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3 Agile management Techniques That Will Get The Most From Your Team

For 21st century business, it’s not enough to hire smart people.  Everyone does.  And if success was driven solely by talent, expert managers in business wouldn’t be as critical as coaches are in sport. Consider football. Manchester United owns a commanding lead in resources, allowing it to hire the world’s best players. Nevertheless, it lags behind no less than twelve other clubs. But given the wealth of talent at their collective disposal, any of the top twenty teams could dominate--with the right coaching. Indeed, at that level, every player is talented and everyone’s a star; what sets a team apart is its cohesion, its communication, and its creativity on the pitch. In other words, what separates the best from the rest is management and coaching. An expert coach can wring more from less, multiply the effect of talent and cooperation, and lead a skilled team to success. We think this is as true for business as it is for football. As trendwatchers, we know that the future of business is as much about people as technology. Our research tells us that the future is defined by small, flexible, elite teams brought together from around the world. But it’s how these teams are managed, that is, how they’re enabled, encouraged, and empowered, that will separate winners from losers in the harsh realities of 21st century competition. Agile project management (APM) and APM methods using Scrum, lean software development, and disciplined agile delivery, among others--are taking business, and not just software development, into the future. But to make the most of these management innovations, business leaders need to rethink a basic principle of the Agile manifesto that drove this paradigm shift: “people and interactions over processes and tools.”  Unfortunately, the focus on iteration and sprints, ScrumMasters and waste elimination, backlog refinement and risk assessment, too often overshadow the importance of the flesh-and-blood team and its emotional, sometimes messy, interactions. It’s not enough to break a project into iterations, accept that long-range planning and forecasting will be inaccurate, embrace flexibility, and take the necessary steps to minimise distractions and maximise output.  The true masters of APM are those who recognise that putting people and their problems first is the path to success. What do we mean? If a manager adopts the methods of APM but continues to micro-manage, time-track, and see team-members as ‘workflow resources,’ even the most elite team will consistently underperform. Instead, the project manager of the future needs to see her team much like an elite unit of special forces commandos. They have the talent, the skill, and the know-how to complete the project; her job is to free them to do it, to motivate them to work hard, and to manage problems such that the team--and every person in it--is empowered to do their best work. Let’s look at four 21st century management techniques that every PM needs to embrace. 1) Stop time tracking and focus on results “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” Anything that diminishes productivity is bad business. Anything that endangers the quality of the product is intolerable. Keep in mind, then, that very few people subject to time tracking like it. 19th and 20th century management technique were obsessed with control, and time tracking software is just a new gloss on an old insult. Managers who don’t trust their employees love it, as do the productivity obsessed, though counterintuitively, their choice of method makes it harder to achieve. As forward-thinking PMs know, it’s not lots of work, but rather smart work that brings the best results. You don’t care if your team takes frequent breaks, leaves early on Friday, or make jokes while they work. And the path to creative solutions often invites strange, undocumentable side-trips.  You don’t confine race horses to improve their speed and you don’t time track Navy SEALs; you turn them loose! Time tracking is like quicksand for creative energy. As Laura Slack, the “Productivity Pro,” explained to Fast Company, “Why are we wasting time figuring out how much time we’re wasting? [...] People are spending far more time creating these elaborate systems than it would have taken just to do the task. You’re constantly on your app refiguring, recalculating, recategorizing.” Effective managers care about results, and to get them, there are more effective, more ‘people-centric,’ methods. Slack’s advice is to rethink productivity by providing your team with uninterrupted space (and no multitasking!) in which to accomplish critical tasks. She also recommends that PMs prioritise tasks and communicate this ranking clearly. The exception, of course, is when a project requires tracking billable hours. In that case, tracking the amount of time spent on a task makes sense. 2) Solicit solutions “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” Telling employees what to do is poor management. Instead, rely on their expertise and creativity. APM, after all, is driven by self-organising teams. Its basic logic is that the team is capable of a great deal of self-management, and thus, that the purpose of the project manager is to free the team to do its thing.  But how often is this strategic advantage recognised? How often is organisation imposed from above, dropped on a team like a lead weight?  Instead, encourage creative thinking by allowing your people to identify problems and propose their own solutions. This requires that managers take a step back, relinquish control, and build trust and open communication. Another way to encourage bottom-up, self-organisation is to communicate tasks and allow team members to decide for themselves who’ll take them on. They know what they’re good at, what they enjoy, and with whom they work most effectively. Your job as a PM is to facilitate, not regulate, empower not restrict. 3) Provide immediate, substantive feedback “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” The annual review is dead. Young employees, especially millennials, crave more constant feedback. They want to know in real-time if something can be improved, and if they’ve done good work, they expect praise just as quickly. As Joanna Sinclair, writing for Aalto University Executive Education Program warns, “If you wait until a project is finished to offer criticism – even constructive criticism – you are the one to blame, not the person whose efforts you feel did not meet expectations.” Effective feedback is as near to real-time as you can make it. But it depends on trust, transparency, and sometimes painful levels of honesty. “You need to be the first to come out and admit mistakes,” explains Marko Parkkinen, the CEO of Seedi Solutions Agency and an expert on the emotional aspects of business. “Transparency and honesty are not only refreshing; in my mind, they mark winners. It takes guts and shows character to admit you made a mistake and not wait to see if someone picks up on it.” For tomorrow’s managers, this demands rethinking how they view mistakes and excuses. The former are nearly always valuable, the latter never are. But this isn’t license to be hard on your team; be hard on yourself and easy on them. Help people be happy and they’ll be productive In short, if your team is happy they’ll work hard. Agile project management demands a lot from its small teams. It’s high stress, hard work, and demandingly creative. And while the path to success may seem to be paved by workflow processes, it’s actually people and their feelings that show the way forward.  

