agile journeys

...rants and opinions by Asheesh Mehdiratta

Watch out for these Top 5 CoP Failure patterns

Sustaining Communities of Practice is an art and probably a science and can best be build using the framework in my earlier post. I also talked about the CoPs Success Patterns but if you watch out for these Top 5 Failure patterns also while building your CoPs, it may lead you to a better place than where you are right now. So let’s jump right in and reveal these patterns –

1. Big boys club

In this pattern, there are only management bigwigs who only do the TALK,  but fail to WALK the Talk. In effect they will be able to make splashy presentations, but will not have real community members or an engaged community audience. Only the marketing would be the highlight but there would be no real sharing of new ideas or experiences.

2. Solopreneurs

In this pattern, there is a SINGLE Volunteer/Lead who hogs the limelight and runs the show. The individual shamelessly blocks the entry for other volunteers or robs the “community” feeling for the CoP. With no recognition for the remaining volunteers or the community members, this is doomed to failure sooner than later.

3.  Passion-less Glow

In this pattern, the community runs as a Mechanical Robotic system, organizing and running events, but more from a top down hierarchical mandate, rather than a network of  passionate individuals coming together for a cause or passion. These CoPs survive but usually die as soon as the mandate drops.

4. Dropped Anchor

Every community needs key individuals who are the anchor for the community. This is typically the CORE group, which is passionate, driven, and is a community builder, who love to share and grow and learn together. If you do not have these Anchors in your group or these Anchors move out, the community can lose the momentum and slowly fade away.  So watch out for the dropped anchor effect.

5. Big Brother Conflict

Sometimes if the community is driven bottoms up, it can suddenly run in rough weather with the senior leadership if there seems to be a direct threat or conflict to the larger ego or interest of a senior manager.  The community initiatives can be killed or simply degraded if the big brother is not on your side and has his own agenda. So watch out for the big brother conflict.

So these are some of my Top 5 Failure patterns to watch out for sustaining your CoPs. Which failure patterns have you seen? 

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Top 5 Success patterns to sustain your CoPs

Sustaining Communities of Practice is an art and probably a science and can best be build using the framework in my earlier post. But, if you follow these Top 5 Success patterns to sustain your CoPs, it may lead you to a better place than where you are right now. So let’s jump right in and reveal these patterns –

1. Band of brothers

Successful CoPs have a small circle of Brothers  (or Sisters), who have a good rapport with each other and are always acting and building upon each other’s  strengths and weaknesses, as they build and grow the community.

2. Diversity Rules

Successful CoPs have a good diversity across the team in terms of young and old blood. They build an ever growing tribe across different functional roles and/or departmental silos, which are typically found in large enterprises. This community diversity keeps the energy flowing.  The diverse mix allows varied opinions to surface and not let the community be constrained by any single dominant group.

3.  Musical chairs helps

Formal CoP structures offer positional authority in enterprises, and can be a key element to drive and link back to the larger organisational goals. But these formal positions whenever kept optional and /or rotational always keep the individual honest.  These help in structuring the community in the right direction, without any hidden agendas. Thus musical chairs for the community positions is a key enabler and an important success pattern.

4. Ride the Fast Lane

CoPs which can piggy back on organisational strategy and business objectives will always succeed! So if your CoP can ride the fast lane and align with the business strategy, then funding and a management support will appear magically. The community will be able to grow faster  organically, but will also get champions with the top down mandate and grow inorganically.

5.  Circle of Life

Communities which can build a positive circle of energy, with frequent learning systems and sharing among the membership,  and will have a chance of sustaining for the longer term.  As new members grow, community engagement goes up and increases the learning’s, thus leading to a completion of the feedback loop with more ideas and more events, and more members joining building on the momentum.

So these are my Top 5 Success patterns to sustain your CoPs. What are your favorite success patterns ? 

