Chess and Business Strategy

By Luigi Morsa, Ph.D.

Undoubtedly the chess game is fascinating because it implies deep thinking, strategy, and prediction ability. It is often seen analogous to a business strategy. Each player fervently studies the board, patiently waits their turn, anticipates the opponent’s next move, and runs through potential scenarios in their head. This is not so different from strategic planning in the business world. However, in some markets, the competitors attack simultaneously from all sides, the internal struggles of a company can have a negative effect, and a host of other elements which can all be put into play at the same time. Nevertheless, the parallels between chess and business are clear.

Companies put chess principles into action on a regular basis, often without even realizing that they are strategically positioning their pieces in a series of moves that have been utilized multiple times through the years. No wonder, therefore, that we can find a chessboard in the home or office of top CEOs or world leaders. The list of US presidents enthusiastic about chess is long, from Lincoln to Jimmy Carter to, more recently, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; outside the USA we can mention Mikhail Gorbachev, Yasser Arafat, Angela Merkel and even important historical personalities like Mandela or Napoleon, and even some European dictators.

Sometimes chess is even an obsession: the President-elect of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, who credits his success to his chess playing ability, was said to have delayed a strategy meeting simply in order to finish a chess game! Most of the world’s billionaires are chess players: Gates, Ellison, Soros, van Oosterom, and others; even quite young entrepreneurs  today,  like  Miami’s  Care  Cloud founder  Albert Santalo, A.J. Steigman, founder and CEO of Soletron, and co-founder and CEO of Facebook,  Mark  Zuckerberg, have a history of playing chess and using its principles in creative business  transactions.

Peter Thiel, one of the early investors in Facebook and the founder of PayPal, has history as a chess master. He maintains that it is essential “to know the value of the pieces”. Each piece in a chess game has a specific value. By knowing the value, it is easier to make decisions about game strategy and placement. Similarly, by knowing the value of employees and other associates, it can be easier to make business decisions regarding job responsibilities and other related decisions.

Justin Moore, child chess prodigy, was ranked in the top 20 youth chess players in the United States by the time he was a teenager. Moore is now CEO of Axcient, a cloud services provider. According to Moore, too many companies lose sight of their goal and get sidetracked into reactionary activities. As a chess player, Moore understands the value in planning an endgame, and explains that businesses must model the same behavior. By not being waylaid by the activities of a competitor, it is easier to remain focused on the ultimate goal of the company. Due to the importance that in the business strategy is given to the chess game, two researchers, Hunt and Cangemi in the study, “Want to improve your leadership skills? Play chess!” came to the conclusion that in order to bridge the gap between scholarship and entrepreneurship, and to build better leaders capable of handling future demands; the well-researched and powerful tool of Chess should be incorporated into the early grade curriculum, as well as in graduate leadership, business, industrial, and educational programs. Chess can be the catalyst to enhance the skills of graduates and leaders alike to remain competitive in a global economy.

We could say that according to people in business, in order to succeed, it is becoming more and more advisable to have the mindset of a chess player. In literature, there are several examples about the parallelism between chess and business, but rarely there are specific examples on a real chessboard; the scope of this article is to discuss a clear and real example of chess strategy in business.

The chess game is a competition between two subjects. Therefore, from a business point of view, this fits well when we refer to a duopoly. One of the most interesting and fascinating duopoly markets of the last several years is the one between the two giant airplanes manufacturers: Boeing and Airbus. It is difficult to find other markets where two actors play. In the case of the big airplane market, there are only Boeing and Airbus because the barrier to entry into this market is quite high.

Having only two players, the market dynamics and strategies can be displayed on a chessboard and can be interpreted through the eyes of a chess player. A tangible example is given by the competition between the models of the Boeing 747 and Airbus 380. Boeing introduced the B747 in 1970 and for the following 37 years had the monopoly in big, long range airplanes. This allowed Boeing to gain enormous profitability with the advantage of investing and competing in other segments of the market where Airbus had a presence. For this reason, people at Airbus realized that if they really wanted to compete with Boeing, they needed to attack the B747. Therefore, after a long gestation period starting in 1988 and continuing through the early months of 2000, the board management at Airbus decided to develop the A380 (introduced in 2007), a four engines aircraft like B747, but 20% more efficient and with an entire second floor along its fuselage, able to provide seating for 555 people in a typical three-class configuration or up to 853 people in an all-economy class configuration; while the B747 carries up to 524 passengers.

The precondition for success looked to be close at hand, but something went wrong. While the European engineers were working on the A380 project, their counterparts in USA were figuring out a different scenario. Instead of proposing the classical schema of connection between great hubs and then taking a second flight to the final destination, the idea was to connect directly two minor airports. In other words, instead of taking a short range aircraft from Stockholm flying to London, then London-New York (major hubs connection) by flying a big long range aircraft and then a short range aircraft to cover the distance New York-Las Vegas, the proposal was to fly directly from Stockholm to Las Vegas.

Hub and Spoke
Point to Point

The challenge was to create an aircraft remaining competitive by carrying less passengers compared to A380 or B747. This was a necessity because the demand for direct flights is not the same as among major hubs. In order pursue this task, engineers in the USA developed the 787 Dreamliner (introduced in 2011, 224-330 passengers seats versions), with a carbon-composite fuselage (lighter material than aluminium), equipped with two engines and able to fly longer distances while consuming less jet fuel than the A380. Without going into so much detail, we can say that history has shown that the airline companies have preferred the new model introduced by Boeing with B787, and for this reason Airbus started to develop its own version of a long-range, fuel-efficient airplane, called the A350-XWB (300-350 seating), which entered in service in 2015.

If we now look at a chessboard, we can imagine B747 and A380 as the two queens of the black and white pieces set (actually, one of the B747 nickname is “Queen of the Sky”). The idea of the player with white pieces was to attack undisturbed the black queen, but as shown in the picture, the black bishop (B787) was moved to block the white queen’s attack, and as a consequence the player with the white set moved the rook (A350) to contrast the bishop.  It has to be underlined, especially for the chess experts in order to avoid outraging them, that the description above is clearly inappropriate; it is not entirely in agreement with the chess logic, but it is important because it gives a remarkable image of the strategies.

In economic terms, there are models that allow us to understand and above all to predict the impact of the introduction of a new aircraft in a market. One of these relatively simple models is for instance “the Cournot competition” that was applied in 1988 by the professor Richard Baldwin and by Paul Krugman, the laureate economy Nobel prize in 2008, to study the competition between the aircraft models of Airbus and Boeing. The model worked quite well, but as shown in the example above it is a matter of hypothesis and therefore strategies because if we do not take into account that our competitor could introduce something new in the market, inevitably our prediction will be wrong.

