Category Archives: Theory of Agile

Agile Work Uses Lean Thinking – Empirical Process Control

This is Part 2 of a 3 part series.
Part 1
Part 3 – not posted yet 🙂

Some work processes cannot be perfectly controlled nor perfectly defined. There may be non-linear interactions between steps in a process or there may be creative input from a human required. Processes with these qualities require empirical process control.
The basic attribute of empirical process control constitutes a continuous cycle of inspecting the process for correct operation and results and adapting the process as needed. A simple example of this is detecting impending failure of equipment by constantly monitoring the operation of that equipment. For Agile Work, the book Agile Software Development with Scrum provides an excellent chapter about this topic of Empirical Process Control.

In human processes like those to which Agile Work applies, the frequency of inspecting and adapting must match the needs of the process. Many projects occur in the context of constant change. This constant change makes long-term planning a wasteful effort. Rather, short-term planning with constant feedback provides a simple inspect and adapt cycle. This cycle can play out at different levels: daily for a team, monthly for a client of the team. The team inspects and adapts daily at the level of the tasks that it is performing. The client inspects and adapts monthly at the level of the team’s actual delivered results.

Both lean and agile methods claim to increase both speed and quality. Many people believe that there are four constraints in a system that can be controlled: speed (or schedule, or time to market, or process cycle time), quality (number of defects), scope (how much functionality), and cost savings (how much to spend on the work). Frequently, management believes that one has to trade off between these four constraints; spend more money, get more scope; lower quality, go faster. But in fact, lean and agile strongly support the idea that as you increase quality, you also increase speed… you just have to do it right.

In Agile Work, increasing speed and quality is done in three ways. First, increase the frequency and quality of communication among team members so that errors are detected early or avoided altogether. Second, drive the work with the creation and execution of automated testing. No work is done without a test in place to check if it is done correctly. This constant testing means that work is always defect-free and therefore very little time/money is spent on fixing defects. Third, eliminate wasteful work steps or obstacles to performance of work. This last one is difficult to do an bears closer examination.

Wasteful work is done in every process, no matter how efficient. Lean tells us that there are several types of waste in a manufacturing process. Those types of waste have analogies in Agile Work. For example, documenting something you plan to do instead of just doing it is wasteful. Another example is waiting while someone completes work that you depend upon. Any step or task that does not add value to the final product of an effort is waste. This standard is very high and most organizations have about 80% of their efforts going into wasteful tasks. An organization that has done an initial cut of wasteful work might stand at about 50% waste. The leanest organizations, such as Toyota, stand at about 20% waste.

Agile work eliminates waste in the form of barriers or obstacles that come up when a team is trying to go fast. Sometimes this is in the form of waiting for another group to do something for the agile team… an outsourced request for service. Sometimes waste is in the form of corporate standards or policies around documentation of work. The Process Facilitator role in an agile team has responsibility for working with the team and others to help overcome these obstacles.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Agile Work Uses Lean Thinking – Queueing Theory

Queueing theory describes the statistical and theoretical behavior of queues. In a queue system, there are two basic parts: work items and worker units. Worker units perform some work upon work items. The streaming of work items through worker units composes a queueing system. The time it takes for a work item to enter the system to exit the system is the process cycle time. From the study of real queueing systems and from simulation of queueing systems, researchers have shown there are some simple methods for creating an efficient queueing system that minimizes process cycle time.

One method for making a queueing system more efficient relates to the size of work items and how this relates to worker unit utilization levels and process cycle time. Queues behave in a very interesting way in relation to utilization and process cycle time. As utilization of a worker unit approaches 100%, process cycle time goes up very quickly. Not only that, but the more variability there is in the size of the work items, the worse this effect becomes. With a queue with work items that are all the same size, the worker units can maintain a very high level of utilization and the process cycle time is not significantly affected. However, with a queue with work items that are many different sizes, a worker unit will slow down significantly and process cycle times become worse even with relatively low levels of utilization.

Lean and Agile both use these ideas. Lean applies these ideas to manufacturing and other production processes and Agile applies these ideas to project work.

In Agile, iterations are used to create consistently small sized units of work that are then taken on by a team. In other words, the work items are designed to be exactly the size of an iteration and the worker unit is the Agile team. Since iterations are typically much smaller than the size of the overall project and since each iteration is always the same size, this allows the team to achieve very high levels of utilization while maintaining extremely short cycle times (the length of the iteration or release). Compare this to the waterfall approach to project management where the work is only finally delivered at the very end of a long process and you can see that not only do you have a very long cycle time, but each project will be highly variable in size and therefore it will be hard to get good utilization out of teams (think resource planning and leveling).

