All that glitters is not Gold!!

allthatglittersisnotgold

I am fortunate to be a part of few agile transformations, it has been exciting and challenging to witness successful but also unsuccessful transformations. It creates strong myths and beliefs of agile and acclaims failure for n’ number of reasons. I would like to tease some agile concepts, widely applied in conjunction with many frameworks. Gartner’s research on the agile maturity states, it is subjective how companies respond being asked on their agile maturity, usual answers are ‘we are agile‘ has been found a completely different business benefits and organisational impact, compared to a low-agile-maturity organisation who say ‘we do agile‘.

From the awakening fact of sustainability in ever changing and disruptive world, usually companies steer their strategies to cope the change. And fall into agility for rapid or faster product offerings, with a belief as a lever for acceleration to get an upper edge over competitions and disruptions. It is impactful especially when the big tech giants like Google, Amazon and Apple are diversifying into other businesses rationalising their need of reinventing themselves. All seems the right reasons to invest in a big change and apparently begins the marathon of transformation, attaining their new future, and are inclined towards adapting the most perceived silver bullet, doing all things the agile way!

I guess, believing it is the better way to transform for real, it might as well for some companies. Customer become the focus and therefore begins the most interesting journey of finding renewed ways of working. Lots of interesting, diverse ideas are put thru, newer processes, change implementations, people and structural changes and few experiments if possible!

The well established operational processes start appearing inefficient, time consuming, expensive and wasteful, sometimes this also includes people and their skills. 

Viral communications, sometimes theatric, making change visible and audible, hiring consultants and coaches, forming working champion groups, building training modules etc. From then the idea starts taking shape into problem solving, by replacing the old with new!

Consultants and coaches then introduce multiple new frameworks and concepts like Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Systems and Design thinking, human centre design, journey mapping etc. Hence a reason for this blog to express my gentle disappointment.

Although, I do understand there is an immense value in those concepts, however in the tidal wave of changes, not every shiny tool is needed IMO, there will be times and can be more impactful when appropriate, especially when you are dealing with large corporates.

Dilbert Change

Here is when I think it’s starts slipping off, when some of these concepts does not make a good fit for purpose and attracts criticism, ‘agile is all about BS’.., it only has jargons, not working concepts, and wasteful ceremonies …blah blah..!

1. Being Lean and agile is not the ultimate answer for the organisational transformations. being mindful of the purpose and the problem is key. Validating ideas that are still true and holds value! will it help achieve our goals on the journey, test your hypothesis as often as possible drive by data and metrics.

2. Agility is about responding to change with adequate ability and approach to implement change/s fast enough to fulfil the need. Be creative and stick to your context and own your transformation.

3. It’s not only about processes and tools by falling in the trap of standardisation, develop them to be efficient, end-to-end. for e.g. ‘Customer Support shall use JIRA for tracking customer calls’, why! Let their teams figure out appropriate tooling suitable for their needs. Build a mechanism to provide customer feedback in a meaningful way and address their pain points at earliest, build a backlog for future solutions.

4. agile ceremonies – embrace new values, and principles, practices and benefits . Consider ‘Shu-Ha-Ri‘ the stages of learning, might put things in order. Be Patient, sometimes it will take time to see value coming thru, do not prescribe them!

5. Kata and Kokoroo tools for Innovation, I think it should be treated as a usual business, and lives everywhere, everyone and everyday! creating such environment to embrace it can become the main driver of disruptions over time, and sadly it is seen to be ignored, Isn’t innovation is the heart of agility at the first place!

While I am not saying whether it is right or wrong, I am inclined towards being more pragmatic than purist to make things work effectively in their very context.

I believe at the same time we are fortunate to have such incredible challenging opportunities to create learning organisations and have ability to learn, guide and help them in need. Helping people working for such organisations could be our small contribution towards making this world a better place, isn’t it!

————————————————————————–

Shri is an pragmatic agilist, working as an agile coach and passionate about bringing people together for a purpose and to work as one unit for their purpose. Focused to deliver customer eccentric business outcomes. Also a critical thinker to tailor solutions within given constraints and context. Sharing the goodies of agile way of doing things learnt from others and experiential learning. Lean thinker. Love the concept of learn fast and move on to working solutions. Also a believer in people being the most essential part of the whole equation involved in building great products.

To learn more about me or my blogs please visit https://freeagilist.com/

Follow me on twitter: @ShriTaralkar

 

 

Advertisements

Team building in agile teams make sense, here is Why?

team-building

Courtesy Image: https://goo.gl/images/KL7tmS

I am sure everyone approves diversity and agrees it should exist in a working group, to have wide-ranging and innovative solutions/products in today’s competitive edge. But what does it mean? Well the real buck starts when the team is formed and now the time is to do some actual work, together!

