Episode 11 – John Stenbeck – The Agile Nerd

Episode #11
Original Air Date: 06.07.2016

34 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: John Stenbeck

Tune in this week as the team speaks with John Stenbeck on how Agile is changing in Project Management.

John is the Founder of GR8PM, Inc. (pronounced “Great PM”). John is a Best Selling author and sought-after keynote speaker. He has been a guest on VoiceAmerica talk radio, Good Morning America, the Today Show and the Oprah Winfrey Show. John has been featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union. He has a combined background in Accounting, Operations and Information Technology. As a trainer, he has taught numerous public and corporate on-site programs to over 10,000 students.

John is certified by PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) and an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP®). He also holds Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) designations from the Scrum Alliance and an ITIL v3 Foundations certification. Mr. Stenbeck graduated from San Diego State University with a B.S. Business Administration, emphasis in Accounting.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"I think Agile’s going to give us some richness, some additional vocabulary. But rolling wave planning, progressive elaboration, decomposition all exist now in the PMBOK, and they’re core Agile concepts. We’re going to have a little, maybe a little better way to talk about it, which is a lot of what the PMBOK has done for us."

- John Stenbeck

"Where does hybrid fit in this whole picture? I think it’s where we go. I think it’s the future. Because the organization, I’m fond of saying to clients, right, you really don’t care if we use traditional or Agile or Aunt Susie’s recipe. You really only care if we’re delivering outcomes."

- John Stenbeck

"Agile focuses on let’s have the necessary conversations. And if there’s one thing that a lot of us PMBOK nerds that, me, I’m guilty, hands up, you know, I’m absolutely guilty of not engaging in the conversation often enough, not sitting down, not recognizing, right, the biggest myth in communication is that it has happened."

- John Stenbeck

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NICK WALKER: Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers. It’s an opportunity to meet and discuss what matters to you in the world of project management. Whether you are already a professional project manager or working toward certification in the field, our goal is to help you along the way. And we do that by keeping you up to date on the latest developments in the field, as well as hearing some real life stories from those who are making a difference in the industry.

I’m your host, Nick Walker. And with me are two guys who make this all happen. They are our resident experts, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates. They have the experience of seeing project management from all angles, and they want you to benefit from their experience. Here we are again, guys. How’s it going?

ANDY CROWE: We’re off to a good start, Nick. And I’m very excited about this particular podcast. We’ve got a good friend in the studio, as well.

NICK WALKER: Yes. He is a heavy hitter, you might say. John Stenbeck is the president of Gr8pm, spelled G-R-8-P-M. He’s the author of three books. He’s a sought-after keynote speaker. He’s been a guest on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” He’s been featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. And just when we thought he couldn’t reach any higher, he’s a guest now here on Manage This.

ANDY CROWE: All that, John, led you to this point.

NICK WALKER: Okay. Andy, I know one of the reasons you’re excited about having John with us is that his most recent book, John’s recent book the “Agile Almanac” has been ranked the No. 1 bestseller in Agile’s project management on Amazon.com, and No. 2 bestseller in project management overall, second only to the PMBOK Guide itself.

ANDY CROWE: Excellent. And I got a chance to read the “Agile Almanac” before it was released. John was kind enough to share some of that with me. So great resource, a really, really good book.

NICK WALKER: Now, John, I don’t think you’re going to be insulted when I tell you Bill here has described you as a “PMBOK nerd,” okay? But I think you’re in good company.

JOHN STENBECK: Fair enough.

BILL YATES: Fair enough. Okay, good.

NICK WALKER: He says that about himself, as well.

BILL YATES: Yeah, I threw myself in the category. So that – don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But here we are as PMBOK nerds.

JOHN STENBECK: Probably all of the listeners are going to count themselves pretty close to that category, too; you know?

BILL YATES: That’s true.

