El Malabarista

"El Malabarista" or "the juggler" is a place to talk about leadership, projects, strategy and management - and their combinations. If you are project manager and you have experience managing teams, if you know what a tight deadline means and still do not understand the analogy of "the juggler", this blog is not for you. Otherwise, I invite you to enjoy reading and leave your comments in order to enrich the discussion.

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Projects out of control: Glutton Syndrome

Agilidad para Todos

El Estado de Scrum 2017 de Scrum Alliance®

Projects out of control: Glutton Syndrome

Categories: agile, devops, operations, pmo

Let's make it clear: world of projects is wrong. A serious and painful mistake has been made for so long. Most of PMOs assume that every project must be executed if it has strategic value and there are financial resources available. Oh dear!

To prove my point I going to use a simple example. I like to use simple examples during my classes.

Let's assume you are are always hungry and ready for food. That you also enjoy good food and you are kind a glutton. One day, with the wallet full of money, you visit your favorite restaurant and realize that you cannot choose one from your five (5) favorite dishes. At that moment you decide: "I have the money and that is all what I want. I am going to buy them and eat them all."

At this point you are probably say: what the hell? The only thing I will achieve at the end of the day is an indigestion and probably a lot of wasted food.

This situation reminds me all the time the portfolios of some companies I work with. Many of those portfolios include 15, 20, 30 and even 50 mega projects. Some even have more than 1500 components in their portfolios. It could sound interesting, it could sound like a real challenge for a leader. But the sad truth is that most companies suffer from what I call the "glutton syndrome".

The origin of the problem

Usually, the problem starts with "you can buy everything with the right amount of money" mentality. This vision relies on the current economic paradigm (neoliberal and capitalist model) that strives for return on investment maximization. If a company has capital and many good challenges ahead, the company should without hesitation execute many exciting projects.

In theory, it sounds good. But, I'm a consultant so… it depends. It depends on the context where company and the project reside. Again, we need an example: let's talk about IT projects.

We are all the same people

Although it is not an exclusive problem of IT companies or divisions, I need to close the context to make the point. Many project managers, program directors and even more strategic roles within the EPMO insist on this: projects are ruled by the iron triangle - also known as Triple Constraint - so the following logic is incontrovertible:

  • Strategists define what they want to achieve.
  • Experts say how it can be achieved.
  • Someone - internal or external - structures a plan.
  • All this is priced.
  • If all parties agree, the execution begins.

You can see it clear: First scope, then a plan or schedule and finally a budget.

Again theoretically, it looks simple and correct. Even under a capacity problem, you can always outsource - right?. However, this logic has several assumptions that could be wrong. I can write a complete article on each of them, but this time, let's talk about the problem related to money and people.

Most of project managers assume that if there is money then you can get or hire the right people. IT and many other industries are a different story. There is a lack of IT talent WORLDWIDE. There is no available talent out there. There is no enough good people to work in IT areas.

You can't just go out to hire the people you need. There will be always a deep and strong dependency between the people you need in your project and those who manage and work in IT operations. For example, here in Colombia - where I'm from - there are already companies that monopolize the market and work hard to retain the best people.

It does not mean high a salary only. These companies offer beautiful offices with avant-garde designs, really nice locations surrounded by shops, restaurants or even bars. Some other companies perform simple activities such as onsite trainings, others just anti-stress activities like yoga and meditation. However, there are others that go further and make special after-work activities like BBQs or even have their own vacation plans for their employees.

But these examples are from those capturing the market. On the other side we have the other 99% of the market. Companies that cannot compete in this perks' madness. So, if that is the true about the people, why we still have PMOs saying yes to every IT project? Even with the money, companies struggle with strategy execution. Outsourcing companies suffer the same but worst, since the "competitive advantage" (if any) is based on lower rates. Can you compete with India or Venezuela? Are you willing to pay less but to expect higher quality?

Projects compete for people's time. We (people from projects and PMOs) do not like to accept it, but having the money to execute the projects does not mean that we have the ability to execute it.

What PMOs can do?

First and most important: be honest. Many times having performance metrics for projects, not including operation metrics is an EpicFail. 

It is mandatory that you, as PMO, show the impact and relation between projects performance and the operation. You cannot just ask for "written commitments" while operation is struggling or when operational demand is in rise. You have to be able to find the relation and give the C-Level the information to prioritize properly.

Any impact on the operational load will affect the performance of the projects. Isolated indicators will only show that projects suffer or are delayed. It will be a perspective issue. If operation requires an additional effort from the one was expected, the more we need to understand and replan the portfolio execution. Find and understand this link is key to PMO success.


  1. Define and use metrics for demand and to plan the capacity.
  2. Accept the fact that outsourcing companies do not solve the whole problem. They also participate on the talent war.
  3. Salary is a good, but you need to work on retention and emotional salary. You need to reduce the unmanaged attrition.
  4. There will be strategic projects and others will be just "enablers". Some projects are not the best Business Case but enable the company to attract and retain better talent. In IT for example, refactoring projects or hackathons support this idea.
  5. Be part of the talent community. Young people appreciate companies that actively participate of profession-growth activities. This culture of growth creates a "flow" that ultimately favors employees and employers.
  6. If you are part of the PMO, stop thinking that the operation is "different thing". Far from intervening the operation, help everyone - operations and projects - to see the full picture. We are all the same people.