Other important economic studies have often taken into account the “static” situation of the market, similar to very interesting works of Klepper (1990, 1994) and Neven & Seabright (1995). Even relatively recent studies like Irwin and Pavcnik in 2004, which examines exactly the competition between Airbus and Boeing after the introduction of A380, did not consider a possible aircraft outside the segment of A380 and B747 that could affect the market. However, in 2004 in defense of the authors, the idea of the B787 Dreamliner was very vague. Nevertheless, the history of the aircraft market evolution has proved that a certain degree of unpredictability should be taken into account.

Finally, the example of the competition between A380 and B747 is meaningful because is a good example to highlight the importance of having a vision of the future and to avoid the limitations of near-term thinking only. We can also say that even though we have good tools to perform the economic analyses and we choose models that do not take into account some possible moves by our competitors, our prediction will fail in any case; for this reason it is important to have in business the attitude of a chess player!


About the Author
Luigi Morsa (Ph.D.) is an Aerospace Engineer and Project Manager working in Germany at the consultant company SII engineering & IT. Luigi’s passion for project management has led him to contribute to two books by Dr. Harold Kerzner, the pioneer and globally recognized expert in project management. More in detail, Luigi wrote the case study “The Airbus A380” and the chapter on “Innovation Management Software” for the books Project Management Case Studies, Fifth Edition (Wiley, 2017) and Innovation Project Management (Wiley, 2019), respectively. In 2018, he was a speaker at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® EMEA Congress to discuss the complexity of the aircraft-industry market, with particular emphasis on the relationship between the product and customer needs.

References

  1. https://www.cleverism.com/chess-principles-make-better-corporate-strategist/
  2. Samuel J., Hunt,; Joseph Cangemi; Want to improve your leadership skills? Play chess!, Education; Spring 2014, Vol. 134 Issue 3, p359
  3. Luigi, Morsa; The Airbus A380 Airplane, case study for the book “Project Management Case Studies” 5th Edition by Harold Kerzner, Wiley, April 2017
  4. Richard Baldwin, Paul Krugman; Industrial Policy and International Competition in Wide-Bodied, chapter for the book “Trade Policy Issues and Empirical Analysis” by Robert E. Baldwin, University of Chicago Press, 1988
  5. Klepper, G., 1990. Entry into the market for large transport aircraft. European Economic Review 34, 775– 803.
  6. Klepper, G., 1994. Industrial policy in the transport aircraft industry. In: Krugman, P., Smith, A. (Eds.), Empirical Studies of Strategic Trade Policy. University of Chicago Press for the NBER, Chicago.
  7. Neven, D., Seabright, P., 1995. European industrial policy: the airbus case. Economic Policy 21, 313– 358.
  8. Douglas A. Irwin, Nina Pavcnik, Airbus versus Boeing revisited: international competition in the aircraft market, Journal of International Economics 64 (2004) 223– 245

Family Project Management: What You Need to Know

By Hilary Kinney, PMP - Strategic Communications and Project Management Consultant, Vision Realized

Are you working at home during quarantine and parenting/home-schooling at the same time? Considering how to handle things this summer? Here are a few project management principles that can help.

Set a Realistic Plan/Scope and Get Buy-in

First, it’s important to set a realistic plan and get buy-in from your family. What are you trying to accomplish during this time, what are you not trying to accomplish? In other words, what’s your project scope? You and your partner need to be aligned on the same plan. Get input from the kids, because they will be more apt to participate and may have some great ideas like helping with cleaning.

• Are the kids just submitting required schoolwork, or are they doing extra?

• For the summer, what are the kids’ roles and responsibilities?

• Are your work hours being adjusted?

• Are the kids’ screen time allotments changing?

• Are projects around the house included?

Have a Kick-off Meeting and Daily Check-ins

Once you’ve decided on your plan/scope, share it with the entire family. Have a kick-off family meeting to set expectations and explain roles and responsibilities. Communicate to the kids what’s expected of them. Once the plan is in place, have daily meetings to see what work is being accomplished, how much screen time the kids have had, etc. We usually do this during breakfast and also try to have lunch together.

Make an Action Item List

Feeling overwhelmed and disorganized? Make a list of each task, who’s responsible for it, and when it needs to be completed. Include chores and schoolwork. I have found that a whiteboard of daily activities works well for us. I list what needs to be done each day, and my son enjoys erasing things from the list when they’re done.

Recognize the Limitations / Be Realistic

All projects have constraints, including time, cost, and quality. Cost considerations include, for example, whether you pay for meal delivery services and tutoring. Quality and time considerations affect how much focus is spent on work, school, and play. Realize that spending more time and effort on one activity will affect the others. Keeping these constraints in mind can help you decide how to manage them.

Be Agile

Ensure the plan is delivering the results you want in school performance, family dynamics, work productivity, etc. Focus more on results than process. Experiment and adjust as necessary. I’ve learned that my son can focus better on school in the afternoon after we play outside in the morning, rather than doing his schoolwork first. If some of the online learning isn’t working for you, try a more hands-on approach. For example, cook dinner together and learn about math and chemistry.

Make it Fun & Positive

The main goal should be to develop a loving, productive environment among your family team members with shared objectives, trust, commitment, and accountability. Recognize and celebrate accomplishments, both large and small. Praise and thank you notes are great, but try to think outside the box. For example, have an ice cream night to celebrate milestones like all the chores getting done that week or the completion of a school quarter.

Combining how we approach work and family can help us focus and feel more integrated. Are there any other parenting ideas that are working for you during this time? Please share in the comments below.

To learn more about this topic, click here to register for IIL’s IPM Day Online Conference. Hilary will be presenting “Project Management for Parents", sharing business principles to navigate this new reality and help your home life go more smoothly even when the pandemic ends.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn. Republished with permission.

About the Author

Hilary Kinney works with companies to achieve their vision through strategic communications and project management.

She has 17 years of experience successfully advancing business priorities and deploying major projects for large corporations. Her achievements range from facilitating a C-suite-sponsored customer recognition program across 7,000 properties globally, to directing special projects from the President’s office at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

Hilary earned a B.S. in Hotel Administration from Cornell University. She holds a Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification from the Project Management Institute, as well as a Change Management Certification from the Prosci Change Management Leadership Center. Hilary lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where she enjoys outdoor activities with her family.


How to Use Artificial Intelligence in Project Management

By Marcus Glowasz – Project & Product Lead, Fortean | Program Manager, UBS

It is the end of project management as we know it.

When googling about Artificial Intelligence in Project Management you’ll find loads of articles talking about how AI will revolutionize and transform project management, how it will automate processes, etc., and how it possibly will eliminate the project manager role all together.

