Agile

Scrum

Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, has written a new book called ”Scrum” with the subtitle ”The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”. The book was released in September 2014. First of all, this book is not a book for those of you currently using Scrum (or it could be, more about that later). This book is written to take Scrum beyond being used only for software development. Jeff Sutherland (and his son that has done the writing) is ”banging on the big drum” and sending a somewhat simplified message about Scrum, at least in my opinion.

””Scrum””

Story

I will not tell you one of my own stories under this paragraph, as I have done in other reviews. Why not? Because the book is full of stories as it is! You can even call it anecdotical. I don’t see this as a bad thing though, I like to read about, for example, Jeff’s life and how Scrum was born.

Content

The book is divided into nine chapters and one appendix. The appendix is called ”Implementing Scrum – How to begin”, which is the only place ”how” is described (all other parts of the book focus on ”why”). Here are the chapters described in a little more detail.

Chapter One: The Way the World Works Is Broken
Jeff makes the obvious attack on Waterfall and tells the story about ”Fixing the FBI” with Scrum. References to Taiichi Ohno’s TPS (Toyota Production System).

Chapter Two: The Origins of Scrum
This chapter tells the story of the birth of Scrum and how robots (!) where involved. As many of the things in Lean and Agile the original ideas and concepts came from Japan.

Chapter Three: Teams
The ultimate size of a team is seven persons +/- two and it shall have the following fulfilled:

  • Transcendent (sense of purpose beyond the ordinary)
  • Autonomous (self-organizing and self-managing)
  • Cross-functional (have all the skills needed to complete the project).

”Adding more manpower to a late software project makes it later.” – Brooks’s Law

Chapter Four: Time
Here are some more stories, how sprint- and ”daily standup”-meetings were invented.

Chapter Five: Waste Is Crime
Starts off with a good sentence ”We’re pattern seekers, driven to seek out rhythm in all aspects of our lives”. What you shouldn’t multitask is also explained and the chapter ends with a very interesting story about judges and sandwiches :).

Chapter Six: Plan Reality, Not Fantasy
The ”Cone of Uncertainty” is shown in this chapter. There is a debate saying that the cone is not corroborated by actual data. The concepts of Fibonacci sequence, Planning Poker, Story and Velocity are explained.

Chapter Seven: Happiness
Jeff introduces the ”Happiness Metric”. A few simple questions that all team members answers after each sprint. What that data a graph can be drawn together with velocity to see how kaizen efforts (continuous improvements) are working out. What are the things that makes people happy? The same things that makes great teams: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Chapter Eight: Priorities
The OODA loop is explained. It stands for: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. It’s a variant of PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) that Jeff picked up in the army. The value curve and when to release are also described.

Chapter Nine: Change the World
This last chapter tells Jeff’s thoughts on how we will work in the future. The personal handbook of Valve is mentioned as an example.

Recommendation

I can recommend this book if you want to read the stories about Jeff’s life, the birth of Scrum, and how majors concepts in Scrum were created. If you want to learn Scrum from the beginning there are better books out there.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

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Lean and Agile in three pictures

Recently I attended a ”Lean Coffee”-meeting hosted by the magnificent @hakanforss. At the meeting there was a person that described their situation with one team of four developers serving the needs from four different product owners. She explained the situation as scattered (”spretig” in Swedish). This made me reflect of our situation that is similar and how Lean and Agile fits into that picture. It’s also said that a picture says more than a thousand words. So here is a blog post ”worth” more than reading 3000 words 🙂

Process with bottlenecks

””Process

This a generic picture describing a process. Requests come in to one end of the process and deliveries go out of the outer. Inside the process a number of value adding steps take place. If the process doesn’t add any value, these is no reason for its existence. All processes have limitations in the form of bottlenecks. The ”most narrow” bottleneck determines the throughput of the whole process. One key concept in Lean is kaizen that means you should work with continuous improvements to your process. When one bottleneck is ”fixed” another will be the ”most narrow”, hence you need to continue your kaizen efforts that never ends. The process is the most valuable thing a company have, more valuable than its products and services (that will come and go over time). Improvements to your process hopefully stay forever!

”What we do to the process, echoes into eternity” – LeanGladiator

Sadly, my experiences from the software development industry is that we care more of what we do (our products and services that are somewhat volatile), then how we do it (our process that will eventually define company success in the long run). Hopefully this can change to the latter in the software industry.

