My crisis with the corona virus and the positive change in program management

7 min.

Summary

The article examines how working in programs has changed due to the exclusively virtual way of working. Special attention is paid to the changes in governance, working methods and perception of hierarchy in the company. This contribution is accompanied by a survey on some hypotheses on the future of leadership especially under the aspect of distributed work in order to support or reject these hypotheses. Nevertheless, I will try to formulate some future prognoses on this subject already now. The article wants to give some hints which experiences we should in any case take with us into the “new normality” and thus firmly anchor them in our way of working. People and companies who do not learn and adapt from this crisis and only want to return to a supposed old normality will fail in the future.

Flashback

On March 2nd I did not go to North Rhine-Westphalia like every week before, because I had cold symptoms and since a few weeks the corona virus was on everyone’s lips, also in our program. So I thought it would be appropriate not to endanger my colleagues in the project and planned one week of remote work. Thought, done. Being one of the few “local” colleagues not to be on site, as expected, led to a lot of more time being spent for work, as now much had to be done via team video call. And this in planned meetings, which was perhaps previously easily clarified across the desk. In the course of that week, my company decided to stop all non-essential business trips and let me work exclusively from my home office. What can I say, the next few weeks were pure stress, because all the meetings, which were previously held locally and often hybrid, were now virtualized, which led to many additional hours of work. Despite my 5+ years of experience in pure home office (globally virtual distributed programs or project portfolios) in my 20+ years of experience in project and program management, virtual work during Corona was another dimension. I would like to go into this in the course.

This personal (including capacity-) crisis has, as often, also led to something better. What exactly has changed?

Changes in governance et al.

When it comes to governance, many people think first of meetings and the committee structure. This is fundamentally correct, but it is not complete. My calendar was overloaded the first 3-4 weeks of purely virtual work, because now a meeting was often set up virtually for many “little things” and then 30 minutes with colleagues was the lower limit. Thanks to Outlook. I immediately remembered the 22-minute meetings. The goal is to have meetings in

  • 22 minute slots,
  • to have a clear agenda,
  • ideally, distribute written reading material on the topic of the meeting in advance and in good time,
  • start the meeting on time and have a clear focus.

I have configured my Outlook so that meetings last either 25 minutes or 50 minutes by default. Here the settings in Outlook help to ensure this. My experience in the virtual environment is that meetings last until the planned end. On site meetings last until someone has to leave because they are changing rooms. Moving from one room to another demand time. In the virtual environment this is usually not granted. Often there is not even time for bio breaks. Unbelievable!

In order to avoid the overcrowded calendar, a daily stand-up meeting of the teams should also be planned in the virtual environment. Here it is important that appropriate video conferencing and collaboration tools are used. I use Planner from Microsoft or Trello in my volunteer work to support backlog, spintplanning and standups. With both boards, the daily stand-up meeting with a core team of a program or, as with me currently, the project portfolio management team of typical up to 7 direct reports can be supported very well. Sprint planning and retroperspectives are of course also included.

Another proven meeting sequence is to schedule escalation and decision meetings ideally several times a week and, in the best case, cancel them if nothing needs to be decided or addressed. These fixed regular dates allow for quick decisions, even in times when the calendars of our senior management are full. Should the need arise to be more than once or twice a week, the role descriptions, RACIs etc. must be checked carefully. Then, in my experience, there is not enough information and decision-making authority at the right level. Basically, my remarks on governance and escalations apply here, of course.

Due to the complete virtualization of all meetings, I have noticed a democratization of these meetings. Anyone can switch on the webcam and be present in a prominent position, unlike in hybrid meetings. Anyone can use the “raise hand” function in the collaboration tool. Everyone can see what is being drawn on the virtual whiteboard and not somewhere on a locally available flipchart. Everybody – and not just the local senior management at the table – can be seen equally in the gallery view of the video software. Quietly and secretly, this changes the style of the meetings and, above all, the greater participation of formerly “never-in-meeting room attendees”, because they are, for example, offshore.

Overall, an asynchronous working of the team is to be enabled, e.g. by check-ins in the morning (these can also be created manually in Microsoft Teams). For teams that work on different topics and only interfaces are relevant or where for whatever reason the daily stand-ups are not possible, the check-in approach is recommended in any case. An active exchange on the check-ins should take place via the comment function. Otherwise there is no added value. If a person asks the check-in question manually, no automatisms have to be established via additional tools. In my team we had solved this manually in MS Teams in which a colleague set the daily question at the start of work.

