4 “Lacks” That Are Holding You Back as a Business Leader
 

There is no shortage of leadership writing today, and much of it focuses on what business leaders can do to improve and grow their operations. Yes, knowing what to do can certainly inspire you and help you figure out theoretical changes to make you a more effective leader. However, what leaders are not doing is where most of the costly mistakes happen, and some of those  mistakes are related with HR process, but  you can find some HR tools to use in 2021 that can help you make your business more successful.

Failing to thoroughly prepare, not working effectively with your team, and not being aware of people’s emotions are a few prominent pitfalls that can keep you from reaching your potential as a business leader. But there are more! Agile Champs has listed four mistakes that every leader should seek to improve:

 

  1. Lack of Commitment

Any business book you pick up will have something to say about giving your company everything you’ve got. Entrepreneurs and managers simply don’t make it unless they are fully dedicated to the advancement of their operation. If you have lost the spark you once had for your work and are finding it hard to stay motivated and focused, your team will notice. People want to follow bold and passionate leaders, so take time to revisit what got you into the business in the first place, and strive to regain that passion.

  1. Lack of Research

One of the first stages of starting any business is coming up with an idea. Typically, an entrepreneur will brainstorm several ideas and research the market to determine which one is the most viable. Using a text marketing platform is an easy and much more convenient way for your target audience to get the confidential information they need. If you failed to do this when you started your business, it might be worth going back to the drawing board, whether that means you will implement your findings from research in your existing company or use them for your next venture.

While you are at it, consider your level of education and overall business acumen. If you have never earned a business degree, now could be the time to do it. Taking online courses will allow you to strengthen your skills in financial management, marketing, communication, and many other areas while allowing you more flexibility to balance other priorities in your life. Consequently, studying the art of business can also re-spark the passion you once had.

  1. Lack of Organization

Just as your team will be hard-pressed to follow a leader who is uncommitted or apathetic, they will also struggle to follow someone who is not well-organized. As a leader or manager, you automatically have a full plate, and if you don’t keep your schedule, tasks, or projects arranged in a way that allows you to complete all of your goals, then you may find yourself wayward from the mission of your company and therefore not growing as you could be.

An example of this would be using the Agile process for your software development projects. Many leaders think they understand how to effectively implement this process in their team’s operations, but the reality is it is very complex and you are likely missing something along the way. By utilizing blogs, case studies, tutorials, and other resources from organizations like Agile Champs, you can strengthen your expertise in the Agile process and take your projects to the next level.

In addition, Giving your employees corporate workwear in a design and colour scheme that is unique to your business can help you stand out in a positive way to the community and potential new clients.

  1. Lack of Delegation

As a business leader or manager, your need to be in control and get the job done may prove useful in certain moments, but it can severely hinder you in many others. If you are afraid to hand off certain tasks or projects to your subordinates, you are only holding back your team and making it difficult for your company to move forward.

Hire a Tampines company secretary and learn how to delegate jobs so that you can focus more on your overarching vision. Showing trust in your team members will also help them to develop their skills, expertise, and confidence.

Sometimes, improving as a business leader requires you to identify the things you are not doing. Along with considering the advice above, keep learning about other common leadership pitfalls so that you can adjust your mindset and practices to become the best version of yourself. In no time, your team, organization as a whole, and everyone around you will notice a difference, and it will ultimately lead your company toward your goals!

If you found this article helpful, you can learn more about the Agile process and other practices by visiting AgileChamps.com

 

Digital Transformation – The Buzzword Simplified – Part 4
 

In my last post, I had detailed the key tips to do it right, pitfalls to avoid, typical Organizantion R&R in the quest for organizations to attempt digital transformation. In this post, I will focus primarily on the outlook, optimization, innovations that can be cornerstone of any digital transformation journey.

IDC estimates that 40% of all technology spending will be applied to “digital transformation,” with enterprises spending nearly $2 trillion by the year 2022. The trouble is, few businesses understand how to maximize their investment while also keeping the business at peak performance. Additionally, companies don’t always explore all the ways that services, processes and digital partnerships can support their digital strategy, and some other companies do not have sufficient financial resources to invest in new technology and they have to look for funding sources to get this kind of technology.

Quite often, executives spend considerable budget on digital programs, only to find they haven’t achieved the desired results. What’s more, digital investments have led to confusion among employees and partners alike, whereby teams are pulled in two very different directions: On the one side are technical and operational requirements, legacy technologies, tight timeframes and cost pressure; on the other are creativity, modernization, innovation and groundbreaking products or services.