NICK WALKER: Well, you know, in past podcasts, we have talked a lot about Agile practices. And now that they’re going to be in the PMBOK Guide, just give us an indication of how that’s changing the world of project management.

JOHN STENBECK: Well, you know, I think one of the big considerations is that it hasn’t been since 1997, so we’re talking 20 years since the last time something this magnitude happened with the PMBOK. Twenty years ago it was theory of constraints, Eliyahu Goldratt. There’s nobody, you know, there’s none of us PMBOK nerds who don’t embrace that content that was added to the PMBOK back then. And I think that what we’re going to see is a lot of this happening as the new edition of the PMBOK comes out.

The funniest part of the whole thing for me is the number of PMPs who think they don’t do Agile. In fact, you know, if you think back to the first time – and this may be too long ago for some of us. But the very first time you opened the PMBOK Guide, and you looked at it, and you said this is exactly how we talk now, right, that is just laughable. None of us talked that way before we learned the vocabulary. We behaved as project managers, we executed as project managers, but we didn’t have that core vocabulary.

So I think Agile’s going to give us some richness, some additional vocabulary. But rolling wave planning, progressive elaboration, decomposition all exist now in the PMBOK, and they’re core Agile concepts. We’re going to have a little, maybe a little better way to talk about it, which is a lot of what the PMBOK has done for us. But I don’t see any fundamental, you know, at some level.

BILL YATES: Yeah, there’s a great point there. And what PMI has said regarding that Sixth Edition is that, at the beginning of each chapter on a knowledge area, so chapters 4 through 13, there’ll be some context for, okay, how does this relate to the Agile world, the iterative and adaptive world? There’ll be some introduction of concepts and terminology there. Also in the back they’ll put an appendix in that’s dedicated to adaptive and iterative terms. So I agree, John, I think a lot of the terminology that we’ve been using, either in exactly the right way or not, we’ll start to have kind of a lexicon of Agile terms that will be introduced in that Sixth Edition release.

JOHN STENBECK: You know, and I think us PMBOK nerds, listeners and all of us, right, we’ve embraced lean for a long time.


JOHN STENBECK: Lean’s proven. We accept a lot of those practices and concepts. And Agile really is just lean applied to project management.

ANDY CROWE: Right. And you know, John, you made an interesting point about the tectonic shift that hasn’t happened maybe in the past 20 years, that this is going to be big. I agree. I think there’s been a lot of struggle within the ranks about how do we – what do we do with Agile as it relates to the PMBOK Guide? Do you go back in and feather it in? Do you have your own Agile body of knowledge that people have tried to figure out? And are these going to be – is the PMBOK Guide going to be more waterfall based, and there going to be something else? And now they’re trying to marry these two. They haven’t always married well, or maybe they haven’t always dated well. They haven’t always gotten along.

So, you know, you’ve had the Agile community that kind of looks with some mistrust on waterfall. They view it as hierarchical, top-down, old-school, you know, doing it an old way of trying to get everything upfront. And the waterfall community sometimes looks at the Agile community as being disorganized and chaotic and…

BILL YATES: A teenage kid.

ANDY CROWE: Yeah, anti-authoritarian. And, yeah, it works well for some IT projects, but not really for a lot of serious, grownup projects. You have these two. Now, PMI is trying to synthesize and bring everything together. That’s an interesting point. I’ve got a question for you, leading into that. And the question is this: Do you see any possibility within organizations? Some people believe that a hybrid approach can work, and some people believe that is anathema, that you don’t want to try and mix these two, that they don’t mix well. Where do you fall in that?

JOHN STENBECK: So I think that it is a matter of scale at some level. Right, what Agile really helps us deal with is increasing complexity, increasing uncertainty. And there’s none of us as project managers who aren’t dealing with more complexity and more uncertainty than we were 10 years ago. That’s just, you know, everything runs on Internet speed. All of our customer expectations are conditioned by Google and Amazon and Facebook.