Due to the higher concentration/stringency of virtual meetings, team members quickly notice exhaustion due to the high sequence of meetings. The one or the other coffee talk can then be made possible virtually.

For me, the more intensive cooperation – intensive because of the even higher level of structuring – has confirmed that the team composition is particularly relevant as already described in 2019. For me, in the intensive virtual cooperation I noticed a weaker expression of the intercultural differences. Perhaps this is related to the democratization described above. Here it would be interesting to know what your experiences are about this. Please put them in the comments. Furthermore I have put up a few hypotheses on which I would like to hear your opinion:

Your more advanced hypotheses are welcome in the comments below.

Does Corona bring long-term changes?

This almost philosophical question was already intensively discussed in the media months ago and many authors came to the conclusion that the corona pandemic will change many things positively in the long term. More regionality, less travel, more … I believe realistically, many positive aspects will be forgotten, despite the long duration of the restrictive measures.

Even when the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland, many had predicted that air traffic would be reduced in the long term. Immediately after the volcanic ash had blown away, air traffic was back at a very similar level.

Maybe some things will change due to the fact that nobody else could work the same way as before during the Corona ban and some things have hardened due to convenience or because companies have taken measures to avoid further shocks. Everyone, including sales representatives, conducted virtual customer conversations and were forced to work with “the unimaginable”. Let’s see.

Ultimately, the further development of the technology will anchor one or the other change in the long term, because ultimately cost-benefit considerations are always applied by individuals and companies. So we can hope that my forecast of changes as described in the article Project Manager in 2030 will come true. Perhaps our ethical and moral approaches have changed so much during Corona, which will directly lead to a change in our common future.

Which changes should be “cemented”?

The crisis described at the beginning leads to transformation. How the transformation develops and solidifies cannot be guessed in advance. Nevertheless one should of course try to “build in” as many positive aspects as possible.

Due to the asynchronous mode of operation in virtually distributed teams, early intermediate work results should be shared in any case – in line with WOL. In the office on site, the interim status review is often provided by informal coffee break conversations, which allows the maturing “product” to receive continuous feedback. In the virtual world, as much as possible of the semi-finished product should be shared in a structured way.

It is also useful to check whether your own self-organization tools are still the right ones, even when working remotely.

What I have firmly decided to do is that even if everyone else around me falls back into the “post-volcanic eruption-back-to-normal” effect, I will work virtually in a team in my programs at least every third week in order to constantly put the program into remote operation. Otherwise many positive effects will be lost.

We should also avoid hybrid meetings in the future. If parts of the team are remote, then everyone should go to virtual meetings because of the “democratization” described above and the higher effectiveness.

The definition of the communication principles in the project gain more importance due to the necessary home office work, because a formalization with more asynchronous work is absolutely essential.

There is one more thing we should maintain: The care for each other and the often heard, in my opinion, serious statement: “Stay healthy!” In this sense… Stay healthy.

Your hypotheses?

Definition of goals in the “Six Interdependencies” playing field

4 min.

Summary

Project objectives are the establishment of requirements which are as quantified as possible and which must be met in order for a project to be considered successfully completed. Conflicts of objectives are to be avoided. An absolute prioritisation of the goals is recommended. In the case of objectives, one must always pay attention to the combination of SMART objectives, completeness of the objectives and, above all, the delimitation of benefit and non-objectives. An absolute prioritisation across all goals in order to be aware of one’s own priorities is helpful. In addition to the magic triangle, the aim is to distinguish between non-targets, benefit targets and now consciously the negative benefit targets as damage and to provide resource planning optimised for all organisations involved.

What are goals and how should they be?