The Theory of Constraints, which is nicely introduced in The Goal by Eli Goldratt, presents some additional basic techniques for making improvements in efficiency of a process. The basic idea is that one can always find a slowest point or constraint in a process by finding out where there is a buildup of unfinished work. For example, if two people are cleaning a kitchen, one washing dishes and the other drying, if the number of wet washed dishes keeps building up, then the constraint for the process is the person drying. In more complex processes either in manufacturing or in creative work such as software development, it is sometimes more difficult to see where the constraint is. Typically, if you find that you have people waiting for work that is coming from someone else, then that someone else is a constraint and means can be found to improve their efficiency. In Agile, the focus on resolving the constraint would be to provide that person extra training or get other members of the team to assist in the work. Agile tends to shy away from a mechanistic perspective on efficiency.

Finally, in any queueing system there is some point at which work enters the system. This point of entry is very important because it can be used to control the utilization levels of worker units in a queue. In Agile Work, this control is accomplished through backlog management, iterative delivery and adaptive planning. All possible requests, features, constraints, improvements for a project are put into a master Work Item List. This list is strictly prioritized in descending order by a person empowered with this responsibility (called the Product Owner). This list of work items becomes the basis for deciding what work the team will do each iteration. The process of managing this list and how the work is chosen for this iteration allows the customer/client to prioritize important things to be delivered quickly and allows the team to work on consistently sized work units (iterations) and therefore achieve very high levels of utilization. In queueing theory this process is referred to as the gating function in that it provides a gate that lets work items into the system. All work must go through this gate or work item list management process in order for the team to function effectively. If the team is interrupted with work that has somehow skipped the gate it will seriously reduce the efficiency of the team(e.g. a senior sales person comes to the team and declares that it must work on X, it’ll only take a day, a potential client really needs this, surely that won’t hurt?).


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Agile, Cognitive Scripts and Diversity

Steve L. Robins, Professor and Diversity Trainer speaks about Unintentional Intelligence:
M1 (mindlessness) + M2 (multiple redundancy messages) = UI (unintentional Intelligence)

He explains that cognitively we can only do one thing at a time. Our brain writes cognitive scripts for what we do, so we can be efficient by not having to spend time thinking carefully about everything. We do this for anything from breathing, brushing our teeth and driving. We have very good cognitive scripts for complex tasks.

M2 (multiple redundancy messages

Because of this state of mindlessness, if we get the same message over and over again we have no defense against it. We can brand products, concepts, professions (i.e. a nurse is a woman a doctor is a man)… we brand people, race. We can get 13 year old girls to want to kill themselves because they are not thin enough.

Robins did the following experiment with us to demonstrate this point: He told us to repeat the word “top” ten times and after the tenth time he asked us the following question, which we were supposed to answer without thinking: “What do you do when you get to a green light?” We all said stop. He went on to point out that if with such a simple exercise he could get us to give the wrong answer, when we all knew the right answer, then a lot of different kind of beliefs about different races can also affect us even if they are not true.

Robins went on to talk about how to change these pattern: Neurons in the brain are connected by synapses, every time we act the body releases a protein in the synapses that when repeated solidifies the pattern down in our brain. In order to form new patterns a person has to have a chance to practice that pattern over and over again.

In our working cultures we have all kinds of cognitive scripts related to how we see and value diversity and these are formed partly by the multiple redundancy messages sent to us by our culture, our own lack of knowledge and experience of different perspectives and ways of seeing the world (because we tend to naturally associate with people who are like us) and our organizational culture that generally tends to value a certain kind of personality over another.

So what does this have to do with Agile? Well, so much of agile is about innovation and amplifying learning. Corporate cultures are not typically examples of thriving places that value diversity (and I don’t mean just having affirmative action programs, but beyond that, having a working culture that allows people to bring their diversity into the work place and rewards it). Diversity is a direct challenge to our mindless orientation towards work. It can challenge us to be more mindful, and mindfulness is an important basis of amplifying learning and being innovative.

I find the concept of cognitive scripts a helpful one for my own approach to Agile Work. Part of the work of a Process Facilitator is to help people to become conscious of their cognitive scrips, nurture diversity in the group so that cognitive scripts can be challenged to give birth to innovation. The key to this kind of change is for the Process Facilitator to work closely with team members to create repeated opportunities for this kind of interaction so that new cognitive scripts can be written.

It is helpful for the Process Facilitator to work with team members to reflect on the relationship between multiple redundancy messages as they relate to Agile Work. For example when starting an Agile project, beginning by reflecting on the fact that Agile Work transforms our competitive orientation towards work into a collaborative orientation. An examination of the multiple redundancy messages we receive in popular culture and corporate culture about these two orientations may be very useful for team members to become conscious of, if they are to make this shift in thinking and practice. As an exercise, a Process Facilitator could simply ask the team to list examples of corporate and media messages that support competition and those that support collaboration.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Notes from The Sixth International Transformative Learning Conference Michigan State University Oct 6-8, 2005

Steve L. Robbin, Grand Valley State University, Professor and Diversity Consultant

His mother married an American Serviceman in Vietnam in the 1970’s and came to America. It was a bad time to come from Vietnam. He used to get beaten up at school. She never commented on this but when she would be cleaning him up the tears would be rolling down her face. She had come to America in hope for a better future for herself and her child and this was not it.
One time when he was away at university she called him saying that she had bought new furniture for her house and the store had delivered old furniture to her and refused to take it back. So he made a fake lawyer letter head and wrote a stern letter to the shop and soon after they delivered the new furniture with a dozen roses.
Soon after he married his mother called him and said that you have your wife to take care of you now. One week later he got a call from the police that she had hanged herself in her home.
When he had his first child he started to reflect on these experiences and to question some of the views he had about race and racism. Up to this point he had held conventional stereotypes of lazy Blacks, Hispanics etc.

