Cartographie agile de la Gestion des Produits – Agile Grenoble 2011

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Mapping Out Agile Product Management – Agile Portugal 2011

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Cartographie agile pour la Gestion des Produits – Agile France 2011

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Garbage in, Garbage Out

GarbageInGarbageOut

New Hampshire, USA © 2008 MackAdams.org

For most things, a good indication of how things are going to end, is how they start. There are exceptions, like horse races; or terrible dinners made of the finest ingredients. To steal from the economists’ dictionary, it’s a “strong leading indicator.”

More so, in the realm of business and technology projects, this is an even tighter correlation between project kick-off and close. In my years of experience, I have a hard time recalling a time where a project started like a fire drill, and ended like a choir recital. It just doesn’t happen.

More bluntly – garbage in, garbage out. Continue reading

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Paint By Numbers for Product Managers

Monet's Garden, Giverny, France © 2011 MackAdams.org

It was all so easy back when completing your work meant following a simple set of numbers, with a simple set of colours, and voila – a picture was ready to be posted on the fridge door.  “A beautiful oil painting the first time you try,” espoused the tag line on the Craft Master kit.

If only product management were that kind of easy.

At the best of times, a Product Manager has very murky numbers, if they’re lucky, to help decide priorities and which box to paint next.  Then, instead of small set of coloured paints, with a brush, it’s a hulking great team of engineers, analysts, managers and testers to carry out your handy-work.

Good luck with that Monet reproduction.

One thing for sure is that if the Product Manager does not know which box to paint next, his team craftspeople certainly won’t know any better.  More so, without numbers, it’s really hard for the Product Manager to decide which box to paint next.

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Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest leader of them all?

MirrorMirrorOnTheWall

Calgary, Alberta, Canada © 2011 MackAdams.org

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

“Those guys in “software development/R&D/product development” never seem to get it right.  What do we need to do to fix them?”

“Have you heard of this agile thing?”

“Yah, it’s all over the place now.  We should get some of that and sort them out.”

And so the cycle of ‘Us fixing Them’ continues.  Often this ‘us vs them’ is a function of the power structure in an organization.  As in, the higher ups, fix the further downs.

Now, whether the tonic du jour is agile or some other process methodology, this meta-pattern will undoubtedly continue.  My experience working with agile change efforts is merely one incarnation of this.

So, if you are any kind of ‘higher-up-manager-leader-type’, before you start prescribing any solutions, I would suggest taking a long, hard look in the mirror, and ask if you are in fact the fairest leader of them all. Continue reading

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El Facilitatór

La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas - Corrida

La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, Madrid, Spain © 2008 Cameron Green

The scene is set…

You find yourself in a tightly enclosed space with nowhere to run.

All eyes are on you with the glare of bright lights in your face.

Over 2000 pounds of flesh is ready to run you over should you not get out of the way at just the right time.

There’s only your deft maneuvers, skilled feints, quiet shuffles and colourful distractions to keep you from being unceremoniously gored.

Olé.

Does this sound like centre stage at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid while staring down an angry Miura bull?

Not so much in my case.  More like the large conference room on the 3rd floor with the sign above it that says “Project Chartering Workshop.”

And, instead of a one-ton bull with pointy horns, it’s a dozen or so product management, engineering and sales people with sharp agendas.

Enter, El Facilitatór.

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A Snail Trail of Post-It Notes

© 3M Beauchamp, France

For years now, I’ve been a big proponent of visualizing work.  In the software development space, this can look like regular demos of software with each increment of work.  Or, when elucidating scope or running projects, it looks like a big visible charts or maps of activities splattered across otherwise dormant walls.  Even when I’m developing financial models or business plans, I shamelessly draw on Tufte or Minard to provide compelling visual artifacts that not only present, but reinforce, the data being displayed.  From data, to information, to impact.

For my money, the easiest, cheapest and most portable approach for visualizing work comes in the form of the friendly Post-It Note. I’ve described my penchant for Post-Its as akin to that of the lowly garden snail.  Everywhere I go, I leave a trail of Post-Its slimed across the wall, clearly identifying where I’ve been working.  Even in today’s hyper techmology world, there still isn’t quite an App For That.

However, when I’m working with this metier, two questions often pop into my mind…

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Please, Not Another Machiavelli Quote…

Pantheon, Rome, Italy © 2010 MackAdams.org

The business world loves taking old quotes from Chinese emperors, European monarchs or wartime legends, and applying them to modern day business situations.

I am no exception.

I marvel at the poignant nature of these time-tested phrases that have stood tall over centuries.  No doubt the thread keeping them relevant is that humanity remains involved, with only the backdrop having really shifted

Machiavelli is a particular favourite of mine, and here’s why, as he discusses the ‘New Order of Things’ in Chapter VI of The Prince…

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Running Workshops, not ‘Present-shops’

Furniture Workshop, San Francisco © 2010 MackAdams.org

When breaking down the word ‘Workshop’ it seems fairly clear there are two elements.  ‘Work’ and ‘shop.’ Perhaps the most important conclusion of this poignant analysis, is the lack of the word present, as in, a Present-shop.

However, this second term exists, even though it may not be named outright.  Many a workshop are really a series of presentations dressed up under the ruse of actual work.  Undoubtedly, real work went into making the presentations, but the level of engagement in a Present-shop is often low.  Topics are presented, heads nod, light discussion ensues, and then on to the next presentation.

In order to really get the value for a Workshop, it does not necessarily take more work, but certainly a different kind of work.

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