Project Management

How Agile is Your Resource and Capacity Planning 0

I asked Jerry Manas, author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook: A Guide to Maximizing the Value of Your Limited People Resources, that question in a recent podcast. The podcast and entire transcription can be found at Resource & Capacity Planning.

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe:   Resource capacity and planning seems kind of very disciplined and very structured; is it?

Jerry: Well it’s structured in a way. It’s disciplined in that if you look at it contextually, with any organization, you have work coming in and there’s some kind of a brief step or to assess the work that’s coming in, if it’s bigger than a red box, where it should go, something like that, some kind of scoring or scoping or something with the work coming in. But then instead of just sending it into project execution and saying, okay let’s go – which a lot of companies do, they say okay let’s go and then resources aren’t available. Usually, you find that out when a project gets delayed or things like that.

It’s structured in the sense of as this work comes in, ideally it should hop over into some sort of investment planning or portfolio planning mode where the work can come in and you can assess it in the context of all the work in the portfolio. When you assess that, to whatever even if it’s a thinking step, whatever method you use, the idea is to bring it into the portfolio, assess where can this fit in, how does it fit in in terms of importance, what’s the available capacity to do this work and this is the part everybody leaves out, when can I do the work based on my capacity or do I need to start looking at alternative sourcing strategies and start using contractors. Contractors don’t always work for everything but if you have a strategy for it, some kind of strategy to say here are the cases where we’re going to consider bringing in contractors where it makes sense and then have those as an option, otherwise the work has to slip or really you just have limited options, either you reduce the scope and you slip the work or you bring in help. So even at that high level helps an organization.

When you plan when you can do the work, then you come over, and that’s when you can get into execution and then assigning your resources and things like that. But that missing piece, that whole capacity planning piece is what a lot of organizations skip and they don’t have the process to do that.

Joe:   I think one of the buzz words for a long time now is agile and in a lot of company, you asked anybody in any company, “Oh, we’re agile…” Does this conflict with an agile mentality or does it help it?

Jerry: Actually it helps it. In fact, I speak quite heavily about agile. The thing is with agile; it is a bit of a different animal; it really turns everything on its head. So if you look at a wonderful project, really it starts out with a plan and then you’re estimating the cost and the schedules. You’re saying, okay here’s my requirement, here’s my scope and then I’m saying, okay what’s this going to cost me to do and when can we get done? Agile literally turns that upside down. It says, okay here are the features that I like but what I’m going to do is I’m going to fix the cost and the schedule so I’m going to have a…here’s my release period or my sprints during a certain time period and now I’m going to estimate, these are the features that I think I can deliver within that schedule. So really, it’s a completely different animal that literally turns a waterfall model on its head.

But from a resource planning perspective, people say, okay well since we’re agile well does that mean we can’t plan resources? Well, with a lot of agile organizations, what I suggest is at least reserving your resources at a high level. Even if it’s at a sprint level, saying okay we’re going to reserve our resources, so you can get some kind of sense of demand because those projects consume resources too and if you’re not tracking that work at all, if those resources are isolated to a specific project, it’s not as much of an issue but if they’re shared with the rest of the organization or they’re doing other things, then you really need to at least keep track at a high level of what the resources are doing. I don’t think you need to get into detailed resource allocations like test level things because that would be a fruitless effort on an agile project but at least at a high level to be able to get a sense of demand and that way you can mix that demand in with waterfall projects or whatever other kind of projects are going on in the company.

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Keys to Building a Lean Agile Software Enterprise 0

Dean Leffingwell is a consultant, entrepreneur, software executive and technical author who provides product strategy, business advisory services and enterprise-level agility coaching to large software enterprises.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Leffingwell on the Lean Agile Train

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe:  What are the keys to building a Lean-Agile software enterprise?

