Advanced Agile Masterclass: Attendee Interview - Andrew Dodgshun

Later in the week Alistair Cockburn leaves Australia until his next visit. In the time that he has been here, we've had him involved in a number of things. 1st Conference this year was a highlight, training courses Advanced Agile, Use Cases and User Stories and his Heart of Agile/CSM Training as well as taking him along to different organisations to speak about Agility.

Recently Alistair completed his 3 day Advanced Agile Masterclass here in Melbourne. We've taken the opportunity to speak with and interview one of the attendees, so that you can understand more about the course and the overall experience being taught by one of the creators of Agile himself!

Andrew Dodgshun comes from a wealth of experience. (In his words) he spent almost 10 years on projects that were running overtime and overbudget, writing requirements/technical/testing/user documentation for up to 75% (or more) of the time before writing one line of code and releasing quarterly, if they were lucky!

Around 10 years ago, he had the major ‘light bulb’ moment and spent the next 10 years working with Agile delivery teams as a developer/scrum master and eventually full time Agile Coach.

Andrew had a stint in the US, working for companies like Amazon, Kodak, OpenText and Nordstrom. He is now a bigger believer than ever that the benefit of Agile can come from the ways that you work, but also the simplicity of what it offers in terms of uplift to people, teams and work environments.

Andrew presents a good opportunity to learn about this course from someone with strong experience in some of the more progressive tech companies in the world.

If you're interested to talk more about the benefits of this course or have any questions you want answered please reach out to me on Ringo.Thomas@tabar.com.au.

To learn more about the courses, click this link. Alistair is expected to return later in the year!

We love feedback, let me know what you think of this article!

Alistair gives everyone a voice but is fiercely determined that people learn not just what he is delivering but to consider the content from multiple viewpoints and on multiple levels of complexity.

Ringo: How did you first come across the Advanced Agile Masterclass?
 
Andrew: After working in Seattle for 4 years I returned to Melbourne (about a year ago) and I really wanted to take some time out for professional development. Having done plenty of certifications and conferences I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the Masterclass through the vibrant network of agilists I discovered on my return to Melbourne

Ringo: What do you feel like you got out of the three days?
 
Andrew: Attending an event like this is like soul food for an Agile Coach. Most of those attending have been involved in and have been working with Agile for some time, so bringing these minds together to be challenged, pushed and cajoled by the sometimes twisted (in a good way!) mind of Alistair Cockburn is a special type of goodness that goes beyond just sucking up information. Specifically, I gained insights into levels of practice that only the likes of Dr Cockburn has the time and inclination to investigate and the unique capability for passing on such learnings. I found the discussions and workshops both engaging and ultimately extremely simple and practical in purpose giving me new directions to explore both personally and professionally.

Ringo: Are there any key learnings you took out of the training you’d want to share?
 
Andrew: Many learnings but the key one really was the theme of the workshop which is” The Heart of Agile”. Stripping away all the decorations and padding often associated with methodologies and frameworks we are left with the simplicity of just 4 concepts – Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect and Improve.

Ringo: How would you describe Alistair’s teaching style?
 
Andrew: Alistair’s teaching style is relaxed, eclectic and at times feels like you are in some sort of anthropological experiment. He gives everyone voice but is fiercely determined that people learn not just what he is delivering but to consider the content from multiple viewpoints and on multiple levels of complexity. It can be exhausting but is also a lot of fun and energizing!

Ringo: How would someone know they were ready to complete the training?
 
A hard question as I think there is something there for everyone but to get the most value a good grasp of both Agile principles and the common methodologies and frameworks under the Agile “umbrella” is recommended. This is not a course to teach Agile so coming to the course with a good history of practical work experience around the principles of  Agile as well as the theory would be a good indicator you are ready to take it to the next level.

Ringo: How would an organisation know it was valuable to put their staff through the training?

Andrew: Any organisation that has realised they need to move beyond merely implementing frameworks and methodologies and aspire to seriously embracing the principles and values of the Agile Manifesto would have to consider putting their staff on such a stimulating journey with Dr Cockburn for a few days as a very special opportunity. 
 

Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS): Trainer Interview - Venkatesh Krishnamurthy

This is the first of a 3 Part Series about Large Scale Scrum. In part one, we will help you understand what LeSS is. In part 2 we'll move on to explore how it provides value to organisations, and part 3 will be about the structure and learning outcomes of the Certified LeSS Practioner course.

In this first part, I interviewed Venkatesh (Venky) Krishnamurthy, Australia’s first and the only LeSS Certified Trainer and asked him what LeSS really is, and where it has come from.

About Venky

Venky has extensive experience working with LeSS in complex, corporate situations, and has worked closely with LeSS co-creator Craig Larman.  

