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AgileInPractice

Agile - sharing experience

The idea with the blog is to share experience about Agile in practice, I have been facilitating CoP (Community of Practice) with Scrum Masters, Product Owners, Team members etc. since 2010 with the purpose of sharing learnings from team to team...

“Learn from the mistakes of others-you can never live long enough to make them all yourself.” quote from John Luther

Multi-tasking

Management Posted on Wed, March 05, 2014 19:50:15

I found a very nice blog post about the penalty of multi-tasking here:
http://blog.codinghorror.com/the-multi-tasking-myth/

It is really hard to convience people about the penalty of multi-tasking and it is also a bad idea to isolate people, as teams works much better than individuals, but only if they can utilize their time without interrupting each other too much.

At one hand, you want everyone to know what others work on, you want them to discuss the architecture and get inspiration from each other, and at the same time you want them to avoid interruption and multi-tasking.
I found that if you place the team in a horse shoe shape back to back, it encourage them to interact much more – which is good, however it is also important that they don’t break too often.
A good way of working could be :
* morning meetings,
* if the team or part of the team want to continue to discuss a topic, they should use the time
* work until lunch and avoid interruptions
* after lunch you might have things part of the team need to talk about, and since lunch already interrupted the team, it is natural to put such a meeting after lunch
This is more or less what Scrum suggest, but it is really hard to stick to and I believe the team need help to stick to this, i.e. a team lead can highlight this to the team (write down observations and present it either at the morning meeting or at retrospective).
Cooperation is super important and gives a lot of value in complex projects, but it is always a trade-off, it is important to have the discipline both as a team and as an individual.

At the same time, I recomend people to use Pomodoro (I use to call it one-man Scrum), to get breaks into their work, again it is important that people don’t start something else, the best way for me to have a 5 min break is to go down the stairs (3 floors), outside the building and walk a short walk around the parking area and then back in, the risk is that you get into new interesting discussions if you go to the coffee machine etc…



Creative week 2 of 2

Management Posted on Sun, October 13, 2013 21:43:26

This is the second and last description of our Creative week.



Agile and Innovation

Management Posted on Wed, September 18, 2013 21:15:53

Attached is the power point presentation that I did at LTH Thursday September 19
http://www.innovationinmind.se/breakouts/#d3-lean-agile-innovation, in this power point you will “only” find my “notes”. I changed the presentation slightly.
Attached (September 22 2013) is also a pdf-file, this is a description of what I said or tried to say at the presentation, I have included a few more things than the presentation.
I would be happy to receive comments on the pdf-file – either on this blog or on mail (rune@danskerne.se)



Creative week 1 of 2

Management Posted on Sat, September 14, 2013 13:12:05

I wrote a short article about our preparations for the coming creative week, I will write another when we have finished our creative week.



Innovation

Management Posted on Sat, September 14, 2013 11:35:22

I was
searching the Internet for a picture to my description of a creative week that
we will have soon, I found a nice picture and was as usual looking at the page
behind and found this stunning article http://www.onextrapixel.com/2012/08/20/fostering-tried-and-tested-creative-and-innovative-solutions/Aidan Huang really managed to nail down the
things – missing one thing though (as I see it), his example from Nokia not
going for the touch screen (and later the Dual SIM) was partly because of the
company culture at that time (I use to work at Nokia), Mark Parker (CEO at Nike,
one of the most successfully innovative companies today) says “Companies fall apart when their model
is so successful that it stifles thinking that challenges it….” (full story) – I believe that this is a
constant problem for big companies who do not allow the slack and new ideas to
bloom….

And the picture that I found was this one:



Teams

Management Posted on Mon, August 19, 2013 18:32:09

What is the ideal world,
not an easy question and I am sure that I cannot give an answer that
makes everyone happy, but from my perspective, when I look at SW
development, the ideal world is when you have a self organizing
teams, teams who have a great understanding of what the customer want
them to implement, which is not easy either…

The challenge we often
face – as I see it is this:

1: How does the team
understand what the customer want?

2: How do we get self
organizing teams?

