Looking at the map to starting an Agile effort?

Looking at the map to starting an Agile effort?

What is needed to start an Agile project?  There are a number of requirements for beginning an Agile effort.  Those requirements typically include a big picture understanding of the business need, a budget, resources, and a team.   Somewhere in that mess, someone needs to understand if there are any unchangeable constraints. A high-level view of the five categories of requirements for starting an Agile effort are:  (more…)

Not everyone has what it takes to be a sponsor.

Not everyone has what it takes to be a sponsor.

Not everyone can or should be a sponsor. Good sponsorship requires resources, influence and interest in varying degrees.

Definitions:

Influence is the ability to make something happen or in some cases to make “things” not happen. Sponsors apply influence in a variety of ways including helping teams acquire resources or to remove barriers. Early in my career I had to ask a sponsor to make a call to get a schedule change so that my team did not have to move offices the week before a major production implementation. Influence can be used to remove barriers that are outside of the team’s control.

Resources, in their simplest form, begin with the check (budget) that the sponsor writes for the project. Managers transform the budget into a team, buy software, and secure team workspace or other project needs. Without resources, the duration of any project will be very short.

Interest is the feeling of wanting to learn more about the project which translates into attention, concern, or curiosity. The higher the level of interest in a project the more energy the sponsor will expend to pay attention to what is happening as the project progresses.

Project criticality, defined as the quality, state or degree of being of the highest importance, will impact the type of sponsor required. How does project criticality affect the need for specific levels of resources, influence and interest equation?

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Resources (at least over short to medium term) are closer to constant than a variable, either the project has the resources required or they do not. While there are theoretical discussions on the impact of somewhat constraining a project by providing them slightly less than what is requested, if a project does not have enough money they fail sooner or later. The higher the level of criticality more important the sponsor’s access to resources will be to ensure the project is not negatively constrained.

Criticality and the need for a sponsor to provide influence are positively correlated. The more critical a project, the more influence a sponsor may need to bring to bear to ensure focus and fend off distractions. Consider the impact to a project to a project if a team needs to be diverted to deal with urgent, but not important, interruptions. Interruptions rarely positively impact a project, and the higher the criticality the higher the chance that an avoidable interruption will impact the team or the project’s value.

While sponsors should be interested in any project they sponsor; the more critical a project is the more interest they will need to exhibit. Critical projects generally need the attention and involvement high levels of interest generate.   A sponsor that pays attention to project will be better positioned to provide support, motivation, influence and extra resources if needed.

Sponsors that cannot deliver the proper level resources, influence or interest for their projects will be poor sponsors. Projects of all types need to understand that because sponsors are human there will be variability in the amount of resources, influence and interest that can be brought to bear and attributes like criticality will required different levels of support. Project leaders and teams approach potential gaps in sponsorship as a risk, and should be assessed and mitigated if needed.

For all undertakings (home improvement as well as measurement programs) make sure you have resources, a plan and the right attitude.

For all undertakings (home improvement as well as measurement programs) make sure you have resources, a plan and the right attitude.

Part of the Simple Checklist Series

Beginning or continuing a measurement program is never easy. The simple Measurement Checklist is a tool to help generate a discussion about the attributes that are important to be successful either as you implement a measurement program or when you have shifted into support mode.  The tool has been broken into 3 categories: resources (part 1 and 2), plans, and attitudes.  Each can be scored and leveraged separately. However, using the three components will help you to focus on the big picture.

Scale

The simple checklist can be used as a tool to evaluate how well you have prepared for your measurement journey.  As a reminder, each question in the survey is evaluated as a multiple-choice question.  The scale is high, medium, low and not present (with one exception), and each response is worth a point value (some are negative).  Scoring a question with a response that has a 0 or negative value is usually a sign that your program faces significant issues; in which case, proceed with caution.

Section and Question Weights:

Resources: Forty-two total points. Each component contributes up to 7 points.

Plans: Eighteen total points. Each component contributes up to 6 points.

Attitude: Forty total points. Each component contributes up to 8 points.

Scoring

Sum all of the scores from each of the three categories.

100 – 80  You have a great base. Go live the dream.  Use techniques like continuous process improvements and retrospective to make improvements to your program.

79 – 60   Focus on building your measurement infrastructure.  Use focused improvement projects to target weaknesses in your measurement program.  The changes will be bigger than the changes that are meant to be identified in a retrospective.

59 – 30   Remediate your weaknesses immediately.  If you have not started your measurement program, focus on the problem areas before you begin.  If you have begun implementation or are in support mode, consider putting the program on hold until you fix the most egregious problems.

