Hierarchie oder Innovation? – Unternehmen müssen sich entscheiden!

Am Freitag veröffentlichte die Süddeutsche Zeitung einen Artikel, auf den ich schon seit Wochen gespannt war: Was sind eigentlich die Root-Causes des Abgasskandals bei VW? Wie konnte eine falsche und illegale Entscheidung getroffen und über Jahre aufrechterhalten werden, bei der es so offensichtlich war, dass sie dem Unternehmen bei der Aufdeckung so massiv schaden würde?

Der Artikel von Caspar Busse und Alexander Hagelüken „Nie mehr rumschreien“ beginnt mit einem Zitat aus Gesprächen mit VW-Mitarbeitern: „Wer aufgemuckt hat, ist niedergebrüllt worden“. – Sie berichten von einer Firmenkultur, die weder Kritik noch alternative Lösungen zuließ.

Sie zitieren Psychologieprofessoren und Wirtschaftsforscher, die klar die Nachteile hierarchischer Strukturen im schnellen Wandel des 21. Jahrhunderts ansprechen und auf Beispiele anderer Konzerne verweisen, die den Wandel geschafft haben oder auf dem Weg dahin sind. Guido Hertel, Direktor des Instituts für Psychologie an der Uni Münster, erklärt, Globalisierung, Digitalisierung und kürzere Produktzyklen sprächen dafür, die Mitarbeiter stärker an Entscheidungen zu beteiligen. Die Firmen würden so schneller und effektiver: „Viele Konzerne führen flache Projektstrukturen ein, um flexibel und innovativ zu sein“.

Post-Chef Frank Appel wird damit zitiert, der ganze Konzern müsse über Vertrauen geführt werden, um die maximale Leistung der Mitarbeiter zu erhalten: „Wenn man Vertrauen geschenkt bekommt, schüttet man Glückshormone aus, ähnlich wie beim Verlieben “ und „Am Ende kommt es natürlich darauf an, wie man mit Kritik und eingestandenen Fehlern umgeht“.

Logisch, dass VW-Konzernchef Matthias Müller einen Kulturwandel ankündigt, wonach frisches Denken und offenes Äußern von Zweifeln möglich sein sollen. Im Interview mit Thomas Sattelberger, ehemals Personalvorstand bei Continental und der Telekom, in derselben Ausgabe, sagt dieser allerdings zum Thema Kulturwandel für VW: „Es müssen die alten Seilschaften aufgebrochen werden, in denen einer wie der neue Oberkontrolleur Pötsch hängt. Dann müssen die Systeme der Zielsetzung, Beförderung, Vergütung und die Privilegien radikal überprüft werden. […]. Am Ende muss das Führungstraining auf den Kopf gestellt werden, um offene Reflexion und Selbstkritik zu erreichen.“ Und „VW erzeugt mit seinen Rekrutierungen und Beförderungen Klone. Mir sagte ein junger VW-Ingenieur, er hätte als Erstes das Gewerkschaftsbuch unterschreiben müssen. So bricht man ideologisch das Genick. Man kommt nur durch Wohlverhalten nach oben. Eine gute Firma fördert Querdenker und Einsteiger.“

Diese ganzen Erkenntnisse sind ja nicht neu. Es gibt ja in der Wirtschaft weit über Deutschland hinaus die Bewegung in Richtung Werteorientierung und Selbstorganisation in flachen Hierarchien oder gar ohne Hierarchien, die mit dem Thema „Augenhöhe“ angesprochen werden. Der CEO von 3M, William Mc.Knight, führte schon seit den 30er Jahren die Delegation von Verantwortung und Entscheidungskompetenz an Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter ein und forderte 1948 in seiner Business-Philosophie eine fehlertolerante Kultur: „Manager, die destruktive Kritik äußern, wenn jemand einen Fehler macht, töten den Drang zur Initiative in den Mitarbeitern ab.“

In den 80er Jahren begann der radikale demokratische Wandel der bereits in anderen Posts erwähnten Firma SemCo, der zu einer beispiellosen Steigerung von Rentabilität und Dieversifizierung führte.

Nach 2000 haben z.B. Firmen wie Ericsson einen massiven Wertewandel angestoßen, mit dem auch eine tiefgreifende Änderung der Firmenkultur einhergeht. Der Finnische R&D-Leiter Harri Oikarinen verdeutlichte bei der XP2015-Konferenz in Helsinki, dass das Bild der Firma zunehmend von der Hierarchie zum Netzwerk geht, und die Manager von einst schrittweise von „Leadern“ und „Enablern“ abgelöst werden.

