Work from the Customer Back…

I went to a great Agile Meetup presentation at Thoughtworks last night where REA presented how they applied brave leadership,  agile/lean & systems thinking to transform their customer contact centre. The problems they were aiming to solve were:

  • Low customer satisfaction
  • A disengaged team
  • No link to organisation

Here are some notes:

Brave Leadership  = question the status quo. Servant-leadership is key. Brave leaders observe the work and help remove failure.
Agile/Lean = not the silver bullet, but provides teams the tools/processes to collaborate and deliver. Design a human system that works. Lean thinking: remiove metrics that don’t matter. Rapid experimentation. Team drives improvement. Work from the customer back. How many hoops does customer have to jump to get what they want. Understand the root cause of failure. How many things are we doing that we don’t need to?
Systems Thinking = understand the system – eliminate the wrongness & use empirical data to reduce waste and affect change. Staple yourself to the problem to understand it!

Other thoughts presented included:

Brave leaders:

  • Assume everyone’s already doing their best
  • Are willing or expecting to do things against the norm
  • Take imperfect action
  • Develop other leaders
  • Cultivate a culture of trust

Good coaches:

  • Don’t talk agile – they assist with problem solving
  • Help leader articulate the problem rather than jump to a solution
  • Work collaboratively on the strategy
  • Gentle, reassuring and make them feel safe
  • Show value early
  • Provide feedback in a safe environment

And we were left with homework!

  • Does your team/company understand your customers’ demand?
  • How many calls relate to failure and how much is demand? (Reduce the failure!)
  • How much is customer-thinking prevalent?
  • How brave is your leader?
Work from the Customer Back…

Work-Life Balance, Food Groups & an “Unconference”

I was just pondering over this article about “work-life balance” that suggests the term “work-life balance” as being a poor one – it suggests that rather, we should think of the areas of our lives like food groups – there are various parts to life to keep us “nourished” or “balanced”.

To contribute to my “work life balance” – no we’re not using that term any more – “life nourishment” I took myself off to Melbourne’s first ever Agile Coach Camp – an “unconference” – at the weekend.  It was my first real foray in to the work of anything like an “Agile meetup” and I have to say – it was great!

Typically Agile, the agenda is not set until everyone is present and a “marketplace” for ideas opens and people either present items they’d like to facilitate and lead, or items they’d like something answered about.

I went to:
– Finding your team’s Mojo
– Unlocking the power of Agile mind, body & soul
– Agile Jujitsu
– Dealing with difficult people
– How to be a better coach
– Evolution v Revolution
– Agile: Convincing “The Board”

Key takeaways were:
– I really need to work somewhere with a view of the port, a games console and a pool table
– The Melbourne Agile Coaching community are an awesome, welcoming bunch of people
– Dealing with difficult people? Don’t avoid it! Deal with it!
– Mojo and “Soul” are hard to pin – but worth investing in
– Agile, like the martial arts, takes practice and discipline!
– Evolution and revolution both have their place in the world of change

Oh, and I can stand like a one-legged tree for longer than I thought.

Now to unravel all the learnings (“Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly digest“) and apply them practically….

Work-Life Balance, Food Groups & an “Unconference”

You don’t have to be crafty to be Agile – but it helps…

I’ve just been coaching a colleague in the planning of another facilitation session. This time we’re looking at the rather dry subject of finance, budgets and (gasp) savings.

In the planning session we identified our agile (it’s likely to change, of course) agenda, our areas to separate the room into (Area one: identifying budget, highlighting budget items with cheesy cash-related avatars and associated actions, & area two: committing to savings items – i.e signing them off as a collaborative team.)

In the planning it became clear that surfacing the items and adding them to cards will enable discussion and allow for clear, actionable items and decisions backed by team involvement, action and commitment.

So for our meeting – we’ll need plenty of kanban cards, blue-tack, post-it notes (for grouping, prioritising, action-identifying), avatars, pens and wall space… you don’t have to be crafty (or analytical, or a planning gun) to be Agile – but it helps!

You don’t have to be crafty to be Agile – but it helps…

While we value your UML stick-men, we value collaboration more

In a quick chat in passing today a student mentioned that Agile has been withdrawn from the local “software engineering fundamentals” course – there will be 10 weeks of UML instead. Stickmen. Handy.

 Anyway – that chat reminded me that 1) I have this blog 2) there are still many misunderstandings about Agile out there. (The concept of “Agile Fanboys” was raised by the lecturer withdrawing Agile…)

 Here’s my simple view of Agile today (it may change as I evolve with it!):

 1) Agile is about working together.  Ensuring we (us ITS nerds and our business) have a shared understanding of what our business needs from us to deliver value. Delivering value means we succeed as a business. Succeeding as a business means that we can feel fulfilled (we’re succeeding, hoorah!):  and it means that we can keep our jobs.  Good.

 2) It’s NOT a cult, it’s NOT voodoo; but it IS cultural. It’s based on TRUST. Trust at all levels. From the Release Engineer (the Iteration manager of Iteration managers) to the Iteration Manager, from the Iteration Manager to the team – from the team to each other, from the Iteration Manager to the Release Engineer… trust. Trust that we are all here for the success of the business. And we all know what success does.

 3) It’s simples! There are some basic ideas to follow. There are some basic ceremonies (quickish, useful, value-driven meetings) that should be followed. As iteration/scrum masters we need to keep coaching, and keep coming back to the simplicity of it all. If we’re wasting time – we’re wasting value.  The main thing we should reflect on always is – IS THIS USEFUL to the success of the business?

 And speaking of cultural – workplaces are changing – let’s face it. A great example of this is Zappos – who are changing mindsets about workplace structure and running a “holocracy”– trust and self-organising teams are key. We’re not quite (!) there yet – but Agile helps us nudge along to join the evolving world of business…..

While we value your UML stick-men, we value collaboration more