Don’t build solutions on assumptions, ambiguity and ignorance #HoskWisdom
IT projects are a challenge, a good deal of fail and all of them are difficult. IT project can need lots of people, time, ideas and hard work.
Projects face obstacles, problems and changes of priorities, these changes can defeat you or you look at them as opportunities to make the solution better, the quote below sums it up.
“The obstacle becomes the path” Ryan Holiday
Challenging projects help you see the best in people, you can’t deliver a project by yourself and at certain times different people will shine, save the day and do something that helps you. Your team will be there to help you when you need it and you will be there to help them.
The better you can work as a team, the better the project will go.
Projects have taught me about myself, about technology and how to work with a group of people to make a team.
IT projects are about people not technology
There is a lot of noise and focus on technology on IT projects but ask yourself these questions
- People builds the solution
- People use the solution
- People make decisions
- People sign off requirements on the project
People are at the heart of the project and they are reason it for its success or failure.
Slow down to speed up
More people, working hard feels like it would speed up delivery but it can slow things down, when work is half finished, changes conflict.
Focus on quality rather than speed of output, fewer mistakes and consistent delivery will create releases, the successful process builds confidence and creates momentum.
Surprises on a project are never welcome because problems and delays follow. Focusing on quality, reducing mistakes and keeping momentum raises confidence in the team, it will reduce the chance of unexpected surprises..
Understand the business goals
Before you start with the technology and solution, understand the business, it’s goals, it’s language and how the business wins.
The purpose of the solution is to create a tool to support users do their job and the business to achieve its goals.
All requirements, features and user stories should focus on business needs and purpose. What is the user doing? why are they doing it? and how does this help the business.
Ask questions, to understand the business, clarify assumptions and work out the goals of the business.
If you have a question, ask it, it’s likely if you are thinking this then others in the room will be thinking it. Question help understand and clarify assumptions. Avoid building the solution on assumptions because these are weak foundations that could crumble later.
Don’t remake the old system
Everyone is influenced by the existing system and they will try and recreate the old system with new technology. People are use to the current system, they understand how it works and resisting change is the comfortable
Focus on the business goals and what the purpose of the business. The old system will be aligned to the functionality of the old system. When creating a new system it’s a chance to align the process with the out of the box functionality of the software it’s being built with e.g. Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.
Don’t be constrained by the existing system, focus on the goals of the business and how best to deliver those and make it easier for people to do their jobs.
Warning — it will be difficult because people don’t like change and will keep referring back to how the current system works.
The best way to learn is through questions, reframe questions to look at work from the perspective of the teams and persona’s doing the work, understand the goals of the teams and how they fit together as a whole.
Assumptions lead to problems, bugs and changes. You need to clarify the assumptions and get the facts otherwise you will be building a solution on ambiguity and ignorance.
Clarify the assumptions as soon as you can because these are logic bugs and can embed themselves in key parts of a process, which can be difficult to change later.
Focus on what matters
In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks. — Warren Buffett
People devote energy to unimportant and unproductive areas. Work out the key areas and focus on getting those right, focus the energy and stop wasting time on the other areas.
Most areas on a project are unimportant and not worth arguing and discussing.
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” Greg McKeown
People will try to create meetings for everything and demand your time. If you are not needed in a meeting, don’t attend and spend that time doing productive activities.
Keep it simple
Show the users how Dynamics 365 works, start with a simple solution and then get users to try it before thinking about any complex solutions.
When you give users a blank canvas and ask them what they would like, they will come up with ideas that sound good but aren’t what they need and aren’t easy to build or maintain.
Align the requirements to the out of the box functionality.
Don’t panic, don’t blame
Panicking causes you to make bad decisions, blaming doesn’t achieve anything and lowers morale.
Be prepared for things to go wrong, mistakes to be made. Projects involve getting out of your comfort zone and trying things we haven’t done before. Take this small knock backs on the chin, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again.