Dean:  Working towards my one annual presentation, I do one trade show a year. I go to the Agile conference every year. It used to be Agile XP, and that has just grown tremendously and it’s a high-value conference. So I’ve been reframing the way I describe the way I see large enterprises being successful around five basic keys. Now I’ll describe those keys here. It might be a good way to approach the things we’re talking about. Key number one is, not everything is a user story. A user story is a really great invention. It came from XP, the user voice forum, which is, as a user; I can perform this activity so I can get business value. This is just a fantastic breakthrough in our thinking. But user stories are small because they fit inside iterations, and there are lots of them. So at the enterprise level they don’t scale very well and that’s why you see in my book “Agile Software Requirements” a three?tier, three?approach of user stories, features and epics and even a fourth year if you will which is the investment themes that drive all that.

So my first bullet thought is got to be smarter than just taking everything to a user story. The second key is at enterprise scale the way we’ve rolled out Agile historically which is a team entered a time or a Scrum mastered a time is simply too slow. So, I like to think in terms of Agile programs and not just Agile teams.

Agile programs are oriented around this construct that I’ve roughly described as the Agile release train, which is a synchronous set… Or a team with a synchronous set of iterations all timed together, working together, doing their planning, their commitment, or execution of their feedback together as one fractal above an Agile team, which has exactly the same pattern.

Thirdly, architecture emerges in Agile. It’s part of the manifesto, but I got to tell you at enterprise-class scale it can emerge in some really bad ways. And if you’re sticking together an entire portfolio or you’re doing enterprise-class business applications you can’t expect any one team or any half?a?dozen teams to have a real view of how that all needs to work together or what types of governance needs to be applied to those systems.

So, as I wrote in “Scaling Software Agility,” I’m a big fan of architecture and system architecture in the enterprise. And I call that intentional architecture, which may be flies in the face a little bit of some of our thinking. There’s some of the agilest thinking about architecture, but it can’t be strictly emergent in my view. So enterprise systems record potential architecture and I have a model for that. That was brought to me by others that I had the great privilege of working with a couple of enterprises that were quite Agile and also needed to re-architect their systems. I call that re-architecting the flow. So that’s item number three.

And fourthly if the teams are Agile and the programs are Agile, but the enterprise isn’t, if the portfolio is still being treated with fixed budgets where people must be assigned to tasks. And in month nine, in order to justify keeping them on your program or the portfolio function is driven by those who understand requirements independent of implementation and communicate that and make commitments on behalf of the teams and programs, then you’re not going to be very Agile either. And there is a set of legacy minds that are there that I think we have to cope with. So that’s item number four.

Lastly, and this is where I’ve been spending most of my time lately, and so many things are obvious in hindsight. I think we’re all brilliant in retrospect. It’s just the going forward part where we question our sanity. Lastly, your enterprise is going to be no leaner than the executives thinking and no matter what you try to do at the team or program level, until your executives are totally on board.

Not with Agile so much because Agile for them is good, sounds great, but they don’t do Scrum. They either think their teams are already empowered or maybe that’s just not a big concern of theirs, depending upon their cultural bias and mindset and history. So, we don’t have a lot of tools for them in Agile. You can’t take them the manifesto. It’s useful, and they’re interested in that but it doesn’t drive their lives.

It’s tough to communicate with high-level executives about Agile practices in a way that’s meaningful for them because they don’t do any of it. But Lean, they can think about and understanding the value stream and understand how certain, let’s just say, governance items really caused delays in the value stream and understanding that the total tack time, the touch time, we put on a system is a small percentage of the total delivery time; getting them thinking about delays in the value stream and what causes those delays and what they can do about it, is just a better approach.

I’d like to think in terms of two sub-aspects. One is Lean education and I have one go-to source now, which is Reinertsen’s new book that I like to use with executives and have them read it and sit down and discuss some of those key principles. Then lastly, you’ve got to show them how their enterprise is going to look like after the transformation, and I call that the Agile Enterprise Big Picture or the scaled Agile Delivery Model. If they don’t know how it’s going to look later they’re not going to be very comfortable with a totally self-organizing complex dynamic system that’s just all going to work out.

