Sunday, April 23, 2017

How Agile is creating a new Horizon for HR

A collaboration by Amy Jackson and Mario Moreira
Gone are the days of certainty.  In order to stay competitive companies must constantly innovate, adapt to changing market conditions, and deliver value to their customers faster than ever before.  As a result, many organizations are embracing Agile principles and practices, which are highly collaborative, iterative and focused on delivering maximum value to customers. 
As Agile adapts organizations, so must Human Resources (HR) adapt.  HR is poised to become leaders in the Agile transformation.  From an organizational change perspective, HR can facilitate and improve organizational agility by crafting programs that improve collaboration, ownership, adaptability, speed, and customer focus.  This can include:
  • Continuous Learning determine the appropriate Agile learning path for your teams.  For those just starting out, introduce the Agile Values and Principles and make parallels to the culture and behaviors your organization values. 
  • Adapting Leadership - rethink the role of the manager.  Consider moving from a command and control approach to servant leader/ coach.  Leaders should focus on coaching and removing impediments.
  • Empowering Teams – teams that are given clear direction and outcomes should be empowered to determine how they will work to achieve their outcome.  This autonomy will drive higher levels of creativity and engagement, and if done right, deliver maximum value to customers.
  • Adapting Performance Feedback – consider moving away from “traditional” annual reviews to more frequent feedback and faster feedback loops.  Individuals and teams can adapt more quickly and apply learnings to improve work.  Provide tools and techniques that empower employees to take ownership of their development.
  • Rewarding Agile Behaviorsevaluate programs to ensure they reward the behaviors and mindset you value.  In an agile environment, teams work collaboratively, consider rewards that promote teamwork and collaboration, or recognition for continuous learning, and rewards for delivering value to customers.  A one size fits all approach may not be appropriate.
  • Reshaping Talent Acquisition – hire for culture fit and mindset and make this a priority.   Working in an agile environment is not for everyone. 
In addition to focusing on programs that drive agility, HR as an organization should embrace new ways of working that reinforce the Agile Values and Principles.  First, educate yourself and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new ways of working within your HR team.  For example, if you’re considering the idea of Self-Organizing teams, consider experimenting within your team.  You will become more knowledgeable and better equipped with first-hand experience to help guide, coach and facilitate the organization in their journey to become agile. 
As you think about adapting your programs, consider using Open Space Technology.  Open Space is a great way to gather feedback, ideas and insights from your employees that can inform how you design programs for your teams.  This approach promotes collaboration.
If you plan to change or modify one of your existing programs, consider breaking this work into small increments to avoid delivering a “big bang” fully baked program which may not meet the needs of your customer.  If you plan to move away from “traditional” performance management in favor of real-time continuous feedback consider starting with one team, educate them on the value of real-time feedback and then train them on how to give and receive feedback.  Gather their feedback and iterate as needed and then begin to scale the program.
In addition, start connecting to customer value.  Consider creating a compelling purpose that is focused on customer value.  Strive to keep the (external) customer front and center by linking your programs to the value they will bring to the customer. Empower your employees to make decisions that are customer centric – this shift may mean that you change how you compensate or incentivize your employees by moving away from performance metrics that are internally focused in favor of rewarding behavior and actions that delight the customer. 
Strategic HR organizations have expertise in helping companies achieve objectives through focus on organizational culture and high-performing teams.  Given this capability there is a natural role for HR to play in an Agile culture.  HR has an opportunity to become Agile coaches and change agents.  Embrace and ready yourself for change. This may be the new horizon for HR.
-----------------
Learn more about Amy Jackson at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amjackson/
Mario Moreira writes more about Agile and HR in his book "The Agile Enterprise" in Chapter 21 "Reinventing HR for Agile"

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Exploring Five Pair Programming Techniques

A collaboration by Antonio González Sanchis and Mario Moreira

Extreme Programming (XP) introduced a programming technique that’s been famous since its early days: pair programming. It sounds simple, two people working together with the same computer. However, what people don’t know is that there are many ways in which you can approach this technique. Let’s explore a few:

Driver-navigator: This is the best known style of pairing. It consists of one person ‘driving’, taking the keyboard and coding or doing the work, while the other one is ‘navigating’. The Navigator’s job is to pay attention to the work being done by the driver while keeping the big picture in mind.  They should guide the driver in the right direction. It is very important that driver explains every decision they make, otherwise the navigator might lose interest and may stop paying attention. It’s healthy to switch roles every now and then.

