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  • Beth Ouellette

A 1963 Approach Still Makes Sense Today

“That’s my little project manager!” My Dad would say. This was often as I was organizing, scheduling, clarifying, and planning some event, or “stuff” we had to do. Growing up, it was always Mom who wrote lists, scheduled, planned, albeit sometimes in painful details. After Mom went to heaven, I realized that Dad too had these traits.

I was chatting with Dad one day and we were talking about project managers. We agreed that they are important: projects need leaders and managers, teams need clarity on their goals and some type of supervision or coaching as the goals of the team are achieved. Dad said, “It’s an easy formula: Organize, Prioritize, Deputize, and Supervise. That’s what I did with the men at the [Detroit City Rescue] Mission.” This mantra works with traditional or agile projects today.

On any project no matter the methodology or approach there must be some organization. Whether you call it inception or initiation, there is a time of organization and clarification of the goals and intended outcomes of the project. You clarify the approach, identify key roles, etc. Then there is a time of prioritization: identify the things that are of most value, and based on that, clarify the schedule, clarify the roles and responsibility. This prioritization and clarification are what we do in the planning of any project which sets the tone for the work to be done. This is where Dad’s “Deputize” comes into play. He was a master of “teaching others to fish,” because if you teach ‘em to fish, they will be fed for a lifetime. Dad would give opportunities to different people to take on various roles. Those who had the knack would shine and be ready for more, while others needed more time to hone a skillset. As I think of agile teams and the roles needed on the Disciplined Agile team this resonates with me. DA encourages “self-organizing” teams. With this there is the assumption that teams have the skillset required to fulfil the primary team roles. It is the Team Lead or Agile Coach who facilitates the conversation to assist in the "Deputize" part of the project, while they oversee the progress, productivity, and success of the team. This type of facilitation is Dad’s "Supervise" part of the project. Check in to see if the focus is still on the goals, validate that the skillsets are working well for the needs of the project, verify how the team is working together, and of course step in and coach as appropriate. In Dad’s example and in the projects we lead, we progressively elaborate as we learn, review, grow, reset the team, and go again.

It is amazing for me to think that in the 1960’s when my Dad, Ken Ouellette, was the Project Leader in charge of the Detroit City Mission building project, a building that still stands today at 3535 Third Street, he was applying some of the Disciplined Agile mindset. When projects overwhelm, break it down to doable parts: Organize, Prioritize, Deputize, and Supervise, you too can create a result that adds value and stands the test of time.

Thanks Dad, for this practical application that makes sense today. I'll love you forever! Je t’aime Papa!



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