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Seattle APLN Update and Agile Program Management Slides

Seattle APLN Summit Last week I attended the APLN Leadership Summit in Seattle. It was a great event and while I was disappointed I did not get to learn more about Real Options and iteration-less Kanban (because I was busy hosting a competing session with Mike Cottmeyer). I had a good time and met some great people.

The event was held at the very swank Edgewater hotel, located on the waterfront, near Pier 67. It is a chic combination of log, steel, timber, and river-rock. Due to some reservation mix up my standard room was upgraded the “Beatles Suite”. Scene of the 1964 Beatles stay and the photo of them fishing out of a hotel window. The suite was large and fun in a “Austin Powers meets Yogi Bear” kind of way (Union Jack cushions, log furniture, etc) – anyway being British I am always curious to what other nationalities associate with Britain.

The summit started with a great keynote by Lisa Haneberg. Some points that really resonated with me were bringing a sense of energy and creating a vision. A nice graphic she used to visualize this is shown below.
 Project Vision 1

This diagram depicts the Current Reality in the bottom yellow oval and projects up to Probable Future and Preferred Future state ovals that could happen. Obviously we would favour the preferred future state and so we should focus on the “Things We Need to Start Doing” to get there and make sure we stop doing the “Things We Need to Stop Doing” activities that would lead us to the less desirable Probable Future.

Lisa pointed out that good visions stretch the Possible Future envelope (which is why the Preferred Future oval extends beyond the Possible Future set.) It is good to have some element of “How on earth are we going to do this!” within the vision.

For those that visualize time going left to right and good scales going upwards (weird people like me) I have redrawn the diagram.

Project Vision 2

Mike Cottmeyer and I facilitated the Agile Program Management track and as always, the best content and value came from the attendees who shared their experiences of agile program challenges and solutions.  In the afternoon we discussed integrating agile projects with traditional project management frameworks and reviewed some slides that show the sweet spot for agile within the entire project scope, mechanisms for external parties to interact with agile teams, and a hybrid agile plan.

I have uploaded the images here.

Agile Traditional Integration.pdf

Shared Leadership

Shared Leadership Question: Which is better, a team with great leader as project manager, or a team of competent leaders?
Answer: The results are not even close. Companies like Semco, Toyota, and W. L. Gore & Associates have demonstrated beyond doubt, that while it is great to have an outstanding leader as project manager, it is far better to have an entire team of individuals who are competent leaders.

In the book “How People Work: And How You Can Help Them to Give Their Best” Roderic Gray outlines nine ingredients that bring about a successful outcome at work:

1. I know what I am expected to do and why it needs to be done
2. I want to do it
3. I have the ability to do it
4. Someone who matters to me will notice if I do it
5. I know how well I’m doing it
6. Processes help me do it
7. I have the resources to do it
8. The environment is right
9. I can do better next time

It is easy to look at our jobs and criticize management if any are missing. Yet, as Michael Aucoin points out, it is far better to get a critical mass of the ingredients right and then give workers the green light to fill in what is missing. This is the essence of distributed leadership and the stuff of which exemplary projects and companies are made.

An example of this shared leadership in action is the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra ( This full size orchestra has no conductor; instead they share and rotate leadership roles. So, what does this orchestra with no conductor sound like? Well, very good apparently, they have won two Grammy awards, recorded over 70 albums, and play worldwide to rave reviews, regularly performing at Carnegie Hall.

Teams do not need all 9 of the magic ingredients handed to them, but they do need to know that they have the authority and freedom add the missing ingredients from their mix. Empowered teams exhibiting shared leadership are the key to great performance. Project managers add value by illuminating and facilitating the process.