Integrating an Enterprise Strategy and “The Agile PMO”

Blue Heron Bridge - Singer Island, Florida

The Agile PMO Role

So how do you integrate enterprise strategy and corporate performance into an agile delivery model? On one hand, the enterprise strategy and corporate performance require stability, predictability, and a high degree of structure, much like the Blue Heron Bridge in Singer Island, Florida. On the other hand, agile techniques are extremely useful with adjusting and reacting to uncertainty by creating highly collaborative environment and pushing decision making into daily scrum meeting / calls between project stakeholders. In my experience and discussions with companies and teams in this space, many view this as a holy grail. The article linked above by Tamara Sulaiman at Gantthead does a fine job of positioning a classic organizational capability, an Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) within an agile construct, and offers several ideas on how to make it work.

In particular, what I like most about this article is the clarity around specific activities and capabilities that could be put into place to make an Agile PMO live within a company. The most interesting capability in the Agile PMO is the meta-scrum. The article go on to say “the Meta Scrum is focused on the strategic planning and decisions guiding the program or programs as a whole. Establishing a Meta Scrum with the PMO representative acting as ScrumMaster to plan and facilitate meetings (as well as reporting and tracking decisions and action items) can add significant value in having a program able to rapidly respond to change while staying true to the corporate strategy and objectives.”

If you are leading a business transformation, implementing a corporate strategy, delivering a large program, or managing a project with multiple sprints, I see the following critical success factors for integrating agile within an enterprise strategy:

  • Articulate your strategy in a manner that is culturally acceptable for your company.
  • Decompose the strategy into a series of initiatives / programs / projects / sprints that can be understood by your company with traceability from the top of the company down to the first line employee.
  • Establish enough of a management system that embraces agile concepts at the daily execution level while gathering the basic information that will allow you to answer the hardest strategic level questions from your CEO. Basic elements that I propose include but are not limited to: corporate goals, programs / projects / sprints / tasks, employee hours worked on a weekly basis, & capital vs expense delineations.
  • Define and allocate executive level ownership of the corporate goals, programs, projects, sprints, tasks and associated budgets to move decision making as close to the source as possible.
  • Tooling to implement your management system so that you are not running your business in Excel spreadsheets.

In the end, you want to create a corporate ecosysem, think of this as a culture and management system,  that mimics the structure and stability of the Blue Heron Bridge (aka the enterprise) while allowing the daily variability and agility of the underlying ocean of change to ebb and flow (the people, programs, & projects).

Are you a Purpose Maximizer or Profit Maximizer?

RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us – StumbleUpon.

In light of the increased chatter on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and traditional business rags, I am sharing this very creative and engaging video regarding employee motivation. You may have heard of The Energy Project, well this is right up that same alley.

How do you create engagement with your employees? As a manager, how do you engage your teammates? As a leader, how do you engage your teammates?

The concept of a purpose maximizer over a profit maximizer resonates with me. If you had to pick one of these as a descriptor of your leadership style or intention, which one would you pick? What do you do to engage teammates on the purpose of your team’s goals? Do you think of your job as a manager, leader, or teammate in this fashion? Its pretty powerful.

It has been a long time since we as a society have been as challenged as we are with respect to profit maximization, as a whole. Making a dollar hasn’t been this challenging since the late 70s or early 80s by most of my instinctive perceptions. It can become very easy to be a profit maximizer, and that may pay off in the short-term, but what about the long-term?

All the buzz about engagement is at the center of this question. The key is knowing how to walk the line between being a profit maximizer and a purpose maximizer. It’s impractical to choose one over the other permanently. I see the magic as being more of a balance between the two. We will always have that challenge, but my sense is that we have a heightened degree of that challenge these days given the current state of affairs in business and the economy.

Give this video 10 minutes of your time, and see if your personal and professional engagement is impacted.

What about Creating Marketplace Disruption?

LinkedIn: Reading List by Amazon.

If you want a practical, down to earth view on dealing with transformational challenges, you owe it to yourself and your clients / company to read this book. Adam Hartung’s “phoenix principle” concept crystallizes what companies and teams can do to make transformations happen. For a quick insight into the thinking, check out his blog at

Adam does a great job framing business transformation or changes within several actionable constructs like: success formulas, defend and extend management, and white space. These concepts are unique in my opinion as most other business transformation or change management books stay in the academic theory space. While the academics books fly at 100,000 feet, Adam’s contributions take you down below 50,000 feet. It gives you constructs to frame your own transformations.