He is a speaker, thought leader and published author specialising in the application of Lean and Agile principles into major corporations and programs of work. He has held leadership positions across Australia, USA, Europe and Asia and has been known to apply agile methods including: Scrum, XP, Kanban and Systems Thinking to deliver outcomes for customers.

Upcoming course

In the past, Tabar has run LeSS training with co-founder of the framework, Bas Vodde.

We are now supporting Venky's training courses, with an upcoming Certified LeSS Practitioner course coming up in June.

You can learn more about the training and register for the course here:

If you're interested to talk more about the benefits of this course or have any questions you want answered please reach out to me on Ringo.Thomas@tabar.com.au.

We love feedback, let me know what you think of this article!


LeSS, an acronym for Large-Scale Scrum  is a framework to help descale the complexities in the organisation while delivering highest value to the customers in large scale product development scenarios. 

Ringo: What exactly is LeSS? How has it come about and what is it designed to address?

Venky: LeSS, an acronym for Large-Scale Scrum, is a framework to help descale the complexities in the organisation while delivering highest value to the customers in large scale product development scenarios. 

It’s not exactly new though, it was developed out of a set of over 600 experiments done by the creators applying it to large scale programs and distributed Product Development, they’ve been running them since 2004. These experiments were created to try and understand what happens with Scrum once you scale it out of only one team.

Out of these experiments, they wrote two books. Practices of Scaling Lean and Agile Development, and Scaling Lean and Agile Development. In these two books they captured all 600 experiments of what does and doesn’t work.

As these books gained popularity there became a market demand for a framework based on the learnings from them. People wanted a step by step process on how to start large scale programs using Scrum.

Today, based on these learnings and experiences that’s what LeSS is and what the framework and structure has been created to address.

There’s more information on the LeSS.works website as well

Ringo: When did you first come across LeSS, and what inspired you to become a trainer?

Venky: Back in 2004/2005, while I was a Scrum Master at Valtech, Craig who was the chief scientist involved me in many of the initial experiments. Being a passionate learner, I tried imbibing the ideas of  Lean Thinking, Systems Thinking, etc and apply Scrum on a day to day software development scenarios and discussing the learnings. 
  
Probably, I might be one of the very few LeSS trainers globally who had the chance to be part of the initial experiments. 

Even after leaving Valtech, I continued the experimental approach and delivering value to the customers. 

When LeSS framework was announced, it was a natural progression for me to apply for the trainer-ship. 

Ringo: Are there any examples you can give me where LeSS has been implemented or utilised, and walk me through the benefits, lessons and results briefly?

Venky: I could point you to the various case studies that people have written across the globe, there at least 50 or 60 that are available online.

Exactly what they did, how they built it from scratch and so and so forth

Below are some examples of notable brands who have used the LeSS framework.

http://less.works/case-studies/alcatel-lucent.html

http://less.works/case-studies/bmw-group.html

http://less.works/case-studies/antarctica-investment-bank.html (Antartica Investment Bank is a pseudo name, but the story is in depth and true)

Of course, there are couple of  companies across Australia who have started embracing LeSS and as the demand is growing, many companies are proactively reaching out requesting for help. 

 

Things you might not know about 1st Conference 2017

We started 1st Conference in 2015, after running LAST Conference for a few years. A little while back, I described LAST as a meetup on steroids, and that it was originally designed "for people who have a bit of experience with agile". Since then it's gone from strength to strength, debuting in Sydney in 2016, with Brisbane joining the party in 2017, too.

We decided to launch 1st Conference as a somewhat more conventionally structured event for people with less experience. The way we thought about it, there are more and more businesses that are declaring themselves to be "Agile", which means that  there a bunch of people who are trying to figure out how to make this happen. 2015 and 2016 was about the first 2 years on an agile "journey". For the 2017 iteration, there has been an evolution in the intent and design of the conference that I wanted to emphasise. 

Here are some things that you might not have realised about 1st Conference 2017

Not just for newbies

With the upcoming edition, people who are starting out are still an important audience of the event. However, with the adoption of the Heart of Agile framework for the theming of the event, we think that the focus on the most important areas that really are at the heart of agile will be useful to people who have been working with agile for a while. We are hoping that 1st can be a first agile learning event for some, and that it can also be the first learning event of the year for others.

As Alistair Cockburn, co-creator of the Agile Manifesto and the creator of the Heart of Agile says:


Agile has become overly decorated. Let’s scrape away those decorations for a minute, and get back to the center of agile
— Alistair Cockburn

We hope that stepping back, remembering the central, most powerful principles of agile, will help experienced people, especially those working with less experienced colleagues.

