Change, Agility and the Elusive 'Typical Project'

From "mine" to "ours" - shifting away from the white-knuckled grip of ownership, towards both personal and team accountability.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

Communicating My Journey is a Challenge

Personal Career Transformation - Change is Everything

Good ideas can come from bad ideas

Nothing New Under the Sun

"You Can Buy a Man's Time..."

Communicating My Journey is a Challenge

I wrote about getting started on a new journey… I was going to document my challenges and successes along the way, reach out for advice, and bring all of you along for the ride.

I failed.

That failure gave me a practical look into what I’ve been doing.

First things first, thank you to everyone who commented and supported me on my first post. The advice was great, I took it (sometimes with modifications, and always with gratitude), and it worked. From that moment on, the pace of my change went into hyperdrive.

It was a great feeling and a LOT of work. I created service models and resource plans, job descriptions and expansion timelines. I created and socialized templates and processes. I spoke with my leadership, HR, and my network of friends and colleagues.

As is often the case, I started doing the new job… while doing my old job. I’m still doing both jobs because the transition is still in progress.

Through this experience, the first thing to fall off of my plate was communication. I am literally creating a team to help others communicate, and I forgot to do it myself.

In the words of Alice on her adventures in Wonderland, “'I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”  

As I came to my realization, I’ve planned two follow up actions.

  1. Write this update.
  2. Create my own experience as a use case for encouraging others to get communication and change management support, so they can focus on the core project.

Clearly the update is getting written (as I write!), and the use case is underway (just a heap of notes and lessons learned for now).

I hope to be more effective with my own communication in the future. Part of my use case is that I’m trying out the templates and processes I’ve been developing – I won’t ask or expect anyone to trust me until I’ve validated my own work!

Thank you all – additional feedback is always welcome, and will always be accepted with gratitude.

Posted on: April 11, 2018 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Personal Career Transformation - Change is Everything

I haven’t written in a while. I changed jobs last summer, and in the process I stopped blogging. Alas. These things happen.

I went to a company that’s well-established and still growing. That growth has been exponential over the past few years, and now the organization is in a phase of getting comfortable with its new size and reach. There is a lot of churn, a lot of change… the very definition of VUCA.

It can be scary and confusing, but all of this churn and change is just another way of saying “there’s a lot of opportunity.” Who doesn’t love opportunity?!

My first week

I’m a Project Manager, and my new role in a new company was just that. I came in to support a growing startup division that had just been getting underway within the parent company. In my first day, I was in a meeting where I learned that this new division had just been funded… pretty much the day before. This was a very startup-ish situation.

The parent organization was already far more established, but the impacts of non-stop growth were leading to some changes there as well. PMs were being collected and reorganized into a newly formed IT PMO, new tools and processes were rolled out all over IT, all of IT realigned to support the business.

Overall, I had walked into an office in a constant state of flux. It was awesome.

Identifying the gap

As a PM, I was able to bring some structure and process to the new division. I also helped the newly forming PMO develop consistent templates and processes. We rolled out new tools and processes, shared ideas, and worked hard to deliver the most value to our stakeholders.

These choices were thought through and helpful, and most of all they improved our efficiency and our relationships with stakeholders. All of this is great. All of which leads to… more change.

I was only a couple of weeks into all of this when I saw that the implementations were rolling out well, but the rest of the changes were coming along more slowly. There was a gap in the organization from a change management perspective, which is pretty common in these situations.

Perhaps it was kismet or just dumb luck, but just as the company would benefit from change management, someone showed up who wanted to do just that.

Making it work

I’m now in the process of building a discipline in Change Management and Communication. It’s new and mostly happening in my spare time (it’s my nights-and-weekends job), but there is definite traction. This is new and strange for me too, and I’ll probably post a lot more about this over the coming months. I’ll also reach out for advice from the great minds out there on, LinkedIn, Twitter, wherever.

What I’ve learned so far

Project Management is incredibly useful. As a discipline, it’s broader than most.  I use the skills in the IT department, but also when I plan a vacation, buy a car, create Marketing workflows, and so much more. And now, I’m using the skills twofold:

  1. To plan how to build a discipline (and eventually a department) from scratch.
  2. To create structure and process to support Change Management and Communication.

It’s exciting and scary and new, and I will share the journey with all of you (and ask for your help A LOT along the way!) In fact, let’s start there…

What advice do you have as I embark on this adventure? What Lessons Learned can you share? What challenges have you faced on similar journeys? I want to hear from you!

Posted on: March 13, 2018 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Good ideas can come from bad ideas

A great approach to problem solving - I appreciate the Side Kick approach discussed in this article. As PMs (or as Scrum Masters) we solve problems, remove roadblocks, and support our teams as much as possible. Ayse Birsel's article brings up interesting ideas on how to prepare for the worst.

Posted on: October 06, 2017 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Nothing New Under the Sun

Let’s see if you’ve heard this before in your office.

“Business people don’t understand anything about technology!”

“Why can’t IT deliver faster?”

“Leadership needs to share their vision!”

“IT just needs to do what they’re told, they don’t understand the business!”

And this gem of a conversation:

Business: “When is my project going to get done? I need to know what to plan for the marketing email.”

IT: “We need to define your requirements to get a date. What exactly do you need?”

Business: “How can I plan what I’ll need if I don’t know when I’ll get it?”

IT: “How can I tell when you’ll get it if I don’t know what you want us to build?”

The truth is that we all have the same basic challenges when it comes to projects. The struggle between clear requirements and value statements, accurate estimates and completion dates is ongoing.

Every company I’ve worked for (which I admit is not many comparatively) has had these issues, these discussions. And every company I’ve worked for has argued at some point that the conventional wisdom of the industry works great for everyone else, but “we’re special, we’re different, we’ll need to try something new.”

Months (maybe years) go by, consultants are consulted, in-house resources spin up special cross-functional analysis teams, leadership weighs in… and in the end everyone comes to the consensus that the conventional wisdom really is the way to go – maybe they should have just started there and made a few tweaks to align with organizational specifics.

So why can’t we learn from the best practices of others?

I don’t have an answer here – but I do know that in every case that I’ve experienced, there is an individual or a small group of people pushing for the quick and simple approach from the beginning.

Often they’re too low level to be heard, which is to the detriment of the company. Leadership teams are great, but they’re pretty far removed from the actual work that keeps things going. The further down an org chart you get, the more likely you are to find small, practical solutions to real problems.

Some blogs offer advice or answers – this one raises questions.

  • How do you make yourself heard, when you know your approach or idea has merit?
  • How do you influence, regardless of your role or position?

When I find myself in this position, I try to remember: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead 

Posted on: September 19, 2017 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

"You Can Buy a Man's Time..."

Categories: People

“You can buy a man's time, you can buy a man's physical presence at a certain place, you can even buy a measured number of skilled muscular motions per hour or day. But you cannot buy enthusiasm, you cannot buy initiative, you cannot buy loyalty; you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, and souls. You have to earn these things.”

― Clarence Francis

Posted on: July 03, 2017 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

"Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans."

- John Lennon