Ping-pong: For this approach you might need two keyboards connected to the same computer. In contrast to the driver-navigator mode, in ping-pong both people can be driving at any point in time. A good strategy for this approach is to have one person writing the tests while the other one tries to pass them. As in the previous approach, you should be switching roles often.

Backseat navigator: A typical approach when there’s a new team member in the group or a junior colleague. The navigator (usually the more senior team member) tells the driver, who has the keyboard, what to do to solve a problem with every little detail. The navigator should provide insights on how to solve the problem but also on why that’s the best solution in mind. It’s a good way to ramp up new members in your team as they build relationships with other people in the team while learning about the working style.

Tour: If there is an even number of team members or someone who you used to pair with went on holidays, you are not going to stop working. However, when those people return or you start pairing with someone, you don’t want them to start right away. Therefore, a good way to start would be to do a ‘tour’ through the code or work you did in their absence. The person who doesn’t know the most about the work takes the keyboard and the mouse and starts driving through the code while the ‘expert’ acts as a navigator and explains every detail.

Distributed pairing: Often people tend to think pairing is for collocated teams but that’s not entirely true. While pairing face-to-face is definitely much more effective than remotely, there are many tools and ways colleagues can pair. A good suggestion would be to use a videoconference messaging tool with a screen sharing app that allows the navigator to see in real time what the driver is doing.
These are not the only pairing styles that you might encounter but they are the best known.  They are also the easier techniques to try when you want to start pair programming. Also, examples seem to focus on software development but pairing is applicable to almost every field.  For example if you are in marketing and are launching an email campaign, you can pair with someone to navigate through the email while you write it, etc.

There might be anti-patterns when pairing. For example, you might find cases when the navigator is ‘sleeping’. This means the navigator can be checking emails, texting or even coding in parallel without paying much attention to the driver. Try to identify the root causes of this behaviour before you jump in into action. Usually it might be because the driver is not explaining properly the reasons why he is doing a specific task in a particular way.

Lastly, keep in mind that while pair programming may work in every role or department, it might not be suitable for every work. There will be times when you just want to discuss the approach with the team and go do it by yourself. That’s also a way of getting feedback, which in the end is the main purpose of pair programming: getting feedback early.  

If you are interested in trying pair programming, the first thing to do is review the list of possible techniques (above) and select one that you will experiment with.  Then identify your pair.  Brainstorm on how you might approach pair programming, specify how long you will try your experiment, and begin.  

------------
Learn more about Antonio González Sanchis at https://www.linkedin.com/in/antoniogonzalezsanchis/

Read more of Mario's article at: http://cmforagile.blogspot.com 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

New Book: The Agile Enterprise: Building and Running your Agile Enterprise

Imagine an enterprise where everyone focuses on the highest customer value.  Where strategy to tasks are visible so everyone knows if their work is aligned with the highest value work. Imagine an enterprise where a discovery mindset wins over certainty thinking. Where experimentation with increments and feedback help define the way toward customer value.

Imagine a company where employees use 100% of their brain power to self organize around the work and be trusted to think of better ways to work. Where leaders encourage employees to put customer value first.  Imagine an enterprise where customers embrace the products and services being built because they are engaged in the building of the work all along the way.

If you can imagine it, it can be yours!  In this unique and cutting edge Agile book, veteran Enterprise Agile Coach Mario Moreira, will guide you to build and run an Agile enterprise at every level and at every point from idea to delivery. Learn how Agile-mature organizations adapt nimbly to micro changes in market conditions and customer needs and continuously deliver optimal value to customers.  Learn cutting-edge practices and concepts as you extend your implementation of Agile pervasively and harmoniously through the whole enterprise for greater customer value and business success.

