Identity and Access Management (IAM) Is More Important Than Ever

It’s a company’s worst nightmare. A data breach or cyber-attack. Cyber-attacks continue to be a growing threat, but not all data breaches are caused by outside hackers. Ask Morgan Stanley. In 2015, the financial services firm revealed that an employee had stolen data from more than 350,000 accounts. Forrester estimates that 80% of data breaches have a connection to compromised privileged credentials, such as passwords, tokens, keys, and certificates.

To avoid a data breach nightmare, company’s must ensure only the right people can access appropriate systems, data, and resources, for the right reasons. This is accomplished through Identity and access management (IAM). IAM is a specialty discipline within cyber-security. It helps companies increase productivity while securely enabling access to applications and systems.

IAM has to be an essential part of your IT toolkit. The typical business user has dozens (even hundreds) of applications they must access to do their jobs. These applications span cloud, mobile and on-premise solutions, and all can hold confidential, sensitive and regulated information.

To address the access management problem, there are many different IAM products on the market. I’m currently finishing a project to put SailPoint IIQ in place for a large financial institution. SailPoint is a Java based web application that integrates with legacy systems and Active Directory (AD) enabled applications. Auto-provisioning, native change detection, reporting and access certifications are some of the features SailPoint IIQ offers. Some of the other popular IAM products include Oracle Identity Management (OIM), Microsoft Identity Manager and Microsoft Azure Active Directory.

Regardless of the product you choose, having the right IAM strategy in place is key. The implementation of IAM can be very challenging. It takes strong collaboration between business, IT and operational teams. It also takes prioritization from leadership. Without executive sponsorship, business system owners and stakeholders may be reluctant to assist.

If you are in early stages of IAM or if you are already into delivery, MacIsaac Consulting can help. We provide services to help you put the right IAM strategy in place and we provide delivery resources.

Below are pictures of the cross-functional IAM team in action from my current project which is winding down. The work is very challenging, as most IAM projects are. Yet, the project will be successful because the client made IAM a top priority. They made the investment and provided the support to get the job done. That’s what it takes.

If your company is ready to deliver IAM, or if you need help on your current journey, let’s talk!

We used a Kanban board to track each Application going through the IAM integration process
Cross-functional team made up of IAM engineers and business members
Expert SailPoint IAM engineers working hard in the team War Room

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the founder and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master/Coach. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

Why Middle Management Is The Ultimate Agility Killer

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker

For the past seven months I have been managing a difficult IT project for a large organization. The experience has me convinced that middle management is the ultimate roadblock to agility. I get why they call it the frozen middle. To understand the root of the problem, you must look beyond managers themselves. The core of the issue lies within organizational structure and culture.

While many companies are undergoing agile transformations, most still use old organizational models. The matrix structure is a top offender. Loaded with hierarchy, bureaucracy and management layers, it is anything but agile. If an agile team were superman, the matrix organization would be kryptonite.

Below are some of the ways the matrix organization impedes agility:

Disjointed Functional Areas

The matrix organization splits functional areas into groups. In IT for example, developers belong to one group, QA analyst to another, and so on. The employees within the group’s report to a manager. The manager then places employees on projects within the company.

Here’s the problem. Functional groups are setup to be in conflict against each other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen functional areas point blame at each other when challenges arise. “It’s development’s fault”, or ” its QA’s fault”. Instead of promoting an attitude of one team, the matrix environment sets the stage for political strife. Managers snipe at one another as they fight to stand their ground.

The result of all the political warfare is hindered project teams. Team members just want to accomplish their work. Instead they get harassed by managers who need ammo to defend their functional area.

The Value-Add Dilemma for Functional Managers

IT functional managers working in a matrix environment have a dilemma. They usually come from a background of product delivery, where their contributions were clear to see. When they leave the trenches of project work to become managers, they realize their new role is about staffing. How then are they to prove their value if they are not delivering work? They attempt this in two ways.

First, they involve themselves into areas where they aren’t needed. As a project manager and Scrum Master, I have had to ask functional managers to not attend project team meetings. In teams, the presence of non-core members causes disruption. Teams operate at peak performance when each member of the team knows and trusts each other. The moment you introduce someone who is not part of a team, especially a ‘manager’, everyone clams up. The team reverts to the ‘forming’ stage of Bruce Tuckman’s four stage team building model.