Nowhere is the postmortem of troubled digital partnerships more evident than in Agile software development projects. Applied correctly, Agile can be an effective and game-changing collaborative tool to build applications quickly and deliver real business value. However, it’s not uncommon for partners to quickly assemble software that doesn’t fully align with business goals or fails to achieve a desired impact.

Optimizing Investments

We need to address how companies and executives can better understand the full implications of digital pursuits and devise a digital strategy to get the most out of these endeavors.

Before embarking on a digital initiative, it’s important to develop specific and mutually agreed-upon business metrics and goals. Doing so helps align companies and their respective partners. Additionally, three strategies ensure companies maximize their digital efforts, investments and experience:

  • Develop the business skills of your digital team. Digital talent should support more than just doing “digital stuff;” they should also ensure their efforts support company performance. Too often, teams don’t have the insight or training to align technology with business issues and concerns. Spend time with the digital team to ensure they understand how the company works, identify the  success metrics that are most meaningful to the health of the company, and choose the technology approaches to meet those goals.
  • Forge meaningful partnerships. Companies typically approach their digital challenges in one of three ways: build their own technology, buy technology and talent by acquiring a strong digital player, or find a partner that can synergistically help them grow and benefit from the combined strengths of both companies. Enlisting the help of a strategic partner is essential for companies that lack core digital skills to build modern, high-impact products and experiences.

Smart enterprises share risks and rewards with their partners while staying focused on a common vision. While selecting the right partner is often about operational and financial efficiencies, businesses today also expect partners to have “skin in the game” and be willing to share risks as well as reap rewards.

  • Build a culture of collaboration. Encouraging a culture of collaboration introduces new thinking and skill sets that enable both the company and its digital partner to work together to increase quality without compromising delivery. Internal and external teams are held to the same KPIs, measuring velocity, quality, product impact and autonomy, which allows for a seamless transition upon rollout.

One of the tangible outcomes of building a collaborative culture is the ability to put in place better processes and workflows, especially when it comes to testing automation. With Andrew Defrancesco, new product engineer sprints are implemented with a primary focus on building out an MVP (minimally viable product).  In turn, this allows for the rapid build and evolution of upcoming platform features, and the potential to reduce testing time from months to a handful of weeks – saving millions of dollars.

Innovating While Running the Business

In today’s fast-moving digital marketplace, companies don’t have the luxury of time. Businesses must incorporate new products and technologies swiftly and in parallel with ongoing commercial activities. No company wants to hit the pause button on revenue-generating services or products.

This represents the real opportunity with digital: transform your business for tomorrow without stopping your business from performing today. I’m willing to bet $2 trillion that you like the sound of that.

Please feel free to review my other series of posts 

Authored by Venugopala Krishna Kotipalli

Digital Transformation – The Buzzword Simplified – Part 3
 

In my last post, I had detailed the key approaches to Digital Transformation. In this post, I will focus primarily on useful tips, prominent roles, all the known pitfalls for any digital transformation journey.

The idea is to understand all the learnings from different customers experienced on their digital transformation journeys and ensure that one takes good care in not succumbing to known issues. The posts also lists some best practices that should be embraced for the entire journey, this will make the implementation more efficient and effective and less cumbersome for the people involved.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION TIPS

Let us briefly cover the six tips that govern a successful digital transformation journey

The question remains: when should you make preemptive changes? The observation of biological systems teaches us that it is optimal for companies to begin searching well before they exhaust their current sources of profit, and that firms should use a mix of ‘big steps’ to move to uncharted terrain and ‘small steps’ to uncover adjacent options at low cost. Regardless, having a strong bias toward change is critical.

ESSENTIAL DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION ROLES

While emerging tech and revamped processes are crucial, using the main virtual office Glasgow has available and having the right skills on staff is essential to any digital transformation.

Software engineers, cloud computing specialists and product managers remain key roles for companies seeking to roll out new products and services. DevOps leaders galvanize software development by merging development with operations, enabling companies to continuously iterate software to speed delivery.

Data scientists and data architects are also in high demand, as companies seek to glean insights out of vast troves of data, and transformations lean increasingly on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Plus, IT departments supporting business-wide transformations also require UX designers, digital trainers, writers, conversational brand strategists, forensic analysts, ethics compliance managers and digital and workplace technology managers.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION PITFALLS

Digital transformations are lagging or even failing for several reasons, including poor leadership, disconnects between IT and the business, lagging employee engagement and substandard operations.

