When it comes to project management, different projects require different methodologies. It’s important to know which one is right for your specific situation.
Fractional integrator Lloyd Thompson shares his best practice for choosing a management method, and discusses the role that business core values play in achieving visionaries’ goals.
In the episode:
01:43 – From software developer to people leader. What made Lloyd a natural integrator?
03:26 – The Kanban method versus Scrum. One is better than the other, depending on your project.
05:19 – Let’s talk about task hygiene. These tips ensure stuff is effectively done.
08:12 – What sort of team does an integrator have? Not all integrators work alone.
10:49 – The sort of clients Lloyd is helping. These are the kinds of visionaries who benefit from his service.
14:42 – How important are business core values? Lloyd and James share their values and why they’re essential to business success.
19:25 – Why enabling others is key to rising up. It’s about more than team collaboration.
22:55 – The continuous improvement of processes. Even one percent a day makes a difference.
This episode brings back James’s friend, Lloyd Thompson of VirtualDOO, to continue their talk on the role of a fractional integrator.
Last time on Episode 875, they covered what exactly a fractional integrator does, the Kanban management method, how to go about hiring an integrator and what systems to use.
Today they go into some more technical subjects, but first James would like a brief look into Lloyd’s background, and how it helped him to be an effective integrator.
From software developer to people leader
Lloyd started his career, he says, as a software developer. From there he transitioned to a technical leadership role, overseeing and solving technical problems. Then he was made a people leader, managing people challenges.
What he noticed is very often the facilitation method for technical issues and people challenges is the same. It involves getting people together, understanding the goal and the current situation, and knowing what the options are.
The integration space is quite similar. They might deal with different areas – manufacturing, logistics, marketing, R&D – but the problem-solving method is the same. So having a technical background, when working with online businesses, has actually been very helpful.
A natural fit, says James. He knows a lot of Lloyd’s clients, some of them people he works with in SilverCircle, and he’s impressed how smoothly it goes and how their businesses lift with Lloyd’s help. For a lot of visionaries, an integrator is the missing piece of the business puzzle.
The Kanban method versus Scrum
Now, a look into Lloyd’s toolkit. People listening may not be using either Kanban or Scrum, or they might have a basic version of one. An overview would be helpful.
“Cookie cutter projects, that’s ideal for Kanban.”
Kanban, says Lloyd, is good for visibility. If you’ve got the same steps each time, if you’ve got a cookie cutter project, you can get great transparency of where the tasks are at, and what steps in the pipeline are there.
Scrum is better for projects where it’s not the same shape every time. With Scrum, you look at how to prioritize value. You want to fix the scope for a period of time, typically 10 days. This enables all of the team to work on the same things together through a period of time. They call that a sprint.
Kanban and Scrum are not completely opposite. There are a number of things you can do for both together that will make things run more smoothly. What is important for both is to have a sort of daily standup, make sure you know what’s blocked or who’s waiting on what.
It’s good to have reviews and retrospectives to see how successful planning is, or check the output for improvement opportunities. Lloyd also suggests going back through all of your tasks periodically – the things in the waiting queue, the backlog that will come into the pipeline next, and ensure that there’s enough info to allow people to get going.
Let’s talk about task hygiene
While on the subject of refinement, Lloyd might talk a bit on task hygiene, ticket hygiene in particular.
If tasks aren’t dealt with properly, if the right information is lacking, people can’t get going. Or they might make assumptions and go the wrong way. Both are blocks to productivity.
So some of the things Lloyd would check for are:
And before you get into all of that, estimates. Story points are one method, though Lloyd is not a huge fan of them. He prefers days, quarter days, half days, a small number of days, not into weeks or months, just to keep it simple.
That’s the task hygiene, and the areas he would use for both Kanban and Scrum.
What sort of team does an integrator have?
Lloyd started his integrator journey on his own. Since then, things have gone so well he’s expanded. James is interested in the kind of team he’s assembled and the sort of things they do in his business.
Lloyd’s first hire was another integrator, he says, who’s been kicking his butt and shaping VirtualDOO for the better, ever since.
You need those people in your life, says James. His own podcast editor has just followed up with him on this episode.
Lloyd’s integrator is on top of things, pointing out gaps and telling him what they should be doing. They’ve also got an integrator in Argentina, allowing them more timezone overlap with their US and Canadian clients.
They have a support person who provides project services such as reporting, reconciliation and other project management services. And they also have a tech lead and a developer providing software development. This isn’t actually their core business, but they’re helping someone with development work, because they know they can solve their problem.
The sort of clients Lloyd is helping
Now what kind of clients does Lloyd work with? Are they typically in trouble, or do they just need a tips and tricks?
It’s a pick and mix, says Lloyd, but they are all online services.
One is an e-commerce giant, shipping products worldwide. Lloyd’s integrator works directly with the CEO and the leadership team. That would include key roles such as global operations, encompassing manufacturing, shipping, R&D. They’d work with HR, IT, sales and marketing, creative department and finance. So that’s one client.
Then there’s the SEO business they work with. Again, the integrator works direct with the CEO or founder. The leadership team they deal with is somewhat different, so sales and marketing. This time, they’ve got an account manager.
An account manager is a great addition to a team, Lloyd says. They work with the external clients, getting the updates and making sure they’re being looked after, while the integrator generally looks after the internal team and the vendors.
With the SEO business, Lloyd and his team work with with SEO experts, content production, podcast production and YouTube production. And one of the things they do, as a business grows, is look for gaps, say a role or responsibility that’s missing, and point it out.
The client account manager is something James has podcasted about before, and something he’d highly recommend to agency owners looking to deal less with clients.
Lloyd mentioned the odd client they were doing software development for. They work with the video marketer, and again, directly with the CEO, providing technical leadership and software development.
They’re also automating things that took hours to do manually, and now take only minutes. This allows the company to serve more customers, and respond faster to existing clients.
How important to a business are core values?
Almost everyone Lloyd works for has an existing team. Do they typically have core values when he comes on board? And is it something he believes in strongly?
Lloyd highly recommends having core values. He has them in his own business. A client’s core values allow him and his team, when coming in, to know what good looks like. They tell them if they’re fitting in with the business. And it ensures they have the right people. The right people fit and follow core values.
Once they’ve got the core values, it’s about the right seats. The right seats get the role, they want the role, and they’ve got the capacity, the time and the skill to do the role.
If Lloyd asks clients what their core values are, and if they don’t have them, suggests that’s one of the first things they do, is get those core values down and make sure every employee in the business knows what they are.
James’s team have some great core values. They communicate well, and have integrity. They aim to be good at what they do, ninja good. They’re good at collaborating, which is why roles are less structured in the business. And they value confidentiality.
“If you want to rise up, enable your team.”
This can also apply to service provision, says James. Some providers want to keep clients dependent on them. As a coach, the greatest outcome possible for James is for a client to solve their problems and achieve massive success.
“Get one percent better every day.”
When it comes to process improvement, change is difficult to drive. It’s hard to convince people to make change. But this is something Lloyd trains his team to do.
Quite a lot of the time, people believe their own data. You have to show them the data to make them believe it for themselves, you can’t generally push a view onto someone. And so Lloyd’s team aim to make that data available to people in a way they can digest, and they can then make a decision based on that.
Wrapping up the episode
If you’re listening and think you might need the services of an integrator, Lloyd and his team are at virtualdoo.com.
A contracted service like VirtualDOO gives you access not just to a team, but to years and years’ worth of experience in different management methodologies. And most importantly, you’re getting access to a data set and benchmarking capability that will show where the gaps are in your business, straightaway.
This won’t be the last we see of Lloyd, so if you have questions for him, flick an email to James, [email protected], and they’ll address them in a future episode.