Are we interested in diversity training or diversity education. Ask anyone with kids which they would prefer for their children: sex education or sex training?

You grow up in a middle class neighborhood with professional parents who tell you that you can do anything if…? “you work hard”. At the conceptual level we believe American society to be based on a meritocracy but at an operational level other realities affect the degree of success a person achieves: wealth, connections and access.

An African immigrant to America (a workshop participant)shared her experience of what the concept of working hard meant for her: a black person can work 10 times harder, losing her soul in the process and for what? To get to the top and be hated by whites for it.

“Truth is the condition that allows suffering to speak.” Cornell West
From the lens of “if you just work hard” truth and suffering looks like whining and complaining.

Sense of entitlement
The same workshop participant told the story of having worked for many years as a nurse and several other jobs at the same time and finally bought a house. She invited her white neighbor who was kicked out of his home to live in her house. After some time of supporting him (cooking for him and cleaning up after him), because of the demands he was making on her she asked him to leave. He refused telling her that she is only an immigrant to this country and that he is entitled to stay in her home because this is her country and she has benefited from this.

The American dream of solving the problem of poverty through material gain (working hard) has become intolerant of suffering and hardship. If you don’t overcome this suffering you should not talk about it.

Attribution Theory
1) We live in a just world and you reap what you sow
2) Fundamental attribution error: internal locus of control (they are there because they did something wrong)
3) Ultimate attribution Error: external locus of control (she got the job because of affirmative action)

People like Condoleezza Rice and Tiger Woods, Opera etc are held up as the rule and not the exceptional successes that they are.

Who here considers themselves nice?
N.I.C.E not inclined to critically examine

What is racism
Racism is a sociological idea
Any ism is a system of values, beliefs, behavior. What do you need to create a system? Power.
A Racist is: racial prejudice + power + discriminating action

Now Orleans situation:

Myopic – view things not in context of historical racism… problem to see things in perspective because people in power explain things away very well
“Racism without racists” De Silva the idea of this book is that you don’t even need racists anymore to have racism because of the systems of society.
“White washing race: the myth of a color blind society.” book to read

Shift from the manufacturing economy to knowledge economy is taking poor people out of the economy. In the past poor people could work in factories, earn better salaries and improve their material condition.

1995 the human genome project- one human race
In America one can change race depending on what state one lives in.
A mathematician spent a lot of time calculation how removed people are to each other and found that the farthest removed one person can be to another is 52nd cousin. Concept of race is very problematic
you can change your race based on what state you live i.e. one drop rule or one eight, or one sixteenth makes you black.

The first case in American history challenging the concept of all white men having rights was a Japanese man arguing that he should have the same rights as a white man because his skin is white. It was ruled that one had to be Caucasian and white to have rights. The next case was brought forward by an East Indian man who said that he was Caucasian but he lost because he wasn’t white enough.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Notes from The Sixth International Transformative Learning Conference Michigan State University Oct 6-8, 2005

From a Talk by Jack Mezirow, Founder of Transformative Learning Theory

Serious shortcoming of our culture is freezing people into positions. I have been a liberal democrat all my life and it’s very reassuring to share those biases with others… the hardest thing to do in adult learning is to step outside of this and to listen to others.

Transformative learning is learning that transforms problematic frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, reflective and emotionally able to change. Such frames of reference are more likely to generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified.

Some transformations are out of the realm of understanding or conscious experience. Unless transformation also takes place in terms of critical reflection of epistemological issues it is not transformative learning.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Agile, the Adult Educator and Ethical Considerations

A review of Tara J. Fenwick’s “Limits of the Learning Organization: A Critical Look” (article found in Learning for life: Canadian readings in adult education).

This article is a critique of learning organization literature (as presented in the works of Peters, Senge, Watkins, Marsick, Argyris, Schon and others). I chose to do a review of it because learning organization literature can and does inform the work of Agile practitioners. The writer, Tara Fenwick, offers a critique of this literature as an academic and practitioner in the field of adult education. Even though the language and tone of the article is judgmental and at times affronting to the corporate trainer audience, it is never-the-less challenging and valuable because she raises interesting ethical questions that can serve as cautions against potential trends that can distort agile practice. I will summarize her argument in the some of the areas most relevant to Agile practice.

Fenwick’s summary of the model of learning organization found in the literature, is an organization that: “creates continuous learning opportunities, promotes inquiry and dialog, encourages collaboration and team learning, establishes systems to capture and share learning, empowers people toward collective vision and connects the organization to its environment.”