Not just about IT

The principles described by the Agile Manifesto for Software Development predate it by many years. Much was borrowed from the car industry and Toyota, in particular.  Now, car companies are realising the need to be more agile (CIO.com), and almost all companies are recognising the need to be able to change course more rapidly (fortune.com). Indeed, we have been hearing much more about "Business Agility" in recent times.

At 1st Conference this year, we will be hearing from Jurgen Appelo, who talks about agile management techniques that can work in many different departments. We also will hear from Eduardo Nofuentes, with a practical example how a company that runs shopping centres are using agile and lean techniques. I'm also very keen to hear Lilly Ryan's talk about what we can learn from a spectacular failure on a project in the 1850s.

Above: Interview with Jurgen Appelo about his keynote talk at 1st Conference, Melbourne on 2 March 2017.

Gender balance

We are very aware of the issue of lack of women on conference lineups. Last year, we signed up to the Diversity Charter, as a statement of intent that we are actively seeking to improve the balance. We have got plans in place for the 2017 Melbourne edition of LAST and we actively sought to fill the 1st Conference lineup with talented women. We're really pleased that both the speaker and workshop facilitator balance is almost exactly 50:50 (it was 20:80 in 2016).

Ideas AND practical tools

The first two editions of 1st were single day. In 2017, we extended the event to two days, with a lineup of talks on day 1, and a series of 90 minute workshops on day 2. The plan is to get an overview and understanding of the ideas through the talks, and then to do some practical things on day 2, to take back to work on Monday. For those who can only spare one day, there is a single day registration available to day 1 only.


Don't miss out…

…on hearing from an inventor of agile and a top international thought leader in agile management, plus all the Australian content on the schedule. Everyone involved is really excited for this event and we really hope that you'll see fit to join us on 2-3 March. Early Bird registrations are available until midnight on Monday 6 February, so don't wait!

Agile and Lean Change Management: Trainer Interview - Jude Horrill

I recently wrote about our journey bringing our Agile and Lean Change Management training course to market, in Part 1 and Part 2 I explained the gap we saw in the market and how we identified the people we did to help adapt and refine the course. 

The reason for telling this story was both to demonstrate the cycle in action, also to give people interested in the course the opportunity to understand if how it's shaped is suitable for them.

This is an interview with Jude Horrill who is the co-trainer of this course with Peter Lam. The purpose is to give you further insight into the course. We cover a few topics, including how Peter and Jude have adapted the course, what you should be looking to take out of the day and advice in general about adopting new tools in the workplace.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to reach out to us. My email is Ringo.Thomas@tabar.com.au and I'm always happy to hear from you.

Our calendar for upcoming trainings is available here. Registration is available now.

In this Masterclass we cover the two key principles of lean change which are - ‘you can’t control the way people are going to respond to change, and people are more likely to be engaged if they are involved in designing the change’.

Ringo: Why did you first get involved in running this course? 

Jude: Over recent years it’s become evident that businesses are challenged by the pace and complexity of change and how to respond.  This is leading to changes in what they offer and how they operate. Alongside this is the need for a different approach to how they make those changes with their people.

I had heard about Jason’s Lean Change practice and decided to do his course.  His 3 step cycle hit the nail on the head in terms of simplifying steps and engaging people in the process.  My business mantra is Connect, Simplify, Change, which is very aligned to Jason’s breakthrough in approach to current challenges.

I am also passionate about new ideas and coaching others to see things differently.  I believe we need to change the world of work, and addressing the change process in businesses is an integral part of that world.

Ringo: What are the changes you’ve made to Jason’s original course content, and why did you choose to make them?

Jude: The biggest shift was to build a one day offering instead of the standard two day workshop.  Our primary target audience of Change Managers are already experienced in the people side of change and have been clear on what they were looking for.

Their desire was to get straight into learning about agile, what good agile looks like, what a lean change approach is, and how and when to use this in their day job. 

So, by focusing content and exercises directly to those needs we were able to build a one day masterclass that enabled a faster step through of information - tools - exercise - and application.

Ringo: What do you hope people are able to take out of the day?

Jude: Because we have been very disciplined around tight content, practical work and application to participants’ current work programs, my hope is that people will be able to use their learning on their return to work.  

A fundamental take out for me is that they start to see through a new lens and to then think independently and confidently about different ways of approaching their change work.  

In large part, change work is about engagement and communication, and if participants gain ideas, insights and shared stories on how to achieve this through the use of a blend of tools then I am very happy.

Ringo: What should people be thinking about on the day to ensure they get the most value?

Jude: I am experienced in the use of a blend of methodologies, tools and engagement techniques in change work, and big on creating tailored solutions to every change situation.

