Failure is Inevitable But it Isn’t Permanent

schedule Oct 15th 01:00 PM - 01:45 PM place Room 6 people 16 Interested

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

  • ex. Teams that don’t complete sprint commitments because the testers get coded stories too late in a sprint to do all the required testing and the rest of the team isn’t held responsible to help test.

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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Outline/structure of the Session

This talk is the culmination of over 15 years of Agile experience that has taken me from the depth of despair to the mountain of success, at least in my mind. Over that time, I have learned a lot about how teams of people work against their own best interests or the best interests of the project they work on. I have learned to recognize the signs of project breakdown and have come up with solutions that sometimes work. My goal with this presentation is to confess my project sins and share my experience, strength, and hope about projects with the audience.


I haven’t worked the timing out completely but I expect it to go something like this:
1. Introduction and expectations setting
2. Explanation of plateauing as it relates to Agile maturity
3. Signs that your team has plateaued
4. Examples of plateaued teams and how to get them improving again
5. Discussion of why projects fail even when the team really doesn’t want them to fail
6. Signs that your project is going to fail
7. What you can do prevent a project from failing
8. How to personally recover when your project has failed

Learning Outcome

Learn to spot when a team is headed toward failure and how to get them back on track.

Learn why teams plateau and how to motivate them out of that mindset.

Hear about all of the mistakes that I have made and what can be learned from failing that much.

Come to accept that you can only do what you can do and that a failed project doesn’t mean that you are incompetent or a bad person

Target Audience

People who have tried Agile, DevOps, or any other kind of a change and failed.

schedule Submitted 5 months ago

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  • Phillip Manketo
    By Phillip Manketo  ~  4 months ago
    reply Reply

    Hiya Tom, in lieu of attaching a deck, can you please revise the abstract to include "signs" and "examples" to provide additional context as well as examples of what can be done to prevent a failed project. Thanks in advance. Phillip


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