You can’t guarantee to get everything right, particularly when you do something for the first time. Trust the team, trust yourself, don’t lose faith and keep going.
It will be difficult but you will overcome all the problems in your path. You will do it as a team.
Projects can be difficult but Don’t quit
IT projects are difficult, there will be tough periods but keep going and do not quit.
There will be times when you think the project won’t succeed, the deadlines are too tight, requirements aren’t defined, too many bugs, priorities changing, people leaving, technology failing, super bugs making everyone working from home.
Keep going, don’t quit, you will get there.
Relationships are key
Relationship with the customer and users is important because you want build trust. The customer pays the bills and makes the decisions, you have to influence as the technical export.
Build a good reputation and relationship with the client. This means listening, giving information and building trust. Avoid things which can reduce confidence in your ability, things like
- Not replying quickly
- Hiding information
- Talking in technical jargon they don’t understand
- Raising problems without solutions
The customers in an IT Project is not the enemy, they are the partner. You will work together to create a solution
IT projects often start slowly which is fine, as long as you keep improving, fixing problems and build momentum.
Projects are not the same and there is no template to deliver a successful project. You have to adapt to situation, people and requirements. Build relationships, gain trust and find a way to progress.
As relationships grow, the project team can work quicker and the work becomes more rewarding.
Projects are about people, they will be the reason for success.
In 2016 I become a Scrum master on a enterprise project and was tasked with helping create a great Dynamics 365 team and I started out on my journey to improve the skills needed to lead.
I started reading books on the following subjects
I read autobiographies of business people, football coaches and NFL coaches. I did read a bunch of other books on other subjects too :-). I worked in technical environment the most important of projects and a company is the people.
I wanted to help people on the team reach their potential and for me to do that I needed to improve my leadership, communication and coaching skills. So I focused my energies on improving these areas by reading, thinking, reflecting and doing.
Books are a great way to learn new ideas and I encourage everyone to read more books. Looking at all the book (just on those areas) it seems like a lot of money and time but these books have changed how I see the world and were worth the investment.
The other thing you can tell is I am a big NFL fan and support the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way Your Lead Forever: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
- Leading by Alex Ferguson, Michael Moritz
- Turn The Ship Around!: A True Story of Building Leaders by Breaking the Rules
- Insights Into Liberating Leadership: How to become a great leader and create a lasting legacy
- What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How successful people become even more successful
- How to Lead:The definitive guide to effective leadership: The definitive guide to effective leadership (4th Edition)
- Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
- Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
- Project Management Lite: Just Enough to Get the Job Done…Nothing More
- Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
- AGILE Project Management for Busy Managers
- Scrum and Xp from the Trenches 2nd Edition
- Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
- The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs
- Paisley: Smile On Me And Guide My Hand
- TED Talks: The official TED guide to public speaking
- Building Successful Communities of Practice: Discover How Connecting People Makes Better Organisations
- Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works
- Inspiring Leadership
- Shankly: My Story by Bill Shankly
- Leadership:Plain and Simple: Plain and Simple (2nd Edition)
- Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction
- The Strategy Book
- Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World
- Eleven Rings
- Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean
- The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
- The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win
- Make Your Bed: 10 Life Lessons from a Navy SEAL
- Parcells: A Football Life
- Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion
- Winning!: The path to Rugby World Cup glory
- A Practical Guide to Leadership: Be Inspired by Great Leaders
- The Coaching Mindset: 8 Ways to Think Like a Coach
- Steal the Show
- Jock Stein: The Definitive
- The Anatomy of Peace: How to Resolve the Heart of Conflict
- Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority
- The Team Building Strategies of Steve Kerr: How the NBA Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors Creates a Winning Culture
- How to Think Like Sir Alex Ferguson: The Business of Winning and Managing Success
- Jurgen Klopp
- Joe Fagan: Reluctant Champion — The Authorised Biography
- Quiet Genius: Bob Paisley, British football’s greatest manager
- Winners: And How They Succeed
- The Agile Samurai: How Agile Masters Deliver Great Software (Pragmatic Programmers)
- Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership
- The New Manager’s Handbook: 24 Lessons for Mastering Your New Role
- The Manager: Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders
- How Good Do You Want to Be?: A Champion’s Tips on How to Lead and Succeed at Work and in Life
- Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
- BOLD: 212 Charisma and Small Talk Tips to Engage, Charm and Leave a Lasting Impression
- Communication Skills Training: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Social Intelligence, Presentation, Persuasion and Public Speaking
- The Management Ideas of Nick Saban: A Leadership Case Study of the Alabama Crimson Tide Football Head Coach
- Bill Belichick: Ten Greatest Coaches of the NFL
- Sacred Hoops (Revised): Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior
- Mastermind: How Dave Brailsford Reinvented the Wheel (90 Minutes Shorts Book 3)
- Strategy Concepts of Bill Belichick: A Leadership Case Study of the New England Patriots Head Coach
- Belichick and Brady: Two Men, the Patriots, and How They Revolutionized Football
- Patriot Reign: Bill Belichick, the Coaches, and the Players Who Built a Champion
- How to Manage People
- War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team
- Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness through Situational Leadership
- The Education of a Coach
- Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process (Addison-Wesley Signature): A Practical Guide To The Most Popular Agile Process
- Louis van Gaal: Dutch Courage
- Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
- Way of the Wolf: Become a Master Closer with Straight Line Selling
- Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling
- Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great (Pragmatic Programmers)
- Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact
- How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing With People
- Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time
- Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator
- When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It
- The Charisma Myth: How to Engage, Influence and Motivate People
- Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager
- Pep Confidential: Inside Pep Guardiola’s First Season at Bayern Munich
- Finding a Way to Win: The Principles of Leadership, Teamwork, and Motivation
- Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management (Pragmatic Programmers)
- The Greatest Salesman in the World
- Big Sam: My Autobiography
- Single-Minded: My Life in Business
- The Coaches
- The Final Season
- How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide
- The Last Couch: A Life of Paul “Bear” Bryant
- The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership
- Do Improvise: Less Push. More Pause. Better Results. A New Approach to Work (and Life)
- The Education of a Coach
- Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?- Olympic-winning strategies for everyday success
- 12 Essential Skills for Software Architects
- A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Idea
- Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work
- How to Own the Room: Including new HOW TO OWN THE ROOM
- The Captain Class: The Hidden Force Behind the World’s Greatest Teams
- Graham Taylor In His Own Words
- Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
- It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
- The Power of A Positive No
- Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade
- Pig Wrestling: The Brilliantly Simple Way to Solve Any Problem… and Create the Change You Need
- Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business
- Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility
- Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong
- Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People
- The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse
- Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence
- Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
- The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
- Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart
- Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs
- Persuade: How to persuade anyone about anything
- Assertiveness: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Other
- How to Sell Yourself, Revised Edition: Using Leadership, Likability, and Luck to Succeed
- Sales Genius 1: 19 top sales professionals share their sales secrets
- Grinding It Out: The Making Of McDonald’s
- Fearless: How an Underdog Becomes a Champion
- To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others
- Confidence: How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs and Achieve Your Goals
- Saban: The Making of a Coach
- My Life and Rugby: The Autobiography
- Body Language in the Workplace
- Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead
- The Inner Game of Tennis: The Ultimate Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
- What the Heck Is EOS?: A Complete Guide for Employees in Companies Running on EOS
- World’s Best: Coaching with the kookaburras and the hockeyroos
- The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility in the Workplace
- You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters
- Mastering Design Thinking: The Systematic Approach to Improve Considerably Your Business Success
- The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering
- What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
- Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking
- Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology
- The Devops Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations
- Leading the Transformation: Applying Agile and DevOps Principles at Scale
- Don Shula: A Biography of the Winningest Coach in NFL History
I read Don Shula: A Biography of the Winningest Coach in NFL History, Don Shula coached in the NFL from 1958 to 1995 and won more games than any other NFL coach and the super bowl twice.