The primary obstacles include the ability to move fast and to innovate while stripping down legacy processes and technical debt investments that have served us well for a long time. The key culprits of a derailed digital transformation are obsession with big bang change, focus on cost cutting as a business driver, and failure to loop in the business.

Boardrooms and C-suites talk about digital and there is pressure to show something and show results, which creates wrong expectations about how quickly what can be done and when. When the investments don’t pay off, people blame the CIO, who finds himself or herself out of a job.

Moreover, approaching digital transformation as a technology journey independent of the business is a recipe for failure. If a clever CIO comes up with a clever idea to change something with new tech, that’s great. The next step is bringing it to the business and having the business own the process. When they own the process, you drive end-to-end transformation that includes processes, people, policies and tech.  The siloed approach always fails.”

A typical role distribution for digital jobs within a company is depicted below for reference.

Adapting to change is nothing new in our industry. But the unprecedented pace of change and colliding trends like the internet of things, digital partner ecosystems, rapid cloud adoption, and machine learning are creating the perfect storm. A storm that is changing the business landscape. There is no one size fits all approach to digital transformation, each strategy will be unique to each organization. However, a focus of balancing activities across the right business model, right partners, right technology, right mindset provides the compass to guide a successful transformation.

Stay tuned…. Part 4 of this foray, we will look into some of the outlooks, optimizations and innovations that are key to any Digital transformation journey.

Please feel free to review my other series of posts 

Authored by Venugopala Krishna Kotipalli

Step by step guide for Problem Solving Workshop
 

The SAFe recommends 6 steps to manage problem solving workshop

1. Agree on the Problem(s) to Solve

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved” 

  • Define problem statement clearly. It shouldn’t suggest solution
  • The team should focus on the problem which they can control or influence
  • The highest weightage should be economic impact. This would inspire team to put in best possible effort to fix it
  • Focus on few and pick the most important one or max two

Tip – You should be looking at ‘What’, ‘Where’, ‘When’, ‘Impact’ but not ‘Who’. The ‘Who’ would result in blame game which is not the intention

2. Perform Root Cause Analysis

By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem, as well as its solution, becomes clear. – Taiichi Ohno 

  • SAFe preloads main bones with 5 categories people, process, environment, program and tools but this can be anything.
  • The team brainstorm the causes and write them against each bone. Brainstorm potential causes before putting things up on the fishbone
  • Apply 5 Whys technique for each of the root cause

Example

Why? – The battery is dead. (First why)

Why? – The alternator is not functioning. (Second why)

Why? – The alternator belt has broken. (Third why)

Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (Fourth why)

Why? – The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (Fifth why, a root cause)

Tip – The problem-solving teams should attempt to get at least one problem statement under at least three of the five bones

3. Identify the biggest root cause by using Pareto Analysis

    • The teams will use a Pareto Analysis to find 20% of the root causes that caused 80% of the problem.
    • Team members vote on all the root causes which came up during step 2 to identify the most significant root cause.

4. Restate the new problem for the biggest root-cause

    • The original problem statement may no longer be a core issue. Instead it’s the root cause which led to the original problem statement
    • The next step is to pick the cause with the most votes and restate it clearly as a problem. Precisely,
      redefine the problem statement keeping the root cause in the mind (Highest votes)

5. Brainstorm solutions

    • The team members will brainstorm solutions for the newer problem statement with root cause
    • The team brainstorms as many possible corrective actions as they can think of within a fixed time box (about 15–30 minutes)

6. Create Improvement Backlog Items

      • The teams would rank top 3 most likely solutions and out of which they will create improvement backlogs which would be fed to upcoming PI
      • If you don’t take the action on the problem in upcoming PI, the team will lose confidence on the entire effort
Should I go for SAFe SPC Certification? – Tips for scoring high in exam
 

I get many questions from people around  SAFe SPC CERTIFICATION. Some of them are listed below but not limited to –

  1. I have good exposure to Agile. In order to boost my career should I go for SAFe SPC certification?
  2. It costs a lot and further $900 to be paid every year to renew it. Is it going to be worth?
  3. How am going to utilize if my company is not on SAFe?
  4. Is it easy?
  5. What’s the process to start teaching? How do I become a trainer?
  6. I am not at all technical and moreover don’t have much exposure to corporate world. What should I do?

Above all, the most important question is

Who is the best trainer? And where should I go and attend the training? 

