Be clear about what “done” means.Those who have worked in Agile teams know that the concept of “Definition of Done” (DoD) is one of the core components to the Agile team. When I was working with one team helping to launch a project and discussing the way we were going to work, I brought up the subject of the team coming up with the DoD. They said, in effect, that’s not something they need to do since they always use the same definition.
This may be a good idea from an operational perspective, but not necessarily a good idea on projects. If we don’t go over it with the team at the start of each project/sprint/scrum we miss the opportunity to trigger a response of something recognized that’s unique to those stories or deliverables we are committed to complete. Eachtime we have an opportunity to review for the uniqueness of our project deliverables, besides, it’s a great opportunity to get to know the team even that much better.
Which brings me to the heart of what this saying truly means to me. In order to truly become an effective PM, we should have a team that holds itself accountable for delivery. We use terms such as “self-directing” and “self-correcting” teams to describe this approach. I like to think of this in two different approaches, the micro and the macro inspection
- Micro-inspection: These are the one-on-one engagements or individual discussions we have as team members going over the project work. In doing so we make sure we are fully done, as in the updates are correct and complete. In project teams I’ve always found it’s best to have two sets of eyes on all deliverables, either teaming to create the deliverable (big fan of paired programming). The team members naturally inspect each other’s work, but all within the context of team collaboration.As for my micro-inspections it may be a simple as making sure the document is checked back in, or the updates have been published. If not, then
- Macro-inspection: Team reviews – regular reviews of the project work can always be a very helpful thing to make sure the team stays on track. In Agile this is a key component to your scrum as you are aware of yours and your team member’s work through techniques like osmotic communications (information flows among the team members in the background).In virtual settings this needs to be much more intentionally managed. There are some great tools that are emerging to encourage collaboration in the virtual setting (I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Teams) and the best is yet to come!
In both micro-inspection and macro-inspection the goal is the same. That is, to ensure the work is both correct and complete so that we are comfortable there is a high probability it will be accepted by the customer. The more this is worked into the team norms and behaviors the less the burden falls on the project manager to do the inspections themselves.
For your current project teams, how are you implementing your inspections? Do you feel like you are having to inspect everything? Are the team members avoiding, or ducking your questions? Do they understand what “DONE” looks like? As a project manager I struggle with these questions regularly. When and how to “check up” on the team member is a delicate balance between displaying trust or lack of trust. In fact, if we are to be trustworthy it will require us to trust the team. The best approach to creating an engagement of trust is to involve the team in the process of ensuring the project is delivering quality products. Which brings us to…
Quality is job #1. Why would an organization invest in project management? If you have more than a couple years in project management you’ve probably heard the criticism of project management in that it’s too process heavy or slows the organization down. Personally, I’ve been a part of three separate PMOs in my career that were significantly downsized or even eliminated. The reason management took that action was because the PMOs were not perceived to add value. In other words, management was unwilling to continue the investment because the returns were just not there.
What did those PMOs lose sight of? There was a common denominator in all three that they attempted to implement an enterprise project management solution and tried to do so in a way they would never allow any other project to proceed. But that was the symptom of the larger problem. In every case they became so hyper-focused on forcing a standard methodology on every project regardless of complexity. I like to say, they felt the process was the value they were providing. However, that runs at odds with key component of the definition of a project – a unique endeavor.
Our value is not in the processes we follow, our value is if the customer receives a project that is of higher quality as to scope, schedule and cost than they would have if the project manager wasn’t in place. This is the trust that’s placed in us. I knew the end was coming with those PMOs when I was simply filling out a bunch of forms to keep the process beast fed but managed the teams in a way that shielded them from all the demands of the PMO. To this day I feel like one of the best compliments I received in the aftermath of a PMO being dissolved and being hired into a business unit for … project management … was “PMOs don’t add any value but I like what you do”.
What did I do to get that reaction? The customer in that case felt like they were getting value for their investment in project management. What was the value? Doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. That’s the best definition of project controls that I can find. In fact, the way we work can be any number of practices or approaches, however controls are not optional. It is in inspecting the deliverables that controls ensure the right thing was done in the right way at the right time. That means we, as project managers will be inspecting regularly, as we engage the team in a self-correcting way. Let’s practice the behaviors as PMs to ensure quality in our deliverables – the whole reason we are hired in the first place!
If you are enjoying this series we’d love to hear from you at Projects by Design! Send us an email at email@example.com or leave a comment on this post. In our next article we’ll cover the learning that “Bad news doesn’t get better with time.” Looking forward to it!