Why Agile Is a Key Component In Facilitating Continuous Delivery by Steven Armstrong

To start with, I would like to give you some context about this article.

Some time ago (I think two months ago) I was facilitating a sharing session between one of the teams and my friend Steven Armstrong about Continuous Delivery.

His session was so interesting and went so well that last week I told him he should write an article to share the knowledge with everyone.

Having said this, I’m happy to share with you that he accepted the challenge as you can see by the link bellow.

Why Agile Is a Key Component In Facilitating Continuous Delivery by Steven Armstrong

My feedback from this is simple: Great article. I hope that you enjoy reading it like I did.

Road Maps and Release Planning – The never-ending story (Published at ScrumAlliance)

Sharing my recent article publish by Scrum Alliance  on 6th of August 2015.

Again its a very interesting and hot topic called “Road Maps and Release Planning – The never-ending story“.

I hope that you like reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing.

Why for Some Product Owners and Stakeholders Agile Is Like Crossing Over to the Twilight Zone (Published at ScrumAlliance)

I’m happy to share with you that I have my first article approved and publish by Scrum Alliance  on 23rd of July 2015.

Its a very interesting topic called “Why for Some Product Owners and Stakeholders Agile Is Like Crossing Over to the Twilight Zone“.

I hope that you like reading this article like I enjoyed writing it.

Agile Champions the new Change Agents!

As promised in my previous post “Does the Change Agent Networks work? In my case the Agile Champions…” I said that I would share some conclusions about this model implementation.

During this time I didn’t said nothing because I needed some time to start seeing the first results. Well, good or bad…

As you know, transforming mentalities doesn’t work from night to day. In reality takes time and in some situations more time than expected.

Having this said, I would like to start by giving some context in case that you are reading this Blog/Post for the first time.

As an Agile Coach I’m responsible for providing guidance and support in agile concepts and principles to multiple teams distributed across 3 locations (Portugal, United Kingdom, and Romania) in the company that I’m currently working.

After working for a period of time with different environments and cultures, I’ve realised that some times it’s really hard to help people to change even when that change is beneficial to them, others and the business.

So, during one of the many conversations that I had, one person in particular asked why shouldn’t we try to motivate and empower people to be change agents? From that moment I started to plant this idea, like a seed, in everyone’s mind.

Now it’s the time to share some conclusions but please keep in mind that this is work in progress. In other words this is on-going work will never be complete.

The first step was do a roadshow by all locations with the objective to share what was an Agile Champions and what was expected from them. The first reaction was not what I was expecting. Meaning that, almost everyone was with the suspicious look. Also, because cause some confusion. They thought that was another role or more responsibilities added to their current role if they accepted.
From this moment, I had to keep working with them. Clarifying any existing doubt what was an Agile Champion “ An Agile Champions is some one that truly believes in Agile and the change. Believes what are the benefits that can come with the change and is ready to take actions to bring more people on board”. I can say that was a motivational and coaching continuous work.

After achieving this first step, some people started to attend the weekly meetings. During this meetings we discussed what could motivate people to become an Agile Champion, to attend the Agile Communities sessions (share and learn) and to have the will to take actions and bring more people on board. Agin, this was another critical moment. Lucky went well since I had people believing in Agile and committed to this, as well, the Leadership Team support. They were the key to keep this proceed to success even in a slow pace.

It’s funny because if I go back in time, the reality was that I only had one or two Agile Champions since the beginning. Was our work together that made more people to believe and have the will to join us.

At this moment in time we had a small group on each location but I still had the need to drive these meeting and communities. Everyone was expecting that even during this time I was saying that would be really great if they wanted to do it.

Luckily or not something happen accidentally. After a few months suddenly I had the need to start traveling more. Meaning that, I was unable to attend all the weekly meetings and community sessions on all locations. The surprise was that in a natural way they were more committed and self-organised than they and me were expecting.
They started to schedule the weekly meetings, discuss what they could do to keep improving, talk about ideas for the Agile Communities on each location, how to involve and bring more people on board.

For me this was a magical moment! The moment that the Agile Champions had become Change Agents! The moment that I truly believed that the viral change was going to work!

Please let me know if you have any question or share your own experience on this subject. I would like to ear your thoughts and opinions too.

Does the Change Agent Networks work? In my case the Agile Champions…

Well… I just started to implement this model in the company that I’m currently working and my first feedback is positive. But only time will tell if it was a success or not 😉

Lets go back in time to understand why we are trying this model.

As you know we live in a world that is made of different people, mentalities and cultures. Due to this, we need to keep improving and find new approaches and models to help implement changes.

After working for a period of time with different environments and cultures, I’ve realised that some times it’s really hard to help people to change even when that change is beneficial to them, others and the business.

Some time has passed, conversations and discussions took place with different people, but, one person in particular asked why shouldn’t we try to motivate and empower people to be change agents?

Why not try this approach?

From that moment I started to plant this idea, like a seed, in everyone’s mind. So far so good!