  • Success Formulas – What business patterns has your company or client developed to turn a profit? Do they work still? Are they cost challenged? Are they threatened by new market entrants with a technology disruption? What is your next success formula?
  • Defend & Extend Management – This was my favorite concept. You know this one. You live it everyday. I’ll bet you have a manager or executive who is very happy with the current environment and may even be content. As content increases, appetite to change decreases because change represents a risk to their content. When this happens, you end up with a defend and extend management approach, where companies look to minimize risk to their current content in deference to growth. As opposed to conquering new challenges, individuals and teams (even companies) look to defend or preserve what they have today, in spite of it (it = sales, revenue, profit, etc.) declining on a periodic basis.
  • White space – Where is your company innovating with permission to attack the sacred cows? As a related tangent to this discussion, check out my previous post regarding my concept of Sacred Cow Driven Change. For those companies that have a dependency on a stream of sales / revenue / profit, find the white space in your business, or area where you have no risk to the current stream of sales / revenue / profit and innovate, take risk, roll with the punches, try new ideas.

For the technologists out there, I suggest this book is to business transformation as the book Design Patterns by the Gang of Four was to object oriented software. This is a work that you can refer to for patterns to model your transformations from.

After finishing the book , you will still be left with the question of how to apply the concepts to your own scope of responsibility, just like most other concepts on business transformation. The magic with transformation is in the “how” not necessarily the “what”, although this contribution by Adam does a great job with framing the what.

Investing In Yourself (my preliminary take on The Energy Project)

Take Back Your Lunch – The Energy Project.

This link came across my desk earlier this week and caught my eye. As you think about the impact of a movement like this, several managerial catch phrases may come to mind like…work-life balance, quality of life, respect for the individual, being a “working mom”, or being a “family man”. Do you believe in these? Do you live your life by these? Most importantly, do your actions reflect a commitment to these principles and what this movement seems to be about?

Energy or more specifically, engagement – the combination of energy and contribution, is a topic that seems to be increasing in popularity these days. It might be the most important impact you have as a leader, to get and keep people engaged. Achieving that is much easier said than done. Taking back your lunch, one day at a time sounds like a good place to start.

The bigger message, in my opinion, is to invest in yourself. Investing in yourself is critical. If you don’t, why should anyone else? Investing in yourself and your own personal interests is within your control and the best way to increase your opportunity for engagement (assuming you maintain some relative amount of work-related interest).

Admittedly, I am just learning about The Energy Project this week, so we’ll see where all this goes. I think I will take 15 minutes to learn a little more from the website and maybe even buy the book. Afterall, I need to invest in myself, right? Will you?

Leadership Lessons of Animal House – Bluto’s Inspiration Speech

Bluto (John Belushi) delivers a priceless inspirational speech to his fellow Delta brothers!

via Animal House – Bluto’s Inspiration Speech.

How about a humorous take on leadership? Before you continue, I will caveat this entry with a recognition that Bluto is an extremely dramatic and unconventional demonstration of leadership. With this in mind, and hopefully a smile on your face, I submit the following for your consideration…

When is the last time you stepped away from the topic of leadership and looked for a non-traditional model, or micro-example of leadership? I am sure that many, probably most would disagree with Bluto as a role-model for leadership, but in the spirit of change, I propose that Bluto was a change agent.

When faced with expulsion from “college”, and a “beat down” team of Delta brothers, Bluto pours in more passion to change their fate, and along the way he recruits Otter and the rest to face their arch-enemy and re-shape the future for their fraternity. Can you see the parallel for you in your role as a leader?

Recognizing that this is a stretch for exemplary leadership, and that this case is frought with holes, give yourself the opportunity to argue in support of Bluto and the Delta team as a group of change agents. They make a good case.

  • Have you, your project, or your company faced “the end of the road”?
  • Have you been told by those in charge that your future has been eliminated?
  • How many Niedermeyer’s are in your organization?
  • How often does an unconventional leader get misunderstood?
  • Have you witnessed someone’s attempt to rally a team, only to fail? How did they react? Were they as determined as Bluto?
  • Have you ever felt like one of the Delta brothers, incredulous about your future as a team?
  • Have you witnessed a leader (e.g. Otter), go to battle for your team only to be battered and bruised for arguably the right principles?
  • What did YOU do to get behind the inspirational (and politically incorrect) leader? Did you doubt them, or did you take up the case for change in spite of significant authoritative (e.g. Wermer) or powerful (e.g. Dougie or Greggie) obstacles?
  • Have you ever felt as exhilirated as Bluto probably felt as he screams “Let’s DO IT!” Can you imagine how that would that feel within your context of change?