So the complexity and the uncertainty has risen just astronomically. So we need a way to cope with that. Also my experience in the field suggests that most organizations start with a dedicated methodology. They start with scrum, right, or some other methodology, scrum being the biggest one. But then they start to adapt it to the needs of their environment. And what lean tells us is continuous improvement. Lean tells us process improvement; right? Lean says look for the best way to do it. And I think that there does seem to be tension between the two communities. And I think it’s a misunderstanding.

The truth is I think we’re probably in violent agreement. I love that term; right? I think we’re in violent agreement because, at the team level, Agile provides a lot of ideas, insights, practices, processes, principles for working better together to have a conversation like the one we’re having here now, to have that conversation and then to integrate our stakeholders. Like, you know, we’d like the listeners of this podcast to step into this, to lean into it, to be integrated to reach out and have some contact with you guys because this is such an important concept.

So it starts, I think, with a dedicated methodology, and then it moves towards how do we scale this; right? Because management’s happy if the teams are happy. But management really is focused on how do we deliver better bottom-line results on big stuff. And so the big stress in the environment today is how do we scale Agile? How do we scale it to programs? How do we scale it to environments with remote distributed virtual teams? How do we scale it to the enterprise? Those are big challenges.

And this is where I think some of the more structured stuff about PMBOK, it’s kind of like Agile’s a race car, and it’s on the mountain roads, and the PMBOK can help us put up some guardrails where, you know, there’s catastrophic results if you lose control and go over the edge. That sense of security, those guardrails, allows the team to move faster. If you’ve got a lot of teams going, to continue with the traffic analogy, I need some yellow lines and I need some stoplights for the most efficient movement of all of the teams in their cars to get the results that we want.

So I think the two actually work together very well. And that’s what we’re seeing at clients. But it is interesting because we tend to think about – there’s a little bit of that tension between the Agile calm folks, or maybe we’ll call them Agile nerds like we’re calling ourselves PMBOK nerds; right? Okay.

BILL YATES: There we go. Yeah.

JOHN STENBECK: So there seems to be some tension between the Agile nerds and the PMBOK nerds. So I think they just don’t understand – the same way none of us PMBOK nerds opened the PMBOK the first time and said, “Oh, this is exactly how I talk.” Yeah, they talk a little different language. But there’s some insight built it that, that can be very helpful. And so I don’t think there’s conflict. I just – I think we haven’t got clarity yet. We haven’t achieved communication. That’s why this podcast is so important. Right, let’s get to where we start to understand each other a little bit better.

And to your question, which is a really good one, really valid, right, where does hybrid fit in this whole picture? I think it’s where we go. I think it’s the future. Because the organization, I’m fond of saying to clients, right, you really don’t care if we use traditional or Agile or Aunt Susie’s recipe. You really only care if we’re delivering outcomes.


JOHN STENBECK: Right? The desired outcome. If you’re delivering the desired outcome, now we’re going the right way.

ANDY CROWE: You know, you say that, and that’s interesting. There’s a concept I came in contact with some time earlier, and I probably mentioned it on an earlier podcast, of process satisfaction. And process satisfaction is really about saying that you can’t have confidence in the outcome unless you have confidence in the process. And that was introduced to me a few years ago; and it really, really resonated with me because I care about sometimes how things are done as much as the end result, especially when it’s something that’s going to be repeated over and over. So this is – this gets to be an interesting thing.

I guess the criticism I’ve heard about hybrid approaches is that you move from traditional, and you kind of take a half a step into Agile. And you start doing some things like colocating the team and having standup meetings and maybe try an iteration. But there’s maybe some old-school scope techniques around it, and now the things falls apart. And the Agile criticism comes in and says, look, you need to – it’s like the Frank Sinatra song, “All or Nothing at All,” you know. I’m not going to sing that for you, but…

JOHN STENBECK: Oh, thank you.