The following is a summary list of some of Fenwick’s critiques:

Who’s Interests are Served
Although the learning organization literature holds great promise for a more humanitarian and egalitarian workplace, it has the potential to distort learning “into a tool for competitive advantage” and in turn, exploit people as resources in the pursuit of profit. To explore this idea she asks a valuable question: “Who’s interests are being served by the concept of learning organization, and what relations of power does it help to secure?” She argues that learning organization literature tends to serve the interests of educators working as trainers in organizations and managers interested in their own self preservation.

How Learning is Defined
Learning, in learning organization literature seems to be defined as that which benefits the organization, all other learning falls into the dysfunctional category. This perspective negates other ways that people create meaning and learn and potentially causes a person to become “alienated from their own meaning and block flourishing of this learning into something to benefit the community.”

Assumptions about Learners
The learning organization literature subordinates employees by seeing them as “undifferentiated learners-in-deficit”. Educators and managers are the architects of the learning organization while employees are busy “learning more, learning better and faster” trying to correct their knowledge deficit. In the learning organization workers become responsible for the health of the organization without the authority to determine alternative ways to reach that health. The fear of being left behind in a quickly changing market environment is used to create anxiety and fear as motivations for learning. All of these factors serve to put serious limits on the potential of people to learn in the work environment.

Diversity and Privilege Overlooked
Perspectives of race, class and gender -which research has shown affects the way people learn and collaborate- are lacking in the literature. Fenwick challenges the notion of achieving a democratically ideal situation for open dialog -that the learning organization literature calls for- when all people in the work place do not “have equal opportunity to participate, reflect, and refute one another” (for example because of the status of ones job, character, gender, class, age etc.)

Fenwick sheds a clear light on where the good philosophies of the learning organization are found wanting. The Agile community can benefit from asking some of the same ethical questions she asks in relation to our work. Her critique is a good challenge for Agile practitioners. It challenges us to:

  • Continue to strive for higher levels of ethical excellence in our work
  • To consider issues of power in our work
  • To become conscious of how we use our own power
  • To give thought to what voices are included / excluded in the creation of the learning organization
  • Pay attention to how we motivate learners
  • How to foster collaborative environments that are conscious of the privileging of some over others
  • Think about who decides what is valuable knowledge and learning and how that affects the knowledge creation process

Reflecting on these issues will go a long way to contributing to the development of agile practice.

The full text of an old version of Fenwick’s article can be found here.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Agile Coach/Mentor Job Description (Process Facilitator)

Given the Agile Axioms and Disciplines then an agile coach or mentor should have some really specific experience and capabilities. This list constitutes a first attempt at a job description.

Continue reading Agile Coach/Mentor Job Description (Process Facilitator)


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Transformative Learning and Agile

It seems to me that most people who have had any kind of success on serious projects, or in life, can probably point to a profound collaborative experience at the core of that experience. In my last posting, “tools vs. capabilities” I said that because Agile is fundamentally a process of collaboration and our culture is fundamentally is a culture of contest, we need to recognize that learning Agile requires a transformation at the level of character more than methodology. Despite the fact that we may have had profound experiences with collaboration, because we are also deeply influenced by our environment, there are limits to what we can understand about it. We need not look further than the agile disciplines to see how most of our working and social practices are not supportive of Agile perspectives. For example empowering the team and the concept of self-organizing team is a direct challenge to most of our social, economic, cultural, community and familial structures which are essentially hierarchical. The discipline of amplifying learning is a direct challenge to the practice of excessive specialization which manifests itself in the form of expert elitism. How can any one of us ever hope to have a culture of learning and innovation if we come from a culture of expertise and hierarchy based on that expertise?

This is where transformative learning comes in. Agile requires of us not just an ordinary, but transformative learning experience. When we learn, we take something new and fit it into an old category or assign an old meaning to it. Categories are ways in which we organize our learning, they can also be called frames of reference. If we encounter an experience for which we have no category it is hard to understand it. For example have you ever been in a conversation or taken part in a course where what you were learning was so foreign to you that you didn’t even know what kinds of questions to ask to help you understand it?

Our frames of reference are shaped through the influence of our culture, language, and experiences, which all interact to set boundaries to future learning. This is because outside of these categories it is impossible for us even to register something new, let alone seek out its reality in an unprejudiced manner.

How often do you find yourself in a new learning situation where you feel overwhelmed, frustrated or even angry? It is possible that at those times you may be at the threshold of a transformative learning experience. You can have two reactions: one would be to dig deep and try to figure out why you are disturbed and see what insights you are led to and the other would be to just give up on the idea and find arguments against it.

Another way to recognize a potential opportunity for tranformative learning is to reflect on the following question: have you ever had an experience where you were faced with some new learning and because you have had a similar experience or because for some reason you see yourself as an expert in that field you have not been able to derive the proper learning from that experience? You may have realized this at a later time after numerous interactions with a similar experience where you slowly started to recognize gaps in your own understanding.

