I'm giving two workshops on Agile Retrospectives and Value with Agile and Lean at the Agile Greece Summit 2016. Ticket sales has started, normal price for each workshop is €480. You get a discount if you also attend the Agile Greece Summit on September. All events take place in Athens, the beautiful capital of Greece. Continue reading →
Targetprocess v.3.8.8: Custom Fields ordering in entity views, Text widget for Dashboards, minor design changes, bug fixes
Do you use a lot of custom fields? Now you can change the order in which they are displayed! Place the most important Custom Fields at the top of the list, or group them by category to make your views more readable and adaptable to your needs.
For example, let's say you have the following list of Custom fields for a Project:
Which displays like this in a Project view:
You might decide you want to see all budget fields first. To do this, open the Custom Fields menu in Settings, hover the mouse over the corresponding field, and pull it into the position you want to see it on the view:
Now, budgets will be displayed first:
A new text widget has been added to the widgets on Dashboard. Now, you can easily write up important details about current Project status and attach this information to your Dashboard.
We've redesigned the progress bar and made general improvements to optimize:
- card hover
- cards selection
- display of active entities
- entity deletion
- background highlighting
- system performance
- Fixed image copy/paste duplication in Description
- Fixed issue with password restore for inactive users
- Fixed an issue with TFS Plugin not working with Visual Studio 2015
- Fixed support for HTTP byte range request in tpondemand
- Fixed the "Follow Activity" widget
Do you really know how your agile teams are doing?
As organizations transform to agile and stand-up multiple teams it becomes almost impossible to see how healthy all those teams are in a consistent way. This is an important question not just for leaders, but for the teams themselves to understand the areas where they need to improve. Here’s a typical view of what happens today to answer this question:
- Every agile coach or ScrumMaster creates their own survey or evaluation of team health and maturity.
- We leverage excel sheets to analyze the data which could get complicated and take weeks/months to analyze.
- There is no consistent way of measuring health across many teams.
- Agile coaches are stretched too thin with no clear way to prioritize which teams need their help the most and which teams can use self-manage.
- Leaders and executives don’t have overall understanding of the health of the organization and where they can help. We tell them ‘agile is working! We FEEL we’re making big progress’ and then only share hard metrics to prove it.
When we talk about the health of teams, we shouldn’t just focus on the hard metrics and agile processes alone. This can lead to gaming of the data. The metrics that give us ‘predictive’ indicators actually come from the cultural and people side. This is called ‘mode 2’ of the bimodal movement according to Gartner. Susan Courtney, CIO of BCBS NE, actually shared that “80% of their enterprise agile transformation was about the cultural side and 20% about the agile and process side”.
So… We started a couple of years ago digging deeper into this topic of team and organizational health measurement. Our objectives were simple:
- Have a holistic measurement of team health that is consistent across all teams so that we can identify common patterns and address them.
- Engage a team in a fun strategic deep-dive retrospective that gives them immediate value. We’ve learned this needs to be a facilitated conversation that allows them to analyze the results of their assessment in real-time so they can build an actionable growth plan.
- We wanted the results to appear in ONE engaging visual. We were tired of analyzing several graphs to make sense of the data. Hence the birth of the TeamHealth Radar.
- This needed to happen on a cadence. Similar to how teams do Release Planning every quarter or every Program Increment (PI) (if you’re using Scaled Agile Framework® or SAFe®), we wanted them to inspect and adapt quarterly and then work the growth items during each spring retrospective. Why? So growth is continuous and measurable.
What does business agility and organization health look like?
Let’s go 5,000 feet above before we start digging into TeamHealth. As we’ve worked with many companies attempting to transform themselves and looked at the common objectives for their transformation, four key pillars started to emerge:
Clarity: “Do we know who we are and why we exist? Do we have agreement on our core values and how we should behave? Do we know what’s the most important thing right now at the team, program, and portfolio levels?”
