Last week I attended the Infotec 2010 conference in Omaha, NE and had quite the time meeting with IT professionals and talking about leadership and management challenges. The conference featured several vendors, including Cox, Microsoft, and Google. The facility was the awe-inspiring Qwest center. I estimate around 700-800 people showed up.
Agile Project Management Nuggets
The project management track was coordinated by the PMI Heartland Chapter, and featured two Agile PM talks. First, I retold the story of the PMI Agile Community, which was fun. But I was more excited by Sally Elatta and Kelly Morrell, who talked about the Agile transformation at Mutual of Omaha (download the slides here). Here are some of their great quotes:
- PMBOK tells you WHAT to do, Agile tells you HOW to do it
- "Thinking Agile" is more than just "Doing Agile"
- servant leaders measure their success by their team’s growth
- Your team doesn’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care
- You will fail a few times in the beginning with Agile PM, but you’re supposed to; you need to fail in order to learn
- Ask yourself as a PM, does this task/artifact/meeting add direct value to the business
Compelling Leadership Talks
Also interesting were 3 other talks outside the PM track. Stephen Balzac of 7 Steps Ahead described â€œZen and the Art of Leadershipâ€, Kate Brown of TechEdge talked about â€œHigh Performing Teamsâ€, and Chris Russell from Google told us about â€œBuilding a Company Culture that Engages Employeesâ€.
I really canâ€™t do these talks justice with one blog post, but I can give you the uniting theme in building dynamic productive organizations:
- Craft a Clear & Compelling Vision â€“ This is the high level project goal, with some conceptual success criteria. It canâ€™t be simply â€œImplement the Requirements!â€ or â€œDeliver on time!â€. Instead, I heard all three of these presenters independently describing the need for sticky ideas.
- Get the Right People: Kate called it â€œHire and Professionally Develop Your Winning Teamâ€, and Chris called it â€œGet the right people on the busâ€.
- Serve Your Team; Donâ€™t Make Them Serve You â€“ Kate and Stephen both talked about Servant Leadershipâ€¦it was uncanny how similar they were. Then, Chris gave some concrete suggestions like â€œGive employees ownership over the workplaceâ€ and â€œGive perksâ€
It was fascinating to see these three independent talks give startlingly similar advice.
Also during the conference, I got to see two fantastic keynotes:
- Kansas State Professor Michael Welsch shared some of his insights on digital culture, based on his wildly popular YouTube video â€œThe Machine is Using Usâ€ and his research on Mediated Cultures.
- Successful Nebraskan businessman Gordon Whitten shared his â€œ7 Secrets to IT Entrepreneurial Successâ€, which are:
- Choose the right ‘what’: What you invest your energy in, is your biggest decision
- Go where the wind is at your back: Really hot field right now are mobile IT, healthcare IT, and cloud computing
- Find a durable competitive advantage: One example is â€œOwnable network effectâ€ like Google Ads and Jigsaw
- Purple gorilla marketing: Based on Godin’s Purple Cow; think Webkins.
- Innovate on your business model: It yields 5x ROI over simply investing in more features.
- Relentlessly invest in relationships BEFORE you need something: Give until it hurts
- Crash through barriers: Winners endure standard obstacles like low payroll & lost business.
Omaha Agile Development
At the end of Day 1 of the conference, Sally drove me to the Omaha Agile Development user group, where I presented my PMBOK vs. Agile talk. People asked some hard questions, in particular:
- How do you do Agile, when management insists on capitalizing labor by specialized skillset? This was a topic explored on the scrum discussion group recently, and people offered some good suggestions.
- Isn’t Agile PM more conducive to products and less conducive to projects? This is a hot topic on the Agile scene right now. I’m not quite sure where I land on this debate, but it’s probably somewhere in the middle. See this post and also this one for thoughts.
I was really impressed by the group.
I have to admit, I came to this conference with some pretty stereotypical views of Omaha engrained in my mind. If you asked me about Omaha, I would think mostly of Cornhusker football and Bruce Springsteen.
But by the time my two days were done, I had a completely different view: Omaha is a serious hub for IT business. From LinkedIn to Qwest, there are some pretty serious technology players there. Human ignorance can be an interesting topic, but most especially when Iâ€™m the one guilty of it.