by Roger Chou
When the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection in Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs decided to adopt ISO 21500 as the Chinese National Standard (CNS) for project management, they turned to a virtual team of volunteers to review and implement the standard.
After being asked to head this committee, my first step was to make Scrum practices the method for doing the work. From there I worked to:
1) Centralize collaboration.
Since our committee of more than 30 volunteers (broken into three teams) worked virtually, we needed a tool to communicate and collect information. We relied on the LINE communication app and Google Docs.
2) Create a product backlog.
This backlog was a key reference tool for the committee. It included key stakeholder interviews and user stories that established the needs of CNS.
For example, one story said:
“As the Committee for Chinese National Standards on project management, I want the second version revised to cover our terminology standards so that it won’t waste our time in reviewing the work.”
3) Plan how to perform the work.
I instructed the individual team leaders to let their team members break the user stories into tasks to help them feel ownership of the work and create more accurate tasks.
The tasks were set up to be no more than one day’s work over four sprints (4 weeks total), allowing us to keep the momentum going.
4) Meet regularly with team leads.
This helped ensure teams were working effectively with each other. In this meeting the individual team leads were asked the following questions:
- What has my team finished since the last meeting?
- What will my team do before the next meeting?
- Are there any impediments in my team's way?
- Are there any impediments caused by my team for other teams?
5) Hold sprint reviews.
Throughout the length of the project we held weekly sprint reviews with external stakeholders.
This step not only ensured the volunteers worked to a high standard, but since this work was reviewed collectively, it served as a reminder of the commitments the teams had made to each other — be that deadlines or level or work.
When the final project was completed, it was submitted for review with a panel of industry, government and academic leaders. Our final step was to create the final user story:
“As the product owner of the project, I want to collect each volunteer’s reflection and thoughts, of about 100 words, to make the closure report, So that I may let those new to project management know how to run virtual teams with Scrum and I want to publish these stories.”
Work on this project was constant, sometimes requiring long nights of work. But it was always as a labor of love.
How do you streamline projects for virtual teams? What would you have done differently when managing a large volunteer effort like this one?
By Marian Haus, PMP
Welcome to the age of digital transformation.
New technologies such as 3-D printing, augmented and virtual reality, and digital currencies are becoming commonplace. Connected and autonomous cars, and holographic displays are on the horizon. This is all on top of the various mobile devices—smartphones, tablets, laptops—that we can’t let go of.
All this has changed consumer expectations and behaviors for good. Services must be fast and easy-to-use (RIP user-manual/guide), fully transparent (in terms of product offering, quality, price), always available (24/7) and multi-device accessible (via desktop, mobile, wearables, etc.).
Fearful of being left behind, businesses look to understand and predict consumer needs through deep and semantic web search, machine learning and big data customer analytics.
The Upshot for Projects
But digital transformation is not only changing our lives and disrupting businesses. It’s also reshaping and speeding up project delivery models. The planning and execution of innovative projects in today’s digital era can no longer be done at the same pace, with the same methodologies and tools. To attain increased time-to-market results, speed and flexibility are key—so project managers must adapt their approaches.
So what’s a project manager to do? Here some thoughts.
1) Remain calm and confident! Remember when agile disrupted the well-established waterfall world? Project managers had to adapt their approach, toolsets and methodologies. We can adapt again.
2) Enable organizational and structural simplicity and dynamism. Foster flexible structures, smaller project teams and increasing collaboration within the project team. (Here are some tips on how to set up your team and organization.)
3) Improve execution speed by tailoring and simplifying your approach and methods. For instance, embark on some rapid prototyping as a proof of concept before implementing the final product. Or breakdown the project into several smaller projects that can move independently faster as together.
4) Foster new and innovative ideas. Encourage open-mindedness and increasing failure tolerance.
5) Focus on results, not process. Plans, Gantt-charts, budgets, forecasts, risk plans and stakeholder lists are important. But while prototyping or going through trial-and-error iterations during product development, don’t let methodology and specific techniques get in the way of the needed results.
6) Adapt your communication approach by providing stakeholders with rapid access to real-time project information. For example, establish an online project community that can easily be updated with the latest information. (Here are more ideas on how to improve communication.)
Finally, enjoy the exciting and intense times we leave in, driven by dynamism, innovation and more networking and collaboration than ever.
I’d like to hear from you on how you are managing projects and embracing change in the modern digital age.