Focus: “Are we able to stay focused until we get something done or do we continue to run after shining objects?” “Do we allow our teams to finish what they started before adding new ideas to their backlog?” Most of the lack of focus actually comes from lack of enterprise adoption of agile planning and prioritization at the portfolio level. That’s for a different future blog!
Predictable Execution: “Do we all know how to execute work in a predictable way, whether is Kanban, Scrum, or Lean. Do we have a process for it where we all know what it means to be a product owner, how often do we plan our iterations, and what does velocity means for us?”
Healthy Culture: In the middle of that triangle are the healthy and happy people who enjoy what they are doing. This comes from their leaders shifting from command and control to servant leadership, and their teams learning strong collaboration, facilitation, and teamwork skills.
What We’ve Learned About Team Health
We’ve spent a few years now learning and improving our understanding of what makes an agile team (or any team) healthy through building AgilityHealth. The heart of this discovery has been the TeamHealth Radar below in addition to the format of the facilitated quarterly retrospective. This radar provides ‘qualitative’ measures that are critical to understanding how the team is doing and where they can improve. I’ll tackle including ‘quantitative’ later in future blog.
Download the TeamHealth flashcards to understand what ‘great’ and ‘not so great’ look like for each of the competencies we’ll explore below.
A healthy team should have clarity on their vision and purpose (why they exist) and their measure for success. They should have clarity on their plan; short term, mid-term, and long term. They should have clarity on their roles; what is expected of me individually and what is expected of others on my team? Another critical skill is becoming generalizing specialists. As a team member, am I open to learning new skills beyond my specialty so I can help my team when needed?
Performance is measured in two ways: confidence (the gut-check) and measurements.
Confidence, starting with the product owner, we ask: “As a product owner are you confident and satisfied that this team has the tools, the skills, and the desire to meet your current goals?” We ask the same question to the team members. We also engage the stakeholders outside of the team (users, sponsor, managers, other teams) by asking them for their confidence in the team AND their satisfaction using the NPS popular question ‘How likely are you to recommend working with our team to others?’
Measurement, we’ve gathered the top five drivers for companies adopting agile (see VersionOne State of Agile Report). These are: predictable velocity, time to market, value delivered, quality, and response to change.
A strong and healthy leadership team has a direct impact on the health of the overall health of an agile team. To assess their health, we focus on these roles: team facilitator (ScrumMaster), product owner, technical lead, and the functional manager of the team. We’ve found interesting relationships emerge. For example, there is a correlation between clarity (as an outcome), and leadership (as an input). This means, as an example, if you want the team to have clarity on vision, plans, and roles, they should have a healthy team facilitator and product owner.
We also believe it is important to assess the functional manager of the team due to the positive or negative influence their leadership can have on the team. We focus on servant leadership, people development, and process improvement. This is important in order to nudge managers to shift their focus on growing individuals, and improving their team process rather than task management and fire fighting.
Probably the most critical aspect of the health of a team is that layer below the surface. Part of the power of having this will be a facilitated TeamHealth retrospective each quarter, is it provides the team an opportunity to to dig deeper into this layer and open up conversations they usually don’t have during regular iteration retrospectives.
We measure cultural health by having each person rate the following ‘happiness’ statement on a 10-point scale “I enjoy working with this team”. We then dig into how well the team collaborates, do they trust and respect each other, are they allowed to be creative (and do they actually do it). Finally, do they hold each other accountable or are they still waiting for a boss to do that?
Healthy agile teams have a strong foundation. This is made up of basic principles of agility such as sustainable pace (not burning out), self-organization (empowering the teams to make decisions), technical excellence (which now has its own Technical Health radar), having the proper planning and estimating cadences, and facilitating effective meetings.
The team structure can also have a big impact on health and performance. We assess if the team has the right size and skills, and are they allocated and stable (reduce multi-tasking and pulling people out of the team). Finally is their workspace environment, virtual or co-located, and setup for collaboration?