Wie geht nun der Kulturwandel vor sich? – Interessanterweise sehen die Autoren der Artikel in der Süddeutschen Themen wie Agiles Projektmanagement auch kritisch:

Der Soziologe Norbert Huchler vom Münchner Institut für Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung habe beobachtet, dass sich in als modern gepriesenen Organisationsformen wie Zielvereinbarungen oder agilem Projektmanagement oft mehr Hierarchie versteckt als gedacht. Etwa, wenn Mitarbeitern in einem Team der nächste Arbeitsschritt vorgestellt wird und sie abschätzen sollen, wie lange sie brauchen – wodurch ein Unterbietungswettbewerb entsteht. „Das sind letztlich Instrumente, um den Leistungsdruck hochzuhalten. Sie folgen dem Menschenbild, wonach Beschäftigte nichts mehr tun, wenn der Chef weniger kontrolliert.“

Klar, bei solchen Aussagen, die die „klassischen“ Zielvereinbarungen mit der „agilen“ Abschätzung von Arbeitspaketen in einen Topf werfen, schütteln sich erst mal die Fachleute. Man darf aber nicht vergessen, dass Methoden nie im größten Teil der Fälle vollständig und richtig angewendet werden, sondern gerade die Agilität ja oft in der untersten Hierarchieebene stecken bleibt, und letztlich nur mehr Transparenz nach oben die Folge ist – ohne eine entsprechende Umsetzung von Vertrauen und Transparenz nach unten, ohne echte Selbstorganisation, ohne Pull-Prinzip, und ohne Einfluss der Mitarbeiter darauf, mit welchen Mitteln sie welche Projekte realisieren, inklusive ihrer notwendigen ständigen Weiterbildung.

Claudio Perrone stellt das mit diesem sehr treffenden Bild in seinem Vortrag „Terraforming Organizations“ dar, wo es genau darum geht, den Kulturwandel in Richtung Agilität über die unterste Ebene hinaus zu bringen:

Slide from "Terraforming Organizations" by Claudio Perrone.

Slide from „Terraforming Organizations“ by Claudio Perrone.

Wenn die gesamte Hierarchie der Organisation immer noch dem „X-Modell“ des Menschen folgt – „Menschen müssen kontrolliert und überwacht werden“-, während das Agile Projektmanagement vom „Y-Modell“ ausgeht – „Menschen wollen sich entwickeln und großartiges leisten“, wird eine agile Transition immer unvollständig sein und nur dazu führen, dass Unmengen von sinnloser Arbeit mit höherer Effizienz durch die Teams getrieben wird. Noch dazu wird dabei ignoriert, dass Agilität eine nachhaltige Arbeitsmenge und –geschwindigkeit erfordert („sustainable pace“), die Teams sich ständig weiterbilden und ständig ihre Vorgehensweise verbessern verbessern müssen.

Wie der große Management-Guru Peter Drucker sagte, gibt es nicht so nutzloses, wie etwas effizient zu tun, was überhaupt nicht getan werden sollte.

Agilität funktioniert also nur dann, wenn sie auf allen Entscheidungsebenen angewandt wird: Wenn schon die Auswahl der Projekte und neuen Produktmerkmalen nicht nach dem zufälligen Zusammentreffen eines Vorstandes mit einem einflussreichen Kunden im Golfclub erfolgt, sondern nach Kriterien, die den ganzen Markt betrachten, und durch die intensive Verwendung von Experimenten und Feedbackschleifen.Viele der neuen Software-Giganten, die in den letzten Jahren ganze Industrien vom Markt verdrängt haben, folgen dem „Lean Startup“- Muster mit Experimenten, kurzen Feedback-Zyklen und intensivem Kundeneinbezug, wie etwa Spotify und Netflix. So werden die Perlen unter den Ideen identifiziert, und sinnlose Zeitfresser landen recht zuverlässig im Papierkorb.

Daher ist es auch kein Zufall, dass in der bereits erwähnten Firma 3M seit den Zeiten von McKnight bis heute jeder Mitarbeiter 15% seiner Arbeitszeit einfach herumexperimentieren darf, ohne von irgendeinem Backlog zu arbeiten. Auch das ist Teil einer innovativen agilen Organisation, sei es in dieser Form, sei es in Form von „Ship it days“ oder „Hackathons“, die sich von der australischen Firma Atlassian aus in den letzten 10 Jahren über die IT-Welt verbreitet haben.

