Tag Archives: agile

Agile: Is Rework Bad?

I recently had an enlightening conversation with someone who was just learning about Agile.  She was deeply entrenched in a Waterfall methodology and legacy PMO practices.  She had lots of questions about how Agile works in a Stage-gate approval process and client contract negotiations.  But what captured my attention most was her frustration over rework.  She said, “we recently had a situation where a client came to us with a half-baked idea.  Before we had finalized the requirements, IT went ahead and worked on something.  That led to seven rounds of rework before we finally satisfied the customer.  How would Agile have handled that?”  It is a good question, but the answer is about far more than just a process change.

Image Source: http://nakedpresenting.co.uk/f-is-for-feedback

Image Source: http://nakedpresenting.co.uk/f-is-for-feedback

Re-thinking Rework

The paradigm shift that Agile suggests is that rework isn’t bad.  That is a challenging concept to get your head around.  Let’s look at the woman’s example again and shift the language slightly.  “Our IT department responded to a client and showed them an option based on the available requirements.  Upon seeing the working software, the client was able to refine their request and provide more clarity to IT.  After seven iterations, the client was thrilled.”  Mind-blowing, right?  If we simply pivot our expectations, we might find that we can be more Agile in our approach to solving customer problems.

Agile and Product Mgmt – Year in Review

I committed this year to write 52 blogs and I did it!  There are 16 on my previous employers website and 36 on www.runyanconsulting.com.  As I look back and review and reflect on the posts, here are my favorites.

Product Management Blogs

I am very passionate about Product Management and I think it is sometimes an undervalued skill set.  Where I have a chance, I always try to share the strategic and practical benefits that come from having great product management resources.  This year, I wrote a five part series about how to Launch a Product and recently completed a 3 part series on how to sunset or decommission a product.

Image Source: http://www.greenbiz.com/

Image Source: http://www.greenbiz.com/

 

Agile Blogs

I am equally passionate about Agile because I have seen how it can improve people’s job satisfaction and raise the level of productivity and effectiveness for the whole organization.  This category was harder to choose my favorites, so I came up with four.  First, there was a series on creating an Agile Culture and what it really means for management.  This series generated some controversy, which I love because it means we are talking about important things.  Next, I am surprised that many organizations are not familiar with Fist of Five.  We use the Agile technique all the time and it is a difference maker in driving productive conversations.  Many organizations also  struggle with how to incorporate Agile into the day-to-day business, so I offered three options for incorporating bugs and maintenance into your Agile teams.  Finally, I am a big believer in the sacredness of the Sprint and I believe that organizations that are disciplined enough to honor a sprint commitment will typically be more successful than those who are loosey-goosey with the guidelines.

Other

Finally, I care deeply about leadership and family so some of my blogs were dedicated to those topics.  One that has been particularly fun is documenting our evolution to an Agile Family.  We have learned (and laughed) a lot together.  Also, I spent some time really thinking about Innovation and what drives an innovative spirit in some people but not others.  This particular blog might be my favorite of the year.

I hope you have enjoyed some of these blogs and maybe learned something new.  I know that I have learned with each post and I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue growing and exploring new ideas.  What is in store for 2014?  Who knows for sure, but it is going to be a great year!

 

Agile Family – A Recap

We became an “Agile Family” in 2013 and I first blogged about it in August. Since then, we have had a number of family meetings and we have learned some very interesting things along the way.  Here is a recap of our findings.

1. Face-to-face collaboration matters.

Those of you who are familiar with Agile and its principles know that face-to-face communication and frequent opportunities to Runyan_Familycollaborate are essential to Agile.  Turns out, the same is true with the family.  When we asked the retrospective-type question “What do you want to do more of?” our tween daughters (ages 11 and 12) said more family activities.  What?!? Our kids are at the age of boyfriends and texting and thinking parents are uncool and yet — they want to spend more time with us.  And when we inquired about the types of activities, it wasn’t watching TV or playing video games.  It was electronics-free hiking and bowling and ice skating.  You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that, but since then, we have become closer as a family – as a team.

Agile Culture: Impacts to the Organization

In previous blogs, we reviewed the implications of adopting an Agile Culture on management – learning to trust the teams, understanding the new aspects of teamwork and the reality of more transparency.  In this blog, we are going to address the impacts to the organizational structure.  Jim Highsmith, one of the original signers of the Agile Manifesto recognizes the evolution of organizations and has presented a webinar titled “Stop doing Agile.  Start being Agile.”

ChangeWhen we think about that phrase – to start being Agile – we have to dig deep into our culture and organization to truly examine how things currently are and how they ultimately should be.  What we typically find when we start coaching an organization is that they are open to fitting Agile into their existing structure.  But that isn’t enough.  There has to be a willingness to abandon the existing structure in favor of one that is truly Agile.  This is a much bigger shift and much harder to accomplish and in many cases (unfortunately) this is where Agile implementations are compromised.  Let’s look at some examples.

Agile Culture: Management and Transparency

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparency_and_translucency

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparency_and_translucency

This is a blog series about the impacts of an Agile implementation for management.  We have already discussed trust  and teamwork, and this post is dedicated to transparency.

Transparency for the Team

People that move into Agile (or Scrum) team typically experience a dramatic increase in their involvement in the business.  They have access to more information and they are participants in conversations that would have excluded them in the past.   The team members now see more of the Product Vision or Roadmap than they ever have before.  They probably have a task board where they can see which tasks are in which state.  They should be having a Daily Stand-Up meeting where the team learns if anything is standing in the way of progress for their development effort.  They are now included in conversations about scope and timing and release planning.  Thus, from the team member’s perspective, transparency has increased exponentially.

This is not necessarily true for management.  When you have a team that you trust and that is working together, the transparency for management might actually decrease in some ways.  As a manager or Director, you will no longer know everything that is happening on your teams in an Agile environment for two main reasons.  (1) You trust the teams to work together to deliver so you no longer micro-manage them and (2) Because of the trust and teamwork, more things are happening than ever before and it is much harder – and unnecessary – to stay on top of everything.

Agile Culture: Management and Teamwork

When it comes to implementing Agile, managers who are used to a “Command and Control” environment are going to be very uncomfortable.  Now, let’s be honest, Command and Control managers are not all bad.  They typically feel a high degree of accountability and that is a great thing.  They feel like their neck is on the line so they want actions to be done as they command so that they can deliver.  But what they fail to benefit from is the wisdom of the team.

Image Source: http://buzzardnbigdog.com/?p=3131

Image Source: http://buzzardnbigdog.com/?p=3131

The Power of the Team

Think about your team or colleagues.  Who has long tenure and has ‘been there, done that’? Who is a relative new hire who may have relevant experiences from a previous employer?  Who has worked in several different departments? Who has worked in several different roles?  Each of these unique traits means that an employee might bring a unique perspective that the manager would benefit from, if they were willing to listen.  Albert Einstein has famously said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.”  Our employees have great ideas and many welcome the opportunity to creatively solve the problems of the business.

Members of management – manager, director, VP, whatever – should present the team with the problem or opportunity and let them ‘self organize’ to determine how they will solve the problem with teamwork.

Agile Culture: Management and Trust

I recently led a discussion on the impacts of Agile on the culture of an organization.  I shared that if your company is undergoing an Agile transformation and you aren’t uncomfortable, then you aren’t stretching enough.  Agile is uncomfortable.  It is awesome and the positive impacts on productivity, collaboration and customer and employee satisfaction are profound.  But getting there can be bumpy.  This blog is dedicated to the subject of trust and how it plays out with management.

Trust and Teenagers

trust-230x300

Image Source: http://www.webapptesting.com/trust-no-one-who-doesnt-localize-their-apps/2012/08/

A good analogy on trust is college freshman.  If anyone has sent away a child, niece, nephew or neighbor, then you know something about trust.  When we send our loved ones away to a land of temptation with minimal supervision and high expectations, we have to trust them.  How do we do that?  Well, hopefully a number of factors are working towards the positive.  We hope the following about college freshmen:

–          They have a strong foundation

–          They are smart/intelligent

–          They are capable of learning from their mistakes

If an 18 year old has these qualities, they will probably fare well in their new environment.  They have a foundation of values and experiences that will influence their decisions, they are smart people who can navigate through new experiences and if they do make a wrong turn, they can learn from their mistakes and course correct.

So why is it that we are able to trust immature and hormonal teenagers but we cannot trust our employees?  Are the same factors not also true about our employees?

Step 3: Write a scene for success

In our previous blogs, we have outlined two key steps to take before you dive into that new project or idea that you are so excited about.  Those were: Step 1 – Set your Goals and Step 2 – Define your target audience, or personas.  Now it is time for the final step – decide what success looks like and the best way to do that is to write a scene.  I wish I could say this was my idea, but it’s not.  The smart people at Wharton wrote a great article on this concept called Visionary Leadership: Creating Scenes that Change the Future.   The idea is to define success for your project/challenge/opportunity by creating a scene – like in a movie – of what success would look like in the future.  We did this at a company that we are consulting with and it was a great exercise.

Write the Scene

movie-reel

Image Source: http://www.squidoo.com/screenwriting_tips

Our effort was an Agile implementation at a company with lots of legacy software and its fair share of legacy processes and ideas.  We sat down and pretended that we were through the Agile adoption and the core tenets of Agile were alive and well.  Our scene involved speedy response to a changing market condition, reprioritization of work, team execution of a new deliverable, finding out that deliverable was not the correct response, immediately incorporating that feedback, course-correcting and quickly deploying a more suitable solution.  This scene included management and stakeholders playing a supportive role without judgment, finger-pointing or unnecessary meetings.  Sounds like a dream world, right?  This was a great exercise because it forced us to think about all of the attitudes and practices that would need to change to make this scene a reality and that was eye-opening.

Introduction to Agile Textbook

It is real now.  Our Agile textbook is advertised on the Pearson Higher Ed website.  How cool is that??  After many long months of writing, editing, revising, writing more, researching and writing even more – it has become a reality.

Many more details to come but I had to get the news out because it is so exciting!!!

open_book

Image Source: http://vixstar1314.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/closed-book/

 

Step 1: Set Goals

When we get a good idea, it is natural to jump right in and start working.  In recent weeks, several people have had so much enthusiasm about their project that they want to dive right in without any real preparation or fully formed vision of what they want.  To address this, here is a three part blog series on steps to take before you start.  This week’s blog is dedicated to Goals – or defining what you want to accomplish.  Part 2 will be defining your target audience and we will discuss personas.  Finally, part 3 will define what success will look like by creating a screenplay.

SMART Goals?

lighted-path1But first things first.  What are your goals for the project?  Now, many will tell you that you have to define SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  I am going to disagree.  While SMART goals are great, I don’t think you need that much structure for every project.  There is a saying attributed to Voltaire which says “Perfection is the enemy of the good.”  I feel like this applies to goals too.  You can spend so much time trying to define metrics that are measurable and time-bound that you delay the project or miss a critical window.