In my opinion, if people who have been given responsibility to deliver change successfully don’t continue to learn and adopt and try new things they will not be relevant in today’s and tomorrow’s marketplace.

If participants have an open mind, or a similar mindset coming into, and during, the Masterclass then they will gain the most value.

Ringo: What would you recommend people do to prepare for the day? How will this assist in the learning?

Jude: Think about their current change program, project or problem in the most succinct way possible.  Get to the core one or two issues and write it down.  Capture what insights you might have as to why these issues exist, what you’ve already done to respond, or what you could do.  Essentially get your thinking cap on and root out the essence of the “why” question.

This will assist on the day as you will come with a heightened desire to solve your problem, will have done the groundwork, and importantly started to think about the solution in terms of the 3 step lean change cycle of Insight - Solution - Experiment.

I also recommend that they read some core material on Jason Little’s website at www.leanchange.org to have a broad knowledge of the process he uses and case study stories from blogs.

Ringo: What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to someone trying to bring a new framework or tool into their workplace?

That they need to be confident in having conversations along the lines of ‘different times require different solutions’.  Even if they are not in a position to influence changes I have had personal success and success with coaching clients who have simply changed one thing they personally do.

This has led to change in those around them and then in wider and wider circles.  The old saying, ‘build it and they will come’ actually works.  You can’t change others but you can start by changing something in and for yourself.

Also, start small and don’t think you have to change everything in a wholesale way from the get go.  Blended models work really well.  Lean Change and Agile doesn’t work in every scenario, and it doesn’t have to.  That’s not what the challenge is about in terms of building a new way of working.  In my experience it’s about having an agile mindset.  About ‘being agile’ not just ‘doing agile’.

Ringo: What’s the most common hurdle you see people come across when trying to bring a new framework or tool into a workplace?

Jude: Influence.  The feeling that they are unable to start a new conversation or not empowered due to their role or level of experience or many other factors.  

The other common hurdle is Risk.  Organisations are still very risk averse, and as the outcome of change is inherently unknown, they prefer to avoid it and stick with the status quo.  

One of my favourite sayings is “nothing changes if nothing changes”.  In this Masterclass we cover the two key principles of lean change which are - ‘you can’t control the way people are going to respond to change, and people are more likely to be engaged if they are involved in designing the change’.

So a logical solution to the implementation hurdle is to adopt lean change ideas to engage more people across the business so they feel included and to collectively become more comfortable with trying new things and supporting each other.

This way when the next change comes, which it will,  there are increasing levels of comfort embedded in teams around the experience of change.  

At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat and lean change is one enabler to smoother waters.

How I used the Lean Change Cycle to help launch and refine our training course (on Lean Change) Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series about how we used the Lean Change Cycle to bring the Agile and Lean Change training course to market. In Part 1 we covered a couple of our initial experiments, and in Part 2 I’ll share our experience moving forward and speaking with our customers.

Why we did what we did

At the end of Part 1 you’ll remember that we’d just made a new set of hypotheses and launched 3 further courses. Success looked like a full room of participants and customer feedback indicating that we were addressing their needs.

  • “We believe there is a market for more regular Agile and Lean Change Management training.”

  • “We believe that by identifying and speaking with our customers to understand their problem statements, we will be able to create a course that better suits their needs, messaging that speaks to their requirements and build a captive audience for future engagement.”

The purpose of speaking with the market was to validate the product/market fit. By further identifying the “why” of the requirement for this training course it enabled us to continuously improve on our customer offering and meet our customers needs.

What it told us

To begin with I mapped out 6 key customer types and spent over an hour individually with around 20 customers. I simply wanted to understand “what is the problem statement that you would be looking to solve by attending this course”. The 6 customer types and their responses are below.

  • People Managers - want to help their team's effectiveness in the business.

  • Change Practitioners - want to understand how change management works in an agile environment.

  • Project and Program Managers - want to remove blockers to help them deliver and have a consistent change approach to engage their teams.

  • Agile Practitioners - want to have a broader influence outside of their team and gather new tools and techniques.

  • HR Professionals and Trainers - want to ensure that Change Management is effective and engages the wider business in a state of change.

  • Business Architects - want to understand the root cause of business issues and how to put the power of change into the hands of the people.

These insights were valuable and helped us shape our messaging and pitch for the next round of courses.

Fast forward through the next 3 courses, and in terms of attendance numbers and engagement, we were successful and we were excited.

Throughout the journey we’d been gathering post course feedback. Always looking to improve, we noticed a consistent insight that made us reflect on a few specific areas.

Our data illustrated that our course was most important to Change Practitioners, as the percentage of Change professionals attending was high. However their feedback told us they felt that with a broad group of customer segments in the room, the content was too broad to fully satisfy their needs.

