Since writing the blog post about one of the more prevalent enemies if change, the behavior pattern of the significant one, I have been living with the question of how to offer possibilities that can be heard. As a recovering significant one (some parts if personal mastery and self awareness are hard and admitting to unuseful behaviors and patterns is one of them) I found myself remembering two questions my boss used on me:
Monthly Archives: July 2016
This isn’t exactly on how to create flow in an organization, more about why it can be so hard. Agile and Kanban aren’t that difficult to learn – they are pretty well mapped out and easy to adopt yet the promised effects of applying them often don’t really materialize simple because change needs people and people don’t change easily. Not because people don’t like change but because we don’t know how to change! To change you need to stop doing what you have always done … only you mostly can’t stop doing what you have always done because your actions are based on your thinking and the way you think becomes so hard wired into your brain, so familiar and so ‘you’, that people don’t even consider it to be an option that can be changed! To change the people, change the people because people can’t change!
We can’t do anything without language! Whether we are speaking or writing we need language! Language is a form of acting, we use language to act!
With that in mind, language as action comes in 5 forms:
- Requests & Offers
Shifting from waterfall into a flow based delivery mechanism is an exercise in change management and change management is as much about the people as it is about the new process or tool. In fact, it could be argued that until the people align their beliefs and thinking to the new processes, the impact of the change will be minimal. Which brings me to the issue of language and words.
Words are how we communicate what we are thinking, what we need and want and what needs to get done. Language also creates ‘position’ in a team.
So here we sit, the team and I – with a lovely Kanban board with queues and flow and everything we need to stop starting and start finishing – only it doesn’t seem to be working smoothly. So I turn up my listening and there, hidden beneath the words is something really interesting – we keep on coming back to change!
We can’t start testing because there are changes still coming. What changes ? Where are they ? Are they important ? Who are they important to ? Where are they coming from ?
Turns out, we don’t really know! Which means we don’t really know when to stop working on this set of use cases and start to work on new one’s because the way we have always worked is to go round and round, perfecting the use case, adding changes no matter where they come from, no matter how valueless they might be.
I can see how this is created – if you can’t see what is next up why would you finish what you have right now ? If you can’t see how much is left to be done and what absolutely has to be done, why stop working on what you have right now ? We have created a culture where teams need to be busy, they need to be billable.
After 10 months of analysis the team and the business still don’t really know what they want. After 20 years in software development I am not really surprised, because invariably you find out what is needed when you build it and start to use it – which is a problem in waterfall, because that is when you are out of time and money.
So what now ? Well now we create a mechanism where we can get clarity on what is needed and what is valuable. We get to explore grooming of the backlog and risk profiles (thanks David Anderson) and I can’t wait to see what happens.
I am already imagining a team where delivery happens on stable, clear features that have been selected in the last week or two by the business, where everyone can see why these have been selected and can see what needs to still be done to build a product that now only delights customers, but Wows them and allows us to steal customers. A space where change is embraced and welcomed and we are delivering value to customers frequently.
What techniques are you using to get that infinite, ever changing backlog under control ? How are your teams choosing between features and replenishing their delivery flows ?
We are in an era of continuous change only we live with a very old-fashioned understanding of change. What do I mean by old-fashioned ? We are still living in a frame where change happens, then it all stabilises for a long while and then we go through the effort of change again. Only that isn’t how it all works these days, change is continuous. Gone are the days where we could relax and let the process take care of it. These days, before the process has been designed the conditions have changed and then what does arrive as the new process is no longer effective. All of which means that to cope in todays world we should be cultivating one key skill, being permanent learners.
To change is to be able to see if things are having the impact you were expecting and to adapt!
To change is to learn!
But what does it take to live as a learner ? What are the patterns and anti-patterns that Coaches need to look out for ?
I am coming to the conclusion that perhaps not! When I think about visualisation, I think about turning data into something that can be translated (without thought) into meaning! I think about thermometers and colour and images that convey meaning. I see my cars petrol gauge, rather than a digital number.
When I engage with individuals and teams what we end up talking about is numbers and words – all of which require the brain to ‘think’ about the information and interpret it. The problem here is that numbers mean different things to different people. I have 20l left in my petrol tank – is that good or is that bad ? How far can I get ?