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In the Evidence-Based Management framework, we measure opportunities in terms of a concept we call Unrealized Value, which can be thought of as the benefit that would be realized if we could satisfy all of the currently unsatisfied outcomes of our customers.
Jan 12, 2021 Read blog
OKRs are a powerful tool for setting and measuring goals, but like all power tools, they can become dangerous in unskilled hands. When used in informed ways, they can improve focus and lift outcomes, but when mishandled, they can increase waste and inflict real damage upon the organizations that adopt them.
Nov 24, 2020 Read blog
Nearly every conversation I have with people who are trying to bring agility to their organizations eventually comes around to the challenge of changing the culture of the organization. They often feel alone and frustrated in their efforts, successful working with their own teams, but surrounded by people who are sympathetic but feel, similarly, powerless. I've recently been speaking with Beth Davis, an agilist and HR professional, about how HR can be enlisted as an enthusiastic ally in this process. She shares her observations, both timely and timeless, in a blog: https://medium.com/@beth_davis/scrum-masters-your-relationship-with-hr-is-the-workplace-bridge-to-build-8f18dd32d3c1.
Dec 2, 2019 Read blog
A college roommate of mine retired this week, after a long and successful career. While he's figuring out the next chapter of his life, it caused me to think about whether the notion of a "career" is even relevant in today's world.
Apr 3, 2019 Read blog
I’ve had this ongoing discussion with a few of my colleagues who says that the term “agile leader” is an oxymoron - that the ideal organization is a bunch of Scrum Teams and not much else. Even in an ideal world, I disagree, and here’s why in a nutshell: I’ve never seen, and have not even heard of, an organization that was successful in their pursuit of agility who did not have a strong leader guiding the vision for what the organization can become, motivating people to achieve that vision, nurturing the pursuit of that vision, and protecting, when necessary, the people who want that vision from the people who don’t. The reason for this is simple, and is as old as civilization. As Nicolo Machiavelli observed, “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order; this lukewarmness arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually have experience of it.“ As intellectually compelling and self-evident we would like the advantages of agile to be, the truth is that there are people who benefit from the old system, and they didn’t get to where they are because they are not astute and influential. They are not simply going to resign their current advantages because someone proposes a superior system; you have to expect that they are going to fight to maintain the status quo. What Agile Leaders Do? Agile Leaders focus on three things: (1) they create and nurture a culture in which experimentation and learning are embraced; (2) they collaborate with employees (at all levels in the organization) to find common values to create a greater goal for the company and the teams; and (3) they create an organizational structure that reinforces and rewards the other two dimensions. Goals Providing guiding vision for shared goal setting is, in my opinion, the most important focus area, and the one that survives even after the organization and culture are largely self-managing and self-sustaining. The goals they inspire others to contribute to and make their own are strategic, and are generally customer or market focused. By strategic, I mean bold and audacious; both aspirational and inspirational. To providing contrasting comparison, think about the motivational difference between the goal of landing on the moon and returning, by the end of the decade with a more prosaic goal of improving profitability by 25%; no one is going to tell their grandchildren that they helped improve investor returns. These motivational goals that leaders help us to identify have some common characteristics: the are motivating and inspiring, but they also are uncertain; they force us to stretch, to do things we have never done before. That’s why agility is so important; if we knew how to reach those goals, we should just develop a plan and march to it. Leaders help their employees to persist in the pursuit of their shared goals and values when times get rough and old behaviors want to take over. Organization The basic agile team structure is very simple; if we use Scrum as an example, there are only three roles: the Product Owner, the Development Team, and the Scrum Master. But not everything an organization does is done by an agile team; agility is needed whenever we are dealing with complexity, but not everything is complex. If you were running a company that makes paint, research and development would need agility, but the paint factory itself might be better suited to using lean processes; unless you’re doing a lot of small-batch custom manufacturing, a predictive continuous flow process is probably better than planning production as a series of Sprints. The point is that, unless you are a small software start-up, there will always be things outside the scope of what agile teams do, even if they are only as mundane as payroll, accounting, tax compliance, legal, and investor relations. The role of management is to design, monitor, and correct this system to make sure that the organization achieves its goals. Even product development companies need to do more than simply developing the product. Where agile leadership comes into play in the management context is that they need to make sure that the different parts of the organization, with different operating models, don’t destroy each other. Put more positively, agile leaders need to help the organization optimize for flexibility and continuous improvement, making sure that improving customer outcomes always comes first, and that the other parts of the organization support this mission. But the other things need to get done, too. Agile leaders also help teams progress in their maturity. Agility is not binary, and there are predictable stages that teams go through as they improve their ability to learn and improve. Leaders create a supportive environment in which teams can progress, they provide coaches and exposure to peers who can help the teams learn, and they commit themselves to improving their own abilities in parallel. My college Ron Eringa has written a handful of excellent blog posts about this topic. Culture The most important thing agile leaders do is to foster a culture that supports empiricism and learning, and that is constantly seeking better customer outcomes and better ways of achieving those outcomes. The challenge for leaders is that they can’t dictate the culture; they can only create the right conditions for it to emerge. Some of my colleagues like to use a “gardener” metaphor: if you’ve ever had a garden, you know that you can’t make anything grow. You can create the right conditions with the right amount of water (but not too much), and enough sun (but not too much). You can remove other plants that might compete with the ones you want to grow, and you can protect the plants from predation. You can’t control all factors, however, and an organization’s culture emerges only partly as an expressions of its leaders aspirations; most of it comes from the people in the organization, how they treat each other and work together. Culture is the non-copyable je ne sais quoi that makes your organization unique. But while leaders can’t control and dictate this culture, they can encourage it and cause it to flourish by the examples they set and the behaviors that they model. Agile Leaders are the key to scaling agility Agile leaders play an important, even essential, role in scaling agility in an organization. While agile teams can fly under the radar so long as their scope remains small, the larger the scope and scale of agility, the more agile teams need supportive leaders to help them to frame the right goals, to make the organization work in support of agility and not against it, and to evolve the culture to embrace and reward learning, rather than merely tolerating it. What organizations who are struggling to scale their agility are most often missing is strong, supportive agile leadership that helps them to build strong, cohesive agile teams. Agile leadership and high-performing teams work in a kind of feedback loop: weakness in one weakens all, while strong leadership reinforces and strengthens strong teams, and vice versa.