So schafft man Innovation und sorgt dafür, dass sie auch in Produkte umgesetzt wird.

Scaling Agile with Frameworks – a SAFe path to LeSS work?

Ok, I admit right away that am just fooling around with the names of the two known large scale agile frameworks in the title – SAFe is the Scaled Agile Framework by Dean Leffingwell and company, and LeSS is Large Scale Scrum by Bas Vodde and Craig Larman.

The first book I read about scaling agile was from Dean Leffingwell, in 2007. I met Bas Vodde at my first Scrum Gathering in Stockholm 2008, and after I heard him talk about feature teams, I bought the book about scaling agile by him and Craig Larman as well, and of course we tried to apply much of that during our agile transition at Siemens Healthcare SYNGO. The book came very helpful since it clarified many of the questions behind the simple mechanics of agile, e.g. which effects queues have on you development organization, or how should the organization structure adapt to agile, and which other topics or areas beyond R&D are concerned.

In the last couple of months various people kept asking me about “Should we apply a large-scale framework to our agile transition?” – and asking back I get the underlying questions, of course, will we be faster, safer, cheaper, avoid start-up problems, will we have to read less stuff and discuss less if there are solutions available online and even people rolling out the one or the other framework licensed by the respective framework’s prophet(s)?

OK, let’s see if they themselves come with a warning message, like the drugs do in Germany, a little paper full of text that is in each box.

 

LeSS

„LeSS is not “new and improved Scrum.” Rather, it is regular Scrum, an empirical process framework in which you can inspect and adapt to any method and work in a group of any size. Large-scale Scrum is a set of additional rules and the set of tips that we have seen work in large multi-team, multisite, and offshore agile development initiatives. These tips are experiments to try in the context of the classic Scrum framework.“ (http://less.works/less/principles/large_scale_scrum_is_scrum.html)

 

SAFe

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a proven knowledge base for implementing agile practices at enterprise scale.” “We, the contributors, offer this web version to the market in the hope that it will help all software development practitioners and team – as well as their employers – enjoz the satisfaction that comes from delivering ever-higher quality software at ever-faster speed” (http://www.scaledagileframework.com/about/)

OK, sounds good, but how can people start using it?

Now I switch to the “Implementation” page of SAFe: (http://www.scaledagileframework.com/implementing/)

Implementation is done in three steps, which come with lots of training and certification with trained and certified SAFe trainers: step 1 Change Agents, step 2 Management & Executives, step 3 teams and agile release trains – challenging, in 5 days per train, 8-12 Scrum teams per release train. Maybe it is intended for different kinds of enterprises than those I know, which have a lot of legacy to reflect about: structures, processes, products, codebases… and include properly into their new setup, so that they can go on delivering something to their customers.

 

So what do the LeSS guys say about implementation?

“These principles are crucial to an organizational LeSS adoption:

  • deep and narrow over broad and shallow
  • top-down and bottom-up
  • use volunteering”

“Prefer applying LeSS in one product really well over applying LeSS in many groups poorly.

Focus LeSS adoption effort on one product group, give them all the support they need, and ensure they work really well. This minimizes risk and if you fail it triggers a focused learning opportunity. And when you succeed it creates a positive “word on the floor” that’s vital nourishment for further adoption.”

And so on. I could not have phrased it better.

It reminds me of what a manager from another big company reported last year: lean and agile transitions worked great in their organizations which had self-chosen to transition with a mixed bottom-up/top-down approach, and where there were convinced local coaches. It did not work at all in organizations that were made “lean” through a big top-down rollout.

Frankly, I cannot imagine that any internal coaches who have neither seen nor done any agile work themselves, in product development teams on the ground, can be of much use in a large-scale rollout. So you need to start small, experiment, learn your own lessons.

By the way: yes, the LeSS guys are also offering trainings and even certifications. I would recommend to send people there who are already such local agile practitioners and have either worked in an agile team themselves for at least one year, or have been active participants in a transition team at smaller scale for at least the same time, and take the course in order to know more and improve, or roll out to a larger part of their organizations.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the SAFe framework can also a great source of inspiration and hints for solutions for organizations going agile in small or large-scale. I remember that we had a problem with making the product owner team feel responsible for prioritizing technical debt and technical improvements high enough, and we found a good example in SAFe how this can be solved: by agreeing on a percentage of the organization’s velocity dedicated to technical improvements by mutual agreement between architects and product owners, and then prioritization of actual technical backlog items by the architects.

