What is Situational Leadership

Leaders need to adapt they management style to fit the performance readiness of their teams.

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard created the concept of situational leadership in the field of organisational behaviour.

They said that “readiness” not only varies by person, but also by task. People have different levels of ability and motivation for different tasks. Leaders can choose from directing, coaching, supporting and delegating depending on the situation and team member:



This style is recommended for team members that require a lot of specific guidance to complete the task. The leader could say: “Gerard this is what I would like you to do, here you have a step by step approach and here is when I need it done.” It’s primarily a command and control approach, one way conversation with little or no input from the team member.


This is style is for team members who need guidance to complete the task, but there is a two-way conversation, the team member gives input. Coaching is for people who want and need to learn. The leader could say: “Gerard this is what I would like you to do, here you have a step by step approach and here is when I need it done. What do you think?”. Although the leader still set the approach, the team member is invited to give input and ultimately workout any change in the delivery plan if the leader and the team member think it will benefit the project.


This style is for team members that have the skills to complete the task but may lack confidence to do it on their own. The leader could say: “Gerard, here is the task I need you to do and here is when I need this done. How do you think it should be done?, let’s talk about it, how can I help you on this one?. The leader knows the team member can achieve the task but s/he needs support to remove any impediment.


This style es for team members who are motivated, have the ability to complete the task and have confidence. They know what to do, how to do it and can do it on their own. The leader could say: “Gerard, here is the task I need you to do and here is when I need this done. If I can help just ask, if not you are on your own.” Although is highly recommended to schedule health checks, the leader is confident the team member will complete the task based on his/her track record.

One style is not better than the other, each style is appropriate to the situation. Effective leaders know who is on their team, who can be left alone and who needs more direction.

10 Tips to Successfully Manage Outsource Projects

Companies can consider to outsource projects because of different reasons:

  • To reduce cost
  • To reduce time to market
  • To work on non-core or high value projects
  • To work on operational / repetitive projects
  • To work on non-volatile projects
People doing a puzzle
Tips on how to outsource projects

I have managed outsourced projects where we met the deadline but did not save the money we were supposed to save and also I have managed outsourced projects where we saved the money but did not deliver what the users required.

If you need to outsource a project team review the following 10 tips to successfully manage outsource projects:

  1. Qualify the vendor, does the vendor have domain knowledge (technical, design, user experience, data, etc)?, is it financially viable?, for how long has been in business?, can you speak with some of their past or current clients?, are there contractual agreements in place to keep control over the intellectual property you give it?.
  2. Train the outsourcing team, they need to know how the product works, from both internal and customers, they need to know what problems the customers want to solve and how the product solve these.
  3. Assign one of your best project manager as your internal project manager. This person will coordinate deliverables and handoff around the organisation.
  4. Plan for each project to take longer and cost more, especially at the beginning of an outsourcing relationship. Consider to increase time by 25% for the first project, you can always review forecast vs. actual and reconcile.
  5. Develop a trusting relationship with the project manager at the outsource company to help you understand the reality of what is happening in the project.
  6. Try to accommodate your team shifts to the outsourcer working hours, if due to timezone difference this is impossible, try to make out the most available hours for both teams, so that people can make time to talk to each other.
  7. Select outsource projects with non volatile requirements. If your requirements change frequently and you need to check and iterate the evolving product with the end-user, development across the world makes that much harder (not impossible, just harder).
  8. Document the requirements / product backlog (using a wiki as best option) and have this always accessible and visible for the team. If your native technical staff can’t “sometimes” read your mind about what you require, how can geographically distant and non native English speakers understand your requirements?
  9. Insist that the outsourcing company keep the same team for your project’s duration.
  10. Make sure you have ALL the tools, information systems and processes in place to support the outsourced teams. To start they will need access to the source code, database, platform applications, builds, assets etc.

These 10 tips will help you to successfully manage outsource projects and to deliver more value to your users and company.

5 Levels of Agile Planning

Within Agile, planning is done continuously. Planning is about working out what to do, and that must come before working out how long it will take.

In this post I would like to present a process that will allow team members to understand the whole sequence of planning from vision to user story.

5 Levels of Agile Planning

Level 1, Vision:

Every product needs a vision, a destination postcard that will guide the team towards the goal. The vision also helps to have a keen eye for opportunities, to focus on value (to the user and business) and return on investment (ROI). Every decision is taken with the product vision in mind. This ensures clarity for the development team and increases the chances of success.