I often wondered what is the secret sauce or recipe to make these group work together. In fact its revealed in the movie ‘Kung Fu Panda‘, ‘that the long-withheld secret ingredient to his father’s famous “secret ingredient soup” is actually “nothing“, explaining that things become special if they are believed to be‘.

So, “There is no secret recipe”…! You have to believe and instill the trust and ownership within the team and the people within, this is where the magic happens!

Sticking to the core i.e. the scrum values, looking at them consciously, affirms to have a plan and a vision for the team to be at a desired state, where there is a need to perform optimally and create value. In order to live and breathe those values we need to embed them, treat them as a foundation, and to build the foundation and inevitable trust, one need to know each other at an extent that they accept each others differences and willingly desire to work with each other. Which connects me to the quote from the most appreciated book ‘The five dysfunctions of a team‘.

Remember team work begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.

– Patrick Lencioni

This can be kicked-off in many different ways such as inceptions, project/initiative briefs, sharing visions, problem to solve, introductions, sharing hobbies, ice breakers games etc. Additionally, investing into a team building event, making it more fun learning event for e.g. sharing personal stories, it goes beyond and here is where I believe is the first opportunity to seed-in the most required trust, with an intent that it becomes more stronger further developing into bonds. This is where and why team building makes sense, based on the ideology of great psychologist, Bruce Tuckman’s ‘stages of group developmenthelping the teams to have a vision for being self-organised and performing teams.

So why is it important, what happens if we didn’t invest in team building events?

In many instances, ignorance is bliss, unfortunately not in this case. One cannot promote bad behaviors, disrespectful treatments, bad influences in the team, as there are severe consequences of NOT addressing them and you pay the price by having unhappy individuals performing sub-optimally.

some of the basic pitfalls or slip-ups the team/s go thru are;

  • Fear
  • Poor communication
  • weak estimations, planning, testing
  • Ignoring customer feedback
  • Lack of empowerment, improvements
  • No provision to address employee resistance

Laying up the right foundations at the beginning, prevents many of the above.

So when is the right time and when should you consider team building activities?

Well its a journey, ideally should not stop until you meet the vision of the team, they are self organised and high performing, or the team chooses to diverge using different ways to do things or changing the project/initiative.

  • Forming a brand new team
  • New team member joins the team
  • Any time team morale is down
  • Any time team energy is flat

Team Building

Courtesy Image: https://goo.gl/images/qRWOQy

What would team gain by investing time in this ?

Some tangible benefits;

  • Build trust
  • Communicate well
  • Collaborate
  • Have a Functional conflict
  • Holds themselves accountable

Helps to build safe environments, plus to;

  • Understand the vision
  • Inspect and adapt
  • Accept, its OK to make mistakes
  • Have freedom to experiment, try new ways
  • Call out the wrong behaviors
  • Create simple agreed rules
  • Continual learning
  • Share success and failures

Few other ways to keep it glued throughout the journey;

  • Retrospectives games, visuals
  • Sharing food morning breakfast, afternoon snacks
  • Team lunches, barbecues, home cooked/baked
  • Team coffee’s
  • Birthday’s
  • Celebrations

This list can be more creative and overwhelming, when team understands the importance of it and are committed to live the values created together. This may not be welcomed by all the team members, you will need to find the balance i.e. how much is too much!!

Please share your thoughts, ideas, comments, I would love to hear diverse ways of keeping teams healthy and performing..

————————————————————————–

Shri is an freelance agilist working as an agile coach/scrum master and passionate about bringing people together for a purpose and to work as one unit right from forming till performing. Focused to deliver customer eccentric business outcomes. Also a critical thinker to tailor solutions within given constraints and context. Sharing the goodies of agile way of doing things learnt from others and experiential learning. Lean thinker. Love the concept of learn fast and move on to working solutions. Also a believer in people being the most essential part of the whole equation involved in building great products.

To learn more about me or my blogs please visit https://freeagilist.com/

Follow me on twitter: @ShriTaralkar

 

 

Team says ‘can the retro’, actually is not a bad idea!

Retrospectives_Freeagilist

When it comes to continual improvement the first tool comes to the mind is an retrospective meeting. Of-course its a great tool that opens up avenues to speak equally and have say, even for the quietest member of the team, and it works! And this comes naturally to a long running self-organised functional team. Then arise a need to use different retrospectives formats and activities too to keep it interesting for this group. Introducing new activities, futurospectives, focused challenge solutions, mini improvements etc. (all designed for their context) to inspect and adapt every two weeks can last for a long time.

