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  • Guest Post – Self Organizing Agile Teams: The Fine Line Between Freedom and Chaos

    Posted on September 8th, 2011 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    I recently wrote a guest post for Check it out:

    Self Organizing Agile Teams: The Fine Line Between Freedom and Chaos

    As always please feel free to leave me your comments here or on the site as well. i love feedback.

  • Agile Mindset Is Not A Silver Bullet

    Posted on July 29th, 2011 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    I recently did a guest post for Check it out:

    Agile Mindset Is Not A Silver Bullet

    As always please feel free to leave me your comments here or on the site.

  • Apps in your Browser … Is it the beginning of the end for the Idea of the App Store?

    Posted on June 29th, 2011 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    I just read an interesting article on CNN Money about Mobile Web Apps being developed on Browsers, see Mobile Web apps escape Apple’s iron grip. And it got me thinking about the future of the online app economy. In a few years will anyone download apps to their phone or will they just access it through their browser? Will all of  these app stores continue to grow or even exists? And will the power shift even more towards the developer or will it fall back to the heavy hitters?

    The App Store business model is a sound one (Apple, Amazon, Android) all take a cut of the developers revenue for providing the distribution channel, and more recently Apple announced recently that it wants to take a cut of any type of content or subscription sale made through it’s apps. As you could imagine this doesn’t sit well with most developers and from a business revenue stand point if you’re already giving up 30% and then paying taxes and operating fees your app revenue disappears quickly. So developers have started to build apps that are OS agnostic and can run through any of the widely accepted web browsers.

    Thanks to HTML 5 we may all be accessing our apps through browsers very soon.

  • Attention Please! How to Increase Your Productivity

    Posted on July 16th, 2010 Nelson Bodnarchuk 1 comment

    Yes, you too can avoid distractions and get more done in less time. According to a study from the University of California-Irvine, people switch work tasks approximately every three minutes, switch projects every 11 minutes and require up to 23 minutes to return to a task if interrupted. Those are some interesting statistics when one thinks of their personal work day. It comes back to Multi-Tasking not being about doing more things at once but doing one thing and then skipping on to the next, like a stone skipping on the surface of the water, you never really get to get involved deep enough mentally to commit to making a positive change in the work you’re performing if you’re constantly switching tasks.

    You may have the idea that most distractions are external. However, the research also found that nearly 44% are self-initiated, and these distractions are found to stem from anxiety in four major areas, that affect most everyone: money; time; relationships; and decision-making. The study shows that when we’re feeling stressed we have trouble focusing and waste time on non-value added behaviour, such as excessive e-mail checking or taking that third five minute break to catch-up with your Facebook news feed.

    To avoid this, as I have caught myself several times over the past few years in this situation, I have set times during the day when I read and respond to emails. I also turn off message and IM alerts and have downloaded the necessary apps on my smart phone so I can checkup on my social media accounts anywhere, the key is to limit myself to once per day I prefer checking email in the morning after my daily 5 min goal setting routine & calendar review, just before lunch around 11 AM and near the end of the work day prior to my daily 5 min progress review in preparation for the next day.

    There’s also the classic “Time Thief” that adds to the mix. You can avoid letting others hijack your time with phrases like: “Do you have a minute?” Most of the time my response to this is “one moment please.” and then I ask if a minute will do the trick or if we should schedule a meeting. This technique weeds out the “Time Thief” from the people with a legitimate issue.

    Leveraging the daily, or weekly, “scrum” meeting so employees & co-workers know when they’ll have a chance to discuss issues with you helps them feel less inclined to interrupt your time. Another technique that I’m a huge fan of is empowerment, if you train your employees, if you have them, to make decisions on their own, and hold the scheduled scrum meeting(s) to ensure that the organizations goals are being worked toward in the most efficient way possible then you’ll free up more time within your day to focus in deep on hitting the big fish with those rocks you were skipping.

    It doesn’t really matter when you perform these tasks during your day, just as long as you set a schedule and stick to it. Doing this type of time compression consistently and keeping to it until it becomes routine will allow you to get more done in less time.

  • Leadership Must Have’s

    Posted on June 25th, 2010 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with teams over a broad spectrum; from Venture Capital Investors, to Automation Programmers, to hard working Electrical/Instrumentation/Mechanical Maintenance Crews in a mining and metallurgical plant, to Web Developers building the next killer app that’ll change the world, and finally to the Design/Maintenance/Reliability Engineers that are focused on continuously improving the operation of plant equipment and the safety of those within the plant. In each of these teams I’ve had a varying degrees of responsibility; from Engineering-Intern to Crew Supervisor, and Project Manager. It’s almost been a decade since I graduated and joined the real world, if I’ve only learned one thing since graduation it’s been that in any position you’re in it’s important to demonstrate leadership. Leadership at any level within an organization helps to get things done, however great leadership helps to get the right things done and done sooner, all while improving team morale. So here’s Ten Leadership Must Have’s for every leader out there. Which is basically everyone.

