ET-006: Mastering communications and projects in a hybrid world
ET-006: Mastering communications and projects in a hybrid world
by Wayne Brown on August 9, 2022
by Wayne Brown on August 9, 2022
Episode notes: A conversation with Phil Simon
The way we work has continually and consistently evolved. The pace at which we are changing has been accelerating thanks to technological developments over the last 50 years. Today the way we do things is very different from even 5 years ago and this includes the way we manage our projects.
And thanks to COVID many of these changes have been accelerated. One significant shift has been our transition to remote and hybrid workplaces. Because of this transition, the way that we work has been altered and those that master these changes will thrive while others will flounder.
Leaders and organizations to be considering the impact of an environment where employees have never met each other in person and the consequences that this brings. They need to ensure the alignment of our systems and tools, including our communications and information-sharing platforms. During today’s conversation, we’ll be exploring the question at the core of Phil’s book.
How are we supposed to successfully complete projects when we often don’t know where and when essential contributors are working and what they’re doing!
Today’s Guest: MR. PHIL SIMON
In today’s episode, our guest is an award-winning author with 12 titles under his belt and a couple more in the pipeline. It’s none other than the very knowledgeable and extremely delightful Mr. Phil Simon.
Phil’s a sought-after speaker and recognized authority on technology, collaboration, communication and analytics. Of his dozen business books, the most recent is Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace, and it is what we’re going to be exploring in our conversation today.
He holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University and considers himself a technology and analytics professor for hire. As well, Phil is the host of the Conversations About Collaboration podcast, where he chats with guests about collaboration and adjacent topics such as the future of work, remote work, communication, creativity, productivity, technology, workplace culture, and business processes.
Phil Simon’s book – Project Management in a Hybrid Workplace:
- If you are looking for a thought-provoking read that gets you focused and moving in the right direction immediately, then this is the book for you.
- If you want to understand the current workforce shift and why COVID has changed the center of our world from being professionals living for work to now holding our personal lives first and foremost, then this is the book for you.
- If you are wondering how different cognitive biases will play out in this new world for leaders and for workers, then this is the book for you.
- If you wish to understand the role that technology can and will play in this transition, then this is the book for you.
- If you wish to explore the concept of WIP and the potential issues that can stem from hiccups in a project’s supply chain, then this is the book for you.
What You’ll Learn
Phil Simon has produced a great book for those wanting to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges and positive potential that can exist in our bold new world of remote and hybrid workplaces when running our projects.
Here’s a handful of the items you’ll learn about,
– The debate between being a Resilient versus an Efficient organization
– Understand contemporary project management
– How to reevaluate your vetting process
– Case study examples of the implications when running remote/hybrid projects
– Much more awaits…
Final words of wisdom from Phil:
“A return to normalcy is exciting me and trying to be safe because COVID isn’t going anywhere just because we want it to. But trying to resume a normal life, going to concerts and comedy shows, visiting friends, so hopefully doing some in-person speaking gigs to support the book, because even though we may return to the office, there may be some exceptions, I just don’t believe that we will be returning to 09:00 to 05:00 Monday through Friday world of work.
I think certain jobs find, if you work security, in the physical kind, not the IT kind, you kind of need to be at the building. But for many knowledge worker-type jobs, we will be doing it in a mix of in-person or at your home or… I know Airbnb is trying to brand itself as not a travel company, but a living company, so I can live in a place for two months and work and do whatever.
So yeah, I’m excited to get into it because I like to think that the book is particularly topical since companies have struggled for a long time with regular project management, and that’s when we could tap people on the shoulder, I could say, “Hey, Wayne, I didn’t understand what you said in a meeting,” and now we’ve replaced that in some cases with…
Or many cases, I’ll send you a message in Slack or LinkedIn or Microsoft Teams, or I’ll get on your calendar and before you know it, we had a slight Zoom hiccup before, we figured it out, but if you add up those hiccups over the course of a day or a week or an entire project, and we were only threading the needle about three times in five according to the PMI, I fail to see how that number increases.”
