A couple of years back I was engaged on a project to help recover an agile project run amok. The project was one of the first in the organization to use an agile development methodology and consisted of eight four-week sprints with six capability development teams. The project manager was a very theoretical scrum master who was more concerned with having an agile "design win" than he was with ensuring the business sponsor was satisfied with the project result. After about the third sprint there were significant issues with capabilities not working together, interfaces with external systems breaking, and problems with meeting sprint dates for committed capabilities. To save the project, we had to take a number of steps that violated the purist agile model but were necessary if we were going to keep moving forward on the project. Our implementation looked like a mishmash of agile and waterfall. It wasn't pretty, but we eventually got the project done.
I recently keynoted at a Project Management Symposium. During the symposium several executives provided perspective on the importance of Project Management to the organization. One of the executives centered his discussion around people having vision. I can imagine the reaction of some of the people in the room. "Yeah, right. I've got projects with impossible deadlines, my customer is breathing down my neck because she is not getting what she wants, my project team isn't dedicating enough time on my project, and budget cuts mean I have to figure out how to get more done with less. You want me to have vision? I can barely get things done as it is!"
I feel your pain, colleagues. But I also agree with the exec.
Recently I've noticed a trend which frankly really ticks me off. My observation is that more and more project managers are becoming hyper risk-averse and demonstrating an unwillingness to accept accountability for the projects they manage. One tell-tale sign which I've noticed is the usage of "matrixed" organization charts. In matrixed organization charts, the project team is depicted using different types of team leads shown vertically and horizontally on the organization chart. With a matrixed organization, team members may have a "solid line" reporting relationship to one manager and a "dotted line" reporting relationship to one or more managers. Now, I fundamentally don't have a problem with the collaboration aspect that a matrixed organization enables; where I do have a problem is when the matrixed organization makes it difficult to pinpoint who has accountability for the project.
“We just don’t work as a team!” Janet, a group manager for a large insurance company, was complaining to Larry, her human resources consultant. “Everyone just seems to do their own thing, they don’t share information, don’t try to help each other, and don’t seem to care about anyone else’s problems. What we need is a team building offsite!” Janet and Larry decided to put together a two-day offsite for the team at a resort about two hours away from work. Janet wanted immediate focus on the problem so Larry worked double-time to put together the event to be held later in the month. Larry put together an agenda full of trust-building exercises, ice-breakers, and brainstorming sessions on how the team could work better together.
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