Category: consulting

Working Remotely in a time of Coronavirus (Covid-19)

We are going into a new period where a lot of people will have to work remotely for an unknown amount of time. Here are some tips to help make this transition successfully and easy for you, your family, and for your company.

  1. Set up your workspace to be conducive to work. This means different things for different people, but mainly it’s an area without distractions. Sitting in your living room with the TV on while your family comes in and out is probably not the best place. Find a quiet place, set it up so that you are able to work consistently during the day without interruptions.
    • Avoid distractions. Have a pile of personal paperwork on your desk that you’ve been meaning to get to forever? Put it aside, in a closet, or work on it after work hours to get it out of your space. TV on, Netflix playing, radio or Spotify playing? Turn them off and focus on the task at hand.
    • Family Ground Rules. Have a discussion with your family and set some ground rules, for example when the door is closed, do not disturb. Those of us with children will know that they will need attention throughout the day as well, however set up some rules where you can get some deep work done. 
  2. Over Communicate. One of the biggest challenges with remote work is being able to get in contact with people that you need to when you need to. It’s easy in an office to ‘pop over’ and have a chat with someone quickly, but that is still needed when you are working remotely as well. Make sure you are in constant contact with:
    • With your team.  The quick questions that you want answered, the updates, the help you need is right there. Keep in contact with your team through Slack and throughout the day. Let them know what you are working on and and when you need help.
    • With your Manager. They are going to want to still be aware of challenges you are facing and how they can help you. Management is there to help, and can only do so if they know what is going on, so keep in touch with them. 
  3. Keep your calendar up to date. One of the quickest and easiest ways of informing everyone what you are working on, and if you are able to be disturbed, is through the calendar. Make appointments for yourself for ‘lunch’, ‘break’, or ‘deep work’ so everyone knows what is going on. If you are needed for something, or you are not responding to Slack, it lets everyone know where you are and what you are doing. 
  4. Make time to get up and walk around. Being remote and not having any outside influences can be great for deep work, however you need to look after your health as well. It is recommended that you stand up and walk around every so often just to make sure you are being healthy. It’s good for your heart and your mental health to take a bit of a break and walk even around the house, for 10 minutes.
  5. Get dressed for work. Working from home is still working. You don’t need to be a 24/7 pyjama monster. Being dressed for what you are doing is important, not only because we want you on video conference calls, but also because it sets you in the right frame of mind for the day and tasks at hand. 
  6. Connect Socially. Working remote can be very socially isolating, and humans need outside communication to survive. Solitary confinement has been identified as having adverse effects on the mental health of those that have been subjected to it, and working remotely can have many of the same effects. Schedule time to connect with your colleagues. One tactic is to set up some “Beverage of Choice” meetings, where you take a break and video chat with colleagues. Get 2 or 3 of you together to have a 15 minute break, chat about what has been happening, what you are working on, or whatever. Keep the social connection with your team and people at work.
  7. Know when to log off.  Ever been working away and check the time and suddenly it is much, much later than you thought it was? When you are in the zone (current terminology is ‘the flow’) time just seems to pass by.  Make sure you give your mental health a break by stepping away from the computer and focus on anything else. You will be able to come back refreshed and able to tackle the task anew.

Presentation – How to Fail at Agile

I had a great time presenting “How to Fail at Agile” .  I mentioned that I would have the presentation posted online, so here it is! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.

How To Fail at Agile

Being a Partner in a big firm

Years ago I was working for one of the biggest consulting companies in the world. It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot from them, but one of the most important things I learned was that I was never going to advance in the organization. I didn’t have the dedication that was required to become a partner.

My boss at the time was striving to become a partner. He was driven, he was smart and he worked more than anyone I had met up until that point. He was at the office by 7am and routinely didn’t leave until 8pm.  He made all the right professional moves, he played the game very well. The problem for me was that he had a young family at home, two or three kids and a wife, and he was facing an hour commute each way. He was sacrificing his family for his career, and that his valid choice. I knew however that it wasn’t going to be my choice.

He made partner and instead of ‘taking his foot of the gas’ so to speak, they expected he keep up this pace and add more to it. It’s great that you are running a multi-million dollar, extremely high profile project for the company, but have you brought in any new work? Who are you connecting with that is going to lead to more business for us this year? His stress level went even higher than it was previously and he lasted in the partner role for just over a year before he quit.

I met with him several years later and he was not happy with his life choices. He chose work over his family and his family suffered as a consequence. He missed the first few precious years of his children’s’ lives.