Project objectives are the establishment of requirements that are as quantified as possible and that must be met in order for a project to be regarded as successfully completed. DIN 69901-5:2009-01 defines the project objective as “the totality of individual objectives achieved by the project”.
A complete definition of objectives requires the identification of all relevant stakeholders, which can lead to conflicts of interest. Conflicts of objectives are to be avoided, i.e. the different project objectives must fit together.
The magic triangle defines performance (including quality), costs and deadlines. The magic triangle is supplemented by further dimensions through the six interdependencies.
The goals are to be defined as SMART:

Specific/Simple Simple, understandable, concrete
Measurable Operationalized, quantified
Achievable/attainable Achievable, socially accepted, worthwhile
Realistic/Relevant Objectively attainable
Timeable/Timely Concretely planned in terms of time

Define objectives in a delimited way

Often there is talk of “never-saturated stakeholders”, I have experienced in practice that it helps to have absolute prioritisation across all goals in order to make people aware of their own priorities. In other words, in addition to the must-can-target categorization, a prioritization with a clearer definition of what is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, … x most important goal is recommended.

One must always pay attention with the goals to the combination of SMART goals, completeness of the goals and above all the delimitation of benefit goals (= business benefits/business objectives) and also non-goals. A consideration of these target categories certainly helps to encourage the stakeholders to make a clear statement or to hold on to their expectations in advance, to commit them even better.

The benefit of the project can be defined by the benefit goals of the project. And just as with risks and opportunities, there is a positive and negative sign here. With the “Six Interdependencies” I have consciously chosen the negative sign (i.e. damage here) as the initial viewing angle, as with risk management, in order to deliberately provoke this lighting. In the past, benefits and thus benefit goals were often and well defined by project managers (in contrast to their performance goals).

Social goals

In my opinion, an example of “training on the job” within the framework of the project is a good example of a social goal that can be well defined in terms of objectives, provided that “training on the job” takes place during the course of the project. If, on the other hand, this “training on the job” takes place in the follow-up of the project on the basis of the use of the project object (e.g. use of the implemented software in everyday operations after the end of the project), it is a clear benefit goal and must also be defined as such. If, on the other hand, the training is essential for the implementation of the project, it is a performance goal, because otherwise the object of performance will not be completed or achieved.

Goals in the playing field of the Six Interdependencies

The supplemented interdependencies help my perception according to the clear definition of the project object and the demarcation by the use of this and the well definition of the basic conditions (context determination) in the framework of resources, damage and stakeholder satisfaction.

In my opinion, the Six Interdependencies bring more to light the things that have so far been defined, in part neglected, on the edge, next to the magic triangle, by benefit goals, resource planning (but so far only with the focus on the project and not as is now the case with the Six Interdependencies of the entire (parent) organization(s) involved). In practice, I have already achieved positive, more conscious and more complete goal definitions and delimitations. Thus the six interdependencies show all known practice-proven project methodical aids like magic triangle, in addition delimitation of not goals and use goals and now consciously the negative use goals as damage, conscious restriction of the resources and however not only for the project (as it happens classically with the resource planning primarily), but also for all organizations involved an optimized resource planning.

Thus, the Six Interdependencies are a combination of already known, previously independently considered influences and now additional consideration of damage and cross-organizational resource consideration together:

Six Interdependencies

Stakeholder Management as an Element of the Six Interdependencies

4 min.

Summary


In order to identify the right stakeholders of the project, the environment analysis is carried out as a precursor. The social environment factors are included in the stakeholder analysis and it is recommended to consider them according to the following dimensions: Power and conflict potential. The objective of the stakeholder analysis is to group the stakeholders in the individual quadrants of a 4-quadrant portfolio in order to represent a corresponding number of stakeholder strategies. If I consolidate the stakeholders in a stakeholder portfolio quadrant, I have the chance to plan a consolidated measure using the common strategy of the quadrant. Various sources of error in the preparation of the stakeholder analysis are pointed out.

What is a stakeholder?

As already mentioned in my “Six Interdependencies“, the consideration of stakeholders is an essential component for project success. Stakeholders are individuals, groups of people, organizations or the entirety of all those who are involved in the project, directly or indirectly affected by it or have a justified interest in it.

Environmental analysis as a basis for stakeholder analysis

In order to identify the right stakeholders of the project, the environment analysis is carried out as a precursor. The project environment analysis is a systematic, forward-looking consideration, observation and analysis of the positive (supporting) and negative (disruptive) influences of the project environment on the project, to be introduced as early as the initiation phase. A distinction is made between the social and factual environmental factors. A further distinction can be made between project-internal, project-external or company-internal or company-external factors. A differentiation exclusively between internal and external factors is not specific enough. Opportunities and risks in the further course of the project planning can be determined from the objective environmental factors and interfaces of the project can be made conscious.

