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Planning for a Productive Retrospective – 4 Steps to Better Learning

Planning for a Productive Retrospective – 4 Steps to Better Learning
By Zenkara

We’ve all been there before – a project that hasn’t gone so well: over budget, late, not meeting everyone’s expectations (project death marches springs to mind). And of course there are those projects which never actually finish – they simply no longer have anyone working on them.

The executives and senior management now want to forget, or worse still, want some heads to roll.

At the end of the project, the project manager or director (or some enlightened sponsor) may call a Retrospective (or Project Review, Hotwash, Post Implementation Review, etc) to get to the cause of what happened.

To maximize the value of this type of activity to the company, you need to collect both lessons learnt and data (to support the lessons). It also helps protect you when the political ramifications start.

Step 1 – Collect lessons early and often

If you’ve already started your project, or even getting close to finishing, start collecting lessons now! Read the Complete Article

Criteria for Selecting a Development Method – Agile, Waterfall, Agifall

Criteria for Selecting a Development Method – Agile, Waterfall, Agifall
By Zenkara

Why did you choose the method you’re using right now?

We’ve all been in the scenario where the old way of developing has become stale. Productivity is down, defect rates are rising, and team morale is low. Things may have been chaotic recently and work practice quality has slipped and shortcuts taken.

Before throwing out the old method and simply choosing the latest Agile method, you need to take the time to define your selection criteria carefully. Just choosing whichever method is currently making the social media rounds is not always your best approach. Deployments of new development methods often fail because they are just not suitable for the team/project/technology/customer.

Before investigating and choosing a method, define your critical criteria. What should the criteria look like?

  • Size of the team (and the company)
  • Geographical co-location or spread out across offices and countries

  • Average experience of the developers

  • Average tenure of the developers working together in a team

  • Stability and visibility of requirements

  • Level of customer involvement/engagement

  • Need to predicting/estimating cost, effort

  • Importance of milestones and gate reviews to the customer and contract

  • Time to market needed for a minimum viable product

  • Effectiveness of communication

  • Level of developer interest in the new method

Each of these can have a significant impact on the success of your method deployment. Read the Complete Article

Planning for a Productive Retrospective – Key Challenges

Planning for a Productive Retrospective – Key Challenges
By Zenkara

What are the key challenges to using Retrospectives/PIRs to improve? The challenges are legion are broadly fall under two main themes:

  • Duck & cover
  • Technical/procedural

Duck and Cover

  • A general reluctance to do it – “We don’t want to do it because the project didn’t deliver, went poorly, cost too much, and we’ve heard heads need to roll. This can be the result of a toxic culture and can only be resolved by sponsors, execs and senior managers communicating and promoting the value of Lessons Learned – and not laying blame as the first resort.
  • “We don’t have time to do it” – this often has the same cause as a) but can be overcome through some prep work prior to the Retrospective session, and then shortening the session to an hour or two. In any case Retrospectives/PIRs are rarely effective when held over two days.

Read the Complete Article

10 Questions for Effective Retrospectives/Post Implementation Reviews

10 Questions for Effective Retrospectives/Post Implementation Reviews
By Zenkara

If you run retrospectives and don’t find them valuable, then read on…

Any organization that has existed for more than a few years will have run a number of projects and (hopefully) retrospectives/post implementation reviews. The effectiveness of these activities tend to flatline after a while. How can you measure their usefulness? How can you get more value from them?

Ask yourself the following:

  1. Are retrospectives normally conducted? Or are they reserved for projects that fail badly?
  2. Is the purpose of each retrospective known? Or are they perceived very differently between stakeholders?

  3. What result do they bring about? Is this in line with the established purpose(s)?

  4. Do the same issues get raised again and again?

  5. Are most of the suggestions from one person? Do the suggestions come from everyone or just management?

  6. Are the issues and hence positive and negative issues addressed in actions?

Read the Complete Article

How to Measure Software Quality on a Shoestring – Part 1

How to Measure Software Quality on a Shoestring – Part 1
By Zenkara

I was recently asked “if we were a small company (<50 staff) and we wanted to improve our development activities, what should we measure? Oh, and we don't have a budget". Now the correct approach would be to understand your company's objectives, strategy, culture and particular issue you want to improve. Unfortunately this is often a catch-22 problem. Without a reasonable structure in place, you won't have the data and actions you need to understand what and how to improve. It tends to be the squeaky wheel getting the oil. That said, what can we do? What if we want to "improve generally"? The are some actions that you can do in the short term to help you understand the way things are done:

  • Put together a list of your current projects
  • Put together a list of your current products

  • Estimate the amount of effort that is being spent on fixing things.

  • How long do problems stick around before something is done? I use the squeaky door indicator. How long before it gets fixed and who fixes it? This often reflects the attitude of the whole team. Is one person always the person who fixes things or does it vary over time?