Second, functional managers try to prove their worth by raising ‘concerns’ to leadership. Since they are on the sidelines for projects, voicing concerns about potential issues gives them an outlet for exposure. It’s a way for them to say, hey I think there is an issue, see how I’m adding value? Unfortunately, this often results in a lot of noise and distractions. While their intentions may be good, they end up stirring the pot.

These behaviors are not the fault of the managers themselves. They are usually good people with strong backgrounds. The problem is not the people. The problem is the functional management role itself. It doesn’t give people a way to add value.

Forming teams around projects

The matrix organization forms teams around projects. It’s not uncommon for people to be on two, three or even four projects at a time. This results in switching costs, the cost of doing more than one complex task as a time. Studies show that when people switch their thinking to different topics, their productivity goes down.

Poor team development is another result of forming teams around projects. Assigning employees to new projects doesn’t allow enough time for team development. It takes people working together for a while before a high performing team emerges. The moment you assemble a new team for a project, the team building process starts from scratch.

PMO’s

When it comes to process overload, the PMO (Project Management Office) is the worst. PMO’s force organizations to follow rigid standards, processes and tools. Many are trying to adapt to agile practices, but the results are the same. Too much process and bureaucracy. It goes against the first principle outlined in the popular Agile manifesto. Individuals and interactions are valued more than processes and tools.

While processes and controls are necessary for organizations, too much is an agility killer. Forcing project teams to create wasteful documentation is a common problem. I once had a manager ask that a large test plan be created for each Agile two-week sprint. The result was a QA analyst spending more time working on a test plan than collaborating with the team. To achieve agility, you must value working software more than documentation.

The Solutions to the Middle Management Conundrum

The best way to combat these issues is by forming stable, cross functional, capability teams. True agile teams. The teams can use whatever framework, processes or tools that work best for them. They don’t have to follow arbitrary processes from a PMO.

There are many benefits to the stable product delivery teams’ model. It eliminates the need for excessive management by doing away with functional groups. This puts emphasis on product delivery and providing value to the customer. It also reduces the internal politics that the matrix organization creates.

By keeping teams intact, it allows enough time for team development. Instead of forming teams around projects, project work goes through teams. This is a mindset shift away from traditional project management to modern product delivery.

Agile teams report up through one line of management. Managers are responsible for strategy and ownership of their capability. This gives managers clear roles and responsibilities that provide value. They engage in product delivery.

Part of the goal with the product team model is to create a flatter organization and to adopt an agile culture. While these changes are hard for large organizations, many companies are having success. In Minneapolis, where I live, companies like Best Buy, Target, United Health Group, and TCF Bank are making significant progress. They understand that the balanced matrix organization is no longer adequate to stay competitive.

Organizations still using the balanced matrix structure need to change. Implementing a stable product team model improves agility and benefits the customer. It also provides a more enjoyable work environment for managers and employees.

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. You can follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

The one trait that the greatest leaders have in common


Throughout my career, I’ve had the benefit of learning from different types of leaders. I have found that the greatest of them, all have one thing in common. They all strive to help others succeed. They enjoy helping people. It gives them sense of fulfillment that goes beyond personal gains.

We often here people in leadership positions speak about their commitment to service. They tout “servant leadership” as their motto, yet their words often ring hollow. Too often we learn that self-interest is their true motivation. These people are leadership impostors.

True leaders are different. What is it about them that makes them enjoy helping others? Are they some sort of special breed, predisposed to become servant leaders? Or is caring about the success of others a skill they developed over time? The answer may be, both.

First, caring for others is a skill that we can develop. By receiving honest feedback from our peers, we can improve our emotional intelligence. Studies have shown that we can develop empathy. Second, we know that each of our brains are wired in a certain way. For example, the brain areas necessary for remorse, do not function for sociopaths. So, there is a genetic predisposition factor.

Great leaders may have a generosity gene, but most also developed their skills. They did this throughout their life. Many have lived through difficult experiences, some going back to their childhood. At some point, someone helped them. It could have been a teacher, coach, manager or friend. These experiences taught them the importance of helping others to succeed.

You may say, all this talk about helping others is great, but isn’t leadership about results? That’s a good question, and here’s my answer. Leadership is about achieving results through others, so why wouldn’t you want others to succeed?