Summary and Final Thoughts
As I’ve worked with many companies through their agile transformation it has become clear to me and to the leaders of these organizations that measurement is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have.
As you scale agile and stand-up tens or hundreds of agile teams, the visibility and transparency of how they’re doing is imperative to your future success. Seeing patterns across multiple teams and building much more targeted growth at the team, program, and portfolio/LOB levels takes your transformation to the next level of maturity. I hope you’ll share our vision and passion for leveraging the right set of metrics to enable business agility.
Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.
“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Winston Churchill
Time is an extremely important metric for POs, PMOs, and anyone else managing a team, a project or a portfolio of projects. In Targetprocess, the Timeline view can help you visualize time-related metrics, spot potential delays before they happen, and synchronize projects and teams with important deadlines and company milestones.
For example: want to see if your project will be delivered on time? Or perhaps you need to check which teams will be available to work on a critical project at a certain point in time? Switch to a Timeline view. Timelines can be useful for anyone who wants to get a high-level look at projects or view any time-related metrics.
To be more specific, Timelines allow you to visualize three key timeframes:
- Planned Time (a user-determined value for an item’s planned duration)
- Actual Cycle Time / Actual Time In-Progress (an automatically calculated value which shows how long an item has been “in progress”)
- Forecasted Time (an automatically calculated value for an item’s duration based on current effort over time)
To view your data on a Timeline, you can either set up a new view or apply a Timeline to a current view by clicking on the Timeline symbol at the top right of the screen. Keep in mind that some views will have no use as a Timeline because they are not related to time (such as a list of all users in the system).
Timelines can be shared as Tauboards with people outside the project team or your own organization (e.g. for explaining the roadmap to customers and stakeholders). Tauboards are updated in real-time, so nobody needs to waste time updating different versions of PDFs or PowerPoints; everyone sees the actual real-time status with just a click. This is especially helpful for high-level planning meetings (especially if any participants are working remotely).
You can see the Tauboard for Targetprocess’s public roadmap here.Different ways to use Timelines:
Setting expectations for delivery time is one of the most challenging aspects of project management. Timelines can help managers and team members get away from things such as closed deadlines and low quality releases (if they were the result of pressure from time emergencies). The Timeline view encourages transparency, and allows you to analyze what happened in the past, create plans for the future, and stay on track in the present.
There’s a myriad of uses for Timelines in Targetprocess. We’ll list some of them below.
PMOs and POs frequently use Timelines for:
- Portfolio management
- Project and program planning
The ability to display a dozen projects on one screen and show how they all coincide with each other can be invaluable. Users can get a visual comparison between planned and actual end dates, and also see automatic forecasts for when the projects are expected to be completed. Project managers can check estimations against real work to identify and correct any deviations from the plan.
Release Managers use Timelines to:
- Create an iteration or release schedule for teams
- Plan and track progress across many different releases
QA Managers prefer using Timelines for:
- Mapping test plans for a test run
Other team or project managers (including those listed above) can use Timelines to:
- View project allocations (seeing when and for how long people will be available)
- View individual allocations across several projects
People Allocations Management is a very wide topic because it’s used for all kind of activities. Timelines can help you visualize which people and teams are allocated to which projects and whether there are any potential conflicts which might occur. You can specify what people (teams and individuals) are required for a project, how long you need them for, and what percentage of their total working hours they can be allocated to a project.
When viewing allocations on a Timeline, cards for people or teams might sometimes be displayed as red. This happens when an individual or team is over-allocated. For example: each person gets a certain capacity amount (e.g. 40 hours a week) which can be allocated to different projects as a percent. If the Percent Participating fields (found in the Allocations tab) for all of the individual’s allocations add up to over 100%, then the card will turn red.Tips from Targetprocess veterans:
You can customize a Timeline’s cards to display blockers, relations, and many other units. It’s easy to drill down into these cards for more details. To customize which units are displayed on a Timeline’s cards, just go to the Customize Cards tab in the view’s setup.