    It’s important to note that I’m not claiming any credit for coming up with these, it’s more of a composite list from my journey to date. As Issac Newton said “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

    A good leader has an honorable character that selflessly serves his/her organization, weather that organization is a company, social group, family, or sports team. What makes a person want to follow a leader? People want to be guided by people they respect and who have a clear sense of direction. To gain respect, they must be ethical. A sense of direction is achieved by conveying a strong vision of the future.

    Ten Must Have’s for Every Leader:

    1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement. Understand yourself by continually strengthening your attributes through reading and self-study.

    2. Be technically proficient. You’ve got to know your job and have a solid familiarity with your employees’/coworkers’ jobs.

    3. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions. Search for ways to help your organization reach new heights, and when things go wrong, and they will, do not blame others.

    4. Make sound and timely decisions. Use good problem solving, decision-making, and planning tools. I always try to remember the Chinese Proverb “Many a false step is made by standing still”.

    5. Set the example. Be a good role model for your employees/coworkers/kids/teammates. People believe what they see, not what they hear.

    6. Know your people and look out for their well-being. Knowing a bit about human nature and the importance of sincerely caring for your team, is vital. One spends the majority of their day with the people at their place of work so being a solid team-mate counts in any arena.

    7. Keep your people informed. Know how to communicate with your team, seniors, and other key people within the organization.

    8. Develop a sense of accountability, ownership and responsibility in your team. These traits will help them carry out their responsibilities, and the entire team will benefit from the extra effort, in along the boards or in the board room.

    9. Ensure tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished. Communication is the key to this responsibility. As a manager I view myself as a multiplication symbol in the work equation. My job is to ensure that the work is organized, clear and linked to the organizations goal(s) while removing barriers to goal completion within my team.

    10. Train your people as a team. By developing team spirit, you will be able to employ your organization, department, section, etc. to its fullest capabilities. My favourite analogy is the “engine firing on all cylinders”.

    Here’s a few extras I think help summarize the Ten must have’s above, since everything is a process, here’s the five main steps to achieving great leadership:

    1. Inspire a shared vision – use words that matter to your team, not generic terms such as: “We will provide world-class customer service in an effective and efficient manner for our clients.”… I can apply that statement to any organization on earth.

    2. Challenge the process – First, find a process you believe needs to be improved the most, then work your way through each process until you’ve improved them all. Then start again at the first process, never stop reaching for full entitlement in a process.

    3. Enable others to act - Give people the tools, authority and methods to solve problems themselves. Removing red-tape and reaching the teams goals are priority one for any leader.

    4. Model the way – When the things get tough, get your hands dirty. A boss tells others what to do; a leader shows it can be done. (i.e. I recently had to become a “junior graphic designer” to help the design team break through a creative mental barrier, instead of waiting for them to break through the wall, I got in there with them and started chipping away on the front lines until they were able to break through. It’s important to note that I did not do the work for them I just set them up for the goal, they were the one’s that deserve all the credit for their outstanding work. Check it out at, be sure to “Explore Wildwood” to see their work in action.)

    5. Encouragement for the Team – Share the glory with your team, keep the pains to yourself. These phrases may sound basic, well they are, and they work:

    • “I admit I made a mistake.” – I am an expert on this one, however as long as it’s not a repeat offense you’re usually good to go.
    • “You did a good job.” – his one only works if they actually did a good job.
    • “What is your opinion?” – I like “What do you think?”
    • “If you please.” – “Please” works as well.
    • “Thank you,” – “Thanks” is a great substitute for this one.
    • “We” – stay away from “I”.
  • Developing Software as a Project Manager

    Posted on May 28th, 2010 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    Software development is all about balance, between resources and conflicting requirements. The PM must deliver the software for the deadline and also design for unknown future requirements. It’s almost like you’re trying to hit a moving target with a blind fold on, but like anything, if you practice you get good at it.

    The best way to tackle a problem and solve it efficiently and effectively is to apply a systematic process to it. When I was completing my first Six Sigma Black Belt project I heard allot of talk about how Six Sigma was more like Sick Sigma as the projects were always long, drawn out and painful. That’s probably why Lean Six Sigma is what stuck with companies more, over the last decade, because of the ability to only use what is required to get the job done. However, I do believe that the Six Sigma methodology will deliver results when applied properly to a project.