Stakeholder analysis and its determination

The social environment factors are included in the stakeholder analysis and it is recommended to consider them according to the following dimensions: Power and conflict potential. Other dimensions such as influence, interest can be qualitative but not necessarily clearly grouping dimensions. Interest and influence can be positive, negative, high or low. The advantage of power and conflict potential is that they can be high and low, but not positive or negative at the same time. Why do we only want to record high and low values of the two dimensions and not e.g. values with very high, very low etc.? Low conflict potential stands for (potential or actual) promoters and high conflict potential for (potential or actual) opponents. In practice, a constant consideration of the (potential) opponents and promoters is necessary anyway.

The objective of stakeholder analysis is to group the stakeholders in the individual quadrants of a 4-quandrant portfolio in order to subsequently reflect a corresponding number of stakeholder strategies in it. It therefore makes sense to group the stakeholders in a portfolio into high and low power, high and low conflict potential. A direct allocation of stakeholder strategies can then take place directly.

Stakeholder strategies and their allocation in the portfolio

The following strategies can be included in a stakeholder portfolio:

  • Participative strategy based on participation and active involvement, communication and information of the project environment actors, e.g. joint decision making workshops,
  • discursive strategy, which (mostly reactive) is geared to the objective analysis of the project environment, e.g. by means of conflict resolution instruments,
  • repressive strategies characterised by the use of organisational, informational or factual power, e.g. management requirements or selective information.

For the fourth quadrant, it is recommended to provide for purely informational measures, which, however, do not represent a real strategy and are therefore not referred to as such.

A meaningful stakeholder portfolio thus looks as follows:

Stakeholder-Portfolio

Stakeholder strategies – why is that?

Why do I want to look at strategies and not just measures for each stakeholder? Measures per stakeholder are time-consuming and costly. If I now plan individual measures for each stakeholder, I have a complex bundle of measures. If, on the other hand, I consolidate the stakeholders in a stakeholder portfolio quadrant, I have the opportunity to plan a consolidated measure using the joint strategy of the quadrant.

Typical sources of error in stakeholder analysis

If stakeholder strategies are mapped on the basis of dimensions other than power and conflict potential, there is a danger that the stakeholders will not be clearly classified. If, for example, the stakeholder’s interest is highlighted instead of the power dimension, secretly positive, negative, high and low groupings are possible and therefore multiple allocation to portfolio quadrants is likely. I have observed this in many misguided stakeholder analyses.

Another problem can be the failure to conduct a continuous stakeholder analysis. You should always look at stakeholders anew. Shifts in power in a company can change the dimension of power, but above all the characteristics of the dimension of conflict potential can change again and again. The stakeholder’s potential for conflict with the project can change as a result of changes in attitudes towards the project as a result of project developments.

A renunciation of the combined indication of names or roles already in the environment analysis and then also in the transfer into the stakeholder analysis can lead to a generalization and to an overlooking of important characteristics. Mr. Mayer-Schulze can be a pedantic, conflict-laden comrade-in-arms, but his role as a user does not necessarily suggest this.

Grouped environmental factors such as “steering committee” instead of the performance of all individual steering committee members may lead to lump sums and thus the overlooking of specific interests and influences.

What belongs in the status report?

2 min.

Summary

A regular status report is important in the project. The status report is the basic information for the members of the steering committee. It is advisable to create a list of the typical contents of a report, which can be used in any presentation form. Also the status light colours must be well defined to ban the watermelon effect.

Addressees and occasion

A regular status report is important in the project. Regular means that a predefined cycle or on certain predefined occasions is created and delivered to the specified recipients. The objective is to present the progress of the project, to address decision-making needs and to point out risks and problems. The status report is the basic information for all members of the steering committee.

