6 Things You Might Try in 2012

Firework
http://www.flickr.com/photos/katieharbath/4764671272/

2011 draws to a close and it is time to set your goals for 2012. If you’re not sure what challenges to put on your plan for 2012, the following list could be a starting point.

1 retro 2011

Before jumping into 2012 it might be a good idea to do a retrospective for the past year. Sit together with your family, draw a timeline and collect all the good things that happened to you in 2011. But do me a favor and forget about the bad things to keep 2011 in good memory.

2 question your org structure

When was the last time you questioned the organizational structure of your company? Does it still fit with the way you’re working? Does it support you in your daily business? No? Then it is definitely time to openly question this structure. I saw a lot of companies trying to introduce agile frameworks like Scrum but without changing the current org structure. It never worked. Let’s try to avoid it! Invite for a kick off meeting to get the discussions rolling and start the change process. It is worth it.

3 ask why

Why did your company introduce Scrum? Why do they think that agile frameworks will help. Why is this process in place. Why do we need to fill out this excel spreadsheet? Why does it take so long to get new hardware? Why is Bob behaving like an idiot? Why are you doing your job? Why is this task so important.

Why questions are the most powerful questions. They are a great trigger to ignite change in your workplace or even in your private life. Why questions will help you in your quest for a life of continuously improvements.

4 offer uncalled help

When was the last time you actively offered help? Don’t wait to be asked. When you see somebody struggling, offer them your help. This shouldn’t be limited to your work life, but also to your private life. Unfortunately, the number of people who are offering uncalled help is decreasing year after year. It starts with so simple things, like opening the door for someone who is balancing a cup of coffee in one and a laptop in the other hand. Try it out, it will brighten up your day.

5 work on your listening skill

Have a look at this great TED talk by Julian Treasure. He talks about 5 ways to listen better. Definitely worth the time!

6 genba walk

If you’re a manager or team lead, this one is for you. Instead of sitting in your office and waiting till everyone comes to you, leave your office and visit your employees. Genba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place”. Go to the places in your company, where the real value is created. The idea of a genba walk is that problems are visible and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the genba. It is also a great opportunity to improve your communication with your team.

What else to you have on your agenda for the year 2012? Leave a comment! Thanks.

An agile cloze

Cloze
http://www.flickr.com/photos/monkeyminddesign/4553428118/

I was just inspired by an german christmas cloze. It even inspired me so much, that I decided to write an agile cloze and let you fill the missing pieces :) So, here you are.

The best way _____________________.

Scrum is ______________ but XP _________________ with or without Kanban.

I currently read ______________ and think _____________.

___________ is the best thing that happened to our company because ____________.

Would you believe _______________.

_____________________ awesome.

If ______________ the world would be a better place.

Happy __________________.

You can either leave a comment or create a blog post based on the above cloze. I’m looking forward to your “fill-in” :)

Penitence For The 7 Agile Sins

Penitence
http://www.flickr.com/photos/21561428@N03/3734800195/

Half a year ago I wrote a blog post about 7 Agile Sins. As I’m sure, that I’m not the only one who is guilty for one or more of these sins, I collected a list of possible ways to show penitence and to do it better next time :) So here is my list of the sins and their appropriate penitence.

Stop learning

The first way for showing penitence is to help to create a learning environment in your company. One possibility to do this is to introduce so called brown bags. This is at least one corner stone to foster learning and bring new ideas in your working environment.

Don’t listen

Listening is a fading skill in our society. Most men know at least one situation where their girlfriend shouts at them, because they didn’t carefully listen. But hey, there is help underway. Listening is a skill you can learn. There are a lot of great books out there on how to become a better listener. One of them is “The Art of Active Listening“. It’s a quite short one and a good starting point to improve your listening skills.

I also recommend listening to the TED talk of Julian Treasure “5 Ways of Listen Better”. One of the things I found valuable is the acronym “RASA”. It’s the Sanskrit word for essence. The single characters have the following meaning:

  • Receive
  • Appriciate
  • Summarize
  • Ask

If you keep this acronym in mind during your next conversations, it will help you to get a better listener. So one way to show penitence for this not listening is to learn to listen.

Stop thinking

This is simple. Start thinking! I know, the guys behind XP, Scrum and Kanban are keen thinkers. But you know what: They don’t know your context. So, before you blindly follow “the book”, try to understand WHY you are doing these practises. Show your penitence by doing the following: Map each of the practises you use to one or more agile values and principles. This will be the first step on your journey to understand the theory behind the agile frameworks.

Be dogmatic

Your penance for this sin is to look beyond your own nose. There are still agilists out there who believe, that there were no successful projects before agile frameworks came in. Fortunately this isn’t true. There are a lot of successful “waterfall” and V-model based projects that were successful. And there was one entity that collected best practises and created a book out of them. So your lesson to show penitence for this sin, is to read the PMBOK (Project Management Body Of Knowledge). I’m sure, even as hardcore agilist you’ll find some valuable things in this book.

Ignore the agile values and principles

There is a great exercise described in the book “Coaching Agile Teams” by Lyssa Adkins name the “High Performance Tree”. Lyssa also created a short Youtube Video where she describes how to create such a tree. This tree has many functions. One of them is to use it as part of a retrospective. You can ask questions like “Why did x happen last sprint? Where were our roots weak?” or “On what of our high performance traits do we want to work in our next sprint?”. As the tree should be placed on one of the team’s walls, it is always visible and part of the team’s daily business. To make a long story short, your exercise to show penitence for ignoring the agile values and principles, is to draw a “High Performance Tree” together with your team, put it on you team’s wall and use it in your next retrospective.

Misuse the agile toolkit

I’m sorry but for this sin there is only one way to show penitence: Go get a priest. In our case this means to get help from an experienced coach. I have this opinion because IMHO this happens especially in inexperienced teams. I had teams that were only “trained” by reading the Wikipedia entry on Scrum. It’s quite clear that there are some misunderstandings in the beginning. But also other teams benefit from an experienced coach, who will help them to understand how to use the agile toolkit correctly.

Ignore the transparency

IMHO this is most deadly sin of all. There is a simple way to overcome this sin: Be even more transparent! Don’t put your backlogs and boards into an electronic tool. Make it visible. Put it on the walls, but not only in the team’s room, also on the floor or near the management’s offices. In one of my last projects we used a so called “master board” to foster the “Scrum of Scrum” meeting every morning.

Masterboard
Masterboard for 5 Scrum teams

 

Each row represents a team and the cards on the board only show on what the teams are working on User Story level. This really helped us to get the big picture of the whole project. Additionally we introduced a dashboard to show the project status using “traffic lights”.

Dashboard
Dashboard for the management team

In the upper left corner we showed the overall status for every planned release. All open issues were shown on the right upper corner. The left lower corner was used to show on what epics the teams are currently working on and last but not least, the lower right corner showed the already delivers epics. This way we were able to completely remove all status reports. Now the management was able to get the status on one single view. One way to show penitence for ignoring the transparency of your team would be to introduce a master board for your Scrum of Scrum meetings.

I hope you like one or more of my suggestions to show your penitence. I’m looking forward to your comments!