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Agile in a Bag, London, UK, June 10 2016

Scrum Expert - 5 hours 29 min ago
Agile in a Bag is a one-day conference that takes place in London. It proposes workshops to help you understand how Agile works and interesting presentations explaining Scrum ideas. It is also a great place to network with fellow Agile practitioners in London. In the agenda of Agile in a Bag, you can find topics like “Wicked Problems in Organisational Design”, “Kanban is more than a board, let’s discuss deep Kanban”, “Coaching the Agile organisation”, “Avoiding ‘Mini-Waterfalls’ in Agile Environments”, “From Rust to Robust-From Iron To Agile Triangle”, “Cynefin A&E Simulation Game”, “Coaching Tools for Agile Leaders”, ” Quantifying Cost of Delay – Why is it the ‘one thing’ to quantify, How do I do it?”, “Influence techniques of Scrum Master: how to build a team without a power”, “The Journey of a Lean Enterprise”. Web site: http://agileinabag.co.uk/ Location for the Agile in a Bag conference: Mary Ward House, 5-7 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SN, UK
Categories: Communities

Agile Coach Camp Canada West, Vancouver, Canada, June 17-19 2016

Scrum Expert - 5 hours 59 min ago
Agile Coach Camp Canada West is a three-day conference that creates opportunities for the Agile coaches community to share successes, learning, questions and unresolved dilemmas. All this happens in an energizing and supportive environment. The Agile Coach Camp Canada West follows the open space format for conferences. Each participants makes a contribution to the art and science of helping people and teams be their best as they create valuable software. Share your stories, observations, and puzzles. Discuss coaching challenges you have overcome or those you are wrestling with today. Describe challenges you see emerging as we seek to improve the organization of knowledge work. Bring your questions. Test your ideas. Listen and learn from others. Web site: http://agilecoachcampcanada.ca/ Location for the Agile Coach Camp Canada West conference: BCIT Downtown Campus, 555 Seymour Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B 3H6, Canada
Categories: Communities

Agile Coach Camp Canada East, Cornwall, Canada, 3-5 June, 2016

Scrum Expert - 6 hours 14 min ago
Agile Coach Camp Canada East is a three-day conference that creates opportunities for the Agile coaches community to share successes, learning, questions and unresolved dilemmas. All this happens in an energizing and supportive environment. The Agile Coach Camp Canada East follows the open space format for conferences. Each participants makes a contribution to the art and science of helping people and teams be their best as they create valuable software. Come to share your stories, observations, and puzzles. You will be able to discuss coaching challenges you have overcome or those you are wrestling with today. You will describe challenges you see emerging as we seek to improve the organization of knowledge work. Bring your questions. Test your ideas. Listen and learn from others. Web site: http://agilecoachcampcanada.ca/ Location for the Agile Coach Camp Canada East conference: NAV Centre, 1950 Montreal Road, Cornwall, Ontario K6H 6L2, Canada
Categories: Communities

SoCraTes UK, Dorking, UK, June 2-5 2016

Scrum Expert - 6 hours 19 min ago
SoCraTes UK is an International Software Craftsmanship retreat for open-minded craftspeople who want to improve their craft and the software industry as a whole. It’s a great opportunity to speak to and code with many like-minded and talented developers. The conference itself is free. SoCraTes UK, the International Software Craftsmanship retreat follows the open space format for conferences. Open space is a simple methodology for self-organizing conference tracks. It relies on participation by people who have a passion for the topics to be discussed. There is no preplanned list of topics, only time slots and a space in the main meeting room where interested participants propose topics and pick time slots. Web site: http://socratesuk.org/ Location for the SoCraTes UK conference: Wotton House, Guildford Road, Dorking, Surrey, England, UK
Categories: Communities