3 Agile management Techniques That Will Get The Most From Your Team

249
3 Agile management Techniques That Will Get The Most From Your Team

For 21st century business, it’s not enough to hire smart people. 

Everyone does. 

And if success was driven solely by talent, expert managers in business wouldn’t be as critical as coaches are in sport. Consider football. Manchester United owns a commanding lead in resources, allowing it to hire the world’s best players. Nevertheless, it lags behind no less than twelve other clubs. But given the wealth of talent at their collective disposal, any of the top twenty teams could dominate--with the right coaching. Indeed, at that level, every player is talented and everyone’s a star; what sets a team apart is its cohesion, its communication, and its creativity on the pitch.

In other words, what separates the best from the rest is management and coaching. An expert coach can wring more from less, multiply the effect of talent and cooperation, and lead a skilled team to success.

We think this is as true for business as it is for football.

As trendwatchers, we know that the future of business is as much about people as technology. Our research tells us that the future is defined by small, flexible, elite teams brought together from around the world. But it’s how these teams are managed, that is, how they’re enabled, encouraged, and empowered, that will separate winners from losers in the harsh realities of 21st century competition.

Agile project management (APM) and APM methods using Scrum, lean software development, and disciplined agile delivery, among others--are taking business, and not just software development, into the future. But to make the most of these management innovations, business leaders need to rethink a basic principle of the Agile manifesto that drove this paradigm shift: “people and interactions over processes and tools.” 

Unfortunately, the focus on iteration and sprints, ScrumMasters and waste elimination, backlog refinement and risk assessment, too often overshadow the importance of the flesh-and-blood team and its emotional, sometimes messy, interactions. It’s not enough to break a project into iterations, accept that long-range planning and forecasting will be inaccurate, embrace flexibility, and take the necessary steps to minimise distractions and maximise output. 

The true masters of APM are those who recognise that putting people and their problems first is the path to success.

What do we mean?

If a manager adopts the methods of APM but continues to micro-manage, time-track, and see team-members as ‘workflow resources,’ even the most elite team will consistently underperform. Instead, the project manager of the future needs to see her team much like an elite unit of special forces commandos. They have the talent, the skill, and the know-how to complete the project; her job is to free them to do it, to motivate them to work hard, and to manage problems such that the team--and every person in it--is empowered to do their best work.

Let’s look at four 21st century management techniques that every PM needs to embrace.

1) Stop time tracking and focus on results

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”

Anything that diminishes productivity is bad business. Anything that endangers the quality of the product is intolerable.

Keep in mind, then, that very few people subject to time tracking like it. 19th and 20th century management technique were obsessed with control, and time tracking software is just a new gloss on an old insult. Managers who don’t trust their employees love it, as do the productivity obsessed, though counterintuitively, their choice of method makes it harder to achieve.

As forward-thinking PMs know, it’s not lots of work, but rather smart work that brings the best results. You don’t care if your team takes frequent breaks, leaves early on Friday, or make jokes while they work. And the path to creative solutions often invites strange, undocumentable side-trips. 

You don’t confine race horses to improve their speed and you don’t time track Navy SEALs; you turn them loose!

Time tracking is like quicksand for creative energy. As Laura Slack, the “Productivity Pro,” explained to Fast Company, “Why are we wasting time figuring out how much time we’re wasting? [...] People are spending far more time creating these elaborate systems than it would have taken just to do the task. You’re constantly on your app refiguring, recalculating, recategorizing.”

