t micro-manage, necessarily. He got involved in the work of the project, and his team followed him because they knew he understood and was invested in the project’s success! Whether he was force-choking a non-performing admiral, or flying a tie-fighter, he contributed to the team’s success anyway he could.

Michael Pruitt de VMC Consuting retruco a Brandon Koeller en su artículo, mencionando que esta equivocado en el punto 10, donde dice que Vader priorizaba. Michael piensa lo siguiente:

I believe he is making the classic mistake of taking specific characteristics common to one type of project contributor and extrapolating an extreme example of that characteristic as something different.

Darth Vader is a project manager who lets his emotional attachments and personal agendas drive decisions, and that’s not good project management.

When Koeller says, “Vader prioritized brutally,” I think he is confusing Vader’s single-mindedness with prioritization. When we talk about prioritization in project management, we usually mean ordering the relative importance of an objective, deliverable or other unit of work. Prioritization paired with a clear strategic objective allows teams to identify the features that we believe will achieve that objective and then stack rank them in order of priority. Then you can pursue features based on that ranking. To ensure that workable solutions or products are delivered within constraints, you need to have the ability to prioritize and use that prioritization to keep projects focused on the highest value work. Vader is single-mindedly pursuing the Rebellion because that’s the task the Emperor assigned him.

Prioritization can be adaptive and is a characteristic of facilitators and project managers. Single-mindedness at work is a trait that allows us to focus on specific tasks and focus on them to completion. This isn’t really a core trait of a Project Manager; it’s a characteristic of individual contributors.

No me digan que esto no fue interesante. Para mi Darth Vader se torno obsesivo y perdió el control en un momento, pero al final hizo lo correcto :)

lunes, noviembre 14, 2011

The Art of Project Management

The Art of Project Management de Scott Berkun me atrajo inicialmente por su titulo, ya que ciertamente ser un buen Project Manager es un arte, además de ser una habilidad que puede desarrollarse.

El libro esta separado en tres secciones: planes, habilidades y management. Aunque el libro no esta enfocado en ninguna metodología, es bastante orientado a PMI y hay varias secciones que lo reflejan. Por ejemplo el libro se extiende demasiado en como desarrollar una visión, documentarla, planificar y escribir especificaciones. Eso es lo negativo que saco de este libro.

Lo mas jugoso es cuando comenta como comunicarse y relacionarse efectivamente, como tratar con la gente (ver mi artículo de tácticas de guerrilas tomadas de este libro) y como manejarse en el ambiente político empresarial. En estas ultimas secciones, mas blandas podría decirse, Scott Berkun hace honor al titulo del libro para comentarnos su experiencia y entendimiento de lo que es ser un buen Project Manager.

Les dejo una de las frases mas interesantes del libro para cerrar este articulo: 

Trust is built through commitment but lost through inconsistent behavior. Leaders must develop enough trust that people will bring issues to them during crises instead of hiding them. Trust, then, is at the core of leadership

jueves, noviembre 10, 2011

Certified SrumMaster!

El 21 y 22 de Octubre del 2011 asistí al curso de Certified ScrumMaster de la Scrum Alliance (En el instituto Kleer en Buenos Aires)  dictado por Mike Beedle, uno de los fundadores del Agile Alliance y uno de los autores del Manifiesto Ágil.

El curso fue valioso, aunque no aprendí muchas cosas nuevas (debido a que vengo practicando y leyendo sobre Scrum hace tiempo), Mike fue muy claro para transmitir ciertas cualidades básicas de Scrum a las cuales tal vez no le daba mucha importancia, enriqueciendo mi conocimiento sobre el tema. Aproveche para sacarme una foto con Mike uno de los días:
Mike de remera negra y yo de remera blanca
Luego del curso, hay que rendir un examen online muy sencillo de 35 preguntas en Scrum Alliance y luego uno ya puede considerarse un Certified ScrumMaster y puede crear su perfil en el sitio web de Scrum Alliance (ver el mio!).

Vale la pena hacer el curso, pero lo ideal para aprender bien Scrum es practicarlo laboralmente y tener a alguien que sepa mas que uno como un coach. Leer sobre el tema también aporta lo suyo.

sábado, noviembre 05, 2011

Release Planning en Scrum

Una de las criticas mas grandes a Scrum es que se centra en el corto plazo. Se dice que con Scrum no se puede planear a largo plazo, que no se puede tener visibilidad a futuro, y esto no es cierto. Generalmente cuando uno empieza a practicar Scrum pasa eso, uno se concentra en los Sprints, en ir mejorando cada vez, restándole importancia a largo plazo. A mi me paso y me encontré en una situación donde tenia mucho trabajo por delante y poco tiempo para la entrega del proyecto.