So what were our options? We could continue with no change knowing people would continue to attend. We could decide that the wider market outside of Change Practitioners were quite happy with the course and tailor it to them. We could talk to the Change Community and understand more deeply what they were looking for.

The experiment we chose was to talk to the Change Community. We identified them as the early adopters who were actively trying to solve the problem we had a course for. We spoke to ten Change practitioners to validate Product/Market fit.

Our insights are summarised here:

  • They wanted to learn about ‘Agile’, and what ‘good agile’ looked like.

  • They wanted to hear about and share stories with other Change Managers to further their understanding of where Change Management is going/ needs to go, and how it fits into Agile Delivery environments.

  • They wanted to understand the linkages between the Lean Change approach and their current Change Management methodology so they are able to work in a more Agile way.

Furthermore, Change Practitioners are seeing changes in their industry, they want discussions about what’s happening and tools and skills to help them improve and remain relevant.

Where we took it

Based on this insight, we made the decision to review and amend our content. Our latest hypotheses says “we believe that by aligning the marketing, content and learning to the Change Practitioners identified requirements we will have a higher satisfaction and sale rate on future courses”.

It’s important to note that our other customer segments will still get value from this course. We’re evolving it to address the problem statements of a Change Practitioner, however the target audience remains Change people, Agile people who understand that Change is an intrinsic part of their role and people tapped on the shoulder to “make change work”.

We’re about to launch our 2017 calendar with 10 courses in Melbourne and Sydney and we’re excited to be better able to align to this key customer segment. We’ll keep you up to date with our new insights as we gather them.

In Part 3 of this series I’ll share the experience of non-change practitioners who have attended our course, and the insights and discussions about their problem statements in greater detail.

If you're interested to hear anymore about our journey email me on Ringo.Thomas@tabar.com.au


Find out more about the Agile and Lean Change Masterclass, including scheduled courses in Melbourne and Sydney.

 

How I used the Lean Change Cycle to help launch and refine our training course (on Lean Change) Part 1

by Ringo Thomas

Ringo Thomas

Ringo Thomas

"Practice what you preach", "eat your own dog food", "be the change you wish to see". We’re all good at giving advice, but how often do we really follow our own lead by doing things at the standard we set while coaching others?

Over the past 4 months we’ve taken our “Agile and Lean Change Management Masterclass” to market here in Melbourne and Sydney.

This is Part 1 of a 3 Part series to share how we used the Lean Change Cycle to take the Agile and Lean Change training course to market. Across the series I’ll be setting the scene of why we decided to launch it, how we gathered insights, selected options and ran experiments to refine the offering based upon what people told us that they wanted.

The Lean Change Cycle

For those of you unfamiliar with Lean Change, it’s a simple 3 step cycle.

                        Lean Change Cycle

                        Lean Change Cycle

  • You use lightweight tools to gather insights from your business, team or customers.

  • You use these insights to select and prioritise options you choose to address these problems.

  • You create experiments that help you test your hypotheses.

  • You gather further insights from these experiments that helps you decide what to do next.

I’ve bolded the words insights, options and experiments to demonstrate the cyclic and continuous nature of the Lean Change Cycle, much like Agile.

Everything began with a set of insights we’d gathered that helped us see the gap in the market.

These were:

  • The world of work is changing rapidly, organisations need to be able to respond to change both internal and external at a rate not seen before.

  • Project Management and Software Delivery has evolved through Agile, now following an iterative, feedback driven approach to delivery as a whole.

  • Change Management is beginning to adapt and we believe there is a better way.

We considered our options based on this, and our coaches Peter Lam and Jude Horrill decided to join forces. Peter’s role as a Head of projects sees him applying Agile practices to his PMO’s, Projects and Teams. Jude’s experience has delivered change in Global Operations and Enterprise Transformations for Multi National Corporation’s.

Jude and Peter felt that Jason Little’s Lean Change Management framework is a useful way of addressing these issues. They believed that together their combination of experience and expertise could coach people in a way that addressed the challenges people were facing.

What did we do?

Our first hypothesis was simple -“we believe that if we run a one day training course on Agile and Lean Change Management, people will come”. We challenged the current market offering of a 2 day course with a one day course we felt addressed everything, and we launched it. This was our first experiment. Success was people attending from the kick-off.

People did. Right off the bat our hypothesis was proved true by a very active market demand and people purchasing. By conducting our first experiment we’d gathered information for a fresh set of insights and we were now considering our next options.

So what was next? Where could we improve? We’d had a theory and tested it in the market and now knew this was something to pursue.

We decided two things:

  • “We believe there is a market for more regular Agile and Lean Change Management training.”