Visual encoding can be used to highlight items which have been started, or to flag items that could be potentially delayed. To see potential delays, go to the visual encoding tab and input:
- ?ForecastEndDate > PlannedEndDate
To see items which have been started, input:
- ?EntityState is ‘InDev’
You may have to replace ‘InDev’ with whatever workflow stage you have set up for items in progress.
At the top of the Timeline view, you can find the global time period selector. This is where you select your desired overall date range.
How a Timeline view should not be used
At the bottom of the view, you can find the local time period selector, where you can select which section and how much of your time interval your Timeline view will show. New users sometimes get confused about this function, so I’ve included a short explanatory clip:
We won’t try to tell you how to run your projects… but we’d be remiss if we didn’t try to offer some advice. In our opinion, it’s not a good idea to use Timelines to compare the efficiency or productivity of teams. Timelines are about tracking your plans in time and identifying potential delays, rather than measuring productivity metrics.Why not a Gantt chart?
Why do we have Timeline view and not a Gantt chart? While we do see the value a Gantt chart can offer some kinds of projects, Targetprocess is an agile tool. Gantt charts assume that work will be completed in a linear fashion, and they don't do a good job of illustrating how the total amount of work left on a project changes with each iteration.
As Michael Dubakov (our CEO) mentioned in an earlier blog post on Gantt charts, “agile is not about tasks dependency and critical path management — it's about flexibility and temporary dependency."Additional reading:
Bandung, Indonesia (also known as the Paris of Java) has transformed over the years from a small idyllic town into a bustling metropolitan area with living space for more than 2.5 million people. Currently, 6,965,655 people live there, and it’s no surprise that education is paramount to the country’s growth.
Fast fact: Bandung has nearly 50 higher educational institutions.
More people are needed in the burgeoning IT sector if the country wants to stay ahead of the economic curve. So, what are they doing about this issue? The answer can be found at ProCodeCG.Simple Solutions through Education
ProCodeCG is an organization with a laser-like focus on providing training and education for those who want to learn how to code. Founded by Marisa Paryasto, the organization works hard to bring technical education to those who may not be able to get it otherwise—primarily children and women.
Paryasto reports that recently, and with much excitement, the government funded a new class called “Coding Mum.” The idea is to give mothers who are typically at home to raise children the opportunity to join the workforce from their home computers. Coding presents this opportunity.A Coding Mum student holds her son she brought to class.
This idea may sound a bit surprising to some readers, but according to Paryasto, technology is a very crucial need—especially programming. “I have seen lots of companies having difficulties hiring programmers and IT experts. They often have to import programmers, yet lots of local people are having problems getting jobs,” she explains.At a Coding Mum class, women can learn how to code in a supportive environment.
Her desire is to help give the country more than enough developers to choose from. “In Indonesia, women have just started to pursue higher education and careers,” reports Paryasto. She herself holds a PhD in electrical engineering and also teaches at several universities.
“However, there are very few women interested in engineering and technology,” she says. Paryasto is making it her life’s mission to ensure more females will catch up and reduce the disparity in 5 to 10 years.Teaching Mum to Code (Solving for the Immediate Need)
Where exactly did this idea come from? It seems like something that could be used worldwide. Certainly, North America struggles with this same issue, but the message is oftentimes that women must choose between a career and a family. Or, at the very least, one must do some serious sacrificing to have both. And, that’s just the way it is.
But, what if a woman could more easily find balance between caring for her family and having a career? Here’s an answer so simple it’s startling.
“We have these potential resources: full-time mums that can be educated and then work from home to earn money while also taking care of their families. After only 15 sessions of training with Coding Mum, companies can start hiring these women,” explains Paryasto.
But Coding Mum classes are more than just about teaching skills and fulfilling a need. It’s also about creating more role models for young girls. “As more women become aware of their capabilities and talents, more will pursue higher degrees and careers—including in technology. And these women will encourage other women to do the same,” reports Paryasto.Graduates of the Coding Mum classes are able to start looking for technology jobs and balance their home lives.
