Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lessons from the Secretary

I had the opportunity to attend the Korbel Dinner Monday night – one of the perks of being the wife of a Dean at the University of Denver. Dr. Condelezza Rice, alum of DU, was the featured speaker, and she was quite engaging, discussing the Middle East, Russia, and even football with ease and humor. When asked about managing the state department, my ear perked up. Here is a woman who has managed folks all over the world, dealing with major issues. Certainly, I could integrate a few tips from her into managing a scrum team! Indeed, there were three points that I could modify to manage a small team of IT professionals, rather than ambassadors and other international mediators.

First, problems don’t come in neat, single-disciplinary packages. Coming from a former Secretary of State, there are many examples that can be used here. But even in a development team, issues are often not neat, and rarely affect only one system! It’s very important to understand the complexities and connections when trying to resolve an issue. If one area becomes simpler, chances are another will be more complex. Where do you want the trade-off?

Second, policy is influenced by the people you train. This makes obvious sense for a school of international studies. How can it be used in a scrum team? It’s all about culture. Build the culture to encourage the behavior you want. Don’t expect that a great culture will just happen. Do you want people to be okay with making small mistakes, in order to learn and expand their knowledge? Celebrate those failures!

Finally, Dr. Rice talked about bringing people in who have been there. She has started the wheels turning on an endowed professorship, the Rice Family Professor of Practice. This position, I foresee, will be filled by people who have experiences of international relations that will enhance the studies and theory of the students. In other words, it’s important to tell the real stories. Books and theory are wonderful, but experience is the “secret sauce” – what really shows others how to integrate their knowledge into practice. Again, in scrum teams, listening to those with experience can be very useful – whether that experience is within the existing organization or from another company with a successful implementation of agile. Take all those stories, blend them together, and play with building a solution from that knowledge.

I love learning, in the many places I find myself!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Perfect is the Enemy

I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before. I’ve been experiencing this over the last month. A potential client wants everything to be just right before starting an agile project – the right people, the right timing (working around multiple vacations), and the right scheduling (have you ever tried to schedule executive assessments one week out?!). It’s hard to get everything set up PERFECTLY before you start an agile project, or any project for that matter.

My answer? Start anyway. You CEO and CTO will not be in the same country for two more months? Start anyway (they can communicate via email, right?). You’re still missing two out of ten planned staff? Start anyway. All the requirements aren’t yet fully vetted? Start anyway. The servers/databases/other pieces of equipment aren’t yet ordered? Start anyway.

There’s never going to be a PERFECT time. Projects involve people, and people have lives. And, well, life is messy.

Funny. I’ve already posted about this once. Seems we often need to be reminded... 

Just start. It's okay. It will work out.