ANDY CROWE: Next time. But this idea that you’re not fully in, you need to really go fully Agile to realize the full benefits of Agile. And the waterfall people would almost say the same thing. You know what, the waterfall techniques that are there, they work when they’re used as directed. And so now it becomes an interesting question of us mixing this sort of cocktail, and some organizations do not do that well.

BILL YATES: And, John, I’m curious to see what your experience has been. I’ve got some customers, some very large companies that you talk with the program managers, and you look at how they’re managing those projects under them. And they’ll have projects that are following straight up Agile approaches. And then they’ll have others that are pure waterfall.

And to me it’s always interesting to say, okay, how, you know, just on a weekly reporting basis or status reports, and maybe some heads-up displays or dashboards, how are you merging those two and looking at the tools and the techniques that they’re using to do that? Because, you know, in some way it’s a little bit of oil and water. You know, how do I, well, don’t have the same metrics coming from the same project managers. What kind of practices have you seen in that regard? Or how are people overcoming that?

JOHN STENBECK: You know, Bill, that’s just a very insightful observation because it boils down to metrics. Right, how do we find the metrics that will best dovetail those things; right? It’s interesting, you know, we talked about the conflict between us PMBOK nerds and the Agile nerds. But even in the Agile community, where I’ve been involved for a long time, right, there’s the folks who advocate safe. And then there’s the folks who call it “unsafe.” And then there’s the folks who advocate less; right?

And so there’s all these acronyms for all these approaches, but all of them are looking at, right, how do we scale? And, see, if you’re going to scale, now metrics become critically important. And in many organizations we measure what’s easy to measure, right, what’s easy to measure. Not what’s important to measure. And there’s the challenge; right? What’s going to be important to measure? How are we going to do this? You know, one of the emerging topics or group buzzwords or communities in this whole Agile thing is DevOps. And some of your listeners will go, yeah, yeah, I know about DevOps. And some of them are going to say, what the heck is DevOps?

BILL YATES: Hey, Nick, what’s DevOps?

NICK WALKER: DevOps. Let’s see. Dutifully evolving – no, I don’t know.

JOHN STENBECK: Yeah, virtuous, yeah, something; right?

BILL YATES: So, John, just in case somebody needs to know, what’s DevOps?

JOHN STENBECK: That’s a great question, and it’s so kind of new and leading edge, I’m not sure that a lot – I’m not sure there’s an agreed-upon definition yet. But it’s the intersection of development, right, product development or code development, “dev”; “ops,” operations. How the heck do we manage the resources, stay in business, generate a profitable outcome? So DevOps. And what DevOps is speaking to most critically, and the reason I brought it up in response to what you had shared there, Bill, the critical insight is DevOps is focused on metrics. And for those of us – and now my PMBOK nerdism is really going to show, you know. To pass the PMP exam, one of the things you’ve got to know is that little formula for the number of communication paths in a group.

BILL YATES: Oh, yeah, sure.

JOHN STENBECK: Anybody, I mean, see, everybody out there listening to us right now is going, yeah, n(n–1)/2. You have to know that to – it’s just one of the questions you know you’re going to get on the exam. And what I’m gathering from my conversations with some of the thought leaders in the DevOps area is to your point exactly: metrics. How are we going to measure this? And what they’re saying is there are some things that we’re going to do early in the iterations, right, that we’re going to need to continuously go back and validate, test and retest and multiple test. As we add on to, as we iterate and build onto the solution, those original foundation pieces, we’re going to need to make sure they integrate correctly, and they test correctly.

Well, it costs, takes a lot more resource, costs more money to develop automated testing than it does to do it manually to begin with. But if you do automated testing early in the process for the things you’re going to have to repeatedly test, right, then you’re more likely to test it so that you make sure you develop a solution that works, one that’s not broken. And so, you know, I know I’m getting way deep in the technical here, and I apologize if I’m losing anybody on it. But the n(n-2), if you take those early things that you know you’re going to need to repeatedly test, and you automate, costs more money upfront, but then you will do that. And then the things you develop later on, call it the later part of the solution, the later pieces of the puzzle, you might only test those manually. But it’s figuring out the metrics.