Reading most of those articles, you are getting the idea that AI indeed has the capabilities that we all know already — processing large amounts of data quickly, finding patterns in data, learning from it, making predictions. It is also clear that the project management practice where capabilities of forecasting project scenarios and outcomes, predicting the impact from risks and issues, estimating work, etc. are critical building blocks, is an obvious use case for the application of AI. There is therefore no doubt that AI will have a significant footprint in the project management area.

The most important question though is what it will do to project management from an organizational point of view, to established processes, methodologies, frameworks, etc.

Will AI just be another tool that will make the project manager’s life easier, just like Microsoft Project, Jira, Slack, etc.? Project managers appreciate such tools just like accountants appreciate tools like Microsoft Excel which made their life in many ways significantly easier.

Will AI be like a new project management methodology, just like Agile? Agile methods had a significant impact on project management, especially in technology/software development projects, which also led to new software tools (e.g. Atlassian Jira) and required a new mindset for adoption.

The impact of AI in project management however will be much broader and truly disruptive. AI will not be just a new tool nor just a new methodology, instead we can expect that it will fundamentally redefine the project management practice.

The reasons are in the nature of AI, alias in the domain of Machine Learning, and also in what project management is all about. When you look at project management processes, there are 3 elements that define project management in its core nature, which in my view are also the 3 major pain points in projects:

1. Uncertainty
The expected outcome from any project always will be uncertain. Nobody can guarantee a project delivery on time, budget, in scope, and with agreed quality. It simply is not possible with current practices — unless the project manager has the unlikely ability to read the future from some crystal ball.

2. Forecast
There are many techniques to forecast project activities and tasks, durations of tasks, potential bottlenecks, etc., and build a realistic plan around this in order to meet a target delivery date.
What needs to flow into such planning as well is a forecast of issues that potentially will occur along the way, hence some diligent risk management and tracking is critical. We usually are horrible at forecasting — this is just human nature and we usually estimate too optimistically.

3. Learning
There are not many domains where learning is so important as it is for project management — but in most of today’s projects, teams just swing from one to the next project without really learning from their experiences.

Projects are said to be unique endeavours but that is simply not true — projects are never really 100% unique. When you are building a house, then you may build a unique type of house but there are many processes and work packages in such project which were done and executed precisely the same way in other house construction projects before.

What is key here is to learn from such past projects and processes, adopt the things that worked, and avoid the things that did not work well before.

Unfortunately, in all those 3 areas, today’s project management practices are failing which is the cause of consistently low project success rates. And it is a natural consequence that capabilities in form of predictive analytics, AI, and Machine Learning have to be leveraged to address those critical items in the project management domain.

I therefore expect that the following key elements will define the future of project management:

1. Data-driven decision-making processes
Decisions in projects so far are being taken in a very intuitive fashion, usually based on own professional experience, but often also led by political and bias-driven motivations.
A change towards a data and fact-driven approach which will take into consideration past challenges, learnings and plain facts, is a fundamental and radical change and I expect strong resistance as it requires a true mindset change.

2. Leading products instead of managing projects
Today’s project managers are too much involved in more administrative and repetitive tasks, although a lot of day-to-day tasks can be automated by using either Robotics or Machine Learning approaches.
Project managers should focus more on strategic topics, driving product development in order to close the apparent gap between project management and product management.

3. Hybrid Intelligence

The combination of machine and human intelligence in projects is an important element of future project management concepts, as it will combine the strengths of both worlds for an optimal project management approach. AI will not be able to provide people leadership, negotiate with clients, etc. — in all those more leadership and intuition driven activities, humans are superior to AI and can play out their strengths, while AI can focus on its strengths in terms of collecting and analyzing and learning from large amounts of data.

AI is here to stay in project management and while it is not yet clear, how exactly the new project management world will look like, it will change drastically and the way projects are being managed will never be the same anymore.

Project management processes will be rewritten.

Some roles will disappear and other new ones will be introduced.

Intelligent tools will hit the market.

Stay tuned.

To learn more about this topic, click here to register for IIL’s IPM Day Online Conference. Marcus will be presenting “AI in Project Management: The Next Generation of Project Decision Making.”

This post was originally published on Medium. Republished with permission.

About the Author

Marcus Glowasz is a Co-Founder and Product Lead at Fortean, a Swiss technology startup that leverages data analytics and artificial intelligence technology to innovate and redefine the project management practice, addressing the growing challenges of project professionals to effectively and successfully deliver projects.

Header photo by Franck V. on Unsplash. “Data has a better idea” photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash.

 


How These 6 Principles Boost Stakeholder Engagement

By Elizabeth Harrin, Director, Otobos Consultants Ltd

In Stakeholder-led Project Management: Changing the Way We Manage Projects Louise M. Worsley sets out 6 principles for engaging project stakeholders.

I thought they were tenets worth sharing, so here they are along with my explanation of what they each mean to me. (Plus there’s a handy infographic if you scroll down.)

Stakeholders should have a say in decisions that affect them

You can’t do projects to people. Actually, you can try. I guarantee it won’t turn out well.

Talk to the people whose lives you are changing, even if the change appears to you to be very small.

Stakeholder participation includes the promise that their contributions will influence decisions… and they are told how

It isn’t enough to talk to people. You have to listen as well. When people give you their input, they deserve to have it incorporated where you can.

If you can’t incorporate it, at least let people know the reasons why so they aren’t disappointed later or feel that they have been ignored.

Stakeholder engagement seeks out those potentially affected by, or interested in, a decision

You have to go out and find your stakeholders. The easiest way to do this is to ask the stakeholders you know about to suggest other people you should be talking to.

Keep expanding your network. There is nearly always someone else whom you could get involved.

Stakeholder engagement seeks input on how they may wish to participate

And accepts that some people may not wish to participate.

Talk to your stakeholders about what engagement looks like to them and offer a range of ways for people to get involved with your project.

Stakeholder engagement provides information, time, and space to allow stakeholders to participate in a meaningful way

The important thing here – the takeaway for me – is space. Often stakeholders need longer than you expect to absorb the changes proposed by the project.

Give them the space to reflect and the time to make the right choices.

It never hurts to be polite

I think Worsley has that one pretty sewn up!

To learn more about the topic of Stakeholder Engagement, click here to register for IIL’s IPM Day Online Conference. Elizabeth will be presenting “Stakeholder Engagification: How to Get People to Take Action on Projects.”

This post was originally published on A Girl’s Guide to Project Management. Republished with permission.

About the Author

Elizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl’s Guide To Project Management. She’s passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She’s also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

 


Thoughts on ITIL® 4 from an ITIL v3 Expert

By Jurian Burgers, MSc, ITIL Expert and Managing Professional

ITIL® has been the leading guidance for IT Service Management for the past three decades. Millions of practitioners worldwide have applied it in their daily jobs to deliver and support IT services for the improvement of business results. Last year, AXELOS launched ITIL4. Why the change? As a certified ITIL v3 Expert, consultant and service management trainer for 20 years, I was curious to find out what the novelties were. I was surprised and disappointed at the same time.