At one point team come to the terms and concludes, still its quite boring, as they just do the improvements on the fly whats agreed between them and keeps moving on. There goes the need to get rid of the retrospectives as a ceremony!

In a team retrospectives lose value due to 2 reasons;

  1. they get boring, monotonous
  2. they produce no actionable items that can’t be worked

Sounds familiar! Well, I think its a good sign if its coming from the team with a good intent. I would say its pretty common for a team to reach this milestone cherish it, indeed its a healthy sign of their maturity i.e. self-organised and high performing will replace the ceremonies that were designed to build these traits and right behaviors. One should not critically question it, rather embrace it and allow them to choose the mechanism they like to use and experiment, ultimately its for improvements.

While experimenting, be prepared as it wont be one the tool they will stick to for too long, as they will continue to nurture the experimental culture, learn and settle until they there is a need to change again. Again open to change is reaffirming, only ‘change’ is constant.

Next question to the facilitators arise, what are those other mechanisms for replacing basic ceremonies?

Below are few options that I tried and continue the search;

  • Survey’s – Random questions relevant to the context/situation!
  • Suggestion box – near the team’s area, physical wall
  • Vote Box – what to keep and adapt, any new ideas
  • Health radar – questionnaire to rate themselves and depicting it on a radar
  • Happiness index – physical or online
  • 360 degree feedback

Don’t be surprised if they feel a need to call a formal retrospective meeting to surface critical issues, this re-instates the importance the inspect and adapt mechanism embedded by this ceremony, once they decided to ditch!

I am eager to hear your thoughts, insights and learn from you, if you have been into similar situations, what other creative ways you embraced and any interesting tools techniques you used specifically or recommended to the teams. Appreciate for your comments and shared learning!

————————————————————————–

Shri is an freelance agilist working as an agile coach/scrum master and passionate about bringing people together for a purpose and to work as one unit, right from forming till performing. Focused to deliver customer eccentric business outcomes. Also a critical thinker to tailor solutions within given constraints and context. Sharing the goodies of agile way of doing things learnt from others and experiential learning. Lean thinker. Love the concept of learn fast and move on to working solutions. Also a believer in people being the most essential part of the whole equation involved in building great products.

To learn more about my other blogs please visit https://freeagilist.com/

Follow me on twitter: @ShriTaralkar

Dealing agile effectively in large organisations

High rise

Evidently it’s been an immense challenge for people introducing agility in large organisations, assessing the gap and need, many frameworks have been emerged and the most popular ones as you know are SAFe, LeSS, DAD, Spotify etc.. In my opinion all frameworks are good for the fact that they create hope for these organisations to discover and practice value driven initiatives as oppose to traditional sequential project based approach which is more prevalent because of the organisational system anchored over years.

Yes, you hear me right, if you peep into the operations every organisation has their own system and it exists parallel to the culture, sometimes the system itself is the culture. Whoever joins the company automatically inherits and becomes a part of it. The more they settle they become one of the roots. Just like any government organisations, they have lobbyists, committees, advisory boards etc. Similarly every large company or corporate has their own set.

Below are few key things I believe and practice to cope up as a Coach, Delivery lead, Scrum Master or a team member. I try to encourage agility within my vicinity in the similar environments I get to work with.

Create Partnerships: To build the engagement working with cross functional teams you are bound to come across roles that can create blockers for your swift delivery. Make them them a part of team change, bring them to your team ceremonies. Kickoff the initiative inviting all required influential people that would have input or contributions to the delivery. Meeting one-on-one with important people seeking feedback and giving updates ahead of time has always helped building long term Partnerships.

Master yourself on teaching: While building partnerships you need to allow them to learn the new way of working or doing things, take an opportunity to express and connect to the principles of agility and how they help to better understand situation and set the purpose.Embed value based conversations while focused on business outcomes.

Keep stakeholders informed: In my experience the last thing that the stakeholders want to know are the surprises, believe in them, they are real people with more responsibility, they are very much interested to know where the spend is going and if that is meeting the overall outcome for business strategy. Engage them and create a cadence for regular updates that will enable them to make informed decisions on the impediments, blockers issues and risks.

Uphold the team morale: Choose motivated individuals to begin with your journey towards agility. If teams are happy and have autonomy to solve the problems, they will innovate and produce better and desirable outcomes with ownership and accountability.

Organisational Conflicts of interest: There will be frictions for continuous flow, manoeuvre it and identify one or two areas of improvement, every time you hit the road block.Use ‘Value Stream Mapping’ to identify delays, it helps to analyse the time consuming activities in the flow, also can use Lean, Kaizen approaches for the same.