In order to derive the full benefit of a new experience that doesn’t fit into the realm of our experience we must have a transformative learning experience. A transformative learning experience is an experience that requires of us to examine the values and limitations of our old categories and assign new meanings to them. This does not mean that all of our previous learning is invalid. A transformative learning experience allows us to expand our frames of reference to allow for more complexity and at times possibly to integrate two previously perceived dichotomous approaches.

For a detailed introduction to transformative learning theories, its thinkers and history check out this link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformative_learning on Wikipedia.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Agile Infrastructure Projects – Lessons Learned

I’ve worked as an agile coach on three infrastructure/maintenance projects in a row. One was a software/hardware upgrade, one was implementing agile for a defects/enhancements team, and my most recent was a data warehouse decommissioning project. In all cases, the interesting part for me was taking the basic principles of agile and applying them in a way that works when not doing new product development. Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

1. Figure out what is going to deliver value (usually cost savings). In the case of infrastructure projects, one is usually focused on cost savings. Find a way to tie your work items directly to cost savings. You need a good financial model to do this. Mary and Tom Poppendieck talk about this a little in their Lean Software Development book. In the decommissioning program, there was a very explicit dollar cost associated with disk space and cpu utilization. Every user/MB decommissioned saved a measurable amount of money. As well, it allowed us to easily prioritize our backlog.

2. Focus project/program organization more on Lean principles than agile. A good understanding of queuing theory will go a long way to helping with throughput. In a team doing defects/enhancements work, the small pieces lend themselves well to certain types of streaming through the team. Iterations are not necessary to chunck work. Instead, iterations become checkpoints solely for process reflection.

3. Technical infrastructure projects can benefit greatly from automation. Test automation including test generation can sometimes be possible. Automating parts of a regularly repeated process that is used for every work item can be extremely beneficial for increasing speed. In the case of the decommissioning effort where every database table needs to be considered separately and where they all go through the same process for decommisioning, there are many opportunities for automation. The project/program/team can invest in doing this automation to great benefit to NPV.

4. The basic axioms (We are Creators, Reality is Perceived, Change is Natural) and disciplines (Empower the Team, Amplify Learning, Eliminate Waste) still apply. Even though it is not “new” product development, the creativity of people is essential for problem solving, and finding ways to do the work faster. Stakeholders still need to have their perception of reality acknowledged, and the teams still has to do constant checking to make sure they are on track with that perception. And of course, things are always changing including priorities, our understanding of the work, resource availability etc. Having an empowered team makes short work of many obstacles, but that wouldn’t happen without an explicit acknowledgement that we have to constantly be learning and eliminating waste. Teams get better and better at these disciplines over time.

I would be very interested to hear other peoples experiences with infractructural/operational projects.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tools Versus Capabilities Approach To Agile Training

Which approach is most valuable in training that fosters collaborative work for the purpose of optimizing the performance of an organization: a tools / methodologies approach or an inner capabilities approach? The typical orientation that most organizations take is often external and rule-based. This consists of creating methodologies, rules, boundaries, systems and processes to enhance collaboration.

These external approaches ultimately fail to have a lasting effect on people and the culture of the organization because they don’t address change at the level of habits of mind. People then work in the new structure with the same patterns of behaviour. Behind this kind of surface approach to change are assumptions about human nature. At worst this consists of a belief that people are base (greedy, selfish etc.) by nature. At best that people are fundamentally good but cannot improve except through external measures. It is true that we need external systems and structures to give expression to our inner capabilities, to test, foster and develop them in action. However all the investment that companies make in tools, systems, methodologies are obviously not enough. We need both external and internal approaches to training people in collaborative processes. Systems and tools provide only a framework that then need to be filled in with character. At the core of Agile there are disciplines (such as Empower the Team, Amplifly Learning) without which the methodologies would have no life. The practice of the disciplines fostered by the development of inner capabilities infuses life into the Agile methods and at the same time the methods act on and reinforce the inner practice of the disciplines.

As Agile champions (coaches, facilitators, practitioners) we must invest energy on fostering -through modelling and coaching- the development of inner capabilities. The Agile community will benefit from an identification of core capabilities required and a deep exploration of how to foster their development in individuals, teams and organizations.

Although it is our nature to organize in groups and we may have much experience with collaboration, we nevertheless live in a culture of contest and individualism. Out of this culture comes a set of belief systems which are so deeply rooted in our lives that we are not fully conscious of them and their affect on us. These belief systems cannot change easily through the introduction of external structures alone.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Personal Philosophy of Adult Education

The following is my approach as an educator to my work in community and organizational development. I have come to this understanding mainly through experience, a great deal of mentoring and study.

Please note that when I use the term “teacher” in this document I also mean consultant, mentor, coach etc. The term “student” is also interchangeable with organization or community. The term education is interchangeable with organizational or community development consulting.

Validation: a starting point

Education should start from, affirm and validate the experience, insights and knowledge of the individual. This is a foundation for education that honours and respects the student. Recognizing the nobility of the student allows her an active role in her own learning. The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning by drawing on the experience of the student, to build on that experience through the acquisition of new insights, knowledge and skills.