Disappointed at first sight, because the 26 processes in ITIL v3 were expanded to 34 practices in ITIL4. Note that ITIL doesn’t talk about ‘processes’ anymore. They are called ‘practices’. Looking a bit further, the additional practices are not new. They are just adopted from other business and IT related fields. Examples are ‘Workforce and talent management’, ‘Risk Management’ and ‘Business Analysis’. And also my favourite: ‘Project Management’!

But reading a bit further, my enthusiasm for the framework declined again. I broke my head in thinking how I could possibly help organizations and teach students in the use of the new concepts. ITIL4 talks about Service Value System, Value Chain, Value Streams, flexible operating models, guiding principles and four dimensions of IT Service Management. Would the newcomers in the field of IT Service Management ever be able to understand these concepts and models? Most of them are just looking for explanation and guidance on incident-, problem-, change- and configuration management.

The only thing for me left to do was to really dig into it. I certified myself as accredited trainer and took the ITIL Managing Professional Transition course to fully understand ITIL4. This opened my eyes. I will explain this a bit further.

At first, I was glad to see that the core of ITIL is still there. Practices like Incident-, Problem-, Change, Config, Service Level Management etcetera still exist. They are even updated to modern ways of thinking and working.

Furthermore, ITIL4 can be regarded as an umbrella. Underneath it, it seamlessly integrates Project Management-, Agile-, Devops-, Lean- and ITIL(v3) ways of working. And it warmly welcomes the possibilities of new technologies like Cloud Computing, Big Data, AI and other high velocity IT developments at the same time!

Also, I was glad to see that ITIL finally left aside the rigid and inflexible nature that processes hold. That has always been the criticism in adopting ITIL. Especially for those who did not really knew how to use it. And to some extend I don’t blame them for this. The key in ITIL is that all activities must contribute to value for the users and customers.

 

This new ITIL way of thinking and working holistically can be tough for die-hard technicians and experts. But hey, the world changes. Open your eyes. Look at the fast moving and changing world we are in. Digital Transformation is happening all over. Successful fintech startups, game-changing blockchain implementations and the power of the voice of social media cannot be ignored. Moreover, they need to deliver value to customers, and need to be managed. ITIL4 brings you the tools and practices to guide you in this challenge. It is up to you to reach out.

Critical note: Will it be the holy grail? I don’t think so. Just because organizations are not that flexible in adopting and adapting new ways of working overnight. But it is definitely worthwhile looking into it and experiment with this super flexible model to support your IT services and deliver value to your customers. I wish you all the wisdom for the future.

Start your ITIL 4 journey with IIL!
ITIL 4 Foundation Course
ITIL v4 Passport Foundation (on-demand)

 

About the Author

 

Jurian Burgers is a subject matter expert, trainer, and consultant in IT Service Management and Cloud Service Management, with over 25 years of international experience helping enterprises in their journey towards digital transformation in various organizations, sectors, and countries.

ITIL® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

 

 


How to boost your career with simple time allocation tricks

By Karim Radwan, Founder of Impactus Consulting | IIL Consultant and Trainer

If you often feel overwhelmed by the continuous flow of new tasks coming your way, pressured by time, or that your employer does not fully exploit your skills, be assured that you are not alone in this case.

According to Gallup reports, the majority of American citizens (79% in 2017) feel stressed. Work and lack of time (together with children) seem to be the major contributors to this figure.

This article ambitions to provide you with essential principles to allot your time in a way that maximizes your productivity and benefits your career.

Never enough time – Forget time management

No matter how skilled or smart you are, you can’t actually manage time. It is not possible to slow the seconds ticking on your watch, rewind a bad day back or fast-forward moments of boredom.

The only manageable aspect of time is how you allocate it.

Though it may sound obvious, it is essential to understand that time allocation is a 0-sum game. Put simply, the time you spend doing a task is time you can’t spend doing something else (this is known as the law of the excluded alternative) and as far as I know, once spent, time can never be recovered or reclaimed.

Knowing this unfortunate reality, Let’s see how can we ensure we are allocating this ever-elapsing time in the best way possible.

Everybody has an agenda – Take control

The number one priority is to take control of your time allocation. Obviously, if other people are deciding everything you are doing and when you are doing it, you can’t improve your time allocation.

You may think that your boss has total control on your schedule, but that is in most cases not the case. Let us see how you can twist your daily agenda to favor yourself (and later in the article how to create opportunities when there seem to be none).

Be the one who proactively sets the meetings and schedules the calls you must participate in. Else, these sessions will be scheduled to suit somebody else’s agenda, that is the reward one gets for taking the lead.

Avoid wasting your time in meetings you know will have no meaningful outcome. A good indicator is when a meeting has no agenda. Avoid those like the plague but learn how to say no in a constructive manner.

When you excuse yourself for a meeting, virtual gathering, or conference call, do not leave the organizer empty handed. Share 3 ideas in bullet points to contribute to the session (this will probably exceed the inputs of many participants in the meeting and will likely be remembered).

Do not just let the day “happen”, be proactive and try to get as many blocks of time as possible under your control.

90% is waste – Prioritize

As explained previously, deciding to do one task implies you have decided to do this task over any other task in the world. So, before starting a new endeavor, take a few seconds to reflect whether it is the most useful or the best for your career amongst all other tasks you could be doing at this time.

In the Lean project management methodology, anything that is not adding value is considered as waste. Apply the same reasoning when prioritizing your work and you may be surprised by the amount of time we spend without creating any value for the company or its clients.

“As a rule of thumb, 90% of everything a business does is waste.”
– John Earley, The Lean Book of Lean

While I don’t necessarily disagree with this figure, it is so extreme that it sometimes makes it difficult to know where to start to cut waste. We shall see below, where we can begin this exercise.

Not all tasks are born equal – Use the 80/20 rule

A good starting point to decide which activities deserve the most attention is to view the world through an 80/20 lens.

Also known as the Paretto principle named after Italian economist Vilfredo Paretto, Law of the vital few, or principle of factor sparsity, you will find references to this concept in most management books as it is a key concept of productivity.

The main idea is that there is an imbalance between inputs and results, meaning a minority of your efforts (approximately 20% in most cases) will have the majority of the impact (80%).

80% of the value perceived by your customers comes from 20% of your company’s actions.

One common example is spending some time contacting existing or former clients. This takes little time but often yields substantial revenues. However, people tend to allocate very little time to this activity as they are focusing on “growth” (new business).

While the exact percentages inputs/results will obviously vary from one company to another. Keep in mind that all tasks are not equal, and that priority should be given to those that generate the most significant outputs with the least time invested.

