How to combine Project Management with Operations?

“I want my people to work 12 hours a day: they need to work 8 hours on operations and then to spend another 4 hours on project work” Vicepresident

How to combine Project Management with Operations

How project managers and teams can benefit from using the AQRO® Method

BACKGROUND

In matrix organizations employees are put under competing pressures: they are expected to work in operations and in the same time to fulfill their project duties. Unfortunately those directions are usually not divided by time or the space. One needs to work on operations but project manager can come with project question, or task.

Different priorities and multitasking decrease the efficiency of employees. Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” and making employees to spend more time at work will not help. We need the method to combine operations and project management and to decrease multitasking losses of efficiency of employees. That’s where AQRO comes.

What’s AQRO®

AQRO® (an acronym from Active Qualified Human Resource Organization) was created by Dr Consuela Utsch based on more than 25 years of training and consulting the companies.

What AQRO® does, is it acknowledges both types of activities: operations and project management, but separates them in time i.g. one employee can work either on operations either on project management but never working on both in the same time. The work needs to be planned on the department level because employees do not necessarily have the freedom to plan their time independently.

The Service Plan created at the department level allocates to employees 4 hour slots of time dedicated to operations or project management planned one month ahead.

3 types of roles are allocated to employees:

  1. Project role,
  2. Daily business
  3. Contact person

 

Two first areas were mentioned but it’s the Contact person which really makes the difference. This role is given to people who are responsible for protecting employees from interruptions. They take the incoming communication to the department and transfer the information to certain person at the end of the day.

The roles are given based on the MBTI Type (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) which is widely known. It’s therefore most efficient way of allocating resources to the type of work they are most efficient with.

Why do we need AQRO?

Humans are expected by the organizations to work in multitasking. It’s unfortunately not the way the human brain is working. It can’t work on two things in the same time, but it switches from one task to another and comes back to the previous task in milliseconds. It comes at a cost to the worker because it slows down the work and decreases the efficiency. The second aspect is we need to concentrate in order to do something.

When interruption comes (phone call, e-mail, question from colleague, sms, chat message) we lose the focus. It’s estimated we need 10 to 20 minutes to get to the level of attention we had. The number of interruptions is hard to measure, but we know from study by the University of California that workers can only focus on a task for three minutes at a time before being interrupted.

Employees working in open spaces rarely have the possibility of concentrating on the activities they do as many interruptions are happening around and everyone is easily accessible (at least physically). Home office is not creating better environment as modern communication technologies are present including mobile phones, e-mails, teleconferencing software and chatting applications.

The implementation of AQRO can therefore help to save ¾ of a day per employee per week, which with 10 employee makes 60 hours per week. This time can be used to deliver more but with lower level of stress. AQRO creates also the platform which can combine and support operations and project management in one department, or in a whole organization.

How does AQRO support project management?

AQRO® does allocate firmly the time of employees for project work and should therefore increase the project’s success rate. It can also be very well aligned with project management standards.

How does AQRO supports PRINCE2®?

Project management with PRINCE2® puts projects into the organizational context where they are not isolated but managed withing programs, portfolios or within operational structures. AQRO® combines operations and project environments into one picture and helps for the programs and portfolios to plan and manage resources availability to change management activities.

Basic principle “Defined roles and responsibilities” – stresses the importance of having clearly identified and differentiated project roles representing the major project’s stakeholders including: business, user and suppliers, who are identified and appointed from operations. That’s where AQRO® can help to identify the major stakeholders e.g. department heads to fulfill the roles of Executive, Senior User and Senior Supplier.

Organization theme identifies the roles to be fulfilled within the project and the responsibilities and competencies required. That’s where AQRO® helps to identify the availability of the resources to fulfill the roles. PRINCE2® on the other hand can help to decompose AQRO’s generic “The Project Role” into:

  • Executive,
  • Senior user(-s),
  • Senior supplier,
  • Project manager,
  • Business, user and supplier project assurance,
  • Change authority,
  • Team manager(s),
  • Project support.

 

AQRO supports PRINCE2® projects but additional benefits can also be realized while using it on the program level (combining it within MSP®), portfolio level (combining with MoP®), or in offices supporting projects, programs or portfolios (using within P3O®).

How does AQRO support PMBOK®Guide?

