Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Synergic Reading Lessons



Wondering what other books I should read concurrently with the philosophy of this book, Other Minds, on the mind of our alien ancestors. In chapter one Peter is already mashing up Ismael and Darwin, so I feel it appropriate to do a bit of mix-in myself. I'm thinking Seven Brief Lessons on Physics will add spice. To bad I recycled How to build a Mind at Half Price Books.




I've also got to read Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins for work's book club. And I may mix-in a bit of LEGO Serious Play, because I cannot get serious about coaching - seems like a play activity to me.




Maybe I will devise a quadrant model of these books. A Venn diagram of their overlapping topics.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mean Time between Disruptions (MTD) a leadership Metric

A rant on Metric's I wish I had written...  so I'm going to just include it by reference and call it my own.

One thousand Words on Metrics

Here's a quote to get you even more interested in clicking that link...

Conclusion

In short, I find most grasping for metrics to be a reliable metric for lack of understanding of human behavior, not only that of those who would be measured but that of those who would do the measuring.
If a higher-up wants a metric about a team, say, as an input to their judgment about whether the team’s work is satisfactory, oughtn’t there be some other way to tell?
And if I choose nearly any metric on someone else’s behalf, doesn’t that reveal my assumption that I know something about how they do their good work better than they do?
Or worse, that I prefer they nail the metric than do something as loose and floppy as “good work”? 
Well - will you look at that!  Yareev's even willing to apply his own metric to his work.  What a great example of a leader...

Let’s try that again

New metric (expiration = next subhead, privacy = public): I’m 0 for 1 on satisfying conclusions to this post.
I’m hardly an expert on human behavior. If I were one, rather than being passive-aggressive and obstructive, I’d have a ready step to suggest to metrics-wanters, one that they’d likely find more desirable than metrics.
Instead I have to talk myself down from passo-aggro-obstructo, by which time they’ve chosen what they’ll observe and the ready step I can offer is limited to encouraging them to observe the effects of their observation.
Can you give me some better ideas?
Here's my very special response to his request for comments.

   I'm wanting to +1 your whole rant, I'd like to nail it to the front doors, I'm thinking about a tattoo, but unsure where on my leader's body it should go...

   I have sometimes fantasied about asking the VP that want's a new metric, if it would be good for us to add one that measured their leadership of our group - I'll call this metric Mean Time between Disruptions (MTD).  MTD is calculated much like the old factory sign that said:
 "its been 1023 days since we killed someone at this factory, please be safe."
   So let's start counting (I suggest in weeks) the time between a major disruption to the team.  For this basic metric we are looking at team formation dynamics (your familiar with Tuckman's Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing) and you Mr. VP desire the P word - but it comes after 3 stages of development beyond the F word).

   Let's start at the beginning and count weeks between Forming and ReForming.  You know like when you move a person on/off a team.  When you move the team's physical location, or when you give the team a new objective, then let's reset the clock.

   The metrics I've seen range from MTD = 0 to about 20 weeks for many teams I've worked with.  And Mr. VP says they desire persistent teams.

I would have put it on his site in the comments but I got a very dissatisfied error message from the system when I posted it... (wonder if he has a metric for failed comments?).

Agile in 3 Minutes  a podcast that discusses a journey toward agility (each episode in exactly 3 minutes).  I'm pondering... why does the magic number 3 come up in the Agile community so often?  Personally I feel it has to do with the Book of Armaments, chapter 2, verse 9 to 21; because 5 is right out!




See Also:
Team Metrics - Case Study
How could we measure Team Happiness?
Metrics for a Scrum Team  but don't confuse that post with Scrum Team Metrics which discusses the necessary and sufficient metric Velocity.
Do you really need a Project Management Office? (PMO effectiveness metrics)


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cycle Time and Lead Time

Our organization is starting to talk about measuring Cycle Time and Lead Time on our software engineering stories.  It's just an observation, but few people seem to understand these measurement concepts, but everyone is talking about them.  This is a bad omen...  wish I could help illustrate these terms.  Because I doubt the measurements will be very accurate if the community doesn't understand when to start the clock, and just as important - when to stop it.

[For the nature of confusion around this terms compare and contrast these:  Agile Alliance Glossary; Six Sigma; KanbanTool.com; Lean Glossary.]

The team I'm working with had a toy basket ball goal over their Scrum board...  like many cheep toys the rim broke.  Someone bought a superior mini goal, it's a nice heavy quarter inch plastic board with a spring loaded rim - not a cheep toy.  The team used "Command Strips" to mount it but they didn't hold for long.

The team convinced me there was a correlation between their basketball points on the charts and the teams sprint burndown chart.  Not cause and effect, but correlation; have you ever stopped to think what that really means?  Could it mean that something in the environment beyond your ability to measure is an actual cause to the effect you desire?