Take time to reflect on your latest success (a satisfied client, a new process, reward from your peers, etc.) and list the actions that made it possible and approximately how much time they took you. You may be incredibly surprised by the little amount of time they amount to.

Once identified, always give priority to this category of actions, and try to delegate or cut the actions that take 80% of your time but offer little or no return.

Money talks! A lot! – Put a price tag on your tasks

If it is difficult for you to apply the 80/20 lens and paint a clear picture of the actual return or result of your contributions, below is a technique you can use to differentiate and prioritize your duties by putting a price tag on them.

Ask yourself the following:

Does the task I am about to work on translate into money for the company (or avoids losing some)?

If the answer to this question is no, in most cases it is wise to postpone it, delegate it, or drop it.

If the answer is yes, ask yourself the following:

Could I work on another task that would translate into even more money for the company (or avoiding even larger losses)?

If the answer is no. Do the task. If the answer is yes, complete the task with the higher remuneration first.

If you are not in a position to assess the financial impact of your actions. You can still use the price tag technique to classify your work by asking yourself the following question:

How much would a company usually pay somebody to work on a similar task?

If the answer is below what you are earning, postpone, delegate, or drop the task.

It is fine to make rough estimates, this is not an accounting exercise, the idea is to understand whether the tasks you complete reflect your level of salary and more importantly the salary you are ambitioning to attain.

I can’t count the number of times I have witnessed people in managerial positions spending hours every day chasing suppliers’ payments, correcting typos in reports or emails, summarizing meetings to higher management, checking on employees’ presence, etc. this is such a waste of time and resources. An employee who earns one third of their salary could complete these tasks and would probably do them in a better way.

“If you aspire to earn 500$ an hour, do not spend your time doing tasks that can be done by someone who earns 5$ an hour.”
– Brian Tracy, Master Your Time Master Your Life

Of course, this is not an absolute rule. It is for you to judge if a task has the potential to generate revenue or benefits in the future. For example, inviting your best client for diner, may cost the company money, but safeguard future business.

The client is king – Focus on creating value

Ultimately, no matter how remotely their work is carried out, everybody in your company is being paid by its clients.

Keep this in mind throughout your working day. More specifically, before working on something, ask yourself if it will create value for your clients and if there aren’t any other tasks you could carry out that would generate more value for them. Of course, it must be value they are willing to pay for.

Once you start looking at your company’s work this way, you may be incredibly surprised by the tremendous amount of wasted efforts. Anything that does not contribute directly or indirectly to add value for your clients is likely not worth your efforts.

My personal experience – Design your own tasks

It can feel comforting to complete easy and repetitive tasks but very often they are not the ones creating value for your company.

If your job does not comprise many opportunities to add value for the company and its clients, you have to be proactive, create your own opportunities, and take the lead on issues that matter.

When I was an intern at a luxury wine and spirits distributor who also organized events (this was the part I enjoyed most), whatever the topic being discussed, I was not invited to say much. The General Manager came from the fine dining industry and had a similar character to Gordon Ramsey’s.

I noticed we had many women as clients, but no specific offer for them. I told the General Manager that I believed we were missing out on substantial revenue as the women buying our wine are not participating in our events.

I suggested to test an event focusing on women in the wine industry, inviting women sommeliers, women winegrowers, etc. to present their favorite wines and discuss their experience in a rather masculine line of work.

The General Manager thought I was wrong obviously, but the mention of potential revenue was enough to convince him to check the data (people always listen when you approach them with an idea to generate revenue). To his surprise, he had never noticed that women actually represented the majority of clients in a store that offered a customer experience entirely designed for men.

We organized the event. It crushed the record number of attendees of our past events and led to substantial free press coverage.

This is how I became in charge of redesigning all events for the Swiss market. Had I exclusively stuck to what I had been asked to do, I would have most likely ended up doing deliveries on a full-time basis.

When you focus on the most productive tasks, great things happen, you then get to do more of the interesting work, your motivation soars leading your overall productivity to skyrocket.

This post was originally published on the Impactus Consulting Blog. Republished with permission.

About the Author


Karim Radwan is the Founder of Impactus Consulting, and a Trainer and Consultant with IIL.
Building on his extensive program and project management experience, Karim specializes in productivity and crisis management methods. He is well known for his ability to translate complex issues into simple and actionable concepts. His skillset and enthusiasm have benefited a wide range of clients including fortune 500 companies, startups, and governmental entities.


 


The Disciplined Agile Mindset


By Scott Ambler | Vice President, Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at Project Management Institute

 

[This post is a supplement to Scott’s upcoming keynote at IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference]


The DA tool kit supplies straightforward guidance to help you, your team, and your enterprise increase your effectiveness. The DA tool kit shows you how to apply and evolve your way of working (WoW) in a context-sensitive manner with this people-first, learning-oriented hybrid agile approach.  We describe DA in terms of four views: Mindset, People, Flow, and Practices.  In this blog I describe the mindset behind PMI’s Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, overviewed in Figure 1.  PMI’s approach to describing the DA Mindset is straightforward: We believe in these principles, so we promise to adopt these behaviours and we follow these guidelines when doing so.


Figure 1: The Disciplined Agile Mindset.

 

The Principles


The principles of the Disciplined Agile mindset provide a philosophical foundation for business agility.  The eight principles are are based on both lean and flow concepts:

 

  1. Delight customers. We need to go beyond satisfying our customers’ needs, beyond meeting their expectations, and strive to delight them.  If we don’t then someone else will delight them and steal our customers away from us. This applies to both external customers as well as internal customers.
  2. Be awesome. We should always strive to be the best that we can, and to always get better. Who wouldn’t want to work with awesome people, on an awesome team for an awesome organization?
  3. Context counts. Every person, every team, every organization is unique.  We face unique situations that evolve over time.  The implication is that we must choose our way of working (WoW) to reflect the context that we face, and then evolve our WoW as the situation evolves.
  4. Be pragmatic (reworded from Pragmatism). Our aim isn’t to be agile, it’s to be as effective as we can be and to improve from there.  To do this we need to be pragmatic and adopt agile, lean, or even traditional strategies when they make the most sense for our context.
  5. Choice is good. To choose our WoW in a context-driven, pragmatic manner we need to select the best-fit technique given our situation.  Having choices, and knowing the trade-offs associated with those choices, is critical to choosing our WoW that is best fit for our context.
  6. Optimize flow. We want to optimize flow across the value stream that we are part of, and better yet across our organization, and not just locally optimize our WoW within our team. Sometimes this will be a bit inconvenient for us, but overall we will be able to more effectively respond to our customers.
  7. Organize around products/services (new).  To delight our customers we need to organize ourselves around producing the offerings, the products and services, that they need. We are in effect organizing around value streams because value streams produce value for customers, both external and internal, in the form of products and services.  We chose to say organize around products/services, rather than offerings or value streams, as we felt this was more explicit.
  8. Enterprise awareness. Disciplined agilists look beyond the needs of their team to take the long-term needs of their organization into account.  They adopt, and sometimes tailor, organizational guidance.  They follow, and provide feedback too, organizational roadmaps.  The leverage, and sometimes enhance, existing organizational assets.  In short, they do what’s best for the organization and not just what’s convenient for them.

