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The Scrum team spirit

Do you like stories? In the story about the traveller, the stone-cutter, the stonemason and the cathedral builder, I feel the Scrum teams are like the stonemason, fearful to be turned back into stone-cutters, at a glance from the sponsor or the project manager, where we would have them become cathedral-builders.

 

A Scrum team may say: “Just tell us what you want, share your priorities and we’ll build it for you; don’t tell us how we should work.” It’s not asking very much and it’s a condemnation of much modern management that expectations are so low.
 

However, we could offer much more. “This is why we need the work, for which we are accountable; if you can help us with our priorities, you decide how the work will be done.” Providing that the Scrum team show interest in why the work must, should and could be done, it’s up to them how they want to ‘scrum’.

 

Management stories can be fascinating: At the time of the great cathedrals and other constructions, skilled gang leaders throughout the land; the master masons, architects, carpenters (still ‘maître d’oeuvre’ in French) and the ‘master builders’ like on the great ships (still ‘maîtrise d’ouvrage’ ). The members of the team were later called 'compagnons' in the 'compagnonnage' movement.
 

These artisans and freemen, staunchly resisting the influence of the church and the aristocracy, created a sense of mystery and ritual. Gradually they edged towards cult-like behaviors, that some trace back to the crusades.
 

At the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries modern scientific management practices, traceable arguably to Henri Fayol, created the idea of the professional manager. Interestingly, Gantt is often described as a ‘disciple’ of FW Taylor. Given that agile methods can get cast by some as a cult and when innovation teams invest in ‘mindfulness’, we need to keep our feet on the ground and our heads in the real world.  





Easy wins in project management

Amongst all the processes in a business, project management offers the best possible opportunities for easy wins. However, whilst project management is recognised as being vital to innovation and change management, it is often underinvested due to its perceived difficulty.
 
These are some of my suggestions for actions that can be implemented in an organisation: 
-         taking the time to develop a thorough understanding by each of the partners of what the others are doing, both between organisational functions and between clients and suppliers
-         performing teambuilding with the tools that will actually be used on the project and then practising using the tools to become familiar with each other’s way of working
-         seriously reinforcing the ability to structure the lessons learned from past projects in order to furnish future estimates and anticipation of risks (doing this well is quite rare)
-         intensifying the overall understanding of business constraints, benefits and needs, value and costs, opportunities and threats at various organisational levels and across disciplines
-         deliberately specifying ambitious constraints that serve as stretch objectives to stimulate creative and integrating solutions and those that necessitate process improvements
-         acknowledging that, a project being the essence of disruption, something will change, and even be broken, in the existing procedures and processes in order to achieve success
-         taking out the administrative pain from the process and procedures in order to make the process much more attractive and potent through an appropriate and focused minimalism
-         beating ‘Students Syndrome’ (doing things at the last minute) by managing the start and finish of activities, and by planning and managing milestones (feet and inch stones)
-         overcoming ‘Parkinson’s Law’ by ensuring that trust and transparency allows information about contingency, motivation and competencies to be pooled
-         ensuring tighter handovers, fluent transfers and catalyzed interfaces by running the project like a relay race that allows activities to start early if the previous activities are early
-         enhancing the culture for visual communication, for using an exploratory scientific approach, graphical instruments, enriched conceptual modelling and tangible prototyping
-         integrating methods from program management, problem solving, service and quality management, in order to synchronise best practices instead of a piecemeal approach
-         underlining and emphasising core values, such as openness, data focus and no-blame attitude, that allow decision making to be more informed, consistent and sustainable. 
 
It is evident that some of these wins are easier than others, but they are also mutually supporting. Taken as a whole, it would be hard to find other areas in an organisation where investment in methods and learning can have such a large impact (bang for the buck.)




Transition to transparency

For George Bernard Shaw the biggest obstacle to communication is the belief that it has happened already.

 

However, a bigger obstacle is the fear that communicating is dangerous.  Ironically, this aversion to transparency aggravates risk, because it reduces the supply of information and deprives people of the data that they need to make decisions.

 

When individuals delude themselves, it’s perceived as madness, when organisations obfuscate it’s understood to be tactful, until all comes crashing down in heaps of confusion, mistrust and missed opportunity.

 

Communication is proclaimed as a virtue, and yet in the high echelons of our economic and public institutions, concealment and secrecy prevail.

 





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