And what made me think of this, Bill, is that insight’s so important, and it’s so often missed. And I think it’s, whether you’re an Agile nerd or a PMBOK nerd, I think we can all agree we benefit, the organization benefits, the project benefits if we understand what the metrics are. And with DevOps, at least my understanding is, part of the focus is how do we do that better? How do we build automated testing where we should, use manual testing where we should? And if we do that, it’s kind of like, you know, the n(n-2), it’s an exponential. It’s a nonlinear increase. By dividing the things I can test automated from the things I can test manual, I lower the overall complexity for figuring out metrics, managing metrics, and being able to guide the project. And that can be really huge.

ANDY CROWE: And it’s knowing what metrics to look at, as well. You know, one of the things, John, that’s pounded into project managers’ heads from an early day is that we don’t include operations in projects. You do in programs, but projects are a little more focused. But the problem with that is I’ve gotten burned on that earlier in my career. I was developing a project and then, at the end, after I turned it over to the customer, found out that there was a whole support organization that was going to have to do this ongoing. And it was its own profit center. And they had not looked at this. They had not given any input into it. And that was – ultimately, it came back on me.

And so it was a very educational moment for me to think, okay, I do need to look long, regardless of what’s in writing somewhere. I need to look long on the project. I need to think beyond whether it’s automated testing, whether it’s operations, where it’s customer support. I need to think downstream of how this thing’s going to be used and maintained.

JOHN STENBECK: Yeah. And you have to have the conversations.

BILL YATES: Yeah, you’ve got to know that upfront; right?


BILL YATES: You need to know that’s an expectation for you as a manager of that because so many times I’ll put the blinders on as a project manager, and I’m going to create something. And, okay, I know exactly the spec to hit. I know the requirements. I know the key measurements. I haven’t even thought about transition, much less sustainability. And so then what value am I really delivering to the organization as a project manager if I deliver something that nobody can maintain or sustain, if there’s so much technical debt in it that it becomes a drain of resources down the road.

JOHN STENBECK: And it kind of reminds me of whenever I bump into a new technology. And one of my nieces or nephews will – I’ll say, “Wait, I can’t figure out how to do this.” And they go, “It’s intuitive.” I’ll tell you, it makes me want to kill them; right? It might be intuitive to them. It’s darn not intuitive to me; right? And what I hear both of you…

BILL YATES: So how many times have you done that as a project manager; right?

JOHN STENBECK: Yeah, I know. I mean, I was cracking up, Andy, when you were describing that because you called it “educational.” Yeah, let’s use “painful”; right? Let’s use “lack of joy.” I mean, there was grief involved. Yeah, we developed it exactly to spec. It functioned fully. But the end-users or the support community hadn’t been involved. And I think that what Agile really focuses on is who are the key people we have to have the communication with, we have to have the conversation with like we’re having right here, right now.

ANDY CROWE: Ideally getting them in the room and having that conversation and adapting in real time.

JOHN STENBECK: Yeah, absolutely. And the conversation may – I think where project managers maybe can help with this conversation is coming back to what you asked about metrics. If we help everybody start to think about, you know, the PMBOK says deliver everything the customer contracted for, nothing more. We all know it’s called…

ANDY & BILL: Gold plated.

JOHN STENBECK: Yeah, right? PMBOK nerds, hey. We all – the Agile folks know that, too. Nobody wants to do gold plated. You don’t want to under-deliver. It’s breach of contract, and that leads to the lean waste category called “lawsuits.” Right? In Agile they call it “barely sufficient.” So they have a different term for the exact same concept. But Agile focuses on let’s have the necessary conversations. And if there’s one thing that a lot of us PMBOK nerds that, me, I’m guilty, hands up, you know, I’m absolutely guilty of not engaging in the conversation often enough, not sitting down, not recognizing, right, the biggest myth in communication is that it has happened.