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Are you Learning and sharpening your Axe?

learning As you run your daily grind, do you reflect and think about your Own Development? Or do you let your circumstances dictate your agenda? and drown your Development needs? As the famous woodcutters story goes, do you sharpen your Axe? Or do you keep on doing the same thing, same process, same boring steps everyday? Or Do you Take a step back, and Reflect? do you LEARN? and really ask yourself if I have sharpened my Axe or not?

Sharpening my Axe – My 2017 Learning’s

For me, I personally learnt quite a lot during 2017, and build up on my knowledge base, and interacted with peers across the industry.

1. LeSS is more!

It was a pleasure to listen and learn the thinking behind LeSS (Large Scale Scrum), straight from the creators (Bas Vodde) himself, and become one of the LeSS converts ‘officially’  [Certified LeSS Practitioner]. The discussions and the learning’s from Bas, were extremely valuable and opened the realm of Systems Thinking and the organisational inertia’s and how “DeScaling” your organization makes the real difference.

If you have not heard of Larman’s Laws of Organizational Behavior, then you have missed something…..

My desire for LeSS is now more than ever !! 

2. FLOW rules !

The most amazing experience this year was listening to Don Reinertsen, author of FLOW, 2nd Generation Lean Product Development.

I regard Don R as the final frontier in the WHY? Scrum works and what are the pitfalls, and it was great to be able to survive the intense class (face to face) with Don early this year. Don is an inspiration to many of the agile gurus and when you have the grand master himself talking within 2 feet, it is an exhilarating experience!

The jam packed master class answered many of my misconceptions, on Cost of Delay, Cycle Time and simply opened my eyes to the science behind the various agile methodologies.

In the end FLOW has been on top of my mind ever since that class 😀

3. Local Meetups

The local meet ups in Bangalore have a very vibrant buzz, and I could make myself join few AWS and Docker meet ups, which really showed how the tooling is miles ahead, while the corporate honchos are still debating – What is the definition of DevOps ?

🙄  Sad but true!

The community showed that the younger generation has not seen the archaic desktop based applications and are pleasantly exposed to only the continuous delivery model, with continuous deployments on the cloud in matter of seconds. Microservices, MicroApps, Microbots are ensuring the death of monolith Architecture.

Breath of fresh air I must say!

 

My Community Contributions: using my Axe

To contribute back to the community, I had to push myself by signing up to present at 2 different forums this year, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

1. Global DevOps Summit as a Speaker

The exciting trip to Pune took me to the Global DevOps Summit as a Speaker, and allowed me to share my DevOps experiences. It was a pleasure to also learn and understand from the various speakers, how they were moving forward in their journeys.

You can find my presentation and summary notes, if you wish to know what I had presented and learned.

2. Self organizing Gamestorm as a Speaker

As a LeSS practitioner myself,  the self organisation principles always bring great joy to me.

The speaker forum from Scaling Agile Institute offered me a platform to show the ‘self designing’ team formation, as a game. It was an fun filled experience for the attendees and you could feel the high energy, and the belief in them that self organisation is indeed a reality.

You can find my presentation here, and the meetup here.

In the end, 2017 has been an exciting year, full of learning’s and new observations and experiences. I have tried to Sharpen my Axe, and would love to know what have you done to Sharpen your Axe, and feel free to share your learning’s this year.

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Wanna jump start your Transformation?

change rewardsIn my previous post, we talked about Changing our Habits, to be able to successfully make any real impact with your transformation change initiatives.

Let us review how we can make these habit changes really possible and sticky.

In his book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg, talks about why habits exist and how they can be changed. He talks about how changing our habits can be done and how we can start to think scientifically, which would help us  in our large scale transformations.

Critical steps for Changing our Habits

As a first step, the author talks about looking for the Cues which are the starting point for the Routine/Habit, that you wish to change.

But possibly the habits that you need to change, are mostly the KEY Habits, which are really required for your Transformation.

But this is where most transformations are stuck ! as you and your teams cannot seem to change these Habits. So you need to identify these routines/habits.

Then you would need to find out what is the Reward that you are getting from this routine/habit. The reward can take various forms and you may need to be able to articulate the same very clearly.

