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    Entries in agile (14)

    Monday
    Jun262017

    Are you tinkering or transforming? 

    The need for change in organisations and sectors all over the world created a whole field of expertise and a category of employee - The Change Manager, the Change Leader, the Change Consultant.  They live and breathe this stuff; they know what it’s about, how to do it and the impact a change initiative can have on people and the way organisations operate. They’re all about helping us get from here … to there. 

    Yet some change leaders don’t just deal with change anymore, they deal with even bigger stuff … transformation.

    Yes, change has grown bigger and become even more chang-ey; change that is more significant and more widespread and interconnected and ongoing is transformation. 

    (Possible cliche alert regarding 'transformation' : please don’t use a picture of a caterpillar and a butterfly to show how you are transforming a project, system or people. Yikes. Cliche alert. Woop! Woop!)

     

    Change : to make or become different. 

    In one of my earlier careers as an awards judge for communication projects, the panel would review submissions where entrants would declare that their goals were to ‘change the community’s perception of….’ or ‘change the customer’s behaviour’ or ‘change the way that…’- yet few of these declarations of change seemed to also declare by what amount or percent or scale they would change, to make or become different. 

    It seemed that a little bit of change was still change and for many in the field, that was enough. Tick. Done. Change has occurred. Next project!

    Change often seems to have a defined and finite scope. 

    But to transform is something else. It's often seen as something different

     

    Transformation means ‘marked change’.

    Is transformation a change you can see? Is it obvious, noticeable, significant, ongoing and interconnected? Could you perhaps keep track of it or mark it on something: “A year ago we were there, last month we were there and now ...we are here! Look! Transformation."

    Do you remember the pencil marks on the kitchen wall? As you grew in height you could see that transformation had occurred, and a marked change had taken place. You might have done this for your own kids, or pets or plants or even your unread book collection. 

    Transformation is change. But I fear that while we're all so involved and committed to a piece of change, it’s actually just … a tinkering. 

    Tinker. Tinker. Tinker. 

    A tinkerer was somewhat of a gypsy; they’d travel from place to place and make a living by fixing and mending metal pots and pans and tools. The noise was a ‘tinker’. 

    You can hear it - when someone is working on an old car under the hood, or they are rattling around in the utensils drawer in the kitchen looking for a potato masher or a pot lid or the spoon that completes that set of salad servers. Rattle rattle clank clang and tinker. Yes that noise. 

    Tinkering was about improving, to try to mend, to fix it up or improve. A little. 

    Of all the effort that goes into change and transformation programs in workplaces, this is what I see: lots of effort. To improve. Hours and days, weeks and months of time and effort. So many meetings, information packs, version control of the information packs, flow charts and arrows, more meetings, working groups, town halls and whole-of-staff gatherings, more meetings and presentations and packs. 

    But not enough of decisions, actions, experiments and results. As a recent Harvard Business Review suggested, many of our changes aren’t ambitious enough. 

    Many changes or shifts are too delicate, bite size - just a morsel or a crumb. The end result : tinkering. Little changes. Petit. Picolo.  Over a l-o-n-g period of time.

     

    We’re not really changing that much... are we?

    We might be aiming to change a lot of processes or systems and structures, or hell yes, let’s change people, even just a few degrees would be great. And yet that is hard work. To get everyone - all of them - to shift. A little. All the teams, units and departments to all shift one or two degrees. That’s a big deal

    Rather than tinkering on a little something with everyone, why not look at how you can truly transform a pocket, a division, a team, a squad or a unit. And dramatically. Markedly. 

     

    Pockets of transformation

    Internal hubs, accelerators and pockets of innovative joy are popping up everywhere in cities, communities and businesses. Some companies are setting them up off-site in a cool warehouse-style environment, others are cordoning off a meeting room and labelling it ‘The Innovation Lab’ or ‘hub’ or ‘foundry’ or ‘garage’ or other mechanical-workshoppy-sounding noun where things are being furiously made. 

    Whatever you call your transformation pocket - and your business doesn’t need to be large to do this - be sure that you actually transform something... rather than tinkering with everything. Start there. 

     

    Do you major in minor or minor in major?

    Jim Rohn’s advice to avoid ‘majoring in minor things’ perhaps suggests we could avoid the large, unweildy and lengthy change we're trying to make to somethin' little. That can turn out to be a big mess. 

    There is a more helpful (diagonal) opposite. It’s smarter, more lean and more agile to start with ‘minoring in major things’. That is, carry out little experiments on some of the bigger things. 

    Then you can move step by step towards the big deal of majoring on those major transformative things. 

