The Agile Tribe

Three Truths

Three truths about human behaviour that project managers should just accept:

Author: Graeme Robb – Agile Coach

1 . Many people become shy when the group gets larger than 5 people

It’s easily tested: put a group of 10 people together and ask them to do something. You’ll see that only 2-3 of them will be really actively contributing.

Do a separate test with groups of 5 and you’ll see that almost everyone will be much more relaxed and contribute in the task.

The truth is that many people are shy, and will withdraw almost completely from larger groups.

Now, obviously this is a personality thing and varies from person to person, so it’s probably quite relevant in IT where the requirement for high attention to detail and technical mastery often is best done by people who are on the introverted side of the scale.

Mix in some cultural issues and this becomes a very serious consideration. This reduced participation translates into $$$$s, so, design your projects around small teams.
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People Issues and performance reviews – Team Leader or Iteration Manager?

Author: Steve Jenkins (Steve presented his talk at Agile Australia 16th June 2011)

My name is Steven Jenkins, I have had all these roles on projects, projects that were sized from just a few thousand dollar budget to millions of dollars over many months. I am currently the Iteration Manager (IM) within Suncorp’s Banking Platform Program.

This lightning talk raises two main questions. 

Firstly, with regards to managing people how does the Agile framework scale for larger projects and secondly how should the delivery team and the leadership team work together.

This talk may be a little Suncorp specific role but it relates to the relationship between project staff and line leadership no matter where you work.  I will explore the grey areas between these roles, the role expectations on each other and lastly some recommendations to improve  team cohesion and managing people dynamics.

I have 5 more slides and now less than 5 minutes, so let’s get cracking…..

For context, these are the roles within a major Suncorp project. 

This diagram makes the difference between roles look clear, however there certainly is cross over and grey areas between each role, especially when it comes to people issues and performance reviews.

For a simple definition:

Iteration Manager – people’s work load and work flow. 
Team Lead  – work’s people load and people flow. 

I am flipping these words around to show how closely related these roles are to each other but they both complete very different jobs.

Now let’s explore the people based issues where the responsibilities are ‘grey’ and where accountability and control need to be delegated to ensure that the team is ‘humming’ to its greatest potential.

As a IM I feel like a need to be a control freak.  Or maybe just an ‘out of control’ freak.  After being in both TL and IM roles,  the key source of frustration for me is due to the role accountability vs. control – the IM feels that he/she is accountable for the velocity of the project, but he needs to work closely with the Team Lead who controls the people.  It is these people who give the momentum, the momentum that delivers the project. 

The two roles are therefore linked, but how far along the self managing team vs. the reliant team spectrum is your team?

The next set of problems relates to relates to the teams self management skills, how well does a team really deal with human relations issues?  In my view it would take either a very special team or a team with HR mentorship to get through many of the personal issues that can occur, these could be issues such as intra-team issues such as ‘wars’ or inter-team issues such as work that has been committed to by the team leader.

Lastly, can the team leader comparatively rank, compare and provide valuable performance feedback to the individual staff member when he or she sits outside the team. 

The key for me is that the iteration manager becomes so close to the work that he or she potentially has the greatest micro view of what is going on with the people.  The danger is when the Team Leader doesn’t have a view of the work and the Iteration Manager doesn’t feel as though he/she has got the people control required to match off with the level of delivery accountability.

The team leader is expected to be a 7 legged beast.

  1. Culture Manager – Creates a safe environment, a culture where people can make mistakes and learn from them.
  2. People Manager – Improve team cohesion
  3. Resource Manager – Resources to deliver
  4. Emotional Quotient Manager – Senses performance breakdowns
  5. Continuous Improvement Manager – Helps identify improvements
  6. Public Relations Manager – Bridge between groups (speaker for the team to the rest of the company)
  7. Best Practice Manager – Sharing best practice from outside our team.

The IM is expected to be have the following people elements under their control.

  • The Team – track iteration’s progress (day-to-day work from people), report impediments relating to people, make sure iteration’s commitment will be fulfilled, point bottlenecks in the delivery process.

The Customer – act as gatekeeper, protect people from distractions.

The Iteration – plan team’s budget (ideal hours), help customer with prioritization, motivate team, owns iteration planning and retrospective.

The Project – form a group of people working together towards a common goal (they succeed or fail together); aim for productive and happy team members and a satisfied customer.

Reference: http://tomekdab.blogspot.com/2009/03/ive-recently-read-essay-about-iteration.html

The following recommendations work as well for the team leader as they do for the IM.

  1. Keep close to the people. This is only possible in small teams where you regularly talk to the people.
  2. Keep close to the motivation, what do your staff now want from their career?
  3. Keep close to the changes, challenge the status quo and mediocrity.
  4. Keep close to the strategy – What is changing in the business?
  5. Keep close to the project – TL and IM both need to stay involved in the project as a Coach/Mentor/Water Carrier- Boulder remover.
  6. Keep close to staff performance – this makes mentoring and performance review more credible.
  7. Keep close to accountability vs. control issues.  Who needs to be delegated control.
  8. Keep close to the buzz – IM and TL need to trust each other and talk regularly.

To conclude, great inter-role, inter-personal skills and a tight working relationship is required to make this double teaming of the TL and IM work. 

I would really appreciate your comments, suggestions, ideas and recommendations on how I might improve this talk or if you feel that I’ve left something out (remembering that I only had 5 minutes). 

If you want more formal information about where the IM fits into this thing we call agile, the Agile Project Management course is one of the courses offered by the Agile Academy which covers it well.  (Editor)

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