Scrum versus Kanban

Pawel Brodzinski makes a very succinct and key observation regarding the differences of Scrum and Kanban (and also links to a handful of opposing views by Ken Schwaber, David Anderson and Mike Cohn). If you want to figure out how Scrum and Kanban differ, this is a great starting point — be sure to check the referenced articles to get both (or, all three, or four) sides of the story.

Trying to change the world can be dangerous

Trying to change the world (or at least the professional one)? It can be dangerous, as Julia Kirby writes in Harvard Business Review: It’s one thing to be the agent of change in an organization that realizes it needs it; it’s quite another when you’re the only one in the room convinced of that. Be sure people perceive any change as being done for them, not to them, or risk their wrath.

The changing face of the U.S. job market

Is the U.S. experiencing a jobless recovery, or facing something much more fundamental? Is the changing economic landscape and emerging global economy causing a structural shift in the very nature of our workforce? The influence of the global economy is undeniably bringing about changes that are both new and unanticipated. As information flows around the world instantly, new possibilities open up and formerly reliable assumptions are proving not so reliable. Many jobs in sectors such as manufacturing and even technology are gone forever. The next step is to assess the new landscape and begin to change accordingly. Find out what the new, improved U.S. job market is going to look like moving forward. More »

“The key to a successful project is in the planning,” or is it?

Is the key to a successful project in the planning, as the axiom goes… or have we already been lost in the trees? My problem with this is that it’s a very narrow, incomplete answer to a much larger scope problem. Creating the project plan is important, but it’s not “the” key to project success — in fact, anyone taking this literally might assume that focusing on the project plan will therefore lead to success. Not so by any stretch. (It also reads like a few introductory sentences lifted from the PMBOK). For my two cents: Project success comes from involving the right project leadership (with measurable, established success under their belts), and establishing and following the right process for the project.

The obituary exercise

Get your team to write an obituary for your project — before you start the project. Make it part of your risk planning exercise. This exercise is related to the Merlin backward planning exercise and is also used in the Toyota Production System. Toyota used the obituary approach when creating their “Toyota University” program and engaged the team in a larger exercise to create a full report entitled “The University of Toyota calls it Quits; A Requiem for a Noble Concept.” It can be startlingly successful in creating a collaborative, problem-seeking and problem-solving environment.

When there’s a freeloader on your team

According to extensive research The Gallup Organization (Washington D.C.) and Harvard Business Review have conducted over the past decade, few factors are as corrosive to employee engagement as a colleague who skates through the workweek taking advantage of the much harder work of others. What’s the cost of disengagement? Much more than any manager wants to pay. Thanks to Clarity Technical Communications we can read all about it in the Harvard Management Update, When There’s A Freeloader On Your Team.

It’s never a good time for training

As Jamin Arvig, President of WaterFilters.net learned the hard way, putting off training has a cost of its own: Lost employees. As Jarmin wrote in his A Worker Quit — Because I Didn’t Train Him To Succeed, if you don’t arm your employees to succeed they’ll eventually go elsewhere to look for career advancement. “[It] was just the tip of the iceberg. My other customer service and sales people were struggling and frustrated. They didn’t say it in exactly these words, but they basically felt like I hadn’t equipped them to succeed.” Training is simply one of the best investments a company can make — and carefully planned, effective training yields more dividends than just about any other.

Training is number one

As I’ve pointed out more than once, training your employees is one of the best things you can do to benefit your business and your team. Even so, fears about what happens if you train your staff and they leave to find a better job are prevalent — but consider the alternative: What happens if you don’t train them, and they stay? As Derek Christian found out, training is key to success: He successfully dropped attrition from 300% to zero in 2009, and used a strategic training and career counseling program to more than double his business’ size. The number-one reason people leave their jobs is that they don’t feel challenged, he says: “People, especially of this generation, want to learn new things.” (CNN Money Online).

First, care. Care intensely.

Excellent advice found on 43 folders: Before you sweat the logistics of focus: first, care. Care intensely. We spend a great deal of time working on “engaging the team” or engaging ourselves when what we really need to do is find the willpower to focus on the foremost problem at hand. As Merlin points out, “Obsessing over the slipperiness of focus, bemoaning the volume of those devil ‘distractions,’ and constantly reassessing which shiny new ‘system’ might make your life suddenly seem more sensible–these are all terrifically useful warning flares that you may be suffering from a deeper, more fundamental problem.”