Shula was successful over a long period, he evolved and adapted to different environments, people and situations.
Environments, customers, people and technology changes. The actions that brought you success in the past might not bring success in the future.
Don Shula success in his earlier career came with a great quarterback at the Colts. He then moved to the Miami Dolphins and had 3 great running backs. Later the NFL changed the rules to encourage more attacking play and make it easier for quarterbacks. Shula adapted and drafted Dan Marino, a hall of fame quarterback. Shula changed his strategy to get the best of his team and play to it’s strengths.
I think what coaching is all about, is taking players and analyzing there ability, put them in a position where they can excel within the framework of the team winning. And I hope that I’ve done that in my 33 years as a head coach. Don Shula
Flows can deliver functionality which previous could only be done with a plugin, the difference is creating and maintaining plugins is more costly. This has changed the solutions created. No code/Low code changes the skills needed in delivery team and empowers consultants to deliver more.
I have seen examples of companies not adapting, Dynamics professionals are still creating solutions using workflows and plugins instead of creating Power Automate/Flows. You would create large Dynamics solutions but now we have to consider several smaller focused PowerApps can be used.
Each project is different, a successful approach on one project could fail with a different customer and team on another. The ability for critical thinking and adapting to situations is key.
The sign outside Shula’s office reads — “I’m just a guy who rolls up his sleeves and goes to work”
I don’t know any other way to lead but by example. Don Shula
Shula made sure his team worked hard and prepared well. You won’t win if you are outworked by the opposition and you won’t succeed without being as well prepared as you can.
“Leave as little to chance as possible. Preparation is the key to success” Paul Brown
The better you prepare, the smaller the chance of unforeseen problems causing problems. In IT projects you need to think, design and problem solve before you start building. This starts with understanding the business goals and the purpose of functionality, understand the requirements from a business and technical perspective. Finding problems in design or build makes it easier it is to resolve them and reduces the impact.
Game of errors
“Football is a game of errors. The team that makes the fewest errors in a game usually wins” Don Shula
IT Projects are a game of errors, the focus should be on creating quality, creating best practices to reduce self inflected problems. Testing and automated deployments give fast feedback, helping to find and fix problems in your dev and test environments. Fixing problems closer to creation speeds up the process.
The fewer errors, mistakes and wrong moves made, the smoother and quicker the project goes. Speed up a project with quality not speed. The common method of speeding up is by adding more people but this can slow the project down — Why adding more people to a project doesn’t make it go faster
Complexity slows down projects, you can combat this by reducing complexity and sticking to out of the box. To deliver a project on time, stick to out of the box
NFL games and IT projects are a team game, you need good people and leadership to be successful. There is pressure and expectation, you can’t let these affect performance or decisions, don’t let the highs be to high or the lows be to low.
Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal. Don Shula
Don Shula spent time with his family and tried to attend his sons matches and have dinner with his wife. It’s important to recharge your batteries, enjoy life outside of your profession and work. To give your maximum at work you need to rest and enjoy life outside of work.
Don Shula worked hard, adapted to the strengths the people of his team and was more prepared than the opposition.
The NFL and IT Projects are a game of errors, the few errors you make the smoother and fewer late deliveries. The more you can avoid problems from your execution of work the more trust you gain with the customer. You can control the quality of your work and your execution, do this and reduce the mistakes.
The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals — Professionals win points by doing good shots, amateurs lose points by making mistakes. Set the standards, minimise mistakes and create quality, in the long run it’s the fastest way to deliver a project.
ps. That is a picture of my cat Rex as a general, I am a fan of animals dressed as general 🙂