Learning must be self-directed. The teacher may have a number of wonderful things to teach, but if the student does not believe that they are relevant to her, she will not be engaged. This is especially true for teachers who are working in communities that they are not a part of. The teacher must engage in careful investigation in order to understand the situation of the student, which includes attentive listening, as well as a genuine interest in the needs of the student, before proceeding along any line of instruction. Taking her cue from the students, the teacher must work with the individual / group to create a learning environment in which everyone takes responsibility for their own learning. In this kind of environment the teacher is not an expert and does not do the students’ learning for her. The teacher can use questions to assist the student to understand, instead of delivering answers. The teacher should also encourage an environment of learning that recognizes mistakes as part of the learning process. The learning environment should create in the student a hunger for the acquisition of knowledge, insights and skills beyond the direct experience with the teacher.

Encouragement: the key to self-directed learning

Once the experience of the student has been validated and her needs established, education should be challenging but not obtrusive and challenges must be presented with respect and encouragement. Encouragement versus excessive criticism leads to individual initiative instead of paralysis. The natural result of an encouraging and challenging learning environment is self-discipline and self-correction instead of external discipline (control) and constant external correction.

A transformative, holistic approach centred in humility and service

The learning environment should foster humility in both the student and teacher. Most contemporary approaches to education are materialistic; the student pays, studies, receives a degree, becomes an “expert”, etc. The whole educational experience, from the teachers to administrators, cultivates in the student a sense of self is that is based solely on the expertise and knowledge gained. The “Expert” attitude in the community development environment is often not useful because the work in the field is so complex. Many stakeholders have keys to the process, as a result, the “expert” attitude devalues the knowledge of others and tends to taint the path to solutions with conflict and ego. Another consequence of the expert mentality in the community is dependency; people are divorced from the solution to problems that they all contribute to and to which they all hold the keys. Instead of drawing on the knowledge of the stakeholders, the expert renders her own knowledge most valuable which in turn causes them to discard volition and succumb to a state of perpetual dependency on one expert after the other. Community members or institutions are robbed of the ability to play a central role in their own lives as a direct result of being robbed of opportunities to play central roles in the decision-making process of their community.

With humility at the centre of all learning, the purpose of education becomes transformation. We learn so that we, our communities and our institutions can improve and change for the better. Also as learning is applied to community efforts, individual capacity unfolds and is developed. Learning for its own sake is valuable, but learning for positive social change, makes the acquisition of knowledge, skills and insights relevant and engaging in the face of community development challenges. Learning then becomes intimately connected with action and is corrected and refined through action. This infuses a powerful sense of purpose and meaning in the learning process, especially as successes are realized.

Principle-based approach facilitates ownership

Education should cultivate a sense of personal ownership in the learning process and community life. Fostering a sense of personal ownership comes with educating students to have a mature perspective about their own learning as well as the changes they desire to implement in the community. It involves helping students learn the capability of ‘becoming’ the change that they want to see, as well as finding positive starting points in desperate situations and building on them. A mature outlook demands that students have a principle-based approach to problem solving versus a rule-based approach. Education then becomes not only a process of acquiring knowledge but centred on capacity building for individuals, institutions and groups. Fostering the development of capacities needed to overcome obstacles also requires a principle-based approach, embodying principles such as perseverance, human rights and dignity, building unity in diversity etc.

Integration and balance of methods essential

Education should be methodical and balanced. It should aim to acknowledge, validate and employ different learning paradigms: those of science, spirituality, culture and the arts. Systems of education that value science above the arts or spirituality are destructive to the individual and community as they create an imbalanced view of the world and rob people of a diversity of perspectives and tools that they need to face complex challenges. An educational program should strive to address the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs of students and not focus too much on merely one dimension of life. This is especially important in communities that have experienced extreme marginalization (colonization, oppression) where healing and wellness must play a significant role in the learning process.

Modelling Change

A key ingredient to success in transformational education is the example of the educator. As people, naturally we do what we know and what we have experienced. In order to change our patterns of behavior we need to begin having fundamentally different experiences than what we have known. The educator must be able to assist in the creation of such experiences. To do this she must be capable of modelling what is being taught and through constant critical self-reflection strive to exemplify in every action empowering ideals.

Summary

Learning and education are indispensable to all community efforts for positive change. The job of an adult educator is to assist individuals, the community and its institutions to adopt a posture of learning. This begins with working with the experience of the student, fostering self-directed learning and follows as the teacher interacts with the student to challenge and assist her to new levels of learning. With humility at the centre of all learning efforts, dependency on “experts” can be replaced with volition and independent decision-making. The potential of the individual further unfolds as she applies her learning to service to the community. Attention to capacity building and cultivating a sense of personal ownership -in the process of learning and community building- deepens the experience and truly engages the student in taking an active role in the development of her life. Utilizing all systems of learning in the education process ensures balance of methods and helps cultivate the infinite and diverse capabilities of human potential. Ultimately the success of an educator rests on the degree to which she is able to model the change she is fostering.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Viable Systems Model

Agile Work is a system that can be created inside many types of organizations and work environments. I recently came across an interesting article about the viability of systems. The article describes an interesting recursive breakdown of systems into sub-systems of specific types. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will use this model to try to analyze Agile Work to see if it is viable.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Value redux (more on business value added)

In a previous article, Mishkin portrayed three kinds of added value that can be considered when analyzing a value stream: Customer Value Added (CVA), Business Value Added (BVA), and Non-Value Added(NVA). I recommend peeking at this article before reading this one.