JOHN STENBECK: And I’m so guilty of that. Right? If I got in conversations more frequently, even if those conversations say, you know, I don’t think anything’s changed, but let me walk you through what we have going on. And what Agile does is make it visible. Right? Make it out there so anybody who’s interested can see it. Create a form, a review meeting, so that they have a chance to talk to us before it’s all done. Imagine on that project you were describing or thinking of, right, if you had talked to them a little bit sooner and said, oh, there’s a key stakeholder group we haven’t talked to yet?


ANDY CROWE: John, you reminded me of an old joke of a husband and wife at the altar, and the husband tells his wife he loves her. And he said, “If that ever changes, I’ll let you know.” So the communication has now taken place.

JOHN STENBECK: Oh, my, ouch.

ANDY CROWE: And we don’t need to cover that anymore.

BILL YATES: There we go. I like it. I want to shift gears with you.


BILL YATES: I want to step back and go, all right, we recognize that now the leading authority of the organization PMI, PMI.org, is saying Agile is now going to be called out in the Sixth Edition PMBOK Guide. Let’s say I’m an old-school project manager, and I’m waterfall. That’s all I’ve done. And I’m a little bit intimidated. Maybe these younger whippersnappers are coming in with their Agile ways.

JOHN STENBECK: Saying it’s intuitive.

BILL YATES: Yeah, they’re saying it’s intuitive, exactly. Just like an app. Just use it. What do I need to know? If I go home into my secret cave, and I learn a little bit about Agile so that I can talk with the up-and-comers, what do I need to know? And feel free to talk about your book.


BILL YATES: But what steps would you take, if I were a PM who’s a little bit intimidated by this wave of Agile thought?

JOHN STENBECK: You know, the first thing I would say to somebody with the kind of years in the field that you have, that I have, that Andy has, right, is that we’ve already been doing this. If you think back, we all remember RUP, RAD, Spiral, you know, all of those three-letter acronyms for all the different ways that we were doing Agile 23 years ago. You know what really struck, and I love that question, when it really kind of rang my bell was when I realized that back in the mid-’90s, when I was doing aerospace projects, when we got in trouble, we assembled a tiger team in a war room, did daily standup. Well, we didn’t even necessarily stand up. We did daily meetings. In fact, if we were really in trouble, we did twice daily, morning and afternoon meetings.

ANDY CROWE: Right, morning and then the – yup.

JOHN STENBECK: Right? And we iterated. NASA was doing this to get to the moon and back; right? So this is not…

ANDY CROWE: They were sort of the seeds of Agile.

JOHN STENBECK: Yeah, exactly; right? This is how we respond when we get in trouble. This is how we, in the past, we would respond this way when we got in trouble, or when things were – suddenly we could sense they were going off track in a big way. We’d assemble that team, get in the war room, and get it back on track. So I think the first thing, because you ask a great question, is to recognize it’s not new, really, in your experience. What’s new is the vocabulary.

So why not unify the vocabulary? Why not be able to talk to it? You know, whether you love or hate PMI, whether you love or hate PMBOK nerds like me, right, the thing about us PMBOK nerds is we have a common vocabulary. So if we’re in different industries, we can learn from each other. Right? With the Agile folks, if we learn to speak the vocabulary, we can start to tease out, right, that – and thank you for the opportunity to talk about my book; right? So the “Agile Almanac,” which is out, Book 1, is about how do you do Agile to team level? It’s intended to make the vocabulary more approachable. But also, to the earlier question that Andy asked about, right, why is there this apparent discord between the two, it’s because Agile’s successful. Agile’s demonstrated its power. And now organizations want to scale it. And that’s the future, where we’re going. It’s the frontier. There’s a lot of discovery to be done.