Agile Coach Camp Italy, Lavarone, Italy, June 9-11 2016

Scrum Expert - 6 hours 29 min ago
Agile Coach Camp Italy is a three-days of highly collaborative, self-organized open space conference. It’s for everyone involved in Agile coaching, training, mentoring and helping Agile organizations. Agile Coach Camp Italy follows the open space format for conferences. Open space is a simple methodology for self-organizing conference tracks. It relies on participation by people who have a passion for the topics to be discussed. There is no preplanned list of topics, only time slots and a space in the main meeting room where interested participants propose topics and pick time slots. Web site: https://accitaly.wordpress.com/ Location for the Agile Coach Camp Italy: Grand Hotel Astoria, Piazza Italia, 38046 Lavarone, Italy
Categories: Communities

Links for 2016-05-23 [del.icio.us]

Zachariah Young - 7 hours 29 min ago
Categories: Blogs

How SPRINT METAL achieved transparency and employee engagement through Kaizen

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 16:38

SPRINT METAL Factory

SPRINT METAL is an industrial company based in Germany that specializes in producing fine and ultra-fine metal wire. The fine wire industry is characterized by formidable requirements for flexibility, but SPRINT METAL has operated successfully in this competitive market for 25 years. They follow a Kaizen culture, and their commitment to continuous improvement has enabled them to improve employee engagement and achieve democracy and transparency across the whole organization.

Practicing transparency:

Kaizen is not just about improving business processes; its true function is comprehensive improvement at every level. In a successful Kaizen environment, employees receive as much value as the company. Team members are able to develop their skills and be an important part of the system, rather than a cog in the machine. The free exchange of information is promoted, and anyone can contribute new ideas for improvement. Safety requirements and the overall well-being of employees are also given careful attention.

SPRINT METAL Fine Wire

A coil of fine wire at SPRINT METAL

Following these principles, SPRINT METAL tries to foster an environment of open communication at their factory. Employees from all levels of the hierarchy are encouraged to send feedback and ideas up the ladder. Department heads use Targetprocess’s Bug Tracking functionality (with Bugs renamed as Messages) to manage such communication so that all internal messages (production error tickets, requests, suggestions, ideas for improvement, etc.) receive documented attention.  

With this system, top-level management can give instructions, department managers can document errors, and team members at the operational level can send suggestions or requests up the hierarchy. SPRINT METAL has also created special views to facilitate internal meetings. Meeting results are logged as comments on the meeting entity (which is also represented as a Bug).   

The benefits of open communication:

The careful attention that internal communications receive helps to enable the culture of trust dictated by the Kaizen approach. Before SPRINT METAL adopted Targetprocess, meeting minutes and employee messages would often get lost in mountains of paper and nonuniform Excel sheets. Now, everything is available from one central location, and no employee messages or important meeting minutes can be forgotten.

In addition to the transparency boost this system provides, team members also feel listened-to because any suggestions, requests, or other messages they submit receive noticeable attention. Participation in any actions or initiatives is also highly visible; this encourages team members from every level of the hierarchy to take a greater participatory role in process improvements and high-level operations.  

SPRINT METAL Received Messages History

This high visibility ensures that contributions from individuals don’t just get swept under the rug; team members actually receive recognition for their suggestions. This is monumentally important for nurturing skill development and team confidence. It’s notoriously difficult to keep up morale in a factory setting, but employees at SPRINT METAL seem to be happy with the way things are. And, if anyone does have a problem with their worklife, they can easily make their concerns known to management.

Facilitating collaboration with software:

Because many employees work with factory equipment and do not use computers in their daily work, operational workers submit their requests and suggestions manually through handwritten notes, text messages, or their preferred medium. Department managers then place these messages into the appropriate project within Targetprocess. The 11 pillars of work at SPRINT METAL make up the different projects, so messages are grouped by whichever pillar (project or category) they are most related to:  

The 11 pillars of work at SPRINT METAL: Autonomous maintenance, expert maintenance, progress, health and safety, installation of new equipment, cost, customer service, personal development, production, quality assurance, and environmental considerations (with a project for overlapping topics).

Team members that don’t have access to Targetprocess can still check on the status of messages by logging into SPRINT METAL’s internal system, where all relevant views have been made available to employees. A monitor has been also set up in the factory to display completed requests.