I asked the head person at the site for advice, how could we get the goal mounted in our area?  He suggested that we didn't need permission, that the walls of the building were not national treasures - we should just mount it... maybe try some Command Strips.  Yes, great minds...  but what about getting fired after putting holes in the walls scares one from doing the right thing?  How hard is it to explain to the Texas Work Force Commission when they ask why you were fired?

The leader understood that if I asked the building facilities manager that I might get denied - but if he asked for a favor... it would get done.  That very day, Mike had the facilities manager looking at the board and the wall (a 15-20 minute conversation).  Are you starting the clock?  It's Dec 7th, lead time starts when Mike agreed to the team's request.

The team was excited, it looked like their desire was going to be granted.  Productive would flourish again.

Over the next few days I would see various people looking up at the wall and down at the basketball goal on the floor.  There were about 4 of these meetings each very short and not always the same people.  Team members would come up to me afterwards and ask...  "are we still getting the goal?"... "when are they going to bring a drill?"...  "what's taking so long?"

Running the calendar forward a bit... Today the facilities guy showed up with a ladder and drill.  It took about 20 minutes.  Basketball goal mounted (Dec 13th) - which clock did you stop?  All of the clocks stop when the customer (team) has their product (basketball goal) in production (a game commences).

I choose to think of lead time as the time it takes an agreed upon product or service order to be delivered.  In this example that starts when Mike, the dude, agreed to help the team get their goal mounted.

In this situation I want to think of cycle time as the time that people worked to produce the product (mounted goal) - other's might call this process time (see Lean Glossary).  And so I estimated the time that each meeting on the court looking at the unmounted goal took, plus the actual time to mount  the goal (100 minutes).  Technically cycle time is per unit of product - since in the software world we typically measure per story and each story is some what unique - it's not uncommon to drop the per unit aspect of cycle time.

Lead time:  Dec 13th minus Dec 7th = 5 work days
Cycle time:  hash marks //// (4)  one for each meeting at the board to discuss mounting techniques (assume 20 m. each); and about 20 minutes with ladder and drill;  total 100 minutes

Lead Time 5 days; Cycle Time 100 minutes

This lead to a conversation on the court - under the new goal with a few team members about what we could do with these measurements.  How if one's job was to go around and install basketball goals for every team in the building that a cycle time of 100 minutes with a lead time of 5 days might make the customers a bit unhappy.   Yet for a one off, unusual once a year sort of request that ratio of 100 minutes to 5 days was not such a bad response time.  The customer's were very happy in the end, although waiting for 5 days did make them a bit edgy.

But now what would happen if we measured our software development cycle time and lead time - would our (business) customers be happy?  Do we produce a once in a year product? (Well yes - we've yet to do a release.) Do our lead times have similar ratios to cycle time, with very little value add time (process time)?

Pondering...

Well it's January 5th and this example came up in a Scrum Master's Forum meeting.  After telling the tale we still did not agree on when to start and stop the two watches for Lead Time and Cycle Time.  Maybe this is much harder than I thought.  Turns out I'm in the minority of opinions - I'm doing it wrong!

Could you help me figure out why my view point is wrong?  Comment below, please.

LeanKit just published an article on this topic - it's very good but might also misinterpret cycle time.  I see no 'per unit' in their definition of cycle time.  The Lead Time and Cycle Time Debate: When Does the Clock Start? by Tommy Norman.


See Also:
Elon Musk turns a tweet into reality in 6 days by Loic Le Meur
The ROI of Multiple Small Releaseshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bunker_Gilbreth_Sr.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheaper_by_the_Dozen

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Light Bulb Moment

A few months ago Michele of Sliger Consulting, Inc. asked about my first Agile Light Bulb moment, I've had a few of them but one that easily came to mind was this one with the Washington State Appellate Clerk court case management systems people back in 2005.

In just two months our newly delivering Scrum team had put into production the "undoable" feature - BAM! - value delivered, trust confirmed, transformation successful.
"My light bulb moment was during the product demo in the Sprint Review Meeting, when the state of Washington Appellate Clerk of Court told me he and the courts had been waiting 20 years for the feature that our team had just delivered. In just two months our newly delivering Scrum team had put into production the "undoable" feature - BAM! - value delivered, trust confirmed, transformation successful. He later sent me the requirement spec for the 20-year-old feature and it read just like our epic story and its children we discovered. Yes, this was a completely different system than the previous retired system - yet it had the same customer needs. We had transitioned from a deadlocked in analysis paralysis development group to a Scrum team in under 3 months, delivering into production every month new features, bug fixes, and tested working software."  -- David Koontz

See other Light Bulb Moments at Sliger Consulting Light Bulb Moments

Have you seen in other collections of Light Bulb Moments?  Please comment below.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A look at Six Years of Blogging Stats

What do you get from six years of blogging about Agile/Scrum and your continued learning experiences?

