Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
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Recent Posts

A Roadmap for Continuous Learning

The Power of Agile Team Cohesion

What Qualities Do the Best Project Managers Have?

The Power of Pauses and Silence

3 Agile Disconnects We Need to Address

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The Power of Agile Team Cohesion

by Christian Bisson

Agile team cohesion is the seamless collaboration, effective communication, and shared goals and values among team members. I frequently prompt new teams to reflect on a time they thought things were going great; consistently, "the team" emerges as the primary factor contributing to that moment’s greatness.

Being intangible, team cohesion is often undervalued, with some viewing it as simply as an overhead. For example, team building activities, or even retrospectives that have a bit of fun included in them can be seen as a waste of time. Heck I’ve also been told by team members that it was an insult to their intellect! 

Despite that, the impact of team cohesion is far-reaching, offering substantial benefits to the team and the project at hand.

 

Enhanced Communication

Cohesive teams communicate more effectively, leading to smoother workflows through several key mechanisms:

  • Shared Understanding: Team cohesion fosters a shared understanding of goals, objectives, and project/product requirements among team members. When everyone is on the same page, communication becomes more targeted and relevant.
  • Open Communication Channels: In cohesive teams, trust and mutual respect is built over time which creates a culture of open communication. Team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and feedback. Not only does this transparency helps in addressing issues promptly, but it also provides the team with collective creativity to find solutions to whatever challenge they face.
  • Adaptability to Change: In agile environments, where change is frequent, cohesive teams are more adaptable. Effective communication ensures that everyone is informed about changes promptly, and the team can collectively adjust its strategies and tasks to accommodate new requirements.

 

Increased Productivity

  • Alignment of Efforts: Shared goals provide a common purpose that aligns the efforts of each team member. When everyone understands and commits to the same objectives, individual tasks and activities naturally complement one another, avoiding conflicts and redundancy.
  • Motivation and Engagement: Having shared goals fosters a sense of shared ownership and commitment. Team members are motivated to contribute their best efforts when they see how their work contributes to the overall success of the team and the achievement of common objectives.
  • Efficient Capacity Management: A united team optimises their capacity by ensuring that each team member focuses on tasks that align with the team's goals. This prevents duplication of efforts and ensures that time and expertise are utilised efficiently.
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving: Shared goals encourage collaborative problem-solving. Team members are more likely to work together to overcome challenges and find innovative solutions when they share a common objective. This collective approach enhances problem-solving efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Mutual Support and Knowledge Sharing: A united team promotes a culture of mutual support where team members readily assist each other. This support extends beyond task completion to knowledge sharing, where individuals leverage their strengths to help others, fostering continuous learning and skill development. Furthermore, this prevents “points of failure” where one member only can execute a certain task or has a certain expertise, lowering risks if team members leave the team or are missing.

Conclusion

Team cohesion is important, and it’s important for all members of the team to understand its value so that everyone contributes to it.

How do you actively contribute to your team's cohesiveness? Share your insights and any noteworthy team-building activities you've found effective.
 

 

 

Posted by Christian Bisson on: April 01, 2024 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

3 Agile Disconnects We Need to Address

Categories: Agile

By Lynda Bourne

The never-ending debate between agile and waterfall seems to be fuelled by different groups of people talking about completely different concepts with little understanding of other’s perspectives. From my viewpoint, some of the key disconnects are:

Agile vs. Agility: In the modern VUCA[1] environment, agility is important. But organizational agility is not the same as the organization choosing to use an agile project delivery process.

Organizational agility is constrained by the nature of the organization and its assets. A major mining company cannot suddenly decide to stop mining iron ore and focus on rare earths; is has billions invested in its existing mines, and new mines take many years to bring on-line. It can refocus investments “immediately,”, but the results take decades to be fully realized?and suddenly deciding to reverse the decision in a few years’ time will waste millions. Adaptability is important, but decisions have to be nuanced.

Conversely, a small consulting business whose main asset is its people can decide to shift focus on an almost daily basis to keep up with fast moving trends?think of applying AI in almost any sphere.

However, any type of organization can choose to use an agile methodology to help deliver those projects that benefit from an inherent flexibility in working.

Agile vs. Projects: Agile methods are not exclusive to projects, and not all projects benefit from agile.

Agile methods such as Kanban and Scrum can be used for operational maintenance (particularly of software) without the overhead of project management. The maintenance team use its preferred method to prioritize the repair and upgrading of the operational system and keep track of the backlog. New requests are added to the backlog, prioritized, and completed in a stable business-as-usual function.

Where using a project approach to undertaking a defined scope of work is desirable, some projects are suitable for the use of agile methods, others are not. Most “soft” projects creating an intangible product such as software will benefit from an agile approach to development. But heavy engineering projects where safety and structural considerations are paramount need a fully planned and disciplined approach to avoid disaster.

There is a continuum from projects that are suited to agile through to those where a tightly controlled planned approach is essential. Deciding on how to best manage projects along the spectrum is as much a cultural decision as a technical one.

Non-Agile Projects vs. Waterfall: Agile advocates continue to try to divide the world into “agile = good”, “waterfall = bad”. I discussed this issue in my post “The Problem with Waterfall, Agile & ‘Other.’

The simple fact is very few software projects use waterfall; the concept was promulgated by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1988 for software development and abandoned in 1994, but some organizations have hung onto the perception of “control” for various reasons. However, outside of the software industry, no one uses waterfall.

Contrary to the view of most agile advocates, the concept of change as defined in the Agile Manifesto and change in almost all other projects is based on the same premise. From the Manifesto’s second principle: Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage. Change that destroys customer value is no more welcome in an agile project as any other.

Every contract for the delivery of a project to a client I’ve seen in the last 50 years has included clauses for the management of change. What varies is the cost of implementing the change. If you have delivered 15 out of 20 software modules and the client asks for five more, there will be time and cost implications based on the 25% increase in scope. If you have built 15 stories in a 20-story high-rise building and the client demands an additional five stories be added, the only option is to demolish everything, install stronger foundations and start again. But if the client decides to change the building color scheme from pale grey to pale blue before the paint is ordered, the cost of the change will be minimal. Regardless of the project delivery approach, change is only beneficial if it creates additional value.

Where the Agile Manifesto is of value across all project type is in its focus on relationships, people, and communication. These concepts are becoming more important in all industries and across all project types.

Conclusion
We need to move on from the “agile/waterfall” debate and recognize:

  1. An appropriate level of organizational agility is essential in the modern VUCA world.
  2. Agile project delivery methods have benefit in the right situations; they are not a silver bullet to solve all project delivery challenges.
  3. Waterfall is not a synonym for bad project management; no one uses waterfall, but there are plenty of examples of bad project management around.
  4. Good project management focuses on relationships, communication, and people by motivating the right people and using the best approaches to deliver value to the project client. But the best approach depends on the nature of the project deliverable.

What do you think?


[1] VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: February 16, 2024 06:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
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