Thank you for your comments on my last post about interviewing for a new job and relocation to Europe! I
have joined my new team and became fairly busy for the last couple of months. Starting a new job can be easily overwhelming, it involves not only the new processes and organization to learn, but also to build your network, dive into the company culture and keeping up with existing teams. How to restore the work-life balance then?
My assignments can be characterized as management of large organizational changes and as such is never done. My to do list is always full and I could easily stay occupied from early morning till late hours every day. But that is not what is happening. As mother of three kids, I see reaching a work life balance as a must.
I also realize a lot of pressure on women, particularly mothers, who want to provide their care to their families and at the same time to keep up with their career and develop professionally. Unfortunately they are often facing unwanted judgmental comments whether they are dedicated either enough to their families or to their jobs. I’ve been there. But after all that does not matter as long as you’re able to find the balance that makes YOU happy!
I would like to share few tricks that may help.
Set boundaries to manage your time
My experience is that once I mentally admit to myself that I can work long hours, evenings or weekend, it happens in a second. Any free space in my time that I’m willing to dedicate to work is immediately filled up. How to get out of this? Set yourself boundaries and keep your spare time for urgent matters only. Treat them as exception, not a standard. It is hard, requires a lot of self-discipline, but it is definitely helping.
Delegate and orchestrate rather than manage and control
Centralized decision making creates bottlenecks. Is it easier to save discussions and just do it by yourself? In certain situations for sure. Does coaching and mentoring your team consume time and energy? Yes indeed. But from a long term perspective, empowered teams not only foster intrinsic motivation of the team members and deliver better results, it also helps people to grow professionally and increase their skill maturity. All these aspects then ultimately helps to manage the workload.
Prioritize and minimize number of your work in progress items
When it comes to prioritizing and delivering items on the to-do list, I use approach borrowed from agile practices – focus on the necessary things to avoid gold-plating, create the outputs when they are needed and gather early and often feedback from your stakeholders to adjust quickly and prevent rework.
It is necessary to admit that certain things will never get done. Not because you skip them due to the lack of time. The reason often is that priorities change over time, stakeholder requirements are altered after seeing a first draft or certain discussed concepts are later abandoned after digging in more detail. Keeping you to-do list verified with your stakeholders helps to spending time on items that are really critical for success and overall helps you to deliver the right outcomes.
What is your experience with seeking work-life balance? Looking forward to hear your tips!
SAFe is currently the leading framework for implementation of large scale agile approach. What is it about?
I recently took a course and certification exam for one of the SAFe framework roles. I took me a while to decide if I want to go this way, I’ve heard both good and bad feedback and I was not sure if it’s worth it. So I did some research, connected with experts coming from practical experience and asked questions here on the discussion forum to hear your opinions. At the end I’m very happy that I decided to go for it.
These are my main, personal learning points:
As much as agile approach suggests lean, lightweight methods, you can’t avoid dealing with high level complexity on enterprise-wide level. Even the most skilled and empowered team need to know what direction to follow to create a customer value. Such direction should come from the company strategy. But here comes the real life, it takes a long way to translate strategic vision into specific projects that are sized to fit small agile teams. The virtue of large scale agile approach is not about mastering Kanban, XP or Scrum, it is about maintaining the two-way flow of communication between corporate strategic decisions and IT projects.
SAFe framework does not really provide revolutionary ideas. After digging into the detail you would probably realize that you’ve heard a bit about most of its aspects. But that’s totally fine with me. SAFe combines several methods together and provides comprehensive view from the top to the team level. Some of the applied methods are adjusted and it’s all connected together to enable strategic alignment with IT projects execution in a way, that supports fast and frequent deliveries of a software product.
I don’t really see a way around IT architecture and infrastructure when aiming at agile software delivery. Principles that are the heart of SAFe, such as continuous integration, automated testing or deployment decoupled from release, relies heavily on software tools and characteristics of information systems you are dealing with. It makes a difference if you’re developing a modular product such as web application, if the goal is to automate processes executed in legacy ERP systems or if the company aims to build a competence in IoT where physical products are involved.
I asked and this was the answer, at least 3 years. I’m not surprised because to put this whole model in a large company requires a lot of discipline, long-term commitments and ability to deliver cross functional changes that involves large number of people (hundreds to thousands), technology and company culture.
I believe there will be more and more discussions about large scale agile transformations. At the end we have to treat it as any other organizational transformation with all of its aspects and complexity. There is never a single method that would solve it all and the key is to cover the organization head to toe.
My most recent experience with project management is in non-profit environment where all of our team members are volunteers. Working with volunteers on long term assignments bring many specific challenges and opportunities yet I believe there are principles that may be transferred to a corporate world to benefit both individuals and companies.
Selection of the project management approach
The decision to select agile project management methods was easy. Purpose of our work was to realize a new product vision. We needed to keep flexibility, create ability to adjust quickly and manage progress by learning market feedback.
Another reason came from nature of volunteering - volunteers may leave the project any moment, so we needed to manage the work by assigning small, understandable tasks within short time intervals (sprints) that required minimum oversight and were possible to be completed shortly.
“Agility plays a central role in the organization of the future, as companies race to replace structural hierachies with networks of teams empowered to action”, 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Study.
We would not have a chance to finish our project without agile approach. Companies seem to have a choice and that may slow them down. Is it possible to see any new product release or upgrade as a task for empowered, self-sufficient team that wants to succeed while not relying on a big company behind their back?
Motivation and engagement of the team members
Our whole team consisted of volunteers. Volunteers dedicate portion of their free time to give back to communities and support their cause. They are driven by their passion and willingness to learn new things. They are also professionals who are glad to acquire new skills and use their expertise and experience to make the project a success.
Employees in organizations are indeed not volunteers. They operate within their range of responsibilities, yet they are expected to deliver innovations and continuously improve their operating processes. How to unlock potential of employees and support their professional growth within an organization? We’ve used a free volunteering marketplace to offer professionals to learn new skills, get practical experience and grow with us. Our project culture is open minded, transparent and empowering.
True talent development in a corporate environment should not be different, it requires to take the risk and enable employees to try new tasks and step outside their comfort zone. I like this example of large organization change, source McKinsey interview with ING leadership management on their agile transformation:
“We requested everyone to reapply for a position in the new organization. This selection process was intense, with a higher weighting for culture and mind-sets than knowledge or experience.... nearly 40 percent are in a different position to the job they were in previously.”
Non-profit organizations and corporations don’t seem to have much in common, but that’s just the first sight. Both models seek operating efficiency, results, effective dealing with limited resources and delivering innovation to better serve their customers or communities.
Thanks for reading this!