Level 2, Roadmap:

This is a long-term product strategic roadmap (from 3 to 6 months max), this can also be explained by de-composing the vision into phases in a logical order. The roadmap will help to see how the product would evolve.

Note that it does not usually make sense to make a plan based on user stories that go further out than three months. Beyond this point, use a road map based on story themes.

Level 3, Plan Releases:

If the roadmap gives the phases, the release plan de-composes each phase into sprints. These sprints are conditioned by the roadmap; market conditions the status of the product. The product backlog consists on more than only features, for example: technical requirements, bugs, defects, spikes, non-functional requirements that should be taken into account.

Backlog refinement is very important, this must be granular and well understood by the whole team.

Level 4, Sprint Planning:

During the sprint planning the team plan and agrees the prioritised product backlog stories they are confident they can complete during the sprint and help them to achieve the sprint goal.

Here are 3 basic steps to create a plan:

  1. Understand priorities: Start with the team a conversation about the user stories the product owner would like to get in the next iteration to release.
  2. Size the work: 
When the stories are understood, help the team work out what needs to be done to deliver the stories.
  3. Agree on the plan: 
Wrap the meeting up by getting agreement on what can realistically be delivered.

Level 5, User Story:

If the team members want to deliver valuable software, they need to go the extra mile to understand both user and business benefits, and user stories help them do that. User stories underpin all the work an Agile team does, they are the basis of plans, development and testing.

The whole point of user stories is to ask questions to better understand what users need and to find ways of breaking requirements down. Break the tasks into smaller pieces so that everyone has a deliverable every day.

User stories are a simple technique that a team can use for understanding their customer through talking about what users need.

The main point is that Vision must drive decisions and User Stories are the means to achieve that vision.

How to Scale Using Motivation and Accountability

Many organisations scale effectively by hiring promising people and then teaching and motivating them to do exceptional work.

The following example shows how important is to hiring and developing people.

Tamago-Ya is a Japanese company that produces fresh box lunches and sell them to Tokyo office employees. The typical order comes from a office that buys lunches every weekday. Each lunch box contains six or more items and customers have a fairly long list of options to choose from stir-fried beef with oyster sauce, boiled spinach, etc.


The company takes orders between 9am and 10:30am, prepares the food with fresh ingredients each day and assembles the lunches near Haneda Airport a 60 to 90 minutes drive from their customers in downtown Tokyo.

The lunches are delivered by 12 noon the same day, so there is little margin error in assemble or delivery. From the 70,000+ lunches Tamago-Ya delivers every day, late orders are very rare and fewer than 50 are wasted.

Without a doubt, the company needs to have a sophisticated procurement and forecast system, but his founder Isatsugu Sugahara explained that they are decidedly low-tech.

The company relies on market intelligence from van drivers, mostly high school dropouts many of whom were arrested in their youth.

These drivers interview and choose their customers in their territories, they also reject customers when it will be too difficult to deliver lunches on time, each driver own his or her route. The driver’s compensation depends on how many lunches their customers buy and weather they can keep waste low.

Boxed lunches are delivered in reusable containers that drivers collect about 2pm, this give them the chance to find out what customers like and didn’t like and to get an idea of what customers will order next day.

Every evening, each driver talks to the area manager who oversees his or her team. Forecasts from these conversations are sent to the central office so they can plan next day’s production.

Suppliers deliver raw materials by 5am, this order is an educated guess based on previous day report from the drivers. Tamago-Ya also relies on these estimates to start preparing food and loading vans even before orders start coming in at 9am.

Tamago-Ya founder knows that the methods his company uses to motivate and ensure accountability are the reason for the success of the business.

Tamago-Ya case illustrate how people make the place, the drivers reciprocate Sugahara’s faith in them by achieving superior performance, feel and act like owners because they choose customers and routes and at the same time they feel obliged to customers, peers, area manager and the CEO who gave them a chance to rebuild their lives.

Read more: Robert I. Sutton and Hayagreeva Rao Scaling up Excellence. Random House Business and Tamago-ya of Japan: Delivering Lunch Boxes to Your Work. Harvard Business Review Case Study.

Scaling Up and Rolling Out Change

Kaiser Permanent (KP) is the largest integrated healthcare system in United States, the facts as of 2014 are over 10 million members, 177,000 employees and with annual reporting revenue of $56.4 billion.