Then only thing that I am very convinced about is that you cannot buy a large-scale agile transition, you do have to do it yourselves.

Self-organizing companies start to shape the world differently

The book „Reinventing Organizations“ by Frederic Laloux is a very special kind of economy book: it talks about self-organization in modern companies. This is a very hip topic today and one of the mega trends of the current decade.

reinventingOrganizationsInterestingly the author gives first the sociological and historical context of mankind since Stone Age. He relates to each context the types of organizations that have been possible and that have mainly existed in this context: their basic assumptions about the world and about human beings, their ability to plan, to scale, to deal with complexity and to react to unexpected events. During all these ages, it was possible that organizations with totally different value systems and organization level co-exist and compete, and today they do as well. Now in the last couple of decades organizations emerge that are only possible because of the complex experience in the modern world, and that are able to self-organize on team level and organization level and evolve their own organization in very short cycles. He gives all these organizations roughly spectral colors to distinguish them.

In the context of companies, the following colors apply:

  • The amber organization is ordered hierarchically, and the hierarchy level of a person is already clear from the beginning. This is traditional school, army, church, and the start of industrialization.
  • In the orange organization, there is as well hierarchy, but a person can grow if he/she meets the goals that the company has set for him, and can earn more. These companies see mainly selfishness as driver for doing better and receiving a bonus. Both orange and amber companies have a “machine” model of the company.
  • The green organizations give everybody the same, rely on consensus, and want to do good things for the world. These are mainly social organizations, they can also be companies like the famous Berlin newspaper “taz”.Only good people can work in such organizations.

Now the new evolutionary-teal organizations have a fundamentally different view of the world and the human being: they trust in the common sense and the social sensitiveness of the individual, without postulating that everybody needs to be similar or even have similar needs and wishes. They trust people to collaborate across different goals and needs, and to bring all this into a common context that makes sense for all of them. They trust people to make different contributions and they trust the team to evaluate these. Human beings in a teal organization are trusted to be able to learn nearly without limits, going beyond job titles and role names in self-organizing cross-functional teams, learn about their customers and their needs, and improve the ability of their company to fulfill these needs. Seeing the company as a growing, living organism helps them to take much more good decisions than in the machine context.

This is no speculation – the author gives lots of examples from the work life of more than a dozen very different companies, here are four examples:

  • Buurtzong – a social company for elder care in the Netherlands with 7000 people
  • FAVI – a producer of special metal parts in France with 500 people
  • Morning Star – a food processing company from the US with 400-2400 people depending on the season
  • Sun Hydraulics – a global company for hydraulic components with 900 people

All these organizations, however different in location, purpose and size, have solved a couple of fundamental problems in similar ways.

  • Their basic structure is team oriented, with teams that are self-organizing and self-administering.
  • The teams care about hiring, pay and personal feedback
  • There are no middle managers, mainly there are only coaches, or they elect project managers for a certain project for a limited time
  • There is a high transparency of all information for everybody
  • Decision taking is not based on consensus, rather decisions can be driven by an individual after consulting, listening to and considering input from all relevant colleagues
  • A basic principle is trust instead of control – any adult can be trusted to take reasonable decisions
  • Most of the companies have an explicit value system that they have created with the members, and which new members will learn in trainings
  • Important training topics are communication, collaboration and handling conflict

In an earlier blog post I wrote about the Brazilian company Semco SA which started already beginning of the 1980 to transform into a self-organizing company. It does also a lot of things similarly. All of these companies are also very successful compared to competitors in their area, in growth, margin, and customer satisfaction. It also seems that they have a much higher ability to manage crisis and adapt to changing markets and situations than traditional hierarchical companies. So it can happen that these companies will be the most important actors in the 21st century’s markets. It would at least not be a surprise to me, because in the same way as the modern democracies are more able to sense things happening and react to them than it was the Soviet Union with their top-down 5-years-plans, a self-organized company relies on the senses, minds and hearts of many people, not of a few.

