Please see AgiliX for additional information on the training.
You can register for this course at here at Scrum.org.
Lean Agile adoption can only be successful when the people themselves create the necessary changes and therefore are really committed and feel accountable for it. The path to Lean Agile adoption can therefore not be planned in full detail upfront. But the path towards adoption can only emerge, the path can only emerge by walking it!
In my little booklet I am writing called Emergent Transformation I discuss how you can go on your agile transformation journey. One of the things I use to make an initial adoption plan is a set of questions and possible answers that I call the Emergent Transformation canvas. The canvas is your guide to create your adoption plan by going through all the building blocks and answering the questions. By filling the canvas you create your transition backlog. After that you can order it by business objective and there you go; your first adoption sprint plan is ready! You can now use Scrum in your adoption journey.
In this blog I will only discuss the set of questions you can use to make up your plan. See below an explanation of the canvas.
Emergent Transformation Canvas
What are our business objectives? Why are we doing this?
The Business Objectives building block defines the objectives the organization aims to achieve. The business objectives are the reason why an organizations is going on the lean agile transformation journey. As the transformation leader you have to ensure the business objectives are crisp and clear so people can identify with and work towards them. Missing or vague business objectives gives poor sense of purpose and direction to those involved.
In the context of lean agile adoption the business objectives are formulated as a vision story including goals and forecasts.
How do we measure progress towards our objective? Are we moving in the right direction?
The Measures building block defines how the organization is going to determine if the transformation is on the right path. The measures identify how you are going to assess success, measure progress towards the business objectives and learn. In addition the measures are used to discuss whether the transformation process should stop, continue or change direction. Thinking about good measures and quantifying them is very powerful because it forces you to discuss exactly and precisely what you mean with success. This discussion increases understanding among all involved about what you are striving for.
Measures are defined on outputs and on outcomes. For example your transformation could produce shorter release cycles which is an output. The outcome could be that the business can successfully react to opportunities.
How does management support the transformation?
The Lean Management building block describes what management needs to do in order to support the transformation so you can achieve your business objectives?. What is it about our working agreements, policies and organizational structure that has to change? What is it that management needs to do to become a coaching manager and to manage knowledge. What are the changes that need to occur to focus on creating customer value and see high performing teams as a key asset?. You need to assess your current way of managing, decide what changes you are going to make and create your transformation backlog.
From the a lean agile perspective the way to go is to start learning as quickly as possible and use that learning to increase results.
Which practices align with our objectives? How do we build the thing right?
The Agile Development building block describes your plan to be able to build the thing right. It is about the practices you need in order to shorten the feedback cycle and support the business objectives.
Below some example practices for software development
- Test Driven Design
- Emergent Architecture
- Pair programming
- Exploratory testing
- Inspection charts
- Collective ownership
How do we co-create our innovative solutions?, are we building the right thing?
The emergent innovation building block describes how you are going to engage with your employees and your customers to really understand their needs. What do you need to do so the people feel comfortable to innovate their ways of working and the company can learn how to do agile?
The teams and organizations have to learn how to apply the practices in their specific context. How are you going to support them to learn and share their capacity to act.
New product development needs innovation if you want to really make a difference. And innovation needs creativity simply because you need to discover new information. The problem with innovation is that it is unpredictable so a defined process with upfront planning is futile. You need to create lots of ideas and then reduce the number of ideas to those that make sense. You need to think creatively!.
Experts in cognitive proceses like Seymour Papert and David Kolb describe a similar model for learning, discovering and creative thinking. In short it comes down to people learning by building a theory internally and then validating their theory in the material world. A group learns along more or less the same process.
Working in a group can significantly increase creativity of individuals [Gerrard Fischer]. Listening to others opinions, discussing different perspectives and looking at problems from different backgrounds stimulates the creation of new ideas. As a group you more easily explore a broader solution space.
In order to get to creative results as a group you need a setup of minimal structure and minimal constraints. Innovative results emerge rather then come from upfront planning. In addition the group needs to work with external artifacts like e.g. post-it notes, or drawing on a whiteboard. These external artifacts also known as externalizations enable groups to more easily go from vague mental ideas to concrete representations, enables a group to create a shared memory that in turn enables to create common understanding and a way to work together. [R. Keith Sawyer]
According to R. Sawyer creative results are by definiton results that emerge. To get emergent creativity you need to
- Understand at a abstract level what you want to achieve but not know how to achieve it.
- Have actions of people be dependent upon the actions of others. People must have a large number of possible options to take in reaction to the actions of others in the group.
- Have the possibility to change the effect of another’s action or even undo it by future actions.
- It has to be a collaborative process where everybody contributes evenly, so no hierarchy.
The common approach of running a meeting is far from this and therefore creative results are rare. The problem is that common meetings have someone to run the meeting, have an agenda and there are no externalizations for people to work with and create distributed cognition [R. Keith Sawyer].
Why do serious games enhance creativity?
Serious games cover all prerequisites discussed above for enabling group creativity.
A serious game consists of a game space where all the action takes place. Often it is some kind of metaphoric picture with a canvas, quadrant or something else to emotionally connect to. Then there are the artifacts to work with (mostly sticky notes), a common goal to achieve (what features should be put in our next release?) and finally there are some rules of play. The rules, game space, artifacts and goal form the externalizations and help a group create a distributed cognition as described above.
Serious games have a goal but the path towards it is open and emerges though collaboration. In a serious game everyone is equal and can contribute equal. On every action a person takes others provide feedback, others can build upon it or can change its effects. The use of externalizations like post-it notes, written information, drawings, pictures and discussion make you use more parts of your brain. As a group and as an individual you’re creating new ideas that build upon others ideas and then you are reducing your ideas, you are thinking creatively as a group. All this makes serious games also in line with the prerequisites for emergent creativity as discussed above.
The topping on the cake is that games create a safe environment. An environment where people are equal and people are more likely to say what they really think. It is easy to provide and receive feedback and you see real progress towards the goal. This makes serious games not only very productive but also much fun to do.
- R. Keith Sawyer – Distributed creativity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts © 2009 American Psychological Association 2009, Vol. 3, No. 2, 81–92
The last decade we have had quite some success with agile development. The agile community moved from a 14% project success rate in 2002 to a success rate of 45% in 2012. And Scrum emerged as the most popular agile framework being used 82% of the time in 2011. But there are still some problems to say the least. It is estimated the USA spends 150 billion a year on failed IT projects, the european union around 140 billion and The Netherlands around 5 billion a year on failed governance IT projects. That is serious money. Out of a large number of potential causes I think that the failure to validate early and often is one of the main reasons for failure.
The agile community now knows how to build the product right, but we are still a long way from building the right product. Agile teams are used to deliver working product for validation at the end of each iteration. Frequent delivery of working product motivates people as they experience real progress, provides transparency to all stakeholders so they understand exactly how the project is progressing and short deadlines actually increase productivity too. Frequent delivery also creates the possibility for customer validation keeping you from going of track too far. But all this is not enough to build the right product!
After each iteration agile teams ask themselves the following questions
- What is preventing us from shipping today?
- What is our minimal viable product?
- Which features are innovative and make a difference to our customers
- What are the real drivers and challenges of our customers
- Which improvement will have the biggest impact
Validation is not going to provide the right answers to these questions! Not if you are looking for innovative results. For validation to work you first need a correct vision. For validation to work for innovation you have to discover what really drives people, understand their problems and create high customer empathy.
Most methods for understanding customers like focus groups, questionnaires and also validation do not give good innovative results. That is because these methods mostly activate the rational part of the brain. The problem is that the rational part of the brain tries to produce rational answers and those answers are often not the real thing. The real drivers, thoughts and motivations of people that provide you with innovative insights, are formed in the unconscious part of the brain. So in order to really understand our customers and be able to come up with innovative ideas we need to connect with their unconscious brain.