Stats from Agile Complexification Inverter blog site


Well the stats are just one insignificant measure of what one gets from writing about their experience.

The bad artist imitate, the great artist steal.The more meaningful measures have been seeing some of these articles and resources put into practice by other colleagues, discussion that have happened (off line & sometimes in comments or twitter, etc.) with readers that require me to refine my thinking and messaging of my thinking.  Interestingly some times seeing a resource that you have created being "borrowed" and used in another persons or companies artifact without attribution is both rewarding and a bit infuriating.  I like that the concept has resonated well with someone else and they have gone to the trouble of borrowing the concept, and repeating or improving or repurposing the concept.

Let me borrow someone else's concept:  "The Bad Artist Imitate, the GREAT Artists Steal." -- Banksy


Most of all the collection of articles are a repository of resources that I do not need to carry around in my 3-4 lbs of white & grey matter.  I can off-load the storage of concepts, research pointers and questions to a semi-perminate storage.  This is a great benefit.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: The Wisdom of Teams



Introduction:  What We Have Learned

Originally written in 1993, this edition written in 2003 has additional insights from 10 years of working with teams.  The authors see more pragmatism on the subject, less thoughtless rushes to a fad movement.  Top leaders are seeing that teams also apply to themselves, at the top of the business.  They see the core aspect as discipline, not the management fad du jour.  The discipline for team performance has 6 basics: team size, complementary skills, common purpose, performance goals, commonly working agreements, and mutual accountability.  The desire to be a team is not sufficient - one must have performance centric outcomes as the objective.  Leadership is more important at the beginning - but not the primary determinant of success.  Most organizations have untapped potential in team performance.  The organizations performance ethic makes the difference between one-off success and widespread organizational team performances.

The authors develop an explicit terminology, to distinguish commonly misunderstood phrases when discussing groups and teams.  The Y-Chart (p. XXI) helps explain the taxonomy of groups (Effective Group vs Performance Units; Single-Leader Unit vs Real Team).  They define an abstract Team Performance Curve, noting time as the major factor in achieving high (extra-ordinary) performance.  The decision of which type of team; single-leader unit vs team is dependent upon 3 factors: need for collective work products integrated in real time by two or more people, shifting leadership roles for situational awareness, need for mutual accountability in addition to individual accountability.  Setting outcome-based goals is essential to achieving high performance (as apposed to activity-based goals).  Real teams require more time and leadership capacity than single-leader units.  Process support for multiple team opportunities across broad programs is essential to scale the team success from one-to-many.

Prologue:  A Note About What to Expect

The book notes the obvious concepts but also the subtle nature of language used to describe the concepts are required to be precise in defining the discipline.  The authors find that it is difficult to apply common sense to teams.  Expect failure when: building the team for its own sake is the goal (rather that demanding performance challenges), the discipline of “team basics” is overlooked, many areas for teams are left unexplored in organizations (teams: recommend things, do things, run things), teams at the top of organizations are the most difficult, individual accountability is the norm (as apposed to team/group accountability).

Uncommon-sense findings: strong performance standards seem to spawn more teams than teaming-for teaming sake; high-performance teams are extremely rare; hierarchy and teams go together well; teams naturally integrate performance and learning; “teams are the primary unit of performance for increasing numbers of organizations” (p. 5).

Part One:  Understanding Teams

Focusing on Team Basics - figure 1-1 (p. 8)

Apex:  Performance Results; Collective Work products; Personal Growth
Sides:  Skills (Performance results - Collective work products)
Accountability ( Performance results - Personal growth)
Commitment ( Collective work product - Personal growth)
Internal:  Skills - Problem solving, technical function, interpersonal
Accountability - Mutual, team size, individual
Commitment - Specific goals, common approach, meaningful purpose

Chapter 1:  Why Teams?

The authors have learned that although many executives understood the argument for using teams many didn’t extract the real potential from the teams or the opportunities to use teams.  Many times because of unwarranted assumptions and poor knowledge.
Key lessons:
  • “Significant performance challenges energize teams regardless of where they are in an organization.”  Performance is the primary objective.  A team is the means - not the end.
  • “Organizational leaders can foster team performance best by building a strong performance ethic rather than by establishing a ream-promoting environment alone.”  Focus on customer satisfaction performance rather than teamwork performance.
  • “Biases toward individualism exist but need not get in the way of team performance.”  Turn individualism, self-preservation, and self-centered objectives to the benefit of the team.
  • “Discipline - both within the team and across the organization - creates the conditions for team performance.”  “Groups become teams through disciplined action.  They shape a common purpose, agree on performance goals, define a common working approach, develop high levels of complementary skills, and hold themselves mutually accountable for results.”

