Avoiding Pitfalls of Non-Technical Managers

This talk is intended to help folks who are managing technical projects avoid common pitfalls, and help technical teams better prepare managers for overall project success.

 
 

Outline/Structure of the Lightning Talk

What is a Non-Technical Manager?

Pitfalls

How to Avoid Them

Conclusion

Learning Outcome

Tips for success in a dangerously unknown environment

Target Audience

Non-Technical Managers and Leads

schedule Submitted 2 years ago

Public Feedback


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      There are always reasons that some tests and tools get left out- our policies won't allow them, they will take too long to get approved, we don't have time, we have bigger problems to deal with, it just isn't what the client is looking for right now. And I usually think, if only I were in charge, I'd make sure we were using those...

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      Elevator Pitch:

      Agile Transformation is harder than it needs to be because we often find ways to consciously or subconsciously sabotage our efforts if we can recognize this behavior it is possible to intervene and make a change for the positive.

      Abstract:

      Have you ever been on a project where it seems like team members are preventing the team from getting better? Why do they do that? I don’t know either- a psychologist might have to answer that. What I can tell you about is my experiences in seeing teams become their own worst enemies and unwittingly sabotaging the projects they are trying to make successful. My goal is to help you realize when you or those around you are behaving in a way that is going to lead the team plateauing or even failing. I have often found that many teams can get stuck, or plateau, at a certain point along the continuum of agile maturity. These teams can meander around without getting better or even changing anything for long stretches of time. I have also worked with teams that put so many hurdles in their own way that they had no option but to fail. They often fell back into old patterns and gave up hope that things can get better. As an Agile Coach, I have often felt that one of the most valuable things I can share with the people I coach are my failures. I have worked on Agile projects for a long time, and I have failed in many different ways. Having been through failure, I have learned that to keep getting better you have to recognize the things that you do that lead to plateaus and failures to overcome them. This talk is for coaches and team leads who want to make sure their team isn't getting stuck in a rut, or who are trying to get out of a rut with their health and sanity intact.

      Failure signs and examples

      No process is defined and followed

      • ex. Projects that claim to be agile without any experience or training, or doesn’t have basic agile practices such as retrospectives, I.e. we are agile because we have hour long daily standup meetings.

      Process practices are ignored or removed with no compensating practices

      • ex. Agile practices hold each other together, supporting each other by the value they bring to the project, some teams decide to not do some practices without doing something else to get that value, for instance pair programming provides code review and knowledge transfer, many teams don’t pair program and don’t do code reviews and or knowledge transfer.

      Automation is not valued or planned into work

      • ex. We will automate tests later. Often that later never comes and the team is left with a code base that is hard to maintain and change because you don’t know what your changes break.

      No stakeholder expectations management

      • ex. The only way a project can negotiate scope and or schedule is to actively manage stakeholder expectations. An example of unmanaged expectations is the PO that never says no to a feature request or the executive that decides what must to delivered and when it must be delivered.

      Quality and testing practices are an after thought or short changed on schedule

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      No negotiation allowed in deliverables and or schedule

      • ex. Executives that dictate all of the terms of a project before a team is even selected.

      The team doing the work didn’t estimate the work but are held to an estimate

      • Many government projects have such a long procurement cycle that no one from the proposal team is put on the project.

      Part time team members are in the critical path

      • ex. Sometimes people with special skills are needed for a part of a project. If the person is part time but their work is in the critical path the project is in trouble.

      Heavy team turn over

      • ex. Heavy turn over is a sign of a project that isn’t on track, even if it hits its deadlines the quality and output will suffer.

      Political motivations more important than team’s ability to do work

      • ex. If the team is setup to fail for reasons outside the team, they will most likely fail.

      Distraction from issues outside the work that needs to be done

      • ex. Scrum Masters that don’t shield the team from issues outside the work that needs to be done during a sprint will end up with a team that doesn’t hit the mark.

      Examples of what can be done to avoid failed projects:

      Focus on shielding the team from outside influence

      • Have the team focus on the things they can control and prevent outside issues from distracting the team.

      Negotiate delivery with the team

      • The team can develop an understanding of what it can deliver. Trying to make the team do more is going to lower quality and potentially make the project take longer.

      Management of stakeholder expectations

      • Stakeholders always want more, that is their job. Let them ask for anything but set their expectations on what is really going to happen.

      Focus on technical excellence, quality, and automation

      • If you want your teams to get better, have them focus internally on things they can control like technical aspects of the project including quality and automation.

      Hire motivated team members and make it possible for them to work

      • People who care about what they are doing will always be better than the cheapest people that don’t care. Hire people who care.

      Maintain a progressive planning pace for getting requirements ready

      • Agile requires planning at different levels, skipping a level for any reason means there are going to be disconnects between your stakeholders and the people doing the work. Disconnects means the project will not product the results you want.
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