Even though that’s largely the case, I think the pattern of how teams and programs get organized and how values flows; how they’re involved as fiduciaries of the enterprise level; how the governance model works; how they drive the portfolio, is critical to them. Because if they can see and after they know the current picture, they know how it works now and they know there’s some challenges but they wouldn’t be reconsidering it ?? but if they can and after it just makes their life a heck of a lot easier. I call that Lean Education in the Big Picture.

So those five keys, not everything’s user story for sure, think in terms of Agile programs not just Agile teams. Admit that our large scale systems require intentional architecture. Think about some of the legacy mindsets we’ve had in portfolio management and how to address those. Then also understand that we’re going to be no leaner than the executive’s thinking. Those are the keys that I currently keep in mind whenever I approach a barbarian at the gate of the not as Agile an enterprise it wants to be.

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Are You short of Resources? Capacity? 0

A thought leader in organizational project and resource management, Jerry Manas is frequently cited by leading voices in the world of business, including legendary management guru Tom Peter. Jerry ManasYou may know Jerry from his book, Napoleon on Project Management: Timeless Lessons in Planning, Execution, and Leadership. This interview centered on Jerry’s latest work which is a subject matter that I have been spending a lot of time with lately, The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook: A Guide to Maximizing the Value of Your Limited People Resources.

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Maximizing your Most Prescious Resource: People 0

A thought leader in organizational project and resource management, Jerry is frequently cited by leading voices in the world of business, including legendary management guru Tom Peter. You may know Jerry from his book, Napoleon on Project Management: Timeless Lessons in Planning, Execution, and Leadership. This interview centered on Jerry’s latest work which is a subject matter that I have been spending a lot of time with lately, The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook: A Guide to Maximizing the Value of Your Limited People Resources.

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe:   Doesn’t mature companies have this all down? I mean isn’t this just needed for innovation and new companiese?

Jerry Manas:   It’s pretty pervasive. For instance, I’ve seen some big companies have a lot of difficulty but they can be mature in other areas. They can be mature in project management and then still struggling with resource management. There’s a benchmark study recently from a company called Appleseed Partners and I actually focused on that study in the book to a degree and it was interesting between this year and last year, they did a study each year. It was overall about a thousand people that they surveyed. A third of the companies came in at low maturity, about a third were in the middle, and a third consider themselves mature and they’ve addressed maybe at least 60% of the top issues which is good. So I would say roughly two-thirds of companies haven’t solved the issue and even though once we have, we certainly have some room for improvement.

But the study did show, it was interesting that the mature companies had five things in common it came out with and one was that holistic view I talked about of capacity and demand. Another one was they weren’t using spreadsheets or using specialized software like the Project Portfolio Management software. They have some kind of a resource management function in place to facilitate the maturity. And the last two is they were doing monthly or continuously capacity planning so you’re assessing your available capacity when you’re evaluating and prioritizing all the incoming work but not quarterly or not annually. It’s organic, it was part of the process, it was something that you at least monthly as the work’s coming in and you’re assessing do we have the capacity to do it.

The last thing and this was an interesting example, a granular capacity planning. So for instance, if you’re trying to assess your capacity, getting down to the skill and proficiency level, like for instance say I’m going to need some business analyst. Well not just a business analyst, you’re going to need somebody that understands the order of the cash process or somebody that understands SAP software and so on.

I had one case study in the book with Farmer’s Insurance and I think it was a great example that kind of sums all this up. They were doing a project review and there was a big project coming in they needed to take on but the data showed that there were no project managers available and it was credible data because it was something that they had validated over time. The data also showed that there were some business analysts that had the right skills for that project, so they started interviewing them and then found one that was willing to take on a project management career path. And so they were able to take on that work and they set a new career path for the person. Like Larry Stanton who is the PM Director at Farmers Insurance said that he really couldn’t do all that without good data and I think that’s really the key.

