Episode 66 – Is Agile Right For me?

Episode #66
Original Air Date: 10.01.2018

31 minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Steve Kraus

Agile is not for everyone. Project managers face 2 big questions: do you want to make the transition to agile, and can you make the transition? Our guest Steve Kraus shares his perspective. Steve and the team discuss the indicators as to whether or not a project manager is a good fit for agile. The conversation delves into current trends in the project management marketplace, the expanding role of the project manager, and options for the PM going forward. Steve offers advice about how traditional PMs continue to deliver real business value, and also how someone can develop agile skills.
Steve Kraus has over 15 years of experience assisting organizations in transitioning to agile practices. He has earned several certifications, including PMP, CSM, and SAFe Program Consultant. Steve was a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting and a Senior Principal with Daugherty Business Solutions. As CIO of a mid-sized company, Steve led the transition of their software development approach from waterfall to agile.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

“The fact it’s (Agile) hot doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you”

- Steve Kraus

“And so Agile kind of said, let’s flip that whole thing on its head. It’s about value delivery. The goal is not to finish on-time, on-budget. The goal is to deliver something of value.”

- Steve Kraus

“But early in your career, being task oriented really works well. ………. But as you progress, you have to become more relationship oriented in order to succeed.”

- Andy Crowe

“on one project you may be the god. And on the next project you’re managing, you are the servant. And on the third project it may be some mix of the two, based on the needs of the project”

- Steve Kraus

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Table of Contents

00:35 … Meet Steve Kraus

01:27 … Defining Agile / Waterfall

04:38 … How to know which one is working for you?

05:40 … Is Agile right for me?

06:35 … Are PM careers still in demand?

10:00 … In demand skill sets

14:10 … A scrum master story

19:00 … Where are you more comfortable?

23:29 … Getting the skills to make the transition

25:55 … Move on, Move up, or Move in?

28:09 … Wrap Up

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  Every other week we get together to discuss what you have told us matters to you as a professional project manager.  It’s our chance to meet with some of the experts in the field, get inside their heads, and see what has worked for them.  It’s a place to share ideas and philosophies, all with the purpose of improving our own game.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are the two guys who make this podcast happen, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  And Andy, we’re fortunate enough to have an Agile expert in the house.

ANDY CROWE:  And this is going to be a really interesting slice that we’re taking on Agile.  We’re going to be looking at it a little bit differently than traditionally.

NICK WALKER:  Well, let’s meet our nontraditional guest; all right?  As a Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scaled Agile Coach, Steve Kraus has more than 15 years’ experience assisting organizations in transitioning to the Agile mindset.  As the CIO of a mid-sized company, he led the conversion of their Waterfall-based software construction efforts to an Agile approach.  He served as a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting, as well as a senior principal with Daugherty Business Solutions.  He’s currently engaged at a major local insurance company, assisting them with Agile training, coaching, and planning, as they begin their Agile journey.  Steve, it’s a privilege to have you with us.

STEVE KRAUS:  Thanks.

NICK WALKER:  Now, we should probably start off by defining our terms just a little bit.  Waterfall?  Agile?  Let’s get into that just a little bit.  What is Agile, and what is the difference between that and Waterfall?

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  So since the pyramids were built, people have been applying kind of traditional project management approaches; right?  So kind of the classic PMI, PMP certification.  The iron triangle, you know, scope, cost, resources, quality.  How do you make those tradeoffs; right?  And then how do you manage a project using a very structured approach to completion?  That’s kind of classic what people call Waterfall; right?

Agile, you know, a lot of folks got together probably in 2002 in a hotel room, literally, and said this ain’t working for us.  We’re seeing a lot of projects that are running over.  Almost all of them.  Many projects fail.  So a lot of money wasted.  And they said, you know, is there – and by the way, one thing we saw a lot of and they saw a lot of was IT kind of getting a black eye.  So I’m an IT person.  I’m not in construction.

BILL YATES:  Right.

STEVE KRAUS:  I’m not building a Mercedes Benz.  I’m building software.  So IT almost got a bad reputation.  It’s like projects always run over.  Projects never do what they’re supposed to do.  The end result of the project isn’t really all that useful or that much value.  And so Agile kind of said, let’s flip that whole thing on its head.  It’s about value delivery.  The goal is not to finish on-time, on-budget.  The goal is to deliver something of value.  It may not be the entire thing we originally aimed at.  So scope is flexible; right?  Resources are flexible.

