Make no doubt about it the early scrum (Planning and Daily) meetings set the tone for all the following activities of the project. With Scrum, life cycles are short and the pace hot with little time afterwards to re-jig team attitudes and behavior. With the early meeting setting the tone for the rest of the cycles I suggest that you create an additional scrum kick-off meeting. This can help to ensure that subsequent scrum meeting are focused on the scrum job and not the “ground rules”
This Scrum kick-off meetings gets the getting to know how it works out of the way. Subsequent team meetings will need to be rapid stand-up ‘huddles’ lasting for all of 15 minutes, you don’t want your kick-off meeting to seem too leisurely. Yet you also want to take enough time to set the scene properly for future success. The following tips may help:
- Remember that Scrum is also about trusting people’s ability to solve problems. The team may be the best source of answers for some questions that arise.
- Make sure your whole project team is there, for full input and engagement. Change the date to accommodate anyone who has a schedule conflict.
- Notwithstanding quick-fire project meetings in the future, allow plenty of time for the kick-off meeting.
- Make sure team members get to know each other. Fun exercises and games are one possibility.
- State or remind the team of how Scrum works and the roles of the Scrum Master and project team members.
- Agree on definitions (when is a deliverable truly ‘done’) and project tools (specific project management and issue tracking software, for instance).
When you get steam up on your Scrum process afterwards, remember that from time to time, it’s good to have periodic get-togethers along similar lines to the kick-off meeting. This can be an important factor in maintaining team enthusiasm, cohesion and momentum.
When interest levels of the project sponsors drop, it’s bad news for everyone. Bad for the business that has invested resources. Bad for the project manager and team who find themselves without an essential source of support. And bad for the end-user who may then get a product or service that doesn’t meet requirements or simply dosn’t get done.
Perhaps the wrong sponsor was chosen by the business and they were never interested in the first place. In any event is is critical to have and maintain project sponsor engagement, there is no formal methodology for doing so. Some project mangers are afraid to manage upward or don’t quite know how. Teamwork between the project sponsor and project manager is the way to create really effective projects.
Here’s a few suggestions
- Common sense – Make sure you think your tactics through
- Understand your sponsors perspective, agenda and how it does or dosn’t align with the project goals
- Seek to understand why disengagement has set in, workload, disapproval of change, people issues
- Communicate – as a project manager you are a senior staff member and tackling the head-on may be the way, Let the sponsor know you need the support
If you still cant get a re-engagement don’t undermine the sponsor but perhaps seek out other stakeholders that can provide the necessary support in the organisation. This can be often be done with the permission and support of the main sponsor. Particularly if the disengagement has happened as a result of workload.
If you are still stuck and the project effectiveness is being undermined you will need to go all the way to the top.
“Just say No.” How many times have we heard that advice? In some situations, it may be the best or even the only course of action. But for customers eagerly pushing for extra features or accelerated delivery schedules for a project, being that blunt could cause problems. On the other hand, appearing indecisive or setting up false hopes may not be a good idea either.
To start with, when do you need to say “No”? In project management, a “No” is often the result of the ‘Iron Triangle’ of features – schedule – resources. If your customer wants a change in one of these factors, then at least one other element must also change. If your customer can’t or won’t accept such related change, then the answer to the extra feature request can only be ‘No’.
Communicating that ‘No’ may be done best by a short, friendly reminder about the current project goals, timeline and investment. Done the right way, a ‘No’ in this case also has two advantages. It shows your customer that you’re on the ball. It also demonstrates that you’re looking out for the customer’s interests, ensuring that the project will be completed on time and on budget.
Are there exceptions? Feature requests and schedule changes might be handled as part of an agile process, with appropriate re-planning or re-prioritization between cycles. But even with agile, sometimes it just has to be ‘No’. In that case, take the opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and any short-term disappointment is likely to be outweighed by longer term customer satisfaction.
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