Readers of The Agile Enterprise will learn how to:
  • Establish a Customer Value Driven engine with an enterprise idea pipeline to process an enterprise’s portfolio of ideas more quickly and productively toward customer value and through all levels of the enterprise
  • Incorporate the Discovery Mindset; experimental, incremental, design, and divergent thinking; and fast feedback loops to increase the odds that what you build aligns more closely to what customer wants.
  • Leverage Lean Canvas, Personas, Story Mapping, Cost of Delay, Discovery Mindset, Servant leadership, Self-organization, and more to deliver optimum value to customers
  • Use continuous Agile Budgeting and enterprise idea pipeline at the senior levels of the enterprise to enable you to adapt to the speed of the market.
  • Reinvent Human Resources, Portfolio Management, Finance, and many areas of leadership toward new roles in the enablement of customer value. 
  • Establish a holistic view of the state of your Agile Galaxy from top-to-bottom and end-to-end allowing you to understand where you are today and where you’d like to go in your Agile future.
  • Be truly Agile throughout the enterprise, focusing on customer value and employees over all else.
This book is geared for: Sponsors of Agile Transformations; Executives and Senior Management; Agile Coaches, Consultants, and Champions; Portfolio Management; Project Management Offices (PMOs); Business and Finance; Human Resources (HR); Investors and Entrepreneurs; Scrum Masters, Agile Project Managers, and Product Owners. 
This book concludes with an adventuring through an Agile Enterprise story that shows you how an enterprise may transform to Agile in an incremental manner with materials in this book.  Let the material in The Agile Enterprise help you achieve your successful customer value driven enterprise.

Thank you to the contributors JP Beaudry (on Story Mapping) and David Grabel (on Cost of Delay)!  A special Thank you to the Apress editing team!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Are you closing the Distance in your Agile Journey?

An interesting phenomenon has arisen in Agile environments that could become litmus tests to determine if you are Agile.   This phenomenon is the concept of “closing the distance”.   There are three areas that closing the distance is both Agile and good for companies.  The three areas include the distances amongst employees, the distance between employees and customers, and the distance when an idea comes in until it hits the marketplace. Let’s explore each in more detail. 
Closing the Distance amongst Employees – Agile focuses a lot on individuals and interacts as one of its values.  The intent is that employees should be on teams with a common purpose bringing people closer.  Agile advocates the concept of swarming where employees collaboratively work together to get work done.  If you are a manager, Agile asks you to get closer to your employees by removing their impediments and also aligns with the practice of walking the “gemba” (walking the halls and asking if you can help employees by removing impediments and more).

Closing the Distance between Employees and Customers – In many non-Agile organizations, there are often a number of degrees of separation between employees and customers.  Agile asks that employees come face-to-face with customers in the demos to gain the precious customer feedback.  I recommend the “two degrees of customer separation” rule where no employee (including management) should be more than two degrees of separation from the customer (e.g., you to employee to customer or you directly to customer). 

Closing the distance between recording an idea until it hits the Marketplace – In this case distance is the lead-time (clock time between the moment the idea is recorded to when it gets released).  If you are doing Agile well, you will ensure the new idea (e.g., new requirement), assuming it is of high enough value, gets looked at immediately, and not wait until the next budget cycle.  Additionally, Agile expects that you will proactively attempt to shorten the distance from idea to release by reducing wait states and removing impediments.  

In summary, have you noticed that during your Agile journey that you have seen the distances get shorter? Are you getting closer to your colleagues and employees?  Are you getting closer to customers?  And is the lead-time distance being shortened from the moment the idea is recorded to when it gets to market?  If not, then maybe you’re not as Agile as you thought.  If you have, then you are headed in the right direction.  Could awareness of these three distances provide you a litmus test on whether you are moving in the direction of agility?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Psychological Safety leads to High-Performing Agile Teams

There are two types of safety that factor into a healthy and productive enterprise environment and high-performing teams.  The first is physical safety. This is where employees have an environment where they are free from physical hazards and can focus on the work at hand. This type of safety should be part of the standard workplace promoted by company and government regulations.

The second is psychological safety that is core to enterprise effectiveness. According to Google research, high performing teams always display psychological safety.  This phenomenon has two aspects.  The first is where there is a shared belief that the team is safe to take interpersonal risks and be vulnerable in front of each other.  The second is how this type of safety along with increased accountability leads to increased employee productivity and ergo high-performing teams. 
Psychological safety helps establish Agile in that it promotes a safe space for employees to share their ideas, discuss options, take methodical risks, and become productive.  An Agile mindset promotes self-organizing teams around the work, taking ownership and accountability, and creating an environment for learning what is customer value through the discovery mindset, divergent thinking, and feedback loops. Agile with psychological safety can be a powerful pairing toward high-performing teams.   

However, accountability without psychological safety, leads to great anxiety.  This is why there is a need to move away from a negative mindset when results aren’t positive or new ideas are seen as different. If this occurs, employees are less willing to share ideas and take risks.  Instead consider ways to build psychological safety paired with team ownership and accountability of the work. This can lead to high performing teams. 