The second thing Agile kind of brought into the picture was saying, you know, those traditional approaches of let’s design it, let’s build it, let’s test it, right, and then a big bang delivery at the end; right?  No, let’s deliver little pieces of value, and then even change direction based on those pieces.  So love that.  Hate that.  Let’s do more of that, less of that.  In Agile that’s okay.  In Waterfall that drives you crazy; right?

BILL YATES:  Right, right.

STEVE KRAUS:  So that’s kind of the difference between them.

ANDY CROWE:  Change is a four-letter word in Waterfall.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right, right.

ANDY CROWE:  Unless you’re the contractor who’s implementing those changes, and then you get to bill for them.

BILL YATES:  That’s right.  That’s going to cost you.

STEVE KRAUS:  But even then it’s a nightmare.

BILL YATES:  Right.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right?  Because it’s like, you have to submit a CR.  Client doesn’t want to sign it, but is still very unhappy with the situation.  So even if they don’t fund it and say we’re not going to pay for it, they walk away with a bad taste in their mouth.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  I cut my teeth on Waterfall.  And Nick, it was – somebody said in one of our podcasts that Waterfall is sort of a pejorative term that was introduced by Agile.  It was not.  I was taught that was what it was called, back in the early ‘90s.  But it’s this idea that things go from the top down, and they become more and more “progressively elaborated” is the phrase that project managers love to use.  But that whole idea.  And so, yeah, Agile does, it flips that on its axis pretty sharply.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  And something you said, Steve, you know, “This isn’t working for me” kind of began the movement.

STEVE KRAUS:  The journey; right.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.  So how do we know whether one or the other is going to work for us?

STEVE KRAUS:  Oooh.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s a really easy question.  I’m glad Steve’s here to answer it.

STEVE KRAUS:  And I think that’s the answer people are going towards now.  So we did see a trend.  You know, a few years ago when Agile started to come in, what we started to run into was a kind of pedantic kind of approach that says Waterfall is over; Agile is for everything.  Clearly one of the trends now is, you know what, sometimes Waterfall’s the right answer.

BILL YATES:  Right.

STEVE KRAUS:  Sometimes Agile’s the right answer.  Sometimes a mix of those two things is the right answer.  And so we’re starting to see more and more of that, that says, “What’s right for this project?”

ANDY CROWE:  And amongst some of the true believers, mixing those two is not…

STEVE KRAUS:  Evil.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, right, right.

BILL YATES:  Oh, yeah.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  And one thing I think we’re seeing is the true believers in both sides – let’s be clear; right? – are having to let go a little.

BILL YATES:  So that brings me to a question.  Nick, I want to ask Steve, help us focus on the individual.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

Is Agile Right For Me?

BILL YATES:  So let’s say I’m the practitioner.  Maybe I grew up doing traditional or Waterfall approaches as a project manager.  Now Agile is all that.  It’s hot.  So the question that I want us to tease out today with Steve, is Agile right for me?

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  I think there’s two – I really think there’s two questions a person has to address as a project management professional; right?  One is it is hot.  So how am I going to position myself against it?  Right?  The second thing is the market may want me to do this.  Is this something I want to do?  So the fact that it’s hot doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.  So talk about the market a little bit, Steve.  I know you’ve done some research.  You’ve spoken on trends.  So I guess the basic question is, is project management – is that profession still a good way to go?  Is it still in demand?  And then talk about some of the trends that you’re seeing in that space.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  So let me step back for a minute.  Like how did I get into this a little bit; right?  Of course, I’ve been doing both for a long time, so I was familiar with the subject matter.  But what we had is we had a client of ours who basically – they basically let go of every project manager they had.  They just let them go.  It’s like, as of tomorrow, we will no longer have any project managers on our staff.  And that made us step back and say, wow.  Is that the way this is going?  Is it a fact that in 10 years there won’t be any more traditional project management?  And because we were in the business, by the way, of doing that work, we were very personally interested in that.

And so we did some research, and we said, you know what, do we need to deal with this?  Yes, we do.  This is definitely a trend that’s not going away.  What we were seeing was what they wanted out of project management is changing.  And so there is – you can’t ignore this.  As an individual project manager, you have to decide where you’re going to play.  But there are definitely changes in terms of what people expect from you, even as a traditional project manager these days.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s funny, I’ve heard those rumors of the downfall of project managers, and it makes me think about Mark Twain’s quote of “The rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated,” you know.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right, right.