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or visit Mike’s blog.

Agile is Value Driven, Not Plan Driven

Agile

How many times have we all experienced this? Leadership asks for project status. What they want is a color. Is the project green, yellow or red? If it’s green, all is well. If it’s yellow, there is cause for concern. If it’s red, sound the alarm!

And how do we justify whether a project is green, yellow or red? We check the project schedule, budget and scope. If one if these areas doesn’t align with the plan, the project is red.

If we were talking about waterfall projects, this wouldn’t be an issue. The problem is, many companies manage “Agile” projects in this same way. They want to be Agile, but fail to let go of a plan driven, project focused approach.

Agile is a value driven approach, not plan driven.

A plan driven, project focused, approach is what we learned when we got our PMP’s. Everything is planned up front. Requirements are fixed, and cost and schedule are estimated. We then report status based on how the project is doing compared to the plan.

When it comes to software development, we know a plan driven approach is flawed. Yet, many companies continue to use it. Why? Why do we punish project teams for being over budget or behind schedule when we know it’s the process that’s broken?

We need to shift our mindset from project focus, to product focus.

Product focus is a value driven, adaptive process. It doesn’t punish teams for change. It anticipates change and even welcomes it.

In a value driven approach, cost is fixed, and features are estimated. It’s the reverse of a plan driven approach. Investment is made at the product level, not a project level. People are dedicated to teams, and the teams stay intact.

This move from project focus to product focus is not pie in the sky. It’s not for small tech firms only. Target, for example, has completely shifted to a product focus model. They get it, and they’re not alone. Many large companies are organizing cross functional teams around products. They are bringing IT and business people together to focus on delivering business outcomes.

If your company is going Agile, ask yourself, are you ready to move on from traditional project management? Are you ready to no longer have a PMO? Are you ready to change? If yes, then it’s time to embrace a product focused mindset. If no, then continue using Waterfall, but don’t call it Agile. 

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or visit Mike’s blog.

What will Agile look like in 2030?

Photo Credit – Pixabay

It’s been almost twenty years since a group of software developers created the Agile Manifesto. Since then, Agile has changed the way we develop software and taken the business world by storm. Terms like “daily stand-ups”, “MVP” (Minimum Viable Product) and “Sprints” have become common language. Offices used to consist of departments working in silos and large cubicle walls. Now they are filled with cross functional teams and open work spaces.

So, what will the future have in store for Agile? Will the Agile movement continue to gain momentum, or will it become another management fad that fades away?  Will it continue to expand outside the realms of product development? Will we see new frameworks that replace common practices like Scrum, Kanban and SAFe? What about Agile teams, will they look different?

In this post I will tackle some of these questions and provide predictions of what Agile may look like in 2030. I’ll start with the biggest question.

Is Agile a management fad that will fade away?

The short answer is no. The underlying principles of Agile are sound. The fundamental beliefs of Agile were well known long before the Agile Manifesto was written in 2001. Past management gurus like Edward Deming preached the benefits of iterative methods. For whatever reason, it’s taken the rest of the world a long time to catch on. Not only is Agile not a fad, it is mandatory for survival.

While Agile is here to stay, many of the current frameworks and certifications will fade away. Over time they will join the graveyard of past management ideas like MRP, ERP, TQM and JIT.

Will Agile continue to expand into more departments, functions and industries?

Yes. Today Agile is still thought of a something used for software development. Over the next decade, we will see a big push in Agile adoption for HR, marketing, sales and every other department and function.  Don’t be surprised if soon you see your accounting team holding a daily stand-up.

We will also see a much wider spread of Agile adoption across industries. This includes construction, logistics and automotive. The largest industry to go all in on Agile will be financial services. Large financial services companies will have to fend off pressure from non-traditional competitors. Many of the big financial services companies already started Agile transformations, but they are just beginning.

What will Agile teams look like in 2030?

We will still have cross functional, self-organizing teams, but there will be one major difference. Agile teams will have a new team member, and that member won’t be human. Interactive artificial intelligence will be a crucial part of Agile teams. In the future, we will wonder how teams ever operated without it.

I’m not saying we will have a robot walking into our meetings. I am saying teams will use a voice activated AI feature like amazon’s Alexa to provide quick response to questions like “how many large stories are in the backlog?”. But that’s just the easy stuff. It will also perform tasks, help teams make decisions and write code.

