Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Mike Cohn Sessions

Well, it has taken me about a week longer than I had hoped, but here is the podcast featuring the interview I shot with Mike Cohn a few weeks ago at the 2008 Scrum Gathering in Chicago.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mike, he is one of the Founders of the Scrum Alliance. He current sits on the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors, he the author of a number of very popular Agile and software development books, he is a Certified Scrum Trainer and he is the man behind Mountain Goat Software.

Please check back later this week to see my interview with the guys from Big Visible.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Scrum Gathering Continued

For me, one of the signs of a really good convention is when I end up spending more time in the halls talking to people than I do in the actual sessions The Scrum Gathering in Chicago was no exception. Throughout the second and third days I found myself continually challenged by how the things I encountered forced me to discard my preconceptions about what Agile and Scrum were all about.

On the morning of the second day I sat in for a talk given by Dan Rawsthorne called “Complex Backlogs”. One of the oddest, and most exciting moments for me (being a complete PM Geek) was sitting in the back of the hall and listening to Dan explain how he is able to calculate Earned Value (he called it Earned Business Value) on his Scrum projects. That was the point where I had to basically take every argument I had gathered into my little “agile cons” wagon and toss it all over the cliff.

I spent the rest of the second morning talking to the folks I met in the halls. Doug Shimp and Sam Hazziez from 3Back and Jim Cundiff from the Scrum Alliance were all very receptive to the idea of developing a stronger connection between the SIG/PMI and the Scrum Alliance.

After lunch Michael Herman moderated an Open Space session that lasted through lunch on Wednesday. I had no experience with an Open Space session but I really enjoyed it. The basic premise seems to be that the agenda is set by the people there who want to raise topics. Topics are scheduled in small groups and the people who are interested attend the topics they find appealing. If you aren’t participating or learning, you are supposed to move on. Whatever happens in the group is what is supposed to happen. The results are compiled and posted to a wiki, which is made available to the attendees. It was the most organic working session I have ever been a part of and the best part was that if something seemed to not really strike my interest, no one was offended if I just got up and moved on. I was able to take part in a number of topics and contribute in each of them. 

During the first session I participated in, I had a kind of panic at the fact that the topic/conversation seemed to have no specific set agenda or direction… even though that was kind of the point. I also found that when I would offer a comment, rather than being able to just offer up my tiny “pearl “of insight and then get back to my email, these folks actually wanted to engage in conversation with me about topics. 

After lunch on the third day the Ken Schwaber held a session for the attendees. Ken is the founder of Scrum and his talk generated a very lively discussion within the group. Being more accoustomed to the PMI Congress and Leadership events, it was very exciting to see such an open and engaging exchange. I definitely came away feeling that, at least at the Scrum Gathering, there is not so much focus on status - it is just a bunch of Scrum Geeks getting together to talk shop.

I came away from the Scrum Gathering very excited about the ideas and the possibility of developing a bridge between the IT&T SIG and the Scrum Alliance. It is something I’ll be working on in the coming months, and I am hopeful it will reduce the polarization between the two groups.

Video with Mike Cohn and the guys from Big Visible will be posted early in the week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Git Yer Scrum On!

Greetings from Chitown and the 2008 Chicago Scrum Gathering!

My self-imposed mission here is to try and find a way to build a better bridge for IT PMs who’ve been raised on PMBOK and are now staring down the barrels of Agile. There are significant differences between the PMBOK and any Agile process. I do believe though, that they can work in a very complimentary fashion. Given that there is an inherent level of friction between the hardcore PMBOKers and the Agilists, my hope is that the IT&T SIG can play a significant role in reducing that friction.

The Gathering is being held at the storied Allerton Hotel. The hotel has a lot of charm and is very intimate… which is good, because it makes up for the elevators.

I got started on Monday by attending Chris Sims’ presentation on Agile 101. In the presentation he gave a “gentle” overview of the key concepts and rules of Agile. For the newcomers, it was a great way to get started.

Next, it was time to listen to The Man… Mike Cohn. If you know anyone who is into Scrum, they’ve got Mike Cohn’s books on their shelves. If you tell them you are going to a place where Mike will be, you are likely to find yourself carrying an armload of their copies of said books, which you will be required to ask him to sign. Mike gave a talk on creating Writing User Stories for Your Product Backlog. As always, he was engaging, informative and covered with a new round of scrum tattoos.

Mike was kind enough to allow me to interview him after lunch. My intention was to post a video podcast Monday evening but I am an imperfect machine and I left the cable that goes from DV cam to Macbook back in New Vegas (Oklahoma). I will pick up a replacement Tuesday morning and my interview with Mike will be posted Tuesday evening.