Coincidently, this week I was reading a book that elaborated on this same idea and I’ve summarised their thoughts on the following quote:

“You will need executives, managers and staff to act as change agents. That’s because people are more likely to listen to, and work with, their peers rather than external consultants or dedicated change agents.

People tend to feel threatened or feel that change is being pushed on them if they don’t see their peers jumping in first. This approach helps the change go viral, and helps build the momentum.

Here are some tips for expanding our change agent team:

  • Get at least one person from each business area that is affected by the change.
  • Set strong expectations with the early adopters that being part of the change team is extra work.
  • Make becoming a member of the change agent network exclusive in order to attract the right people. I’ve always wanted to try some American Idol style audition, but that has been to crazy of an idea for the organisations I’ve worked in!
  • Agree on rotating the type of change you’re implementing.

Most of all, give early adopters support, training, and some autonomy. Notice I said some autonomy. At this point you want the people who are motivated to help execute the change, but be aware, thy may not have the necessary skills you, as a change agent, have.

Change goes viral when people start helping other people adjust.

These people, who weren’t part of the core change team, starting taking ownership of roadblocks all the teams were facing. They would provide updates to the whole departement during our monthly retrospectivs and the change team supported their efforts.” [1]

As a last thought I will be sharing with you (when possible) all the experiences, situations, issues, successes about this path that I’m taking so we all can learn together.

References:

[1] Jason Little | Lean Change Management

Is trusting relationship and symbiosis a myth in Self-Organising teams?

As you know one of the Scrum Principles is Self-Organising Teams. This means that, the teams should include all required roles to bring the product or feature to life.  Also, all team members from the Scum Team must form a close and trusting relationship, a symbiosis in order to allow them to work together as peers. Shouldn’t exist us and them but only us.

Ir order to create this relationship and symbiosis they need pass through the four-stage model as described by Bruce Tuckman’s: [1]

  • Forming – Stage 1

In this stage, most team members are positive and polite. Some are anxious, as they haven’t fully understood what work the team will do. Others are simply excited about the task ahead.

As leader, you play a dominant role at this stage, because team members’ roles and responsibilities aren’t clear.

This stage can last for some time, as people start to work together, and as they make an effort to get to know their new colleagues.

  • Storming – Stage 2

Next, the team moves into the storming phase, where people start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage. This is the stage where many teams fail.

Storming often starts where there is a conflict between team members’ natural working styles. People may work in different ways for all sorts of reasons, but if differing working styles cause unforeseen problems, they may become frustrated.

Storming can also happen in other situations. For example, team members may challenge your authority, or jockey for position as their roles are clarified. Or, if you haven’t defined clearly how the team will work, people may feel overwhelmed by their workload, or they could be uncomfortable with the approach you’re using.

Some may question the worth of the team’s goal, and they may resist taking on tasks.

Team members who stick with the task at hand may experience stress, particularly as they don’t have the support of established processes, or strong relationships with their colleagues.

  • Norming – Stage 3

Gradually, the team moves into the norming stage. This is when people start to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues’ strengths, and respect your authority as a leader.

Now that your team members know one-another better, they may socialize together, and they are able to ask each other for help and provide constructive feedback. People develop a stronger commitment to the team goal, and you start to see good progress towards it.

There is often a prolonged overlap between storming and norming, because, as new tasks come up, the team may lapse back into behaviour from the storming stage.

  • Performing – Stage 4

The team reaches the performing stage when hard work leads, without friction, to the achievement of the team’s goal. The structures and processes that you have set up support this well.

As leader, you can delegate much of your work, and you can concentrate on developing team members.

It feels easy to be part of the team at this stage, and people who join or leave won’t disrupt performance.

This is why we should minimize any teams change since Its takes time to become a true team – a tightly unit with members who trust and support each other and who work together effectively.

Changing teams compositions makes the team-building process (four-stage model) all over again and in the end self-organisation suffer.

References:

[1] Mind Tools Club | Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing, Understanding the Stages of Team Formation

[2] Businessballs | Tuckman Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing model

Jez Humble on Valuable Software

I would like to share with you this amazing talk.

Here Jez Humble – co-author of the book ‘Continuous Delivery’ – speak on how to focus on producing valuable software: designing for failure; culture change; the tyranny and irrelevance of ‘on time, on budget, in scope’; and daily practices.

Is the river the flow and the boats the user stories?

Well, during the Kanban Coaching Exchange Meetup today, Tom Sedge shared this thought “The river is the flow and the boats are the user stories”.
In my opinion I agree whit this since smaller user stories are faster to understand, implement and deliver by the team.
This also means that, big user stories are like big boats that can have hidden complexity, are harder to implement and can become the bottleneck for the flow/sprint that is been played by the team.

What do you think about this?

“How” to go beyond Scrum and use Lean in Software Development Teams?

Once more I would like to share my thoughts/opinion with everyone about this new subject – “How” to go beyond Scrum and use Lean in Software Development Teams?