Think of the character data from star trek. Data was an invaluable resource to the crew. The same will be true of the AI used by future Agile teams, and it will be super cool. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want a robot on their team?

What will be the training needs be in 2030?

The Agile training needs in the future will be less about frameworks and two-day certifications. They will be more about developing emotional intelligence. Team members and managers alike will need to practice mindfulness to deal with the tidal wave of distractions, pressure and stress the next decade will bring. Self-awareness and empathy already are crucial components to work in an Agile environment but in the future, the need for these skills will be multiplied.

Conclusion

In 2030, we will see some big differences in Agile. Agile is not a fad. It will not fade away, but a lot of today’s popular certifications and frameworks will. Agile will continue to expand across industries, departments and functions. The financial services industries could be the largest industry completely changed by Agile. AI will become an invaluable component of future Agile teams. Emotional intelligence will be the critical skill set. Training will be more focused on EQ to improve collaboration, and less on frameworks.

These are my predictions for Agile changes to come in the future. What are yours?

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. MacIsaac Consulting provides Agile Consulting, Agile Coaching and Agile Training. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or visit Mike’s blog.

Why Trust Is the Rocket Fuel of The Agile Organization

Trust is the rocket fuel that propels agile organizations forward. Without it, bureaucracy and rigid management can grind things to a halt. For companies to be fast and flexible, leaders must break down the barriers that hinder trust. In this article I will describe how executives, managers and team members can foster a culture of trust to improve agility.

Executives

Executives of large companies often do not grasp what it takes to be agile. To their defense, they have a lot going on. It’s easy for them to stay on the sidelines when it comes to improving agility. Let Jim, the VP of IT go work on that whole “agile” thing says the CEO. What the CEO fails to realize is that agility is critical to the survival of the company and it goes beyond IT. Agility must be part of the enterprise strategy, and it all starts with trust.

The first thing executives can do is assure middle managers that their jobs are safe. In agile organizations, managers don’t command and control. Instead, they empower and coach. If managers trust their jobs are not in jeopardy, it will be easier for them to empower teams.

Second, executives should let the organization know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Often you will hear in agile companies the term “fail fast”. What it means is that it’s better to deliver iterating on fast failures than trying to build perfect solutions. By promoting a fail fast culture, executives will help reduce fear for employees and encourage trust.

Last, executives must get engaged in agile adoption. They can’t talk the talk, they must walk the walk. The best way for them to do this is by clearing bureaucracy and clutter that impede agility. By having skin in the game, executives send a message to the company that they can be trusted.

Managers

The inability for management to empower teams is often a major roadblock to agility. To understand why, there are many layers of the onion that need to be peeled away. At the core of the issue is lack of trust, and fear. They don’t trust teams to operate without their control, and they fear for their job security. Managers also may not know how to coach.

One of the best ways to address this problem is through enterprise agile training. Most companies make the mistake of focusing agile training only on teams. They embed agile coaches within teams, while managers receive no training.

Agile training will help managers understand their role in an agile organization. They will learn how to let go of control and start coaching. Sir John Whitmore, author of coaching for performance, defines coaching as “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance” (Whitmore, J, 2017). By coaching and empowering self-organizing teams, management will help improve trust and agility. 

Team members

Agile teams are self-organizing. This means they don’t have a manager who is telling everyone what to do. For many organizations this is a paradigm shift. Employees might be used to a project manager who detailed everyone’s task in a Gantt chart. I’ve found that many employees who are new to agile, at first are uncomfortable with the vulnerability it requires.

Team members decide what they will work on in agile teams. They volunteer and rely upon one another to get work done. Trust is the absolute cornerstone to this way of collaborating. Team members must believe that each member of the team will carry their load. If team members feel that someone is slacking, trust will erode, as well as team performance.

Agile teams are also transparent. They expose their work on a task board, also called an information radiator. To do this, employees must trust that leadership will not misuse the task board. The task board is meant to provide transparency, not as a means for managers to micro manage teams.

Conclusion

Lack of trust is a killer to organizational agility. It is the responsibility of all employees to foster a culture of trust. Executives can help by getting engaged and promoting a fail fast culture. Managers must replace command and control with coaching and empowerment. Managers need agile training as much, if not more, than team members.  Last, team members need to be vulnerable so they can trust working with others in a transparent environment.