Find the moderators: Not everyone on the journey will be on board. as per HBR blog on uncertainty, in regards to changing the mindset in not so interested or enthusiast people, you need to channelise it through your trusted moderators, they are the people who understands the value and importance of your transformation approach, seek their help to become the bridge and try closing the gaps.
Generate interest on their teams, help them to get their things sorted with agility. Let them realise the value in it, that will be time consuming but the word will start spreading across.

————————————————————————–

Shri is an agilist working as a Scrum Master and agile coach, passionate about bringing people together for a purpose to work as one unit right from forming till performing. Focused to deliver customer eccentric business outcomes. Also a critical thinker to tailor solutions within given constraints utilising the goodies of agile way of doing things. Lean thinker. Love the concept of fail fast, learn and  move on to build solutions. Also a believer in People being the most essential part of the whole equation in building products.

To learn more about me or my blogs please visit https://freeagilist.com/

Follow me on twitter: @ShriTaralkar

Good to great agile teams

Agile_Coach_Human relations

In our rapidly changing world, with no exception of agile teams, that happen to work in versatile and volatile environments, one thing that remains constant is people!

Several researches and blogs have been continuously reminding us, people who work in teams have the ability to make or break the products, particularly agile teams who are focusing on delivering value.
If they are the ones who are producing outstanding products useful to the customers, why are they so difficult and how can we help these people to repetitively perform as a great bunch of individuals?
Well to me, answer lies in basic human relations factors;

  • Communication
  • Motivation
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy

Communication
The core of agile team is how they communicate and collaborate while meeting their team commitments. This needs to be bi-directional from teams to the leaders and vice-versa to raise flags and impediments.

Motivation
Provide autonomy to people. If you think why autonomy is so important?
Well, because its motivating and motivated people build better products. It also enables to make decisions faster.
Please look at Daniel H. Pink‘s video on “The surprising truth about what motivates us

Responsibility
Let people take the ownership of what they do and how they do, trust them and they will deliver being responsible for their creation.

Empathy
Learn and understand their perspective, No people are bad people (there are exceptions), its the circumstances make them behave in that manner. Learn them and be human.
Empathy is known to increase pro-social (helping) behaviours.

If you add all of the above to your skill-sets and be aware, you can manoeuvre the outcomes and understand why working with teams is a complex phenomenon. This will assist you to help them understand each other and prevail collaboration needed for any team or being cross-functional teams.

 

Scrum Master a mind-shift not just Certification…

Agile_Coach_sketch

It’s been a while for me being an agile coach. The more I practice, the more I learn everyday on the ties of human behaviour. I have been fascinated with the transformation happening in me, evolving from a Scrum master to becoming an agile coach. Let me put it into context, working with agile/scrum teams is simple but living up to it’s values is complex.

As team produces awesome outcomes for the betterment of their customers experience and creating business value sprint after sprint, they ideally delve into one unit as a team. I see my role as a crucial part to their attainment towards good to great teams, it can make or break things.

So what does it mean and how does it impact you as an individual?

When you become a part of a team equipped with required skill-sets formed to deliver great outcomes, lots of people give up trying to keep the performance a consistent success for a long period of time.

How can you help as a facilitator or coach?

Firstly stay away from;

  • Their team commitments
  • Solving tech problems
  • Providing your solutions
  • Attaching yourself in their successes and failures
  • Not letting the conflicts emerge
  • Not letting them learn by their mistakes

Are you thinking, ‘If a Scrum Master is not helping to do the above, he is probably not doing his job’, isn’t it! Sounds crazy!

Well, Yes it is freaky to disassociate yourself with the team goals.
You have to be their mentor, coach, protector and a good facilitator. Yes, this is definitely leading towards Servant Leadership. Thanks to my mentor Simon Bristow, who introduced me to this concept, I was amazed but had lots of curious questions, and was most certain believing it won’t work in the real world.

When I actually started practicing it, I realized the enormous value it gave to the team on every step and I started believing in it. The Scrum Master as servant leader is a perfect testimony, and it starts with you…hence its just cant be achieved by a certification. Its a mindset, you need to shift your thinking upside down from command-in-control to servant leader and that is why its simple… but hard.

I started with,

‘What can I bring to the team in order to make them succeed..’,

‘How can I help you to achieve your team goals..’

As Mahatma Gandhi says, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world“, it starts with you. At every opportunity, uplift the agile principles within the team, they always come to rescue if something is not working. Keep enhancing their knowledge and understanding of those principles including you as they evolve and learn. Make mistakes tell the team which principle you have disregarded, so that they learn from it. Finally Trust the team to come up with their own solutions.