 

The Promises


The promises of the Disciplined Agile mindset are agreements that we make with our fellow teammates, our stakeholders, and other people within our organization whom we interact with.  The promises define a collection of disciplined behaviours that enable us to collaborate effectively and professionally.  The seven promises are:

 

  1. Create psychological safety and embrace diversity. Psychological safety means being able to show and apply oneself without fear of negative consequences of status, career, or self-worth—we should be comfortable being ourselves in our work setting. Psychological safety goes hand-in-hand with diversity, which is the recognition that everyone is unique and can add value in different ways. The dimensions of personal uniqueness include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, agile, physical abilities, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideological beliefs. Diversity is critical to a team’s success because it enables greater innovation. The more diverse our team, the better our ideas will be, the better our work will be, and the more we’ll learn from each other.
  2. Accelerate value realization. In DA we use the term value to refer to both customer and business value. Customer value, something that benefits the end customer who consumes the product/service that our team helps to provide, is what agilists typically focus on. This is clearly important, but in Disciplined Agile we’re very clear that teams have a range of stakeholders, including external end customers. Business value addresses the issue that some things are of benefit to our organization and perhaps only indirectly to our customers. For example, investing in enterprise architecture, in reusable infrastructure, and in sharing innovations across our organization offer the potential to improve consistency, quality, reliability, and reduce cost over the long term.
  3. Collaborate proactively. Disciplined agilists strive to add value to the whole, not just to their individual work or to the team’s work. The implication is that we want to collaborate both within our team and with others outside our team, and we also want to be proactive doing so. Waiting to be asked is passive, observing that someone needs help and then volunteering to do so is proactive.
  4. Make all work and workflow visible. DA teams will often make their work visible at both the individual level as well as the team level. It is critical to focus on our work in process, which is our work in progress plus any work that is queued up waiting for us to get to it.  Furthermore, DA teams make their workflow visible, and thus have explicit workflow policies, so that everyone knows how everyone else is working.
  5. Improve predictability. DA teams strive to improve their predictability to enable them to collaborate and self-organize more effectively, and thereby to increase the chance that they will fulfill any commitments that they make to their stakeholders. Many of the earlier promises we have made work toward improving predictability.
  6. Keep workloads within capacity. Going beyond capacity is problematic from both a personal and a productivity point of view. At the personal level, overloading a person or team will often increase the frustration of the people involved. Although it may motivate some people to work harder in the short term, it will cause burnout in the long term, and it may even motivate people to give up and leave because the situation seems hopeless to them. From a productivity point of view, overloading causes multitasking, which increases overall overhead.
  7. Improve continuously. The really successful organizations—Apple, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, and more—got that way through continuous improvement. They realized that to remain competitive they needed to constantly look for ways to improve their processes, the outcomes that they were delivering to their customers, and their organizational structures.

 

The Guidelines


The guidelines of the Disciplined Agile mindset help us to be more effective in our way of working (WoW), and in improving our WoW over time. The eight guidelines are:

 

  1. Validate our learnings. The only way to become awesome is to experiment with, and then adopt where appropriate, a new WoW. In guided continuous improvement (GCI) we experiment with a new way of working and then we assess how well it worked, an approach called validated learning. Being willing and able to experiment is critical to our process-improvement efforts.
  2. Apply design thinking. Delighting customers requires us to recognize that our aim is to create operational value streams that are designed with our customers in mind. This requires design thinking on our part. Design thinking means to be empathetic to the customer, to first try to understand their environment and their needs before developing a solution.
  3. Attend to relationships through the value stream. The interactions between the people doing the work are what is key, regardless of whether or not they are part of the team. For example, when a product manager needs to work closely with our organization’s data analytics team to gain a better understanding of what is going on in the marketplace, and with our strategy team to help put those observations into context, then we want to ensure that these interactions are effective.
  4. Create effective environments that foster joy. Part of being awesome is having fun and being joyful. We want working in our company to be a great experience so we can attract and keep the best people. Done right, work is play. We can make our work more joyful by creating an environment that allows us to work together well.
  5. Change culture by improving the system. While culture is important, and culture change is a critical component of any organization’s agile transformation, the unfortunate reality is that we can’t change it directly. This is because culture is a reflection of the management system in place, so to change our culture we need to evolve our overall system.
  6. Create semi-autonomous self-organizing teams. Organizations are complex adaptive systems (CASs) made up of a network of teams or, if you will, a team of teams. Although mainstream agile implores us to create “whole teams” that have all of the skills and resources required to achieve the outcomes that they’ve been tasked with, the reality is that no team is an island unto itself. Autonomous teams would be ideal but there are always dependencies on other teams upstream that we are part of, as well as downstream from us. And, of course, there are dependencies between offerings (products or services) that necessitate the teams responsible for them to collaborate.
  7. Adopt measures to improve outcomes. When it comes to measurement, context counts. What are we hoping to improve? Quality? Time to market? Staff morale? Customer satisfaction? Combinations thereof? Every person, team, and organization has their own improvement priorities, and their own ways of working, so they will have their own set of measures that they gather to provide insight into how they’re doing and, more importantly, how to proceed. And these measures evolve over time as their situation and priorities evolve. The implication is that our measurement strategy must be flexible and fit for purpose, and it will vary across teams.
  8. Leverage and enhance organizational assets. Our organization has many assets—information systems, information sources, tools, templates, procedures, learnings, and other things—that our team could adopt to improve our effectiveness. We may not only choose to adopt these assets, we may also find that we can improve them to make them better for us as well as other teams who also choose to work with these assets.

 

Whence the Agile Manifesto?


Until recently, we described the DA mindset as the combination of the DA Principles and the DA Manifesto.  The DA Manifesto in turn was described in terms of five values and 17 principles behind the manifesto.  The DA Manifesto was based on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, or more colloquially known as the Agile Manifesto.  But, as you can imagine, people were confused by two levels of principles.  We also found the Agile Manifesto to be constraining, mostly due to the cultural baggage that has built up around it for the past two decades.  And most importantly, we realized that we could describe the mindset in a far more robust and understandable manner as you’ve seen in this blog.


The DA Mindset provides conceptual background required for business agility and is an important part of the foundation of the DA tool kit.  I will describe how to apply the DA tool kit in my keynote presentation, Disciplined Agile Strategies for Greater Innovation, at IIL’s Agile and Scrum 2020 Online Conference. I hope you choose to attend this great event.