    In the software development field a good 40-60 % of projects fail, this is usually due to poor requirements definition and larger scale software projects require something more than an ad-hock “here’s what we’re going to accomplish until the next set of, wouldn’t this be cool“, requirements from the marketing team, or worse, the customer.

    So how do you complete these projects on-time, on-budget and on-scope? For most PM’s it’s a word, sacrifice. Usually it’s the time and budget that are fixed and the scope ends up being modified to allow for a “successful” completion of a project. However, I would argue that if I was asked to build a house with only $10,000 and eight weeks I may only be able to dig a hole and pour a foundation, if that.

    So how do you solve the problem of scope creep? My solution is to scope out what the customer wants before any deadlines are set or any money is requested to be approved, with a clear view of what is to be accomplished the budget and time frame can be set around that. Now there are exceptions to the rule, as in everything in life, the key is to know the rules so well that you know when it’s appropriate to break them to deliver the product to the customer on-time, on-budget and on-spec.

    Here’s a great article on Wikipedia titled the PM Declaration of interdependence, it discusses six management principles that were initially intended for project managers of Agile Software Development projects, however these principles were re-branded as the “The declaration of interdependence for modern management” because of their applicability to other management situations.

    I like the principles so much so that I posted them here as well:

    • increase return on investment by — making continuous flow of value our focus.
    • deliver reliable results by — engaging customers in frequent interactions and shared ownership.
    • expect uncertainty and manage for it through — iterations, anticipation and adaptation.
    • unleash creativity and innovation by — recognizing that individuals are the ultimate source of value, and creating an environment where they can make a difference.
    • boost performance through — group accountability for results and shared responsibility for team effectiveness.
    • improve effectiveness and reliability through — situationally specific strategies, processes and practices.”

    If you’re familiar with Six Sigma, or Lean manufacturing, you’ll see the overlap with the methodologies goals, and it all comes back to that fundamental skill in not only project management, but in life as well….Balance.

  • Orbo…Changing the Way We Power Everything?

    Posted on January 12th, 2010 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    Happy New Year! Here’s a great link that is very relevant to anyone looking to help the cause…What cause you ask?

    The human cause. Revolutionary ideas like this are what allows us to make real progress with our species.

    Checkout <a href=””></a>, for more information.

  • Agile TV for Software Development & More

    Posted on November 22nd, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    It’s been awhile since my last post, and it may be a little while again before I publish another post, so I figured that I ‘d highlight a great resource that I ran across in my online travels for new and better ways of applying lean, agile and critical path analysis to projects, software and business management.


    It’s a great directory of videos, interviews and tutorials focused on agile software development approaches and practices: Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, Test Driven Development (TDD) , Lean Software Development, Feature Driven Development (FDD), Behavior Driven Development (BDD), Continuous Integration, Pair Programming, Re-factoring and several other techniques that can be applied to making your process simple yet effective.

    They even ask for suggestions, and accept contributions from their readers. Just check out their contact page.

  • 5 Ways to increase Employee Productivity

    Posted on October 23rd, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    From Past Experience as a PM in a range of companies from large to small and dealing with diverse backgrounds such as Power and Energy, to Metallurgy, to Software Development. I’ve learned that low employee productivity isn’t always due to a poor employee. I would actually apply the 80/20 Rule in this case and state that 80% of the time lackluster productivity is due to employee motivation and their effectiveness relates directly to the manner in which they are managed, while only 20% of the time it’s actually just a poor employee.

    Office Space

    It’s easy for employers to look at lackluster productivity and attribute the problem to “poor employees”.  Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating that you coddle employees like a 6 month old or give them smiley faces each time they do something right, this isn’t Kindergarten it’s the Big Leagues (or at least we should be leading teams like it’s the Big Leagues). So as a manager what can you do to impact the amount and quality of output from your team. Here are five of my tactics that I tend to pull out of the ever expanding tool box that today’s leaders require to get the job done and score the game winning goal.

    1. Give team members freedom over their work. Let them have input on the tasks they perform and how they perform them. Give them choices in assignments or creative control to complete tasks however they wish. This will boost their feelings of ownership and allow you to focus on the bigger picture instead of hovering over their shoulder and essentially treating them like a Kindergartner. I personally follow the 1 planned interruption a day rule, I have one 15 min meeting a day with my teams to sync up our priorities, answer questions and understand their impedance’s so I can help remove the barriers to the teams success. After that I won’t interrupt them for the rest of the day, unless there’s another planned meeting with a specific agenda or the fire alarm goes off.

