This is a transcript. For the full video, see Agile at human scale: Managing diverse remote teams: Pts. 1 & 2 - Tag1 TeamTalk #023-24.
Preston So: [00:00:00] Hello. And welcome back to our Tag1 TeamTalks mini series. We're joined in this quartet of episodes by Janie Ledet, project manager and scrum master at Tag1. She's based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. She's a volunteer for nonprofit organizations that teach girls how to code and has a long history in software development, working on Linux distributions, 3-D graphics cards, which I need to talk to you about at some point, at companies like Hewlett Packard, as well as many other amazing companies. We're also joined today by Michael Meyers in the Berkshires, Massachusetts managing director at Tag1. And I'm Preston So, your editor in chief and today we'll be talking a little bit about managing diverse remote teams. In case you missed it, we did have our first part: Getting to know Janie. Today is our part 2: Having an experienced PM on a project. And why is it so important to have project managers with such great expertise? So let's pose that question to our dear guest today, Janie. So why exactly is it so important to have an experienced PM? And, you know, is it worth the cost, especially given what we mentioned the last episode about how the real problem in software development is usually the people and not the code.
Janie Ledet: [00:01:09] Yes, thank you for inviting me to speak today, Preston. So I'm often asked this question and, and need to justify - how do we justify using up precious development dollars on overhead.
[00:01:27] And I think that, it's really there's several things that I contribute that make it worth spending those project dollars. One of the things that bringing in a consultant from like Tag1, brings to a project is that we have a short form storming norming period for a new team, because we've got a group of people who some of them have already worked together and are familiar with, my style of working.
And, we're all ready to adopt processes, and practices and business values to integrate our client partners into the team quickly. Also, for a complex project, I offer a facilitation to get everybody aligned on a vision and make sure that we have everybody empowered and excited to contribute and accomplish shared goals.
It just fast forwards that whole process having an agile scrum master to facilitate that. Another thing I bring to the table is resource and load balancing. So that's a little bit of an art versus a science and this is nice for customers because they're only paying for a sliver of several people with really diverse skill sets.
Only when they need them for the project, instead of having to maintain full time employees across the entire time of the project. Another thing that helps maximize end user value is that I'm always observing and measuring and learning and helping the team to adjust as we go. So I'm really careful about how we gather metrics.
But it's important to me to stay humble and make small failures early so that we learn from them and then adjust as we go. The other thing that I provide is a bit of an umbrella for the developers, so they can stay focused on development while I'm, kind of helping to drive a high level strategy and change management, those sorts of things.
So one of the tools I use to do this is open ended questions. So asking questions, not just to the client, but also to my team members. Like what challenges are you facing? What is the story behind this? What is the emotional need? Driving the behavior we're observing. How can I support you? And what do you think the next step should be?
Preston So: [00:04:21] You know, I'm curious with these open ended questions, you know, every single consultancy has a discovery round. But I'm a little bit curious about sort of how, how does this relate to managing the work and managing resources. How does that relate to the relationship with clients in particular?
And I understand, Michael, you might have something to say on this matter as well.
Michael Meyers: [00:04:45] Yeah. I mean, I don't get to work with Janie on every project, but I love when I do get the opportunity to work with her. I think that, and you know, and I'd love to get your perspective on this Janie. One of the things that I love about working with you is the value that you bring to the client relationship. And it's not just about our team and managing our diverse workforce, but it's about integrating the client's team, so that we're one team working together, and dealing with the various different personalities and opinions. Yeah. You know, you know, so there's sort of like, you know, getting the team to work together, but then there's also sort of like, you know, ensuring that the client is happy that their goals are being met.
You talked a lot about, you know, the, the Tag1 team and your work with them. I'd love to get some tips and insight into, you know, how it is that you work your magic on the client side.
Janie Ledet: [00:05:42] Yeah. That's a really important point because, at the end of the day, we're being paid to provide excellent customer service.
And that means that everybody on the client side, is a development partner there, we're all in this together. So I use lots of different team building tools. I do individual check in meetings, both at the management level and with sub-teams just to really get to know the background, how did the client get here?
How is their current website? What is the story behind how it came to be in the state that it is, what are some of the values and practices that that particular group has and how can we, really, incorporate that into how we work, as a, as a team, as a unified team where everybody participates.
[00:06:44] Everybody's given the chance to give input. Everyone feels empowered to share their ideas for how we should, plan and how we choose how, implementing decisions or, down to the smallest details.
Preston So: [00:07:07] I think, you know, to, to speak about the, you know, those low level details. I think it's very interesting that we talk very often about these two very fundamentally differently named roles and, and two very distinct roles, which are, you know, project manager, right. Which has a certain cache, a certain kinds of connotations that are that are associated with it.
And then scrum master or scrum lead. You know, I don't like the word master, but, but scrum lead or somebody who's in that, in that scrum position. You know, I'm very, I'm very curious Janie, how do you see the difference or the distinction between a project manager and, and the scrum leader.
Janie Ledet: [00:07:47] So traditionally in agile practice, you don't have a manager, right? It's frowned upon to include manager. It's all about the team being self-organizing, but [00:08:00] for this, the particular way that we do contracts, there's some need to have a discovery process , an estimate, just to give, to do some planning and, determine how much, time and budget it is required for the particular project. so I do some of that project management role. And then also I do some, you know, taking care of team members, making sure that everybody, you know, if they, we all have personal problems, things that come up in our lives, making sure that everybody’s okay, has the safe space to share in.
So I do some of those, I do wear that project manager hat sometimes, but a lot of what I do and what I, what my favorite part of the job is is this scrum lead role to help, facilitate. And, I can't remember which Agile book it's in, but there's a, this I, this concept of being a guide on the side instead of, a leader on the platform.
So really, doing things like observing, coaching, recommending, and then helping to facilitate the scrum process practices like. Guiding the sprint meetings and helping to set up demos and, helping to, have the team do a retrospective at the end of every sprint to say, what is going well, what hasn't gone well, what can we improve?
And then also to help keep everything on track as far as how we're using our hours and keeping the project on track.
Preston So: [00:09:56] I think we can all agree that those are two very, very different roles with such different responsibilities that, that really, you know, have, have such a such an amazing degree of overlap, but also such an amazing using degree of uniqueness where you need to be.
We were very cognizant of how each of those responsibilities catered to the individuals involved.
So you know, that, you know, that is all the time we have for our second episode in this mini series with Janie Ledet. Thank you so much. And, by the way, this episode was about why it's so important to have an experienced project manager.
Our first installment was getting to know Janie. Our next installment is going to be, how exactly do you manage, and help out and support high functioning, remote teams? All the things and resources that we mentioned today are going to be online with this talk. Please remember to subscribe and share this talk with your friends and family.
Check out our past talks at tag1.com/tagteamtalks. We'd love your feedback and any topics suggestions you have. Permit, please remember to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas. And thank you so much for joining us today until next time.