    (And the other distraction, that's minoring in minor things - ooh, it’s all a bit scary so we don’t do very much of anything at all. It's an area of big fear. We distract and procrastinate and confabulate and obfuscate.)

    Too often the default change initiative is majoring in the minor. I think you need to keep a look out, and then get outta there. 

    It could look like this: 

     

    Where agility happens 

    So go ahead and 'have a crack' at radically changing something. This is where transformation is born. This is where success and learned failure live. It's way more experimental, experiential and insightful. 

    With some experiments launched, you can see how they go. Then you can experiment faster, and get results faster and these will be results that are noticeable and reportable, applicable ... formidable. You'll be playing a leaner game (a-la The Lean Start-up) with yes, perhaps a low-fidelity version of that something, but with insights and data that pour back to you way sooner than a long drawn-out change effort involving a cast of many and a calendar of many months... or years. 

    This approach schools us so the next one we launch - if it turns out that it’s actually worth launching another one or "rolling" anything out to anyone - will be more efficient, more valuable and simply work better.

    Leave those little barely-there ‘just noticeable differences’ for the marketing world and their product packaging on supermarket shelves. They don't belong in change and transformation. 

    Don’t fall into the safety of a too subtle, too gentle or too soft change - it keeps you busy but... it will do that for years. Yawn!

    Too many people, projects, teams, units, industries and organisations are tinkering. 

    You can keep tapping away on a little bit of metal somewhere - tinker tinker - gently and fearfully at the edges of what could be great, hoping to make a few indents ... or you can melt the thing down, change it markedly (transform it) and see what new there is to work with.

    It’s minoring in major things, in transforming some. This will help get you ready for bigger transformations up ahead. This is marked change and this is the type of transformation the world requires us to make today. 

    Wednesday
    Feb082017

    Planning is a waste. Spur of the moment is often good enough. 

    ‘The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.’ - Walt Disney

    There’s a message here from the Director of Your Life; don’t wait for the script to arrive. Get on with it.

    Everyday life is the biggest improvisation of all. No script. No rehearsal. Get straight out onto the stage of life and start performing! 

    Ray Bradbury, the science fiction, horror and fantasy writer, said, ‘First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down’. And although some believe the quote attributable to Kurt Vonnegut, another equally interesting and creative author, the message is the same: leap and the net will appear, you will adapt, you’ll work it out and you’ll be moving!

    Spur of the moment is often good enough 

    For many planners, strategists and forward thinking folks, planning is a part of their everyday life. They plan their morning; they plan their lunch; they plan their afternoon; and they plan family holidays, expeditions and adventures. But to deal with the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous life which is how the world is now operating, to plan can sometimes be too slow.

    Start before you're ready

    How about the idea of starting before you're ready and making things up as we go along?

    I joke with friends and family that there are some cities and towns in the world, that if I had the opportunity to visit them again, you could take me to the airport right now. With nothing more than my phone with a payment app + my passport in my back pocket, I would work it all out as I went. 

    That idea can freak some people out. But I really would be willing to do that.

    Starting before you're ready is a response based on a theory around improvisation. Step into a community or public theatre in almost any city around the world and you will be able to discover the talents and prowess of improvisers. They step onto stages, performing for paying public and they are able to create and deliver an incredible performance almost every time.

    At the end of an improvised show, many theatergoers ask, ‘can we come back tomorrow night and see this performance again?’ Some audiences don’t realise that the show they just saw was fully improvised. Perhaps, a suggestion was given from someone in the audience to start a scene for the performance. Perhaps, one of the performers has added their own ideas. In fact, this is what improvisation is. It’s cutting loose your censor and setting free the inhibitions in your mind to deliver creativity.

    When I first learned the skills of improvisation with Impro Melbourne and was encouraged to step onto the stage as a performer, I always felt that I needed to rehearse a bit more or prepare in my mind what I was going to do or take some notes. Just as improvisers step onto a stage without a script -- so must we in workplaces today. 

    The idea that we can start before we are ready, gives us permission to just have a go, to not have a plan, to not have a script, to not have a structure and to not have any clue where this might go!

    What?! This can be terrifying for those who like to plan, for those who like certainty, for those who like unambiguous situations and for those who like to keep it all under control, known, certain and sorted. Trying to keep it all steady and calm. This is a little different to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that are now in full swing in most industries across the globe.

    If you are 80% ready to go, then go.

    Start before you're ready says don't worry about planning... well, not fully anyway. Not down to the final point.

    If you are 80% ready to go, then go.

    If you are 40% ready to go, then go with something.

    If you are 20% ready to go, then go with that.

