agile journeys

...rants by Asheesh Mehdiratta on Coaching, Transformation and Change

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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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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?

If you like what you read here, then do subscribe to my blog , and feel free to share your feedback in the comments below.

 

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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