There are many different views for Targetprocess users at SPRINT METAL to see messages and actions, including:

  • An overview of all messages in the system - these can be grouped by category, status, and priority
  • A team-level view of messages for each department
  • An individual-level view for users to see messages by responsible person or by author
  • Views for new messages  - these are used weekly by the board to process messages
  • Views for done messages - these are used for reporting and analysis
  • Views to see actions for each work pillar (project) - these are used by the people responsible for each respective project
Customizing the tool:

SPRINT METAL has altered the standard workflow taxonomy and customized the cards in Targetprocess to reflect their communication-centric process. Custom Fields are used to measure things like visibility, effectiveness, and what medium was used to submit the message.  

SPRINT METAL Custom Fields

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Some Custom Fields used by SPRINT METAL

Visual encoding is used to facilitate prioritization of all incoming messages. If an item has a high business value (such as emergency maintenance), it is usually assigned a planned end date. If a card moves past the planned end date without being closed, it turns red. To make quick analysis of views easier, new messages are colored green, and ‘done’ messages are colored blue.  

SPRINT METAL Visual Encoding

A typical setup of visual encoding at SPRINT METAL (translated from German)

To summarize:

SPRINT METAL practices a Kaizen culture characterized by openness and transparency. Their process for internal communications allows for flexibility in the management hierarchy, from the bottom-up and top-down. Employees at all levels have the opportunity to develop their skills and make visible contributions to operations. Their process and culture allows them to meet the ambitious market requirements of the fine-wire industry.

SPRINT METAL’s use of Targetprocess has enabled them to improve standardization, transparency, democracy, and employee participation. Bug Tracking is used to track incoming messages (tickets, requests, ideas, etc.), actions taken, and internal meetings.

In the future, SPRINT METAL would like to improve their process for messaging so they can reduce similar messages coming from different employees. This will allow them to put a greater focus on the quality (rather than quantity) of their responses. They would also like to see more options for advanced reporting in Targetprocess -- something which is on our roadmap for 2016.  

Categories: Companies

User Stories Are Not Requirements

Scrum Expert - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 16:27
The creation of Agile approaches was also a reaction against huge and useless requirements documents, either textual or using modeling techniques like UML. All the values of the past should however not be discarded in the requirements activity. In his book “Agile Software Requirements”, Dean Leffingwell explains how user stories are different from use cases and software specifications. Although user stories do most of the work previously done by software requirements specifications, use cases, and the like, they are materially different in a number of subtle yet critical ways. They are not detailed requirements specifications (something a system shall do) but are rather negotiable expressions of intent (it needs to do something about like this). They are short, easy to read, and understandable to developers, stakeholders, and users. They represent small increments of valued functionality that can be developed in a period of days to week. The are relatively easy to estimate, so effort to implement the functionality can be rapidly determined They are not carried in large, unwieldy documents but rather organized in lists that can be more easily arranged and rearranged as new information is discovered. They are not detailed at the outset of the project but are rather elaborated on a just-in-time basis, thereby avoiding too-early specificity, delays in development, requirements inventory, and an over-constrained statement of the solution. They need little or no maintenance and can be safely discarded after implementation. User stories, and the code that is created quickly thereafter, serve as inputs to documentation, [...]
Categories: Communities

Alignment and Autonomy in Strategy Deployment

AvailAgility - Karl Scotland - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 01:08

Following on from my previous What is Strategy Deployment and Dynamics of Strategy Deployment posts, there is a model I like which I think helps to show how the mechanics and the dynamics work together.

In The Art of Action, Stephen Bungay describes how Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of Staff of the Prussian Army for 30 years from 1857, had an important insight regarding Alignment and Autonomy. Previously these two had been viewed as extremes at the end of a single scale. Having high alignment meant having no autonomy because alignment could only be achieved through defining detailed plans which everyone should follow. Equally, high autonomy meant having no alignment because autonomy would result in everyone doing their own thing with no regard for each others actions.

Von Moltke’s insight was that alignment and autonomy are not a single scale requiring a tradeoff between the two ends, but two different axis which can actually reinforce each other. Thus not only is it possible to have both high alignment and high autonomy, but high alignment can enable high autonomy.