Here’s a Common Scenario to reflect –

Are you asking for Status reports – because you have to simply share information with your boss or you are not confident about your teams capability or you need to take an executive decision, etc.?

Discovering your Triggers and Rewards is the KEY to changing your Habits!

So if you can see that your team is not doing peer reviews, not running unit tests, or not merging their code base continuously,  and you want to CHANGE this Habit. It would be goo to now reflect and introspect and see what are the cues, rewards which lead them to forming these habits.

Sometimes it helps to facilitate this conversation in the team retrospectives and trigger the difficult dialogues, to make a lasting impact on your transformation journey.

So what has been your experience in breaking team habits? 

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CHANGE ? Are you Missing this jigsaw?

change habitsChange is hard for everyone and though the 70% failure rate is quoted and busted as a myth, but this does not make the problem of change management go away!

 The change management discipline is itself now challenging (source) the traditional change model, towards a more inclusive, invited, and organic model. It is acknowledged that focus on “People” is an integral part of any Change initiative!

So why do most change initiatives fail? what really are you missing in your Change initiative journey?

Try pondering on this quote –

“Change is not always easy when patterns in our lives have existed so long.”

-Lolly Daskal, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

If you look at your change initiatives, they will typically be aimed at uprooting our patterns, at changing our interactions, changing our containers or simply making those interactions disappear.

Sometimes you may simply need to simply break down the wall, and sometimes you try something different?, but with every change initiative asking us –

Can you Break your Old Habits, and start adopting NEW Habits?

So if you can start to change people’s habits, you would in my view have successfully moved the needle, and possible achieve some success in your change initiatives.

So what is the biggest Habit that you have been able to Change with your teams? Do share how you introduced the New Habit and got rid of the old one?

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Breaking down the Walls, brick by brick !

brick by On your transformation journey, sometimes you meet the bright sparks who simply GET IT, and sometimes you are faced with the hard rock faced bozos, who are simply DEAD! They build a WALL around themselves. They simply have no desire to CHANGE!

What do you feel?

Do you get mixed feelings, mixed emotions ?  Do you ignore this dead stock ? or do you try to turn them around ? 

What if they are a critical piece to the overall transformation? with all the right authority and are riding the right power pedestal? and you simply cannot ignore them.

What is your next step?

For me, sometimes it helps to simply listen to them and give them your ear !

The act of empathizing with the hard rock faces sometimes melts them ~slowly~ one day at a time and then another day and so on.
It helps if you understand what are their Drivers? which may be in conflict with the transformation agenda! Sometimes their ego simply needs a massage.

By listening to them and all the other nay-sayers, you just break down one brick at a time and suddenly one day you find that the wall no longer exists, and they simple GET IT!

Time to move to the next wall to break !

Do you have any stories to share of your hard rock faces, who you were able to turn around? brick by brick ? what was your strategy?

 

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Blockers are sometimes good for your Transformation

Does your transformation suffer from ‘blocker’ souls?

Does your transformation really need those ‘blocker’ souls?

Have you tried to ‘unblock’ those ‘blocker’ souls? and FAILED !

Sometimes it may be better to let the transformation efforts be BLOCKED (for some time at least)

and let the ‘blocker’ souls rejoice ~silently ~

But this can be your ally in most cases, as  the BLOCKED transformation now suddenly gives you the SPACE and Time to re-evaluate your OPTIONS, your EXPERIMENTS.

It gives you the time to think and rethink your change management strategy. 

  • Does your message needs a refresh ?
  • Should your medium be changed ?
  • Are you under estimating your Impact Radius?
  • Is your staff aware of the overall strategy and why this change is coming?

Sometimes the BLOCKERS are useful to take a pause and reset your clock!

So go ahead and let those ‘blocker’ souls not derail you from your journey!

Feel free to share your ‘blocker’ stories in the comment and keep on listening and subscribe to my blog.

ALL Metrics are Useless except what you need !

metrics

For a large number of enterprise shenanigans, Metric creation, collection and measurement can sometimes become a way of life ! They do not really care what the metric destroys, the impact on the human behavior and how these Metrics are simply USELESS ! The typical story line has been made famous by the myth around –

WHAT YOU MEASURE IS WHAT YOU GET !

