A weekend course on the principles of agile for Sydney based project managers

Just a quick update on a one day course I will be running in July (actually Saturday 21 july 2012).

It is designed for experienced project managers and other project leaders who understand the fundamentals of project management and I am running it as part of the ongoing education program that the Sydney chapter of the Project Management Institue (PMI) run.

As well as my great presentation you will find they have a lot of good courses and workshops for project managers who are part of the PMI group in Sydney.

The course covers the fundamental principles that I see as underpinning agile approaches and is NOT a certification course nor an introduction to being a project manager if you have not done the role before.  But it will be a full-on day covering

  • A brief context around where agile came from and what it is
  • The concepts of value creation and waste in projects
  • Adaptive planning and how it compares to traditional project planning
  • The concept that success or failure really comes down to the people in the team and how they interact with each other

Here is a link if you want more information:


Let me know if you are coming.



Why so long between articles baby?

Its been a while since I have published anything so this blog is starting to look more like an archive of my old ideas rather than a regular window into my musings and ideas.

But there is an explanation – My most recent project has been consuming more of my attention than expected.

Project New Baby (Or since we normally use acronyms in IT – “PNB”) involved the development and delivery of the next generation of peopleware for the King household (ie a baby).

Since the project was run by my wife, who is an exceptional project manager, the project delivered earlier than promised, which sounds good.

But there is a thing called project Karma that came into play on the delivery date. I have delivered a lot of IT projects in my time and have sometimes been guilty of saying “We can do that in warranty support” when I encounter things that could delay delivery of my project. I have even managed to deliver a project early by shifting some of the work into the forthcoming production releases.

The down side of deferring things to warranty support meant that the issues left behind were dealt with by a shocked looking and under-prepared production support team.

Beyond the short term impact though, the theory of project karma states that the luck you have on your future projects will be impacted by the good and not so good things you have inflicted on others in your previous projects.

So it should come as no surprise that although my wife delivered PNB earlier than expected, the warranty support team of two (my wife and I) found themselves under-resourced and poorly trained to support the new baby in production.

Consequently, I have been in a state of perpetual chaos for the last month or so, dragged away from other endeavours to support the new release.

On the plus side though, PNB has exceeded stakeholder expectations in customer satisfaction and other key indicators.


Link to my presentation for the agile gathering in Sydney in July

Last night I did a presentation for the monthly gathering of agilistas in Sydney, so I thought I should publish my slides here.

There is no sound so they may not make too much sense without any context, but here they are anyway:


They are created in a free software package called Prezi.com that allows you to zoom in and out of material so you can present a mindmap rather than a set of slides.

I am sure with practice and creativity you can create far better presentations, but even as a first try I found it really easy to use.

Finally launched my agile training game

We set up a stand at the recent Software Development Conference to run the Agile Release Planning Game I designed.

It seemed to go down really well, so I have decided to make the game available publicly if anyone is interested in using it.

In the game, participants are a group of scientists and engineers who are stuck on Mars after a “less than successful” landing.  They are on a mission to make scientific discoveries but must now rebuild a basic infrastructure for survival before returning to their original mission.

Participants then create a strategy based on rebuilding their ship, building a base and/or returning to their basic goal of research.  In doing so they must make trade-offs between quality and velocity.

The game introduces concepts such as release planning, iteration planning, velocity, release planning trade-offs, building by feature and adaptive planning.

The game is designed to be led by a facilitator, but can be run without one.  The release planning game takes around half an hour to play and can be replayed multiple times to explore different concepts in more detail or to improve the outcome based on lessons learned in the first attempt.

Different options allow the game to be played as a very simple introduction to the concepts of release planning or a more complex game involving more realistic trade-offs and decision making under conditions of uncertainty and pressure.

In addition, there is an extension included in the game that focuses on planning within the iteration (or sprint) rather than across the wider release.

Let me know if you are interested in learning more, or even trying the game for yourself.

Learning facilitation (if you are in Sydney)

I run training for people in a lot of different areas and one thing that consistently comes up is the importance of facilitation in just about every area of work.