It’s a choice we all have to make and live with the consequences.  Moving up in any organization requires putting in a lot of time, showing your skills and abilities, and a multitude of other factors. But it is not a gift, it is a product of a lot of time and energy that you put into the organization.  This time has to come from somewhere and it mainly comes at the expense of personal or family life.  Make the Little League game or stay for that important meeting? Be home for dinner or after everyone is in bed?

I have been challenged with this as well, but not to the same extent. Career progression is important to me but not as important as my family life. I like being able to have dinner with my wife and son. I really enjoy taking him to the bus, coaching his basketball team and his baseball team and I like to spend time with my wife. It’s a shame this has to come at the expense of upward mobility at work but it is my choice. I’m trading money and career for a lifetime of love and memories.

 

 

Happy Melly Exploration Day!

Very happy to be involved with this program.  I will be co-MC’ing the event with Jeff Kosciejew!  We promise there will be MAGIC!

 

happy-melly-exploration-day-2016

 

Get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/happy-melly-exploration-day-tickets-26636167494

 

Agile from the eyes of a 20 year PMP veteran

My world has changed, for the better.  When I first was introduced to Agile it was just a buzzword at a large company. “We need to be more agile. We need to set up agile teams.” Okay, sounds easy. Let me put together a project plan for that. It turns out that we were just paying lip service to an idea that someone told the CIO about. When we had to actually do agile, there was no support, no plan, no idea of what we were supposed to be doing. I had a team of 6 developers working on web projects that reported to me.  A great opportunity to actual put an agile team in place, however were told to “Keep Calm and Carry On”

Keep-calm-and-carry-on

Fast forward a year and I’m now part of an agile company and working closely with an agile team. There are many differences, all of which take some getting used to.

Over the next several posts I will examine some of the major differences:

  • Leading from behind
  • Where does the work of the PM go?
  • No Project Plans
  • “Meeting Hell” removed
  • Visible, daily updated progress
  • “Requirements? We don’t need no stinking requirements!” (with all apologies to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  • Weekly/Monthly Status reports: guessing versus actual metrics
  • A reason to invest in 3M -> Post-it notes everywhere

The thousands of dollars spent on attaining my PMP are not necessarily wasted, but they are diminishing in value for my future.  Sure I can still talk the talk, but I no longer want to walk the walk.  In the words of Pumbaa from the Lion King “You’ve got to put your behind in your past”, basically it is time to move forward with something that is better, stronger and faster in delivering results.

 

Michael Porter’s Monitor group in bankruptcy

Interesting to read that a ‘guru’ of consulting has had his own company fold.  Forbes has a good (but long) article on what caused this multi-million dollars in revenue company to implode.  I find it funny that when I was doing my MBA in the 90’s Porter was a GOD of strategy.  We had to study his book (I actually own two) to understand the five forces and how they interact in the business world.  I never found the applicability of his work in my own consulting career, but held him in high regard nonetheless.  Now he joins the ranks of others in the industry who didn’t adapt to change and didn’t have a solid business model to help them weather the financial crisis that hit the world.

How does Facebook push?

Good article over at devops.com on Release Engineering at Facebook.  Must say that right now I understood about half of what they are talking about, but it is amazingly impressive.  10k commits per month is amazing.

A lot of businesses need to understand that “Tools alone won’t save you… You need the right company with support from the top all the way down.”.  This takes time, patience and some help.  I’m really glad I joined Architech because this is the type of help that we provide companies.

“The main point is that you cannot tool your way out of this. The people coming on board have to be brainwashed so they buy into the cultural part.”
This is fantastic summary about how an organization lives and breaths the process.

 

Presto rollout delayed for Ottawa

The Presto card system by Metrolinx is a great farecard system and it is a shame that some glitches are causing this delay.  I worked on this project at the beginning with Accenture and we were designing a world class system to allow riders to have one card to use across transit providers for fare payment.  According to CTV Metrolinx is delaying the rollout due to ‘technical glitches’.

SEC awards Accenture 5 year contract to improve their websites

Wow. “The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has awarded Accenture Federal Services a five-year, $13 million contract for major architectural improvements and redesign of its three public websites, online tools used most frequently by the public, and the agency’s employee intranet” (source)  That seems like a lot of money and a very long time to do some redesign work.  I realize that the sites get 35 million hits per day combined, but as someone who has recently converted to agile project management, this seems like a very old school way to do this work.  

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