Alignment and Autonomy

They key to making this possible is differentiating between intent and action. Alignment is achieved by clearly stating intent centrally, such that autonomy can be achieved by allowing action to be decentralised in support of the intent. This requires mechanisms to both clarify and amplify intent, and enable and encourage local action. Thus using the definition of Strategy Deployment as “any form of organisational improvement in which solutions emerge from the people closest to the problem”, solving the problem is the intent, and the emerged solution is the action.

Using this model we can now describe two mechanisms necessary to make this happen. Alignment can be achieved with the X-Matrix, which enables the conversations about intent and summarises and visualises the results of those conversations. In other words, the X-Matrix shows how results, strategy, outcomes and tactics align and reinforce each other. Autonomy can be achieved through Catchball (Bungay describes the equivalent as back-briefing), which enables the X-Matrix to be passed around the organisation such that everyone can reflect, give feedback, and improve it, helping focus action on meeting the intent.

X-Matrix and Catchball

Viewing Strategy Deployment in this light also highlights a symmetry with the Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose model of intrinsic motivation described by Dan Pink in his popular book Drive. Autonomy is a direct match in both models and purpose is equivalent to intent. Mastery is then the result of improving capability autonomously with strong alignment to intent.

Drive

What this way of looking at Strategy Deployment shows is that both the X-Matrix and Catchball are necessary components. Just using the X-Matrix with out Catchball will probably result in it being used as just another top-down document to command and control employees. Similarly, just using Catchball without an X-Matrix will probably result in collaboration around local improvements with no overall organisational improvement.

Categories: Blogs

Less is more (and it scales) or SKIP THIS BLOG IF You HAVE TIME TO READ IT.

NetObjectives - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 13:31
The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life, by Leo Babauta, is a fantastic book about becoming more productive simply by doing less.  If you want to learn the secret to becoming more productive, "this is a how-to manual on how to simplify and focus on the essential.  How to do less while accomplishing more.” This 170 page book is a quick read...

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Categories: Companies

Neo4j vs Relational: Refactoring – Extracting node/table

Mark Needham - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:58

In my previous blog post I showed how to add a new property/field to a node with a label/record in a table for a football transfers dataset that I’ve been playing with.

After introducing this ‘nationality’ property I realised that I now had some duplication in the model:

2016 05 22 10 15 15

players.nationality and clubs.country are referring to the same countries but they’ve both got them stored as strings so we can’t ensure the integrity of our countries and ensure that we’re referring to the same country.

We have the same issue in the graph model as well:

2016 05 22 10 40 40

This time Player.nationality and Club.country refer to the same countries.

We can solve our problem by introducing a countries table in the relational model and a set of nodes with a ‘Country’ label in the graph model. Let’s start with relational.

This is the model we’re driving towards:

2016 05 22 10 50 43

The first thing we need to do is create a countries table and populate it:

CREATE TABLE countries (
    "code" CHARACTER VARYING(3) NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
    "name" CHARACTER VARYING(50) NOT NULL
);
INSERT INTO countries VALUES('MNE', 'Montenegro');
INSERT INTO countries VALUES('SWZ', 'Swaziland');
...

Next let’s update the clubs table to reference the countries table:

ALTER TABLE clubs
ADD COLUMN country_id CHARACTER VARYING(3)
REFERENCES countries(code);

And let’s run a query to populate that column:

UPDATE clubs AS cl
SET country_id = c.code
FROM clubs
INNER JOIN countries AS c 
ON c.name = clubs.country
WHERE cl.id = clubs.id;

This query iterates over all the clubs, queries the country table to find the country id for that row and then stores it in the ‘country_id’ field. Finally we can remove the ‘country’ field:

ALTER TABLE clubs
DROP COLUMN country;

Now we do the same drill for the players table:

ALTER TABLE players
ADD COLUMN country_id CHARACTER VARYING(3)
REFERENCES countries(code);
UPDATE players AS p
SET country_id = c.code
FROM players
INNER JOIN countries AS c 
ON c.name = players.nationality
WHERE p.id = players.id;
ALTER TABLE players
DROP COLUMN nationality;

Now it’s time for the graph. This is the model we want to get to:

2016 05 22 10 51 49

First we’ll create the countries:

CREATE CONSTRAINT ON (c:Country)
ASSERT c.id IS UNIQUE
LOAD CSV WITH HEADERS FROM "file:///countries.csv"
AS row
MERGE (country:Country {id: row.countryCode})
ON CREATE SET country.name = row.country

And now let’s get clubs and players to point at those countries nodes and get rid of their respective nationality/country properties:

MATCH (club:Club)
MATCH (country:Country {name: club.country})
MERGE (club)-[:PART_OF]->(country)
REMOVE club.country
MATCH (player:Player)
MATCH (country:Country {name: player.nationality})
MERGE (player)-[:PLAYS_FOR]->(country)
REMOVE player.nationality

And that’s it, we can now write queries against our new model.

Categories: Blogs

Neo4j vs Relational: Refactoring – Add a new field/property

Mark Needham - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:09

A couple of months ago I presented a webinar comparing how you’d model and evolve a data model using a Postgres SQL database and Neo4j.

This is what the two data models looked like after the initial data import and before any refactoring/migration had been done:

Relational

2016 05 22 09 49 23

Graph

2016 05 22 09 52 16

I wanted to add a ‘nationality’ property to the players table in the SQL schema and to the nodes with the ‘Player’ label in the graph.

This refactoring is quite easy in both models. In the relational database we first run a query to add the ‘nationality’ field to the table:

ALTER TABLE players 
ADD COLUMN nationality VARYING(30);

And then we need to generate UPDATE statements from our data dump to update all the existing records:

UPDATE players 
SET nationality = 'Brazil'
WHERE players.id = '/aldair/profil/spieler/4151';
 
...

In the graph we can do this in a single step by processing our data dump using the LOAD CSV command and then setting a property on each player:

USING PERIODIC COMMIT
LOAD CSV WITH HEADERS FROM "file:///transfers.csv" AS row
MATCH (player:Player {id: row.playerUri})
SET player.nationality = row.playerNationality

If we wanted to make the nationality field non nullable we could go back and run the following queries:

ALTER TABLE players 
ALTER COLUMN nationality SET NOT NULL
CREATE CONSTRAINT ON (player:Player) 
ASSERT exists(player.nationality)

And we’re done!

Categories: Blogs

"Tealing" The Capitol using Holacracy, Lean and Scrum

Xebia Blog - Sat, 05/21/2016 - 22:45
Something absolutely revolutionary (or should I say evolutionary) is currently unfolding @WaTech. This CIO-department of the State of Washington is transforming towards the first Teal governmental organization in the US and perhaps even worldwide. Invited by initiator CIO deputy Michael DeAngelo, Joe Justice and I visited the WaTech offices in Olympia to observe and coach
Categories: Companies

SAFe Economic Articles refactored

Agile Product Owner - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 21:22

Hi Folks,

We’ve been taking a pass through the nine SAFe Lean-Agile Principles articles with an eye towards continuous improvement, and also to better align these critical articles with the courseware that depends on them. After all, without firm principles, even a good framework doesn’t have a solid foundation to stand on.

One of the first orders of business was the restructuring of Principle #1 – Take an economic view, and its partner article (and big picture icon) Economic Framework.  These have now been refactored to better separate the principles (Economic view) from the practices (Economic Framework).

I think they are better then they were.

Stay SAFe!

—Dean

Categories: Blogs

Discovery Projects Work for Agile Contracts

Johanna Rothman - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 17:50

Marcus Blankenship and I wrote an article, Stay Agile with Discovery, to discuss how to help your clients see the benefits of working in an agile or more agile way.

We have seen too many clients want “agile” and not want all the responsibilities that being a Product Owner or customer involves. If your client asks you to be agile and then demands you estimate “everything” and provide a fixed cost, fixed scope “agile” contract, you don’t have to say, “NO.”

You can say, let’s try a discovery project so we (as the provider) can explore what it would take to do “everything.” As we finish this first discovery project, where we will provide working product, you can provide us feedback. Based on that feedback, we might do another discovery project. In fact, you can work in month-long (or two-week long) discovery projects all the way through. Your client can ask for changes that you incorporate into the next discovery.