PMBOK®Guide as the project management standard offers the freedom to create custom project management method based on the best project management practices and techniques identified in the manual. It identifies the project management processes which can be decomposed into 5 Process groups:

  1. Initiating,
  2. Planning,
  3. Execution,
  4. Monitoring&Control,
  5. Closing.

 

AQRO® shows initial availability of resources necessary to deliver the project and thus helps to take rational decision in Initiating. It also provides the information about the resources for planning as well as their MBTI profiles which help in assigning tasks to certain individuals.

AQRO can provide the value by managing the workloads of employees based on their availability as well as on their efficiency. Provides the information who can be involved in issues management. AQRO® feedback about the resources availability provides the valuable information in estimation of following projects.

The PMBOK®Guide’s processes can also be divided into 10 Knowledge areas:

  1. Integration Management,
  2. Scope Management,
  3. Schedule Management,
  4. Cost Management,
  5. Quality Management,
  6. Resource Management,
  7. Communications Management,
  8. Risk Management,
  9. Procurement Management,
  10. Stakeholder Management

 

and AQRO® helps where the human resources are included which is in all of them.

How does AQRO support agile methods?

In today’s business environments where the expectations are often unclear and changing, the delays of projects are non-acceptable, agile methods provide the solution. Some of them offer the method for delivery of the solution (SCRUM), others describe how the project should be managed in an agile way (AgilePM).

How does AQRO support SCRUM?

SCRUM (https://www.scrum.org/) “is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.” SCRUM identifies roles, events, artifacts, and the rules.

The SCRUM events are:

  • Sprint,
  • Sprint Planning,
  • Daily Scrum,
  • Sprint Review,
  • Sprint Retrospective.

 

These events are time-boxed events (i.g. the time spent on them can’t be exceeded) and require the resources to be available. That’s where AQRO’s ability to plan resources in advance and to secure them for certain events is helpful.

How does AQRO support Agile PM®?

Agile PM® has been created as a result of co-operation between Agile Business Consortium and APMG.

It defines the project management method consisting of:

philosophy, principles, process, roles and responsibilities, products and practices.

The philosophy is greatly supported by AQRO’s Service Plan allowing the empowered and motivated individuals to deliver of products without external interruptions.

Principles:

  • “Deliver on time”,
  • “Work together”,
  • “Communicate continuously and clearly”,
  • “Demonstrate control”

 

are supported by AQRO, which helps to assign the work to employees with different MBTI profiles and take into consideration their availability.

One of the Instrumental Success Factors (ISFs) of Agile PM is “Business Engagement – Active and Ongoing” consisting of “Commitment of business time throughout” and “Active involvement of the business roles”. It’s AQRO’s Service Plan which can help to assure the business resources will be available when necessary.

Agile PM identifies the roles which represent

  • Project (Business Sponsor, Business Visionary, Technical Coordinator, Project Manager, Business Analyst)
  • Solution Development Team (Business Analyst, Team Leader, Solution Developer, Solution Tester, Business Ambassador)
  • Supporting roles (Business Advisor, Technical Advisor, Workshop Facilitator, DSDM Coach).

 

It’s where the generic AQRO role i.g. The Project Role can be decomposed into detailed role descriptions and properly assigned based on AgilePM’s role descriptions.

AgilePM practices of

  • Prioritization,
  • Timeboxing,
  • Facilitated workshops

 

are supported by AQRO’ ability to plan and secure the resources for the time when these techniques should be used.

AQRO reduces one of major risks in agile projects that individuals from business and solution development will not be able to work together at an appropriate and consistent level. AQRO offers Service Plan and agreed calendars at business and solution/technical departments level.

How does AQRO support operations?

AQRO® can support major management methods which “servant leader” can choose in managing his employees:

• MBO (Management by Objectives) is supported by AQRO, as it allows to set the goals for employees and dedicate attention and time to achieve them.

• MBE (Management by Exceptions) identifies the responsibilities of superiors and manages them by exceptions, where AQRO role is to again create the space and increase efficiency.

• Coaching works through the coaching talks for which employee needs time and undisturbed attention. AQRO with service plan and defined roles helps to identify this time and enable coaching discussions.

• Facilitation works through the facilitators. For a facilitation to happen there’s a need to coordinate the group’s calendars and keep undisturbed attention. AQRO with Service Plan and Myers-Briggs type indicator help to plan and carry out the workshop successfully.

Conclusion

There are 24 hours a day and we spend about 1/3 of these working. It’s not the amount of the time we can increase per day. It’s the efficiency and effectiveness how we use this time, which is important. AQRO helps to plan how we use the time on the department level and assign proper roles to employees.

