Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The great persuader

Last night I was speaking to the Metrolina PMI chapter. Good discussion; lots of interest in Agile. My topic was: Winning With Scrum.

So, on that quickly. My experience and my hypothesis (still not disproved...per the scientific method ), is that Scrum can be more fun and can enable your team(s) to be much more productive. It is designed to allow you to be 5x to 10x more productive that you were. And, on average, 5x-10x more than average. (Yes, logically, if you were already well above average, for whatever reason, the bang might not be that great.)

At the same time, I do not wish to infer that Scrum (or Agile) is a silver bullet or magic pill. It is hard work, painful in terms of change, to do well. Some people don't have the intestinal fortitude. And some people might be in one of the few "wrong" Myers-Briggs boxes to be comfortable using it.

So, we are in for a short, tough economic time.
Scrum can help you team and firm.
Scrum can preserve your career.
If you put your heart into doing it reasonably well.

Enough of that.

One person asked me: "Well, I'd like to do it, but who is going to persuade my boss and my comrades and my company to let me do it?"

The short answer is: You.

Yes, I know this can be tough. Yes, even if you are very good, sometimes you will not succeed.

But usually, where there's a will, there's a way. (It's a cliche because it is usually true.) And nobody else is as well positioned.

A couple of things:
* It is not one conversation, but a series of conversations.
* The influencing does not have to come out of your mouth or even be thought of as (all) coming from you. But you have to organize it and energize it.
* It is not just facts, it's emotion also (yours and his). The most effective emotion is often "quiet" emotion. The other guy gets a sense that you really are determined to make this happen; it gives him confidence that you *will* make this happen. (Often a "him"; your situation may vary of course.)
* Stay yourself. People will not believe professional salesmen. But if you are true to yourself, they will believe you.

Welcome to the most important business skill you will ever develop. Getting someone to buy-in to your good ideas.

Two suggestions:
A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter.
Fearless Change by Manns and Rising.

Go get 'em.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Productivity Now

The economy is in a bit of a tailspin. Chairman Ben may have his way of helping us. But we can help ourselves. If you wait for the Wizards of Washington to help, you might wait for the wrong basketball team.

How do we get ourselves out of this jam?

We need a simple way of telling if we are productive, if the seemingly "brilliant" ideas are actually useful. And of telling whether this group of people or that or those is productive.

How? Measure productivity by team. The Team is the unit to be measured (not the individual, and not a larger group). There are many reasons to measure by team, but the main one is that only the Team can create enough useful knowledge to create (or produce) a (new) product. 7 people, plus or minus two.

Measure it in short iterations...a week, or two or a month at most.

And ask the Team to improve.

If the Team is not producing enough (say, compared to their cost), disband them and tell each person: "Go join or start another Team." If the same person is on two failing Teams, he probably needs to look elsewhere.

And all those other guys who aren't on the producing teams (or any team), why is it that we need them? What value do they add? (Yes, Virginia, they could join a team doing real work. Since they aren't used to it, we'll give them some time to remember how to do real work.)

So, some Teams can fail. But you will generally find that the Team gets creative and productive. They find something to sell that customers actually want. Even customers now.

To do this well, you have to measure productivity. I know there are lies, damn lies and statistics, but you need a little bit of something to make business decisions.

Translation: What I am recommending is Scrum for the whole business. I would recommend Scrum be in the context of Lean thinking about the whole business (although I did not explain that here at all in this post.)

Get on with it. We have a bunch of people to pull out of this economic cycle. Much as we enjoy Scrum, we didn't get into this just for ourselves.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Business Value Engineering

BV Engineering? What is that?

Well, we mean all the practices and work-methods around assuring that BV is delivered to the customer. And the firm satisfies all its constraints (eg, good return to shareholders).

We think it is better to view this flow as an engineering process, that, like other engineering processes, is open and visible. And a subject for constant learning.

BV Engineering encompasses all the processes of telling the team what to do. And all the processes of delivering that and finding out "gee, did we really build the right thing?"

We of course view this is an Agile context, where so many things involved are subject to constant change and learning.

So, you see that part of the effort is to identify and test all the assumptions we are making. Part of the effort is to organize things in such a way that we can quickly identify what parts of the flow are failing (as they always to some degree will). Part of the effort is set up small scientific tests. Part of the effort is to learn faster. Part of the effort is to enhance just-in-time knowledge creation. Part of the effort is to harness change for our firm's competitive advantage (gee, that sounds similar to something...oh, the Agile Principles).

Our bias is that most teams could benefit more by improving BV Engineering than by doing anything else. To the tune of increasing BV delivery by 3x within one year. (This of course does not keep you from also making other improvements.)

I will be talking about this more in a meeting in Atlanta. January 8th. See the Agile Atlanta yahoo group for more details. Or contact me if you have interest.