Content

Each status report should include the following:

  • Management Summary
  • Status light
  • Defined indicators (often performance, deadline and costs) and optionally their development in an Earned Value analysis
  • Achievements in the reporting period
  • Planned but unachieved in the period
  • Initiated or planned measures
  • Planned for the next reporting period / upcoming milestones
  • Top (3) risks
  • Necessary decisions

Status Light Colours and the Eternal Controversy

Again and again there are energetic discussions about which colour the status light should have. It often doesn’t make sense to take part in them and as a project manager you should have a clear and above all simple, easy to understand and valid definition for all levels at hand in order to be able to avert the watermelon effect (red inside, green outside). The following definition can be of help:

  • Red = Problems exist which can no longer be solved at the reporting level and which have a negative effect on the defined indicators (usually performance, deadline, costs) or which have already had an effect. Measures were not effective or not possible. There is a need for decision or action at the higher level (level above that of the reporting party).
  • Yellow = The defined indicators show plan deviations. Problems exist that the reporting person plans to solve. Measures have been or are being taken (list of measures required). The need for decision or action on the part of the higher authority is foreseeable if the measures taken do not have an effect.
  • Green = No problems at the reporting level. The defined indicators show no deviations from the plan.

A possible file naming convention for the status report can be found here.

Resources – what ugly word?!

3 min.

Summary

You know Germans have more words to say something similar but different. There is always a “sound” connected to similar words. An “Einsatzmittel” as an earlier DIN term and a synonym for the current term “resources” for the project. Resources in project management are personnel and material resources that are needed to carry out processes, work packages and projects. Many people say that to describe personnel or project staff as “Einsatzmittel” or even resources is not adequate. As already noted in my article “Six Interdependencies” resources / resources are limited available for a project.

Resource planning

In the planning phase of the project, the resources are displayed on the timeline in which they are available to the project. The aim is to anchor the resources in the project as briefly, evenly and as little as possible. Because the use of resources causes costs and above all also as with “Six Interdependencies” noted deficits in the line organization or in other projects.

Qualification for personnel and specification for material resources are the decisive characteristics of resource characteristics in resource management and the determination of demand.

The relation to agility

In agile project management, resource planning is just as relevant as in classical project management. Even if, for example, SCRUM teams are usually available full-time for the entire sprint length, they still represent a critical factor, since their capacity is to be used just as “optimally” as in classic PM by selecting the relevant user stories. Even in agile projects, factual resources such as available mainframe time slots are regarded as critical resources with the same dedication.

Resources and their sound

The introduction of the term resources and resource management has met with much criticism in the German speaking project manager community in connection with sounding lack of appreciation of the employees in the project and its qualification. The qualification required for project employees is subject to constant change and is certainly viewed differently today than it was when DIN was amended in 2009. The orientation towards employees has also changed considerably since then. Nevertheless, it can be stated that if the term “resource” is seen in connection with “one time usage”, this is inhumane and in any case cannot be seen as good. It would be careless and degrading. On the positive side, since it is regarded as inevitably lost, the term “resources” on natural resources such as crude oil or nature as such has had a positive impact in recent years on the term resource in German language. This also gives rise to hopes that a pure view of resources as labour/worker will increasingly lose ground. For the awareness that it can represent lost lifetime for any human, as long as it sees no sense behind the given task. What makes sense for the individual person, but also for society as a whole, will become an essential factor in resource management in project management, because even today, personnel for many tasks can simply no longer be found on the “market”.

How do I put together the best team?

2 min.

Summary

Team composition and understanding of roles are a success factor for successful project implementation. The Belbin model can be used to analyse and define an optimal mix of colleagues in the team with a wide variety of characteristics. My observation is that in international teams the mix is often easier to achieve due to the different cultural backgrounds. In teams without clear leadership authority it is even more elementary that the team members are deployed according to their strengths and the composition of the team is “optimal”.

Why do I have to take care of this?

In addition to my firm conviction that international and thus interculturally assembled teams are the best, we should take a closer look at why this is so. An analysis in an environment where leadership is given without epaulettes is particularly relevant. This is where optimally assembled teams become particularly important.

The origins of intercultural effectiveness with regard to team composition are determined by the cultural dimensions (e.g. according to Hofstede) and thus the stronger or weaker character of the people involved.

What does Belbin say?

Meredith Belbin presents nine roles in 1981, which should be taken into account when putting together a team. These nine roles are divided into three groups.

  • Action-oriented roles
    • Implementer = implements ideas and plans
    • Finisher = Ensures quality-conscious work and ensures that deadlines are met
    • Shaper = Encourages the team to improve. Eliminates problems.
  • Communication-oriented roles
    • Co-ordinator = Coordinates the team and promotes results orientation.
    • Teamworker = promotes team building
    • Resource Investigator = Promotes the exploitation of opportunities and forms a network in the project environment.
  • Knowledge-oriented roles
    • Plant = Shows ideas and possible solutions.
    • Monitor-Evaluator = Analyzes options for action for their feasibility.
    • Specialist = Brings in his expertise.