La practica de Release Planning en Scrum te permite tener visibilidad a largo plazo. Para practicarla, se necesita que el Product Backlog este estimado en User Story Points (que todas las User Stories tengan un valor) y también se necesita conocer la velocidad del equipo (cuantos Story Points se pueden hacer por Sprint). Con esto, uno se puede reunir con el Product Owner y preparar un release plan de N Sprints. Como los Sprints tienen duración fija y la cantidad de Story Points que el equipo completa por Sprints debe tender a un numero mas o menos predecible (con mayor cantidad de Sprints esto mejora), se puede armar un plan dividiendo las user stories del Backlog en sprints y obtener una fecha de finalización del proyecto, o de una parte del mismo que se quiera lanzar a producción.
Es muy importante actualizar este release plan una vez por Sprint, ya que se tienen nuevas User Stories, nuevas prioridades y tal vez una velocidad mejor o mas predecible. Si solo lo hacemos luego del primer Sprint, no va a ser nada confiable.

miércoles, noviembre 02, 2011

Tácticas de Guerrilla

Un buen PM nunca tiene que rendirse ante un problema. Si nos enfrentamos con algo que es importante para el proyecto hay que actuar agresivamente y usar todos los medios necesarios para encontrar la respuesta o resolver el problema. Todos tratamos de evitar el conflicto, pero en este tipo de situaciones hay que cuestionar a la gente, desafiar asunciones y buscar la verdad, sin importar lo incomodo que esto sea para todos (aunque hay que tratar de minimizar este efecto negativo). La diligencia gana batallas. Hay que buscar alternativas y ser implacable, pero utilizando el sentido común, lo ideal es buscar la forma astuta de resolver los problemas. Hay que ser implacable en espíritu pero astuto en acción.

Estas palabras fueron tomadas del libro "The Art Of Project Management" de Scott Berkun y sirven para introducir ciertas tácticas de guerrilla que el autor aplico para lograr lo necesario para cumplir con sus objetivos (Algunas son riesgosas y tienen que aplicarse con cuidado) Disfrutenlas!

Know who has authority. Don't waste time arguing with people who have no control or influence over the issue. To be effective, you need to know who makes decisions or influences a particular issue or situation. Find out who it is (it's not always the most senior person in the room, and the identity of the person may change from issue to issue), get time with him one-on-one, and make your case. Or, at least find out what she truly objects to. If you can't get to the most influential person (Sally, the VP), find the person who has the greatest influence on her (Sally's best employee). Go to the highest point on the chain you can reach. Warning: don't end-run people. Go to the point of authority, but invite the opposing viewpoint if necessary, or disclose to him what you're doing. "Look, we disagree, but we can agree that it's Sally's decision. I'm going to go talk to her about this tomorrow. I'd like you to be there."

Go to the source. Don't dillydally with people's secondhand interpretations of what someone said, and don't depend on written reports or emails for complex information. Find the actual person and talk to him directly. You can't get new questions answered by reading reports or emails, and often people will tell you important things that were inappropriate for written communication. Going to the source is always more reliable and valuable than the alternatives, and it's worth the effort required. For example, if two programmers are arguing about what a third programmer said, get that third programmer in the room or on the phone. Always cut to the chase and push others to do the same.

Switch communication modes. If communication isn't working, switch the mode. Instead of email, call them on the phone. Instead of a phone call, drop by their office. Everyone is more comfortable in some mediums than others. (Generally, face to face, in front of a whiteboard, trumps everything. Get people in a room with a whiteboard if the email thread on some issue gets out of control.) Don't let the limitations of a particular technology stop you. Sometimes, switching modes gets you a different response, even if your request is the same, because people are more receptive to one mode over another. For anything consequential, it's worth the money and time to get on a plane, or drive to their office, if it improves the communication dynamic between you and an important co-worker.

