agile journeys

...rants by Asheesh Mehdiratta on Transformation and Change

Gratitude – Do you think it matters?

gratitudeChange agents are always running into Blockers, during their transformation journey, and need to overcome the impediments Brick by brick.

This journey can sap your energy and sometimes creates a downward spiral in the energy levels. This negative cycle must be balanced by a positive energy cycle in my viewSo how do you break this negative loop and enter the positive loop?

For me, it is the GRATITUDE –  which you show every day ~ when you THANK your stars and enter the positive state of mind.

Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which means gratefulness, and associates us to a higher power.

As we show Gratitude,  we get this feeling of gratefulness and thankfulness, which allows our minds to be at peace and focus on all the positive things happening around us, even if they are very small!

It could be as simple as a Spark in the eye of the Business user at the new product, or the positive commentary for a feature demo by the Product owner, or simply an Executive smiling at the collaboration within the teams, or a developer who gets the test-first concept. The are all opportunities for us to show our Gratitude.  You could start by building up your Gratitude ‘journal’, and slowly you will realize the Happiness factors going up for you, your teams and your stakeholders.

Here are 3 Simple Ideas To Try
  • Start by putting up a GRATITUDE BOARD, for your personal accomplishments
  • Encourage the Teams to start their Team Gratitude Board/Journal for their Tiny improvements.
  • Introduce Gratitude Exercises in your teams daily routine, just as Teri McKeveer introduced for her athletes

Let me know what you try and give it a thought if you think GRATITUDE matters for you/your team?

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Do you only focus on increasing efficiency OR…?

cut efficiency

As a change agent, you are trained and would consider yourself an expert in the LEAN space, and have surely developed “EYES for Waste“.  You are always looking for that efficiency gain and how you can squeeze the most juice from your endeavours.  For some Lean practitioners, if you are not focused on reducing waste, then you at not Lean-ing at all (another discussion some other time 🙂 ).

But do you stop and pause?  or are we fascinated by the efficiency cult  that we forget to look beyond ?

Do you lose yourself in Efficiency Optimizations ?

Are you always striving for getting that 1% efficiency gain –  following the principle of  “aggregation of marginal gains” 

How about looking at the Broader picture ?

Do you look if you can actually eliminate the STEP , that you were planning on improving the efficiency ?

 Can you make the STEP Redundant?

Can you COMBINE multiple STEPs?

Can you review the overall system and reorganize (without the STEP) ?

… and then suddenly you realize that there is no OPTIMIZATION to be done, if the STEP itself vanishes.

So, think about it the next time you are itching to maximizing that efficiency gain, and instead take a P-A-U-S-E.

Ask yourself – Should I focus on increasing the efficiency OR… there are other options?

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Do you plant New Seedlings in your team?

As you grow your garden, you need to plant New Seedlings and nurture them till they become stronger and stand on their own.

As an agile coach, do you plant New Seedlings in your team?

Do you show the team new techniques, new ideas and seed their minds?

Do you show them by being hands-on? New process steps? New tools? New ways of doing the old things? New ways of doing new things?

Ask yourself –

  • What happened when you planted new seedlings, and you nurtured them?
  • When you helped a team member and showed him a new technique?
  • When you provided an unexpected improvement in their way of working?
  • When you helped in finishing their task, without them asking for help?

Did they smile at you ? Did they Thank you? Did they adopt your next suggestion more easily? 

Did they start Trusting you?

Conclusion

So to make a dent in your team’s change journey, and do break those brick walls, you need to start planting as many seedlings everyday as you can, with everyone in your team. Some will die, but others will sprout  if not immediately then at a later point in time. Some will grow and become stronger! and the ones who become stronger will be your light house for your transformation journey.

So go ahead and plant new seedlings everyday!

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5 Step Recipe for building Communities of Practice

building communities of practiceAs part of organizational transformation journey, CIOs today need to move from hierarchical models to self organizing communities to deliver IT, and there is an even greater need to build and sustain “Communities of Practices” for achieving the same. If you are an internal change agent responsible for building these communities, you can learn about the 5 step recipe to building and nurturing these communities of practice in your organization:

But before we kick-start, let us try to understand what really is a Community of Practice?