    2. Challenge employees. Give them difficult tasks that push them further, or load their work funnel until it’s almost overflowing. Don’t make the tasks so difficult that you set them up for failure. However, by pushing them slightly further you’ll motivate them to perform their best and also encourage pride in their work. Again I come back to the 1 planned interruption a day rule, I can only interrupt them once per day because I’ve given them task worthy of their full concentration and they don’t need any unnecessary distractions from an over bearing manager.

    3. Provide each employee with the right motivation. While cash may motivate employees to accept a job or stay in a job, it may not motivate them to put their best foot forward at that job each and every day. Instead, tailor motivation to the personality and lifestyle of each individual employee. Work to understand what’s really important to an employee and use that to create motivational tactics. What works for one, may not work for another. I like to develop what I call a P3 sheet for each employee. A P3 is simply a Personal Performance Plan, and as long as it’s specific to the employee then it will be relevant and help to drive performance from the trenches and help to improve not only the organizations bottom line but help the person improve their skills and level of satisfaction from the work as well. This is a great tactic used by some of the best performing companies out there, Jack Welch discusses this in his book “Winning“.

    4. Convey to employees their value. Explain how their pieces of work fit into the greater puzzle that is your business. Employees that are aware of what they bring to the table will feel more part of the team and truly have an impact on the success of the company.

    5. Recognize and address employees’ concerns. Be cognoscente of employees’ concerns and the problems they may be facing. Once you have an understanding of how they feel, communicate that you are aware of the issues and are willing to work with them to create a better overall environment.  You don’t need to solve all of their problems, however removing barriers and providing a positive, professional and performance based environment will help to set the framework for success. These tactics aren’t something that you do once and then you’re done. To ensure productivity for the long run, you need to be constantly repeating the cycle and going further to nurture the work and demand that your employees perform at only the highest standards. That doesn’t mean them working 17 hr days or skipping vacation, it means to strike that balance and find the optimum point where you and your team get the highest productivity for the time spent working towards the successful completion of the goal.

    Dilbert Motivation

  • The Most Difficult Management Challenge: You!

    Posted on September 25th, 2009 Nelson Bodnarchuk No comments

    I’ve found that no matter how difficult it seems to manage a team, managing oneself is the most difficult management challenge of all. Being objective towards yourself is next to impossible when when you really think about it. Put another way there is an immediate and inherent bias and error with your internal gauge when measuring your own performance. I find that there are extremes, at times I forgive myself for offenses that I’d never accept in others, while other times I’ll hold myself to impossibly high standards of performance setting the stage for failure. To avoid such extremes, one must approach the task of managing oneself as if they were managing someone else.

    The Golden Rules for Managers, by Frank McNair, offers the following suggestions for self management:

    1. Focus on your weak points: admit to yourself where you’re most likely to fail. Identify your shortcomings and surround yourself with people whose talents will help compensate for what you lack in these areas. Continue to grow, in order to mitigate your weak spots until they become areas of strength. Avoid focusing only on your current strengths, this will limit your potential for success.

    2. Set a deadline and reward yourself only if you meet it: the next time you have to complete a difficult less than exciting project, become your own boss and get it done! Set a due date for completion and offer a performance based incentive, such as dinner at a fancy restaurant or show. You’re likely to achieve the goal if the payoff for reaching the objectives is clear, use SMART goals (Specific Measurable Attainable, Realistic and Timely).

    3. Keep Positive, the more negative you become, the less effective you become: in the heat of an argument, we have all said and done things that, if given the option, we wouldn’t choose to repeat. You’ll never meet anyone who thinks better and makes better decisions when they’re angry (With the exception of Ron Hextall). Refuse to allow yourself to react to a situation in a compromised state of mind, this can damage valuable relationships. Remember that, as a manager, you don’t have to get angry in order to give feedback.

    4. Don’t skip holidays: in 20 years, the only people who will remember that you didn’t take your vacation will be you and your family, who will recall feeling shortchanged by your excessive devotion to business. Take time off to experience the joy that comes only from being with your loved ones. You’ll also return refreshed, energized and bring new insights to the table.

    5. Fire yourself if required: at some point, many people find that they’re in a job that is not satisfying. Most people stay due to a fear of change. That can happen even if the job is CEO and it’s your own company. If you reach this point, you should “fire” yourself—either by finding a way to fire yourself up with renewed enthusiasm for the work, or by actually firing yourself from the job. If it’s the latter, you need to find a job you like better, whether within your own company or elsewhere, and then attack it passionately. You only live once and in life there are no dress rehearsals, so spend your time doing something that you love doing. If you do you’re more likely to enjoy life more fully and make a positive difference in those around you.