Get people alone. When you talk to someone privately, her disposition toward you is different than when you talk to her in a large group. In a meeting, important people have to craft what they say to be appropriate for all of the ears in the room. Sometimes, you'll hear radically different things depending on who is in earshot. If you want a frank and honest opinion, or an in-depth intense conversation, you need to get people alone. Also, consider people of influence: if Jim trusts Beth's opinion, and you want to convince Jim, if you can convince Beth first, bring her along. Don't ambush anyone, but don't shy away from lining things up to make progress happen.

Hunt people down. If something is urgent and you are not getting the response time you need, carve out time on your schedule to stake out the person's office or cubicle. I've done this many times. If he wasn't answering my phone calls or emails, he'd soon come back from a meeting and find me sitting by his door. He'd usually be caught so off guard that I'd have a negotiating advantage. Don't be afraid to go after people if you need something from them. Find them in the coffee room. Look for them in the café at lunchtime. Ask their secretary what meetings they are in and wait outside. Be polite, but hunt and get what you need. (However, please do not cross over into their personal lives. If you hunt information well, you shouldn't ever even need to cross this particular line.)

Hide. If you are behind on work and need blocks of time to get caught up, become invisible. On occasion, I've staked out a conference room (in a neighboring building) and told only the people who really might need me where I was. I caught up on email, specs, employee evaluations, or anything important that wasn't getting done, without being interrupted. For smaller orgs, working from home or a coffee shop can have the same effect (wireless makes this easy these days). I always encouraged my reports to do this whenever they felt it necessary. Uninterrupted time can be hard for PMs to find, so if you can't find it, you have to make it.

Get advice. Don't fly solo without a map unless you have to. In a given situation, consider who involved thinks most highly of you, or who may have useful advice for how you can get what you need. Make use of any expertise or experience you have access to through others. Pull them aside and ask them for it. This can be about a person, a decision, a plan, anything. "Hey Bob, I'd like your advice on this budget. Do you have a few minutes?" Or, "Jane, I'm trying to work with Sam on this issue. Any advice on the best way to convince him to cut this feature?" For many people, simply asking their advice will score you credibility points: it's an act of respect to ask for someone's opinion.

Call in favors, beg, and bribe. Make use of the credibility or generosity you've developed a reputation for. If you need an engineer to do extra work for you, either because you missed something or a late requirement came in, ask her to do you a favor. Go outside the boundaries of the strict working relationship, and ask. Offer to buy her dinner ($20 is often well worth whatever the favor is), or tell her that you owe her one (and do hold yourself to this). The worst thing that can happen is that she'll say no. The more favors you've done for others, the more chips you'll have to bank on. Also, consider working three-way trades (e.g., in the game Settlers of Cattan) if you know of something she wants that you can get from someone else. It's not unethical to offer people things that will convince them to help with work that needs to be done.

Play people off each other. This doesn't have to be evilif you're very careful. If Sam gives you a work estimate of 10 days, which you think is bogus, go and ask Bob. If Bob says something less than 10 days, go back to Sam, with Bob. A conversation will immediately ensue about what the work estimate really should be. If you do this once, no engineer will ever give you bogus estimates again (you've called bullshit). However, depending on Sam's personality, this may cost you relationship points with him, so do it as tactfully as possible, and only when necessary. Good lead programmers should be calling estimate bluffs on their own, but if they don't, it's up to you.

Stack the deck. Never walk into an important meeting without knowing the opinions of the important people in the room. Always arrive with a sense for who is likely to support your opinion and who is likely to be against it, and have a strategy developed for navigating through it all (see Chapter 16). If something important is at stake, make some moves to sway those against you, or to rally their support, before the meeting. Don't lie, manipulate, or mislead, but do seriously prepare and understand the arguments and counterarguments that will come up.

Buy people coffee and tasty things. This sounds stupid, but I've found that people I've argued with for days on end are somehow more receptive over a nice cup of coffee at a local coffee shop. Change the dynamic of the relationship: no matter how much you like or don't like the person, make the invitation and invest the 20 seconds of effort it requires. Even if he says "No, why can't we talk here?", you've lost nothing. Moving the conversation to a different location, perhaps one less formal, can help him open up to alternatives he wouldn't consider before. Think biologically: humans are in better moods after they've eaten a fine meal or when they are in more pleasant surroundings. I've seen PMs who keep doughnuts or cookies (as well as rum and scotch) in their office. Is that an act of goodwill? Yes...but there are psychological benefits to making sure the people you are working with are well fed and associate you with good things.