Communities of practice (CoP) are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

Typically these groups have a shared domain of interest, shared competence, and learn regularly from each other. They engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information; they are practitioners who share experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems — in short a shared practice.

Below is a Simple 5 step strategy to kick start and nurture your Community of Practice:

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency and leverage the Strategic objectives

2. Gather ‘early’ Adopters and “Run”

3. Partner with the internal and external Ecosystem

4. Scale –  Horizontally 

5. Scale –  Vertically

 

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency and leverage the Strategic objectives

Corporate honchos will typically lay down the current / future areas of focus for the organization. These are typically called as the Strategic Capabilities or future growth areas or similar sounding terms.

The key to starting a community is to leverage these strategic objectives with an inbuilt sense of urgency, and find a key sponsor (read as TOP DOWN Support), and identify the contributions with this sponsor, as to how the community can add Value, and then focus the discussion and activities around these.

The BOTTOM UP support is always easy to find, once the Sponsor has been identified, who can then help in spreading the message across the enterprise. It is never a question of how to find the bottom up interest, but more a question of ‘how to engage and guide’ the early adopters and steer their passion.

2. Gather ‘early’ Adopters and “Run”

Start with whoever shows up and accept that there will be passionate people (few initially), but always encourage and accept different levels of participation. You will realise that the strength of participation varies from each individual. The ‘core’ (most active members) are those who participate regularly. There are others who follow the discussions or activities but do not take a leading role in making active contributions.

Then there are those (likely the majority) who are on the periphery of the community but may become more active participants if the activities or discussions start to engage them more fully. All these levels of participation should be accepted and encouraged within the community.

There is never a critical mass required to start a community. So RUN with whoever shows up!

3. Partner with the internal and external communities

As a community guide, you will/shall/need to partner with the internal and external communities for your organization.

The internal communities would include your Support functions – typically Human Resources – Learning / Training departments, and the internal facilities, who can provide the required logistics, marketing muscle, sometimes manpower too and really make your community endeavors as a key part of their learning offerings. It is best to create this win-win combination to sustain your communities.

The external communities is key and would include partnership with the industry forums, and speakers, wherein the community members interact, broaden their expertise, and learn and share their stories, new learnings and upcoming trends. The key is to provide an engagement channel with your Community SPONSOR, on how to funnel the participation and share these learning’s internally without getting sucked into the legal and compliance partners.  The culture of your organization may aid/resist this step-up.

4. Scale –  Horizontally 

In order to generate initial buy-in across a wider spectrum, it always makes sense to scale horizontally first, so that you can achieve critical mass for your community. This allows the members to contribute and break the ice, and helps in the initial stages in collaboration for the ‘core’ team, as each member brings some additional value to the conversation. We call this strategy as the – Go Wide move

It always helps to create a rhythm for the community with regular schedule of activities that brings the participants together on a regular basis, and combining familiarity and excitement, by focusing both on shared, common concerns and perspectives, but also by introducing radical or challenging perspectives for discussion or action.

5. Scale –  Vertically

Post the initial buy-in, and few first steps, there are always challenges of – What next? Who runs? When? How?

Try Vertical Scaling! – which means going deeper into the sub-topics of interest / work streams within a common umbrella, focusing on multiple aspects: roles/functions/location/on-line/offline medium

As the community needs to be refreshed every few seasons and undergoes an ownership transition, which will happens as you scale vertically now, it is OK to disengage the earlier passionate core and let a new ‘core’ emerge. Other options include introducing Game mechanics in the community, and allowing for non monetary rewards and publicity for the passionate volunteers. You may need to watch out for the Success Patterns and Failure Patterns for your CoPs.

In the end it is the Passion that always rules!

The key to building successful communities is to provide an enabling platform and a safe environment for people to share their stories without any judgement or fear of failure.

I would definitely be interested to hear if you have used these or additional steps to make your communities a success !! So what’s your success story building and nurturing Communities of Practice ?