When trust levels are high, it will take your speed and agility to new heights like rocket fuel.


About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. MacIsaac Consulting provides Agile Consulting, Agile Coaching and Agile Training. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or visit Mike’s blog.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Thank you for your support in 2018. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Agile Pitfalls – How to avoid 3 common mistakes in an agile transformation

Agile transformation

I’m grateful to PM Network Magazine for publishing my article on Agile pitfalls. You can view the article in the December version of the magazine here

The article published by PM Network was a shortened version of my original white paper. Below is the paper in its entirety.

Three Common Pitfalls of Agile Transformation, and How to Avoid Them: By Mike MacIsaac

Agile transformation is becoming an increasingly high priority for companies. Everybody wants to be Agile, from start-ups to large enterprises. In today’s competitive global market, agility is critical for managing changing priorities. As an Agile delivery consultant, I’ve seen the struggles companies face when they set out to become Agile.

For the past ten years I’ve worked with a range of companies, across various industries. Their Agile transformation struggles tend to be similar. In this article I will discuss three common pitfalls I see, and advise on how to avoid them.

Before we can talk about transformation, we first have to answer the question: What does it mean to be Agile? Most people think of Agile as a way of developing software, but it is much more. Agile is a mindset. Agile is a different way of thinking and behaving from traditional management. Agile is putting client needs first. Agile is delivering value early, and often through the use of an iterative, experimental process.  Agile is innovating through self-organizing teams. Agile is all these things—and to better understand why companies need transformation, it helps to understand some history.

A Brief History of Agile

While Agile is the hot buzzword today, understandings of Agile benefits are not new. In fact, we can trace Agile roots back to the 1600s. Francis Bacon, an English scientist, developed a scientific method in 1620 which would later become the basis for the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle. The PDCA cycle was used by Walter Shewhart and it was made popular by Dr. W. Edwards Deming. The concept was an iterative approach for improving products and processes. The continuous cycle of short iterations allowed for agility by adapting for change after each iteration. The PDCA cycle had a huge influence on Japan after WWII, as it helped improve production quality and automotive operations.

The most relevant step to agility in the PDCA cycle is step four, “Check.” The idea is to inspect and adapt. In Deming’s Out of the Crisis he writes, “Step 4 of the Shewhart cycle (study the results; what did we learn from the change?) will lead (a) to improvement of any state, and (b) to better satisfaction of the customer of that stage.” (Deming, 1986)  Notice that Deming puts emphasis on satisfying the customer. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of what Agile is all about.

Although Deming advocated Agile concepts throughout the 20th century, Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory (referred to as Taylorism) was predominant in American business. Taylor’s approach was all about following rigid processes, with a top-down, command-and-control style of management. Managers told workers what to do, and workers followed orders. Taylor’s management theory helped propel the industrial revolution.

Taylorism ran into problems towards the end of the 20th century. The economy had changed and a new workforce emerged. Knowledge workers became the majority, replacing semiskilled workers. Knowledge workers couldn’t be managed the same way as the factory workers. Well renowned Austrian-born American management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Workers through history could be ‘supervised.’ They could be told what to do, how to do it, how fast to do it, and so on. Knowledge workers cannot, in effect, be supervised.” (Drucker, 1993)

Taylorism worked well for workers on the factory floor, but not for knowledge workers who dealt with complex problems. In 1986, things changed when Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka published a paper on a new way for product development (see “The New NewProduct Development Game,” HBR, Jan 1986). The paper was instrumental in kick-starting the modern Agile movement. Takeuchi and Nonaka described a new product development approach that looked more like rugby. Teams would pass the ball back and forth as they headed towards their goal. This was different from the traditional sequential approach to product development. This new rugby-like approach, made up of self-organizing teams, allowed for speed and flexibility. It enabled change throughout the product development process.

Fast forward to 2001, and a group of software developers got together at a ski lodge and created the Agile Manifesto. This was a declaration of guiding principles aimed at finding better ways to develop software. After 2001, the Agile delivery movement took off on a global scale.

Today, Agile practices are common, but many organizations still operate in the old world of Taylorism. Knowing they need to change, companies are trying hard to become Agile, but many still struggle. Here are three common pitfalls I see when companies set out for Agile transformation—and how to avoid them.