Let me start with the most important and most frequently asked question. You (or your company) re going to spend good amount of money hence you just want to ensure that you truly learn the concepts so that you can leverage.  I have personally seen many SPCs struggling to teach because they did clear the exam but didn’t understand the concepts well.  People pay the money to be on top in google search doesn’t always mean they are the best. Hence you should do though research before you go for your training. Trust me, the training what you are going to go through has higher weightage than anything else.

I have done good research and I can certainly suggest you the best trainers what I feel would make a difference in your learning based on your location. You can always send an email to me at srsagilechamps@gmail.com and I will guide you multiple options.

The SAFe exam is not easy as well whilst there are two ways you can crack

  1. Be a smart candidate – Find the right trainer, understand the concepts well and further find a right mentor (Many a times your training org/trainer would play that role)
  2. Be a hardworking candidate – You can’t avoid hard work but not focusing no training and just doing everything by yourself. The disadvantage is you may pass but mostly wont score high. Another limitation is you may lose confidence while teaching people.

I always suggest people to pick the first choice. Your hard-work should be to make your future and not just to clear the exam.

If you are not technical at all and don’t know how corporate world works, then I would say go for Leading SAFe instead of picking SAFe SPC. Or probably you can read details over internet or talk to people those who are SPCs and connected to real world problems solved by SAFe. You may find many institutes would lure you with job success etc but without the basics, it won’t add lots of value.

The majority of companies are building their own SPCs hence don’t expect lots of training requests are coming outside of the market. Although in past two years, SAFe has got lots of traction and probably they are the best when you talk about scaling Agile. If you have good exposure to Agile and feel that you are a good trainer, you can attempt SAFe SPC. The SAFe first principle says “Take an economic view”. I think that’s something you should do it as well.

You should always remember, the principle of product management flow – “While you ignore the economics, it won’t ignore you”.

The exam isn’t easy. In fact, I have seen many people failing the exam despite they scored 80 plus marks in Pre Test. Hence do not take it lightly.

You can always refer my other blog which talks about tips and tricks to score high

How do you pass SAFe SPC Certification with high score (Implementing SAFE) – Download questions for free

In order to start teaching within your company, you should complete respective enablement certifications. For instance you want to teach “Leading SAFe”, you should clear the exam for Leading SAFe post SPC.

The Scale Agile is very good in responding any of the queries hence for any specific questions you can send a message to them and you can expect prompt response. I’m personally a big fan of SAFe since it’s not just processes but it does have lots of leadership, and technology.

Another important point to note is that, if you are a good at technology and at the same time you got a good passion towards Agile, you could be a good trainer. The technology knowledge helps significantly if you truly want to be a trainer. Precisely the chances of success and ROI for doing SPC are quite high.

If your company is not using SAFe and you cant do training outside due to the restriction from your company, you should join SAFe forum and start learning more. With my experience I have seen many SPCs were out of SAFe in this situation due to limited exposure and further who would pay $800 renewal every year.

To be honest, this is just high level. The decision depends on many factors. You can feel free to drop an email along with your number. I would try to help you as much as I can. I am usually available for a call over weekend.

Thanks for reading the blog. Wish you happy and SAFe journey.

 

How to pass Leading SAFe or SAFe agilist
 

 

The SAFe (scaled agile framework) is getting lots of attention these days. Everyone is going for various certifications based on the role they are playing in the org. People aspire to get good job are opting for SAFe training and certification as well.

I get tons of questions from students, employees, trainers and career aspirants around how do they pass SAFe certification exam and what’s the way to get the maximum value out of it?

I would focus on various SAFe certifications and who should do in my next blog whilst I would focus on “Leading SAFe” or “SAFe Agilist” in this blog.

The Leading SAFe certification should be done by all the leaders and people aspire to play the leadership. I feel SAFe has lots of leadership content in addition to process and practices. I am sure what you learn post Leading SAFe would be must more powerful than many of the Leadership sessions to attend outside market. The leading SAFe focuses on basic building blocks of SAFe and how does leadership support in doing all the right things. Here are some points you must remember