  • “We believe that by identifying and speaking with our customers to understand their problem statements, we’re able to create a course that better suits their needs, messaging that speaks to their requirements and build a community that we engage with.”

We launched three further training courses - two in Melbourne and one in Sydney to continue our experiment on market demand. Success looked like paying participants and customer feedback that indicated we were addressing their needs. Concurrently, I segmented the customers (more to come on this in part 2) and began speaking with them to gather the insights required to truly understand their needs.

To summarise this first phase, it was about testing the market softly to validate our assumptions on a requirement. We did this in a way that set us up to speak with the people we were trying to help and begin to be seen as leading thinkers and coaches in the space.

In my next blog I’ll share the results and insights we gathered by speaking with customers to understand their problem statements and needs, also update you on how the following 3 courses went and our plans for 2017.

If you're interested to hear anymore about our journey email me on Ringo.Thomas@tabar.com.au


Find out more about the Agile and Lean Change Masterclass, including scheduled courses in Melbourne and Sydney.

Your MVP is all Bull

When I need some inspiration, I often start on the journey searching for it by looking at some of the works of my favourite artists, one being Marc Chagall, another Helen Norton and of course Pablo Picasso (I also love his quotes as they resonate so well with me!).

One of these explorations brought me to think about artistic merit in product design and how we need to think about and approach what we are designing in agile terms known as the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in collaboration with the product owner.

 I believe at minimum the key characteristics is that the MVP must at least be:

1.    Valuable to the product owner and the end-clients with a real business purpose and utility and not just be another “nice thing”.

2.    Do-able practicable with realistic delivery in line with the team capability in a short timeframe (weeks not months).

3.    Affordably satisfy a tangible ROI in a no frills way and be able to evolve from an initial base  delivery to create more and more incremental value else it should be "extincted" quickly.

With that in mind my teams and product owners often ask how they  should approach the definition of the MVP and in particular "what it should look like".   Well, that's not an easy answer at all because the product concept may only exist initially as an "idea" that needs stimulation for manifestation. 

Before starting the  stimulation process we need to agree that we need to satisfy the above MVP key characteristics, and then enter into activities that will lead to the products exhibiting "artistic merit" by stimulating team creativity and innovation so that we can craft the MVP from virtually nothing into what it is to become.

For this not to just be a "woolly generic statement",  we need to refer to some examples to make it easy for the team to generate inspirational emergent ideas that will lead to "what this would look like" in real life. 

So for this I like to use Pablo Picassos "Bulls"  as  inspiration and illustration, by talking  the image through with the team and the product owners. This particular artwork is a very powerful creative instrument that often amazes with how quickly the teams "gets it" to start talking about what the MVP should look like.  

This image quickly lands the team to distil the product design framework to its most minimal and simple essence, exactly as Picasso does with his bull!  

Although Picasso has followed the process to "de-construct" the bull from the most complex to its mere essence, one can approach it from both sites as either de-compositional or/and re-constitutional points of view.   

Its for me the perfect illustration of how to achieve the ultimate MVP of the Bull. 

To sum up; To land on a great MVP the team needs to process some iterative hard tack inspiration interspersed with interaction and collaboration on de-and re-construction of the product as a Bull!

And now in the spirit of artistic inspiration some whimsical imagery from Helen Norton with "The Bull of Heaven Descending" 

(Note. The bull sculpture in the header is available for the serious collector - buy from here)


Wet Scrum

Guest post

Many thanks to Gurpreet Singh for allowing us to re-post this article about what he calls "Wet Scrum". He will be in Australia in mid-September as a session leader at LAST Conference.

Workshop with Gurpreet at your company…

Gurpreet will be available to run a 3 hour workshop with your team, in the days around LAST. If you would like to know more about this opportunity, take a look at Gurpreet's info sheet (PDF)


Wet Scrum

By Gurpreet Singh

Many companies tag themselves "Agile." Agile is the latest Methodology to execute software development projects. Agile has a variety: like Scrum, eXtreme Programming (XP), Rational Unified Process (RUP), etc. Scrum is the most commonly followed these days. Generally, organizations use a blended version to suit their needs, which are confined within their environmental constraints (EEF/OPA, or enterprise environmental factors/organizational process assets).

So, why are companies moving to Agile?

Let's recap the Agile Manifesto to answer this question:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Agile empowers the client with the flexibility to change, as the entire process is iterative and the client is kept in the loop with each sprint's progress. Also, the team plans and commits for work for each sprint and works together to complete the commitment.

This way, it is a win-win scenario for each side:

  • The client is updated in real time about the status of the project/product, and the client has the freedom to change the requirements.
  • The team is like a small military Alpha unit (five to nine members) working in short progressions (sprints).