HenrikKniberg-CultureOverProcess-OrganicStructureStrangely, no software companies are mentioned in Frederic Laloux’ book. – Looking to the area of software development, the combination of self-organizing company culture with agile methods and lean startup principles seems to be the most successful in the last couple of years. In principle, lean startup and agile companies have the self-organizing company culture in their DNA. However, it can happen that it gets lost when the company grows, or the CEOs do not have a real good value system. An interesting case of a rapidly growing company with a genuine agile culture is Spotify – at least according to their agile coach Henrik Kniberg. In this presentation (video here, and the slides) he is talking about their agile company culture. There are many others said to fall into this category, like Google, Twitter, salesforce.com, Dropbox, Netflix, Streetspotr – at least all of them are using agile and lean startup methods from the beginning, yet it is not guaranteed that all these companies have also a self-organizing company culture in the organization above and around the teams. But there are much more of them than we know, and I am sure that soon there will be much more of these companies around, looking forward to it!

The hardest job in a lean/agile transition is with the managers

When you are doing a lean/agile transition in a traditional organization, definitely the hardest job is related to the management.
I already highlighted the role and responsibility of executives in a lean/agile transition in another post two years ago. The people on the working level get into their new roles and practices. They are constantly doing retrospectives and improving their work, and even driving improvement through the organization. They experiment, get feedback and learn from it.

Now what will the middle managers do when they are not frequently needed for fire fighting in the projects? How are they going to practice new skills and habits that they need in the new agile world? And how much of the newly created trust and self-organization can a manager destroy with some harsh enquiry to a team?

At the beginning, many of the managers are obviously more or less engaged in the transition itself. Managers will also sit together and find out how they can coach teams, how they can help people to grow, and how they should do now hiring, performance evaluation, and distribute salary increases and bonuses under agile circumstances.

However, also during the transition it is easy to stay in a command-and-control mode or at least frequently fall back into it. After that, it is getting worse. Managers are moving around in organizations, some leave the place, others join. These others may be joining the company or department for totally different reasons than wanting to be a servant leader, a coach for growing people. Maybe they just want to work in this area. Period.

Now we need practices by which the managers stay constantly engaged with lean and agile ideas.

Act-Your-Way_into_new-Thinking-640

One of these topics is Continuous Improvement. It is one of the two pillars of Lean. Hakan Forss explains this is his Toyota Kata presentation – see slides or video.It starts with a common vision for the process of the organization that can probably never reached, and realistic but challenging goals on their way there. Then a team or several teams are improving by experimenting with small changes towards a next target condition, in turn with measuring the results. A lot of learning is involved in this, for the participants as well as for the organization.

Managers can be part of a team for changing things, especially above the level of a single agile team, for solving organizational problems, problems with processes and tools – always following a common vision with the teams, of course. Or they can also train to be a coach for doing this change. Of course, they have to take care like any other coach, that they have practiced the improvement kata themselves often enough, probably with an external coach, before they try to coach someone else.

Managers need to study and practice lean values and practices that they apply to their work with the teams. This can happen in self-study groups with the other managers, and everybody applies it individually. The challenge is always how they are getting feedback to their behaviour.  A good starting point may be the book Management 3.0. by Jurgen Appelo, that give some backgrounds on how a team behaves as an adaptive complex system, and how to grow a team, how to stop demotivating it, and how the boundaries influence the behaviour. His new Management 3.0. Workout book has a lot of tools that managers can apply, from the kudo box to the delegation board, ready to use or to adapt to their organization. By using these tools they slightly change the way how they are treating teams and individuals, expression more respect for people, which happens to be the other pillar of Lean.

Apart from using lean and agile practices in their own work, managers should also do the famous „Gemba walks„. This means going to the people who are actually working, and listening to them, e.g. during their daily standup meetings. The main challenge here is to do it without disrupting or frustrating the teams, e.g. by listening to two sentences and then throwing in an „easy solution“ to a problem without having enough knowledge for really helping them. Instead, only when the team seems to be clueless they can ask a couple of good questions for enabling them to find a solution themselves.

I am curious to learn in which other ways companies get their managers into „lean mode“ and keep them actively thinking lean and practicing lean.