Photo Source: http://bit.ly/2d39F6R

p.s. This post was originally published here

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Pranks and the Power of Questioning

questioningAs a change agent, you have a tough task of raising the awareness, educating, training and transforming the minds of the teams and leadership, while still maintaining your sanity. Sometimes they GET IT! And sometimes they act as innocent kids, enjoying their pranks while displaying passive or active resistance to your change efforts.

To me, this situation seems very similar to the dilemmas of the teaching community, who have similar problems everyday with the school kids. But if you watch the teaching community, one of the techniques they use is the Power of Questioning.

Power of Questioning

Power of Questioning includes asking the right questions, which challenges your teams, and promotes a higher order thinking, incubates creativity and helps them to finally develop learning!

So as a Change Agent, you should start to ask the right Questions, so that you can gather useful information about the team, about their interactions, their personalities, and help you in bonding better. You can start to listen more, with open questions, and practice active listening.

Different Types of Questions

It helps to develop a broad base of questions and mix up different styles. Below are some examples –

  • You can ask Rhetorical questions to emphasize a key point, and create a dramatic effect !
    • Check out some  examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.
  • But really the most important way is to go with Socratic questioning, which makes the individuals think for themselves, rather than elicit information from you.
    • Check out additional examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.
  • Other times you can use Reflective questions and it can help with having with Question Cards , examples below –
    • What was easy?
    • What was hard?
    • What did I learn?
    • How will you use this learning in the future?

Check out examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.

Your Next Steps

Looking at the above examples, you might be wondering that the Sprint Retrospective questions sounds familiar. But in my view, it is simply one of the many forms of questioning that you use at a team level, but the variety and situations are immense for you to experiment and start using this technique in almost every situation. So ask yourself –  if you can use the Power of Questioning everyday? Can you learn and pick some of these questions and apply in your Change journeys?

In my experience, as we learn the process of inquiry and questioning, we become better at it. You will start to use the insight from the process of inquiry to develop cues to asking better questions and you will find your sanity.

Conclusion
Power of Questioning should be an important arsenal in your tool box, and should be a daily affair, and not just at a certain ceremonial point. It engages your teams and leaders to reflect on their current state and make it easy for you to overcome the passive/active resistance in your change journeys.

So next time you see your kids or your teams displaying resistance to your change efforts, and playing some funny pranks, try the Power of Questioning, and see if you can see through their beliefs, and reflect the mirror!

What are your favorite Questions ?  Which questions inspire your team ? Which  questions do you use most often?

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Are you learning from your failures?

failureIf you are a Star Wars fan, and have watched the latest movie The Last Jedi, you would have been struck by the sudden appearance of Yoda, the ‘Grandmaster’ of the Jedi order, and talking to Luke Skywalker about failures.

Yoda explains to Luke, the Last Jedi, that failure is a good teacher, and we must learn from our mistakes!

“The greatest teacher, failure is.”  – Yoda

In the real world,  some teams will fail at various stages in their transformation journey, and others may falter multiples times, before they finally succeed. It is never an easy straight line from point A to point B.

But as a Leader of teams, how do you treat these failures?

Do you reflect on the failures with the team and have an open discussion without any blame?

or Do you punish them for the failure?

Do you ask the question – What have we learnt from this failure?”

If you are aiming to build self managed teams, who can truly recognize their weaknesses and strengths, then it is important to let them fail and learn from their mistakes. It is important that they can do safe experiments, and design a better outcome, and solutions that delights the users.

To help, it would be good to look at Etsy’s culture of running ‘Blameless postmortems’, which talk about “what” happened? and how we can systematically remove the constraints so that human error can be reduced, instead of ‘blaming’ the person.  This is a powerful shift in the mindset and triggers a behavioral change in your teams.

But if as a Leader, you continue down the path of measuring failures, and then punishing the team, the organization culture becomes risk-averse. Teams will then not be ready to take risks, think outside the box, or have crazy ideas, and it would dampen the innovative mindset and creativity that we all humans possess.  You will never learn from your failures.