1. Understand the customer

Let’s start with having a
team who understand the customer and what they want, I recently read
the biography of Steven Jobs by Walter Isaacson (fantastic book btw),
and it is pretty clear that the customer does not know what they
want, especially not if it is something really new.

Most teams that I have
worked with, have an interaction designer in the team to help them,
that does however not secure that the team create solutions that the
customer want, even if the interaction designer know what the
customer want, the team will most likely not interpret the design in
a way that is completely in line with how the customer want it –
and this is where Scrum works really well (and most other Agile
disciplines), we deliver often and we are very flexible, so we can
test our software with the customers frequently – and make sure
that you have the entire team with you when you let the customer (or
someone who represent the customer, i.e. in the mobile industry, it
close to impossible to reach all customers), the benefit from having
the team in the customer test (and not only the interaction designer,
which I sometimes see) is that the team interpret the design and in
most teams they also add stories to the backlog, so it is super
important that they have a good understanding of how the customer
think!

There are a lot more the
team can do to be better at understanding the customer, it is all
about interaction with the customer, the simple test that I talk
about above is mostly a UX test to secure that we remove the worst
usability issues, however this does not give the understanding of how
the user think and use the software, it is often isolated to a
limited test, another way to improve the teams understanding of the
customer is to let the customer play around with your software and
software from competitors while the team observe, we are planing a
trip to the local café to get ideas and increase our understanding,
we will buy coffee to those who are willing to let us observe how
they use the software … 😉

2. Self organizing teams

How do you create self
organizing teams – well it is contradictory to build self
organizing teams…

But what you can do is to
create the framework and help the team to succeed… My experience
with self organizing teams is that they are fantastic at
collaboration, they are empowered, all decisions must be owned by the
team, they care about each other and trust each other, the team is
static, though it does work if one is leaving for parent leave (or
similar) and return, but it does not work if you split the team and
build other teams with the members from the first team.

One of the things that I
have learned about successful teams is that they like each other or
at least respect each other very much, so I personally always talk
with all potential members of a team before creating the team, it is
my experience that you cannot have 2 or more in the group who are not
trusting or respecting each other, they might be able to work
together, but you will never get a self organizing team, you will at
most get a highly skilled group, which most managers are happy to
get, but it is most likely never going to be a high performing self
organizing team.

One thing that has proven
very successful in helping teams to become great teams is
appreciations – giving appreciations to each other continuously is
very important in building great relations, it is important that you
don’t save the appreciations to a retrospective or temperature
reading (feedback sessions).

Another very important
characteristic with a great team is their ability to listen to each
other, they must be able to listen both to professional and personal
issues and not judge, allow others to make mistakes is important, I
have been working with many teams and I have never seen a great team
who did not get involved somehow outside work, it does not mean that
they have to meet and socialize, but that they can talk about part of
their life is important in building the relationship that is so
important.

Can great self organizing
teams build and maintain without external influence? Yes, I believe
that they can, I think that most of us have seen it happen outside
work, i.e. in groups of friends, specially if people are free to make
the groups and have a common goal – but at work, this can become
slightly tricky and I believe that management can help a lot to
create the framework and to coach the team and they can also destroy
the team if they don’t pay attention, when focus is to maximize the
short term profit, rather than building long lasting teams…



Teams and consultants

Management Posted on Sat, August 03, 2013 22:51:18

Eric Ries
once said: “If you don’t know your customer – you don’t know what quality
means!”

I cannot
agree more – it is so true!

I would
like to say the following:

“If you don’t
know your team and don’t treat them with respect – you will never get a high
performing team”, and I would like to add another quote from Eric:

“The
company’s greatest asset is its people, you need to care about them.” and extend
it slightly to include all your in-house consultants, I know that the majority
of managers that I have met, they see consultants as external, but most of the
time we use consultants as an alternative to in-house head counts (HC) due to
the way that our organization works. I have 3 consultants in my section, they
work in my teams as a full team member, they contribute to the teams work like
any other member with the same enthusiasm and they are equally eager to be
treated like a human being as our in-house team members.