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Lean in Food Processing 0

Jerry Rosenthal started on his process improvement journey where he entered the world of medical device and worked with such companies like Cardinal Health. Jerry RosenthalJerry’s expertise is primarily in regulated environments such as food, beverage and pharmaceutical production and packaging. Jerry has been successful at taking principles and tools from manufacturing and applying them to a commercial business practice, and he does that at Lean Six Sigma Expert.

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Project Managing Flash-Mobs 0

The Optimization Triangle: leadership, project management, and individual learning is how Lou Russell  views the type of  work she does at Russell Martin & Associates.  I enjoy her project management books (I own 3 of them) and her Accelerated Learning Workbook (yes, I have that one) and recommend them. She recently sent me a leadership book that I have in my to read pile. I am really intrigued to read the final leg of the stool.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Leadership, Projects, Learning


In our recent podcast, I asked Lou about her project management books.

Lou Russell: Let me do the disclaimer – we are PMI education providers, so we are completely and fully aligned to the project management body of knowledge – OK, there we go, that’s done – but it’s too much. I used to teach IT project management when dinosaurs roamed up 69, but mostly for IT people, and we kind of got in this space of teaching project management in the last five years to people who never meant to be project managers, and they don’t know what happened. Like, how did they end up being project managers, and everyone is doing projects now, because we’re all multi-tasking so much.

That’s kind of interesting – we describe projects nowadays as flash-mobs. The flash-mob people come together through some kind of virtual communication for a very specific purpose. They arrive, they converge in, they do a thing, and then they fade out divergent to the crowd. This is exactly how we’re running projects in large companies and all companies right now. You converge for a one-hour meeting, you pick up and you go to your next one-hour meeting. It’s very frustrating, and nobody is getting anything done. What if we step back from that and say, “Hey, if we were creating a project management process, Lean, let’s say, for flash-mobs what it would look like. I like that metaphor to help, now we’re talking about simplifying minimal. We have been in that space – that’s worked out really well for us. “Bad news early is good news,” is one of our mantras. You seek to communicate, because that’s the only thing that will save you. Don’t seek to control or you’re dead. There’s no control. There’s no ego, or your project is dead.

Last week, I was speaking at Project World in Seattle, and I was doing a project scheduling lab – and people were supposed to be bringing in their project and normal stuff – and all of a sudden, in come these eight people, and they’re all from Boeing, and they’re all PMPs, and they’re all in IT, and they’re all building some innovative aircraft, you know what I mean? I said, “Here’s what we’re going to do – I’m going to sit down and you’re going to teach me scheduling.” I was completely intimidated, I was like – you guys are you kidding me – and they go, “No. We need to hear this. We need to simplify.”

We have new traction in IT of all places, where the most complex is complex, and nothing is getting done. So, there’s interest there. The other big push in project management right now is – how do we train executives to sponsor well? What an excellent question that is. Right?


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Focused Performance 0

Jump start your 2015 business planning. Russell Martin & Associates has created The Focused Performance Bundle. The package includes everything you need to facilitate the planning sessions with your team. lou russell

Once you know where you want to go and where you don’t want to go in 2015, start brainstorming initiatives that will take you there.  It’s likely that each of these initiatives will generate multiple projects.  How do you pick which projects to do?  How do you prioritize the work over all four quarters of 2015 without adding so much project work that it’s impossible to focus on any of it?  Prioritization allows you to pick the projects you can charter utilizing a project sponsor and project manager who drive a project schedule for accountability.

Type Biz901 in the Promo Code at Checkout
See What You Get (Ltd Time Offer).

Lou Russell is the CEO of Russell Martin & Associates and L+earn, an executive consultant, speaker, and author whose passion is to create growth in companies by guiding the growth of their people. In her speaking, training, and writing, Lou draws on 30 years of experience helping organizations achieve their full potential. She is committed to inspiring improvement in all three sides of what she has dubbed the Optimization Triangle: leadership, project management, and individual learning.

Lou was a great guest and I am sure you will enjoy the podcast.

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