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Tag: Leadership

The Cliff

done_signOver the past seven months, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a security and compliance project that is truly once in a career. The project was of a scale that I have never worked on with a core program team over twelve people and an execution team that numbered in just over a couple thousand. I was averaging over eighty-plus hours a week and had to context switch between technical engineering at the “deck level” to executive briefings and status updates and everything in between.  It challenged me like at no other time in my career.

Two weeks ago, we implemented the final change that closed the project, and since that time I have been reflecting at what we accomplished, and while yes I’m impressed by that, I’m more impressed with how we accomplished it.  In the past few weeks I’ve cut my work hours in half, my responsibilities have drastically reduced and I feel as though I’ve fallen off a cliff.

My reflections on my experiences in this project and many, below are a few of the highlights:

  • Running into the fire we designed a path forward, seeking the expertise around the organization
  • The team built consensus and buy-in as we moved forward, we didn’t have time to do this beforehand.
  • Never underestimate the value of a great Program Manager or Project Manager, never overestimate the damage of a bad one.
  • Firefighting brings out the best in everyone, levels, and titles disappear and a comradery that is battle forged emerges.
  • We must be flexible, but never with our core principles.
  • Always approach leadership with a solution to the problem, be specific in your asks of leadership and know the direction you want to take before approaching them.
  • We must all ask for help. I didn’t do this nearly enough.
  • Communication and PR is not a part time role in a large project, hire a dedicated resource the value will show itself almost immediately.

I am grateful for everyone who supported me during the project, gave me advice, brought me a drink when I was in back to back meetings, and generally was understanding.

In the words of West Wing’s President Bartlet, “What’s Next?”

Agile Inceptions for Projects

Agile methodology has been changing the technology industry for the past decade, and over the past few years I’ve been applying more and more agile structures and principles to infrastructure, security and project management.  The last several projects I’ve been involved with we have been using an “Inception” style kick-off.  This has allowed us to align all our teams and stakeholders to the project goals, identify potential roadblocks and create the deployment milestone mapping. It has worked far better than traditional kick-off and planning meetings of the waterfall era.  This post will walk you through a typical inception, the activities we’ve been using and hopefully provide you with framework that you can use and modify to your own needs.

Change is a Constant, Embrace It

Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. - Walt Disney

The quote above is one of my favorites and embodies one of my core tenants and beliefs. Change is going to happen. As leaders one of our roles is to usher change into an organization be it through technology, process, the people we hire or by our actions and our inactions. Change is how we leave our mark on an organization.

When approaching an opportunity to effect change, I tend to sketch out answers to the following questions:

  • Why do we need to improve?
  • Why are we doing what we are doing today?
  • What is the desired outcome/end state?
  • What is the business benefit of the change?
  • What are the likely roadblocks?

This allows me to know why and where we are in the position we are in today and why and where I want us to be in the future. The how is missing. It’s missing because it’s easy to get lost in the how.  Once I know the direction then I can start thinking of “how we get there”.  This also allows me to involve others without having created a path and therefore not tainting their thoughts with my own. It also gives others the ability to embrace the change as their own, and they now have a stake in its success.

The preference should always be given to building consensus and buy-in when implementing change.  This does not mean you seek permission, but you lead others to your position and shared ownership of the change emerges. The alternative is to affect change by dictatorial fiat, and while your change may be implemented you will be the first under the bus if anything goes wrong.