Effective managers care about results, and to get them, there are more effective, more ‘people-centric,’ methods. Slack’s advice is to rethink productivity by providing your team with uninterrupted space (and no multitasking!) in which to accomplish critical tasks. She also recommends that PMs prioritise tasks and communicate this ranking clearly.

The exception, of course, is when a project requires tracking billable hours. In that case, tracking the amount of time spent on a task makes sense.

2) Solicit solutions

“The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”

Telling employees what to do is poor management. Instead, rely on their expertise and creativity. APM, after all, is driven by self-organising teams. Its basic logic is that the team is capable of a great deal of self-management, and thus, that the purpose of the project manager is to free the team to do its thing. 

But how often is this strategic advantage recognised? How often is organisation imposed from above, dropped on a team like a lead weight? 

Instead, encourage creative thinking by allowing your people to identify problems and propose their own solutions. This requires that managers take a step back, relinquish control, and build trust and open communication.

Another way to encourage bottom-up, self-organisation is to communicate tasks and allow team members to decide for themselves who’ll take them on. They know what they’re good at, what they enjoy, and with whom they work most effectively. Your job as a PM is to facilitate, not regulate, empower not restrict.

3) Provide immediate, substantive feedback

“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

The annual review is dead. Young employees, especially millennials, crave more constant feedback. They want to know in real-time if something can be improved, and if they’ve done good work, they expect praise just as quickly. As Joanna Sinclair, writing for Aalto University Executive Education Program warns, “If you wait until a project is finished to offer criticism – even constructive criticism – you are the one to blame, not the person whose efforts you feel did not meet expectations.”

Effective feedback is as near to real-time as you can make it. But it depends on trust, transparency, and sometimes painful levels of honesty. “You need to be the first to come out and admit mistakes,” explains Marko Parkkinen, the CEO of Seedi Solutions Agency and an expert on the emotional aspects of business. “Transparency and honesty are not only refreshing; in my mind, they mark winners. It takes guts and shows character to admit you made a mistake and not wait to see if someone picks up on it.”

For tomorrow’s managers, this demands rethinking how they view mistakes and excuses. The former are nearly always valuable, the latter never are. But this isn’t license to be hard on your team; be hard on yourself and easy on them.

Help people be happy and they’ll be productive
In short, if your team is happy they’ll work hard. Agile project management demands a lot from its small teams. It’s high stress, hard work, and demandingly creative. And while the path to success may seem to be paved by workflow processes, it’s actually people and their feelings that show the way forward.
 

KnowledgeHut

KnowledgeHut

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KnowledgeHut is an outcome-focused global ed-tech company. We help organizations and professionals unlock excellence through skills development. We offer training solutions under the people and process, data science, full-stack development, cybersecurity, future technologies and digital transformation verticals.
Website : https://www.knowledgehut.com