 

[To learn more on this topic, click here to register for IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference]

 

References


For further reading about the details behind the Disciplined Agile Mindset, please read Chapter 2 of Choose Your WoW! A Disciplined Agile Delivery Handbook for Choosing Your Way of Working.


About the Author Scott is the Vice President, Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at Project Management Institute. Scott leads the evolution of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit and is an international keynote speaker. Scott is the (co)-creator of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit as well as the Agile Modeling (AM) and Agile Data (AD) methodologies. He is the (co-)author of several books, including Choose Your WoW!, An Executive’s Guide to the Disciplined Agile Framework, Refactoring Databases, Agile Modeling, Agile Database Techniques, and The Object Primer 3rd Edition. Scott blogs regularly at ProjectManagement.com and he can be contacted via pmi.org.

 


Capture More Agility by Tailoring Practices


[This post is a sneak preview of Jesse Fewell’s talk at IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference, and is based on his upcoming book Untapped Agility]


We’ve been told that to achieve more innovation, more collaboration, or more agility, we need to adopt modern practices. Unfortunately, many of those practices seem fundamentally incompatible a team’s reality on the ground. If the experts say we have to use stable teams, product-based funding, but our current state won’t allow for it, what do we do? Short answer: We adapt. The path forward is to be agile with your agile, to transform your transformation.

Be Agile with your Agile
Transform your Transformation

 

Tailoring is management common sense


Much has been written in the project and product worlds about “tailoring” processes and practices, based on the work being done. Let’s pause for a moment to take a look at some key points. The idea of the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition officially defines tailoring as follows:

 

Determining the appropriate combination of processes, inputs, tools, techniques, outputs, and the life cycle phases to manage a project is referred to as “tailoring” the application of the knowledge [of project management].


That’s a fancy way of saying that each organization should customize its approach to delivering work based on the specific dynamics and demands of the environment.


Moreover, these adjustments are not optional. The guide goes on to say:

 

Tailoring is necessary because each project is unique; not every process, tool, input, or output identified is necessary.


Ironically, if your PMO, Center of Excellence, or other standards group has defined their process playbook by merely copy-pasting a textbook approach from PMI, from Google, or from Spotify… they are violating the ASNI standard for project management.

 

Tailoring was always core to Agility


Now if you think that point is only for traditional project management and has nothing to do with Agility, then you would be mistaken. The original Agile Manifesto closes out its declaration of values and principles with this very topic, saying:

 

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.


That’s the conclusion, the climax, the final word. Kind of important.


So whether you come from a formal standards perspective (project management) or a more informal values-based perspective (Agile Manifesto), the expectation is the same: modify how you do your work, based on the situation at hand.


Put another way, if you believe in continuous improvement, then by definition whatever practices you are using are not optimal. If you are still using that fancy new devops method strictly out of the box, then you are simultaneously neither compliant with international standards nor consistent with the spirit of agility. Not adjusting your practices is a double-fail.

 

Okay, but HOW do we Adjust?


Unfortunately, there is almost zero guidance on how to go about tailoring effectively. Much of the literature in place today strongly advises that you do it but offers no filters, guardrails, or tips for doing so. That’s a problem, because if we don’t make the right adjustments we can get some very unwelcome side effects, such as:

 

  • If we don’t adjust enough, we still struggle unnecessarily.
  • If we adjust it too much, we lose all the benefit we’re trying to get.


How do we customize our practices without diluting their potency or even making things worse? We need to offer people a viable alternative beyond all-or-nothing.

 

The 3P Tailoring Technique


To do that, we can walk through a simple set of questions to figure out some degree of doing things better:

 

  1. Listen to their PAIN. Ask the team what is the specific frustration, difficulty, challenge they would face if we were to use a given technique.
  2. Explain the PURPOSE. Share the underlying principle of why we recommend that technique. What is the in- tended benefit?
  3. Design a PIVOT. Ask the team how might we adjust the technique so that we could get at least some of that benefit.


Here is how the process works in real life.

 

 

Tailoring Example for Documentation


Let’s say Maria the Manager wrestles with the excessive documentation generated in regulated, life-critical environments. Here’s how her team might approach that topic in their transformation.

 

  1. Maria’s Pain. “Experts say documents are wasteful. But we build medical devices. Those documents are how we pass compliance audits, never mind the rigor they foster to prevent tragic mistakes. ”
  2. A colleague explains the Purpose. “Remember, the emphasis of ‘working product over comprehensive documentation’ is to avoid distractions that waste time. I’m sure you can think of how to adjust your documentation practices to save time, without compromising the safety of the work you do.”
  3. Maria’s Pivot. “Well, much of our time is spent using our specifications to convey designs to the builders. But talking is faster than typing. We could accelerate knowledge sharing by including the designers and auditors in our meetings more frequently. Then writing the compliance documents will be more focused on the final product, rather than directing intermediate work. That might improve quality and speed, without losing any of the documentation the government requires. Let’s try this as an experiment for one subset of the overall product.”


That’s how it works. When moving on a journey towards new ways of working, leaders often get confused on how to adopt things like automation, stable teams, or prototyping. By making appropriate adjustments to established practices, you can help your transformation move forward, rather than getting stuck in the false choice of all-or-nothing.

 

[To learn more on this topic, click here to register for IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference]

Jesse Fewell’s latest book, Untapped Agility, is a balanced guide to agility that gets past the hype and frustration to help frustrated leaders transform their agile transformations. Pre-order Untapped Agility today to join the movement of this groundbreaking book. After preordering, email taylor@jessefewell.com to receive the following benefits:

  • A FREE digital copy of the book
  • Exclusive Q&As with Jesse about the book
  • Autograph bookplate for your physical book copy

About the Author Jesse Fewell is an author, coach, and trainer who helps senior leaders from Boston to Beijing transform their organizations to achieve more innovation, collaboration, and business agility. A management pioneer, he founded and grew the original Agile Community of Practice within the Project Management Institute (PMI), has served on leadership subcommittees for the Scrum Alliance, and written publications reaching over a half-million readers in eleven languages. Jesse has taught, keynoted, or coached thousands of leaders and practitioners across thirteen countries on 5 continents. His industry contributions earned him a 2013 IEEE Computer Society Golden Core Award.

 


The Effective and Innovative Virtual Team Leader

By Frank P. Saladis, PMP, LIMC MCCP, PMI Fellow

Virtual teams have been a part of the business, public, and not for profit environments for many years. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the internet began to significantly influence how information and meetings were managed. The economic situation in 1986 also had a major impact on business travel and companies sought new ways to conduct meetings more economically and to minimize travel. Back in that time period, technology was available but expensive and was used primarily by large corporations that could afford to construct what was basically a television production studio. 