Teams are made up of individuals with complementary skills - build on strengths, not to cover weakness.  Define clear goals, via team communication. Build real-time problem solving skills and initiative, allow adaptive behavior.  Provide social dimension to enhance work - teams fundamental nature are people interactions.  Fun is part and parcel of the process - encourage it.

Resistance to teams come from 3 primary concerns: ”lack of conviction”, “personal discomfort and risk”, and “weak organization performance ethics” (p 21-23). 

Teams do not solve all problems, they are not the answer to every problem.  They require discipline and practice.  Organization culture may be opposed to teams if a strong individualistic performance is reward in spite of team performance.

Chapter 2:  One Team: A Story of Performance

As a basic unit of performance a team blends the knowledges, skills and abilities of several people strengthening the overall performance of individuals.  Many people having once experienced the power of a high performing team long for the experience again.  Burlington Northern launched the Intermodal Rail era after deregulation in 1981.  Largely the result of a core team of 7 individuals, with an extend group of 45 people.  This team was largely self selective, all were interested in the new prospects of intermodal rail and saw the value even in face of large corporate resistance and hostility.   The team started small and grew as needed, bringing in and fostering the required skills.  A positive attitude that the goal was possible was shared by all.  Hard work and long hours were the norm for the group.  When the group’s proposal was approved but with the worst pilot project locations the group saw the opportunity to prove the concept and jumped right into it.  The core group shared leadership roles and had strong affinity of tacit information on specific skill sets.  They assumed a ask for forgiveness rather than permission attitude, and resolved impediments quickly.  The results was a change in the business model for the industry, intermodal rail is now common place and well established business process for the rail industry. 

Ch 3 Team Basics A Working Definition and Discipline

Teams are a “powerful vehicle for performance” (p. 43)  many companies are embracing teams as a unit of performance.  There are differences in understand of what a team is and what constitutes a performant team.   Teams work well when they have specific results to achieve, and the performance ethic of the organization demans those results.

“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” (p. 45)

Small number - in the Agile community we say 7 +/- 2  ( 5 - 9 members).  Reasoning is the tacit knowledge of each other (the group) and the intercommunication of the team.  The larger the number the lower the accountability for success.  Large numbers have logistical problems not seen in smaller groups (space to meet, etc.).  See Also: Choosing the Team Size in Scrum by Agile Pain Relief

Scrum (software development process) offers a way to scale teams to very large (hundreds) numbers.

Complementary skills - we call this a cross-functional team.  A team must have a person with the required skills to solve the problem, and it will take many skills to solve most any complex problem.   Many successful teams realize they lack certain skills, and become self reliant on learning or acquiring the skill set.

Committed to common purpose and performance goal.  Teams must see the purpose for their existence, be motivated to achieve the goal.  The best teams spend significant time discussing their purpose, reshaping it and refining that purpose over their lifetime.

Committed to a common approach.  Agreement on the approach, process to solve the problems is a key,  they may spend considerable time on this issue also. 

Mutual accountability.  Teams must hold each other accountable for the achievement of the goal, the quality of the products, and the process.  They must be capable of defining their own standards for performance and encouraged to raise the bar.  


Ch 5 The Team Performance Curve

A team does not start out at super high performance, it takes time to reach this goal.  Many teams never reach their potential.  Experts say that if a team does reach high-performance that it should not be disbanded but kept together, and given a new purpose.  The performance curve describes this growth to high-performance.

Work groups are not teams, though they may develop into a team.  One difference is the focus either on team performance or individual performance & accountabilities.

Pseudo-teams never agree on purpose, or accountability of the group, they get stuck in rituals and avoid rather than engage each other.

Ch 8  Teams, Obstacles and Endings:  Getting Unstuck

Every team will encounter obstacles, high-performing teams develop tools for overcoming these obstacles.  Teams lower of the performance curve may need help to over come obstacles of all natures.  Teams may become stuck, and not develop the tools to resolve their obstacles, then it is time for serious help.  Stuck teams: lack energy, or enthusiasm, have a sense of helplessness, lack identity, lack purpose, members are cynical, and have a high degree of mistrust.

A weak sense of direction - the team needs to create common goals, take joint responsibility.

Insufficient commitment to performance - team needs accountability for the problem and the solution, based in performance measures.

Critical skills gaps - team needs to hire experts or develop skills.  They must be capable of admitting they need help - identify the type of help and go get it.

Getting unstuck:  - 1) revisit the basic of teams, 2) build on small successes, 3) inject new information and techniques, 4) get facilitation skills & training, 5) change team membership or leader


Transitions and endings will also effect the team, may drop them back into lower stages of Tuckman model of development - allow for that, don’t expect no emotion for losses. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Halloween's MVP

Here's the 2016 Pumpkin decorating contest loser.  It's been a real LEAN year for the Scrum team.
Have you heard of a MVP - Minimal Viable Pumpkin?

Minimal Viable Pumpkin (MVP)