Pitfall 1, Not Having Goals

It’s amazing how many companies set off on a mission to become Agile without have any clear goals. If you ask their executives what their goals are, they’ll respond with something like “to be better at delivering software.” This response provides no specifics on what they are trying to achieve. It also doesn’t provide any sort of inspiration for the employees who will be in the trenches of the transformation.

One client I worked for made this mistake. Without clear goals, they couldn’t tell if they were improving. Employees became frustrated because they didn’t understand what they were trying to accomplish. This caused an unhealthy culture, contention among teams and gave Agile a bad rap. After about two years of little progress, the client finally realized they lacked goals.

Leaders need to take the time to define specific goals that align with the strategy of the company. They need to understand the value generated by an Agile transformation. An example might be something like the following:

“We need to double our production releases from four a year to eight. This will allow us to get new innovative products to market faster. It will also help us meet customer demands and increase market share by x.”

The example above gives a specific goal, with a clear end state. Once goals are defined, alignment needs to be created throughout the organization. A plan can then be put in place, putting the company in a much greater position for transformation.

Pitfall 2, Lack of Prioritization and Executive Sponsorship

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. If leadership is not on board, it’s going to be tough sledding.Leaders often underestimate what it takes for a successful Agile transformation.In a recent report by KPMG, lack of executive sponsorship was a top reason companies struggle with Agile transformation (see AchievingGreater Agility, PMI, Nov 2017). 

In another one of my client experiences, middle management continued to govern delivery teams with tight control. They did so because a) executives weren’t on board with change and b) management was afraid to give up control. Every important decision and process went through a board review and approval process. This of course did not promote a culture of empowerment and trust. It only frustrated and confused delivery teams. It wasn’t long before employees started to leave the company in search for more autonomy.  

Agile transformation is about changing culture. It’s going to take more than forming Agile teams and bringing in Agile coaches. Teams alone cannot change bureaucracy and culture. Leaders need to help remove impediments and promote a new culture built on openness and trust. “Senior executives need to communicate early and often at all levels of the organization to let their people know that the Agile journey will benefit all, and that it is OK for mistakes to be made as long as lessons are learned.” (Cullum, Bagg, Trivedi, Nov 2017)

Target Corp is a great example of the benefits of executive sponsorship. Target executives set out to transform the organization to Agile back in 2015, after the company took a big hit with a data breach. They’ve had great success. In 2017, Target’s CIO Mike McNamara gave a keynote at National Retail Federation (NRF)’s annual Big Show in New York. McNamara said, “What I’m perhaps most proud of is how our new way of working is taking root in other parts of Target, beyond technology teams.Agile sets us up for more innovation and for becoming a leader in how technology and data science can (and will) enhance the retail experience” (see “MikeMcNamara:Technology Transformation on Tap at NRF’s Big Show,”Target, Jan 2017).

Executives also need ensure the transformation a top priority for the company. Lack of prioritization is a common problem with transformations. McKinsey recently published an article in which they wrote “While it is completely OK to start the agile transformation within, say, a small part of the organization,it is important not to stop there and to treat it as a strategic priority for the enterprise. Taking agile beyond small experiments is where the real benefits arise” (see “How to Mess Up Your Agile Transformation in Seven Easy(Mis)steps,” McKinsey, April 2018).  

Pitfall 3, Putting Process over Behavior

Companies are usually quick to put Agile processes in place. If you walk around their offices, you will see task boards with sticky notes and teams having stand ups. They use popular software tools like VersionOne or Jira. From the outside they have all the appearances of being Agile. But if you look deeper, you may find that their behaviors and mindset have not changed. The common reason for this is fear. People are afraid they will be punished for making mistakes. They also don’t trust others enough to be transparent.

Agile values individuals and interactions over processes and tools. This is the first principle outlined in the Agile Manifesto. This is a human element in Agile that is so important, yet often overlooked. To be Agile, people need to talk to each other, and they need to be open and honest.

The best way to drive out fear is through leadership. Managers need to shift their mindset from command and control to coaching and mentoring. Companies need leaders who have strong emotional and social intelligence. With empathy, leaders can foster an environment where people feel safe to make mistakes.