    If you continue to plan out every single step of your idea, of your business opportunity, of your entrepreneurial thoughts or of your team's actions, your capacity to respond to that uncertainty and those changes are minimized. By the time you've finished planning, the landscape has changed! To be able to start at anytime - particularly before you're ready - gives you the opportunity to respond, to adapt, to be agile and to be flexible.

    Over the longer term starting before you're ready helps reduce your inhibitions, your structures, your limitations and your beliefs about what can be possible, what you can create and what you can do.

    Get momentum and get something 'out there'

     

    And for the procrastinators among us (yes, me too), starting before you're ready is a very cool way to get some momentum, to get something 'out there' and get over your need for it to be finished, perfect or better before you put it out there.

    Have a crack. Try it out. Start before you're ready and then document what happens. You could be on to something truly life changing for you and those you impact with your thinking, creativity and work.

    Improvisation maestro and master, guru and god, Keith Johnstone suggests that spur of the moment thoughts and actions are as good -- or better -- than the ones we try too hard at.

    Stop trying so hard. 

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    The Visual Agile Manifesto - refreshed

    A few years ago I created a visual representation of the written Agile Manifesto.

    It seemed to resonate with people; it got printed out, pinned up on walls and was shared and talked about in workplaces all over the world.

    I've updated the visual - with the same elements - but looking a little more refreshed.

    Here it is...

     

    Friday
    Jul312015

    When seat kicking is a good thing

    Lengthy meetings, short on outcomes can be frustrating time wasters.

    You'd think we'd have the hang of how to make our interactions in groups work better for us...it's nearly 50 years since Bruce Tuckman's team performance model suggested we needed to form, norm and storm before we'd perform.

    Oh yawn! Who has the time!?

    No wonder we look for a digital drug fix on one of our devices in dull meetings and workshops. Zzzzzzzz!

    Low levels of engagement and poor participation isn't 'their' problem... It's up to us to fix it, every time we are in a meeting that isn't working. In 2012, web conferencing company SalesCrunch, created a “Don’t Suck at Meetings” guide
    based on more than 10,000 meetings hosted in their online meeting platform. The guide revealed
    that people’s attention and participation starts to decline after the 30 minute mark and they begin to give 1/4 of their attention to something else. It also showed that 92% of the attendees
    participate in the discussion if they are actively engaged.

    Andrew Knight, a business school professor at Washington University in St. Louis, headed a study on the impact of standing meetings in 2014. He wired participants with small sensors to measure their physiological arousal - defined as how their bodies react when they get excited. Participants were asked to work together in teams for half an hour to come up with a new university recruitment video. Half of them collaborated in a standard meeting room, complete with chairs and tables while the other half worked together in a space with no seats.

    Yes, it was seatless!

    Knight and his team evaluated the results for their collaboration and creativity.  The results were dramatic. Knight found “teams who stood had greater physiological arousal and
    were less territorial about ideas than those in the seated arrangement. Members of the standing groups reported that their team members were less protective of their ideas. This reduced territoriality, led to more information sharing and to higher-quality videos.”

    It’s time to stand up.

    Your meetings will be 34% shorter if you're on your feet. This kind of meeting is also widely used in Scrum methodologies and practices in agile technology teams. They're high on collaboration and killer at delivery!

    We spend a lot of our day sitting so 30 minutes or less of standing won't hurt. And people who sit less have a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

    So kick that seat.

    Propel your meetings forward with productive, collaborative and creative action. A meeting with the team that's like that deserves a standing ovation.

    Friday
    Jan302015

    A P.S. to the Standup

    Good news! The team I talked about in my recent post The best meeting : 10 minutes, no water bottles, no chairs, no tables, has now had four stand up meetings... FOUR.... and they're hooked!

    Yes there was uncertainty. There was doubt. There was disbelief.

    But there was also focus, clarity and progress.

    They laughed. They even applauded spontaneously at the end of the first meeting.

    And then off they went and started... doing! Hooray.

    I'm still standing by them as they stand up, mainly to guide the leader with some facilitation skills. Of course, that leader already has some great facilitation skills, but you know what it's like when you're working with PEOPLE! :-)

    We're all human and so the human leader just needs to deliver some more human to the humans in the stand up.

    So a little coaching, guidance and debriefing for the leader on the fine art of 'handling the sh*t that goes down in groups' is what we've be doing after each of the stand ups.

    I'll keep standing by their stand ups and look forward to seeing them getting on with great progress and celebrating - whether they stumble, fall, get up, fail, or go wildly beyond what they were expecting.

    Are you standing up yet?