Today there are multiple platforms to choose from and they are generally very economical. The features and functions associated with the platforms provide the team leader or meeting facilitator with a variety of tools that can engage the attendees and produce the desired meeting outcomes. 

In today’s new business environmentremotely distributed and virtual teams, although not entirely a new concept, have become a much more integral part of daily business. The leaders of these virtual teams must adapt to a very demanding and nearly constant state of “virtuality.”

Here are a few suggestions that may assist in creating a virtual team community that is well connected, engaged, and productive: 

  1. Prepare an agenda for your meetings to send out to attendees, regardless of planned duration. Team members want to know the topics in advance. This helps them to prepare and participate more productively. 
  1. If possible, schedule “recurring meetings” and “status updates” for a specific day and time each week/month. This allows everyone to plan their schedules and avoid commitment conflicts. 
  1. Everyone’s time is important, so keep meetings as brief as possible and, as the leader, always be on line before everyone else. This also allows for some “social chat” and warm up before you begin. 
  1. Some meetings require attendance by very specific individuals. Invite only those people who are truly needed for each meeting. 
  1. Use “visual anchors” to maintain engagement – pictures, charts, images, diagrams. Use color to enhance the visual effect. 
  1. Use “verbal anchors” to ensure clarity and understanding – comparisons, analyses, processes and steps, examples, repeating information for emphasis. 
  1. Use “connection anchors” to maintain attention and participation – Ask team members specific questions, shift responsibility for facilitation., 
  1. Share work assignments equally. In many cases, leaders subconsciously assign particular work to team members based on the leader’s perception of an individual’s work performance. The leader is a coach and a mentor, and trust is a key factor in creating high performance teams. Show your entire team that you trust them. 
  1. Connect with each team member individually and establish a rapport. This is necessary to ensure that performance related discussions are productive, comfortable, and meaningful. 
  1. Establish ways for the team to get to know each other. There are lots of creative techniques to establish a very supportive virtual team environment: Share baby pictures and ask people to match each picture with the team members, have occasional round-table discussions, pair people to work together, be an idea champion and encourage everyone to come up with suggestions for increasing engagement and meeting enjoyment. 

This new virtual business environment we are experiencing will probably continue as the business world moves forward. Technology will evolve to meet the needs and the team leader must adapt to the many new norms that are just over the virtual horizon. 

One more tip I have for you is implement “enjoyment time” for each meeting, demonstrate your trust in your team, and exercise some creativity in your meeting management. Give everyone an opportunity to excel and contribute and keep communication flowing to ensure a strong team connection. 

Through June 30, 2020, we are offering free registration to our on-demand course on Virtual Agile Teams (regularly $850 USD). Learn more and register here >>


About the Author

Frank Saladis is an internationally renowned speaker, consultant and instructor in the project management profession with over 35 years of experience in the telecommunications and project management training environment. Frank is a past president of the PMI Assembly of Chapter Presidents and is the originator of International Project Management Day. In 2006 he received the prestigious Person of the Year Award from PMI for his contributions to the practice of project management.


Key Themes at IIL’s 2020 Agile & Scrum Online Conference

By Sander Boeije

June 4th, 2020 will mark the opening day of IIL’s 5th annual Agile & Scrum Online Conference. In the past years, this conference has grown into a community of agile enthusiasts, with participants coming from all over the world and all kinds of industries. This year is no different, as #AgileCon2020 promises to be an outstanding learning experience once again. As is to be expected, the current health crisis has influenced many of the presentations this year; however, it’s rarely the main topic of a session because even amid a pandemic, agile is about adapting to change and delivering value.

This article will take you through the key themes that will emerge at Agile & Scrum 2020. Let’s dive right in.

Agile Transformation and Disruption

If there ever was a time for business agility, it is now. Organizations in all industries and across the entire globe have been forced to make radical changes in how they operate. This, of course, is due to the disruption caused by the current ongoing global health crisis which is impacting the way we interact with the world and each other. The ability to pivot and continue to deliver value to your customers has never been so important to the success of your organization. It seems that ‘Being Agile’ has become a must and it is imperative to understand how to make this Agile Transformation happen.

For more on this theme, be sure to watch the keynote presentations by Dean Leffingwell from Scaled Agile Inc., and Darrell Rigby from Bain & Company, as well as the presentations by Avi Schneier, Jesse Fewell, and Dave Sharrock.

Culture and Innovation

A second emergent theme is the need to have a strong Agile and Innovative culture within the heart of your organization. During a time of major disruption, such as we are experiencing today, applying a certain framework, running sprints, doing daily standups, or other agile events might help your team to navigate this crisis (see also the last theme discussed in this article). However, it’s the underlying widespread belief in Trust, Communication, Innovation, and Continuous Improvement that truly moves the organization forward.

Join the keynote sessions by Scott Ambler, Vice President and Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at PMI,  and Corgibytes’ Andrea Goulet, as well as the presentations by Shaaron Alvares and Oscar Roche to learn ways in which you can build an innovative agile culture into the core of your team or organization.

Personal Agility

A third theme that is surfacing at this year’s event is Personal Agility. Where the emphasis of Agile is mostly on teams and organizations, the individual can oftentimes be overlooked – strange, since it is these individuals who make up those same teams and organizations! And especially during a time where people might become disconnected from others, a check-in with oneself and one’s agility is incredibly relevant.

This is a central theme in the sessions by Betsy Kauffman and Louria Lindauer, and it is mentioned in several other presentations as well.

Agile Methods & Techniques

The final theme is perhaps more miscellaneous, as it relates to various kinds of agile methods and techniques that help teams to be high-performing, work with stakeholders, and deliver value to the customer. For example, keynote speaker Patricia Kong from Scrum.org will explain how you can measure the value of the outcomes that you deliver using metrics that work for you. Renee Liken, Product Owner at FordLabs of Ford Motor Company, will provide a practical way on how you can get meaningful feedback from your users. Keith Wilson will give you a comprehensive overview of Kanban. Andrea Fryrear and Jamie Champagne provide insight in agile marketing and agile analysis, respectively. And Tom Friend discusses several excellent techniques on how to manage conflict. In each case, you’ll walk away from the session with fresh ideas for yourself, your team, and your organization.

Agile & Scrum 2020 goes live on June 4th, 2020. Full on-demand access to all content will be available through December 31st, 2020. Sign up here today and get 40% off the registration price.

We are grateful to our sponsors for making this event possible. These organizations include AXELOS, Cisco, Sabre, SITA, FordLabs, Scrum Inc., Scaled Agile Inc., APMG, PDUs2Go, Steven’s Institute of Technology, ModernAnalyst, TWI Institute, AgileSherpas, Corgibytes, Champagne Collaborations, Success Agility LLC, and more.