The session directly following lunch was the high point of the day for me. I am a big fan of looking at the world through a lens that is heavily tainted by Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. In fact, my entire approach to Project Management is based in the lessons of that book and the seemingly endless stream of bags of oranges I took in the gut during the .com boom. I like to think that as far as being a “highly aware” PM, I’m pretty solid. But I’ve got nothing on George Schlitz and Giora Morein. Their presentation: "ScrumMaster - Org Change Agent - Mapping the Change Battlefield" was a challenging exploration of how to read those around you with respect to their predisposition towards Agile and how to use that analysis to prevent yourself from ending up as a “dead ScrumMaster”. I am going to try to shoot a video interview with Giora and George on Tuesday. It was a great session.

For the last session of the day, I intended to sit in on Lyssa Adkins talk, “The Road from Project Manager to Agile Coach”, but it was SRO with the crowd spilling into the halls.

Instead I attended Tom Perry’s, “Drifting Toward Invisibility: The Transition to the Electronic Task Board.” In the talk, Tom explored the merits of using both an electronic and a paper based approach to tracking tasks, etc. on Scrum Projects. He shared his own personal experiences with starting with a paper system; driving a change to electronic and then driving it back again. From the perspective of a Project Manager, it was very interesting to hear the Agilists in the room express what seemed to me to be very PMBOKish opinions on the value that the various artifacts can provide. For me, this session was really encouraging because it made it even more apparent that just as the PMBOKers are realizing that they need to move a bit closer to the Agile side of the fence, the Agilists seem to be realizing that there are bits and pieces of the PMBOK minded side that they can benefit from as well.

In every way Monday was a great success. I’m really looking forward to heading back over for Day 2. I’ll have more updates and some video to post this evening.

And, if you are in town, and looking for some non-Scrum action, the Edward Hopper/Winslow Homer exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago were awesome.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Scrum Gathering - Day 1
I'll be heading over to the Scrum Gathering in a little bit and I've got some decent interviews lined up for later today.

I'll try to blog as the day progresses and will post video this evening.

Friday, April 11, 2008

INBOX 1,314

When I first started working as a PM, back in the golden days of .com boomage, I was able to keep track of my work by making a list on a piece of 8.5 x11 paper that I folded into quarters. I spent 15 minutes updating it each day and congratulated myself for completing all my tasks.

Since then the word has gone through some pretty heavy change… the Cookie Monster is on a health diet, Starbuck is a girl, the Red Socks have won a world series...twice!, …whatever. Project Managers are all about the change right? Change is good because it indicates evolution. My old system of keeping things on that tiny square of paper because no longer viable because I had achieved a level of professional achievement/idiocy, where I was allowed to try and manage 13 fully active projects at one time. Thank God for my Handspring Visor!

Anyway, time marches on… we get busier. I am now able to record 4 different programs simultaneously on my DVR… I can record more soccer and baseball than I could ever watch. This is a good thing – right?

At this very moment, I have a list of tasks that must be done today and it is 3 pages long. I have 1,314 emails in my inbox for work and 143 emails in my DO THIS RIGHT AWAY folder in my email for work. I also have 1,254 emails in my PMI Inbox and I just don't even bother checking my personal email anymore because it is too depressing. This is especially disturbing since this is where my JOTTs go.

Oh, and did I mention that all of the above is actually really good. Things used to be much worse. Then I watched the Merlin Mann video on Inbox Zero. This is about as close to Zero as I seem to be able to get.

A few years ago when my beloved Palm T3 died an unnatural death at the hands of the technology assassins/Geek Squad at Best Buy I gave up my beloved Palm/Agendus combination and started looking for a new way to manage my tasks. The journey led me to iGTD, which led me to David Allen. I bought his book, Getting Things Done, over a year ago. I read it every chance I get. I'm now up to Chapter 2.

There are also the podcasts, which are in various stages of completion that I keep trying to finish and post.

Clearly, I'm not so much with the efficient right now… or maybe I am just too over committed to be able to be efficient.. Either way, this seems very much at odds with my (chosen doesn't seem the right word) profession. I'm am a Project Manager. I am supposed to be the bringer of order to the world of chaos. If you took one look inside any of the six folders on my desktop that are all labeled DESKTOP STUFF, you'd become painfully aware how much I am not that when it comes to managing myself.

So, today… a question…

If any of the above resonates, especially if you are one of those people who openly mock your co-workers when they start in with 'OH NO! I have 500 emails in my inbox", how are you dealing with it? (And no, hiding in a closet crying in to a cheap box of wine at the end of the day is not "dealing")

According to the futurists and science fiction writers, we are headed towards a world where machines will develop the ability to be sentient and then take over the world because of our dependence on technology. I'm starting to wonder if the true evil of technology is that it allows is to move so quickly, that we lose the ability to keep up with ourselves.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Video Interview with Iain Fraser (From the PMI Asia Pacific Global Congress in Sydney, Australia)

I still have a few more to edit. They will be posted in the coming weeks.. or at least until I get to the Scrum Gathering and can start talking to the folks there. If you will be in attendance, let me know.