Posted by: kerrywills | November 16, 2018

Agile should not be an excuse

The company that I work for is moving to a scaled agile model which has certainly had growing pains. And while I do understand the agile principles and am helping to define the model we will use, I feel like sometimes people use “agile” as an excuse to not have fundamental tenants of success. The top three that come to mind are below…

  1. Still need a vision – Agility is about iterating and prioritizing, but it has to be in the context of an overall vision. Without that, the team will constantly be re-prioritizing and spinning and nothing will get accomplished. Getting nowhere quickly because of agile does not sound right, and so a vision is critical.
  2. Still need leadership – Once the vision is clear, leaders need to drive that vision and champion it throughout the organization. While agile promotes teams and delegated work, leadership is still needed to “connect the dots”, provide direction and remove impediments. I do not believe that large corporations can ever move to fully federated models where teams just “do stuff” and naturally come together, collaborate and understand interdependencies.
  3. Still need PM competencies – While there are no formal project management roles in agile, there is clearly a need for the competencies which make someone a successful PM. There is still the need for facilitation, negotiation, communication, planning, escalations and other critical PM competencies. There is also a need for managing interdependencies and complexities of the work.

Without these three things I see companies having significant challenges which can’t really be justified under the header of “that is an agile approach to fail and learn.” Some reading this may view me as “traditional” and not understanding agile and maybe that is true. Or maybe my experience and instincts recognize that it needs to be a mixed model with agile principles as well as the three critical concepts above. In any case, I am curious of what others think.

Posted by: kerrywills | November 9, 2018

Facilitate the work and not the meeting

I was recently in a meeting with several “change management” experts. These people tend to be very good facilitators and the person running this meeting was no exception. He was articulate, made sure that people got to speak, clarified points and aligned to the agenda. However, I noticed about half way through the meeting that we had not focused on what we needed to do to progress the work.


Afterwards I was thinking that facilitation should focus on moving work forward which means aligning to actions, next steps and ownership and not just moving the meeting along. These can be related but the primary focus has to have an orientation around action. So many times we leave meetings not knowing what occurred, what the outcomes were and who is accountable for work.

As the title suggests, we need to make sure that we facilitate the work and not just the mechanics of the meetings otherwise the only  accomplishment that we will have is a well run meeting and nothing else to show.

Posted by: kerrywills | November 2, 2018


The programs I work on are  generally very large and complicated with many workstreams. That means a federated model of work where each workstream has their own work and meetings and there are also many cross-workstream meetings. I find that, in these types of scenarios, there is a phenomenon known as “FOMO” or “Fear of Missing Out.”


This scenario is when resources think that unless they attend all meetings, they will somehow miss something. This then leads to meetings having dozens or even hundreds of people. It is not bad intention but rather the belief that people need to be involved in every meeting or activity.

So, we need to figure out how to have empowered people and the proper amount of transparency so we balance getting work done with the right people and having the right level of involvement.

Posted by: kerrywills | October 26, 2018

Take the opportunity

I have been traveling a lot for work this year. Just this year, I have been to 11 states for offsite meetings and office visits. Sometimes traveling for work can be difficult with the planning, lack of sleep, and traveling logistics. Instead of looking at work travel as a burden I try to make the most of it and explore areas that I have not seen before. I have a goal of “50 by 50” to visit each of the 50 U.S. states before I turn 50 years old and so I have been using work travel to help with this goal.

Missouri - St Louis Arch

A few examples this year…

  • On a trip to St. Louis I went downtown to see a baseball game and visit the famous Arch
  • On a business trip to Denver, I drove the 5 hour roundtrip to Nebraska and saw the Pony Express and Oregon Trail historic sites
  • On an offsite to Nashville I flew into Memphis and was able to visit Arkansas and Mississippi

This does require a little more planning (and driving) but I think it is important to take the opportunity otherwise these trips will just be “work” and who wants that? BTW I am at 45 states and 45 years of age…so I am right on pace. Now I just need an offsite in Alaska to help out my quest.

Posted by: kerrywills | October 19, 2018

Notice the leaves

I was driving in this morning to work. It is the same drive I have done every morning for over eight years but today I noticed that the leaves were changing colors. They were yellow, orange and red and this made me happy to see the beauty of fall in New England. It reminded me that it is important sometimes to step back from our daily routine and notice the things that are all around us.


On our projects we also get into a routine of meetings, updates and presentations and we don’t often take a pause to reflect on our accomplishments or the talented people that we work with. It is also important to let people know that they are appreciated and that they have completed significant work and milestones.

So we need to remind ourselves to take these breaks and notice the leaves once in a while.

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