Many believe that if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. So, how would a young girl even aspire to be a coder if she doesn’t see any women role models in this field?
“Some of ProCodeCG parents have told me that they want their daughters to have coding skills that empower them to be confident and proud women in IT, just like their teachers. I also witness that more women are becoming founders of IT startups, and that inspires others to follow in their footsteps,” says Paryasto.Teaching Kids to Code (Solving for the Future)
“I’m passionate about creating a better future for this nation through the education of children,” she says. “Because of my technical education and my admiration of children, I started ProCodeCG as a community organization to give kids coding and information technology literacy.”
When she started the kids coding camps, she didn’t expect them to be as successful as they are. “One of our biggest achievements so far is that we have been able to maintain a regular kids coding class for more than a year and have taught more than 45 kids computer skills and programming languages,” says Paryasto. She explains that the kids even want to keep going after the prescribed time, so the classes continue.Teaching children technology helps ensures success for the future.
“The concept of ProCodeCG is to teach kids not only technical skills, but also leadership, sharing and teamwork. So what we do in class is encourage them to share what they know with each other, and let them teach in front of the class,” explains Paryasto.
With ProCodeCG teaching both leadership and coding skills to children and women, Bandung, Indonesia can expect a surge in ready to hire candidates now and in the future.
When asked about the type of technology Paryasto and her team uses, she mentions GitKraken—a new Git client for Windows, Mac and Linux.Children at ProCodeCG learn leadership skills, as well as coding.
“One member of our team introduced us to GitKraken a few weeks ago because we had problems monitoring Git activities during the Coding Mum class. It is very useful! It has a great GUI design and the features really help us to work more efficiently,” reports Paryasto. “Its drag and drop feature helps those who are not familiar with using Git with the command line.”GitKraken is a cross-platform Git client that is being used at ProCodeCG
As the creators of GitKraken and the #ItWasNeverADress campaign, we were delighted to discover Marisa Paryasto’s story. Similarly to Paryasto, we are focused on creating tools that empower all people to develop software.
We are excited where Paryasto will take ProCodeCG next, and we want to hear more inspirational stories about how amazing people are solving real problems! So please go share your story about challenges you’ve overcome as a person in the tech space and beyond, on itwasneveradress.com!
When I have looked for a development partner in the past, I have always started what skills, passion and personality am I looking for.
First, let's talk about what this project is not:
- This is not about creating a pretty website. This is about building the pipes between the various components.
- We need to be able communicate in English. (I have tried working through an interpreter, but I have not found it to work well).
- Our basic flow is Scrum and we do short sprints. We are not dogmatic, but we want to produce working software at least once per week. We would like you to know what Agile is about before we start.
- Our Product Owner cares about quality and robustness. So we would like someone who is into TDD, BDD or one of their cousins.
- Interest in the work (which is mostly about the plumbing right now!). We are looking at making WordPress plugins for own use and other glue. So the basic skills are PHP and TDD or BDD.
- Happy to work in a virtual team. Our team is based in locations from Europe to South East Asia. We use Skype, Hangout, Trello, and various cloud services.
- Happy with workloads of varying intensity. We have a clear project now, so you'll be pretty busy. I expect we are looking at a one to two month engagement. After that, we'll see. Maybe there will be phases where we are just in maintenance mode. We do expect a long life for our project and would like to come back to you when we need your skills again!
- We would prefer someone is independent or in a small partnership. Someone who has control over their own time. You'll be dealing with Principals, and we'd like to deal with a Principal too.
- Last but not least, we are looking for good chemistry. We want work to be fun! Actually, this is a must, too!
How to contact usTweet a screen shot of your latest daily build or other evidence that you know how to build reliable code! Just include @peterstev and @bindzus and #SBCDEV in the tweet, and we'll reach out to you!
Update 30.5.2016: Updated to better communicate our goals and priorities.