How does it work?

Team members and managers can identify the respective strengths and weaknesses in their own team by looking at the various roles and reflecting on them in order to use the potential of the individuals as well as the potential for the composition of teams. The team can be “balanced” through a mutual understanding and awareness of the characteristics. Surely the above mentioned roles will never be found in their pure form, because everyone assumes different roles depending on the project context or the project task, but nevertheless the understanding at least about the tendencies in the role characteristics for team cooperation helps.

From the “Triple Constraints” to the “Six Interdependencies”

3 min.

Summary

The project objectives, the Magic Triangle, Triple Constraint or also called Objectives Triangle is a consolidated representation of the project objectives. In the course of time, a further target variable has been added to represent stakeholder satisfaction, especially client satisfaction. The project is carried out in the context of organisations. At least one organization provides resources in the form of project personnel and material resources. A simple resource planning of the project optimized for the project isolated from the context is not target-oriented. Further each project has not only positive aspects, but causes also a damage. These are the “six interdependencies” which also apply to agile project management approaches.

Origin and Development

The project objective variables, the magic triangle, triple constraint or also called objectives triangle is a consolidated representation of the project objectives on the basis of the measurement variables

  • scope or service,
  • cost (hours or person days and costs) and
  • time (duration and dates).

In the course of time, a further target variable has been added, which is to represent stakeholder satisfaction, especially customer satisfaction. An extension to the magic square did not take place, but was seen as an extension of the magic triangle.

A magic square in connection with project management was mistakenly included in the literature, in which the quality was recorded separately. However, we must clearly distance ourselves from this, since quality is inherently anchored in the aforementioned goals.

We can therefore state that there are at least four indicators for the success of a project: scope, time, cost and stakeholder satisfaction.

Project success in the context of the environment

The project will be carried out in the context of organisations. At least one organisation provides resources in the form of project personnel and material resources. These are also limited and it is a component of the planning duties and thus criterion of the project success, how effectively the project personnel and how careful/limited the project resources are used for the entire organization. Because the project personnel is often entrusted with other tasks in the line and / or the coworkers are just as urgently looked for in other projects. The material resources such as an excavator become just as important for the course of the project on another construction site, for example. A simple resource planning of the project optimized for the project isolated from the context is not goal-prominent. The optimization needs which the project director, the project portfolio manager or the specialist departments specify for project resources are not only a one-sided process. Perhaps the consideration of this interdependence resource optimization in project success would also nip in the bud the thought construct of “thinking of project members only as inputs”.

Every project not only has positive aspects, but also causes damage. For example, an implementation of software may lead to job losses. Or an environmental protection project for the creation of a new nature reserve leads to the loss of a farmer’s arable land. This causes damage to the farmer, even if he is certainly compensated for it. So here we have a clear contribution to the project success in this case with a negative sign. We cannot simply deduct this negative contribution from the performance. Here we would make it too easy for ourselves, because the service is the desired dimension of the client and automatically does not take the damage into account.

In addition to scope, time, cost and stakeholder satisfaction, we have now established two further success criteria such as resource optimization and project damage.

We have thus outlined the “Six Interdependencies”.

Six Interdependencies

Agility and the reflection of the Six Interdependencies

Now you might think the magic triangle was never relevant for me as an agile product owner anyway, because the performance is never relevant due to “fix” number of story points that can be processed in a sprint. This is deceptive and not really true, because by prioritizing the backlog the most important performance is of course defined as “part” of the project. Reprioritizing, adding or removing stories at the start of each sprint deliberately changes the performance of the project. So the six interdependencies are also likely to be relevant in agile practice.

Activity list – why is that?

3 min.

Summary

After work package planning has been completed, the activity list is created as a table. It is the following method to be applied according to the work breakdown structure. The activity list is the link between the work breakdown structure and the schedule.
The real added value is the task list, as a means of reducing the project duration, in that the core team with its expertise and the project manager identifies as many logical sequences as possible that can contribute to reducing the project duration. Even in an agile environment, dependencies need to be identified and taken into account. Splitting user stories without creating additional dependencies is an important skill of the SCRUM team.