Agile India 2014 Conference – large scale distributed agile development

AgileIndia2014_LogoBig
For 10 years, the Agile Software Community of India has been holding this conference now, with ever growing numbers and great names from everywhere. With more than 1200 participants, more than 250 of these from other countries than India, extending from Norway to New Zealand, from Indonesia to Ukraine, and more than 300 women, Agile India 2014 was a huge and really diverse agile conference.
 In the previous years, I had already received positive impressions from the colleagues in Bangalore. This year I had the pleasure of participating for the first time myself, presenting the story of our Distributed Product Owner Team for an Agile Medical Development. The process of selection of topics and feedback was very well prepared and community based. While everybody could see the proposals, ask questions and comment on them, the members of the program committee took care that this would happen consistently, and did a lot of it themselves as well. For the topics selected by them, also an extended paper was necessary with a case study, which also underwent a feedback and approval process, in my case by Ravi Kumar and Pramod Sadalage .
During my presentation

During my presentation

Fortunately, I had work to do in India as well – start up trainings for a few new Scrum teams at our company – so I already had the justification for going. On the other hand, I had enough work to do so that I could not consider going to the other conference days, apart from the one I was speaking at. So I can only talk about the Offshore Distributed Agile track.

Todd Little presenting

Todd Little presenting

I enjoyed Todd Little’s keynote in the morning very much. One of the key messages that resonated most in me was „We need to treat remote teams not as coding monkeys but empowered Ewok.“ I hope as software specialist, you are familiar with the Star Wars universe and do not need to look them up in Jedipedia.Todd said exactly what we are trying to do in our big, distributed product development, and my mission to Bangalore was part of it: make the remote teams self-organizing, trusted members of our diverse product development universe. Only that in Todd’s presentation, it turned out that he only needed to add a few software developers with a domain specialist in Romania and a small test automation specialists’ team in Vietnam to his original group in the US – and they were already very successful. So: adding the right people for a good reason, valuing the individuals over corporate strategic outsourcing strategies.

The other talk I remember well was from Rajkumar Anantharaman from Intel, who stated „If you want to go lean and agile, first you need to get rid of Excel and PowerPoint“. This was of course not aimed at a nice PowerPoint by the Product Owner showing some functionality the users ask for, but at getting rid of the additional reporting needs that keep teams busy with overhead.
The venue was a bit resisting the actual number of people participating, it is certainly difficult to predict, but maybe another year they will be better off in a congress center. A difference with the European agile conferences I have been attending like ALE or XP was certainly that there were much more business-people than agile coaches hugging each others. Maybe even most agile coaches look like business people in Asia. In all cases it is very important going to India and seeing what is going on there, noticing how people discuss, what they hold as granted in agile, and what they have still doubts about.
At the panel discussion with Doc Norton (groupon) and Chad Wathington, ThoughtWorks Studios

Participation in the panel discussion with Doc Norton (groupon) and Chad Wathington, ThoughtWorks Studios

More or less, the other speakers confirmed what I have learned from our own experience: there is not the question whether or not agile is going to work with distributed organizations and teams in India, but how to make it work. You can do a pretty lot of things right or wrong, and even terribly wrong, but you can just as well be successful if you are doing many things right.  At the end of the track, there was a quite interesting panel discussion facilitated by Naresh Jain: Offshore Agile…An Oxymoron? There were a lot of interesting topics discussed. Where I could definitely contribute was when someone asked the panel whether they could just take a framework like SAFE and apply it to a big distributed product development organization to make it agile. According to my experience, though such frameworks can help, every organization has their own challenges, their constraints, and their organizational culture. Whatever lean-agile framework they will build, they need to build it on their own – but of course, taking as input the experiences of others, and agile frameworks as well as wonderful books like Bas Vodde’s and Craig Larman’s „Scaling lean and agile development“.
Photos used by courtesy of  Agile India (c)

Large Scale Agile at XP2013 Vienna – exchanging knowledge at a great conference!

From my perspective, the 14th International Conference on Agile Software Development XP2013 in Vienna was a great success. It took me to another level of confidence about what is needed to create and sustain a large scale agile organization.

The XP conferences are traditionally about programming and testing in an agile – XP – way, and organizing the team so that it supports XP practices. But they have grown into a conference that also covers  product ownership and design, leading agile teams and organizations, and even extending agile to the rest of the organization – this is agile real life in the industry.  What I like very much at XP conferences in general is the good mixture of experienced agile people from industry, some very well known consultants, and a lot of academic researchers who also are working close to industry about agile topics.

image

(Photo: Hubert Baumeister)

On the first day I got absorbed by the Executives & Managers Track with firsthand experience from four different companies: ABB, Ericsson, Johnson Controls and Nokia. Most valuable! The managers were speaking openly about what it takes to get agile, how their company transformation programs took one step after the other to establish agile on all levels. And this is still an unfinished journey, but it has a clear north. An important point from the talk of Hendrik Esser, who is Head of Portfolio and Technology Management at Ericsson, is

To embrace change, you have to change 3 things together
· Culture
· Practices and process
· Structure

You should never see agile as a process only, this will inevitably lead to failure. The most important cultural foundation for the agile transformation is building trust, and on top of the trust you can build transparency.

These three important transformations were mentioned by Per Branger from ABB in Sweden, but are basically identical to what Ericsson is doing:
· Continuous Portfolio Management
· Continuous Release Management
· Continuous Development

When they noticed at ABB that they are really a big software developing company, coming from a background of electrical engineering, they launched a massive knowledge and skills improvement program. The remarkable thing is that they measure progress by self-assessment of every developer against description of expected skills, and that the training comes in small portions and by self-assignment as well. Wiki based knowledge bases and Q&A tools that remind a bit of the famous stackoverflow website support the learning as well.  “Carrots, no sticks” opens also the path to using common tools.

Gregory Yon is Agile Coach at Johnson Controls and talked about how he is extending agile into the rest of the organization, to the non-development teams as well as convincing different levels of management from the agile values and needs. From him as well as from the other managers I learned that we can never communicate too much to higher management about the advantages of agile, and that we need  to measure things and compare with previous projects to show how we have advanced since the old times of waterfall.

Jorgen Hesselberg, Senior Manager, Enterprise Agile Transformation, Nokia (Chicago US) explained how they are using on all levels Agile Working Groups, mixed from management and project roles, to start and sustain agile transitions at each Business Unit, and keep them up and to extend agile to the whole company. The positive results of agile on the results as well as on the employee motivation are impressive.

My own presentation on our Distributed Product Owner Team for an Agile Medical Development was on the second day, and I loved the discussion with a couple of other speakers and participants about the needed knowledge and skills for this role, and the needs for communication in the PO team and with teams and customers. I have also learned that there is actually an open group of experts from industry and research with the goal to foster software product management excellence across industries, the International Software Product Management Association (ISPMA) , who are interested in collecting such practical experience, and are creating resources for professional software product management training.

At the academic track, I found a couple of presentations on the last day very interesting: A research paper by Jeanette Heidenberg, Max Weijola, Kirsi Mikkonen, and Ivan Porres – A Metrics Model to Measure the Impact of an Agile Transformation in Large Software Development Organizations asks whether an agile transformation was worth the effort. For this, they were looking for metrics that support agile values, focus on the whole organization, not individual or teams, and are applicable to both waterfall and agile projects. Also they should be feasible to collect for past and ongoing projects, in any size of project, and be objective and clear. They did an iterative approach with first formulating the goal, then ask practitioners for metrics used, compare them against their values and goals, and finally select a collection of metrics. They have some really helpful metrics that we can apply to learn how much we have already improved through agile, at least in some aspects.

The paper Continuous Release Planning in a Large-Scale Scrum Development Organization at Ericsson by Ville Heikkilä, Maria Paasivaara, Casper Lassenius, and Christian Engblom was complementing very well with the talk of Hendrik Esser, as they are exactly describing how the release planning for individual features works, and which experiences people at Ericsson had with this method.

Of course there were also great keynote speakers at XP2013 in Vienna, a helpful Open Space, a wonderful conference reception, and great conversations in the breaks.

image

As always, thank you very much for the photos, Hubert Baumeister.

The next XP conference will take place in May 2014 in Rome, which is also a nice place to go to.  I will convince some of our colleagues and managers of submitting a talk and participating – we have a lot of experience we can share!

Best Regards
Andrea

Slides for ScanDev 2013 DONE: distributed product owner team – strategies

One week to go for this year’s ScanDev conference in Gothenburg, and slides are done.

image

Topics covered are mainly:
Strategies for growing a distributed product owner team, when the problem space is very different from the normal experience world of a software developer. Strategies for communication and customer collaboration in the distributed setup.

For preparation, I made a lot of personal interviews with product owners on different hierarchy levels and multiple sites. I learned a lot about the reality behind our official agile framework, and how much the real success depends on people and their skills and goals.

To convert my knowledge into an interesting presentation I used a marvellous book, a classic: Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story by Jerry Weissman. What is very helpful in this book is that he tells you a lot of stories to make sure you know what you want to tell, to whom, and how you will bring this across to your audience. So I started to create my presentation on a lonely day at home, using hundreds of sticky notes on my personal whiteboard, instead of bothering with Outlook templates or -beware!- assistants. Then I selected a structure for the slides that would allow me to tell my story, and then I created each single slide on a sheet of paper, put them into the structure, re-ordered and finally bright them to the office.

image

There, of course, I had to take a corporate template, and also picked a lot of photos, that would this time nicely fit with the topic. As structure I had selected a pyramid. I created it with corporate colors, and let it build up throughout the slides.

At the beginning of this week, it was finished, and I submitted it for review and release. And -wow! -I got it released after considering a few remarks, in less than two days. I can say, the release process got much more agile since I first used it for an external presentation four years ago, when it still took me four weeks, but obviously as well my own professionalism in creating publications has increased a lot since then.

Speaking at ScanDev 2013 about our Distributed Product Owner Team @ Syngo.via

I am speaking at SCANDEV 2013

This week I received the news that my new talk has been accepted for SCANDEV 2013 on March 4th to 5th in Göteborg, Sweden. The title is „Distributed Product Owner Team @ Syngo.via“

What is it all about?

We are developing medical imaging and workflow software in an agile way with development teams distributed to several countries. One of the major challenges is how to set up and communicate within the Product Owner team.

  • There we have to deal with the distribution, e.g., have the Product Owner either onsite with her peers or with her Scrum team, travelling, or with proxy.
  • We need people who are good in two different fields of knowledge: medical and software development.
  • As a third issues, the environment of the customers may be different in different countries.
We have ramped up local Product Owners in different countries, have found local collaboration customers, and have developed  a set of communication channels and workshops how to synchronize Product Owners in the team, share a common vision and backlog with their Scrum teams, and collaborate with customers locally and globally.
While I am putting my presentation together, I would be interested very much in what my customers want to know about. You can ask me questions, and whatever is feasible I will include into my talk. So Product Ownership is being directly applied.

A great audiovisual 15 min training on Product Ownership

Yesterday a friend sent me the link to a great audiovisual mini-training on Product Ownership, that Henrik Kniberg just published on the CRISP blog http://blog.crisp.se/2012/10/25/henrikkniberg/agile-product-ownership-in-a-nutshell.

It is amazing. It does not only explain important aspects of the Product Owner role is an easy to understand way, but also visualizes central aspects of agile software development like fast feedback, velocity, and release forecast. And all of this in only 15 min!

The technique used reminds me of the famous „RSA Animate“ 10 min science videos. One of the most remarkable maybe the one explaining Dan Pink’s research about what motivates us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

Well done, Henrik!

Role and responsibility of executives in a lean/agile transition

1) Choose internal change agents carefully

Volunteers
Positive mind and change orientated
Sense of urgency
Capacity for reflection
Work level experience in software development
Transition team covers different project roles and organizational units
Involve line management
Involve product management / business people
Involve process / Quality Management early

2) Be sponsor to the transition team

Give your vision, or agree explicitly to vision and mission of the transition team
Tell them what the constraints are
Be interested in plans and results.
Reed at least one good book yourself that does not look like a Scrum Bible, but something explaining what may work and why.
Do not expect to have NO impact on project time lines, this is just wishful thinking.
Give a reasonable budget based on estimates of the transition team
Do not tell them how to make the transition. Rather be able to discuss organizational changes on their request.
Let the team choose external consultants, but ask these people a couple of tough questions before you contract them.

3) Take care about trust in your organization

Do you, and do your middle managers trust your teams to get their job done? This is an essential part of any lean/agile transition.
If you are still not there, expect transparency to grow at the project team level, but you have to inspire trust from the management level. You need to start! You need to express trust to your teams and act accordingly yourself.

4) Do not combine a lean/agile transition with negative measures

Especially, do not try to reduce headcount. This is directly counterproductive to encouraging people to share their knowledge.

5) Foster a learning organization

Expect your organization to be on a learning journey for more than the transition lasts. The agile principles expect you to hire the best people, and give them the environment so they can be productive. In traditional hierarchical companies, often people need to learn to learn again. And often the environment consists of crappy old tools that make them slow. You may have tons of legacy code without automated tests. They will not magically disappear at the agile transition. The teams have to learn and improve a lot until they will really feel agile.
You will see improvements very soon, but this is not the end of your journey.

6) Look for opportunities to benchmark your transition with others

As executive you should use your connections with your colleagues from other companies for exchanging with them and creating opportunities for the transition teams and different project roles for comparing and exchanging experience so that you all learn more quickly.