Management models

Problem is not new. There are many ways to try to solve this problem. There are new IT management models for example like ITIL v4 and Scaled Agile Framework SAFe. There are concepts on how to organice the companies and divisions to support the "people oriented" not "money oriented" projects/operation - for example concept of Value Streams try to match money flow and teams - please forget me if it was just a super-over-simplification of the VS concept.

The idea is that you are not alone. Do not try to reinvent the wheel.

Posted on: September 04, 2019 09:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Agilidad para Todos

Categories: agile, guía, pmi

Es oficial, el próximo 6 de septiembre será liberada al público la Guía de Práctica sobre Agilidad. Esta guía es el resultado del trabajo en conjunto entre Agile Alliance® y el PMI®.

Más allá de las banderas que representa cada una de estas organizaciones, este trabajo es un primer gran paso en la consolidación de un ejercicio profesional más completo y actual.

La dirección de proyectos, vista más allá de la perspectiva de planificación anticipada (plan driven), y la agilidad más allá de los procesos y los métodos. Es un verdadero Gana-Gana para todos y acerca la agilidad a la cotidianidad de millones de líderes, coordinadores, gerentes, gestores o directores. Es lo que llamaría la democratización de la Agilidad, más allá de un marco de referencia, es una nueva mentalidad y la aceptación del valor "humano" y las relaciones entre los individuos y su impacto en la gestión de los proyectos.

Lejos de ser un documento perfecto, es el comienzo de un intenso y productivo debate sobre la dirección de proyectos y la aceptación de un mundo más "incierto" que requiere adaptación.

Los invito a todos a estar muy pendientes de su lanzamiento.


Posted on: August 09, 2017 02:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

El Estado de Scrum 2017 de Scrum Alliance®

Categories: agile, scrum

Hace algunos días fue liberado el Reporte sobre el Estado de Scrum. Este es el tercer reporte realizado por Scrum Alliance® y contiene alguna información muy interesante sobre la agilidad y la implementación de Scrum en las organizaciones.

El reporte, que es la consolidación de mas de dos mil respuestas, incluye entre sus conclusiones lo siguiente:

  • Se evidencia un tendencia de adopción más allá de los grupos de IT. Las prácticas ágiles son evaluadas e implementadas más allá del desarrollo del software y las áreas de IT, en áreas como mercadeo, ventas, finanzas y contabilidad y recursos humanos - 21% de los encuestados reconoce proyectos ágiles más fuera de las áreas de TI.
  • Mantener o mejorar la competitividad a mediano y largo es lo que más motiva la adopción de prácticas ágiles - y en particular de Scrum.
  • El factor humano y el cambio de mentalidad que reivindica a los individuos (las personas) como el centro y origen de productividad organizacional es tan importante como la agilidad misma y su consideración es determinante en una sana implementación de prácticas ágiles en las organizaciones. Valores como colaboración, empatía, transparencia, respeto, igualdad y propósito (en el trabajo) generan un impacto positivo en el ambiente de trabajo, la cultura y los niveles de satisfacción laboral.
  • La adopción de Scrum es cada día, más común y natural en las organizaciones. El estrés que produce su adopción es cada vez menor. Dentro de los factores que más tensión generan se encuentra la alineación e integración con los esquemas de gestión - que curiosamente aparece como "comando y control".
  • El rol del ScrumMaster evoluciona más y más en un rol "humano" y menos en un rol de proceso. Incluso se sugiere que el más allá del conocimiento técnico del ScrumMaster es deseable un background in ciencias sociales y humanidades.
  • Scrum es el framework más popular, no obstante cerca de dos tercios de los encuestados asegura que utilizar Scrum con "algo más". 

El reporte tiene mucha información muy valiosa e interesante para quienes disfrutamos de estos temas. Es clara la tendencia y marca un camino sobre el futuro de Scrum en las organizaciones.

No obstante es importante considerar lo siguiente (y acá esta mi opinión personal).

  1. La agilidad no es una apropiación de prácticas y depende estructuralmente del componente humano. Más allá de la agilidad, el trabajo colaborativo y respetuoso, con individuos motivados es clave para cualquier cambio organizacional.
  2. Scrum es el método más común - tal vez el más simple de entender - pero a medida que la madurez organizacional incrementa, otras prácticas más allá de Scrum son necesarias. Joshua Kerievsky de Modern Agile sugiere que "Scrum es solo un marco de referencia" y lo compara con las ruedas auxiliares de una bicicleta infantil - training wheels. La verdadera agilidad está más allá de Scrum.
  3. La evolución del Scrum Master evidencia dos tendencias. El ScrumMaster evoluciona más y más a un "facilitador / coach" organizacional que seguramente en unos años será parte clave de las unidades de talento humano en las organizaciones. El gobierno, alineación de los proyectos y métricas para seguimiento a nivel directivo representan un gran reto. Si el ScrumMaster es un Coach, quien esta a cargo de dar visibilidad a la organización sobre la inversión y el retorno - creo que esta no ha sido nunca función del ScrumMaster. Este es un verdadero reto al escalar y cada organización debe buscar como estructurar el gobierno de los proyectos.

Interesante el reporte y más interesante son las conclusiones que uno podría sacar cruzando este informe con otros informes como State of Agile de VersionOne® y el Pulso de la Profesión de PMI®. 

Posted on: July 11, 2017 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

"He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever."

- Chinese Proverb



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