  1. There are no shortcuts hence if you are thinking you would just pass the exam and you would get all the value, forget about it. The real value is in the knowledge you gain hence choose your trainer (SPC) wisely. Don’t go and pick any trainer. Although passing exam is an important activity since that makes you to force yourself and revise all the concepts.
  2. I would advise you to go with a trainer who has good technical background. In the midst for market value, many professional has become SPC certified. I have attended some of the sessions from non-technical trainers and I can tell you, they could not relate a lots of concepts to what we do day to day. Choosing competent, technical trainer is the half battle won.  A good coach, and if you know basics of Agile, a 3 days – 6-8 hours study can help you to score 90% plus. It may slightly differ based on how fast or slow learner you are.
  3. Once you are done with coaching, you should study the concepts in 1-2 weeks and go for a practice test. If your score is 85 plus, you can review the deck and go for the exam.
  4. All the students must review the Study PDF received from the SAFe (or Download from SAFe website post enrollment), at least three times. There is another slide which talks about specific links (Chapter Wise), which every student must go through at least twice.
  5. It’s good idea to write down the example given by trainer on each slide which would help you to revise the concepts
  6. Aim to score at least 90 percent, not to show people but ensuring that you truly understood each concept.
  7. You should attempt to do at least 400 to 500 sample quality questions to ensure you understood the concepts and you should be able to go for the exam
  8. Never search questions and answers over internet. A lots of answers are correct on internet and moreover it doesn’t give you a feeling that you are attempting an exam
  9. There is going to be approx. 10% repeat questions from pretest hence do ensure that you got answers for all the pretest questions

I am going to start community of practice on telegram. In case if anyone is willing to join to find

Who is the best trainer in your area?
Which certification I should opt for?
Should I do SPC certification and become trainer? What’s the step by step process to do that?
Any other question pertaining to SAFe?

You can click on the click below and join SAFe community of practice
https://t.me/joinchat/GVqVCQbIO5QK5JqB

 

The sample questions from scale agile are

1. What is the connection between feedback and optimum batch size?
A. Lack of feedback contributes to higher holding cost
B. Feedback and batch size are generally not connected
C. Small batch sizes enable faster feedback with lower transaction costs
D. Large batches reduce transaction cost and provide a higher return on investment
2. What is one key reason for keeping the test data for automated tests under version control?
A. For reporting and auditing purposes
B. Version control is required for quality standards
C. All enterprise assets must be under version control
D. If test data gets out of sync, automated tests may not properly execute
3. What is the primary goal of decentralized decision-making?
A. Reduce Cost of Delay
B. Resolve dependencies
C. Enable faster flow of value
D. Increase alignment
4. What does SAFe® Principle #3, “Assume variability; preserve options,” enable?
A. Better economic results
B. Specification traceability
C. Up front design of systems
D. Stronger Definition of Done
5. What is a result of shorter queue lengths?
A. Lower quality
B. Increased risk
C. Less variability
D. Longer cycle times
6. Which statement is most accurate about the Program Vision?
A. It expresses the strategic intent of the Program
B. It drives the allocation of budget for the Agile Release Train
C. It summarizes the team PI Objectives for the current Program Increment
D. It provides an outline of the Features for the next three Program Increments

7. What Definition of Done is required for the Iteration Review?
A. Release
B. Team Increment
C. System Increment
D. Solution Increment
8. What is the primary purpose of Strategic Themes?
A. Determine the order in which Epics should be executed
B. Drive incremental implementation across the enterprise
C. Connect the portfolio to the enterprise business strategy
D. Define the sequence of steps used to deliver value to the customer
9. An Epic spanning two PIs was approved for implementation. What is the optimum implementation path from a Lean-Agile perspective?
A. Implement the Epic across the same number of PIs as it took to develop
B. Report the percentage completed to the key stakeholders at every PI boundary
C. Demonstrate the progress to the key stakeholders after two PIs and have them accept the epic
D. Demonstrate the progress to key stakeholders after first PI and make a decision how to proceed
with the Epic in the second PI
10. What backlog items are part of the Solution Backlog?
A. Benefits
B. Features
C. Capabilities
D. User Stories