The second flavour mentioned is Business Value Added. This is, to quote the above, “activity that is required to operate the business but the customer is unwilling to pay for.” I wanted to look at this a bit closer.

Why would we separate this kind of value? On one hand, if the customer wouldn’t pay for it, is it really value? Management and executive would say, “Yes”, since it amounts to operational infrastructure or overhead necessary to the business. By this view, without certain “horizontal” functions, the entire enterprise to which the lean analysis is being applied would not be possible – therefore it’s of immense value to the customer, however indirect. On the other hand, if it isn’t of value to the customer – ie. the customer cannot see the value, then why is it there at all? This is a tough question.

A fanatical Lean interpretation would be to say that this kind of value doesn’t exist. Either a reasonable customer would be willing to pay for it, explicitly, if indirectly, or it simply is not value added. In essence, business value added can be seen as something of an allowance – a departure from the sharp scalpel of lean value-stream analysis. Its purpose is to provide to those who do these “BVA” functions some explicit value, since these are often those whom lean analysts must convince of the accuracy of their analyses. By this interpretation, BVA is strictly a cop-out. It doesn’t provide value to the product/service produced, and is therefore a target for waste elimination.

There are very good reasons to look at BVA from either side. The discipline of waste elimination on one hand, and validating necessary if unprofitable work on the other. As in most things, a balanced view is wisest here, and perhaps BVA is merely a short-hand for such a view. BVA, like NVA is waste. However, there are some necessary and unavoidable wastes.

Traffic lights are on all night, even when cars aren’t available, because no one has figured out an efficient way of turning them off until cars appear. It’s necessary infrastructure. But it is waste. It’s power being consumed without result.

A full highway is a jammed highway. Having about 15-20% capacity under-used actually tends to optimize the on-ramp-to-off-ramp cycle time. Here is unused roadway, where clearly one could fit on more cars. Yet, according to queueing theory, this localized “waste” is necessary in that it optimizes the whole system. Such system-supporting overhead is counterintuitive, but bears itself out in many natural systems.

The process of tracking project progress does not improve the final product, but it aids in the organization of the corporation/entity that is providing the initial funding, and satisfies necessary requirements that are not direct from the customer. It may result in better resource allocation, for example. The daily meeting is time not spent on the product, but those 5-15 minutes can unjam horrible project roadblocks. Eliminating this “NVA” or “BVA” step would be catastrophic for the whole system.

Because BVA, like NVA, is waste, it should always be examined for reduction and elimination. Unlike other NVA, however, I would argue that BVA is that minimum NVA activity that cannot be trimmed, without unduely sacrificing the effort as a whole. By calling it NVA we keep it in perspective. Perhaps it might be better called “unavoidable non-value added” (UNVA) activity. It’s value is not direct, and it is effort and resources taken away from the customer. Where possible, it should be eliminated as NVA. However, those who perform these functions can rest assured that, once the process is leaned-out, what they are doing is unavoidable and necessary work.

BVA (UNVA) can be a very useful tool for clarifying process, so long as the analyst doesn’t get sloppy about treating it as waste.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Generalizing Specialists

The term “generalizing specialists” has come to mean an individual who has a particular area of deep expertise but also has experience in a large number of other areas that may not be directly related to their core area. This type of person typically has strong talent in their specialty but also has a generally strong talent for learning new skills and ideas quickly. The origin of the term seems to be in the software industry referring to programmers who can do other software-development related tasks.

In self-organizing teams, a generalizing specialist is a more valuable team member than a pure specialist. The pure specialist often has an attitude that they should not need to do work outside their specialty. This can be destructive to the team’s morale. On the other hand, the generalizing specialist is willing and able to learn new skills – to stretch as the needs of the team change. And since change is natural, this is an essential attitude for team members.

However, we are usually trained, and strongly encouraged to have a deep specialty. This approach to education and training is a natural consequence to the typical organizational model for work and society. Therefore, if a team is converting to agile work methods, people need to be coached to stretch themselves and learn new things. For some people, particularly those who already have multiple hobbies outside work, this is an easy transition to make. For others, it is a very difficult transition. In some extreme cases, this may call for the removal of someone from the team. (Note: I have never seen this myself and I only mention it with great reservation. I strongly feel that only those who could be called “ill” will be so incapable of changing their way of working. For other recalcitrants, it is usually a matter of motivation.)

Other terms that are similar to “generalizing specialist” include “craftsperson”, “renaissance man”, and “polymath“.