Nov 5, 2018 Read blog
It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, and yet we engage in an unconscious fiction of predictability every day. We work in an uncertain world, and our main goal in pursuing agility is to confront the unknown, and in doing so, to master it.
Aug 24, 2018 Read blog
Impact Mapping is a powerful technique that helps teams understand how to link the work that they do with results that their organizations would like them to achieve. We’ve been using this technique for a while in our Scaled Professional Scrum and Professional Scrum Product Owner courses.
Jun 12, 2018 Read blog
According to Forrester Research, 90% of Agile teams use Scrum. One reason for this popularity is that Scrum is a simple framework that promotes transparency and empiricism. It is based on a set of principles and values, and consists of three roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team), five events, (the Sprint, Sprint Planning, the Daily Scrum, the Sprint Review, and the Sprint Retrospective), and three artifacts (the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog, and the Product Increment), making it highly adaptable to different situations. Scrum is documented in the Scrum Guide, and is free for anyone to use. When one team works on a single Product, they simply use Scrum. In cases where one team works on multiple Products, they may still benefit from using Scrum if they work on one Product in one Sprint, then another in the next Sprint. This is simply a kind of multi-tasking (see Figure 1). Using Scrum across Multiple Teams Scrum is targeted at a single Product being produced by a single Scrum Team. Two teams, and sometimes three, can use Scrum to develop a single product, but as more teams are added, the teams need a bit more than Scrum to manage their cross-team dependencies to ensure that they are able to deliver working Product Increments. We call this “something more” the Nexus Framework, which adds minimally to Scrum. Figure 1 When to use Scrum and Nexus, at a glance Sometimes, the need for Nexus sneaks up on an organization. They start with one team, working on one Product, but as the Product’s complexity grows, they start adding people to that team until they have too many to effectively work as one team. With two teams, they can still use Scrum but they need to spend some extra time collaborating informally across teams. This might even work if they grow to three teams, but they often find they need a little something extra to help the teams collaborate. Nexus provides minimally intrusive mechanisms to help them continue to scale without “breaking” Scrum. Nexus is based on decades of experience working with organizations who are scaling their use of Scrum. Nexus is documented in the Nexus Guide, and is also free for anyone to use. There are several pieces of updated and new Nexus content now available. A new version of the Nexus Guide has just been released. In addition to the guide updates, Patricia Kong, Dave West, and I, from Scrum.org, have also recently written a book on Nexus, The Nexus™ Framework for Scaling Scrum, published by Addison-Wesley Professional. If you have questions regarding Nexus and the updates to the Guide, register for our upcoming webinar, What is Nexus? An Introduction to the Framework for Scaling Scrum. If you’d like help beyond those resources, you can take a Scaled Professional Scrum with Nexus course. Many teams working on many independent or semi-independent Products is really a different kind of problem. Each Product may use Scrum or Nexus, some kind of product portfolio management and/or program management approach is usually needed to coordinate their work Scrum and Nexus can be used in conjunction with these practices, without modification. But what about organizational change and culture? Adopting Scrum and Nexus often mean changing the way people in an organization, beyond the Scrum Teams, work. It requires creating a supportive environment in which the cultural changes that support Scrum can take hold. While the Scrum Master helps a Scrum Team to change the way they work, Scrum teams need support, nurturing, and protection to help the new behaviors stick. That’s where Scrum Studio helps to create the right management and cultural environment in which empiricism can survive and thrive. We recently published a white paper describing Scrum Studio, and an organization who is using it was recently featured in an article. Links to Resources Scrum The latest Scrum Guide Nexus The latest Nexus Guide Nexus book: The Nexus™ Framework for Scaling Scrum Nexus course: Scaled Professional Scrum with Nexus Nexus webinar: What is Nexus? An Introduction to the Framework for Scaling Scrum Scrum Studio Scrum Studio white paper: Scrum Studio: A Model for Innovation Scrum Studio article  https://www.forrester.com/How+Can+You+Scale+Your+Agile+Adoption/fulltext/-/E-res110444#AST962998 2013
Jan 17, 2018 Read blog