(chasing the WYSWIG rainbow made popular from Wintel era)

and then this is supported by, You can Measure ANYTHING, which simply simmers the already hot embers.

But we need to watch for Albert Einstein’s quote – “Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted counts

But the real question to ask is

Do you really need to measure <fill in your favourite metric here>?

Have you ever wondered how the intelligent folks will react when they hear that they are being measured on this metric ?

What will you do as a sane individual ?

Will you ignore this metric if you know someone is tracking and watching this metric? especially if you are caught in the day job cycle, and your promotion depends upon improving this metric?

The answers can range from subservient YES to timid agreement mostly.

But what we are really looking for when thinking of a metric is changing behavior, so that it provides feedback to ignite the FIRE within the individual, within our organization.

So if you are thinking about introducing a new metric, think Twice !! Even if you still insist that you really need this metric, then don’t make THE Metric your GOD, which needs to be fed, but instead make it a Servant for yourself, for your team ! and use the metric as a feedback to improve your condition, your team’s current state and move towards your target state.

Do share your stories on  – What has been your most scary metric?  Which metric you hated ? Which metric made you do the opposite ?

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Takeaways from the DevOps++ Global Summit Conference

 

It was a pleasure to be invited as a Speaker at the DevOps++ Global Summit, and present my views on the Key Success (and Failure) modes for Large Scale DevOps Transformation, based on the patterns that I have seen across multiple organizations. My session slides can be viewed here.

It was also great to be able to hear other speakers and capture some Key Takeaways below:

  1. DevOps is all about positive economic outcome and benefit to the people, though wrapped up in too much technical tooling jargon by eager vendors.
  2. DevOps is more about the mindset, human aspects relationships and only then about methodologies and frameworks.
  3. Automation should be about automating the right thing, the right way, at the right time.
  4. Micro services architecture enables the DevOps ways of working and complement the Cloud architecture, compared to monolith applications.
  5. Lean principles, especially Value Stream Maps, are a key element in identifying the process debt and wastes, which slow down E2E delivery.
  6. Continuous Deployment/Monitoring workshops wrt. popular tooling using Docker, Prometheus, Ansible etc.
  7. Salesforce stack development and deployments aided with Jenkins, Gitlab, Qualitia.

If you attended this conference, do drop in a link to your notes below in the comments.

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Build technical agility as your Basic ingredient !

Enterprises today struggle with large scale agile adoption and transformation, without looking at the prevalent technical agility, which is a basic ingredient for building the organizational and business agility blocks.

Wishful Dreams

The dreams of Successful Agile Transformation at SCALE, are sold and bought easily today, with  customer success stories , customer quotes and a conference presentation to back it all up. What else do you need? to dream up wishful thinking.

Reality Beckons

But if you dig deeper you realize that even Basic team level agility is a daily struggle for most enterprises. Most enterprises in the agile fluency model are at the 2 or 3 star teams. Rarely the teams go higher and almost all of them struggle!

So go ahead and ask  if your engineering team is leaning toward heaven or hell? As the statistics show that we are losing the engineering practices and the decline of extreme programming is evident now and ‘scrum’ and ‘scaling’ has overtaken as the Main menu item driven by the transformation office.

THE FIX 

Build up your team's technical agility FIRST.

Technical agility is the ability of your team to undertake technical endeavors, using the core tenets of extreme programming and agile modeling, without impacting the business delivery or compromising on the quality of the solution.

This means that you need to take care of your engineers and their engineering practices. You need to ask if the team is writing the best code, are aware and making use of the modern day engineering practices, which a true software professional would, and are they indeed proud when they sleep at night?

Summary

If the Technical agility is missing in your team, your agile transformation would miss the bus and fall flat on it’s back. You would end up as just another data point which supports this graph, and that would not be what you really need.

So cheer up and let the technical practices bloom first in your transformation, and then the honey bees will surely follow.

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