By Christian Bisson, PMP
As most of you know, scrum works in iterations called “sprints” that can vary in duration depending on the product. However, there is some debate about what people call a “Sprint 0”: a sprint used for planning or prework deliverables that will help launch Sprint 1.
There are no one-size-fits-all ways to work, but personally I believe Sprint 0 is necessary in many cases. Here’s why:
One big difference between waterfall and agile is how planning works. Waterfall tends to focus a lot (sometimes too much) on planning, while agile tends to be the opposite. For most projects with lots of unknowns, planning too much will be a waste of time because the project will evolve and most of the work done in advance will be wasted. That’s why you plan as you go in agile.
However, when you start a product from scratch (e.g., a website, software, etc.), there are many decisions that will affect the entire product development — some of which can block developers from coding on day one. For example, what is the best programming language/framework to use? Teams need development environments amongst several other tools. This setup can use up a lot of time and prevents work from gettting done if nothing is available. Sprint 0 becomes crucial to give the team time to prepare so they can code properly from the start.
Sprint 0 helps with that by providing a first iteration that allows the team to plan enough for Sprint 1, whether with analysis, wireframes, designs, etc.
Chances are, the team has never worked together before. The Sprint 0 approach can help the team set up and get to know each other, which will help them at the sprint planning of Sprint 1.
Other factors to consider are estimating tasks, timing of ceremonies, understanding everyone’s role and so on — all important elements that make or break a team’s efficiency.
It’s also a perfect opportunity for the scrum master to get the lay of the land and identify where to focus first to help the team.
Many would argue that value should be delivered at the end of a sprint. And Sprint 0 does not offer that to the stakeholders, which is true. However, not much real value will be delivered from a Sprint 1 that is wasted by the complete lack of preparation!
What are your thoughts on Sprint 0?
By Peter Tarhanidis, M.B.A, Ph.D.
Many organizations are shifting their traditional operating models to include new innovative collaborations and social networks to sustain economic growth. These new operating models, however, challenge the future of leadership.
Most operating models used today were designed in the industrial age. In these models, the division of labor is by specialization, which is hierarchical in nature. This approach has been analyzed and debated by philosophers including Plato and economists such as Adam Smith, whose analysis is incorporated in current organizational designs defining a company’s value chain. The advantage of this approach is that it drives increases in productivity and efficiency by allocating teams by their skillset.
Yet companies are boxed in today. They have become efficient and productive, but are at a disadvantage in sustaining innovation.
Companies are challenged to design and integrate innovative operating models to continue to drive economic growth. Some ways companies are leveraging new operating models to drive innovation include creating internal groups to access and fund startups and sharing resources with external research centers to drive external collaborations that drive new product pipelines.
These innovative operating models challenge leaders to work collaboratively across value chains and external business partners. To meet that challenge, there must be a shift in a leader and team skill sets.
The organizational design shifts from a division of labor and specialization to one that taps into knowledge workers and social networks. This shift—to forge new innovations and operating models—challenges leaders to define new behaviors, styles, skills and professional networks to sustain economic growth.
Project leaders and their teams have been at the forefront of working across these emerging models, navigating both internally as productivity experts, externally as innovation collaborators, and professionally to develop social networks to foster and sustain economic growth.
One’s future as a leader comes down to navigating your development against these current organizational trends. One approach I find helpful is to define personal 360-degree feedbacks. Start with three simple questions to determine where you need to develop and build from, such as:
Having used this personal approach, I learned the following three themes to form my development opportunities:
One must then consider what actions they should commit to developing — whether it is leadership behaviors and styles, business relationships or knowledge — to lead today’s organizations and sustain economic growth and relevance.
by Cyndee Miller
It’s the era of the ultra-specialized niche expert.
Companies don’t just make beer. They brew limited batches of Belgian sour ale with tones of organic blueberry and almond.
Companies don’t just crank out mattresses. They create customized sleeping experiences. Yes, there’s the traditional innerspring model available in countless iterations of firmness. But perhaps you’d prefer a foam number neatly packed up in a box? No prob.
So it stands to reason the trend would follow through to careers. In theory, organizations would seek out project and program managers with super-specialized skills, someone steeped in agile or someone with a complete mastery of waterfall.
But organizations are realizing projects don’t fall neatly into one category in the real world. One project may demand waterfall in the upfront stages then switch into agile or hybrid.
“Organizations are facing complex challenges and competing priorities,” Marivi Briz, PMI-ACP, PMP, global internet of things business development manager at Telefónica Chile, Santiago, Chile, told PMI’s Career Central. “They want project managers who aren’t just applying the same methodology to every project, but are able to build consensus around a particular approach and share a larger vision.”
Agile may get the buzz, but smart organizations know it all comes down to using what works.
“Executives care less about a pure agile or waterfall approach than they do about achieving results,” said Manuel Salero Coca, PMP, program manager director—Latin America, Huawei Technologies Co., Mexico City, Mexico. (Check out Mr. Coca’s comments in the 2018 Jobs Report in the January PM Network.)
In today’s project landscape, Rhonda V. Evans, PMP, envisions a project management office (PMO) that has “all methodologies in play.”
“You are no longer an agile shop or a waterfall-based PMO, you are a methodology- agnostic PMO,” she wrote on LinkedIn last year. “A business case or need is defined and approved. It then goes to the PMO or portfolio management team for review with the executive sponsor or product owner. … The right-fit methodology is then chosen based on several predefined factors. Each inherent framework/methodology will come with its own rules for flexing and growing and changing with the business.”