People often ask me, “When is agile right or not right for a project?” I’ve said before that if the team wants to go agile, that’s great. If the team doesn’t, don’t use agile.
That answer is insufficient. In addition to the team, we need management to not create a bad environment for agile. You might not have a great environment to start. But a bad environment? That’s a horror show.
I had a coaching conversation recently. My client has a typical problem. He sees multiple ways to accomplish the work. He’s taking ideas from agile and lean, and smashing them together to create a project approach that works for them, at their company. It’s not quite agile. And, that’s the sticking point.
His management wants to “go agile.” They have no idea what that means.They think agile is a way to get more good stuff faster with less cost. It’s possible that with agile approaches, they can achieve that as a by-product. To be honest, any approach that stops people from waiting for phases to finish will help. That’s not necessarily agile.
The management team does know about one of the well-known approaches. They want everyone to go through that training. My client doesn’t think this will work. He has a number of concerns:
- Management wants to control how people work at the project level. Management wants to define the iteration duration, what the standup questions will be, who will be on which team, and what the teams will do. (That’s enough right there, but there’s more. They are geographically dispersed across the globe. Going with an out-of-the-box solution does not make sense.)
- Management wants to use team measurements for personal compensation. Specifically, they want to use personal velocity as a way to compensate people. (This is stupid, dangerous and wrong.)
- Every manager my client has spoken with thinks that he or she does not need to change. Only the tech people need to change. (They could not be more mistaken.)
If you work in an agile organization, you know the problems with these assumptions.
Teams manage their own work: their intake is via the Product Owner. They decide how to work, flowing work through the team. Hopefully, the team focuses on their throughput, not who does what.
Remember, Velocity is Not Acceleration. When managers abuse velocity and use it to measure the team members (not even the entire team!), they create schedule games and a toxic team environment. At best, a manager’s abuse of velocity leads to people taking shortcuts and incurring technical debt. At worse, it destroys teamwork.
Managers can create the environment in which people can succeed. Especially in agile and lean, managers do not have to “incent” people, or push people to do well. People will do a good job because they get feedback often and they want to. When managers attempt to manipulate an environment to deliver more with less work (what they think agile is), I’m not sure if anyone can succeed.
I asked my client if the managers understood what agile might mean for them, as managers. He was sure the managers had no idea.
I suggested that trying agile in this environment would give agile a bad name in the organization. I suggested these alternatives:
- Ask about the three questions that might help the managers articulate their goals. See Define Your Agile Success.
- Do a simulation with management to have them feel what agile is like.
- Explain the system of agile and how the ideas that management have is not helpful.
- Request a reasonable environment for a short-ish timebox (I was thinking about a month, maybe two months) to show management that their ideas are not the only ideas that could work. I suggested a number of measures my client could suggest to his management.
Remember, agile is a cultural change, not merely a project management framework. Instead of agile, consider using all the ideas of agile to show steady progress and decide how to influence your managers.
Instead of agile, consider using all the ideas of agile ( for example, teamwork to deliver small chunks of value) to show steady progress and decide how to influence your managers. Don’t ask teams to be collaborative when management wants to stay command-and-control.
Wake up, get dressed, go to work, go to lunch, go home, etc., etc., etc. Each of these decisions is made over and over again in what might be called a routine. As part of this sequence, work is done whether simple or complex and the outcome is typically valuable.
What happens when this “routine” is changed for some un-anticipated reason causing a detour? Was there a problem or not? Was the end result less value created? Festinger coined the term “Cognitive dissonance to describe inconsistencies in our understanding which can cause stress”. If this identified inconsistency can cause anxiety leading to failure, could it be that consistency will have the opposite effect and lead to success?
According to VersionOne’s 10th annual State of Agile Report, 43% of the respondents rated consistency the most important success factor when scaling agile, followed by implementation of a common tool across teams (40%), and agile consultants or trainers (40%) were cited as the top three tips for successfully scaling agile.
What is it?