That’s just one way to help people learn about collaboration and resilience over contracts and guarantees.

If you are a Product Owner or a person who represents the customer, you might like our Practical Product Owner workshop.

Categories: Blogs

What’s The Purpose Of A Job Interview?

Derick Bailey - new ThoughtStream - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 13:30

If you’ve ever done a job interview with the explicit goal of “get the job” – as we all have – you’ve already failed.

I know it’s not easy to hear that. It has been incredibly difficult to admit it for myself! But the purpose of a job interview isn’t what you think. It’s not about getting the job.

So… what is the purpose, then?

Find out in this episode of ThoughtsOnCode.

Categories: Blogs

Keeping dependencies up-to-date in Maven

Xebia Blog - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 10:33
Keeping your dependencies up-to-date is more important than ever in modern projects. Everything is connected to the internet and needs to be secure. New vulnerabilities in libraries are found, exploited and patched within days. We use a lot of dependencies, and due to continuous delivery some of your dependencies will need updating every day. Solid
Categories: Companies

Working toward Personal Scrum v.0.2

Scrum Breakfast - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 09:00
I have had a lot of great discussions around my post on Personal Scrum, and in the meantime, I have collected some hands-on experience. Four weeks later, what has changed? What's working well, and what still needs improvement?
What's gotten better since last month?
  • I was ready without drama to go to the Scrum Gathering
  • I have published a blog entry every week, something I've wanted to do but haven't done in years.
  • I followed up on my courses and Scrum Breakfast Club meetings promptly.
  • I succeeded in making a major revision in my CSM materials, something I've wanted to do for years. More generally, I am able to set and accomplish medium term goals.
  • I pushed back and said no to something that would have been a lot of work and little value.
  • I went for a 30 minute walk during the day.
  • I have time to waste on youtube and reddit. (Ask me about where we might find life in the solar system or some fan-made Star Trek films worth watching!)
It seems like this is mostly working. This would be a nice time to pat me on the back. Thank you. What hasn't gotten better?I am still working too much on weekends. Perhaps not quite as late into the night. My idea of enlisting my wife as coach/ScrumMaster has not worked the way I'd hoped. She hasn't had time, sigh. But she got to sing in the Veitsdom in Prague and the KKL in Lucern last weekend, so she can be excused for having other priorities!

I don't always follow the plan. I have decided this is neither good nor bad, just a fact of life. So I forgive myself for when I don't follow the plan and celebrate when things go well.

Now, when I plan a goal, I mark it as either moveable or fixed. Movable is light green on the calendar. This is a goal I want to achieve, but whether I do it in the morning, the evening or perhaps even tomorrow, doesn't make that much difference. I plan around the capacity, not the time slot. Fixed is an appointment with someone or otherwise a hard deadline. In this case, I do plan around the time slot.
What doesn't really work?Well, I don't always work on the items on my schedule, especially not in the order I had planned (thought I often achieve the goals for the day.) What happens when something spontaneous and important arises, like a course registration? Well I do it, even though it wasn't on the plan. What happens if I am in the middle of something when the allocated time ends? Often I finish it anyway, though this probably needs a break and a reflection before deciding do move on.What have I learned about myself?My inspiration was a collection of habits of highly effective people. One recommendation was to manage minutes, not hours. How can people's lives be so totally predictable? I have planned events with C-level executives of major corporations, and yes, their itineraries were planned down to the minute. As predictable as the machines their companies should be. 
Here are some of my key lessons:
  • I treat the plan as an attractor, not as a master. When I am wondering what I should do now, I look to my calendar to see what I have planned for the day, not the current minute.
  • It is important to celebrate what you did, and not to punish yourself for what you didn't do.
  • My estimates still suck. I am a hopeless optimist.
  • Even as I updated my estimates to reflect reality, I noticed something else. Doing the maximum every day that I can is not sustainable. I get tired, my mind starts to drift, and I might find I spend a whole day without even looking at my calendar. There is an important difference between peak performance and sustainable performance.
  • In a battle between planning and procrastination, procrastination has the upper hand. (The walk was both a victory and a defeat).
  • During periods of high uncertainty or where spontaneity is important, e.g. the Scrum Gathering, I only plan the most important activities and leave lots of time for surprises.
  • Planning time is not a replacement for a backlog. I have lost sight of some important goals that I set for myself.  I need a trello board.
What will Personal Scrum v.0.2 look like? 
  1. I will have a backlog and a trello board.
  2. I will review it weekly.
  3. A coach is on the backlog.
  4. So are breaks and a sustainable pace and a weekly planning & review cycle.
Inspect and adapt... life goes on.