Episode Topic: Mastering communications and projects in a hybrid world
0:00:00.0 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m Wayne Brown and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re referring to as Team ET. In today’s episode, our guest is a prolific award-winning author with 12 titles under his belt and a couple more in the pipeline. It’s none other than the very knowledgeable and extremely delightful Mr. Phil Simon.
0:00:28.8 WB: Phil’s a sought after speaker and recognized authority on technology, collaboration, communication and analytics. Of his dozen business books, the most recent is Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace, and it’s what we’re going to be exploring in our conversation today.
0:00:47.7 WB: Some of the other titles include, Re-imagining Collaboration, Message Not Received, and The Age of the Platform. Phil contributes to Harvard Business Review, CNN, Inc, The New York Times, Wired, NBC, CNBC, the Huffington Post, Business Week, and many other prominent media outlets.
0:01:11.1 WB: He holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University, and considers himself a technology and analytics professor for hire. As well, Phil is the host of Conversations About Collaboration podcast, where he chats with guests about collaboration and adjacent topics such as the future of work, remote work, communication, creativity, productivity, technology, workplace culture and business processes.
0:01:39.9 WB: So with that, I welcome all of you to get comfortable and ready for some intense note-taking as you listen to Phil Simon and I discuss mastering comms and projects in a hybrid world.
0:01:57.9 Speaker: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.
0:02:18.2 WB: Alright, so this morning we welcome Phil Simon to the ET Project. Welcome, Phil. Great to have you on the show. I hope everything’s good your end.
0:02:26.8 Phil Simon: Yeah, knock on wood, all things are going well. Thanks for having me, Wayne.
0:02:30.4 WB:Fantastic. I normally start with seeing if the guest has any fun facts they like to share?
0:02:37.5 PS: I am full of fun facts, I’ll give you one that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. About six weeks ago, I went to San Francisco and got to meet and have a quick conversation with both the actors, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad, my favorite show, so that did not suck.
0:02:56.1 WB: I saw your image online I think. It looked like you were quite happy.
0:03:01.2 PS: Yeah, I normally don’t smile too much in pictures, for whatever reason, but I give myself an A plus for acting like a normal human being and just engaging them as people, asking them about their… Aaron Paul has a new baby, and Bryan Cranston was doing a play in Los Angeles, but not being all effusive and slavery and, “I love you,” and all that. Just acting very cool. I wasn’t sure that I could pull it off.
0:03:28.8 WB: Very nice.
0:03:31.7 PS: And I did give them each a copy of the book that we’re going to talk about today, and I brought Bryan Cranston’s memoir, A Life in Parts, and he signed it, on the signature put, “To a fellow writer.” Because we’re peers.
0:03:47.7 PS: We’re on the same plane, sure. So we go with that. Alright, whatever.
0:03:51.4 WB: It’d be a great story to tell the grandkids. Excellent. Anything out there in the world exciting you at the moment?
0:04:00.0 PS: Lots of things that are frustrating me.
0:04:04.1 PS: A return to normalcy is exciting me and trying to be safe ’cause COVID isn’t going anywhere just ’cause we want it to. But trying to resume a normal life, going to concerts and comedy shows, visiting friends, so hopefully doing some in-person speaking gigs to support the book, because even though we may return to the office, there may be some exceptions but I just don’t believe that we will be returning to 09:00 to 05:00 Monday through Friday world of work.
0:04:34.8 PS: I think certain jobs find, if you work security, in the physical kind, not the IT kind, you kinda need to be at the building. But for many knowledge worker-type jobs, we will be doing it in a mix of in person or at your home or… I know Airbnb is trying to brand itself as not a travel company, but a living company, so I can live in a place for two months and work and do whatever.
0:05:05.7 PS: So yeah, I’m excited to get into it because I like to think that the book is particularly topical since companies have struggled to for a long time with regular project management, and that’s when we could tap people on the shoulder, I could say, “Hey, Wayne, I didn’t understand what you said in a meeting,” and now we’ve replaced that in some cases with…
0:05:24.2 PS: Or many cases with, I’ll send you a message in Slack or LinkedIn or Microsoft Teams, or I’ll get on your calendar and before you know it, we had a slight Zoom hiccup before, we figured it out, but if you add up those hiccups over the course of a day or a week or an entire project, and we were only threading the needle about three times in five according to the PMI, I fail to see how that number increases.
0:05:50.8 WB: Right. Well, we’ll jumping into the book in a moment, one final question before we do that. You have a very diverse career, and looking at your bio, looking at the book, etcetera, anything stand out during your career that you believe might be of interest for our listeners’ executive talents?
0:06:14.3 PS: Oh gosh, a single highlight?
0:06:16.3 WB: Well, you can make it more than one.
0:06:21.2 PS: For other executives, nothing strikes me as particularly interesting, but maybe that’s because I’ve done a few interesting things. I will say this, I really value the time that I spent as a college professor teaching so many different courses because I had a certain background doing enterprise systems and writing and speaking, but when I began teaching as a college professor, I became exposed to a whole different set of technologies and programming languages and applications and even methodologies.
0:06:55.5 PS: So yeah, I don’t know if that’s of interest to executives, but I guess the polite way to say it is that my career has not been linear, to use a 50 cent word, some might call it peripatetic.
0:07:05.8 WB: “Peripatetic”. I’ll have to look that one up. [chuckle] But thank you.
0:07:12.5 PS: Alright. Or circuitous, if you like, but yeah, I’m a fan of words, but hopefully I dropped those 50 cent ones fairly infrequently in the book, one of my biggest pet peeves is writers who are attempting to show off and I’m trying to communicate when I write, which is to make common not too confused, to paraphrase the late great George Carlin. So yeah, let’s rock and roll in the book, I’m ready.
0:07:37.4 WB: The book again, the title, Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace, I personally found it’s a treasure trove, different insights, and you really talk about ways of overcoming challenges, both in remote and hybrid workplaces, particularly a project management perspective. A question that came to mind as I’m going through it, do you have any specific areas that you look for when you’re deciding if a project is going to be the right fit for you?
0:08:07.9 PS: It’s funny that you mention that. I don’t believe that I included this one in the book, but Wayne I’ve said for a long time now, if I could have one professional superpower, it would be to identify which clients are going to be quite frankly a pain in the ass. Back when I wrote my first book, I threw out this theory that I’ve noticed in my years of consulting.
0:08:30.7 PS: There are three types of people in the world or three groups. Those that get it, I love those people. Those that don’t get it and wanna get it. Actually I like those people even more, because they recognize that the application or methodology you’re told that they’re using isn’t sufficient and they want to get better.
0:08:51.3 PS: The last group I want to avoid, and that is the people who don’t get it and don’t wanna get it. Why they hire someone like me is beyond me. More than a few times in my career, has someone said, “Why do you keep insisting upon doing it this way or using this tool?” I said, “Well, I did say this repeatedly before we signed papers.” “Oh, you actually meant that?” “Yeah, I actually meant that.”
0:09:16.5 PS: I recently completed an engagement and unfortunately the head of the organization fell into that third bucket, and it just didn’t make sense to continue because I was going to make recommendations at a pretty good hourly rate that he was going to ignore, and it wouldn’t surprise me in six months or a year, that executive reached back, but as they say in our neck of the woods at least, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.
0:09:44.0 WB: Very nice. In the book, you touch on organizations, they can fall under two categories, one being a resilient approach in the way that they are structured, and the other being very efficient organization. Resilience in this case, a little bit different terminology to what mainstream may think of it. Would you care expand on those two words?
0:10:10.6 PS: Yeah. Well, the genesis in Chapter 4, Wayne is that there are significant parallels between how an organization manages its human resources, its people, and its physical resources. So in the book, I use the example of car makers. If they make their own tires, they need rubber to do that. If they make their own engines, there are materials that they need. And you can run very lean and not have any extra, and then if there’s a delayed shipment for tires, it’s really hard to ship a car without one. I suppose that you can. Or an engine, that’s not feasible.
0:10:49.1 PS: The same thing applies with people. So if I’ve got a project that’s staffed for perfection and everyone works at full capacity all the time, and no one ever gets sick, no one ever makes a mistake, no one ever quits, you’re basically planning for perfection, which is insane.
0:11:07.3 PS: So intelligent organizations can’t pay a ton of people to sit around and do nothing, I understand that, but in the book I make a few parallels with say, a hospital. So nurses get paid in some cases to be at home. That’s called “on-call pay”, and if they get called in, they can’t be on an island in Aruba if their hospital is in Washington DC.
0:11:32.6 PS: So some organizations recognize the importance of having a bench, sporting organizations or franchises are another example of that, but in my career, I’ve seen many organizations plan on perfection and then when one little thing breaks bad, before you know it the whole thing collapses.
0:11:52.0 PS: So the point of the book isn’t to guarantee a successful project, it’s the take steps to mitigate risks and increase the chances of a successful outcome, and one of the ways you can do that is recognize that the same way that you only have so much rubber to make so many tires, you only have so many people around to do so many different things.
0:12:10.1 PS: Plus, and this is a nod to a great software book by Fredric Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month, nine women can’t have a baby in a month. So sometimes if you bring on a new person, the team or the person in charge is less productive because you have to show someone how to do something, you have train to someone, versus if you said, “Hey Wayne, how do you do this?” “Look, I don’t have time explain to you, I’m just gonna do it.”
0:12:34.4 WB: Yeah. Is there any rule of thumb for trying to find that happy medium between being too lean and having too much baggage? How would you go about finding that?
0:12:50.7 PS: I’m unaware of a formula, but to me, the bigger the team and the tighter you run it, arguably the bigger the risk of a downstream impact. So in the extreme, if you’ve only got one person to do something, that person leaves, you’re screwed.
0:13:08.3 WB: Right.
0:13:08.4 PS: So could you bring on someone to shadow that person, just in case? Sure, but there in theory is a person sitting around doing nothing. If you’ve got 50 college professors like my previous employer in the information citizens department, if you want it really tight, even one person leaving can result in all sorts of dominoes falling.
0:13:29.9 PS: I tell the example in the book of how a faculty member choosing not to return caused all sorts of havoc, because professors were away for the summer and they didn’t think they’d have to learn any new programming language or classes. Would you find someone who’s willing to do it. It’s a complex thing. I don’t have the answer, I’m not smart enough.
0:13:54.0 PS: But hopefully by at least broaching that particular subject in Chapter 4, people will be aware of it, because right now we’re still in the midst of the Great Resignation. I don’t know where, how it is in your neck of the woods, but here in the US, the labor market is historically tight, it’s something like 40%.
0:14:11.2 WB: Right.
0:14:12.2 PS: And to the extent that hybrid and remote work have intensified employee attrition, someone doesn’t need to leave and move across the country to take a new job, someone could fly in once a month or once a quarter, or work exclusively remotely. So this idea that we have exactly the number of people we need, we’re fine indefinitely, is just patently absurd. It always been, I argue it’s even more absurd now because COVID intensified a number of trends, remote work was certainly one of them.
0:14:46.8 WB: And I guess that would lead into looking at scaling of the business and using technology, as you just mentioned, people don’t now need to be on-site. They can be remote, they can be available or accessible as you need them, provided you do the planning for it.
0:15:07.0 PS: Yes and no. I reject the notion that people never need to meet their colleagues. I shudder to think at an organization and its culture, if you’re just a Skype or Microsoft Teams or Zoom image or avatar or something. So there is real value in bringing people together, but that also causes problems.
0:15:29.0 PS: In the book I write about how hybrid work is actually the most complex. If everyone works remotely all the time and everyone works in person all the time, there’s no proximity bias. Which is a fancy way of saying that if I see you in the office, Wayne, I think that you’re working hard. But if I don’t see Brian or Aaron, who are they? I don’t know? What do they do all day? Couldn’t tell you. While in reality, you could not be doing very much at all, and they could be working their fannies off.
0:15:55.8 PS: So that’s a significant problem. In the book, I site research from Slack’s Future Forum about how something like 41% of senior managers believe that proximity bias is the number one challenge in the future of work.
0:16:09.1 WB: It’s a nice lead-in to the next question. I was gonna ask you about unconscious cognitive biases. I see proximity bias has a couple of angles to it. From a leader’s perspective, it’s also challenging to be out to gauge the effectiveness of the workers today. It works both ways, right? So from the employee’s perspective, it’s challenging to be seen and recognized, from the leader’s perspective it’s just as challenging perhaps.
0:16:38.6 PS: It’s a really thorny issue, Wayne. I don’t have all the solutions. Certainly, it starts with recognizing that it is a problem, but I’ve long rejected the notion and quite frankly, pissed off some of my managers in my consulting career when they said, “What are you doing?” I said, “It’s 04:30, I’m gonna go. I got here at 07:00 AM, I worked through lunch. It’s Friday. We’re not going live tomorrow. If it’s an absolute emergency, you’ve got a way to contact me, what’s the problem?”
0:17:11.0 PS: They didn’t see me get in at 07:00 in the morning, they didn’t watch over my shoulder what I was doing. And that’s long been a problem. I think the challenge now is that we’ve had over two years of working in a hybrid remote capacity, again, I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but we don’t wanna give that up.
0:17:29.3 PS: It used to be that our work lives were the center of our universes and our personal lives orbited them. Well, over the last two years, we’ve inverted that. Now our work lives revolve around our personal lives, and many workers, a majority are willing to quit. That they don’t wanna revert to hour-and-a-half commutes and bosses looking over their shoulder, and showing up for just the sake of face time.
0:17:54.5 PS: So that’s a real challenge for leaders, what does the future office look like? What does the future of work look like? What does a project look like? And that’s one of the reasons I wrote this book. I don’t think that the same methods that automatically “worked last time” will work this time, so there are prescriptions in the book, like post mortems and pilots that I think organizations really need to take seriously.
0:18:19.7 PS: I would argue that they should have done things like that, particularly on large projects with newer teams and uncertain objectives, but if you’re doing it in a hybrid capacity, that need is just accentuated.
0:18:31.4 WB: Yeah, for sure. You touch on a few other biases as well, the halo effect, confirmation bias, honeymoon effect. Maybe out of those three, the honeymoon effect is least familiar, at least to me. Could you dabble in what that’s all about?
0:18:48.3 PS: Yeah. At a high level, we start a new relationship, hence the honeymoon. We start a new job, we move to a new town, we buy a new car, we feel good about what we did, right? No one forced us to walk down the aisle, no one forced us to take this job. So we’ll want to give people the benefit of the doubt.
0:19:05.9 PS: I know that in my career as a college professor, when I started off I saw things that didn’t make any sense, and I specifically said, “You’ve moved yourself, you sold your home, you bought a new one. Give them the benefit of the doubt.” And I did for a while until I stopped doing it as much, and before I know it, it was the opposite. But it’s reasonable for us as human beings, we’re imperfect creatures, we are designed to want things to work out, “Oh, this won’t be a problem.”
0:19:36.6 PS: Again, the project I just finished on, I was trying to explain to the particular leader that there’s a chance that his company will not be able to function in a year. I put it at at least 10%. “I don’t wanna hear it.” Honeymoon effect. Or optimism bias, or whatever you wanna call it. Or maybe I’m just a naysayer, or maybe he just has a confirmation bias going because he sees things through his lens, and who am I to tell him as a successful business owner that he needs to make major changes.
0:20:08.8 PS: I understand that. I don’t have a traditional technology or project management background, getting back to one of your previous questions, Wayne. Again, I’ve had this really circuitous career. If I wanted to be a project manager or an enterprise technology expert, I certainly would not have studied labor relations in grad school and economics at Carnegie Mellon as an undergrad.
0:20:31.8 PS: But because I approach things from more of a humanities or people-oriented perspective, I don’t assume that it’s necessarily the tech. One of the points I’ve made many times before is, people love to blame technology because it can’t blame us back. Well, if the technology isn’t working, why?
0:20:50.7 PS: Well, at this point, we don’t have full sentience with the artificial intelligence, so people build applications and systems, and people make mistake, because sometimes people don’t communicate with others. So there usually is a human reason, if you go back to something like root cause analysis, there’s a reason that someone didn’t do something. It’s unlikely that the technology just turned on today and said, “I don’t feel like working.”
0:21:22.4 WB: Very nice. Yeah, we have a lot of biases that play a role in our every day activities. Talking about tech, what are the key platforms that you typically use during the day? I know that you train organizations in the use of Slack and other similar platforms. What’s the main impact form for you at the moment?
:21:49.8 PS: Right now Wayne, I’ve been messing around a lot with Notion. I don’t know if you’ve heard about that?
0:21:53.9 WB: No.
0:21:56.2 PS: Notion is a bit hard to describe, but you’re right, I help organizations with Slack and Zoom, and I wrote books about those, the Dummies books. And some of my consulting work is around getting them to think less about discrete applications and more about integrating them.
0:22:15.2 PS: Notion is, it’s a little tough to describe. It’s a little bit like Google Docs on steroids, but you can easily create these many applications, so if you wanted to set up a web page or a document or a database or a table/spreadsheet, but using it to do research for a couple of book projects that I’m working on, or with clients rather than… I don’t send email attachments.
0:22:42.1 PS: And something like Slack or Microsoft Teams or Zoom, you’ve got the ability to create these miniature posts, and that’s fine, you can always link to a Google Doc or a sheet, but with Notion, you’re creating these very rich documents inside and you can do a lot with it. But over the last month, I’ve been just fascinated with it, I probably watched 50 YouTube videos about different things you can do, and I was actually able to turn on a couple of my clients do it, it’s a really powerful tool that is a little bit like Google Docs on steroids.
0:23:14.5 WB: Sounds interesting, I’ll look into it some more. We’re coming to the end of the discretion, but anything in terms of your book that we haven’t spoken about that you would like to highlight?
0:23:28.4 PS: I’ll basically give away the ending. I don’t have the secret sauce. I can’t tell you, “If you read the book on page 237, your medical, electronic medical system if you’re a hospital, the solution to that problem is in that page.” But there are a lot of things we can do to improve our batting averages, and the the book really is about, a lot of my books in a way, probabilistic thinking.
0:23:52.5 PS: There are, again, good bits and bad bits, but there’s always uncertainty, there’s always risk. But as far as I know, and there’s something like 30,000 books on Amazon on project management last time I checked, a very small percentage of them dropped after COVID.
0:24:15.9 PS: The book doesn’t advance a new methodology, it’s not my own take on Scrum or my own take on Phase Gate or the Waterfall method, but I think that to kind of sum up, it provides a lot of necessary background with charts and data and summaries and all that, but I think the case studies and the side bars are particularly instructive because it really, I think, allows the lesson to hit home for the reader, rather than just saying, “Do this, don’t do that.”
0:24:41.9 PS: I hate books like that, I don’t read books like that. I’m a big fan of the phrase, “Show me, don’t tell me.” So here’s an extended case study, for example, of a project that broke bad, and here are some things we can learn about it. But hopefully it starts a conversation and hopefully people will check it out.
0:25:01.2 WB: Yeah. Certainly there’s a huge amount in there for people that are interested in this area of business and organizations, leading organizations. Just the final question on methodology of project management. I know this is a huge area, I’m not looking for a lecture on the differences.
0:25:21.0 WB: But why would I choose, as a person that grew up in project management using the traditional approach, Waterfall, why would I look at Agile as an alternative? What sort of criteria would lead me in that direction?
0:25:41.2 PS: Well you mentioned before, Wayne, that you had a background in construction. I know nothing about building bridges, but I would imagine that when you say, “This bridge is ready to go,” it needs to be ready to go.
0:25:53.8 WB: Right.
0:25:54.7 PS: And that means months or months of work, and a lot of meticulous planning and resource allocation and all that. And you’ll never hear me say otherwise. I don’t wanna be driving over a bridge and my car gives way [chuckle] and next thing you know, I’m crashing into the ground or the ocean or something.
0:26:12.7 PS: But there a lot of projects just aren’t like that, a lot of products that aren’t like that. One of the examples that I’ll use is with Netflix. Netflix a couple of years ago, allowed users on mobile devices to download TV shows or movies or the specials, documentaries.
0:26:30.2 PS: Netflix had been live for what, 20 years? Reed Hastings co-founded the company in 1998. If they had said, “We’re not launching this until we have this functionality,” they would have had to wait 20 years, in which case I’m sure that the folks at Blockbuster would have said, “Maybe we should get away from video stores.”
0:26:47.2 PS: That’s just one simple example. But no, for a drug, for in many cases, an enterprise resource planning system, it needs to be accurate from the beginning. I would hate to, in the US with Sarbanes-Oxley and some of the financial disclosure laws, a CEO and a CFO of a publicly traded company can go to jail for signing false documents.
0:27:10.2 PS: I am not a politician or a regulator, but I think that the legitimate defense isn’t, “Well, we’re using Agile, so it was accurate now, but it really wasn’t. It will be accurate later.” No, that needs to be accurate from the beginning. So I understand the differences between the two, and the answer is at the risk of sounding like a stereotypical consultant, it depends.
0:27:34.7 PS: However, when I hear, and I make this point in the book, people talk about WAgile or AgileFall, I just roll my eyes. That actually occurred to me on a recent project that I was doing for a client, and the consulting firm was basically picking what they like from each one. And needless to say, the implementation of the new application or the new system was not going particularly well.
0:27:55.5 PS: There’s a reason that those things are very different, and the analogy I make in the book, and I’m pretty sure I’m the first person to ever do this in the history of a project management book, doing WAgile or AgileFall is kind of like saying, “We’re in an ethically monogamous relationship on Monday after a leap year in odd numbered months, unless of course, there’s a full moon.”
0:28:18.7 PS: It’s so convoluted, eventually one party will break the covenant without even knowing. So pick a lane. But the idea that I can pick what I want from another, it’s just insane. So in the case of a construction project, no, you wouldn’t do it an Agile way, but if Facebook or Google or any number of applications that don’t need to work immediately on everything, with the Waterfall method, they’d never launch and they would fail.
0:28:49.6 PS: Because a true Agile project, let’s say you using Scrum and you’ve got a product backlog or a sprint backlog, if you’re just with a product backlog going through them in order, that’s not really agile, right? Is you would want to move things up. So if I competed with Netflix, let’s say I’m Amazon Prime, using the previous example, and Netflix allowed users the ability to download videos, so if they’re in a plane that doesn’t get good WiFi.
0:29:20.6 PS: But if I’m Amazon Prime and that was my 50th most important user story, the product owner is gonna go, “We need to move that up.” But you can’t do that in a Waterfall project because everything is very sequential, you can’t. So it’s not good or bad, or right or wrong, it’s just different.
0:29:38.6 PS: I just roll my eyes when I see people say, “Oh well, this is our institutional AgileFall type thing.” You’ve lost me right there and don’t be surprised if things don’t go so well. But yeah, no guarantees, but hopefully the book makes a lot of those things known. In fact, Chapter 4 is very much this primer on project management, someone like yourself, if they already know it, so people could skip that one, but I just didn’t think it was responsible for me as an author to assume that everyone knew project management 101, which is I think what I call the chapter.
0:30:15.0 WB: And the reason I highlight it is because I think a lot of leaders are not experts in or they don’t feel like they’re experts in the formal side of project management, and they will hear a lot of terminology throwing around Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Sprint, and they probably have no real conception of what we’re talking about. And so I think it’s a nice distinction and thank you for sharing that.
0:30:44.4 WB: Alright. You mentioned you’re working on a couple more books. That’s not surprising, given you have, I think 12 at the moment.
0:30:51.8 PS: Yeah, is the one I can’t talk about yet, but I can say that I’m going to be doing a third edition of my first book, Why New System Fail, because the second one dropped in 2010 and companies still struggle with implementing ERP and CRM systems, plus a few things have changed in the last 12 years.
0:31:13.2 WB: Right, only a couple. Where would people go to find you, Phil?
0:31:18.7 PS: Just google “Phil Simon”, you can find out all about my nonsense.
0:31:21.8 WB: Okay, alright. Actually, any final words of wisdom?
0:31:27.2 PS: Nah, I’m good.
0:31:30.1 WB: Alright. Well, Phil Simon, thank you very much. Been a great discussion. Enjoyed it immensely. I look forward to catching up when the next book drops and having time to read, and maybe we’ll connect again.
0:31:44.8 PS: Thanks Wayne, for having me.
0:31:47.2 WB: My pleasure. Thank you.
0:31:50.7 Speaker: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time. Check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.