Consistency Defined – agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole. We know there are many parts to our lives, some of which are complicated and others can be classified as simple. An executive in a company might have as part of their daily routine dropping their kids at school and then spending the rest of the day re-structuring companies in which they serve. This combination of decisions can get convoluted quickly if there is not a certain “agreement or harmony” of the parts that make up the day.
In this small case, a traffic problem can cause the corporate world to be delayed in a strategic decision. These are the decisions that need more time, research, and analysis as seen through a bigger lens. Consistency in the simple decisions allow for more time to be spent on the complex ideas and solutions.
Agile software development values keeping things as simple as possible. One of the Agile Manifesto’s principles is “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential”. Things like people, process, terminology, events, and locations can all contribute to a complex work environment. As more decision points are added to any project, complexity increases. Scaling agile contributes directly into this increasing cognitive map and can lead to a less harmonic result.
Why is it important?
When people are added to teams, there is a need for existing members to take time out of the regular schedule for assimilation into the workflow. This typically involves sharing of information, team culture, and idiosyncrasies associated with this group seen or unseen. The routine is changed.
With scaling, teams are being added to teams creating many more points of reference, collaboration, and potential confusion. Consistency is important because confusion creeps in which produces change and can lead to chaos. The chaos factor will hold back teams from delivering on a regular basis.
Robinson and Rose stated, “Often, in the tension of a chaotic stage, team members simply start doing things to burn off the emotional energy. The difficulty with this is that the activity is often not well-thought-out and can actually have nothing to do with the actions that they need to take to be successful.”
Similarly, changes in process, can have the same effect. Like a detour on the way to the office, a small change can signal a disruption in success. Following well-known and mature processes can facilitate the ability to keep moving forward. A common cadence will help settle the dust of simple questions like when and where, so the complex issues are allocated more time and effort.
Bell and Raiffa posited, “Many of the central issues of our time are questions of how we use limited information and limited computational capacity to deal with enormous problems whose shape we barely grasp.”
With this limitation already acknowledged, how can we increase consistency?
How do we do it?
Brief analysis of the ceremonies a group does can shed light into what is “consistent” and what might need to change. Start with the people because this affects everything else. I know of one company that has set a Service Level Agreement (SLA) on contracted teams to support consistency so their Bounce Rate stays small. People naturally form routines and look for simple answers. Self-organization can help to surface inconsistencies and supports faster acceptance of change. Also, look at the process, culture, terminology, and location as indicators for or against consistency.
Getting to agreement or harmony can take agile teams some time; however evidence shows that consistency will enhance success.
Find out more by downloading the 10th annual State of Agile Report and reviewing archives of past reports.
Decision Making: Its Logic and Practice
By Byron M. Roth, John D. Mullen
Teams for a New Generation: A Facilitator’s Field Guide
By Greg Robinson, Mark Rose
Decision Making: Descriptive, Normative, and Prescriptive Interactions
By David E. Bell, Howard Raiffa
State of Agile is a trademark of VersionOne Inc.
The aim of agile retrospectives is to come up with improvement actions. Having too many actions from retrospectives makes it harder for teams to improve, it's actually better to come up with less actions in stead of more in a retrospective. It's quality over quantity for actions. Here's some ideas on how to come up with less actions to get more done. Continue reading →
SPRINT METAL is an industrial company based in Germany that specializes in producing fine and ultra-fine metal wire. The fine wire industry is characterized by formidable requirements for flexibility, but SPRINT METAL has operated successfully in this competitive market for 25 years. They follow a Kaizen culture, and their commitment to continuous improvement has enabled them to improve employee engagement and achieve democracy and transparency across the whole organization.Practicing transparency:
Kaizen is not just about improving business processes; its true function is comprehensive improvement at every level. In a successful Kaizen environment, employees receive as much value as the company. Team members are able to develop their skills and be an important part of the system, rather than a cog in the machine. The free exchange of information is promoted, and anyone can contribute new ideas for improvement. Safety requirements and the overall well-being of employees are also given careful attention.