The hard truth

Hmm . . . this was the theory. Life, though, is not about black and white; there are grey areas everywhere.

It is easier to "do Agile" than to "be Agile." Agile demands a certain discipline to get the right results.

  • Do you timebox your meetings?
  • Are you a silent listener during the meetings?
  • Is the product owner or ScrumMaster the only person who talks?
  • Is the PO/SM "pushing" the work to you?
  • Does your PO commit during the sprint planning without seeking team input?
  • Are you forced to give XYZ points to ABC story?
  • Are you not "open" in the retrospectives for fear that what you say will backfire?
  • Are you forced to take on new stories during the sprint that will negatively affect the already committed deliverables?
  • Do you never discuss blockers in the daily Scrum meeting, despite the fact they exist?
  • Do you expect/wish that the PO/SM would micromanage so you only have to "work"?
  • Do you believe the carrot-and-stick method of management is essential?

These scenarios are just few highlights; the possible list is endless. They show that you are "doing Agile" (for the sake of doing it), but you are not "being Agile," as you don't know the real importance of Agile practices and deliverables.

You may be an Agile puppet run by someone else following Waterfall. This kind of Scrum is notoriously known as "Water-Scrum-Fall."

I would like to coin a new term for this method: "Wet Scrum."

Scrum gets "wet" by following the practices of Waterfall. People use Scrum selectively, depending upon context and ease. However, it is very difficult (nearly impossible) to achieve the spirit of Agile by doing this.

How Wet Scrum Works!

Clients need the following:

  • More human touch
  • Manageable work organized in short sprints rather than trying to manage the entire project/product as one entity
  • Real-time updates about work completed
  • The power to change the requirements
  • High-quality results

These deliverables are produced by Scrum, in theory. However, no way of working can ensure the success of a project or product unless the team is disciplined and focused on making it a success. (We will discuss this point further at a later stage.)

Clients are fascinated about using Scrum to address the needs listed above. This creates pressure on the senior management of XYZ Company to shift to Scrum. And this creates a cascading pressure on middle management, junior management, and finally on our teams to be Agile. The team doesn't necessarily have an awareness of the Agile values, but they need to be Agile, as this is a clear mandate of senior management and the voice of the client. They start holding daily Scrum, sprint planning, and retrospective meetings without a clear vision of the end goals or their purpose. The burn-downs literally burn down these Wet Scrum teams. Sizing seems alien to them. They aren't sure about the roles of the product owner and the ScrumMaster. They believe they are self-organized, but they need some manager to manage their work.

In a nutshell, they are "Agile" as being demanded by the client (or management); however, they are miles away from being Agile. This is a sad state and is cruel for the team. Gradually, the team will feel that the meetings are senseless. For example, if they are regularly taking on more stories during the sprints, the sprint planning meetings lose their purpose and become a waste of time. Similarly, if the daily stand-ups last for 30 minutes, this is a clear waste of the time for the entire team (30 minutes times X number of team members daily).

In the long run, the team will start burning out. They will lose focus and motivation, and the product will fall from creative mode to survival mode.

And . . . everybody will blame Agile (read: Scrum) for this failure. However, if the people involved do not want to make the product/project a successful one, it will be a sure failure no matter which method you use.

Closing note

Competition is high, so companies try everything to make new customers and to sustain the old ones as long as possible. This includes shifting to newer formats such as Scrum, Kanban, etc. However, this kills the creativity, innovation, vision, human spirit, and motivation of the people who actually create the product or execute the project.

Agile was born to empower people and their communication, and this is lost in Wet Scrum.

Wake up now! - See more at: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2013/december/wet-scrum

The invisible gorilla

By Venky Krishnamurthy

Recently I read about  NASA’s Columbia mission disaster. As many of us remember, on Feb. 1, 2003, space shuttle Columbia broke up as it returned to Earth, killing the seven astronauts on board.
 

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) concluded the following in their final investigation report 

Cultural traits and organizational practices detrimental to safety were allowed to develop,” the board wrote, citing “reliance on past success as a substitute for sound engineering practices” and “organizational barriers that prevented effective communication of critical safety information” among the problems found.

 

As per the report, some of the engineers discussed the dangers of foam falling apart with the senior management. However, the management simply ignored them and didn’t attempt to find a fix, which is a reflection of deep cultural issues at NASA. The management didn’t think this was a major problem. The report also claims that management didn’t bother to take action because of a view that the problem was unfixable, based on past experience.  

The reason I am referencing this article here is because I see a lot of similarities between this case study and the way enterprises typically operate. When the team members see a risk in the project and reports to the management, either the issue is ignored, or the team member is termed as a trouble maker.

