While cycling …

Cycling the Fakenham 50k on Sunday gave me thinking time to work on the rough outline of a blog piece on programme management. Why that topic? Because last week I found myself re-immersed in the world of Terms of Reference, Project Initiation Documents, version control, project dashboards with RAG ratings, Programme Boards requiring regular presentations in a specified format and so on.

I raised the possibility that as my work-stream is on change we could tackle all this with less formality, and in doing so demonstrate change in action. In response, I got ‘Good luck with that one’.

Ho hum. I’ve dusted down my Managing Successful Programmes course notes, started re-learning the vocabulary and acronyms and turned my sights from the different world of sense-making, story-telling and emergence.

What’s interesting about this time’s immersion into the project world is that, since I was last in it big time, it’s absorbed another approach – Agile. So not only is there the original language and requirements, there is the new language and requirements of sprints, daily stand-ups, scrum masters, backlogs, and the rest of it, including the use of boxes of post-notes. Fortunately, I have been close to the Agile world in the last couple of years, so have a good working knowledge of how it goes – for good and for learning from failure.

However, I’m wondering whether I should formally update my skills by taking the Agile Programme Management course that promises that by the end of it I will be ‘Responding to change with speed and grace’. I like the ‘speed and grace’ bit. It sounds just what I need for cycling in hot weather around Norfolk.

Alternatively, I could just buy the book ‘Project Management the Agile Way‘ and mug up on ‘the Agile Grand Bargain, the shift in dominance from plans to product and input to output, the latest public-sector practices, and new concepts such as return on benefit, and Kanban’. But probably reading it wouldn’t be in scope – thus being an exclusion – but if it was in scope, would it be critical or priority, or just a regular inclusion?

In terms of my personal learning project/ToR on the topic I think I’ll just put reading the book down in the Constraints section (not enough time to read it).

I realised I wasn’t quite there with the team and the method yet when I missed Friday’s stand-up by noticing my pop-up 15 minute reminder to attend, and then getting lost in time as I constructed the Configuration Management Requirements (five activities and three forms) section of the ToR I’m writing. To mitigate the risk of this happening again I have now set a 10 minute and a 5 minute alarm on my phone.

Writing that sentence has reminded me that I must put my phone to silent when I attend the stand-up as I got a knuckle rap last week when it rang. So, I just have to remember to put the phone on silent and go to the stand-up when the alarm rings. Oh, but I must then set another alarm to remind me to put the phone ringer back on after the stand-up. I can’t make the assumption that I will remember to do it. It is thus a risk and not an assumption. So maybe two alarms – one before and one after stand-up? (I checked that the alarm does go off even when the phone is in ringer-silent mode).

I see another risk that as I start churning out project documentation and attending various Boards and Authorities. I might start speaking only in the language of programmes and projects. I just read a warning on this. It begins ‘Every trade is also a tribe … One way that tribes, from teens to programmers, signal membership of the group is through language.’ So, I have to mitigate that risk. I can do that in one of two ways – making sure everyone not of the Project Tribe has the glossary of 800 commonly used project terms to hand – maybe on wall posters?

Oh, I just noticed that it doesn’t include all commonly used Agile words e.g. scrum! But don’t worry, we can hand out the Agile Glossary too. It’s worth a skim because you’ll see that some of its specialist vocabulary (or as they call it ‘unique terminology’) has slipped into Plain English e.g. Sign Up for Tasks

My second mitigation is that I could demonstrate being tri-lingual – fluently speak AMP (Association of Project Managers) and Agile with my project colleagues as the occasion merits – remember we are doing Agile Programme Management – and switching seamlessly to Plain English with the rest of the workforce. Additionally, I could suggest to Duolingo that they offer bite-size lessons in APM/Agile

So here I am reaching for my templates telling myself it’ll be fun. What are your hints and tips on doing organization design/development the Agile Programme Way? Let me know.