A good method for getting innovative insights is through serious games. A subset of serious games are the Innovation Games®, these are serious games specialized in getting innovative insights from your customers. For example a game like Buy a Feature helps you answer what the most valuable features to be worked on are. Another game like Product Box helps you understand your minimal viable product. The fascinating thing about Innovation Games® is that they actually produce innovative insights. The outcome of the game is very valuable but lots of insights also come from the conversations and discussion that arise among the people during the games. It is in the game environment when people are really engaged in collaboration with others, moving things around and discussing points of view that their real drivers, reasons and motivations emerge.
Last week I attended the Innovation Games summit in San Jose CA and also gave a talk. The summit was great, full of interesting people and new ideas. Plans are to have another summit in Europe this year, already looking forward to that.
My talk at the conference was about engaging people using serious games. You can get the slides here IG Summit 2013 Engaging people
I’ll be giving the Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master training in Utrecht on April 15 and 16 2013. The training will be in Dutch.
You can register at here at Scrum.org
Please AgiliX for additional information on Agile training & coaching.
An Lean Agile organization has the following important characteristics;
Respect for people
People work in small self-organizing multidisciplinary teams. The teams deliver customer value from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. The teams collaborate heavily and frequently with their customers and really understand their drivers, needs and jobs.
People feel free and safe to fail and learn. There is an ongoing flow of improvement happening. Improving working processes, improving team work, improving customer understanding and improving individual skills. People decide how they do their work, when they do it and who in the team does it.
Clear measures of progress are visible all the time. The measures flow directly from the work the team does and are used to improve their work, their plans and their knowledge. There are measures on quality, customer satisfaction, current experiments and progress towards the goal.
Management is there to help the people do their work. Management sets expectations, offer team and individual coaching, manages knowledge creation across the organization and creates leaders.
Practice low risk high value innovation
Customers are frequently presented with product improvements that helps them improve their life at work or in private. Through frequent collaboration with customers the organizations learns. Customers express their needs and problems, customers and the teams co-create their solutions.
The frequent release of new functionality into the hands of the customers validates the assumptions made during development. This reduces the risk of building the wrong thing and enables rapid change in direction. The customers are offered only the features that they need and when they need them. There is no time lost on low value features.
Focus is on creating customer value
Creating customer value is seen as the path to sustainable profits. The product teams are continuously understanding customer demand and focussing on the customer experience of their services and products.
The focus is not on satisfying the stakeholders because the organization understands that the stakeholders become satisfied once the customers are satisfied.
Teams are an asset
Teams are seen as a key asset in the organization. Teams are kept together for long periods of time so that they can grow into high performance. The work is made to fit the teams. The teams are not made to fit the work! The teams are fully accountable for the product or service that they create.
A team is able to create a complete slice of the product from innovation idea to production release.
People on the teams have their individual expertise but help most others in the team. They do this because their goal is to create customer value and that can only be done as a team and not as an individual.
The days that innovators could sit in a team disconnected from development, had enough time to analyze, think and propose grand innovation plans are over. The assumptions that you can predict customer interest, reduce risk by extensive marketing analysis and have the wisdom to know what customers really want are fundamentally flawed but are still common practice!
Working from these assumptions brings us long lasting, high risk, high costs innovation projects.
According to Jeffrey H. Dyer in his paper The Innovators DNA there are 5 essential innovation skills.
Five “discovery skills” separate true innovators from the rest of us.
According the Jeffrey H. Dyer the innovation skills are
Discovery Skill 1: Associating
Associating, or the ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas from different fields…
Discovery Skill 2: Questioning
…Innovators constantly ask questions that challenge common wisdom ….
