Category Archives: Agile Social Action Initiative

REFLECTIONS ON TURNING A PROJECT INTO A PRODUCT

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Even after attending 2-day trainings for both ScrumMaster and Product Owner certifications, the real significant difference between ‘project’ and ‘product’ didn’t emerge, for me, until becoming a Product Owner of a Weekly Care Package. That’s when the deep learning began. I hope by sharing some learning here, other new (or old) Product Owners might consider the shift in thinking around working with products rather than working on projects. 

When first agreeing to formally launch and support a social action initiative to provide fresh food weekly to a neighbour who is experiencing financial hardship, I could easily see how food could be collected, packaged and delivered in weekly increments. As a Product Owner, I would oversee what items came into the package and ensure everything was delivered on time. Reaching out to a few friends, neighbours, and colleagues resulted in dozens of people contributing to the package consistently over a period of a month. Surprisingly, approximately $400 was also donated. Without a doubt, the first iterations proved there are interested contributors and also a grateful recipient.

Interestingly, an experienced Agile trainer & coach, took notice of my efforts. He offered some advice, as a ScrumMaster might share with a new and fledgling Product Owner. In a half-hour conversation, he counselled me on some features of agile product development. He shared a few meaningful links with me, and after reminding me that Product Owners work with products, not projects, he invited me to return to an article I had written on the initiative.

I followed his guidance and when returning to my piece I found the word “project” used about half a dozen times, speckled through the article. Clearly, even though I was consciously creating a product called ” a weekly food package,” still I was unconsciously thinking of the initiative as a project. When I modified the article to insert “product,” then the way I saw the work also changed.

As a project, each time I deliver the package, the work is done. Project complete! As a product, which is a part of a delivery model called Scrum, it means each time a package is delivered it is then time to reflect in a retrospective. It’s time to learn and plan for next week’s delivery.

A project, in my mind, requires a lot of advanced planning, designated role assignments, accountability reports, and status updates. It requires a start date and a date of completion. ***

My new understanding of product development, which emerged from watching this Myths of Scrum video and reading this  is that action can begin even with minimal planning. Interested people volunteer as they wish to support the development. No one reports to anyone or assigns tasks to anyone. When a successful iteration is complete, it’s useful to come together to talk about how it went and apply learning to the next week’s product.

With this learning, I later said to the ScrumMaster who was coaching me, that “I don’t see any reason for “projects” because when the focus is around a “product” then the quality is just so much better.”

In his wisdom he replied, “Imagine how it feels to Project Managers to hear something like that and you will then understand why this is such a hot topic in the industry.”

“Yes,” I replied. “I get it.”

(Michael Caspar recently tweeted about this Scrum-based social action initiative. You can read the article he shared at this link.)


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Retrospectives: Sometimes dreaded, sometimes loved but always essential

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Among all the components of Scrum, retrospectives are one of my favourites. A properly planned, efficiently executed, and regularly run retrospective can be like the glue that holds a team together.

My first experience in running a retrospective had surprising results.  We were working in a team of five but only two were present in the retrospective. Not only that, but of these two, neither could decide who should be running the retrospective. To be clear, this was not a Scrum team. But it is a team who is using some Agile methods to deliver a product once a week. Retrospectives are one of the methods. So without a clear ScrumMaster to facilitate the retrospective it was, let’s say, a little messy.

Despite all this, there were some positive results. The team had released a product every three weeks with success. The retrospective on the third week revealed challenges & progress, obstacles and opportunities.

The method used was the format of a Talking Stick Circle, where one person holds the floor and shares their reflections while others listen without interrupting and then the next person speaks and so on.

The major learning was that there were decisions to be made about who was doing which task at what time and in the end the direction was clear. Enthusiasm was high and the path forward was laid. The retrospective was a success.

The most remarkable part of the experience was hearing what was meaningful for others. When both people could share what they valued, hoped for and aspired to with the project it was easy to see what could be done next, using the skills, capacities and talents of team members.

For more resources on agile retrospectives, check out this link.

 


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Video: Agile Social Action at a Neighbourhood Level

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This post marks the beginning of a new Agile experiment supported by BERTEIG.

Quite simply, the idea is to apply Agile methods and principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto to a social action project at a neighbourhood level.

The objective is to use the empowering principles of Agile to help eliminate the extremes between wealth and poverty.

The approach is to pair up one family who has items to share with another family who is in need in order to provide a weekly care package including food and other basic care supplies.

The sharing takes place in the real world with the delivery of a package weekly but also corresponds to an online platform which allows for the sharing to happen at an sustainable cadence.

The initiative was formally launched three weeks ago and this video is the first which addresses some basic structures of the framework. This video is a bit like a one-person retrospective.

One of the principles of BERTEIG is to strive to create unity and to be of service to humanity. This socio-economic Agile experiment is a way in which BERTEIG is reaching out to help others and contributing towards the advancement of a small neighbourhood moving along the continuum from poverty to prosperity, materially and spiritually.

 

 


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More Agile Practices for Social Innovation, Non-Profits, Charities and Volunteer Organizations

Learn more about transforming people, process and culture with the Real Agility Program

I have started composing a series of articles on my blog A Changemaker in the Making that are intended to briefly explain how to apply different agile practices to the work of social innovators, non-profits, charities and volunteer organizations.

The first article covers Self-Organizing Teams an important consideration for organizations that want to use their people resources more efficiently and to create a culture of empowerment.

The second article explores The Agile Workspace and ways to create an environment that is conducive to fruitful interaction.

Enjoy!


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