From the leadership point of view, the takeaways for us are:

  1. Give serious attention to every risk or issue raised by the team members. Don't ignore any even if it sounds stupid
  2. Don’t let your past experiences stop you from finding and trying new solutions.

In large enterprises and complex programs, issues crop  up all the time. Leaders could become immune to listening to problems and start focusing only on larger issues. In fact, this pattern of giving too much importance to bigger issues and ignoring the smaller ones seem to cause major disasters in history.

As per the discipline of complexity science, many a times the weak signals carry very powerful and important information. We tend to ignore them and focus only on strong signals, thus causing major problems.

The experiment from psychologists, “The monkey business” illusion is a classic example of how we miss out on the “Gorillas” amidst chasing key goals.

The Columbia disaster could have been averted if the management listened to engineers and attempted some steps to fix the foam issue. 

Similarly, major challenges in the project schedule, scope or budget could be averted if the management listens to the weak signals. That is, small risks hidden from the "big visible charts".

Before I conclude, let me ask you two questions.

Think about your current project, visualize your project risk board"

  1. Have you missed seeing any “gorillas”?
  2. Have you recently ignored any issue raised by a "junior" team member?

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Who comes to LAST Conference?

By Ed Wong

A version of this post first appeared on Ed Wong's personal blog. LAST Conference is part of Tabar's event series, that also include 1st Conf for new agilists and Spark the Change (formerly Dare Festival)


I run an event with Craig Brown called LAST Conference. It's happening for the 4th time on 18 September 2015. In 2014, I was pleasantly surprised that the Software Development Today blog rated us #20 in the Top 50 agile conferences.

It's a meetup on steroids

Of the various descriptions there are about the event, I like "It's a meetup on steroids", the best. It's designed for people who have a bit of experience with agile (I run an event called 1st Conf for people who have less experience). We have a whole day of workshops, talks, lightning talks, retrospectives etc. We deliberately have up to 7 concurrent sessions, to keep things exciting and we keep it really affordable, too.

Who comes?

In the lead up to this year's event, I was doing some analysis of who comes along so I thought I'd share. Look ma, I did a pie chart! Click the preview above for a larger version.

Not unsurprisingly, people who fit into a manager role, make up the greatest proportion of participants, followed closely by Business Analysts. The types of job title that made it into the Manager bucket were "Business Solutions Manager" or "Practice Manager".

It's good to see that there is a reasonably diverse spread of roles and it's really good to see that Developers are about one fifth of the cohort, there's a few Architects and a good few QA people. I would like more UX folk to come along…we've got a couple of UX sessions in the pipeline this year.

18 September 2015

We've run the event in the darkest days of Melbourne Winter, up until now. This year, we're going to be in Spring! In order to make use of Swinburne Uni's brand-new Advanced Manufacturing Design Centre (AMDC), we have moved away from their crowded winter term and instead will be on 18 September 2015. We will be opening registration in the coming days (signup to the mailing list to be the first to know), and you can still submit a session idea, over on the LAST Conference website.

Headline sponsors - elabor8

Sponsorship from companies keeps the event affordable. elabor8 have returned as headline sponsors this year. If you'd like to join them, then please get in touch.

Zappos and the "no bosses" approach

By Venky Krishnamurthy

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh

After reading this article from the Washington Post, I felt saddened to see many employees leaving Zappos. Zappos might have a point to prove that these employees are incapable of adjusting to their new “way of working”. 

I think it is dangerous for Zappos to survive in the long run. Here are two reasons:

  1. The diversity of thinking:  success of any team, group or an enterprise depends on its encouragement to the diversity of thinking. If everyone in the organization is forced to think in a certain way, one will end up breeding “Yes” masters and thus killing creativity, innovation. 

    As one could see, Zappos management is forcing people to work in certain way and non-aligned workers are booted out but in a diplomatic fashion. I agree that the Holacracy way of working can benefit the organization, however Zappos is killing the a foundation that Holacracy promotes; that is, respecting people and their opinions.

    As per one of the research, employees perform at their peak potential when their individuality is respected and protected.

    Organizations flourish and succeed with inclusive policies rather than exclusive ones. 
     
  2. Brain drain: A bigger issue is the impact of brain drain on the organization. There are rumors floating around that many employees who opted to quit Zappos have set up new startups. The three months salary is good enough for many entrepreneurial people to use it as seed funding to setup their own business. Loss of such talented people is a great tragedy for the company.

Sometimes, I also feel that many organizations come up with fancy ideas/strategies as part of laying off people as well.

What do you think about Zappos decision ?

For those of you interested in this topic, the Melbourne Agile and Scrum Meetup group will be discussing Self Organisation and Holacracy at its next Meetup on 27 May 2015.

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