  • Do product problems get addressed in a reasonable time? Or are we dealing with major issues that have dragged on for a few releases?

  • How much time is invested in developing team members?

  • Do team members have the opportunity to put their ideas into practice?

  • What’s the current life cycle duration from a customer’s request to delivering it to them?

Read the Complete Article

23 Questions a Quality Auditor May Ask

23 Questions a Quality Auditor May Ask
By Zenkara

When an ISO9001 audit is on the horizon for your company, it’s a good idea to ensure your staff are able to answer the following questions. (although some questions are more for management and the QA team)

  1. What are your documented quality policy and objectives?
  2. How are quality objectives established at various levels through the organisation?
  3. How are quality objectives measured, communicated?
  4. How does the quality policy relate to you and your job?
  5. How does your management show commitment to quality?
  6. What is contained in your quality management system? What is it for?
  7. Do you use procedures? Are they ever updated?
  8. What sort of training have you undertaken?
  9. What records are kept of management reviews?
  10. How does top management ensure availability of resources?
  11. How does top management establish continual improvement?
  12. What metrics are recorded? Do you know the key metrics results?
  13. How are customer requirements and regulatory requirements communicated and met?
Read the Complete Article

The Underlying Problem of Agile vs CMMI

The Underlying Problem of Agile vs CMMI
By Zenkara

Over the past several decades, various techniques have been proposed, developed and applied to improve the development and deployment of information systems. Many of these techniques have focused on process improvement, including TQM, IS development methods, Agile (XP, SCRUM, etc…) methods, ISO9001, BPR, BPM, 6 Sigma, EFQM, Quality Function Deployment. Yet the deployment of each techniques fails to deliver the stated benefits. This seems to be an ongoing cycle of techniques with the same problems encountered during wide-scale adoption.

Implicit in these approaches is the need to identify benefits ie. the problems which are to be solved when introducing them. Yet many of the methods do not in themselves explicitly identify which problems they are best at addressing. E.g. what problem does the CMMI or Agile approach solve for your organization?

This related directly to the whole Agile vs CMMI debate currently occurring. Read the Complete Article

Project Kickoffs Improve Project Performance

Project Kickoffs Improve Project Performance
By Zenkara

We were recently asked about why project kickoffs are important – surely people could just read the Project Management Plan and Project Charter.

Nice in theory – rather more difficult in practice. It’s always better to get everyone in a room (physical or web-based) and make sure everyone understands the fundamental points to the project.

But what to include in a kickoff meeting?

  • Project
    • What is the name of the project?
    • What is the name of the project manager?
  • Scope

    • What is the objective?
    • Who are the customers?
    • What are the expected results?
  • Team

    • Who is the project sponsor?
    • Who are the project stakeholders?
    • What is the organizational structure?
  • Schedule

    • What is the scheduling approach?
    • What are the key phases?
    • What are the milestones?
    • What is the deadline?
    • What are the key deliverables?
  • Customer Engagement

    • What will the customer do?
    • How will we interact with them?
Read the Complete Article

Project Sponsor Pre-Meeting Checklist

Project Sponsor Pre-Meeting Checklist
By Zenkara

It’s always a good idea to come prepared to meetings with project sponsors – particularly if you’ve got bad news. The important thing is to spring no surprises.

  • What is the objective of the meeting?
  • What outcome do you want? Agreement, consensus, awareness?
  • What percentage of the project has been achieved versus planned?
  • What are the top 4 points you want to get across during the update?
  • What is worrying the sponsor right now? (if you don’t know this, you better find out ASAP)
  • What are you doing about their concerns? What have you done about it? (simply saying “in the process of …” or “we’re looking at it…” is a really poor explanation)
  • What is going well on the project? – always start the meeting with some good news and end the meeting with some good news
  • What is a problem right now? Technical, money, people, politics, suppliers
  • What can be done?
Read the Complete Article

What Makes a Successful PMO?

What Makes a Successful PMO?
By Zenkara

Over the years we’ve seen some really good Project Management Offices, and we’ve seen a whole lot more which just don’t cut it.

If you’re the manager of a PMO or a concerned team member, what are some of the better traits and things to do?

  • Be clear about the services you provide – what are the key activities?
  • What value do you add to projects in the business? Or are you just gatekeepers and form checkers?
  • How does the business engage you?
  • Do you provide Project/Program Managers to the business? Or do you provide coaching of the business Project/Program Managers?
  • Are you a center of Project Management Excellence? Or do the Project Managers know more?
  • Get out from behind your desks and get out into project land. The more successful PMOs keep a very high profile in the business.
  • How do you help with scope formulation, estimating, budgets, risks, issues, scheduling, KPI reporting, benefits realisation, config and document management?
Read the Complete Article

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