But to scale, you have to have some reasonable structure. And, you know, SAFe is the best-known scalable Agile framework, right, SAFe? Best-known framework out there for doing that. But there are already folks who are opposed to it. They’re, you know, claiming that it’s too much structure, whatever. There’s going to be a lot to work out.

Another interesting thought just crossed my mind, I’ll just throw this out there, is in a lot of our big Fortune 2000 kind of companies, right, the big organizations, the big government agencies, about a third, and this is just a rough rule of thumb, but about a third of your projects have high enough complexity, high enough uncertainty, to really benefit from doing Agile. About two thirds don’t. Interestingly, about one third of your people are going to find Agile intuitive. I hate that word used like that, but anyhow. They’re going to find Agile intuitive, and they’re going to want to do it. And maybe two thirds aren’t.

And whole industries have lifecycle models, we’ll call it, that are Agile in parts, even though they don’t use the terminology. You think about the construction industry, when they’re doing blueprints, drawings upfront, they’re iterating in terms of showing them to the customer and getting feedback and then showing them to the building department and getting feedback so they can get their permit. But once they get the permit…

ANDY CROWE: You transition to a more waterfall approach.

JOHN STENBECK: Bingo; right? That’s exactly it. And then, interestingly, we were talking also about projects transitioning to operations. And in the Agile space, Kanban is really kind of the operational model. And in the construction industry, they collect a punch list of all the little dings and dents and the light switch doesn’t work, the toilet doesn’t flush; right? And all that stuff that’s got to be fixed is gathering on a punch list, and it’s a Kanban approach of just process those tickets.

ANDY CROWE: Which really shows the workflow and where these things are in stages, right.


ANDY CROWE: John, you threw out some controversial metrics a minute ago with saying one third could benefit from Agile, and two thirds couldn’t. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that generates some hate mail, which we will dutifully forward to your address.

JOHN STENBECK: Oh, thanks very much. Oh. Yeah, you know, it’s – sometimes you’re caught in the middle; right? And it just – I’m trying to find the simple truth, and that doesn’t mean it’s going to be popular.

ANDY CROWE: I think it’s an interesting approach that PMI is bringing this into the PMBOK Guide. You know, you go back to the original “Ghostbusters,” and we’re probably dating ourselves now, but the one from the 1980s with Aykroyd and Bill Murray. And you remember the big mantra was you don’t cross the streams. And I think that some people view these as that they really are incompatible. And they’re even incompatible – different teams within the organization can’t safely practice Agile and waterfall. They tend to segregate. They tend to move to different parts of the building. They have different upstreams of management.

And so it really becomes an interesting thing, and you’re back to your whole point about metrics. What do you measure? How are you following this? How are you unifying all of these things? And what are you looking at as a manager? So let me ask you a question. You do a lot of Agile coaching; is that correct?


ANDY CROWE: And so give me rough percentages. What percentage of your time is spent coaching versus training versus writing, if you had to break it out? And you can add in something else.

JOHN STENBECK: Okay, yeah. And I was going to say, probably the only other thing would be speaking.


JOHN STENBECK: And I can tell you the percentages that I wish they were.


JOHN STENBECK: Or I could tell you the percentages that they are because, you know, it’s – the biggest percentage of my time now is spent speaking to groups. Right? I really am, I’m trying to – I see as part of my obligation, right, part of my mission to the community is to help them understand we’re not at war with each other. We’re in violent agreement. There is great value in both. Let’s learn how to put these together. Our profession will do better if we learn to do that. But I’m an introvert. So the favorite part of my job is hunkered down, writing my books, and not talking to anybody; right? I can go for days without human contact.

BILL YATES: Andy is nodding his head vigorously.

ANDY CROWE: You and I have this in common, John.

JOHN STENBECK: Is that right?

ANDY CROWE: Yeah. Not at all shy, but very much introverted. I get recharged from time alone.