There is
nothing like respect and openness to your team and team members, and this goes
for every team member, the only reason why we have consultants rather than
in-house HC is because the way our organization works, i.e. we have a budget
for HC and one for consultants. The only way I treat consultants different is
that I don’t have salary talk, and the company does not (normally) pay the
consultants additional education, but except from this, I believe that I treat
them exactly like any other HC, I have 1-1 with them every 2. week, I set continuously
targets for them, I want them to feel like they are part of the team in any way
that I can.

It is super
important that we empower the team, that we respect them and encourage
collaboration, there is no way that we can get high performing teams if we don’t
believe in them, HC or consultants, they are all human and have exactly the
same needs.

Why do we
want teams anyway?

I read this the other day http://www.agileconnection.com/article/empowering-agile-teams “….when
we empower teams, the IQ of the individuals actually goes up—that is, we
actually get smarter! And, sadly, the opposite is true: Controlling teams
actually causes team members’ individual cognitive power to decrease…”

And I would
like to add that the team spirit and energy you get from a high performing team
is so much more than the sum of the individual’s energy, you can sense the
energy floating from a high performing team, it is a truly exiting experience
to be near high performing and self-organizing teams.

You can
only get this kind of teams when you empower them, and that means all members of
the team, it means that you listen to them, it means that you allow them to
make mistakes, it means that they have fun together and that they are equal and
treated equal; the team members is not equal if you treat them different….



Crazy Friday

Management Posted on Fri, August 02, 2013 22:30:38

I just
finished a crazy Friday – fantastic to be 0x30 and still learn new and great
stuff – learning and getting inspiration in making what you love to do is what
makes life worth living!

It all
started Wednesday late at work, Michael Rozenberg (http://michaelrozenberg.se/) and I was sitting a quiet day at work and he told me that he just
asked Mattias Forsberg from ComHem to meet with him in Stockholm and exchange
ideas of working with Agile in a management team and Agile ideas in general –
Michael had seen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZe6snBN-aI (Swedish – sorry). Michael asked me if I
wanted to join him (distance Lund-Stockholm is about 600 km) in his Crazy
Friday trip – and I was thinking about it for an hour before I gave him a call
and got the details, it was a crazy idea, but also fantastic!

When I came
home, I asked my wife if she wanted to join me on a long weekend in Stockholm,
after all we might just use the opportunity to have a nice weekend in “Gamla
Stan”! We booked a hotel and had the kids to take care of our zoo at home (3
dogs, 4 cats, 3 rats, 2 hamsters) and off we went Thursday after work to a nice
hotel in central Stockholm.

It was perfect
weather Friday morning, so we walked to “Gamla Stan” where I continued to my
meeting with Mattias while my wife was catching up on her 2. Dan (she has black
belt in shopping and is going for 2. Dan) 😉

I don’t
know what I had expected from the beginning, but it was highly productive and inspiring
to meet with Mattias and learn about how they use Agile in their organization
and the challenges they have had and how they have been thinking when they
execute it in practice. Mattias took us on a walk around in the building and
showed us how they use “puls-tavla” to get an overview of current projects and
secure the communication in the organization – we discussed how they work with
Agile and teams and how we work with Agile at Sony.

This was
not the first time that Mattias had guests from other organizations, however it
was the first (and definitely not the last) time that I tried this, he use these
kind of meetings to get inspiration from others and to evaluate how he and his
organization is doing.

They have
implemented Agile as top-down, where we are doing a bottom-up, we did Agile
top-down when I worked for Nokia and both have it’s strength and both happen to
struggle with things, some things are the same and some are different.

Most of our
discussions was about how to build Agile into the organization, i.e. how to
secure the communication between the stakeholders, how to create strategies for
the company with buy in from the development teams and what thoughts we have
when we implement ideas and how to use Agile in your management team!

It was an
overall amazing experience to visit another company and have this discussion
and I can only recommend it to other managers – I hope that I will get the
opportunity to do this twice a year, it gives a lot of inspiration, a lot of
energy, build a really good network and help you to analyze how you work in
your own organization!