What is the task list?

After completion of the work package planning, the process list is created. It is a table of all work packages and contains essential information from the work package planning from which the scheduling is derived in the further course.

The work breakdown structure (WBS) does not yet have any information on the functional sequence (“technical” dependencies). The activity list helps here. In project management, it is a “bridge medium” between WBS and the schedule. The activity list is a table of activities in the project. Based on the activity list, the project manager can determine the start and end dates of the work packages.

What is the added value of the activity list?

After creating the task list, it can be estimated for the first time whether it is possible to achieve the project goal within the framework of the available resources. Now it is possible to add all costs and capacities that were considered necessary by the WP managers. However, it is not yet possible to draw conclusions about the sufficient availability of the necessary capacities, since normally there is no uniform utilization, but rather individual capacity peaks represent the problem. It is also possible to record which predecessors are necessary to start a work package.

The real added value is the task list, as a means of reducing the project duration, in which the core team with its expertise and the project manager identifies as many logical sequences as possible that can contribute to reducing the project duration. So a lazy use of the end-start sequence, because this is so convenient and easy to do, would cost the client project time and drive up project costs. Alternative sequences such as Beginning-Start help the project manager reduce the number of tasks on the critical path. This simplifies project control. The work package managers should not define the inputs for the sequence relationship in a quiet chamber, but communicate them to the core team (sub-project manager or project manager in the program), which then determines optimized sequences. The creation and discussion of the process list thus raises the potential for later optimization of the flow and schedule at an early stage.

Differentiation / forerunner to the schedule

From the sequence of the work packages it can be derived when which work package starts. Work packages that do not have a direct predecessor can start immediately. All others follow. An initial schedule can be derived from this. This, however, is not much more than an indication, since diverse framework conditions such as staff vacation, capacity limits of few available qualifications are not taken into account.

What is the task list in an agile environment?

Even in an agile environment, dependencies need to be identified and taken into account. Here, for example, SCRUM teams already take into account how dependencies between backlog items are represented in the overall backlog planning. The split of the backlog items can be done initially by the product owner, but should be validated by the entire agile team lastest during the initial sprint planning. Even within SCRUM teams, dependencies are constantly re-evaluated, since the continuous prioritization of user stories can possibly lead to additional identified dependencies. Splitting user stories without creating additional dependencies is an important skill of the SCRUM team. However, it should be taken into account that the user stories are not only split according to the technical paths, but that the functional questions are also taken into account. Otherwise, the agile approach will be counteracted. Because then an early and small-scale delivery of functions is no longer guaranteed. As already mentioned, this balancing act of splitting up is a core competence of the entire team.

Leading without shoulder epaulets but with emotional bond to the project

3 min.

– Bridge between old and new forms of project organization –

Summary

The central skill of our time: lateral leading, i.e. leading without authority to give instructions, will require more attention. While the classic project organizations are based on technical authority to issue directives or even disciplinary authority to issue directives, the lateral leadership and the (new) project organization, which has not yet been named, is based primarily on trust and understanding through the creation of a common thought construct in order to emotionally connect the possible divergent interests of the participants, at least for the duration of the project.

A former project of the author cannot be typified according to any of the classical forms of project organization such as pure (autonomous), matrix or staff organization. A mixed form of staff and matrix organisation is most likely to be identified, where clear delivery items are agreed, but only partially clearly assigned project members are integrated in the team. In principle, however, all project participants contribute their contribution to the delivery items, even those who do not report to them – not always in a technical sense.

Surely one could say that such a project should never be accepted as a project leader or will never be successful.

How can an emotional connection to the project be established here in such a non-binding project organisation?

Formal power relations are no guarantee for a stable emotional bond. Project team members must feel comfortable and supported in their project environment in order to feel committed. Every employee looks for fixed points of attachment that are decisive for the development of a sense of belonging. The good relationship with the project manager without authority to issue instructions, the friendly relationship with colleagues or the activity itself can be a fixed point of attachment for well-being and participation. Because those who see themselves as part of the project show more commitment and loyalty.

Team members are only strong if they have attractive and challenging project tasks. Furthermore, a sense of purpose and a comprehensible project goal are important for the project team member.