JOHN STENBECK: Okay, yeah. So then you fully understand; right? And that also factors then into, you know, I do a reasonable amount of coaching, but it’s not my favorite thing to do. In fact, there’s those who would, you know, not only call me a PMBOK nerd, but on the scale of warm-fuzzy to cold-prickly, they would definitely put me more on the cold-prickly. And I was an accountant before I was an engineer, before I was a project manager. But I’ve got OCD really bad; right? Yeah, I’ll tell you.

ANDY CROWE: And so you can do these speaking engagements, but you probably need to get in the fetal position afterward for a couple of hours to recharge; is that right?

JOHN STENBECK: Absolutely. That’s absolutely true; yeah. So you do, you relate to that. And I imagine a lot of the folks who are joining us for this conversation, they’re going, oh, yeah. I hate, you know, every human being, this research says everybody hates getting in front of a group. But there’s those of us who hate it more. And us PMBOK nerds, most of us fall in that category.

ANDY CROWE: Yeah, I don’t hate it. I really do – there’s a part of me that enjoys it. But it is draining.

JOHN STENBECK: Yes. Yeah, very, very much a challenge. So, you know, what’s interesting, there’s a lot of demand for coaching because everybody’s looking to scale now. How do we respond to – if you are not responding at Internet speed, if you’re not giving your customers the Google/Facebook/Amazon experience, they’re going someplace else. And that’s true whether your customer is actually a constituent or not. Right?

Going back just to Andy’s comment before about do you trust the process because, if you don’t trust the process, you won’t trust the results. And given the crazy elections environment that we’re currently in, there’s a lot of us, and I’m not sure I trust the process. So how can I trust the final outcome of my candidate choices; right? There’s a lot that really factors into that. So this is…

ANDY CROWE: Process satisfaction.

JOHN STENBECK: Yeah. That, you know, and I’m going to steal that from you. I’m just going to announce that to the world right now. I’m stealing that because that is a really important concept.

ANDY CROWE: You know, to a lot of us, and especially people who are process oriented and I would put myself in that camp, it really does resonate. You start to look at the world a little differently.

BILL YATES: Absolutely.

NICK WALKER: Well, John, I think we all should be in violent agreement that this has been a fascinating and informative time together. We so much appreciate your time with us.


NICK WALKER: Hey, I’m sure there’s a lot of our listeners who might want to continue this conversation. So how can they get in touch with you?

JOHN STENBECK: They can reach out to me on LinkedIn. They can email me, jstenbeck, so first initial, last name, @gr8pm.com. Or look for me at a PMI event in your town sometime soon.

ANDY CROWE: Or best yet, pin him down afterward when he’s trying to escape.

JOHN STENBECK: Yeah, when I’m so full of energy. Oh, my.

BILL YATES: Yeah. John, join me for dinner. Let’s go. I want to spend a few more hours with you.

NICK WALKER: Yeah. Well, in appreciation for you taking the time out with us, we have a special gift for you.

JOHN STENBECK: Oh, fantastic.

NICK WALKER: You see it there sitting in front of you. This is a Manage This coffee mug. And we invite you to use it every day of our life.

ANDY CROWE: Use it violently, my friend.

JOHN STENBECK: Yes. And I love the tongue-in-cheek in that; right? Manage THIS. How many times have we wanted, all of us PMBOK nerds unite: Manage THIS. That’s what we want to say to them. I love it. Thank you.

NICK WALKER: Well, John Stenbeck, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us. Andy, Bill, as always, thanks for this time together. That’s it for us here on Manage This. We hope you’ll tune back in on June 21st for our next podcast. And don’t forget, you earn free PDUs, Professional Development Units, just for listening to this program.

In the meantime, you can visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us. And tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about project management certifications, whether it’s the PMP, the CAPM, the PMI-ACP, CSM, PgMP, or PfMP. Or maybe you know somebody who would be a good guest on this show. We’d love to hear from you about that, as well.

That’s all for this episode. Thanks for joining us. Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

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