Categories: Blogs

Succeeding with your Agile Coach

Learn more about transforming people, process and culture with the Real Agility Program

 

I recently said goodbye to one of my organization’s Agile Coaches and I felt that I needed to take a pause and reflect to consider my next move. The engagement had gone well, in fact one of the best we’ve had, but not without its share of successes and failures. But the successes had clearly outpaced any failures, and so there was a lot of good I wanted to build on.

The departing coach was part of a 3rd generation of Agile Coaches that I had worked with in the 3 years since we had begun our company’s transformation to Agile. And while he was a great coach, so were his predecessors and yet they had had fewer successes.

On reflection, what had really happened is that we had changed as a company; we had learned how to better execute our engagements with an Agile Coach.

Deciding to hire an Agile Coach.

Deciding to hire an Agile Coach can be a big step. A couple of things need to have happened, you’ve recognized that you need some help or at least another perspective. And given that Agile Coaches are typically not very cheap, you have decided to invest in your Agile transformation, however big or small. You’re clearly taking it seriously.

However, through my experiences I noticed that things can get a little tricky once that decision has been made. Many organizations can fall into a trap of externalizing transformation responsibilities to the Agile Coach.

In essence thinking along the lines of “as long as I hire a good coach, they should be able to make our teams Agile” can take you into an engagement model that is not very Agile in the first place.

Much like how Scrum and other Agile Practices connect customers with teams and establishes shared risk, an organization’s relationship with their Agile Coaches need to be a working partnership.

Figure1

Positive Patterns for Coaching Engagements

So it’s important for you to setup the right engagement approach to get value out of your Agile Coach and this goes beyond the hard costs of their services, but also the high cost of failure with not having the right coaching in the right areas.

Here are 5 positive patterns for coaching engagements that I’ve observed:

1. Identify the Customer

Usually it is management who will hire a coach, and they may do so to help one or more teams with their Agile adoption needs. So in this scenario who is the customer? Is it the person that hired the coach or the teams (the coachees) who will be receiving the services? In some cases, the coachees aren’t clear why the coach is there, they haven’t asked for their services and in some cases may even feel threatened by their presence.

For this reason, if management is hiring coaches you need to recognize that there is a 3-pronged relationship that needs to be clearly established and maintained.

Figure2

With the customer in this case being someone in management, i.e. the person who hired the coach in the first place. The customer’s responsibility will be to not only identify the coachee but then work with the coach to establish and support that relationship.

2. Set the Mandate

Agile Coaches typically tend to be more effective when they have one or two specific mandates tied to an organization’s goals. Not only is the mandate important to establish why the coach is there, too many goals can significantly dilute the coach’s effectiveness. Put another way, Agile Coaches are not immune to exceeding their own Work in Progress limits.

The mandate establishes why the coach is there, and should be tied to some sort of organizational need. A good way of developing this is to articulate what is currently happening and the desired future state you want the coach to help with.

For example:

The teams on our new program are great at consistently delivering their features at the end of each sprint. However, we still experience significant delays merging and testing between teams in order for the program to ship a new release. We’d like to reduce that time significantly, hopefully by at least half.

Once the engagement is well underway you may find that the coach, through serendipity alone, is exposed to and gets involved with a wide variety of other areas. This is fine, but it’s best to just consider this to be a side show and not the main event. If other activities start to take on a life of their own, it’s probably a good time to go back to inspect and potentially adjust the mandate.

