Agile and Multiple Product Owners (Communication)

One of the benefits of agile, at least in theory, is the single product owner. In conventional projects we can have many people in the position of the product sponsor or product owner.  These multiple voices can provide contradictions in which our product development team must wade through to determine the real requirements.  Experience indicates this is one of the reasons conventional projects often run afoul of the schedule.

Communications channels grow as we add team members and that goes for product sponsors or in the case of agile product owners.  The equation goes:

Number of Communications Channels = [N(N-1)] 2

To demonstrate this complexity, we provide a graph of this function:


As we add people that require special communications handling, we increase the amount of management required.  In the case of a collocated agile team, scrum master and a single product owner, we can perhaps approximate this as 3 entities.  The team is certainly not a single … Continue reading

Existence, Relatedness, Growth (ERG) Theory of Motivation

by Shawn P. Quigley

What is ERG?

Today we will discuss a theory by Clayton P. Alderfer called the ERG Theory of Motivation. No, Alderfer was not a physicist and ERG in this case is not a unit of energy equal to 10-7 joules. Aldefer is an American psychologist known for his further development of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.

In the ERG theory Existence is defined as the physiological and safety needs which are seen as the first two steps of the pyramid which people now use to represent Maslow’s theory. Relatedness equates to the social and external esteem needs such as relationships or involvement with friends, family, and co-workers. This would be the third and fourth rung of the Maslow triangle. Last, but not least, would be Growth which is the internal esteem and self-actualization needs. This is represented by the final two levels in Maslow’s needs theory.

ERG and Motivation

On the first review of the … Continue reading

Everything is Go!

Why is it we see so many problems post launch? Why does our release “hit production” causing the line to stop? Sometimes these happen because it is not possible to get everything just right. Continue reading

The Theory of Needs and Achievement

By Shawn P. Quigley

Needs According to McClelland

We have discussed several different motivational theories and today we will continue that discussion with McClelland’s Needs theory of motivation. The reason we are discussing McClelland’s theory now is that it provides some insight why an employee may become disenchanted with not improving a process that they perceive as requiring improvement. We discussed this to a small degree in Pavlov’s Employee.

Achievement, Affiliation and Power

There are three sections to McClelland’s theory: Achievement, Affiliation, and Power (McClelland, 1995).  Achievement refers to how people have different levels of achievement they desire and they seek an objective equivalent to their need for achievement. Affiliation refers to the individual’s desire to be associated with and/or accepted by a specific group. Typically a group that has the majority of members with a similar level of desired achievement as they perceive themselves as having. Power has two sub-categories for this theory: Personal and Institutional. Personal power … Continue reading

Conflict or Problem and the Learning Organization

What is the meaning of conflict and problem?

Let us start our discussion today with a few definitions of the words “Conflict” and “Problem”. There are so many definitions and we needed a common starting point to allow for an informative discourse.

Conflict is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

“A struggle for power, property, etc., strong disagreement between people, groups, etc., that results in often angry argument, and a difference that prevents agreement: disagreement between ideas, feelings, etc.” (Merriam-Webster “Conflict”)

The book Creative Approaches to Problem Solving describes a Conflict as:

“This factor deals with the presence of personal and emotional tension in the organization, and it is the only dimension that does not contribute positively to creativity.” (Isaksen, Treffinger, & Dorval, 2011)(pg.189)

Problem is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

“Something that is difficult to deal with: something that is a source of trouble, worry, etc., difficulty understanding something, and a feeling of not liking or wanting to do something.” (Merriam-Webster “Problem”)

Continue reading

Learning Organization and Organizational Development

By Shawn Quigley

This blog is inspired by The Fifth Discipline Field Book, published by Double Day – New York, Peter M. Senge copyright 1994

The Learn Organization

The five disciplines of a Learning Organization are Team Learning, Personal Mastery, Mental Models, System Thinking, and Shared Vision. With that, let’s look at the items that make up an organization; Structure, Processes, and People. The structure is merely how the people of the organization are organized. The process is how the people are setup up for their task and communication between each other and each team and/or department. And last; but not least, is the people who compromise the organization. Looking at LO is this context provides a manner in which we can see how it relates to OD in a simpler manner. All the portions of LO are directly connected to individual understanding and improvement. First we should look at the correlation between the two: LO & OD.

Team Learning … Continue reading

Standards – A Double Edged Sword

Our making the measurements up or arbitrarily assigning values is of little help. Dismissing the standards as bloated without knowing is not productive. Standards are not evil, no more than ad hoc and on the fly are. Continue reading

Projects and Distractions

Cell phones and Laptops, Tools – or the Distraction to Success

Ever think your not getting the most out of your team due to distraction.  The greatest invention perhaps is the smart phone.  Now it is easy to check all of our email accounts, text message our friends, post on Facebook, blurt on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, and best of all, play those seemingly innocuous games.  Oh and we should not forget that we can actually us it as a phone.

Many organizations issue laptops to their employees.  Laptops go with employee everywhere the employ goes.  That can be an efficient and certainly a convenient thing.  However, when meetings are via distance, and there is no video, we can’t see our people “multitasking” through the meeting or discussion.  “I apologize, I had my microphone on mute” can be the cover for trying to get oriented to the discussion.  Multitasking seems like we are accomplishing more but we may not be. … Continue reading

Conflict and Team Growth

Sources of Conflict

There are challenges aplenty awaiting project managers when it comes to gathering a collection of individuals assigned to eventually become a team and produce the organization’s objective as defined by the project.  The business mantra of doing more with less – often less time and certainly less resources (and available talent) do not help this situation. The latter, the availability and focus of talent are a significant reason for the success of agile methodologies – in my humble opinion. I have seen the difference in project execution when you have a dedicated set of talent and resources against organizations objectives.  To bring the team to this level of efficacy we will need to shepherd them toward a group that acts more like a team rather than a collection of individuals. In this regard a project manager will act like a coach.  However, there will be no guarantee of success regarding the conversion of individuals to a team.  … Continue reading

Risk and Probability

A discussion of risk would not be completed without a discussion of probability and severity.  When we are looking at risky event, we are in essence establishing or assessing the probability of some undesired event coming to fruition.  However, even our desired events, for example the completion of a task on the critical path at a certain time, have an associated probability.  Contingent upon our estimating methods that risk probability can be quite high.  If we have used some historical data specific to that task then perhaps we already know the possible range of distribution for that specific task.  If our duration estimates fall within that range, we can perform some evaluation on the probability of successfully achieving that date.  What about when we generate a date from expert opinion? What about when we need the task to take a certain length due to the end delivery date of the project?  In those cases, the later especially so, we … Continue reading

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