It increases the efficiency of how we use the resources but it can also help to bring together operations and project management into one picture. These crucial areas usually compete for resources and AQRO can bring win-win situations where both sides get the resources and increased efficiency helps to achieve more.

 

About the Author

 

Tomasz Nedzi has been managing projects and operations since 1993. He became a AQRO® Approved Trainer in 2015 and now teaches others to manage projects together with operations. Tomasz is the Lead Trainer for AQRO® at skills® group of companies (skills® 2004 UG in Germany and skills® sp. z o.o. in Poland).

This Whitepaper was first published on 25 August 2020 on APMG portal

https://apmg-international.com/product/aqro

 

Facilitation in Agile Projects

The AgilePM® Handbook names Facilitation as a key technique – but how should you use Facilitation in agile projects?

Three subsequent versions of AgilePM® Handbook name Facilitation as a technique which helps in building the team, decisions making and in identifying risks. Facilitation is scarcely described in the manual and this article will present it in a nutshell and explain how it can be used successfuly in projects.

According to one of the definitions: “facilitation is any action that makes a task easy for others or a task that is supported by others.” The purpose of facilitation is to ensure that meetings and workshops are designed and conducted in an effective manner.

It allows the team to make independent decisions, thanks to an independent person e.g. a Facilitator. A professional who can properly manage the meetings, so that participants do not “harm” each other but appreciate differences in opinion and realise benefits instead.

 

Who is the facilitator?

A facilitator is a person qualified to assign appropriate ”process” (formats, models, techniques and tools) to the “task” (goal of the meeting).

Some of the models/techniques/tools are:

  • Paraphrasing by Feedback model,
  • Four box,
  • Summarise, Propose, Output (SPO)
  • Process Iceberg® Model,
  • Symptom, Cause, Action (SCA),
  • Allegories,
  • Storytelling.

These names seem to be rather mysterious and complicated and suggest the role of facilitator is a difficult one. It’ even more difficult because the facilitator is expected to manifest impartiality even if he/she is involved in the work or emotionally dependent on the results.

 

What is the facilitator responsible for?

 

Facilitation strongly emphasizes the distinction between responsibility for the process and responsibility for the task. As within project management, a process means certain activities that lead to a specific result. Project management standards such as PMBOK® Guide, Praxis Framework, AgilePM® define the processes needed to deliver the product of the project, but the product can be different for each of the projects.

The facilitation manual (“Facilitation. Develop your expertise” by Tony Mann) does not define the contents of the workshop (the “Task”), which may be different for each meeting, but it helps to identify (the “Process”) which will deliver the required result. The required result from project management should be the project delivered within the constraints of the project triangle. The required result from the facilitated workshop should be e.g. identified risks, prioritised requirements within a certain amount of time. As in the case of project management, facilitation should also include stakeholders, especially since the workshop can be implemented on the basis of various formats.

We call a “Format” the way resources are used during the meeting:

  • Group – means that the stakeholders involved will work together in groups,
  • All – means that everyone will work alone,
  • All to one – it will cause all people to work together with one medium .e.g. one flipchart,
  • One to all – one person communicates with the rest, e.g. when they have the experience, knowledge to share.

Task leader and Facilitator

 

Two key stakeholders are mentioned in the facilitation manual:

1. Task leader – person responsible for the definition of the meeting’s goal e.g. Project Manager, Team Leader,
2. Facilitator – responsible for the workshop process.

Therefore, we expect the task leader to have specialist knowledge about the task, and therefore the facilitator doesn’t need to be the expert in it. This specialist knowledge on task could even be an obstacle if the facilitator wanted to engage in creating the solution, loosing their impartiality.

We are unlikely to expect the Project Manager to be the Facilitator, but we can expect he/she will take the role of the Task Leader. AgilePM® Handbook clearly suggests that the facilitator should be a separate and independent role from the Project Manager.

An effective facilitator should:

  • be change orientated,
  • be bold, brave, a risk taker,
  • have broad focus and be ideas oriented,
  • be flexible,
  • be quick to respond and act,
  • be process orientated,
  • be a low profile catalyst,
  • be an extrovert,
  • be able to stay calm under stress,
  • have a low level of tension,
  • have broad business awareness.