KP undertook few years ago a scaling journey to develop and implement electronic health record systems with the goal to make life better for patients and employees.

KP suffered a string of failed attempts to develop. The turning point came when its leaders realised that to scale up the record systems to all KP hospitals  needed to do things very differently.

Before the scaling effort, KP had endured a decade of failed efforts to implement electronic health records.

Between 2004 and 2010, KP scaled up KP HeatlhConnect. The scale up journey started by first being implemented in one of the smallest regions, Hawaii between 2004 and 2006, then rolled out the largest region, Southern California in 2008 and it deployed to LIVE in every region by 2010.

The leader of this initiative was Dr. Louise Liang and their team took a different approach to make this a success. They understood that the biggest obstacles to spreading the mindset across KP and rolling out the system was that hospitals operated under a paradigm of siloed regions with a weak relationship to shred functions. To succeed, KP required a lot more collaboration among regions.

However, understanding the history and culture of the local autonomy, the delivery team couldn’t insist that the exact same system be implemented in the exact way in each region, the team had to balance 3 constraints: commitment, creativity and customisation.

KP HealthConnect required local leaders to learn from and imitate other regions; Hawaii’s early success created challenges because, in the past, large regions like Southern California dictate and set the tone for changes across the entire organisation.

Starting in Hawaii was a great option, they were hungry for change, serve a smaller patience and medical audience and took less time; when the rollout was complete, initial fears and resistance vanished, and local doctors, nurses and patients reported that the system was making their lives easier.

Another reason why Hawaii succeeded was that in contrast to many other KP failures in the past, they didn’t implemented alone. The delivery team along with leaders from all other regions travelled to Hawaii to observe and help out, providing lessons and hands-on experience that guided and accelerated the roll out process.

The delivery team master a balance between standardisation and customisation, by specifying few critical constrains “non negotiables” for each region, this helped to ensure that each roll out was efficient, regions could learn from each other experience and users could learn faster to use a common system.

The non-negotaibles:

  1. the name: KP HealthConnect this reinforced the “one” solution mantra across all regions
  2. interoperability: no modifications could be made to the system that reduced the KP’s ability to maintain a single and integrated system, any software developed as a result of a customisation by a region, hospital or function had to work well with the rest of the system
  3. common data mode:  every local system had to use uniform data and definitions. This enable each region to generate consistent and comparable data so performance differences could be identified, problems spotted, improvements made and comprehensible reports generated.
  4. configuration no customisation: when Dr. Liang took charge, more than 300 contractor were working on customisations, this increased risk and maintenance costs. The delivery team understanding the need to provide fit to purpose solutions, allowed regions to select their own configuration, but they say no to programs that were built or designed differently from the system.

The operational model was also different, for instance when a new region went LIVE, teams from other regions that had already completed the implementation and deployment were “on loan” ready to support, guide and learn.

The learning in this case is:

Risk goes down and efficiency goes up when leaders and team complete a template that they can see and touch. It’s easier, faster and cheaper to imitate solutions that work elsewhere rather than to invent something from scratch every time.

Read more: Hayagreeva Rao and Robert I. Sutton. “Scaling up Excellence“. Random House Business.

How to Select the Right Digital Portfolio?

The digital portfolio management objective is to determine the optimal resource mix and schedule to best achieve the organisation’s operational and financial goals.


Selecting the Portfolio

  1. Establish the viability of projects based on their strategic alignment, return on investment and resource requirement
  1. Carry out risk assessment and build contingency into the portfolio by integrating contingency planning
  1. Do more with less by systematically reviewing project management processes and removing inefficiencies

One simple way of achieving a primary selection is to rate each project’s alignment to corporate strategy by assessing whether it is:

  1. strategic (contributes to corporate goals)
  2. efficiency (increase output or reduce costs)
  3. operational (to maintain services)

Some organisations use a ‘hurdle rate’ or minimum return on investment (ROI) rate to ensure that projects return a positive benefit.

The final assessment of each project or program could be carried out using the following types of evaluation criteria:

  1. Project Type: is it mandatory (to meet regulatory or operational continuity requirements) or discretionary (to meet business needs, increase efficiency or infrastructure)?
  2. Strategic Fit: is it critical, important, supportive (one or more strategic priorities), tenuous or has no link?
  3. Potential Benefit: the expected net present value of the business benefits (which is likely to be a range rather than an exact figure)
  4. Cost: the expected net present cost of the project (which is also likely to be a range rather than an exact figure)
  5. Non Quantifiable Benefits: any other benefits such as customer satisfaction or business simplification
  6. Resources: are the resources required to deliver the project fully available, partly available or not available?
  7. Delivery Risk: is it a high, medium or low risk and high, medium or low complexity?