I like to think I am a really good facilitator and that you will get real value for money by getting me to facilitate challenging meetings and workshops for you.  Yet I still have to admit that most of the important facilitation happens within your own team.

So how do you become a better facilitator?  There are some really good training courses around that I am happy to recommend.  But a large part of learning to facilitate is just practicing and paying attention as other do it.  And the problem with practicing on important projects is that it can be embarrassing when it all goes to cactus.

So another approach is just to turn up with this group:   http://facilitatorsnetwork.blogspot.com/

You turn up with no RSVP (or ditch the meeting and go for a beer with friends with no feeling of guilt).  When you turn up they hit you for $5 and then you hang around.  There is some networking and there is always a facilitation by someone who wants to demonstrate some cool techniques.

The next one is on 9 November and came with this blurb:

Graphic Facilitation with Nancy White

Is there more to visual facilitation than the occasional use of a flipchart? Can we listen with our eyes and fingers as well as our ears? This session explores how images and drawing can help with the facilitation process.

Whether you are an artist or not (especially if you think you aren’t), we will be painting, drawing, smudging and crayoning. We will be getting our hands dirty please do not dress in your nice work clothes (or at least bring a big shirt to cover up).

Nancy White has worked with organisations as diverse as the World Health Organization, IBM, IEEE & the International Labor Organization. She is the co-author of “Digital Habitats” with Etienne Wenger & John Smith. Her graphic facilitation gigs have involved the Dalai Lama. More details on Nancy’s Australian visit here: http://nancywhiteoz.wordpress.com/

Venue:  University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Jones Street, Ultimo corner Thomas Street.  Room 5.580 Level 5, Building 10,  Take the lift to level 5, cross the atrium foot bridge, walk straight ahead to room 580.

Time:  from 5:30pm to 7:30pm sharp | No RSVP – Just turn up

Talking at the SDC next year

I have been quoting my grandma in Agile workshops recently.

She probably thought that “lean” was fat free meat and that “kanban” was probably a type of cake.  But she did understand one of key concepts in successful projects:

“Never mistake activity for progress”.

In other words, writing and deploying a lot of code quickly is not the same as solving business problems or improving the assets and capabilities of the organisation.  So I am basing my talk on her insight when I speak at the  Software Development Conference.

I believe that on many projects there is often a gap around:

  • Handing over knowledge at the end of the project
  • Maintaining knowledge during the project
  • Linking the overall solution into the existing business culture, strategy and processes

Having found these gaps, I also think it is relatively easy for members of the team (particularly testers and business analsysts) to step up and fill them.

I will probably test some of my theories in blog articles in the meantime.  So please let me know what you think of them – not just for me but for the poor audience who will be expecting more from the talk than just my Grandma’s favourite Date loaf recipe.

Modelling the choices we make

It’s a scary concept when you think about it, but advertisers and others are spending a lot of time and money to understand how we make choices.

It’s scary for two reasons.  The first is related to the evolution of predators and prey.  Every ecosystem continually evolves as the prey learn to evade the predator in new ways and the predators learn new ways of capturing the prey.  So the advertisers are seeking new ways to influence us as we build up immunity to older tricks.

The scary part here is that advertisers are spending millions of dollars to get better at influencing while most of us only spend a little effort becomming better at making decisions.

The other that I find scary is the concept that we might be able to be broken down to a mathematical formula.  I like to think of myself as a spontaneous (sometimes deliberate) decision maker, not a series of factors to graph that make me predictable.

So I went along to a talk with the Ultimo Science festival to hear what scientists think about how we make choices.

I learned a little bit about how we make choices.  For example, we can be predictable statistically, but there is still an error rate.  So whether you call me an individual with a high error rate, or you call me highly individualistic, I am happy – at least I am not a deterministic model on a graph.

More interestingly, I found out there is a whole centre at the University Of Technology in Sydney that is dedicated to studying the choices we make.

This must be an unexploited resource for anyone on projects, anyone in change management, or anyone hoping to out evolve the advertising predators to continue to make choices on self interest rather than cool ads.

I will let you know if I find out more, or you can choose to research them further and let me know how you go –  http://www.censoc.uts.edu.au/