Estimating the time and cost of facilitation

 

The Project Manager needs to obtain an adequate person to fullfil the role of the Facilitator but be should also be able to estimate the time needed to conduct the workshops.

However, there are some risks here, as the Tasks can have different levels of uncertainty:

  • In Certainty i.e. the question to be answered is clear and the answer is easy to get from the workshop participants, it is also easier to estimate the necessary time. The time estimated will usually be sufficient to achieve the goals of the meeting.
  • When we are dealing with Complexity i.e. the question is clear, but the answer is not known yet, the originally estimated time may be extended even 2.5 times during the workshop.
  • Ultimately, when we are dealing with Uncertainty (the question / problem / issue is unknown and must first be understood to find an answer or solution), the actual time of the workshop itself can be up to 4.5 times longer.

The facilitator’s role is to properly manage the “golden triangle of facilitation”

 

Additionally, the facilitator’s role is to properly manage the “golden triangle of facilitation”. As in the case of the “project triangle”, where the “scope-time-cost” remain in relation to each other, in the case of facilitation we have an interdependent “task-time-group maturity” triangle .

This means that the workshops’s time depends on the task (which we know from project management as scope) and on the maturity of the group / process, i.e. the difficulty of implementing a given task. However, the level of difficulty can only be estimated by an experienced facilitator.

This means that the Project Manager (as in the case of estimating other tasks in the project) should use the help of experienced Facilitator in planning workshops. This means the logistics of the workshops (location, equipment) will also affect the budget of the project.

Summary

 

An experienced facilitator (like an experienced Project Manager) uses the process so that other people can achieve the goals. It is the skill and experience of the Facilitator (as in the case of the Project Manager) that determines how efficiently he or she deals with the selection of appropriate tools and adjusting the process to the requirements of the task. Facilitation (much like project management) is a different professional activity. The responsibility of the Project Manager is rather to acquire and motivate a suitably experienced professional to achieve satisfying workshop results.

This article was first published on 17 JMay 2021 on APMG portal

https://apmg-international.com/article/facilitation-agile-projects

About the Author

 

Tomasz Nedzi has been managing projects and facilitating meetings since 1993. He became a AgilePM® Approved Trainer in 2013 and Facilitation Approved Trainer in 2015 and now teaches others to manage projects and facilitate meetings effectively. Tomasz is the Lead Trainer for AgilePM® and Facilitation at skills® group of companies (skills® 2004 UG in Germany and skills® sp. z o.o. in Poland).

How Agile Are You In A Crisis?

Much has been written about agility. So how does it deal with crisis situations?

In a well-known saying, it is said that in the event of rapid changes to the environment, it is not the largest animals, nor the smallest, but those best adapted that survive.

There’s hope in adaptation

Individuals that know how to adapt to the environment and changing conditions can be perceived to be agile.

The question though is how to stay agile when schools are closed due to coronavirus and we are surrounded by children, trying to work at home without personal contact with peers?

How about the best practices?

Seeking an answer, I reached for the best practices and turned to AgilePM®.

AgilePM® is the popular agile project management framework developed and owned by the Agile Business Consortium). Its underlying philosophy expresses the view:

“best business value emerges when projects are aligned to clear business goals…..”.

I understand that, in my quest to be agile, I need to understand my clearly defined goals and align with them. This approach will save me from losing money and time, and from “throwing” myself in too many directions at once. If I don’t know exactly what it is I want to achieve, it will be difficult to properly and effectively use the resources at my disposal.

As a simple example, if I don’t know exactly which sport I want to play, I could spend time and money on many of them without achieving significant progress.

Clear goals will also allow us to prioritize what we should be doing and when. So if somebody wants to achieve professional success, he/she may not treat starting a family as a first priority. However, when it is important for somebody to start a family, the individual’s professional career becomes a lower priority.

This is where the MoSCoW prioritization technique (a key technique within the AgilePM framework) can be of great value; it helps us to avoid confusing what is necessary with requirements which can be omitted with limited (or no) impact. In other words, it enables individuals and teams to focus on what’s most important and what will deliver the most value.

When sudden change is coming …

How do we adapt best in the face of rapid changes in the environment caused, for example, by Coronavirus.

It is important to remember that our goals can become (as is the case for projects) suddenly and unexpectedly outdated.

Clinging to outdated goals may lead to projects continuing (or new projects being initiated) which, from the point of view of the current situation, no longer make sense. A personal example: preparing for a holiday trip around the world in coronavirus times does not make much sense!