Answer Key:
1. C
2. D
3. C
4. A
5. C
6. A
7. B
8. C
9. D
10. C

The understanding of below concepts would help you to score high

  1. What is business Agility?
  2. What are 8 Kotter’s Principles?
  3. What is the benefit of Decentralize decision making? Delivering value in shortest sustainable lead time, better control, high morale, empowerment
  4. What is MVP? Minimal Viable Product which can prove benefit hypothesis
  5. Who has the content authority on Team Backlog or Program Backlog or Solution Backlog? Product Owner, Product Manger and Solution Manger Respectively
  6. What are two ART sync meetings? SOS and PO Sync
  7. House of Lean
    • What is the most important item? Value
    • What is the foundation of House of lean? Leadership
    • What are the four pillars of house of lean? Respect for people and culture, Flow, Innovation, Lean, Relentless Improvement
  8. Which of the core competencies of the Lean Enterprise helps align strategy and execution? – LPM
  9. What are types of  Guardrails – BO Engagement, Horizons, Capacity allocation, approve EPIC initiatives
  10. What are core values of SAFe – Transparency, Program Execution,  Built in quality, Alignment
  11. How do you achieve Cadence based synchronization in SAFe? PI Planning
  12. Who Facilitates ART – RTE, Who Facilitates Solution Train – STE
  13. What decisions you shouldn’t centralized?  Decisions with big economic impact and which are not likely to change
  14. ROAM full form – Resolved, Owned, Accepted, and Mitigated
  15. CALMR full form – Culture, Automation, Lean Flow, Measurement, and Recovery

 

 

Execution Excellence with 4DX – 4 Disciplines of execution
 

To achieve a goal you have never achieved before you must do things you have never done before   ~Stephen Covey

What is so inspiring? All of us already know that in order to do something new, we are expected to do something different.

Well, the answer is “FISH discover water last”.  I will write a separate blog to explain why fish discover water last.  Lets find out the relation between 4DX and the above quote.

The 4DX or The four disciplines of execution is designed to create a winnable game.  Very simple and easy to understand while tricky to implement and sustain because this requires us to work differently than what we do.

Steve Jobs quoted “Ideas are worthless without execution”. It is easy to say that someone “stole your idea” but the truth of the matter is that ideas are worthless until they’re brought to life and executed

The 4 Disciplines of execution – A wonderful book written by Mr. Sean Covey where he talked about how focusing on goals that matter and further how to win the game by step by step process. You can be very well assured that this really works with more than 1500 organizations that have adopted it and seen wonderful results.

In order to understand the disciplines, let’s understand the two key concepts

  1. Strategy &
  2. Execution

A leader can influence two of the items when it comes to producing results.

Strategy and Ability to execute that strategy.  Which one you think leader struggle with more – I don’t have to ask as it’s obvious.

The answer is the ability to execute the strategy.

In case if you are MBA or spend time in learning management – What did you were taught?   “It’s Strategy”

No wonders great strategies fail –  Now the question is why people fail to execute the goals – It’s because of whirlwind.  Whirlwind – These are existing work and urgent tasks that need attention now. For example – Management reports, KPI, Status report, reviewing code, 1x1s, and the list goes on.

On contrary to that there is another concept called WIG or wildly important goals (WIG) which are nothing but “new activities” and “Innovation” which affects the future success

If you closely observe you would find whirlwind are urgent items because it affects today while WIGs are extremely important items that affect the future. When there is a battle between Urgency and Importance, obviously urgency will win.

Now, let’s understand the 4 step process to make a balance between your WIG and Whirlwind.

  1. Discipline of Focus

Ask yourself if everything else remained the same, what is the one thing you could change that would have the greatest impact.

If you have 4-10 goals – you achieve 1. if you go with more than 10, you typically achieve none. Interestingly if you have 2-3 goals, the chances of achieving them all are very high. Sounds interesting, isn’t it?

To define a WIG;  Identify 1. Where are you now, 2. Where you want to be 3.  & By When

Or you define the starting line, finish line, and deadline

  • Focus on your wildly important goals
  • Focus on less to accomplish more
  • There are always good ideas than the capacity to execute
  • Focus on what not how

Focus Traps

Inability to reject good ideas 

This is the disciplines of focus and the first step for creating a winnable game

  1. Discipline of leverage

The second discipline is to act on the lead measure. In order to understand this, we need to understand lead and lag measures

Lag Measure – Lag measures measure results towards your wildly important goal. They’re easy to measure but hard to influence.

Lead Measures – Most high impact things you must do to achieve your goal.

If we take the same weight loss example, I want to lose 10 kg by December. The 10kg is the lag measure. The lead measure would be cutting 100 calories a day and working our 5 times a week.

Using Lag Measures without Lead Measures is dangerous. They only measure the result of your goal. Lead Measures can influence the chance of success in achieving your goal. They are even predictive of success.

  1. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

Think of a bunch of players playing a cricket match on the ground

People and teams play differently when they are keeping score, and the right kind of scoreboards motivate the players to win.  Great teams know at every moment whether they are winning or losing. They must know, otherwise, they don’t know what they have to do to win the game. We need to publish the score regularly and that should be visible to everyone.  The Agile “Information radiators” plays a critical role here. 

