Posted by: kerrywills | July 14, 2017

Australia: Successful project delivery

We just got back from two weeks in Australia with almost 50 people, most of them students. This project required significant planning of itineraries, logistics and travel between multiple locations which included buses, ferries, catamarans and planes. It also included packed agendas with tours, cultural exhibits, meals and shopping.

Although there were a few challenges, the project was a complete success. We made it to all locations properly, accomplished everything on our itinerary and did not lose any children. In this case, the proper planning resulted in an amazing experience for all which we will remember forever. Just another example of why diligent planning is so important and maximizes the outcomes.

Posted by: kerrywills | July 7, 2017

Budget Poker

Since it is mid-year that means time to plan for next year’s program budgets. This process seems like one big game of poker. The teams picks their cards and determines their hand (budget). But they are playing against the house (portfolio planning teams) and can’t reveal their cards too early for fear of losing the game. So they may have to bluff and add contingency to their estimates. The house knows this game and then decides to cut all estimates by a percentage. So more padding gets added. Thus “the game.”

The question becomes how to not get into this game every year of padding estimates, hiding money and cutting funding. There is always more demand for money than exists and so companies need to plan smarter. The rise of Scaled Agile portfolio planning shifts the focus to fixed cost and capacity with variable (but prioritized) scope. This will help to reduce the volatility of estimates since portfolios will only be paying for fixed capacity teams and therefore should be able to plan better. The challenge is in determining cost for specific scope because Agile doesn’t plan that way.

They key is transparency of information and trust. Knowing how much something really costs to do the work, the management overhead and any associated costs is critical to identify the true cost. And teams need to trust that if there is not funding for a particular scope, that they would still have work to do especially in an agile world where teams are longstanding.

Posted by: kerrywills | June 30, 2017

The art of the offsite

In business and projects, we love to have offsite meetings. These are great opportunities for people to come together and collaborate which is important given the complex nature of our work and the dispersed geographies of team members. But it is not enough to get everyone together in a room for three days; it must be planned and run properly to be effective.

Here are a few pointers for having a productive offsite meeting..

  • Planning is critical – have stated objectives and an agenda that aligns to meeting those objectives
  • Plan for breaks – sitting for long periods of time can be torture so ensure that there is time for breaks
  • Consider attendees – the meeting should have the right people there so that work can be accomplished but not so many that it becomes disruptive or ineffective
  • Consider location – in some cases being at a different location, even if down the road, allows people to stay focused
  • Timebox conversations – this way one topic does not take over the entire meeting (unless that is the plan)
  • Capture actions – there should be takeaways with specific actions, names and dates to follow up
  • Communicate – let other team members know key discussions, decisions or actions as appropriate
  • Follow up – ensure that the actions are completed as agreed to

I am sure that there are others, so maybe we can have an offsite to plan them out.

Posted by: kerrywills | June 23, 2017


My daughter got selected to go on an educational two week visit to Australia and I am fortunate enough to go as well. Obviously since I am a planner I put together a plan of things to do to get ready…

  • Itinerary of activities
  • Logistics such as hotel and flight
  • Packing list
  • Approach for phones to work there
  • Coverage at home for lawn mowing, pool cleaning, and paying the bills
  • Currency exchange
  • Ensured that our passports were valid
  • Purchased an underwater camera for when we swim in the Great Barrier Reef

Like any plan I am sure that there will be challenges and so I also pulled together a risk mitigation approach

  • Medicine in case I get sick
  • My GPS in case we get lost
  • Extra batteries for my electronics

Hopefully all of the planning will result in an amazing experience.

Posted by: kerrywills | June 16, 2017

I don’t want Darth Maul on my team…

Recently, I took my kids to a local Comic Convention (BTW isn’t one of the reasons to have kids is that you can go to these things and not be the weird old guy?). My son is a huge Star Wars fan and the actor who played Darth Maul was going to be there for autographs. We made sure to get there when it opened and went straight to his line and then waited about 20 minutes before someone said that he is usually late. So we walked around the entire convention and came back an hour and a half later. We then waited another half an hour to find out he had finally arrived but was speaking on a panel. So we went for lunch and came back another two hours later and waited on line for another 30 minutes. Everyone was frustrated, tired and disappointed since we had planned to be home by now relaxing in our poo.l Finally he showed up and we got to meet him. He was very nice and chatted with us for a while.

In business and on projects (and in life), a commitment needs to mean something. So if someone is expected to complete a task or show up at a certain meeting, then that should be taken seriously. While we did get the autograph, it feels like he did not take the commitment seriously. This is not someone that I would want on my team…even though the signature is fantastic!

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