In this issue:
If you’re trying to use agile approaches or manage an agile transformation, consider these three mindsets for you, your project, and your organization:
- Manage for change (this installment).
- Emphasize collaboration. (I'll send this in Part 2)
- Use principles, not practices, so teams can be autonomous and deliver what they need to deliver. (I'll send this in Part 3.)
Managing for change challenges many of us. That's because we're pretty good at managing for known possibilities. If you know about changes, such as people on vacation, snowstorms (yes, it’s that time of year where I live), and other, somewhat predictable changes, you can use regular risk management to create and manage a risk list.
It's what you don't know that makes managing for change crazy-making. Here are some questions you might ask, to assess how much change you might need:
- Do we have product unknowns? Do we have uncertainty in the product?
- Do we have customer unknowns? Do we know enough about what our customers want and need?
- Do we understand how to deliver or our impediments to delivery?
That's three kinds of experimentation:
- We experiment to understand the set of product problems and possible solutions. We create MVEs, Minimum Viable Experiments, specifically to learn something small and fast. That MVE informs our next piece or pieces of work.
- We test something with a small set of customers. How do they react to what we show them? Their reactions will help us understand their needs and desires. And, we might learn we are producing for different customers than the ones we hope to attract.
- An agile culture is built on inspect-and-adapt. We review our processes and practices (all of our assumptions) to see if they are still working for us. I like visualizing the value stream for a given team, so we can understand how the team's flow and work in progress helps the team or holds the team back. Value stream maps might point you to the smallest possible change you can select for an experiment.
And, if you're working in a program with several other teams? Do experiment. I find it easier to think of experiments from the bottom up in a program, rather than the top down. That way, you're thinking of the smallest possible change.
None of these ideas are easy. Creating MVEs means we understand the feature sets and all the ways we can slice and dice various stories or feature sets. Sometimes, we need to experiment to understand.
Selecting customers to experiment with means we need to understand who is our customer now, and how those customers might change in the future.
Seeing the various WIP (Work in Progress) at the team, group, or organizational level might not make you happy. I'd rather be aware and not happy, than unaware and happy.
When you manage for change, you encourage yourself and others to experiment continually. Experiments are not “Let's try something!”
Jill, a development manager was concerned that the teams were “doing” the agile practices, but were not seeing the positive effects. She suspected they weren't collaborating enough as a team. She asked Jack, the test manager, to work with her on an experiment.
Up until now, the team measured their velocity in points. Jill and Jack asked the teams to measure their cycle time for the next iteration. Did any of the teams need help to do this? Two teams did, so both Jill and Jack assisted.
The teams, along with Jill and Jack, discovered their cycle time varied from one day to five days. The reason for the longer cycle times? Some of the testers were still being pulled into other projects. One of the UI people was pulled into a Marketing project. The teams could not count on each other for the entire iteration.
The data gave Jill and Jack ammunition to talk to various people around the organization to decide which projects to stop, postpone, or staff in other ways. They asked the teams to continue to measure cycle time as a way to expose problems that the management could then fix.
Running experiments helps reinforce our agile mindset in several ways: we become more comfortable with small changes and small, continual course corrections.
When we build our experimentation mindset, we can manage for change. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.
If you find that your agile transformation isn't as smooth as you would like it, consider joining Gil Broza and me at the Influential Agile Leader workshop. It will be April 24-25, 2019 in Toronto. Register now to save your seat. We're already 40% full. I hope to see you there. (Have questions? Email me.)
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
Here are links you might find useful:
- My Books
- Online Workshops
- Managing Product Development Blog
- Create an Adaptable Life
- Johanna's Fiction
Till next time,
© 2019 Johanna Rothman
P.S. Yes, I changed email providers (again)! However, you should be able to update your profile much more easily.
Tags: agile, change, leadership, transition to agile