There are various ways to improve emotional and social intelligence. There are learning and development programs available. Google uses a widely popular course called “Search Inside Yourself”. Daniel Goleman is an author and science journalist who offers a framework with coaching certifications.  Aside from development programs, companies should recruit for emotional and social intelligence. Many top business schools are now developing emotionally and socially intelligent leaders. Harvard Business School, for example, offers a program on authentic leadership. The program was started by Bill George, the ex Medtronic CEO and author of True North.

Conclusion

Agile is a different way of thinking and behaving. For companies attempting transformation, the following are three key areas to address: (1) There needs to be specific goals in place. The goals need to be a top priority in the company, and they need to align with the overall strategy. (2) Executive sponsorship is crucial for a successful transformation. (3)  In Agile, individuals and interactions are valued more than processes and tools. To drive out fear, you need leaders who have strong emotional and social intelligence to foster a culture of safety and trust.  


About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. MacIsaac Consulting provides Agile Consulting, Agile Coaching and Agile Training. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or visit Mike’s blog.

Search Inside Yourself To Unlock Your Full Potential

Search Inside Yourself

Heather Wray-Isquierdo, Tere MacIsaac, Mike MacIsaac

Last night my wife Tere and I attended a great event by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) program. The keynote speaker was executive coach Heather Wray-Isquierdo. Heather did a wonderful job! She explained the benefits of practicing mindfulness and emotional intelligence. She also provided easy to put in place techniques. You can learn more about Heather at her website.

“Search Inside Yourself” is a training program first developed at Google. The program aims at teaching mindfulness and emotional intelligence. The training has become popular and is now used in 30 countries around and the world and companies like Ford, LinkedIn and The New York Times. For more on the training, check out the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.

With all the distractions and stress we face today, it’s becoming more important we learn how to quiet our minds. It’s ironic, the more technology advances, the more we see a need for basic human connection skills. Working in IT, I’ve been saying for a long time that we have a gap in emotionally and socially intelligent leadership. The notion that IT people only need to use left brain and analytical thinking is flawed. Technical knowledge and IQ are still important, but they are not enough.

Thank you to MHTA, WliT and Heather Wray-Isquierdo for putting on such a great event! Below are some pictures.

Tere and Mike MacIsaac

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or visit Mike’s blog.

3 Things You Can Count On The Best Project Managers To Do

Leadership

I’ve always had a great deal of respect for project managers. Managing projects, especially IT projects, is challenging. It requires skilled individuals who are strong communicators and cool under pressure. They juggle competing priorities while managing personality conflicts and keeping stakeholders happy.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some great project managers. Over time I’ve learned there are three things you can count on them to do. Here they are:

1.   They provide clear communication – They keep stakeholders updated through easy to understand written and verbal communication. A lot of project managers struggle in this area, and for good reason. It’s difficult to provide an easy to understand update when managing complex projects. The tendency for project managers is to rush and write up a long email that gets down into the weeds. They think they’re doing a good job because they provided a lot of information. In fact, they leave people confused and frustrated. People don’t want to read a long email and figure out what it means.

2.   They take full ownership and drive the work – Projects are challenging and messy. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be a need for project managers. Great project managers take stress of their bosses’ plate by taking full ownership. They will drive the project to completion. Yes, sometimes project managers will need help from leadership. When those times come, it’s important they ask for help. But most of the time, great project managers do whatever it takes to lead the project to success.

3.   They stay positive – If the project manager starts to get down and negative, the whole team will follow. It’s so important as a project manager to stay positive, even when the going gets tough. And, it will get tough. I’ve yet to experience any IT project that didn’t come with some level of stress or issues. Problems will come, but the project manager needs to stay positive. This is the essence of leadership. Collin Powell once provided a great lesson he learned on this from infantry school. They taught him: “no matter how cold it is, lieutenant, you must never look cold. No matter how hungry you all are, lieutenant, you must never appear hungry. No matter how terrified you are, lieutenant, you must never look terrified. Because if you are scared, tried, hungry and cold….they will be scared, tired, hungry and cold.”

Summary

Project management is difficult. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be such a large demand for project managers. If you are a project manager and you want to stand out from the crowd, focus on these three things. First, take the time to provide clear written and verbal communication. Second, take full responsibility to drive the project. Lastly, be positive, especially when things get tough.

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or visit Mike’s blog.

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