Increase My Velocity, Baby!

IMG_7529

Managers often ask me – “What should I do to increase our team velocity?” And the answer I give is very simple – “Just double the story points for each user story”. After that they usually smile and think I am joking. But I am serious, as usual.

Managers not only expect team to increase it’s velocity in this sprint, they expect team to continuously improve velocity. “Give me 10 story points increase each sprint!”. I also heard managers complaining that team has the same velocity for the last 7-10 sprints.  We have this great metric – team velocity – for planning and budgeting. Going from sprint to sprint we collect the statistics and understand what amount of work team can do during the next sprints. But management is often too optimistic about this metric – they start measuring everything on base of velocity, even the team productivity.

Continue reading Increase My Velocity, Baby!

Fixed Price Projects and Agile, or The Scariest Nightmare

IMG_7274

Fixed price contract is by itself the greatest nightmare in the project manager’s life. But when it is combined with agile development frameworks – scrum/kanban/etc – it becomes also a tricky nightmare.

Usually, when clients ask you for “fix price” they mean: fixed money, fixed scope, fixed time. Some of the most reasonable clients I worked with on fixed price projects told me “We are not crazy! Let’s not fix the time! But we should be live till the 1st of June, we have this marketing campaign, you know…”

Even if you work in the “so agile” software development company there is the day when the sales manager comes to you and says: “Hi! We have a new project. I have a bad and a good news for you. The bad one is that it is fixed price, I know how you hate it. But the great one is that you can still your agile, client is ok with it”. So, let’s discuss what you, as PM, can do in this situation.

Continue reading Fixed Price Projects and Agile, or The Scariest Nightmare

Project Managers Motivation

IMG_6882

There are thousand of posts for project managers about motivating their teams on the internet. While searching “Motivating Project Managers” I kept coming across the articles about the developers and how PM should behave. You can’t be a great PM without been a good motivator, so PMs are asked about the ways to motivate developers on every interview. But I think we miss some important item here – the motivation of the Project Managers. We assume that they are somehow already motivated and shine bright every day. Otherwise they can’t motivate the team, right? But no one cared about their motivation in software companies I know, they just required the managers to be “self-motivated”. We just don’t take that into account, as we don’t take into account that all our developers are not so brilliant as we think (and this is normal).

Continue reading Project Managers Motivation

WTF Project Manager is doing in Scrum team?

IMG_6532Thousands of companies are changing to agile, thousands are already agile (they tell you so very confidently). Some of them implemented Scrum. But I still come across of a lot of Project Managers in such companies. Ok, even better – I have a title of “Senior PM” myself (I hope no one from my teams/colleagues will not see my business cards, as they don’t know I am a PM ^_^). When company implements scrum they have to make a hard decision – what to do with these PMs we have? And usually they have a lot of PMs. I have seen companies where there is 1 PM per each 2 developers. Usually they become Scrum Masters or Product Owners, as it seems the most natural way. Just change the title and that is all – you are the Scrum Master now. Sometimes PMs are left as they were – they still “manage” the projects.

Continue reading WTF Project Manager is doing in Scrum team?

Why developers are slow?

123

Development seems to be one of the slowest things on the earth – I hear so many complaints about it’s slowness every day. “Why we can’t do that in a day instead of a week?”, “We missed deadline because your developers are too slow, they should work faster!.”

Sometimes project managers think that the team they got is the slowest they can imagine. And they dream about making it 2 times faster (I mean “work 2 times faster”). But the fact is that there is a big chance the team is pretty average and managers don’t get the difference between “make the flow faster” and “make the team work faster”. They somehow think if the developers start typing 2 times faster everything would be fine with the schedule.

Continue reading Why developers are slow?

How technical should a project manager be

IMG_5873

Browsing the open PM position vacancies you can find out that employers are looking for project managers who know how to code in just about every existing language (not let than 10+ years of experience) with several technical, not PM, certifications tossed in.

But is it necessary for the PM to be a technical guy? Seems that now almost every company has their own definition of the “project manager” – that can be anything from the pm-secretary to pm-software architect. But let’s use our common sense and find out why there are so many people who insist on PMs having a lot of development experience.

Continue reading How technical should a project manager be

What if developers are [cheating] giving you the unreasonably high estimates?

IMG_5639

That is seems to be the PMs nightmare – your developers are lying to you when they provide you the estimates. For the 1-hour task they give you 1-week estimation and spend the whole week watching youtube videos with cats. HAHAHAHA!!!

Are you already scared to death?

It also should be a rather common problem, as I often get such a question during the job interview. “Galina, what would you do if developer gives you the unrealistic estimations?”.  They ask me and wait for some one-for-all-cases answer. Probably they expect me to say something like “I will double check all the estimates myself/with the other developer”.  So I will be a kind of the PM auditor. And then they are definitely ready to ask – “And what if the other developer lies to you too”? Seems to be one global developer’s conspiracy. What one small PM can do against that?

My honest answer to all of that is: “I’ll resign ASAP, as I killed that team and should not do any more harm. Then I ‘ll walk outside the office and perform seppuku”.
Continue reading What if developers are [cheating] giving you the unreasonably high estimates?

Personal Kanban: my experience

IMG_5273I think every Project Manager knows how easily you can become flooded with the tasks. While developers can afford spending some time on the single task, PM has to switch between a lot of tasks during the single hour (some PMs think that they are multitasking, but it is not true :). Sometimes, in the end of the day I feel like I spent all my time on switching and dream about getting some task on which I can spend 3 hours in a row and not been distracted.

Developers usually say that while they work they fully wrap their mind around the task at hand, they create the “mental model” of the classes, methods, etc and they need some time to “get context loaded” when they start working with the task.  They feel something like the “work stream”, so when they are distracted – it takes time to get back to it.

I should say, for me PMs work process is the same – I get to the office in the morning, sit in my chair and have so spend some time to “load mental model” of my projects: project details, people, relationships, todos, etc. Sometimes I do that on my way to work. I am not keeping all details in my head all the time – I unwrap this model when it is needed. The difference between the “work stream” of developer and the manager is that manager’s constants of “interruptions” –  you have to think quick, make some decisions, answer questions and be always alarmed.

Continue reading Personal Kanban: my experience

Zombie team management: team health check-list

IMG_5205I believe that Project manager is here, on this planet, not only for the projects to be delivered in time and on budget. On of the most important things for the Project managers is to care about their teams. In software development I always worked so close with the teams, that I couldn’t imagine I can avoid supporting teams health, mood and motivation.
So, let’s talk about monitoring your team health, so you can see the signs of the death coming or any feed back of the system on your actions. By the way, some Project managers prefer to work with zombie teams, as they are so easy to control. I am not judging, so you can use the check-list the both ways – to prevent your team becoming a zombie team and to make you team a zombie team.

Continue reading Zombie team management: team health check-list