In order to give you some context, I will start by explaining ShuHaRi concept, as well who introduced this concept in Software Development.

ShuHaRi as some of you might know is a Japanese martial art concept, this concept describes the different stages of learning to mastery. [1]

Aikido Master Endō Seishirō Shihan stated that “It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of Shu, Ha, and Ri.” [1]

shu-ha-ri

Where:

  • Stage of Shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that our bodies absorb the forms that our forebears created. We remain faithful to these forms with no deviation. [2]
  • Stage of Ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process the forms may be broken and discarded. [2]
  • Stage of Ri, is the last stage where we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act in accordance with what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws. [2]

But who introduced this concept in Software Development?

This learning technique and methodology in software development was introduced by Alister Cockburn.

His idea is that every person go through the three ShuHaRi stages in order to obtain knowledge.

Meaning that:

  • In the Shu stage since it’s the first one, the student follows the teachings of one master precisely. He concentrates on how to do the task, without worrying too much about the underlying theory. If there are multiple variations on how to do the task, he concentrates on just the one way his master teaches him.
  • Next stage is Ha, at this point the student begins to branch out. With the basic practices working, he now starts to learn the underlying principles and theory behind the technique. He also starts learning from other masters and integrates that learning into his practice.
  • Finally in the Ri stage, Now the student isn’t learning from other people, but from his own practice. He creates his own approaches and adapts what he’s learned to his own particular circumstances.

The fundamental idea here is that when teaching a concept, you have to tailor the style of teaching to where the learner is in their understanding and that progression follows a common pattern. Early stages of learning focus on concrete steps to imitate, the focus then shifts to understanding principles and finally into self-directed innovation.

In my opinion it’s very important to understand the ShuHaRi concept and technic before anything, because we can understand the variation of do agile or being agile by understanding first the level of agile and lean knowledge. 

So, how should everyone see and believe in these eleven principles after blending with Lean. Well in my opinion I truly believe that should be like this:

  • Satisfy the customer… -> Delight the customer.
  • Welcome change… -> Seek change.
  • Deliver frequently… -> Deliver continuously
  • Work as a team… -> Live as a team
  • Talk, face to face… -> Talk, face to face & heart to Heart
  • Mesure working product… -> Measure value delivered
  • Maintain pace… -> Maintain pace and rhythm
  • Exceed at quality… -> Exceed at quality and get stuff done
  • Keep it simple… -> Keep it simple stupid
  • Envolve Team… -> Envolve everyone
  • Reflect regularly… -> Reflect continuously 

Quoting Voltaire “Common sense is not so common.”.

Saying this, I’ve been taking a shot on what it would take to “How” to go beyond Scrum and use Lean in Software Development Teams. In order words how we can learn, apply and practice Lean Principles to what we currently do well using Agile Scrum in Software development Teams trough the different stages of ShuHaRi in order to keep improving.

  • First stage Shu:
    • In order to start the Lean teaching/coaching, we need to have the team in a high maturity level (Ha stage in what Agile Scum regards). This will avoid any confusion and issues with the team mind set regarding what they currently do (how and why).
    • Next step is teach and coach them on what Lean concerns. Explain what is Lean, what are the principles, techniques and why everyone should be. We can achive this by trainings and workshops.
    • Now is the moment were we help them to achieve some conclusions on what they can do to keep improving. We can review what they already do using the Value Stream Map technic (Development, Testing, Scrum Ceremonies, Communication, Process,etc.) in order to raise performance by achieving more results, with less resources,  by the continuous and relentless elimination of activities (waste) that do not add value to the service or product. Its important to make them understand that Lean applies to any organisation and follows the pursuit of perfection, thus is a never-ending activity.
    • Nevertheless, during this stage we need to make them understand that this a critical period were they need to follow and practice each point without any variation. Also, that during this time they will have all the support to help them growth in maturity and knowledge.
    • Why keep the team for a period of time in this stage? Tin order to answerer that I will quote Leonardo da Vinci,  “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” so lets stick to this for the time being.
  • Second stage Ha:
    • In this stage they already follow the principles, meaning that we can start stepping back and give them space to be Lean. This means that they are using and combining the Agile Scrum and Lean Principles by themselves. This will empower them to transform the principles in values to follow. Act as self-organising that they are. Nevertheless, we will keep observation and coaching when its needed.
  • Last stage Ri:
    • This is the final stage and they are already confident and with maturity to follow the path by them selfs. For me this a great achievement because as we speak they don’t see the principles as principles but as values and their believe in them is high. This is the moment that they pass from students to masters. Meaning that they will start inspiring others teams , converting them to go beyond Scrum and use Lean.

After this moment they will act as master like you in order to start converting a full organisation. Thus, we need the managers support in other to achieve this faster than was expected.

I truly believe that this is the best way to change (Convert a full) Organisation.

References:

[1] Wikipedia | ShuHaRi

[2] Aiki News | An Interview with Endô Seishirô Shihan

Alistair Cockburn | Agile Software Development