For project and program managers looking to get ahead in their career (i.e., pretty much everyone), it just doesn’t pay to slavishly follow one approach. They must sharpen their skills across the entire delivery spectrum.
“We’re in a continuously changing world, and project managers don’t want to limit an organization to only one method or the other,” said Jordi Teixido, PMP, chief operating officer at fintech company Strands and project management consultant, KION, Barcelona, Spain. “Project managers should be well-versed in standups and sprints, but also critical path and critical chain.”
And that applies to your professional brand, too. This is probably not the time to proclaim yourself a hardcore agile evangelist or a do-or-die authority on predictive.
“I’ve probably interviewed hundreds of project managers, and those who present themselves as experts in only one methodology seem destined to have limited opportunities,” said Mike O’Brochta, PMI-ACP, PMP, president of Zozer, a project management firm in Roanoke, Virginia, USA.
It pays to position yourself as fluent in all approaches — and build a social media profile that reflects your skills and strengths in each one. Alongside project details like scope, budget and schedule, professional profiles and portfolios should spell out details on the approach used to execute the project, said Wafi Mohtaseb, PMI-ACP, PMP, head of applications support, Kuwait Finance House, Kuwait City, Kuwait.
What are you seeing in your career path?
by Christian Bisson, PMP
We’ve all encountered them on a project or two: stakeholders that want everything right away.
The result of this rush is often lots of money invested, a tight schedule, negative impact on the quality and frustrated people. But, carefully planned iterations of a project can help avoid the negativities of rushed efforts.
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
A well thought out MVP is the first iteration of your project. It means planning for the smallest scope possible, keeping in mind that it still needs to bring business value.
Let’s say you’re building a website. In this scenario, you’d identify the main features your website should have — based on goals — and focus on those instead of spreading the effort on all the features that might seem great to have.
There are many advantages to the MVP approach:
Room to Adjust
Since you haven’t spent all the budget on the entire scope — and you now have precious data gathered from various sources — you can plan based on facts rather than hypotheses.
For example, after the MVP is deployed, you might have planned to work on a new feature. However, if new data suggests that the main feature of your project is not quite user friendly and needs adjustments, you can prioritize the adjustment and quickly add more value to your project compared to adding a new feature that might be less important.
Deploy When Ready
The MVP is only the first of many iterations. Do not fall back into the trap of building everything before you deploy your first update. Using the example above, if the first feature is actively affecting the quality of your project, adjust it and deploy right away. That way you will gain the added value of your improvement right away.
Some might argue that deployments cost money so you shouldn’t deploy all the time, and it’s a fair point. But keep in mind that the cost of those well-planned deployments are negligible compared to all the budget you can waste on a misfocused effort or a wrong hypothesis.
Taking a step-by-step approach to project management is crucial to the long-term success of projects. How do you manage the iterative or MVP approach?
Mix & Match
by Cyndee Miller
It was almost like watching rival cliques at school, die-hard agilistas matching wits with waterfall purists. The drama was always quite civil, mostly limited to snobbish comments dismissing the merits of the rival approach.
But lately — and frankly, I never thought I’d say this — they’re learning to play nice.
Some of this comes down to organizations not willing to take sides. They’re simply letting the best approach win.
“Most companies are becoming more results-oriented and less methodologically dogmatic,” said Bryan Berthot, PMI-ACP, PMP, project manager, AT&T Entertainment Group in a recent article on PMI.org. “They empower their project teams to choose their preferred project management framework — as long as they deliver results.”
Forget the preconceived notions. Teams are using whatever they need for the project at hand.
Check out the numbers in PMI’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession: While plenty of project professionals said they relied on agile or waterfall for recent projects, 20 percent used hybrid. And 23 percent relied on something other than agile, hybrid or plan-driven approaches, which could be a further blend or customization of approaches.
Social networking king and Silicon Valley mainstay LinkedIn seems like a natural for all agile, all the time. But when the company launched an overhaul of its website, the project leaders decided to go hybrid.
Mind you, this is a company steeped in sprints and fast-track developments, and now it’s adopting an agile/waterfall hybrid approach. The rationale? Allow project managers to incorporate user and stakeholder feedback — while retaining a sense of urgency.
“This hybrid approach enabled us to define requirements at the beginning of the project and provided the needed flexibility and transparency to adapt to the fast-changing requirements,” Ranjit Dhaman, PMP, senior staff technical program manager at the company, told PM Network. “We were building a foundation for future product innovation, and a quick turnaround time was needed to keep up the pace with daily product releases.”
It’s not just agile teams adopting waterfall ways, of course.
French tire-maker Michelin says it’s developing an agile approach to project, program and portfolio management.
“We believe that agility could also be used in multiple ways — in everything we do,” Philippe Husser, senior partner, progress direction, said in PMI’s latest Pulse of the Profession. “The world is changing very quickly around us, so much so that we cannot afford anymore to have projects taking two to five years to deliver because, during this time, the initial requirements have changed.”
The company now has project managers, along with a steering committee and project sponsor, select the best approach for each project together.
It’s just like those fine ladies of En Vogue would say: Free your mind and the rest will follow.
What’s happening on your projects? Do you and your teams gravitate toward one approach? Or are you doing whatever you need to do?