Organization

Famban

What is Famban? That is my own abbreviation of Family + Kanban! In other words, our attempt to visualise and keep track of all activities within our family. Can’t an ordinary kanban board solve that need? Of course, but we have made some additions that we find useful. It’s also quite fun to come up with a new name for something, I admit  🙂 .

”Famban

Famban in Favro

Setup

We use a collection in Favro with three boards:

  • Ongoing week (with one column for each day in the week – Monday to Sunday)
  • Next week (same setup as above)
  • Further ahead (with two columns; Coming – To keep track of things that are 2-4 weeks ahead & Later – to store stuff even further away).

Why have a bi-weekly schedule? It seems to fit our needs best. You could have a one week rolling schedule or four weeks instead, depending on your needs.  

We use color coding (called Tags in Favro) to visualise different types:

  • Recurring activities (Green) – Used for all recurring family activities, for example ice hockey school on Sundays for my son.
  • Activities (Blue) – To cover all “one off”-activities.
  • Travel (Red, not shown in picture above) – To keep track of an “activity” that spans more than one day.
  • Food (Purple, not shown in picture above) – We had an idea to keep recipes in here to also plan our dinners. To have 10-15 of our favourites to be able to spread them out during the two weeks and have some variation. We had not really succeeded in this though.

Operations

The operations of Famban is easy! Since Favro has a very good web interface for computers, together with apps for iOS and Android we can reach it everywhere all the time. This is the number one benefit of having a digital board like this!

It’s mainly me that maintains the Famban board. Every time an activity comes up, it’s added to one of the boards (ongoing week, next or further ahead).

Once a week, usually on Sunday, the next week is discussed and planned in more detail. Basically I then make “next week” the “current week” by switching places on the two boards (a simple drag and drop operation in Favro). I also change the week numbering (week 47, week 48 etc.). A trick here is to have double of all recurring activities, so you don’t need to copy them between the weeks.

Famban on fridge

”Famban

Our first attempt of Famban, was to put it up on the fridge. That is the most “central spot” in our home, here it’s seen multiple times per day by all family members. I made a physical version of the Famban board using several papers that I taped together. One problem was that it couldn’t be wider than the door of the fridge, and at the same time have the needed seven columns (one for each day in the week) and to be able to fit standard size stickies.  Therefore the “To-do” and “Done” sections were placed “below” the board.

This incarnation of Famban worked well at home, and we had daily morning meetings in front of it. The problem came when not at home, not being able to see it. Often the question came up during the day while at work, my wife called me and asked “Do we have something on Tuesday evening, or can I make arrangements with my friend X?”. That question was not possible to answer, it had to be handled later when at home again, that was inflexible so after a while this Famban board was not used.

Improvements

Here are some improvements that I have thought of, but not yet implemented:

  • When the kids get older and probably get even more recurring activities an improvement would be to add swim-lanes, one for each family member. That is supported in Favro.
  • To get the food planning up and running, adding nice pictures to the recipes would probably help!
  • We have lost the visibility by having the Famban put up on the fridge. That could be fixed by mounting a tablet device on the fridge, showing the Famban board 🙂

Summary

Famban is visualisation and family planning combined! I hope you liked this blog post, and that it inspires you to try something similar! As always, reach out to me if you have something to share!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Control Room 2.0

I have previously written about the “Control room” we are using. That blog post became quite popular, so I thought I should do an update showing what we have in the room today (all in the name of kaizen – I hope you don’t forget to do your continuous improvements?).

””Favorite

Team Kanban boards

The yellow circles shows some of the Kanban boards for our teams (not all are visible in the picture). They are pretty standard, except for one that is mirrored! You can read the story about why right here.

Shooting Target

Next up is our “shooting target” shown in the red circle. Here you can read more about that. Currently we use the “shooting target” to focus the work at the end of a product release. We put the release date in the middle “to aim for”, and then everybody sees what has to be done.

TV

In the middle of the room and in the blue circle we have our TV. This 4K TV shows status from our automated tests and bug tracking system. Here we can always see the current situation. Basically green means ”good” and normal, and everything else is deviances that we need to act upon. A desktop is connected to the TV to be able to show demos and support other discussions.

Circle of Life

In the grey circle our products lifecycle visualization is shown. Read more about it here. The “Circle of Life” started out very challenged (what is this really needed for?) but then the understanding of it, and thereby importance, has grown!

The work you do on your products differs a lot depending on which phases they are in. Now this is visualized. There might even be more changes to come, watch out for upcoming blog posts on that!

The Volcano

The Volcano shown in the green circle is our oldest visualization (apart from the team Kanban boards). It is the successor of The Arrow.  

Initially we had one swim lane per product within the volcano. That didn’t quite work out since a story (represented by a sticky) could in our case span several products. Now we have two swim lanes showing origin/ownership. Features are driven by product management, and foundation/platform are driven by the system architects group.

Summary

In total we have eight whiteboards in the room (not all of them are shown in the picture). Also present in the room is a sofa (for coziness), chairs and and a small table. Meetings in the ”control room” tends to be more informal than in a ordinary meeting room.

If I compare the “control room” now with the previous blog post (posted in May 2015), all visualizations have changed (apart from the Kanban boards)! That feels very comforting to know that we are able to add new stuff as we learn more, but also to fine-tune the existing things. What does your ”control room” look like?

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Circle of Life – Products life cycle visualization

Recently I re-watched ”The Loin King” with my kids. It’s a truly remarkable film! Do you remember the theme song? It’s called ”Circle of Life”, written and performed by Sir Elton John. The song, and the scene where it’s played, really effected my and I have had it in the back of my head for quite some time now.