Changes in the environment and changing goals

It is the changes in the environment (particularly those that come fast and unexpected) which should prompt us to continually review our goals to verify they are still valid. For example, instead of that around-the-world trip this summer, we will adapt and opt for a staycation instead.

It is also wise to verify the MoSCoW priorities at the same time. In almost all scenarios, a change to scope will ultimately require an adjustment of priorities. Using the holiday example again, the requirements and priorities for a round-the-world trip will differ vastly to those for a more straight-forward vacation in our home country.

By understanding values we find harmony

Understanding the values that guide us allows us to live in harmony with ourselves (i.e. in accordance with our own values).

At the same time, it’s important to appreciate that rapid (and particularly unexpected) changes in the environment may also affect and influence our values, as we have seen with the pandemic.

Change in the environment = change in the values?

We, therefore, need to ask ourselves how values have changed in the face of the pandemic.

Certain values which were formerly very important may now be lower down the order. For me personally, and I suspect for most around the world, the value of “love” for friends and family is now more important than ever, to the point where many have sacrificed personal and career goals to ensure the well-being of our loved ones.

I know how my values have been changed. How about you?

This article was first published on 29 July 2021 on Agile Business Consortium portal

https://www.agilebusiness.org/news/575162/How-Agile-Are-You-In-A-Crisis.htm

About the Author

Tomasz Nedzi has been managing projects since 1993. He became a AgilePM® Approved Trainer in 2013 and now teaches others to manage agile projects effectively. Tomasz is the Lead Trainer for AgilePM® at skills® group of companies skills® 2004 UG in Germany and skills® sp. z o.o.

Top 5 Tips for Facilitating Online Meetings

Tomasz Nedzi, an experienced facilitator, explains some simple tips that can help you facilitate online meetings

1. Be early

If you are the facilitator of the meeting it’s your duty to manage the meeting and be prepared. Show that you are prepared by being on time. It’s best to be the first person in the room. Your participants will join gradually and you can meet and greet them. By showing your appreciation for their presence you will reduce stress. Asking them casual questions about the place they are joining from, or the weather at their place will help to build relationships.

2. Understand your participants

It’s important to understand that we humans are not all the same. Even though we like to assume that other people think, see and communicate as we do, that’s rarely the case. According to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) we can identify 16 personality types and therefore meeting a person with the same profile as yourself might not be so easy. We need therefore to understand participants can prefer different ways of communicating (Introverts vs. Extraverts). In online meetings we need to understand that certain groups will prefer talking to other participants, whereas others will choose the chatbox to communicate.

3. Engage

Understanding participants profiles will help when engaging with them. You might be able to assign delegates to different rooms, using “Breakout rooms” or “Teams”. Breakout rooms are especially helpful if there’s person of authority and power in the main room. This can be intimidating to other participants. Therefore breaking the group into subgroups will create engaging spaces, where different ideas are accepted. Don’t be overly prescriptive about how the groups should work together, because they will find their own rules. Some of the groups will choose to talk through, where others might want to write down their solution(s).

4. Don’t interfere

If you are expected to facilitate the meeting, you are not expected to become a consultant. It’s not your role to give advice or solve the problem the meeting is addressing. You are expected to create a space where other people can actively participate. You are needed by the group when they don’t understand the task to be delivered or the goal to be achieved. It’s the responsibility of the facilitator to maintain the focus on the meetings tasks and not prescribe exactly how these task should be achieved. If you think you have a better solution than your group you should probably keep it to yourself.

5. Build relationships

As a the facilitator you’re expected to stay objective and indifferent about the results of the meeting. You shouldn’t suggest the outcomes or interfere in the work. It’s still your responsibility to create the supporting relationships with the participants though. While facilitating traditional meetings you may have spent some time in coffee breaks talking to workshop attendees. It’s more difficult to do so an on-line meeting, but you might finish your breaks early and talk to people joining gradually after the break to understand their experiences better and collect feedback. You are there for them afterall .

This article was first published on March 25, 2021 on APMG portal

https://apmg-international.com/article/top-5-tips-facilitating-online-meetings

About the Author

Tomasz Nedzi has been facilitating meetings since 1993 and he became a Facilitation Approved Trainer in 2015, teaching others to facilitate effectively. Tomasz is the Lead Trainer for Facilitation at skills® group of companies (skills® 2004 UG in Germany and skills® sp. z o.o. in Poland).

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