For project team members, motivation is determined by the fact that their opinion counts in the project and that they have the opportunity to help shape it. The mood and attitude of colleagues within a team can affect the motivation of the entire project team. Working together with motivated and committed colleagues is often stimulating and also creates a bond through integration into a community.

How do you take this lead when it matters?

The recognition received for the work performed has the greatest influence on the commitment of a project employee. Praise from the project manager creates satisfaction.

But the central skill of our time as a connecting element: lateral leading, i.e. leading without authority to instruct, will require more attention.

When and how do you let others guide you? Which rules apply in this interplay of forces? This can only be achieved through emotional bonding.

How do you exercise leadership in this scenario? How do you set goals correctly? How do you delegate tasks correctly? What motivates and what demotivates?

While the classical project organisations are based on technical authority or even disciplinary authority, the lateral leadership and the (new) project organisation not yet named with it is based mainly on trust and understanding through the creation of a common thought construct in order to connect the possible divergent interests of the participants at least for the duration of the project.

The power to issue disciplinary directives as a source of power no longer exists. Other sources of power such as expertise or information control are often tapped and internal power games are deliberately used. Here, however, it is necessary to find out whether this leads to success. Here the practical experiences from the author’s project can be reflected upon and lead to new insights into how emotional attachment can be achieved even beyond loose project organisation.

Lateral leadership in cross-departmental or cross-organisational situations always holds a certain potential for conflict. Conflicts of objectives and interests of the organizational units involved, but also different ways of thinking and behaving of the persons involved cannot be excluded. Here it is to be discussed whether more conflicts are to be determined than in a classical project organization.

GPM Barcamp „Leadership in projects“

3 min.

Summary

On 27.09.2019 the third GPM Barcamp “Leading in the project” will take place in Fulda. This unconference has established itself, where each participant can actively suggest topics to benefit as much as possible from the ideas and knowledge of our participants, who have very different functions and come from very different companies.

What’s a barcamp?

Since many participants can come to a bar camp, large group methods can also be used for moderation. Usually the open space method is used. Participants advertise their own topics on the Barcamp and create one group each. In this group possible topics are prepared or knowledge and experiences are exchanged. The results will be reflected at the end of the Barcamp. The Open Space method can produce a large variety of concrete measures in one day. And spread a lot of knowledge and generate motivation.

On a barcamp, little is done with PowerPoint but much with pens, packing paper, adhesive tape and flipcharts. Also the collection and distribution of the results needs a good structure.

At each Barcamp we have held a vernissage at the end of the day, which presented the results briefly and concisely. This was done with the help of pin boards, where the audience passed by in small groups and had details explained to them.

Principles of the Barcamp

  1. Whoever comes, these are the right people: Whether one or 20 people follow your invitation to a session/working group does not matter. Everyone is important and motivated.
  2. Whatever happens, it is the only thing that could happen – the unplanned and unexpected is often creative and useful. Free yourself from expectations as to what should be.
  3. It starts when the time is ripe – energy (not punctuality) is important.
  4. Past is past: Sometimes a topic is quickly through. Don’t artificially prolong it just so that time goes by. Use the time to go to another group or do something else you enjoy.
  5. And not over is not-over: Sometimes a topic only really gets going at the end. Find a free space and write down on the timetable where others can find you.

The two laws

“Freedom of choice and self-responsibility.”

The law of the two feet is an expression of freedom of choice and self-responsibility: the only binding point. You go to the sessions (topics) that interest you most – and you stay in a group only as long as you think it makes sense. So as long as you can learn or contribute. If you can’t learn or contribute anything, leave it. The application of the law is easy: you don’t have to justify or apologize.

“Of bumblebees and butterflies.”„

When people apply the law of two feet, they sometimes show behaviors that could be metaphorically expressed by the terms “bumblebee” and “butterfly”.

“Bumblebees” buzz from group to group and form a bridge between the themes through group changes. The “butterflies” flutter and pause after contributing to the small group. They follow what they feel like at the moment and are just there.

What will be worked out?

All topics which are of interest to you in the context of leadership in the project or which you can give active input on.

FĂĽhrung im Projekt

How do I register?

The Barcamp will be held in German language. Registration here. For GPM members 50€ and for non-members 100€. A free cancellation of participation is only possible until 13.09.2019.