ANDY CROWE:  And so, yeah, we certainly haven’t seen any lessening in project management.

STEVE KRAUS:  No.

ANDY CROWE:  But I agree with you exactly that what we expect of these people is changing.  And now, suddenly, this taskmaster, somebody who has mastery of all the schedule, all the tasks, all the individual components and the details, that’s becoming a little bit different because nobody can do that well.  Very few people can do that well.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And now we’re turning it over to the team to do self-organization and self-management somewhat.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And it evolves.  So the PM evolves into more of a coaching role often.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  This shift from “I am the god,” right, to “I am the servant” is a very tough transition.  And again, remember, the other thing is on one project you may be the god.  On the next project you’re managing, you are the servant.  And on the third project it may be some mix of the two, based on the needs of the project.  That’s what’s becoming more nuanced.

ANDY CROWE:  I’m getting whiplash just thinking about that transition.

STEVE KRAUS:  It is.  It’s tough; right?  And I think it’s one thing we’re seeing as we continue to interview for folks to fill PM roles.  We can see every candidate dealing with these questions; you know?

BILL YATES:  So the good news that I’m hearing from you, Steve, is the demand is still growing.

STEVE KRAUS:  Absolutely.

BILL YATES:  Both for traditional Waterfall project management – double-digit growth there – plus the new area of Agile or adaptive approaches is very hot, as well.  Hotter, even.  But there’s work for everyone in the project management space.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

PM Skill Sets

BILL YATES:  So when you guys are, you know, you touched on interviewing.  When you’re looking at candidates who are trying to fulfill particular spots, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing these days?  What are some of the skill sets that are really in demand for project managers?

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  So what we’re seeing is, you know, just like anybody, I mean, when we’re interviewing now, we’re interviewing bimodal; right?  We’ve got to know if you’re good at traditional.  We’ve got to know if you’re good at Agile.  The in-between stuff, not most people.  Most people haven’t experienced that yet, but a few have.

What we’re seeing, by the way, I would point out, because of this bimodal trend, right, being just good at Agile isn’t good enough, either.  So when we’re interviewing somebody, we’re looking for somebody who can do both.  And so we’ll see people come in who have extensive Agile experience, have never done traditional project management.  And they can’t answer any questions about that side of it.

ANDY CROWE:  But I can imagine someone who cuts their teeth on one or the other really struggling.

STEVE KRAUS:  Yes.

ANDY CROWE:  The first time I ever fully jumped into an Agile project, it was not easy.

STEVE KRAUS:  No kidding; right.  And so what we’re…

ANDY CROWE:  You have to let go of a lot.

STEVE KRAUS:  You do.  And I think part of it, what we’re seeing on the interview side, just – this is more of a personal show, right, about you as a PM out there in the audience; right?  First of all, my first advice would be, be honest.  A lot of people are being pushed, I believe, by staffing agencies and other people, or even the market alone.  And they’re stacking their résumé with Agile, for instance.  It’s like, when you get into Agile with them, it’s clear they do not understand it.  And first of all, that’s no crime.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

STEVE KRAUS:  Like not everybody’s been exposed to it.  But pretending you have been exposed to it is going to lose you to the job.  Similarly, for the Agile folks who haven’t done traditional project management, you’ve got to be honest about that and say, look, I’m an Agile practitioner.  If you’re looking for someone who has not got that traditional project background, the ideal answer to me is, “Let me tell you what I’m doing to get up to speed on that”; right?  “I’m getting the certifications.  I am doing the studying.  I’m shadowing people who are doing that mode that I’m not familiar with.”  That’s what I would like to hear.  What I don’t want to hear is “I’m an expert in this,” and then it’s like…

BILL YATES:  No, you’re not.

STEVE KRAUS:  No, you’re not.  And by the way, it’s really funny in interviews, people try to be very – we as interviewers try to be very courteous.  But what you see around the room is people going – shaking their head “no.”  You’re already dead, and you don’t know it.  You’re the walking dead; right?  Atlanta, it’s appropriate.  But, you know, that’s something you don’t want.  So part of that is how do you position yourself honestly in terms of your experience level.  And then just come back with what am I doing to get up to speed.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And I think Agile requires a lot of humility in general.

STEVE KRAUS:  Yes.

ANDY CROWE:  As you’re approaching it, that servant leadership idea.  And that’s – it’s easier for some people than others.  You know, what’s funny is I hear you talk about this concept of bimodal.  It reminds me, one of my favorite theories in the world, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in previous podcasts, is Fiedler’s Contingency Theory.  And Fred Fiedler came out and said basically – and it doesn’t apply exactly, but there is an aspect that does.  He says basically you’re either task oriented primarily, or you’re primarily relationship oriented.  And that everybody’s somewhere on a continuum.

And his point was – and this is sort of my interpretation at this point, so I’m melding my opinion with his research now.  But early in your career, being task oriented really works well.  You’re handed a stack of documents, you’re handed a bunch of customer complaints, and you have to just plow through them and get them done.  But as you progress, you have to become more relationship oriented in order to succeed.  In other words, what got you here won’t get you there.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And your success is contingent upon your ability to transition.  And similarly in project management, I’m hearing you say that what you’re interviewing for is somebody who can transition back and forth between or blend best practices between the two.  And I would imagine there are just a lot of people who struggle with that.

STEVE KRAUS:  Yeah.  I think there’s very few people who are truly bimodal in that way; right?  And so but people can play both; right?  The trick is, again, like we talked about earlier, do you want to?  And so one of the stories we’ve talked about as we prepared for the show was I see a lot of traditional PMs coming in, getting their certification; right?  I’m a scrum master now; right?  And one of my favorite stories was I was an Agile coach, so I was helping scrum masters be better at what they do; right?

So I had this new PM who, you know, his first scrum master assignment, they were all excited about it.  And I went into the team room, you know, typically colocate in an Agile process.  I said, “So how’s it going?”  “It’s going good, you know, team’s excited.  It’s great.  We’re getting good results.”

BILL YATES:  Okay.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right?  By the way, that should be immediately, like, interesting about the results; right?  Traditional PMs are very driven by results, no matter what; right?  But how is the team doing?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

STEVE KRAUS:  Team’s getting results.

BILL YATES:  Okay.

STEVE KRAUS:  That’s not what I asked.  And I mentioned earlier, I looked on the board, and I saw Gantt charts.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.

STEVE KRAUS:  For two-week sprints.  You have a Gantt chart for a 10-day sprint.

NICK WALKER:  Okay, what’s a Gantt chart?

STEVE KRAUS:  So a Gantt chart is a traditional project management tool, like six-month-to-a-year projects, where you can see, you know, we’re going to do this from this date to this date, and then we’re going to transition from this date to this date.

ANDY CROWE:  It has horizontal bars, and they kind of represent how long something’s going to take, and they’re stacked up.

NICK WALKER:  Okay.  I get the picture.

STEVE KRAUS:  So instead of seeing a Gantt chart that said here’s a year-long project with a thousand lines, I saw Gantt charts with, like, three or four lines going over 10 days.

ANDY CROWE:  See, that makes it Agile.

STEVE KRAUS:  And I said, “What are those?”  “It’s Gantt charts, and they’re working great.  Like the team knows exactly what they’re going to be doing in every day of the 10 days.”  And I backed off, and I said, “How am I going to deal with this?”  Because that’s not how it works; right?

So what that person was showing was fundamentally they didn’t really understand the Agile principles, never mind the practices, but also were struggling internally with this is how I make a project work.  How can I turn Agile more into the thing I’m used to so I can be comfortable?  And she was very comfortable.  By the way, interesting thing was the team was also comfortable because they were like, oh, this is a traditional project.  That’s what I’m used to running, too.  So let’s have cool Gantt charts.

ANDY CROWE:  Sure.

STEVE KRAUS:  So the team was like, we love people telling us what to do.

ANDY CROWE:  Sure.

STEVE KRAUS:  We’re used to that.  And the point is that’s not where you’re supposed to be as a team.  The goal of the scrum master is to coach.  The goal of the team is to own.  And they weren’t owning.  They were taking direction.  Just like they always did.  And so what was funny was the PM, I should say the PM, but the scrum master was happy.  The team was happy doing it the old way.  And actually the client was happy.  But the Agile principles were all being violated.

ANDY CROWE:  It reminds me of a crazy scene in a Richard Pryor movie from probably the ‘70s.  He’s giving this multilevel marketing presentation to a group of skeptical people.  And one of the people in the audience says, “Hey, how do we know this isn’t some pyramid scheme?”  And he goes, “I’m glad you asked that.”  He flips a chart, and it has a pyramid with the top lopped off.  He said, “This is a trapezoid.  It’s that fourth side of the trapezoid that guarantees you unlimited wealth.”  And everybody’s nodding and buying it at this point.

STEVE KRAUS:  Yes, yes.

BILL YATES:  Right.  So this is Agile.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s not a Gantt chart.  This is an Agile chart.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right, exactly right.  Right.

BILL YATES:  That’s hilarious.

STEVE KRAUS:  So the point is that person I was working with wasn’t really comfortable with this new role they had; right?  And so they tried to convert it to something they were used to and good at.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s natural.

STEVE KRAUS:  Natural.  Natural thing.  While if they had stepped back before they took the role, or maybe stepped back after they got their certification and said, you know, how is this new process going to ask me to change?  And do I want to change?  Like a lot of the PMs I work with are Type A personalities.  They’re drivers.  They don’t trust people.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.

STEVE KRAUS:  And the process assumes people are unreliable.

ANDY CROWE:  Not all Type A people are distrustful.

STEVE KRAUS:  Okay.  I’m not saying that.  There’s clearly a spectrum here.  But a lot of the PMs I meet who are that personality, they love it.  And when they’re asked to become a servant leader, they don’t love it.  Can they do it is different do they love it; right?

BILL YATES:  Steve, one of the things when I was talking through content and looking at some of the points that you’ve spoken to before, I was fascinated by a slide that you had.  It really made me start thinking about the different – the mindset of a leader in an Agile team versus a traditional team.  And just some of these points that you’re bringing up, it’s like, where, if I’m that person, where am I more comfortable?  Am I more comfortable being the general?

STEVE KRAUS:  The general; right.

BILL YATES:  Or the generalist, you know, leading a team.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

BILL YATES:  So there are some of those that you can see play out.  Let’s just talk through some of those characteristics.  If you’re talking to that person who’s trying to decide, you know, where am I most comfortable – you mentioned servant leader.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

BILL YATES:  Am I comfortable embracing the role of servant leader?  Or am I more accustomed to being, no, no, no, I’m the one that everybody turns to, and I tell them what to do?

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  I mean, it’s a lot like Hollywood; right?  So there’s two types of directors.  My uncle’s in the business; okay?  There’s two types of directors.  One is the directive director.  It’s like, here’s how I want it to go.  Nothing off script.  Nothing.  You know, execute, please.  Right?  The second kind of director is the person who gets the most out of their actors by letting them have some freedom; right?  The classic thing to me is the classic PM is usually more directive:  “We are going to do this.”  While the coach is more about questions:  “How do we feel about how the project is going?”

I had something yesterday, exact model of this.  It says, “Classic PM would say where is your project plan?”  We’re just starting the project.  And it’s a third party, so we’re kind of managing a third party; right?  And they have a PM, as well.  And it’s like, where’s your project plan; right?  As a coach it’s more like, are you ready to produce a project plan?  And if you’re not, why are you not?  What are you uncomfortable with that would not allow you to go in front of our management and tell us?  And that’s what I need to know because I can work on those things with you to help you resolve those issues.  So now you are comfortable.  The classic PM would have been, “Where’s your damn project plan?”

ANDY CROWE:  You know, I just got out of a sailing school, believe it or not.

STEVE KRAUS:  Oh, sailing, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  Which was just something I always wanted to do, and it was two weeks of living on a boat.  One of the things that applies to this, though, we took turns cooking.  And the skipper who was doing the instruction would go, and he would look around.  Like people are constantly, when you’re on the ocean, they’re constantly coming up to you and saying, “Hey, I’ve got tuna.  I’ve just got fresh lobster.  We just caught X, Y, and Z.”  Well, he would take these things and look at it and go, “Okay, what ingredients do we have?  What can we do with this?  How should we marinate this?  How should we do whatever?”  Me, I’m, like, “Give me a recipe.  I don’t want to be creative.”

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  I need a formula to follow.  But that’s more my personality.  And so…

STEVE KRAUS:  Naturally.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, naturally.  That’s my natural bent is you give me a recipe, I can follow.  I’m pretty good in a kitchen.  But you give me a bunch of Iron Chef, you open a refrigerator, and here’s your ingredients, I’m not going to be as strong.

STEVE KRAUS:  And that’s a real skill a scrum master should have because many of the people on your team, like we mentioned earlier, would love for you to just give them a recipe.

ANDY CROWE:  Oh, yeah.

STEVE KRAUS:  I’m a coder.  I just want to code.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

STEVE KRAUS:  I don’t want to think about why we’re doing this or how we could do it better.  Just tell me what you want today, and I’ll go to my desk and do that.

ANDY CROWE:  Tell me the outcomes you want and how we’re going to measure them, and give me the test cases in advance, and we’ll be fine.

STEVE KRAUS:  So that’s one of the challenges of the scrum master you have is I’ve got to get you out of that mode.  Like, no, this is we, not me.  The second part is I’ve got to get myself out of that mode that says oh, you want direction?  I know how to give direction.  No.  I’m not, I’m going to intentionally not give you direction.  Even though I have it.  As a PM in my head it’s just running.  I got it, I got it, I got it.  As a scrum master, I have to sit back and say I’m not going to – nope, I’m not going to give them the direction I’ve got in my head.  They’ve got to figure this out.

NICK WALKER:  It sounds like it’s admirable or desirable to be able to be good at both of these.  And so say you’ve got somebody who already has Waterfall down, but is like, you know, I could do Agile.  How can somebody actually get those skills and get that mindset and sort of make that transition?

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  So I think there’s two parts to that.  That’s a great question.  The first one is how do I get some exposure to this?  It’s the classic chicken and egg thing; right?  Even for your career, which is, “So, you don’t have any Agile experience.  Well, I guess you’re done.”

BILL YATES:  Right.

STEVE KRAUS:  No, you’ve got to demonstrate, you’ve got to find a way to get a taste of it.  Right?  So at your current company find an Agile team.  Go observe them.  Right?  Shadow this scrum master.  Shadow the team.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  Find a mentor.

STEVE KRAUS:  Find a mentor, someone who’s done it.  Sure, get the certification.  But then sit down with somebody who’s done it and say, now, tell me what the real – how this really works.  That’s what I find helps decide both things.  One is it helps me understand what I’m really getting into versus just the book.  Like I read the book, whatever.  The second thing is it does start to give you that taste of is this for me?  Wow, that person has a real skill in terms of handling relationships and handling people.  I might need some more training on that before I can really play that role; you know?

And the point is that kind of – what I’m finding is that kind of proactive preparation shows up in the interviews.  Even if you haven’t done it.  Because what you see, and I think you’ve seen the same thing, is the key to me is they start using the language the right way; right?  So they can have a certification, and they know the words.  But it’s when you listen to somebody, and they use the words in a context, where you can tell you’ve seen this before.  You’ve been in a scrum room.  And you start nodding your head, not no, but you start nodding your head going yes.  And then you combine that with, “But I don’t have all the experience I would like to have, but my goal is to get more.”  That’s when you see people in the room nodding their head yes.

BILL YATES:  So you’re a big proponent for self-awareness.  So if somebody needs to first of all realize…

STEVE KRAUS:  Zen, yes.  Meditation.

BILL YATES:  I can see that’s in you as a project manager.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

BILL YATES:  But in all seriousness, as a project manager, we need to know what our strengths are.  And if I’ve got areas that are weak, but I think, hey, I’m really interested in growing that side of me, maybe it’s an Agile practice, or for the Agilist it’d be the other way around.  But then again, looking at it and going, okay, is this really going to work out for me long term?  Is this something that I could be really good at?  Could I bring value to an organization with this skill set?  And will I enjoy my job?

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

BILL YATES:  Is this going to burn me out and make me miserable?

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

Move on, Move up, Move in.

BILL YATES:  Those are good questions to ask.  Now, one of the strategies that I like that you have put forth is, okay, when you come to this big question of is Agile right for me, you say either “move on,” “move up,” or “move in.”

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

BILL YATES:  So the “move in” is move in to Agile.  So find a mentor, find a coach, find examples.

STEVE KRAUS:  Sure.  Go for it.

BILL YATES:  Go for it.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

BILL YATES:  What do you mean by “move up,” for instance?

STEVE KRAUS:   “Move up” is a lot of project managers are ideal people to move up in their organizations, and typically do; right?  Most of the – a lot of the managers you see, the directors, are really former PM or PM-like people.  So there’s tremendous opportunity to move up and basically out of kind of the traditional project management role.

BILL YATES:  So you could be a program manager.  You could be a product manager or product owner.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.  So move up the scale; right.  Go to portfolio level.  Go to program level.  Those are still there, and they’re still very traditional.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right?  So that’s up.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  What about “move on”?

STEVE KRAUS:  You know, “move on” is just maybe this isn’t where your career needs to be.

BILL YATES:  Okay.  So don’t try to force being an Agilist.

STEVE KRAUS:  Right.

BILL YATES:  Embrace who you are.

STEVE KRAUS:  And some of that might be just find the companies, and they’re out there, who, I mean, how long this strategy will last, I don’t know.  But there are still companies out there that are still very traditional.  And those niches are out there.  You know, in the case of software development, you clearly can move onto something like construction that is much more traditional.  So take your same PM skills, move them somewhere else where you’re not going to face some of the challenges you’re facing perhaps in software development.

NICK WALKER:  Just a real quick question before we wrap it up here.

STEVE KRAUS:  Sure.

NICK WALKER:  How can somebody get more information about Agile, to find out if it might be right for them?

STEVE KRAUS:  Wow, okay.  Wow, if you can’t find information about Agile, you’re not trying very hard.  So, you know, clearly the PMI has a whole, in Atlanta, at least, has a whole forum around Agile.

BILL YATES:  Right.

STEVE KRAUS:  As does IBA.  So there are lots of venues out there free of charge.  You can go and attend and learn more about it.  And by the way, those people presenting, I present a lot there.  Those people presenting are deep into actually doing it.  So you can start to get some of that flavor we talked about earlier.  The second thing that I mentioned earlier was just find somebody who’s doing it.  It doesn’t have to be even your company.  Like go to the PMI, find some people at other companies are doing it, and ask if you can shadow them; right?  The point is there’s a lot of people out there doing it.  Yes, you can read a book.  But at some point you’ve got to put the book down, and you’ve got to go see it.  Go see it; right?

NICK WALKER:  Yes.  Well, Steve, thanks so much.  We appreciate your perspective.  We appreciate your take on this issue.  Before you go, we do have a gift for you.

STEVE KRAUS:  The mug.

NICK WALKER:  Yes.  This is the famous Manage This coffee mug.  And it works equally well for Waterfall and Agile practitioners.

STEVE KRAUS:  Fantastic.

NICK WALKER:  Thanks again for being with us.  Appreciate it.

STEVE KRAUS:  Thank you.

NICK WALKER:  We also want to thank our listeners for helping us by telling us what you’d like to hear on Manage This.  Please don’t stop.  Send us your questions and what kind of guests you’d like to hear from.  Just go to the Velociteach Facebook page and use the comments section.

In turn, we want to help you.  One way we do that is by providing PDUs, Professional Development Units, just for listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps.

That’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on October 16th for our next podcast.  In the meantime you can always 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 our podcasts or about project management certifications.  We’re here for you.

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

6 responses to “Episode 66 – Is Agile Right For me?”

  1. Antonio Enriquez says:

    The Topic of agile is very interesting all the times, because many times we think it doesn’t apply, this is why this is a very good way to learn about Agile.
    The presentation was very good.

    Just one question about the Claim PDUs for PMI, because when I went to PMI, the Podcast is not registered, and the same happened with the previous Podcast. Will it be registered in PMI?

    • Wendy Grounds says:

      Hi Antonio, Thank you for your comment. We have already submitted it for registration. PMI sometimes has a delay in making it available but you should be able to find it now. The PDU’s for the last episode are also available.

  2. Katrina Clemons says:

    This was extremely informative! I’m PMP certified and have dual tendencies of being a traditional PM and the “coach”. Its my natural personality and I’ll continue to explore agility going forward. Thanks guys!

  3. Marie-France D'Aoust says:

    This episode was great! This podcast actually made me think about going for my Agile certification in the next year or two. Thank you!

  4. Wendy Grounds says:

    We hope our podcasts inspire many listeners! Thanks for you comment Marie-France.

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