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One thing that all Agile teams have in common is their capacity to have fun while they work.  are creative, flexible and think out of the box; and working on an Agile team is a far cry from working on a dreary, process-heavy waterfall project. By building in collaborative team activities and doing away with excessive documentation and rigid mandates, Agile team members are always on their toes and passionate about their work.  One of the innovative ways in which they work is by planning Poker, a consensus-based game that helps to arrive at estimates and work out timelines for releases. Let’s find out how to play Poker!  What Is Planning Poker? Definition and Process‘Planning Poker® is the secure, fun way for agile teams to guide sprint planning and build accurate consensus estimates.’ - planningpoker.com  There’s no doubting it; Agile estimation is very hard. A project in which the requirements are continually changing is definitely going to have volatility in terms of timeframes, budgets and schedules. How, then, can the team chalk out a roadmap and figure out milestones and releases? Arguably the most popular way to estimating schedules on an Agile project, Planning Poker is a technique that allows each team member to weigh in on the planning process for each user story.  Here’s how the process plays out: The team uses a deck of Planning Poker cards which have values printed on one side, say  0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40 and 100. These values represent the units in which the team will be carrying out the estimation, which could be (for example) story points or ideal days. The Product Owner describes a feature that needs to be developed. The team asks doubts, discusses the feature and gets the required clarity. Each estimator holds a set of Planning Poker cards and selects one card in private. The number on this card will indicate their estimate for the work on the feature. They place the card face down on the table. All the cards are revealed at the same time, so that no one is influenced by another person’s decision. If everyone has the same value, that is chosen as the estimate.  If not, outliers are discussed, and another round of estimation is carried out. This process is continued till the team arrives at a consensus for the estimate. The estimates for subsequent features are taken up one by one, in a similar manner. Common PitfallsThe process is not completely intuitive, and while it is simple it could take a newbie some time to get used to the concept. Teams that are new will, therefore, often fall short of the estimate or go too long. However, with experience they will be able to arrive at more accurate estimates. For a sprint with many features, this process could take longer than expected as each estimate might run into multiple rounds of consensus building. If there is one experienced member who is very dominating, he or she might lead the discussions and quell the opinions of others on the team (who might be saying the right thing but might not be heard). Again, this method does not always work well with distributed teams, as for the process to work well, they should ideally be in a face-to-face session. If the story is not fleshed out well, the estimate might not be accurate.Expected BenefitsThe most significant advantage of Planning Poker is that every team member’s voice is heard. This increases team morale and build the right rapport. The group gets into the rhythm of discussing and collaborating on the project, which will hold them in good stead for the rest of the journey. These discussions help to give clarity on the features to be built, and dispel any ambiguity around the user stories. This ‘game’ builds commitment and accountability. As each team member has contributed to the estimate, they will work toward achieving it wholeheartedly. Last but not least, Planning Poker is fun!  Agile Estimation – Relative Vs AbsolutMost of us are used to absolute estimates. Let’s take an example. If you’re asked, for instance, how long you would take to walk three rounds of a park, you’d probably say that you can walk one round at a brisk pace in 8 minutes. You are not going to tell them your answer in relative terms, for example, you would never tell them that you can walk one round in four fifths of the time it would take X to do the same! In Agile, however, we prefer to work with relative estimates, as this offers more flexibility. Story points are determinations of the effort needed to complete task A, relative to the effort needed to complete task B. As there is a lot of uncertainty around the requirements, and the team does not want to spend too much effort estimating on a task that might change very soon, story point estimation is the perfect way to arrive at a rough and ready calculation of the level of effort needed for a task. When Should We Engage in Planning Poker?Typically, a Planning Poker session will be held just after the initial product backlog is written. It could take up to a few days, and is useful in creating initial approximate estimates that will be used to determine the scope, and plan and size the entire project. In an Agile project, it is only to be expected that product backlog items get added as the project unfolds. It would therefore make sense for the team to hold subsequent agile estimating and planning sessions during every iteration. These sessions can be held a few days before the end of the iteration, or whenever the team feels it is most convenient. How Does Poker Planning Work with a Distributed Team?Planning Poker always works best with a team that can sit across a table and hold discussions. However, this is not always possible, especially when teams span geographies and work across different offices.  In such cases, Planning Poker can work over a conference call or a Skype session. A Product Owner could share a set of items that have to be estimated, and the estimators log in at a prescheduled time and pick and show their cards over the video call, in much the same way as they would in a face-to-face session. There is a moderator, usually the Product Owner, who leads the discussions and makes notes. Does Planning Poker Work?Yes, it certainly does, and teams that use this method report that they are able to arrive at more accurate estimates more consistently than when other methods are used. Averaging individual estimates will always lead to better results.The reason for this is that when team members are all allowed to weigh in on the planning process, everyone’s opinion is heard. This is not the case when estimation is carried out by a project manager who does not take the team’s opinions into account. Since it is the team members who are ultimately working on the project, they will have the best sense of the effort needed to finish each task.Tips for Planning Poker in ScrumPlaying Planning Poker for the first time? Here are some tips from the pros, to help you get your game going! While it is definitely a game, it’s a serious game and not to be taken lightly. Each member must carefully evaluate the feature and calculate the time they feel it would take to complete it in its entirety. If they have any doubts, they should get them clarified. The discussion that ensues will help the team to get going in the right direction during the development phase, as it clears the air and removes any ambiguity. Agile estimates are relative and should not be converted to work hours. This will negate the value of using flexible Agile story points. The estimate is team-level and not on an individual level, as the team drives the work. If your opinion differs from that of others, make sure that you speak up. Your understanding of the feature may be the right one. It’s also important to note that the team should never suppress the voice of each individual; rather they should hear what everyone has to say with patience and understanding. Keep the card sizes small. Most teams like to use numbers smaller than 13, as larger stories will not fit into one sprint. If the story is too large, it should be broken down into a manageable chunk of work. Even if someone on the team is new to Planning Poker, make sure that they are not excluded. The entire team must be engaged. Keep expectations realistic. Point value creep, which is a condition where the estimates of stories inexplicably become larger over time, leads to unrealistic expectations and too much pressure from stakeholders. This causes stress and burnout in the long run. In the End.... As with everything to do with Agile, Planning Poker is a process that sounds easy enough but might take time and experience to get right. Take our tips to heart and be wary of the potential pitfalls that we have listed out, and your team will be able to get the most benefit from this tool! 
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Planning Poker: An Agile Estimating and Planning T...

One thing that all Agile teams have in common is t... Read More

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