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Memory and Mystery

My father, Garry Berteig, recently took a trip to China to visit my brother in Beijing. Garry is an artist and an educator of great skill and insight. While there, he had the following insight:

Memory (traditional forms) is undone by Mystery (abstract forms). The next step is to combine the two into new forms in a postmodern sense… unity through diversity.

I believe this can be related to the idea of levels of mastery which I first encountered in Alistair Cockburns excellent book “Agile Software Development”. Since I don’t have the book in front of me, I have to go from memory. First there is rote learning, memorization of predefined forms. Then comes understanding of why the forms are the way they are. Finally comes the wisdom and experience to innovate on the forms.

If anyone else has any ideas about this, I would love to discuss them!


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Berteig
Upcoming Courses
View Full Course Schedule
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM)
Toronto
C$1595.00
Feb 25
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO)
Toronto
C$1795.00
Feb 27
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Professional - ScrumMaster® (CSP-SM)
Online
C$2199.00
Feb 29
2020
Details
How to get AWS® Certification with BERTEIG [WEBINAR]
Online
C$0.00
Mar 3
2020
Details
Team Kanban Practitioner® (TKP)
Toronto
C$1195.00
Mar 4
2020
Details
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster® (A-CSM)
Online
C$1599.00
Mar 6
2020
Details
Agile Coaching at [YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE]
GTA
C$2000.00
Mar 6
2020
Details
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster® (A-CSM)
Online
C$1599.00
Mar 7
2020
Details
Kanban System Design® (KMP I)
Vancouver
C$1795.00
Mar 9
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I)
Toronto
C$1495.00
Mar 9
2020
Details
Leading SAFe® with SA Certification (+FREE Scaling Workshop)
Toronto
C$1395.00
Mar 10
2020
Details
BERTEIG Real Agility Series: Essential Agile Metrics for Business
Online
C$0.00
Mar 12
2020
Details
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster® (A-CSM)
Online
C$1599.00
Mar 20
2020
Details
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster® (A-CSM)
Online
C$1599.00
Mar 21
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM)
Toronto
C$1355.75
Mar 24
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO)
Toronto
C$1525.75
Mar 26
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM)
London
C$1525.75
Mar 30
2020
Details
Kanban System Design® (KMP I)
Toronto
C$1525.75
Mar 31
2020
Details
Kanban Management Professional® (KMP II)
Toronto
C$1525.75
Apr 2
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM)
Toronto
C$1355.75
Apr 7
2020
Details
Licensed Scrum Master Product Owner® (LSMPO)
Toronto
C$1695.75
Apr 14
2020
Details
Team Kanban Practitioner® (TKP)
Toronto
C$1015.75
Apr 14
2020
Details
BERTEIG Real Agility Series: The Cloud - Supercharge Your Agillty
Online
C$0.00
Apr 20
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM)
Toronto
C$1355.75
Apr 21
2020
Details
Agile Coaching at [YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE]
GTA
C$2500.00
Apr 22
2020
Details
AWS® Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Level [Live or Virtual]
Toronto
C$1865.75
Apr 22
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO)
Toronto
C$1525.75
Apr 23
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I) [PSF Courseware]
Toronto
C$1270.75
Apr 27
2020
Details
Coach Skills for the Agile Workplace® (IPC-ACC)
Toronto
C$2020.00
Apr 27
2020
Details
Facilitation Skills for the Agile Workplace® (ICP-ATF)
Toronto
C$1500.00
Apr 30
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM)
Toronto
C$1355.75
May 19
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO)
Toronto
C$1525.75
May 21
2020
Details
Agile Coaching at [YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE]
GTA
C$2500.00
May 21
2020
Details
Introduction to Agile Ways of Working
Toronto
C$424.15
May 21
2020
Details
BERTEIG Real Agility Series: Expose Dependencies and Create Opportunity to Deliver Faster!
Online
C$0.00
May 22
2020
Details
Kanban System Design® (KMP I)
Toronto
C$1525.75
May 26
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I)
Toronto
C$1270.75
May 26
2020
Details
Team Kanban Practitioner® (TKP)
Toronto
C$1015.75
May 29
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM)
Toronto
C$1355.75
Jun 2
2020
Details
Coach Skills for the Agile Workplace® (IPC-ACC)
Waterloo
C$2020.00
Jun 15
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I)
Toronto
C$1270.75
Jun 16
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM)
Toronto
C$1355.75
Jun 16
2020
Details
Transforming Organizations with Agile Leadership
Toronto
C$424.15
Jun 18
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO)
Toronto
C$1525.75
Jun 18
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I)
Toronto
C$1270.75
Jul 28
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I)
Toronto
C$1270.75
Aug 25
2020
Details
Coach Skills for the Agile Workplace® (IPC-ACC)
Toronto
C$2020.00
Sep 2
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I)
Toronto
C$1270.75
Sep 29
2020
Details
Coach Skills for the Agile Workplace® (IPC-ACC)
Toronto
C$2018.00
Nov 2
2020
Details