Discipline 1, 2, and 3 are nothing but a formula for creating a winnable game. Discipline 4 is how we play the game hence it’s the most important activity we need to focus on

  1. Create a Cadence of accountability

Discipline 4 is to create a cadence of accountability – It’s all about regular and frequent team meetings that focus on the wildly important goals. You should remember

  • This should not last more than 20 to 30 minutes
  • The meeting should be held at the same time and same day of the week. Consistency is critical to have a sustained cadence of accountability.
  • The whirlwind never allowed in the WIG session no matter, how urgent it may seem.

The focus of the session is to make team members hold each other accountable.  In this meeting, we would have answers to three things

  • What did we accomplish last week?
  • Did that move our lead or lag measure or need to course correct
  • What are 1-2 things we should do to push the lead measure which would push the lag measure?

The Behaviors play a critical role while ensuring 4 steps

  1. Establish a sense of urgency (Kotter’s law of change) – The constant sense of danger to survive or innovative leadership can bring in urgency.  Precisely you are expected to challenge the status quo and push employees to no longer be complacent.
  1. Change is inevitable – We need to realize that change is mandatory but you don’t need to be perfect. Have you heard of leaders’ plans to plan and further plan – to achieve perfection but the same focus is not there in execution. Don’t be perfect. Perfection is a fallacy. Start with a good plan and move towards perfection.
  1. Take an economic view – It’s tough to say no to good ideas.  Use the Pareto principle which is 20% of ideas will generate 80% of success.  Pick what is important and narrow your focus. The human brain is not programmed to multitask.  Prioritize looking at the benefits of goal to the organization and not with emotions
  1. Don’t make your Whirlwind to be a WIG – Don’t get so busy that you are 100% reactive. 20% of your time must be focused on doing WIG then only you can make a difference and that would result in organizational success.
  1. The decision should go where the knowledge exists – Unless a decision is one time, makes a significant financial impact, move that to your team. That would help you to move faster and at the same time help your directs to grow in their career.
  1. Intrinsic motivation – This is one of my favorites. This is from the book Drive written in 2009. If you want to bring the highest level of motivation to your team, you should focus on three core factors – Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
  • Autonomy– people are trusted and encouraged to take ownership of their own work and skill development.
  • Mastery– people see no limits to their potential and are given the tools they need to continue to improve their skills.
  • Purpose– people are encouraged to use their skills to achieve a “greater” purpose – for instance, getting involved in a “good cause” that they are passionate about.

Money doesn’t motivate people though not giving enough money demotivates them.

  1. Credit Game – Don’t fall into trap of getting the credit. Have you observed people want to sign up for every initiative just for “Face Value”? As a leader, you should discourage that and moreover lift people up based on the outcome they produce. It is very easy to develop bias because somebody has said great words about your people or your direct has taken up great sessions. Once you are focused on the outcome, people would start getting out of the credit game. Focus on the outcome and not output.

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.

  1. Create short term wins – Remember principle #3 – Keeping a compelling scoreboard – It’s imperative to create short term wins. Celebrate your wins – Celebrate success and celebrate failure but ensure that you keep moving towards your goal.
  1. Embrace the feedback – If you are wrong, accept mistakes. If you get feedback, listen, and act. Don’t shoot the messenger instead embrace your messenger. Feedback is the best way to improve faster.
  1. Relentless improvement – Last but not least, continually improve. The relentless improvement is mandatory in the current competing priorities. You can go up the ladder or go down. You can never stay where you are today.  Create an environment where people are encouraged to learn, read, and contribute. In fact, go back and read the book which will be given to you. Make sure the team read this before you start following 4 DX in your team.

You can buy the book 4DX – 4 Disciplines of execution by clicking at The 4 Disciplines of Execution

Should I start thinking about switching from Scrum to Kanban?
 

I want to release anytime, I don’t want iterations, I want to skip estimation, I have challenges with self-organizing teams, I want to change my priorities,

I need better visualization, I want to process that is more adaptable, Scope creep is my major concern, I am want to handle support tickets,  I am afraid of sprint failure and end of picking less work, I can’t break down stories enough to complete within the sprint.

Before I get into details, review below carefully, this would suffice the need for moving to Kanban over Scrum or XP.