Following these principles, SPRINT METAL tries to foster an environment of open communication at their factory. Employees from all levels of the hierarchy are encouraged to send feedback and ideas up the ladder. Department heads use Targetprocess’s Bug Tracking functionality (with Bugs renamed as Messages) to manage such communication so that all internal messages (production error tickets, requests, suggestions, ideas for improvement, etc.) receive documented attention.
With this system, top-level management can give instructions, department managers can document errors, and team members at the operational level can send suggestions or requests up the hierarchy. SPRINT METAL has also created special views to facilitate internal meetings. Meeting results are logged as comments on the meeting entity (which is also represented as a Bug).The benefits of open communication:
The careful attention that internal communications receive helps to enable the culture of trust dictated by the Kaizen approach. Before SPRINT METAL adopted Targetprocess, meeting minutes and employee messages would often get lost in mountains of paper and nonuniform Excel sheets. Now, everything is available from one central location, and no employee messages or important meeting minutes can be forgotten.
In addition to the transparency boost this system provides, team members also feel listened-to because any suggestions, requests, or other messages they submit receive noticeable attention. Participation in any actions or initiatives is also highly visible; this encourages team members from every level of the hierarchy to take a greater participatory role in process improvements and high-level operations.
This high visibility ensures that contributions from individuals don’t just get swept under the rug; team members actually receive recognition for their suggestions. This is monumentally important for nurturing skill development and team confidence. It’s notoriously difficult to keep up morale in a factory setting, but employees at SPRINT METAL seem to be happy with the way things are. And, if anyone does have a problem with their worklife, they can easily make their concerns known to management.Facilitating collaboration with software:
Because many employees work with factory equipment and do not use computers in their daily work, operational workers submit their requests and suggestions manually through handwritten notes, text messages, or their preferred medium. Department managers then place these messages into the appropriate project within Targetprocess. The 11 pillars of work at SPRINT METAL make up the different projects, so messages are grouped by whichever pillar (project or category) they are most related to:
Team members that don’t have access to Targetprocess can still check on the status of messages by logging into SPRINT METAL’s internal system, where all relevant views have been made available to employees. A monitor has been also set up in the factory to display completed requests.
There are many different views for Targetprocess users at SPRINT METAL to see messages and actions, including:
- An overview of all messages in the system - these can be grouped by category, status, and priority
- A team-level view of messages for each department
- An individual-level view for users to see messages by responsible person or by author
- Views for new messages - these are used weekly by the board to process messages
- Views for done messages - these are used for reporting and analysis
- Views to see actions for each work pillar (project) - these are used by the people responsible for each respective project
SPRINT METAL has altered the standard workflow taxonomy and customized the cards in Targetprocess to reflect their communication-centric process. Custom Fields are used to measure things like visibility, effectiveness, and what medium was used to submit the message.
Visual encoding is used to facilitate prioritization of all incoming messages. If an item has a high business value (such as emergency maintenance), it is usually assigned a planned end date. If a card moves past the planned end date without being closed, it turns red. To make quick analysis of views easier, new messages are colored green, and ‘done’ messages are colored blue.To summarize:
SPRINT METAL practices a Kaizen culture characterized by openness and transparency. Their process for internal communications allows for flexibility in the management hierarchy, from the bottom-up and top-down. Employees at all levels have the opportunity to develop their skills and make visible contributions to operations. Their process and culture allows them to meet the ambitious market requirements of the fine-wire industry.
SPRINT METAL’s use of Targetprocess has enabled them to improve standardization, transparency, democracy, and employee participation. Bug Tracking is used to track incoming messages (tickets, requests, ideas, etc.), actions taken, and internal meetings.
In the future, SPRINT METAL would like to improve their process for messaging so they can reduce similar messages coming from different employees. This will allow them to put a greater focus on the quality (rather than quantity) of their responses. They would also like to see more options for advanced reporting in Targetprocess -- something which is on our roadmap for 2016.