The final step is to balance the portfolio by adding or removing projects in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the organisation with the human resources and finance available to it, a simple street light report can help:

  • Red (critical and urgent): immediate action needs to be taken on the recommendations or the project or program is likely to fail.
  • Amber (critical but not urgent): the program can move ahead but action on the recommendations should be addressed before key decisions are taken.
  • Green: the program is on target to succeed but may benefit from the uptake of recommendations.

To be successful an organisation needs to change and evolve in line with the environment and also to take advantage of new opportunities. This means the vision, mission and strategy will change and therefore the portfolio must change to reflect that by re-examining all existing programs, projects and operations and any new potential programs, projects or operations.

Better Performing IT Results in Better Business Value

IT performance and well-know DevOps practices, such as those that enable continuous delivery, are predictive of organisational and business performance.


How IT performance is measured? the most used criteria is measured in terms of throughput and stability. The individual measures that make up IT performance are:

  1. Deployment frequency
  2. Lead time for changes
  3. Mean time to recover from failure

Bear in mind DevOps has always been about culture, not just about tools and processes. Healthy cultural practices and norms that characterise high-trust organisations are required for the successful implementation of agile methodologies, these are: good information flow, cross-functional collaboration, shared responsibilities, learning from failures and encouragement of new ideas.

Practices Leading to Increased Deployment Frequency

  1. Continuous delivery ensures that your software is always in a releasable state that can be performed on demand.
  2. Capability for easily recreate environments for testing and troubleshooting.

Practices Leading to Reduced Lead Time for Changes

  1. Version control as the ability to get changes into production repeatedly in a reliable, low risk way.
  2. Reliable and comprehensive set of automated tests, so code is releasable without lengthy integration and manual regression testing cycles.

Practices Better Mean Time to Recover

  1. Version control, when an error is identified in production, devs can quickly either redeploy the last good state or fix the problem and roll forward.
  2. Monitoring system and application health so is easy to detect failures and identify the events that contributed to them.

Implementing continuous delivery means creating multiple feedback loops to ensure that high-quality software gets delivered to users more quickly. Continuous delivery requires that developers, testers, designers and UX, product and operations people collaborate effectively throughout the delivery process.

Continuous integration is a development practice whereby developers routinely merge their code into build servers with version control systems. Each change triggers a set of quick tests to discover serious regression, which developers must fix immediately.

Six Recommendations to Apply when working with DevOps:

  1. work with other teams and build empathy, build bridges, understand challenges and put yourself in the shoes of the others
  2. build trust between teams, trust is built on kept promises, open communication, and behaving predictably even in stressful situations
  3. actively seek, encourage and reward work that facilitates collaboration, make sure success is reproducible
  4. learn by sharing knowledge & create opportunities and spaces to share information
  5. create a training budget, and advocate for it internally
  6. make it safe to fail

Read more: Puppet Labs. “2014 State of DevOps Report“. PDF report.

What is Digital Disruption and How Companies can Embrace it?

Today the only source of competitive advantage and value delivering comes from seeing what customers need and delivering it.

Digital disruptors are changing complete industries, delivering value at a lower costs, with faster development times and with greater impact on customer experience.

Digital disruption

Digital disruption is simply a mindset that leads to a way of behaving; a mindset that bypasses traditional off-line obstacles, eliminating the gaps and boundaries that prevent people and companies from giving customers what they need in the moment that they want it.

Digital disruptors are obsessed with measuring results and rapid innovation cycles in which failure and mistakes are viewed as feedback.

Always evaluate your customer, benefits, business and product

  1. Customer: isolate the core target customers and make some smart guesses about what makes them tick. Ask yourself what your target customer really needs
  2. Benefits: what is the next thing that customer needs?, express the need in terms of what the customer will get out of the deal if you succeed.
  3. Business: what will we get out of it if we innovate?
  4. Product: the art of harmonising Customer, Benefits, Business and Product into a single approach

In other words, you need to focus on creating innovations that are most likely to give the consumers you want to reach the benefits they really desire while achieving strategic outcomes that are meaningful to the organisation.

How to deal with digital disruption inside a large company?

  • Create small innovation teams
  • Identify silos and break down the boundaries between them
  • Get senior executives to commit their support
  • Insist on short development time frames

Digital disruptors constantly seek for the adjacent possible:

  • Asking a simple question “what is the next thing my customer needs?
  • Iterating so quickly from one adjacent to the next
  • Giving the customer the next logical thing, or things

Digital disruptors keep the scope of their innovations small. Rather than creating a five-year innovation plan, digital disruptors proceed from adjacent possibility to adjacent possibility, occasionally failing, but failing so quickly and so cheaply that recovery can be nearly immediate.

Read more: James McQuivey. “Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation“. Amazon Publishing.

Customer Experience Having the Customer at the Center of Your Business

Customer experience (also known as CX) is the single greatest predictor of whether customers will return or defect to a competitor to do business.

Customer Experience

What is customer experience? 

It is how your customers perceive their interactions with your organisation and how well the interaction:

  • helped them achieve their goals
  • how much effort they had to invest in the interaction
  • how much they enjoyed the interaction

Benefits of customer experience:

  • It is source of both decreased costs and increased revenue, for instance by having leaner and more efficient processes that affect customers (both external and internal) and by increasing recurring revenue
  • It correlates to loyalty

Customer experience and the business ecosystem:

Customer experience is not a program or a way to increase revenues, it is a lot more than that and it clearly reflects in every single functional department. Organisations need to create a customer experience that best aligns with the corporate vision the executive team has put envisage, the company’s target market, value proposition, unique strengths, financial objectives, and core values.

Customer Experience is “journey, not a project. It has a beginning but it doesn’t have an end

The company’s corporate objectives and brand attributes are the foundation of any customer experience strategy.

If you want to embark in this journey, you need to start with a complete picture of your clients, who they are and what they want from you.

6 Steps to Implement a Customer Experience Program:

  1. internalise the fact that you need your customers more than they need you
  2. examine the reason why your company exists in the first place
  3. spend time learning what it feels like to be your customer
  4. talk to your customers
  5. talk to your frontline employees
  6. try mapping a customer experience ecosystem for one of your company’s most important customer journeys

5 Steps to do a Customer Experience Mapping:

  1. pick an important target customer and think of a problematic journey for that customer
  2. write down the series of actions that the customer takes as part of that problematic journey
  3. write down all the people and groups that your customer interacts with at each step
  4. draw a horizontal line across the middle, below the notes you’ve placed on it so far. This is the “line of visibility.” Everything you’re about to put below the line is completely invisible to your customer
  5. put green dots on each part of your ecosystem that is working well from the perspective of the person who was touching it. Tag and define parts of the ecosystem that are making people unhappy with yellow dots, and parts of the ecosystem that are making people very unhappy with red dots

Rolling out the Customer Experience program


  • Measure customer experience
  • Identify the drivers of customer experience quality
  • Correlates customer experience quality with business results
  • Shares findings across the enterprise

You cannot afford to ignore the measurement discipline unless you want your efforts to run out of gas and die.

It drives interest in your programs by demonstrating results, and keeps people on track by connecting them to hard data about the effectiveness of what they’re doing.

Read more: Harley Manning, Kerry Bodine. Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business“. Amazon Publishing.

What is Business Portfolio Management?

Portfolio refers to the total set of programs, stand-alone projects and other change initiatives undertaken by an organisation.

Portfolio Management

The reason for creating a portfolio is to provide an overall business view and control over all these programs and projects at a high level in the organisation.

Portfolio management is aligned to the organisation’s budgetary and decision-making processes and is the link between the corporate and business strategy and the programs and projects that will deliver it. Portfolios have strategic corporate deliverables and are ongoing.

  • The overall corporate strategy is implemented through the business strategy, the portfolio is aligned with the business strategy.
  • The business strategy is then implemented through the programs and projects that make up the portfolio.

Portfolio management ensures that all projects and programs stay aligned with the business strategy and deliver business benefits.

By treating the totality of the organisation’s programs and projects as a single portfolio, they can be ranked on their alignment with corporate strategy and their potential business benefits.

The goal is to ensure that the portfolio delivers in line with the business strategy of the enterprise.

Portfolio Management key objectives:

  1. To maximise the value of the portfolio by achieving the best possible return on investment
  1. To align the portfolio with the organisational strategy
  1. To balance the portfolio by making the best possible use of the organization’s human and financial resources