Everyone has a role to play in establishing a psychologically safe environment.  Agile Coaches and ScrumMasters can help you evolve to an enterprise where psychological safety and accountability are paired. Leadership has a strong role to play to provide awareness of the importance of a safe environment, provide education on this topic, and build positive patterns in the way they respond to results of risk taking by teams.  Team members must adopt an open, divergent, and positive mindset that is focused on accepting differences and coaching each other for better business outcomes.  Employees at all levels must be aware of the attitudes and mindset they bring.   

Sunday, November 27, 2016

What really is an Agile MVP?

There is often a bit of misunderstanding of what is an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in an Agile context.  MVPs are meant to provide the minimal functionality or feature set that will be useful to customers.  However, to attempt to define the minimal set up front means that you know what the customer wants from the start.  How often do you know what the customer wants at the beginning?
Instead think of an MVP as an opportunity to learn what the customer wants.  It should neither be fixed nor should you be certain of what it is.  Instead it should be considered an evolving concept from which you learn what the customer wants over time.  What mindset shifts might you have to make in order to adapt to what an MVP is in an Agile world? 
The first Agile mindset shift is that you should not define an MVP upfront in an Agile world.  Defining an MVP upfront is akin to big-up-front planning.  You can certainly hypothesize what the minimal set of features might be, but you must have a mindset and practices that have you validate your assumptions and hypothesis.  You can start with a vision or general idea of what might be minimal and valuable to the customer but the moment you attempt to succinctly define the set of features, you are not really following Agile and more egregious, you are doing a disservice to your customer.
The second Agile mindset shift is that customer feedback is key to evolving the MVP.  If you want your MVP to align closely to customer value, you must include continuous customer feedback loops when working on an MVP.  These can take the form of customer demos or hands-on sessions.  Customer feedback can start as early as when you are hypothesizing what is an MVP and must be part of evolving the MVP to gain a strong inspect and adapt mindset with the inspect coming from the customer.  Eric Reis writes that an MVP “allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”  Customer feedback is the cornerstone to validated learning. 
So who really determines what is the MVP?  If you think the answer is you, your management, or your team, then maybe its time to Reduce your certainty and Ready your mind with the Agile mindset, discovery mindset, and Feedback loops. The right answer is the customer determines what is the MVP in Agile.  The more closely you align with customers throughout the effort, the more likely you will have an MVP that is considered valuable to the customer.          
-->

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Building an Agile Culture of Learning

Does your Agile education begin and end with barely a touch of training?  A number of colleagues have told me that in their companies, Agile training ranged from 1 hour to 1 day.  Some people received 2 days of Scrum Master training. With this limited training, they were expected to implement and master the topic.  Agile isn’t simply a process or skill that can be memorized and applied. It is a culture shift. Will this suffice for a transformation to Agile?

Education is an investment in your people.  A shift in culture requires an incremental learning approach that spans time.  What works in one company doesn’t work in another. A learning culture should be an intrinsic part of your Agile transformation that includes skills, roles, process, culture and behavior education with room to experience and experiment.
An Agile transformation requires a shift toward a continuous learning culture which will give you wings to soar!  You need a combination of training, mentoring, coaching, experimenting, reflecting, and giving back. These education elements can help you become a learning enterprise.  Let's take a closer look at each:

Training is applied when an enterprise wants to build employee skills, educate employees in their role, or roll out a process. It is often event driven and a one-way transfer of knowledge. What was learned can be undone when you move back into your existing culture.

Coaching helps a team put the knowledge into action and lays the groundwork for transforming the culture. Coaching provides a two-way communication process so that questions can be asked along the way. A coach can help you course-correct and promote right behaviors for the culture you want.

Mentoring focuses on relationships and building confidence and self-awareness. The mentee invests time by proposing topics to be discussed with the mentor in the relationship. In this two-way communication, deep learning can occur.

Experimenting focuses on trying out the new skills, roles, and mindset in a real world setting.  This allows first-hand knowledge of what you’ve learned and allows for a better understanding of Agile.

Reflecting focuses on taking the time to consider what you learned whether it is a skill, process, role, or culture, and determine what you can do better and what else you need on your learning journey. 

Giving back occurs when the employee has gained enough knowledge, skills, experience, to start giving back to their community to make the learning circle complete. Helping others highlight a feeling of ownership to the transformation and the learning journey.

It takes a repertoire of educational elements to achieve an Agile culture and becoming a Learning enterprise. When you have people willing to give back is when the learning enterprise has become full circle and your enterprise can soar.

-------------------


For more Agile related Learning and Education articles, consider reading: