What You Do Is Not Why You Do It | Jesse Fewell
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What You Do Is Not Why You Do It

By January 4, 2018Blog

There is a pattern I’m seeing over and over again

with professionals, and particularly project management, or agile people, and that is that we confuse what we do with why we do it.

Let me tell you what I mean. A lot of project managers who want to help execute on initiatives, and strategy, and change, they get really good at people, processes, and tools. They get really good at scope, schedule, cost. And lose sight of the strategic value of a given project. A lot of agile people think “we gotta be scrumming, and we gotta be retrospecting, and we gotta be daily standup-ing, and we gotta do all this stuff”, and we lose site of the question of why are we even moving in an agile direction?

What is the strategic outcome that we’re looking for?

Because, it’s different for different people. And so, this is the substance of a lot of the conversations I’m having with my colleagues, and it’s even the core of my talk of the agile PMO. What is an agile PMO? What’s the point of the PMO? And, before you’re an agile focused person and you just dismiss, well, project management organization is a bureaucracy. It’s about lots of processes, and reports, and templates, and …

Truth is that your agile center of excellence is the same thing. Your agile community of practice is the same thing. It’s a centralized organization intended to build maturity in something. And, so agile people are just as guilty of this. We get all excited about our techniques, because they yield fruit for certain initiatives, and we fall in love with those, and sometimes that’s good, but then sometimes that doesn’t really resonate with the new Vice President over in this division. Because this guy is more interested in stakeholder alignment, and less interested in team productivities. All of your teamliness, team method is really great for the other department, but when you move over here, this guy wants to do a little board stakeholder alignment, so I hope you have some new techniques to get into that.

 

And so, the question I would wanna ask, anybody who’s gonna go agile, or anybody who wants to build project management maturity, or any initiative, the question is why? Why?

How will you know you’re successful?

And don’t tell me you’ll know you’re successful when everybody does everything perfectly. You’ll know you’re successful when there’s a specific strategic outcome, like more flexibility, strategically. More visibility, and where things are and how we’re going. And, more quality in the outputs that we, in the deliverables that we put out.

That’s the question that any leader should be asking. Any project initiative. Any transformation initiative or change, the question is what are we going for? What are we trying to achieve? And we end up putting the cart before the horse.

I’m getting a lot of this from a colleague of mine, who’s been really articulate and compelling around this. His name is Mark Price Perry. And, Mark’s written a couple of books on how to think about what a project management organization is. Or, for agile people, what your center of excellence should look like, or your community of practice should look like. And the answer is, it should be about organizational enablement. It should be about enabling outcomes. It should be about solving problems. What is the problem that we’re trying to solve? So, don’t confuse what you do with why you do it. And if you don’t know the why yet, that might be a good question to start pursuing.

Hopefully that makes you spur some thinking the way it’s been opening my eyes and making me think here today.

 

3 Comments

  • […] Jesse Fewell notes the frequent disconnect between what we do and why we do it. Video, about 5 minutes. […]

  • Tina Story says:

    Hi Jesse – I looked up Mark Price Perry on Amazon and wanted to confirm if you are essentially saying that his PMO approach is equally applicable to an Agile CoE, without him specifically calling out “Agile”? His books are a little spendy so wanted to clarify this before I press the Buy button! 🙂

    • jessefewell says:

      Hi Tina. YES! Mark’s PMO philosophy very much aligns to the agile philosophy of solving a few specific problems at a time, and only implementing the controls, processes, changes that fit exactly those problems. He calls it “putting the methodology cart before the horse”, something agile people are guilty of doing way too often. If I were to choose one, I would check out the “success stories” book first, because that makes his philosophy most tangible.

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