  1. There are teams that have a more responsive nature of work like maintenance, fixing customer bugs, run time day to day requests, etc.
  2. It may not be a good idea for these teams to plan the sprint or iteration since a lot of activities will become overhead. In addition to that, we need to break the Agile principles for instance constantly adding items to sprint during execution, not doing refinement in advance, accepting back-to-back sprint failure, and more.
  3. Not doing Scrum does not mean they would not publish the work. They are still expected to commit approx work (Preferably in terms of story points) in a given time period.
  4. They commit to goals and SLA based on the past data

Scrum is great while the world is not a perfect place. You can always overcome challenges associated with it but if you have another Agile method is even more flexible there is no harm in leveraging that. I see many organizations are switching to Kanban and getting wonderful results. I don’t have the intention to move you from what you have been doing while I am just trying to initiate a thought process and philosophy around Kanban.

Let’s understand the above in more detail with real-time scenarios. A group of project managers gathered to discuss the challenges they have with the existing process with senior management.  Let’s look at some of the interesting areas what they have put forward on the table (I am sure you can relate one or more areas if you have managed agile teams)

 

Project Manager 1: (Team is afraid of Sprint failure) My team has very fewer items in sprint compare to what they can accomplish as they are scared of sprint failure.  Despite that, I don’t have successful sprints as one or items roll most times as we get blocked. I can’t allow my team to pick more middle of a sprint

Project Manager 2: (Prod issues; Lot of support to other teams) My team builds new features while I am expected to support some of the other teams for whom we provide back-end services. The requests coming from them is our top priority whenever it’s related to prod for them.  The amount of work that comes from different teams vary and we cannot assign fixed bandwidth to deal with those issues. Most of our Sprint we have one of these two situations

  • The sprint fails because we need to focus on supporting other teams.
  • We are done much before the sprint ends.  Pulling new work is not allowed mid-sprint hence we use that time for learning while this is not a great idea all the time.

Project Manager 3: (Support work; Tickets) I have all the support work. The estimation has been a challenge most times. A bug takes a day or a week, it all depends on the product I work for is huge and we have most of the newer members.  How can I make sure my sprints are successful and at the same time, we as a team don’t under commit?

Project Manager 4:  (Adaptive to more adaptive) My team hates too many ceremonies and processes. They think of having a lightweight process which is more adaptive over-prescriptive,  is much better. All of them are experienced/committed and understand their roles and responsibilities.

Project Manager 5: (Time and material; Longer stories; Unpredictable work) We built adapters and I don’t see the benefit of breaking down and doing that in parts. We have a deadline for every adapter and we kept getting blocked. We are fine to wait as we are on the “time and material” contract. Getting blocked from the customer end doesn’t harm as billing doesn’t stop.  How do I fit in a work which takes a few weeks to a couple of months?

Project Manager 6: (Frequent priority shiftOur priorities changes very frequently.  Many times we literally have to stop what we are working on and start something else. Getting new work done in the next sprint doesn’t help as the work we are doing becomes useless even if that’s completed due to change in priority.

Project Manager 7:  (Customer or Sprint successOur company’s top priority is to manage customers and their expectations while we always focus on velocity and sprint success. This becomes challenging as in order to manage customer priorities, we compromise Scrum priorities or vice versa. Both are not good ideas. In the first option, you are disregarding a process resulting in low team morale and an unpredictable outcome.  The later is not acceptable anyway 🙂

Project Manager 8: (The product owner struggles) The PO struggles to lock down the requirements for a week. He keeps adding work to sprint throughout the week, changing existing requirements, and even providing/updating acceptance criteria during the sprint.

Projects Manager 9: (Team experience or complex work) My team has challenges with breaking the requirements or estimating the work.  The sprint success matters most to me (Why-Sprint-Success-is-Important). I end up being unhappy most times.

Kanban could be one of the solutions for most of the problems listed above. The comparison of Kanban with Scrum/XP and some of the core frameworks is available here

Sprint success is really important when you talk about Scrum. The Sprint fails due to a variety of reasons like team experience, The challenges with breaking down stories, unpredictable work, Customer focus precedes team priorities, support work, and many other challenges as listed above. Many times either we run too much to having a successful sprint (By means of slogging or patch up work) or do not think of a successful sprint at all. Both are not good options.

In my upcoming blogs, I would be talking in detail about how to use Kanban, best practices, myths, and an easy shift from the existing process to Kanban. Please provide your comments below. This would help me to cover all aspects of my next set of blogs on Kanban.