29 –   0   Run Away! Trying to implement a measurement program will be equivalent to putting your hand in the garbage disposal with it running; avoid it!  In this case consider significant organizational change initiatives.

That's a bad attitude.

That’s a bad attitude.

Part of the Simple Checklist Series 

The simple Measurement Readiness Checklist will be useful for any major measurement initiative, but is tailored toward beginning a measurement program.  The checklist will provide a platform for evaluating and discussing whether you have the resources, plans and organizational attitudes needed to implement a new measurement program or support the program you currently have in place.

I have divided the checklist into three categories: resources (part 1 and 2), plans, and attitudes.  Each can be leveraged separately. However, using the three components will help you to focus on the big picture. Today we address attitude.

Here we continue the checklist with the section on plans and planning.  If you have not read the first three sections of the checklist please take a moment see (Measurement Readiness Checklist: Resources Part 1,  Measurement Readiness Checklist: Resources Part 2 and Measurement Readiness Checklist: Plans).

Attitude

When you talk about attitude it seems personal rather than organizational. But when it comes to large changes (and implementing measurement is a large change), I believe that both the attitude of the overall organization and critical individuals (inside or outside the organization) are important. As you prepare to either implement measurement or keep it running, the onus is on you as a change leader to develop a nuanced understanding of who you need to influence within the organization. This part of the checklist will portray an organizational view; however, you can and should replicate the exercise for specific critical influencers and yourself.

Scale and Scoring

The attitude category of the checklist contributes up to forty total points. Each component contributes up to 8 points (8, 4, 2, 0).

Vision of tomorrow

Is there a belief that tomorrow will be demonstratively better based on the actions that are being taken? The organization needs to have a clear vision that tomorrow will be better than today in order to positively motivate the team to aspire to be better than they are.

8 – The organization is excited about the changes that are being implemented.  Volunteers to help move the program or to pilot new concepts are numerous.

4 – Most of the organization is excited about most of the changes and their impact on the future.

2 – There is a neutral outlook (or at least undecided).

-5  – There is active disenchantment with or dissension about the future.

Support Note: Measurement organizations often fall into the trap of accepting and ignoring the organization’s overall vision of the future.  While a measurement program typically cannot change how an organization feels about itself, it can be a positive force for change.  Make sure your Organizational Change Plan includes positive marketing and how you will deliver positive messaging.

Minimalist

I once believed that the simplest process change that works was usually the best approach.  I have become much more absolutist in that attitude, demanding that if someone does not take the simplest route that they prove beyond a shadow of doubt that they are correct. Minimalism is important in today’s lean business environment.  Heavy processes are wearing on everyone who uses them and even a process is just right today, entropy will add steps and reviews over time, which may add unneeded weight.  Score this attribute higher if your organization has a policy to apply lean principles as a step in process development and maintenance.

8 – All measurement processes are designed with lean principles formally applied.  Productivity and throughput are monitored to ensure that output isn’t negatively impacted.

4 – All measurement processes are designed with lean principles formally applied; however, they are not monitored quantitatively.

2 – All measurement processes are designed with lean principles informally applied.

-5 – Measures and measurement processes are graded by complexity and the number of steps required with a higher number of steps being better.

Support Note:  In many cases embracing a lean philosophy is more important after the initial implementation of a measurement program as there is a natural tendency to add checks, balances and reviews to your measurement processes as time goes by.  Each step in a process must be evaluated to ensure the effort required adds value to information measurement delivers to the business.

Learner

A learner is someone that understands that they don’t know everything and that mistakes will be made, but is continually broadening their knowledge base. A learner understands that when made, mistakes are to be examined and corrected rather than swept under the carpet. Another attribute of a learner is the knowledge that the synthesis of data and knowledge from other sources is required for growth.  In most organizations an important source of process knowledge and definition are the practitioners — but not the sole source.

8 – New ideas are actively pursued and evaluated on an equal footing with any other idea or concept.

4 – New ideas are actively pursued and evaluated, but those that reflect the way work is currently done are given more weight.

2 – The “not invented here” point of view has a bit of a hold on the organization, making the introduction of new ideas difficult.

0 – There is only one way to do anything and it was invented here sometime early last century.  Introduction of new ideas is considered dangerous.

Note:  The Buddhists call this the beginner’s mind which seeks new knowledge with free eyes.

Goal Driven

The organization needs to have a real need to drive the change and must be used to pursuing longer-term goals. The Process Philosopher of Sherbrooke argues that being goal-driven is required to be serious about change.  In many cases I have observed that a career near-death experience increases the probability of change, because it sharpens focus (assuming it does not create a negative atmosphere). A check-the-box goal rarely provides more than short-term, localized motivation.

 8 – The organization has a well-stated positive goal and that measurement not only supports, but is integral to attaining that goal.

2 – The pursuit of the measurement is about checking a box on a RFP response.

-10 – Measurement is being pursued for no apparent purpose.

Overall Note:  Measurement programs that are not tied directly to supporting organizational direct goals should be stopped and restarted only after making sure of the linkage.

Conviction

Belief in the underlying concepts of the measurement (or other change framework) provides motivation to the organization and individuals. Belief provides a place to fall back upon when implementation or support becomes difficult.  Conviction creates a scenario where constancy of purpose (from Deming’s work) is not an after-thought, but the way things are done. Implementing measurement programs are long-term efforts — generally with levels of excitement cycling through peaks and valleys.  In the valley when despair becomes a powerful force, many times conviction is the thread that keeps things moving forward. Without a critical mass of conviction it will be easy to wander off to focus on the next new idea.

 8 – We believe and have evidence that from the past that we can continue to believe over time.

4 – We believe but this is the first time we’ve attempted something this big!

2 – We believe  . . . mostly.

0 – No Organizational Change Plan has been created.

 

Next up: scoring and deciding what to do with the score.

Resources include the tools of the trade and every trade has tools.

Resources include the tools of the trade and every trade has tools.

The simple Measurement Readiness Checklist will be useful for any major measurement initiative, but is tailored toward beginning a measurement program.  The checklist will provide a platform for evaluating and discussing whether you have the resources, plans and organizational attitudes needed to implement a new measurement program or support the program you currently have in place.

I have divided the checklist into three categories: resources, plans, and attitudes.  Each can be leveraged separately. However, using the three components will help you to focus on the big picture. We will address each component separately over the next several days.

Here we continue the resources portion of the checklist:

Cash

Change costs money. Costs can include consultants, training, travel and an odd late-night pizza or two.

7 – A reasonable budget has been established and the implementation team can draw from the budget for planned expenditures.  Emergency funding can be attained to handle issues as they arise.

3 – A reasonable budget has been established and approved; however, access must be requested and justified for all expenditures.

1 – Any time that money is required funding must be requested and approved.

0 – Donations are sought in the organization’s lunchroom on a periodic basis (consider a PayPal donation button on your measurement team’s homepage).

Support Note:  Having the cash to support programs is just as important as having the cash to implement a measurement program.  Where the cash gets spent might be different for a support program.

Effort

Even if you have bales of cash, developing and implementing measurement processes will require effort. Effort will be required from many constituencies including the process-improvement team, management and from the teams being measured, just to name a few.

7 – A reasonable staffing plan has been established and the measurement program is the only project the assigned resources have been committed to.  Dedicated teams make sense for process improvement in software development.

4 – A reasonable staffing plan has been established and the measurement initiative is the highest priority for the assigned resources.

1 – All resources are matrixed to the measurement initiative and they are also assigned to other high priority projects.

0 – The program has access to all the effort needed after 5 PM and before 8 AM and during company holidays.

Support Note:  Dedicated resources might be more important for a program in support mode than even for an implementation project.  The issue is that we (us humans) tend to be distracted by new projects which means paying less attention to the projects in support mode.

Projects

Measurement requires having something to measure and then something to influence.  The organization needs to have a consistent flow of projects so that measurement becomes about the trends rather than about specific projects.

7 – Projects are constantly beginning and ending which will provide a platform for generating a continuous flow of information.

3 – There are numerous projects in the organization; however they typically begin early in the year and end late in the year or on some other periodic basis that makes data collection and reporting erratic.

1 – The organization does only a small number of projects every year making trending difficult.

0 – The organization only does one large project every year.

Support Note:  Like dedicated teams, access to projects to measure is really important to ongoing measurement programs.  Being able to continually generate reports and presentations on the data will help keep the interest stoked.

Calendar Time

Calendar time is a resource that is as important as any other resource. Severe calendar constraints can lead to irrational or bet-the-farm behaviors, which increase risk. This is especially true in big bang implementations (which is a strong reason to avoid such implementations).

7 – The schedule for implementing the measurement is in line with industry norms and includes time for tweaking the required processes before appraising.

3 – The schedule is realistic, but bare bones. Any problems could cause delay.

1 – Expectations have been set that will require a compressed schedule; however, delay will only be career limiting rather than a critical impact on the business.

0 – The measurement program implementation is critical for the organization’s survival and is required on an extremely compressed schedule.

Support Note:  If you are using the checklist to find areas to improve the support of your measurement program, I would drop this question.

Further Note: Also if you have rated this items a ‘0’ I would suggest that you have a very serious issue and should seek consulting support.

Next planning questions . . .

A measurement program is like building a wall. Make sure you have all your resources in place.

A measurement program is like building a wall. Make sure you have all your resources in place.

Part of the Simple Checklist Series (Resources Part 1)

Beginning or continuing a measurement program is never easy. Many times measurement programs begin because an organization or individual thinks it necessary for survival or to avoid pain. Measurement can be thought of as a balance between the effort to collect and report measurement data and the value gained from applying what is learned from the measurement data.  Measurement programs targeted only the at gathering and reporting part of the measurement program will languish in the long run. On the other side of the equation, i.e. measures need to be used in order to generate the value needed to eclipse the effort of collection and reporting. Everyone must be educated on how to use measurement data and then continually asked to use the data. Both sides of the equation are necessary. The simple Measurement Readiness Checklist will be useful for any major measurement initiative, but is tailored toward beginning a measurement program.  The checklist will provide a platform for evaluating and discussing whether you have the resources, plans and organizational attitudes needed to implement a new measurement program or support the program you currently have in place.

I have divided the checklist into three categories: resources, plans, and attitudes.  Each can be leveraged separately. However, using the three components will help you to focus on the big picture. We will address each component separately over the next several days.

Scoring

This checklist can be used as a tool to evaluate how well you have prepared for your measurement journey. The following questions are the evaluation criteria.  To use the checklist, answer each question with high, medium, low and not present (with one exception). Each question will contribute points toward the total.

Section and Question Weights:

Resources: Forty-two total points. Each component contributes up to 7 points (7, 3, 1, 0).

Plans: Eighteen total points. Each component contributes up to 6 points (6, 3, 1, 0).

Attitude: Forty total points. Each component contributes up to 8 points (8, 4, 2, 0).

Note that where support and implementation projects would need to take a different angle we will point out any possible nuances.

Resources

Resources are the raw materials that you will consume on your measurement journey.  As with any journey having both the correct resources and correct amount of resources will make the journey easier.  Just think of trying to canoe from New York to London for a meeting; the wrong resources can make the trip difficult.

Management Support: When initially implementing a measurement program, support from management is the most critical resource.  This is the time when measurement seems to be all effort, cost and bother.  Later, as value is derived, support can be less visible.  Note that the more management support you have across the whole IT structure, the easier it is to get a measurement program on its feet and keep it there.

Scoring

7 – Senior management is actively involved in guiding which measures and metrics are collected and how they are used.  Senior managers stop people in the hall to discuss progress in collecting and using measurement data. Discussion of progress is an agenda item at all management-staff meetings.

3 – Senior and middle managers attend formal measurement informational meetings and talk about the need to support the measurement initiative.

1 – A senior manager or two attended the kick-off meeting, then relocated en mass to Aruba, leaving the middle managers in charge.

0 – The measurement initiative is a grass-roots effort.

Support Note:  Whether you are answering from a support or implementation perspective does not matter.  Management support is important.

Change Specialist: Measurement is a form of organizational change that typically requires skills that are not generally found in an IT department. The skills needed to start and perpetuate a measurement program include sales, marketing and communication.

7 – An organizational change specialist has been assigned as a full time resource for the project.

3 – An organizational change specialist is available within the organization and works on many projects simultaneously. The specialist may or may not have experience with IT change programs.

1 – Someone on the team has helped craft an organizational change plan in the past.

0 – Organizational change websites are blocked and your best bet is buying a book on Amazon using your own cash.

 Support Note: A change specialist is needed for ALL change programs regardless of whether we are discussing implementation or generating ongoing support.

Expertise: A deep understanding of measurement will be needed in a dynamic IT environment.  Experience is generally hard won. “Doing” it once generally does not provide enough expertise to allow the level of tailoring needed to deploy a measurement program in more than one environment. Do not be afraid to get a coach or mentor if this is a weakness.

7 – The leaders and team members working to implement and/or support the measurement program have been intimately involved in successfully implementing measurement in different environments.

3 –At least two team members have had substantial involvement in implementing a measurement program in the past, in a similar environment.

1 – Only one SME has been involved in a measurement program and that was in another environment.

0 – All of the team members have taken basic measurement classes and can spell measurement, assuming they can buy a vowel.

 Support Note:  You can never have a measurement program without someone with (or without access to) measurement knowledge.

We will finish the resource part of the checklist tomorrow.