Last week I visited ”Agila Sverige 2016” (”Agile Sweden 2016”), that is an agile conference that I have attended and written about before. I promise to write more about this years conference, but first I really need to tell you about an interesting open space called ”Visualizations for the organization” hosted by Jimmy Janlén (@JimmyJanlen) that I attended. One participant tried to remember a visualization for products she had seen at a company she visited, but she didn’t quite remember. It was some kind of spiral.

The idea to visualize the whole life cycle for software products, together with the song kept ringing in my head when I went home from the conference dinner. Just before I got into bead it hit me, it should be a ”circle of life” for products!

”Circle

Circle of Life

Phases

We have a number of products in the example above. Some products are ”young” and in the early phase of their life cycle, while others are ”old” and phasing the end of their life. We have up until now, not visualized this in any way. We have seen the products equal, but the way you work with them is really different depending on which phase in the life cycle they are.

To make it simple, I have divided the circle of life into three different phases:

  1. Build-up – Your product is brand new and you have started to build it up. You add feature by feature to make it compelling to your customers out there.
  2. Serving – Your product is so ready that you can start to make money on it. You continue to add functionality to attract more customers to make even more money. You want your product to be in this phase as long as possible!
  3. Retirement / termination – For some reason it’s time to retire your product. You take it off the market, minimize the maintenance, and migrate over customers to other (new) product(s).

Maybe you want to have more phases in your circle, that is totally fine!

Movement

How does the products move in the circle of life? You have to set up some rules for moving between phases. For example:

  • 1st Customer – When the product have the first customer, it moves into the ”serving”-phase.
  • End of Sales – When you stop selling the product, it moves into the ”retirement”-phase.

Usage and colors

Try to use the same color on the post-its to group ”product families” together. Put up intended releases, with version number and intended release date, on smaller orange post-its on your products (I cut them to that size with a scissors).

First example

”Circle

Here is our first attempt on the circle of life. Maybe we’ll improve it along the way.

Other visualizations

Ok, so you like the idea to show the life cycle for your products, but not the visualization with a circle? Here are some more ideas for you!

”Circle

I think this could be the visualization that the attender tried to remember on the open space.

”Circle

Maybe you like waves better, and want to speak like ”this is the first wave of product A”; ”this is the second wave of product B” and so on.

Summary

Maybe you now have gotten some ideas on how to visualize the whole life cycle for products. As usual, if you have any feedback just let me know!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Reinventing Organizations

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the book ”Reinventing Organizations” in the Lean & Agile community. Now I have read it for myself. It is written by Frederic Laloux, has 278 pages and was released in 2014. The book describes the emergence of a new organizational model, that is more suitable for companies in the rapid changing world we all live in today. They are called Teal Organizations.

”Reinventing

Content

The book is divided into three parts and they are:

  • Part 1 – Historical and Developmental Perspective
  • Part 2 – The Structures, Practices, and Cultures of Teal Organizations
  • Part 3 – The Emergence of Teal Organizations.

The first chapter starts with describing how different organization models have evolved from past to present, representing them by colors:

  • RED organizations – ”Constant exercise of power by chief to keep troops inline”. Guiding metaphor: Wolf pack. Current examples: Mafia.
  • AMBER organizations – ”Highly formal roles within a hierarchical pyramid”. Guiding metaphor: Army. Current examples: Military.
  • ORANGE organizations – ”Goal is to beat competition; achieve profit and growth”. Guiding metaphor: Machine Current examples: Multinational companies.
  • GREEN organizations – ”Focus on culture and empowerment to achieve extraordinary employee motivation”. Guiding metaphor: Family. Current examples: Culture driven organizations.

An organization cannot evolve beyond its leadership’s stage of development, meaning for example that GREEN is not possible with a ”military management”.

What is the metaphor of Teal organizations? Founders of teal organizations talk about living organism or living system. Three major breakthroughs is needed to become Teal:

  • Self-management – A system based on peer relationship, without the need of hierarchy or consensus.
  • Wholeness – An inner wholeness to bring all of who we are to work (beyond the ”professional surface”)
  • Evolutionary purpose – Organizations having a sense and direction of their own.

How is self-management expressed? At AES (a global company in the energy sector) they are using voluntary task forces instead of fixed staff functions. It has multiple benefits, employees can express talents and gifts that are not shown in their primary role. This also develops a true sense of ownership and responsibility.

How do you make decisions without formal managers? In general, we think it can be done in two possible ways: By hierarchical authority (”someone call the shots”) or by consensus (”everyone gets a say”). At AES (and other Teal companies) an ”advice process” is used:

”It’s very simple: in principle, any person in the organization can make any decision. But before doing so, that person must seek advice from all affected parties and people with expertise on the matter”.

How about internal communication? Everybody expects to have access to all information at the same time (including salaries). Meetings? A Teal organization have far less meetings than other organization types, thanks to the empowerment of individuals (doing things without asking for permission first). Offices? Winston Churchill once said ”We shape our buildings, and thereafter they shape us”. This is true to office and factory spaces, they subtly shape our thinking and behavior. How about profit? ”Profit is like the air we breathe. We need air to live, but we don’t live to breathe”. Meaning that another (higher) purpose than just profit is needed.

If you want to start to become a Teal organization you can look at ”Holocracy”. It was created by Bryan Robertson at Ternary Software. He has now moved on to HolocracyOne, a consulting and training firm to spread Holocracy in organizations. Holocracy can be described as an ”operating system for an organization”. What is needed? The CEO and members of the board need to get and support the ideas of the Teal organization. Otherwise there is no idea in trying, unfortunately.

Recommendation

I can now totally understand the buzz about ”Reinventing Organizations”. It does a great job in describing the Teal organization that I fully support and also thinks is the future. Maybe the book is a bit too long, the last 1/3 feels like much of repetition of the ”message” already stated earlier. Anyhow, a solid must read!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist