Year of Living Dangerously — Being the Product Owner for an Agile Transformation #PMOSym

http://www.pmosymposium.org/
PMO Symposium, 11-14 November 2018, Washington D.C. USA

Session Description:

Suncor Energy recently embarked on the journey of enabling agile capability within its project portfolio. With the aim of improving the time to value received by the organization and the overall engagement of business stakeholders in project delivery, a center of excellence (COE) was commissioned to develop, pilot, and recommend the plan for enabling agile delivery. This presentation, given by the product owner of the COE, will detail the motivations behind its creation, the approach taken to enable and standardize agile delivery, the services offered to support agile projects, and the lessons learned during the first year of its operation.

At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to:
1) Learn how to drive shared project accountability across business, execution, and operational leadership.
2) Learn how the agile product owner approach was an enabling force behind the agile center of excellence.
3) Demonstrate an approach used to commence, develop, and sustain an agile practice within a large-scale enterprise.

Speaker: Joey Roa, Manager, Project Management Office, Suncor Energy

[These are my notes from the PMO Symposium 2018. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • His Context.
    • Suncor Energy is Canada’s largest integrated energy company
    • Their Digital and Enterprise Technical (IT) Projects
      • They do very little software development — yet they still use agile more broadly to “agilify” Suncor
    • Subject to frequent reorganizations
    • Heavily matrixed organization with a reliance on partnership and consultants
    • Very focused on specialized roles
    • Historical approach:
      • They were very reliant on the waterfall method. The construction mindset with a clear idea of scope was pervasive throughout the organization.
      • IT tended to drive projects, hoping that “if you build it they will come.”
      • They had limited business participation in their projects. They had a book-end approach: bring the business leaders in at the beginning to kick off the project, then bring them in at the end to see what IT has done.
      • They rarely had a sense of shared accountability. Rather, accountability was handed off from one group to another.
  • Why Agile?
    • Their motivation for adopting agile
      • delivering value faster
        • this does not necessarily mean that the entire project finishes earlier, but it does mean that the work is broken into small batches and each batch is delivered as quickly as possible
      • including business customers in the heart of the project teams
        • if the business folks cannot commit to participating in the process, then you cannot do agile
        • they drive the value, they drive the priorities
      • simplifying project delivery
        • reduce role confusion
          • they eliminated a large number of roles without eliminating people. They eliminated the titles and made the people involved team members.
        • eliminate waste and process complexity
        • increase focus on incremental delivery of working solutions
  • The started with an Agile Center of Excellence.
    • Agile COE services
      • Agile-related training
      • Agile project support
    • Delivery norms & interfaces
      • Guidance & knowledge bases
      • Ongoing change management
      • Process facilitation
    • Created an Agile coaching role
      • they have done delivery AND they can coach effectively
      • they help teams complete specific tasks — not by doing the work themselves but by helping the team do the work better
      • initially they hired contractors into this role until they could identify full-time employees ready for the role
    • Best Practices/ Alignment
    • They built a roadmap that was NOT a Gantt chart
  • They Learned by Doing.
    • They started with some pilot projects.
    • First they observed what was happening and then the coaches recommended more effective approaches.
    • Then they revised their delivery norms to reflect the recommended approaches
  • DAD.y
  • What They Did.
    • They used featuremap software to build a story map to prioritize a backlog for releases.
    • They used the Scrum ceremonies ands roles from the start
    • Leverage Pilot Projects
      • introduce/align new terminlogy, roles and processes
      • People don’t like to reinvent the wheel
        • so learn quickly so you can share the lessons with other teams
      • Improve your marketing collateral so you can communicate your success to your leadership
    • Create Agile role definitions
      • Product Owner
        • came from the business
        • responsible for prioritizing the backlog
      • Scrum Master
      • Architecture Owner
    • They created a process for declaring an agile project
      • have a conversation to ascertain if the proposed project has the requisite level of business participation and uncertainty
    • They created their delivery norms
      • Inception norm
        • sprint zero
        • sprint release plan
        • definition of done
        • backlog management
        • project performance reporting (burndown, velocity measurement)
        • funding strategy
      • Construction norm
        • construction checkpoint guidance and supporting documents
        • stage alignment and supporting documentation
      • Transition norm
  • The COE Service Model.
    • Agile coaching and process facilitators
      • they are critical to speed up learning and improvement
      • they are expensive but they should NOT be billable back to the project (most project owners will reject this charge even though it is necessary and useful)
      • they help build corporate memory and culture
      • don’t allow them to be 100% dedicated to a project — ask that some of their time be spent sharing lessons learned back to the COE so those lessons are available to other teams
      • ask them to train from the “back of the room” rather than having them in the middle of the action
      • they deployed coaches in the following way:
        • one coach for three projects in inception
        • one coach for five projects in construction
        • one coach for 10 projects in transition
    • Suncor Agile training curriculm
      • created curriculum for scrum masters, product owners, project teams
      • they customized the curriculum for Suncor, its projects, and its people
      • assume that Scrum masters are already versed in Scrum
    • COE service intake / consulting / advisor
    • Agile skillset and scrum master provisioning
    • Build, shape, and influence adoption of Agile within Suncor
    • Develop, monitor, and extend Agile technologies
      • how will you bring in the relevant technologies?
      • how will you integrate them?
      • don’t try to build/prioritize backlogs using excel or powerpoint — use better agile-specific tools
  • Critical Communications.
    • Leadership wants:
      • you to communicate faster and clearly about pitfalls and solutions
      • to know what do you need from us and how will you keep us updated?
    • The Ambitious
      • they want to know what’s in it for them
      • how will this help me?
    • The Agile COE Team
      • one of the services the coaches provide the team is the health assessment (supported by a surveymonkey survey owned by the COE)
        • use the health assessment to determine if your team is working well
      • do a fishbowl exercise during the team retrospect
        • put a chair in the center of the room
        • ask for volunteers to sit in the chair
        • once they are in the chair, other members of the team say the following things:
          • “One thing I appreciate about you is…”
          • “One thing I wish you would change is…”
        • This exercise really builds trust and team feeling
      • The Resistors — ignore them!
  • Lessons Learned.
    • Culture is always the challenge
    • Role clarity is vital and not easy
    • Training, training, training
    • Establish the COE and its service model as early as possible
    • Coaches — get them early — they are your ninjas and can train new ninjas
    • Be aware that leadership will not be patient forever so be prepared to explain your value
    • Perfection is the enemy of the good: start small, experiment, and adapt
    • Psychological safety: this is critical to good teamwork. Their coaches spend a lot of time on this. [For more information on this, read about Google’s Project Aristotle.]
    • Agile work practices versus Agile execution methodologies
    • Set wide riverbanks and empower the team to take action within those limits
    • Enterpise agile needs standars, guidelines, templates,
    • Don’t underestimate the need to supply tools to project teams
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