You get the point. Love or hate Animal House, John Belushi, or the concepts of college Fraternities, you can abstract lessons of leadership from this clip, adapt the techniques to your own situation, and re-approach a potentially desperate situation. Most importantly, I hope you can do this with a smile on your face and the memory of Bluto’s irreverent historical quotes in the back of your mind. Hopefully, at least this entry put a smile on your face.

Integrating Project and Change Management

On April 27, 2010 project & change management leaders came together in Las Vegas to discuss how and why project management and change management are integrated.

Prosci Global Change Management Conference

I recently had the great honor of speaking as a part of a panel at the 2010 Global Change Management conference hosted by Prosci ( and the Association of Change Management Professionals ( My esteemed fellow panelists were from Oracle, the Brighton Leadership Group, & the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and in spite of our varied industry backgrounds, we shared several perspectives on this subject. Whether you are a project manager or a change manager at heart, I think this quick excerpt from our perspective will resonate with your experiences:

  • Know your environment and begin your integration building on core competency. Where is your organizational maturity: Are you stronger in project management or change management? Build on what is already working well; learn lessons from what is not successful
  • Everyone must understand why the integration is happening and what it will accomplish. Answer the question, “What does success look like?”
  • Don’t disband the change team when the project “goes live” some resources need to support the change and manage resistance
  • Integration is not meant to be a tug-of-war
  • Project success depends more on stakeholder perception than on meeting project goals
  • Project completion doesn’t mean everything was accepted
  • Never, never, never stop learning
  • Stay 5 steps ahead of the change
  • Get all stakeholders involved; both supporters and resisters

We had a lively discussion with great participation from the audience including many Global and Fortune 500 companies. In the end, I would assert to you

  • While all surgeons are doctors, not all doctors are surgeons; While all change managers are project managers, not all project managers are change managers, and
  • Like the London tube: “Mind the Gap” – the gap in knowledge and skills. Knowledge of project or change management does not mean you are skilled at either, AND knowledge is a great start.

My thanks and appreciation goes out to my fellow panelists and the 350+ conference attendees for your participation and engagement at the conference.

Stay tuned for more discussion on this topic. In the meantime, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Why? Leave a Comment.

IT Governance Rule #2 of 3 – Make sure you are doing things right

In article 2 of a 3 part series on IT Governance, if you have a capability to make sure you are doing the right things (article 1), you need to make sure you are doing them right. With this entry, lets assume you or your organization know what matters most, and your focus is  in determining how to make sure your team delivers.

What matters more, an excellent strategy or excellent execution? If you had to pick one, which would you pick? In Making Strategy Work (2005 Wharton School Publishing – Amazon link here) Lawrence Hrebinak argues that execution of strategy is the key, not strategy definition itself. I concur and this means that this second rule is more important than rule #1, and my experience across multiple industries, countries, and economies suggest the same. It is amazing how delivery of solutions or eliminating problems “takes the noise out of the system”. In my consulting days, I was thrust into many troubled situations. In these situations my clients consistently said “if you can’t deliver on what I have already contracted to you, why do you think I would give you anything else?” Makes sense to me!

So, how do you make sure you are doing things right? Some considerations (in no particular order):

  • Project Management
    • How many projects are active? Is it easy to determine the answer? If not, you have an issue.
    • For each project, what are you delivering, when will you be finished, and how much will it cost?
  • People, Process, Technology
    • Do you have the right people in the right roles (as I type this the 2010 NFL Draft is on my TV in the background)?
    • Do you have the right delivery system or processes?
    • Do you have the right technical capabilities, architectures, platforms?
  • Relationships
    • How do the business and IT relate to each other at the enterprise, project and operational levels?
    • What does the business say about IT? What are the 10 adjectives that the business would use to describe IT?
    • What does IT say about the business? What are the 10 adjectives that IT uses to describe the business?
    • What is working well?
    • What would you change if you were King for a day?

To make sure you are doing things right, it doesn’t take a PhD. It’s really more about the basics. And, what is more basic, better said – universal, than a traffic light? Red, yellow or green? English, Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, or Australian we all understand the basics of red, yellow and green. Use these universal icons to determine if you are doing things right. With this vernacular in place, manage by exception. Be hard on the red items. Watch the yellow items. And, most importantly, determine which green activities are really yellow, and which yellow activities are really red and you will stay 5 steps ahead of your changes.