Conclusion:

To learn from failures is a key trait for successful teams. Even the famed Luke Skywalker had to be reminded by the Yoda, that failure is the greatest teacher!

So, if you can change your behaviors and are ready to take risks, with known constraints, then you will start looking at failures as learning opportunities and of course Yoda would be really proud of you!

So go ahead and ask your teams to share – what has been their biggest learning opportunity in the projects/products that you develop and support? go ahead and conduct the ‘Blameless postmortems’ and you would be surprised pleasantly.

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Why MTTR is my favourite metric?

metrics devopsAs you walk the DevOps Transformation journey, you would build out success stories, build metrics and start to energise teams towards continuing improvements. But to quantify the end user experience, I always look towards the MTTR (Mean Time To Recover) metric.

MTTR is defined as – Average time required to repair a failed component or device. ITIL definitions can be more expressive.

Why MTTR is so useful and is my favourite metric?

Here are few of my reasons

  1. MTTR captures the End user EXPERIENCE,  by capturing when a service goes down and when it is restored.
  2. It shows the SPEED at which your team/organisation works!! Including how quickly the team –
    1. Acknowledges the problem
    2. Solves the problem
    3. Communicates the Resolution to the end user.
  3. MTTR encapsulates the internal dynamics of the teams /organisation.
  4. It is a simple metric and easy to understand metric, without any ambiguity.
  5. It can be measured in any unit (hours/days), which everyone can understand, including the Dev and ops.
  6. MTTR can be captured easily, automated and put across in the dashboard showing trends.
  7. It is applicable across all systems, of varying complexity and size.
  8. MTTR is technology agnostic, and can be understood by everyone – management, executives, support, operate and developers.
Conclusion

You do not want to measure anything, unless it helps the teams/stakeholders, but sometimes you may get carried away to the other extreme of measuring everything also. But MTTR is a simple, easy to understand, easy to capture metric, which serves the purpose of showing the inefficiencies and reminding the teams of the end user experience every time!

So what has been your favourite metric? feel free to share your feedback in the comments below.

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How much time do you allow for Improvements?

This is a common question from many Scrum teams, as they embark on their continuous improvement journey. Multiple teams struggle and then look to the higher powers or just ram through their way. As a Change Agent, to answer this, here is what you can ask them –

Do you allow ‘any’ time currently for Improvements?
  • You would typically hear the team saying as 0% ! and then a good response is to then START Small, with the emphasis on START.
  • You could alternatively talk about doing  10% more than what they are currently doing
  • or simply follow the 1% daily improvement paradigm (aggregation of marginal gains)
  • or you could ask the team about their Pain Index as discussed earlier, and then review from 10-90% of the sprint
So what has been your advice to your teams?

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Are you increasing your Organizational Learnings?

As part of the DevOps transformation, one of the main challenges is building bridges across Dev and Ops and start to build TRUST.

But TRUST cannot be built by simply flipping a switch !! It is never easy.  So how do you start ?

Sometimes, the trust starts to build between teams when they start to share their internal  success and  failure stories .  Trust starts to build when  they start to create Transparency across the walls. But this requires them to  start to share and start to speak a Common Language .

Today if you ask any Development or an Operations teams, they have conflicting goals, and their languages are  poles apart. The language manifests in the form of different process, different artifacts and different formats which they share with their management and teams. There is a BIG GAP!

So how do you reconcile this GAP ? Ask if you can – 

  1. Can you codify your team  processes?  
  2. Can you automate these process steps ? 
  3. Can you codify the creation of your teams artifacts?
  4. Can you automate the creation of these artifacts?

Benefits of Common Language

The benefits are huge, if you start to codify this implicit and explicit knowledge across teams. As you start to codify, you can start to automate and the benefits will  further increase, as this knowledge can now be shared across teams, repeatedly, and improved,  and in the end will lead to increased organisational learning.

So if you are able to codify, automate and share your knowledge across development and operations, you will be on your way to  maximize your organizational learning!

Go ahead and share how you increased your organizational learning?

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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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