Discovery Skill 3: Observing
Innovators carefully, intentionally, and consistently look out for small behavioral details—in the activities of customers, suppliers, and other companies—in order to gain insights about new ways of doing things…
Discovery Skill 4: Experimenting
Like scientists, innovative entrepreneurs actively try out new ideas by creating prototypes and launching pilots…
Discovery Skill 5: Networking
Devoting time and energy to finding and testing ideas through a network of diverse individuals gives innovators a radically different perspective.
Innovation Scrum Team
True innovation progress starts once real customers experience your ideas and provide feedback to validate your experiment. Innovation should therefore be done by teams that cover the whole stream from customer engagement to delivering customer value. Teams that understand the customer needs, experience how their lives are affected and are able to create the solutions.
We therefore need to shorten the innovation cycle of
2. Developing and
Co-creation can be done in numerous ways. A fun and agile way for beginning with Co-ceation are Innovation Games®. By playing Innovation Games® you can practice all of the innovation skills mentioned above. The Scrum team itself can do the observations and process the results of the games. This will increase customer empathy and customer understanding among the people developing the solution.
Scrum gives you a framework you can use for developing and validating your experiments at low risk to get high value. The Product Owner can be the driver of low risk high value innovation.
I’ll be giving the Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master training in Utrecht on February 4 and 5 2013. The training will be in Dutch.
You can register at here at Scrum.org
Check AgiliX for more information.
Moving from a hierarchical command & control organisation to an entrepreneurial networked organisation is quite a challenge. It is difficult step when a manager has to stop telling people how to do things, stop providing ‘answers’, stop making decisions for people, stop wanting to know everything that is going on and it is especially difficult to stop overruling people when things start getting out of ‘control’.
Below some frequently encountered issues that managers face that have to do with decision making and empowerment.
The manager goes past the team and gives a direct assignment to an individual of the team.
A manager that addresses and gives special assignments to an individual in isolation distorts the common purpose of the team and is breaking the trust within the team. The managers therefore impedes the team’s ability to self-organize. Trust within the team is fundamental because trust improves the quality of interaction and connections between individuals of the team. And we know that, from a complexity perspective, the quality of interactions and connections is of direct influence on self-organization. A common purpose is also fundamental for successful self-organization because it makes sure all individuals align in the same direction and balance each others mistakes.
Example: A manager notices that the quality of the system is not what it should be. He invites one of the team members to his office and gives him the task to make sure quality goes up and stays up. Now this individual goes back to the team and feels and is personally accountable for the quality. He needs to make sure it works and will probably check other people’s work just to make sure. Trust is lowered, common purpose is blurred, communications costs rise and self organization diminishes.
The team is not allowed to decide for itself
A self-organizing team must be allowed to make decisions themselves using some kind of voting technique. This is also true when the team is included in the decision making process of something outside the team. If a team is not allowed to make decisions using a voting technique for themselves the team looses the contributions from some of it’s members, undermines it’s collective knowledge and therefore is not self-organizing.
Example: A manager appoints a team leader or Scrum Master or Architect that has the authority to make decisions in the team. Just in case the team makes a stoopid decision or in case the decision making process takes to long or some other excuse.
The manager asks for input from the team and then makes decisions based on additional knowledge that the team does not have.
A self-organizing team should have all the information available to make it’s decisions or answer it’s questions. Radical transparency as Steve Denning calls it. If a manager asks for a recommendation or answer to a question from a self-organizing team it should give the team all the additional knowledge it has. The team can now consider all variables that the manager takes into account. If a manager withholds additional information the self-organizing team does not receive the correct feedback and cannot correct itself and co-evolve with it’s environment and self-organiztion fails.
Example: A manager asks a self-organizing team how much functionality they can deliver by the release date. The manager knows that the deadline can be extended and that there is budget for additional resources of any kind. The manager is going to use this information to decide which functionality he can drop, what to communicate to stakeholders and how much extra resources he will ask for. Please make the information available to the team so they know what is going on around them.