PMI Organizational Agility Conference 2019

The PMI® Organizational Agility Conference in its fifth edition examined evolving approaches to resilient value delivery! Change is the constant factor, both in this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, as well in project management. In this blog, I share the lessons I learned in this online conference.

Josh Seiden – Sense & Respond: Principles for the Next Century of Work

Josh Seiden is designer, coach, and author of Sense & Respond (from Harvard Business Publishing) and Lean UX (from O’Reilly). We may be so used to quarterly or yearly procedures in our professional or personal life, that we may forget that these are deliberate choices. Just like Tesla chooses to serve its customers as a software company instead of just another car manufacturer. And even slogans like ‘software is eating the world’ may become superficial. Is software really the beating heart of our economy? What Josh doesn’t recognize, is that even fomer CIO Peter Jacobs’ statement isn’t taken that literally anymore within ING Bank in 2019.

Software and the use of it are interdependent. Software isn’t fixed for eternity, but it evolves. As humans, we’re a flock or swarm. Think of the use of hashtags, Instagrammable locations. Sense & respond is the corresponding approach to continuous learning in short cycles. Seiden’s message: it’s not about methods like Scrum, Kanban, and Lean.

Five principles that build a sense & respond culture:

  1. Embrace continuous change. LOL: standard Chevrolets were made on the same location where a Tesla plant is now. Honestly, Tesla’s producing a limited set of models too 😉 And sorry, copycat behavior like hashtags and stories on social networks is not genuine.
  2. Manage via outcomes (not outputs). Seiden defines outcome as a measurable change in behavior that drives business results. The logic model framework (resources -> activities -> outputs -> outcomes -> impact) is similar to what PRINCE2 and MSP deploy, although impact there are benefits that contribute to a strategy.
  3. Create a 2-way conversation with the market. Build listening into your campaigns. Back your qualitative research with data, just like Eric Ries advocates in The Lean Startup. Remember that listening without consent is spying, and listening without responding is creepy. Conversation flourishes with listening and adding value. A conversation ends when you lose trust.
  4. Create collaborations.
  5. Create a learning culture. Failure is not an option, it’s part of a learning process. “Without humility, you’re unable to learn.” (Laszlo Bock).

Tony Maughan – A New Way of Working: ANZ’s Cultural Shift and Delivery Transformation

The new CEO of Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ) promised a customer-focused transformation when he took over the organization. Led from the top and enabled at all levels of the organization, Tony Maughan from ANZ shared the company’s story of adopting new ways of working. Scale is not enough, being nimble is.

Start with clear goals. Rarely, agile is a goal in itself. For ANZ, these key principles drove change initiatives:

  • speed to value for customers
  • people engagement and talent
  • simplification and efficiency

A new way of working is not a thing or event but live by values, defined by principles, and expected through a range of practices. ANZ has a method-agnostic, holistic approach. In practice, it means working in small, multi-disciplinary teams with clear, shared goals, that are empowered, autonomous, and output-driven. Continuous improvement, capacity-based funding, customer focus, data-driven, and frequent iterations of smaller units of change characterize the way ANZ now works. Guidelines, not rules.

Based on the early days of Spotify’s organization model – still recognizable within e.g. ING Bank – with squads, chapters, and tribes, ANZ has a portfolio of tribes reporting to the Executive Committee. Important behaviors are excellence, integrity, collaboration, accountability, and respect. Which company would select people that are treacherous, isolationist, irresponsible, and rude?

Efficiency, effectiveness are not mutually exclusive, but both deserve attention. Acquiring experience takes time. Autonomy and alignment need to be in balance, which is hard at scale. Inject expertise to constantly lift maturity.

Johanna Rothman – The 3 Principles of Organizational Agility

Management consultant Johanna Rothman wrote books like From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams: Collaborate to Deliver (2019) and Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver (2017).

Unfortunately, this session was not available for on-demand. Some tweets share impressions.

Mike Griffiths – The Change Resilient Professional

Mike Griffiths helped creating the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) back in 1994, seven years before the Agile Manifesto was formulated. Nowadays he frequently updates the PMI-ACP Exam Prep study guides next to his delivery roles, and positions like board director of the Agile Alliance and Agile Professional Learning Network

Resilience is a life skill. Change is accelerating. Our world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambigous (VUCA). Magic and luck won’t help us out executing strategy. It starts with emotional intelligence and leadership. Emotional intelligence requires managing our self and working with others. As humans we get to choose how we respond to stimuli. Our default stress respons a.k.a the amygdala hijack can be relieved by creating space. Gratitude, journaling (off-loading stressful thoughts), exercise, meditation, and random acts of kindness are examples.

Happiness is 90% internal (perception, how we process events), 10% external (event, stimulus).

Change often is associated with loss. And so, the five stages of grief and loss, or the Kübler-Ross model, is insightful as well. When change is perceived as a (personal) gain (security, money, authority, status, etc.) it may be more acceptable. Change may provide a new challenge, prevent boredom. Opportunities to influence the change initiative, it approach or timing enable acceptance.

Mike shows the Stacey Matrix as well to highlight in what circumstances what project delivery method is effective. We are in the Maze Solving Business. Note that our mazes are really big: projects take a long time, we need logistics help. Support each other and keep sponsors informed. Life is complicated and we need to make context-specific questions. Dilemmas (the tyranny of the OR) should be re-thought as possibilities to do both, Mike draws from Jim CollinsBuilt to Last.

Focus on the goal, become agnostic, hone your skills, and expand your toolbox are adviced to get beyond the agile model. Don’t be afraid to try hybrid approaches. The final part is spent on the evolution of organizations, using a color-staged model, this time taken from Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frédéric Laloux.

Check the speaker’s site too. It shows approaches, artifacts, and trainings across axes of leadership / emotional intelligence, industries, agile- and plan-driven change initiatives.

Michel Biedermann – Lessons Learned in Hybrid Agile/Waterfall Delivery 

Michel Biedermann is consultant and trainer at IBM and a long-time contirbutor to PMI. As project lead, how do you deliver in an agile fashion when the customer teams you lead struggle with this delivery model? Apply the five why’s or Ishikawa ‘fishbone’ diagram to find root causes of cascading delays.

Michel explains the work breakdown structure that translates themes via epics, features, and stories into tasks, where themes and epics are aligned to the enterprise project or change portfolio. Be systematic when prioritizing the work.

Dependency management is crucial. Serious commitments make the difference. I fully agree and recognize on a daily basis what happens when these advices are neglected. Michel ends with sharing a lot of videos and books for further understanding the power of combining approaches to solve causes for delivery delays.

John Medcof – Driving Change in the Government of Canada

Josh Medcof is Director General of Transferable Skills at the Canada School of Public Service which is the key learning provider for the Government of Canada. Canada has three governmental levels: municipal, provincial, and national. Five business lines are used:

  • government of Canda and public sector skills
  • transferable skills
  • digital academy
  • indigenous learning
  • a respectful and inclusive workplace

with 13 points of services throughout Canda, 400+ courses, 440+ events  300+ tools, and 680 employees. Many projects and other change initiatives of various sizes and levels of complexity are directed and implemented. The environment is shifting, disrupted by technology, consumer behavior, and limited change preparedness. A project management culture that supports nimbleness is being built without an end date.

The demand for project management skills is huge. Learning needs are on best practices including agile, key responsibilities, leaderships, change and culture management.