If you’re not sure how to establish or identify your Agile goals, this could be the first goal of any Agile coach you hire. In this scenario, the customer is also the coachee and the mandate is to get help establishing a mandate.

3. Hire the Coach that fits the need

Agile coaches are not a homogeneous group, with many degrees of specialty, perspective and experiences. Resist the desire to find a jack-of-all-trades, you’re as likely to find them as a unicorn.

Your now established mandate will be your biggest guide to what kind of coach you should be looking for. Is the need tied to technical practices, process engineering, team collaboration, executive buy-in, transforming your culture, etc?

The other part is connected with the identified coachee. Are the coachees team members, middle management or someone with a “C” in at the start of their title? Will mentoring be required or are you just here to teach something specific?

Using something like ACI’s Agile Coaching Competency Framework, would be a good model to match the competencies required of the perspective coach.

In my example earlier, in order for your team to get help with their merging & testing needs, you may have to look for a coach with the right skills within the Technical Mastery competence. And if you have technical leaders who are championing the change, potentially the ability to Mentor.

Figure3

4. Establish Feedback Loops

With the coach, customer and mandate clearly identified, you now need to be ready to devote your time to regularly connect and work with the coach. Formalizing some sort of cadence is necessary, if you leave it to ad hoc meetings you will typically not meet regularly enough and usually after some sort of failure has occurred.

The objective of these feedback loops is to tie together the communication lines between the 3 prongs established: the customer, the coach and the coachees. They should be framed in terms of reviewing progress against the goals established with the mandate. If the coachees ran any experiments or made any changes that were intended to get closer to the goals, this would be the time to reflect on them. If the coachees need something from the customer, this would be a good forum to review that need.

Figure4

Along with maintaining a cadence of communication, feedback loops if done regularly and consistently, could be used to replace deadlines, which in many cases are set simply a pressure mechanism to maintain urgency. So statements like “Merge & test time is to be reduced by half by Q2” now become “We need to reduce merge and test time by half and we will review our progress and adjust every 2 weeks.”

5. It doesn’t need to be Full Time

Resist the temptation to set the coach’s hours as a full-time embedded part of the organization or team. While you may want to have the coach spend a significant amount of time with you and your coachees when the engagement is starting, after this period you will likely get a lot more value from regular check-ins.

This could look like establishing some sort of rhythm with a coachee: reviewing challenges, then agreeing on changes and then coming back to review the results after sufficient time has passed.

This approach is more likely to keep the coach as a coach, and prevents the coach from becoming entangled in the delivery chain of the organization. The coach is there to help the coachees solve the problems, and not to become an active participant in their delivery.

Time to get to work

Bringing in an Agile Coach is an excellent and likely necessary part of unlocking your Agile transformation. However, a successful engagement with a coach will have you more connected and active with your transformation, not less. So consider these 5 positive coaching engagement patterns as I consider them moving into my 4th generation of Agile coaches. I expect it will be a lot of work, along with a steady stream of great results.

Martin aziz

Martin Aziz
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@martinaziz
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Agile Amped Greatest Hits: Change Management 2016 Was a Winner!

BigVisible Solutions :: An Agile Company - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 19:00

ACMP2016

The Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) and Change Management 2016 conference both celebrated their fifth anniversary and SolutionsIQ was excited to be there to partake of this memorable event. Our Agile Amped video podcast was onsite to capture all of the riveting ideas and innovations that were being shared by some of the change management industry’s most illustrious thought leaders. This conference engaged our imaginations and motivated everyone in attendance to strive for more. Some of the topics covered included: using mindful meditation to achieve real business value in a changing organization; combining big data and attachment theory to determine if the US government is capable of change; how leaders either act as enablers or blockers for their own change initiatives; and three nifty tips for helping leadership more effectively achieve sustained change.

Here are just a few of our favorites from ACMP2016:

Change management is an integral part of our Agile Transformation Solution, so it is with great pride that we declare this conference a huge success! Now it’s on to Keep Austin Agile on May 26. See you there!

 

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SpiraTeam is a agile application lifecycle management (ALM) system designed specifically for methodologies such as scrum, XP and Kanban.