Common situation

””Too

This is the situation that I think we share with a lot of other companies. Focus is scattered ”all over the place” (as the Swedish prince Daniel said) on a number of different products and services that the company provides. We tend to do a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, not to ”loose out” on something that could be ”the big thing”. Since we are doing many things at once we become too ”thin” and all the context switching between tasks makes us produce less and less actual value. Not been able to predict when things ”can be done”, we have to start things earlier to increase the work in process even more. You end up in a vicious circle…

In fact, the lack of focus makes it more likely to be unsuccessful. In the ”Steve Jobs”-biography written by Walter Isaacson there is a section that tells about an offsite meeting with all executives at Apple. If I remember correctly, the executives had like 100 different ideas that they thought would be ”the next big thing” and they wanted the company to support and finance. Comparing the ideas against each other and discussing them during days of meetings (I can imagine a lot of egos rubbing against each other) they finally boiled it down to three. The benefits was that the whole company now was behind those three ideas, and the focus they got was tremendous.

What we want to achieve

””What

This is what we want to achieve:

  • Streamline our business to focus on fewer things (i.e., have less work in progress) and thereby increase throughput and shorten lead times.
  • Kaizen, continuous improvement to the process to handle the bottlenecks.

We want to deliver smaller increments (time wize) that faster bring continuous value to our customers.

Summary

How do we do it? For many organizations a shift in mindset is needed. Today we tend to focus on high resource efficiency (people to be busy at all times). Opposite to high resource efficiency we have high flow efficiency (work moves fast through the process). What we must do is to temporarily ease the focus on resource efficiency, get ”slack” (resources becomes available) so that flow is prioritized and then improve your process (kaizen) so that resources can work more efficient.

My favorite presentation on this topic is ”The Busy Bee Paradox” by Håkan Forss.

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Moments of Truth

Now I have done quite a few book reviews. They have all been reviews of fairly new books, released in the last couple of years. This one will be different since the book I’m now going to write about was released already in 1987, but it’s still relevant today. I’m talking about ”Moments of Truth” by Jan Carlzon, it was first released as ”Riv pyramiderna” in Swedish 1985.

””Moments

Story

Some years ago me and my family lived closed to the place where the SAS headquarter was located between 1987 to 2010 in Frösundavik, Solna, Sweden. When I was on parental leave I would often take a walk with the stroller around the office. It is beautifully located in a surrounding park next to a lake. I would daydream and think of the glory days of SAS (Scandinavian AirlineS) in the eighties when Jan Carlzon was the president and CEO.

Content

This is a fairly short book, no corporate bulls**t, compactly told in 135 pages, and divided into twelve chapters. Here is a walkthrough:

1. A Moment of Truth
By ”moment of truth” Jan Carlzon means the few seconds or minutes a customer contact may last, but that reflects the ”functionality” of the whole organization. A customer-driven company is one that recognize that its only true asset are satisfied customers. A leader of such a company can’t be an isolated and autocratic decision maker. Instead, he or she must be a visionary, a strategist, an informer, a teacher, and an inspirer.

2. The Vingresor and Linjeflyg Turnarounds & 3. The SAS Turnaround
These two chapters tells the success stories of Jan Carlzon’s turnarounds at three Scandinavian travel companies.

4. Profession: Leader
In the summer of 1981, the first year he became president of SAS, Jan Carlzon decided to take a two weeks’ vacation during the summer. At his summer house, he immediately got disturbed by the phone ringing and eventually he gave up and went back to the office. Next year he was interviewed by a newspaper on the subject ”taking it easy”. He agreed on one condition, that the article should be published one week before his vacation. In the interview Jan stated that he believed that responsibility should be delegated and so that individual decisions are made at the point of responsibility, not far up the organizational chart. He stated ”If my phone doesn’t ring, that is a proof that I have succeeded”, and then he went on four weeks’ vacation. And the telephone remained wonderfully silent!

5. Setting the Strategy
First assess the business climate and determine the needs of your customers. Then based on that knowledge, outline a business strategy to meet the customers’ needs within the context of the marketplace and organize your company to intelligently carry out that strategy.

6. Flattening the Pyramid
A SAS office in Stuttgart was given three challenges/goals: 1) cut cost without sacrificing quality 2) increase efficiency 3) give the organization more flexibility. Werner Tarnowski, the man in charge, started with closing down one of the two offices (the workload was unevenly spread). He created one cross-functional team that was responsible for all SAS activities in Stuttgart (cargo, passenger sales etc.). This lead to better service because the organization became more flexible (people with different professions now working as a team and stepping in for each other to solve customer demands immediately).

Jan admits one mistake when flattening the pyramid at SAS. They missed out on the middle managers that felt demoted in the new organization, when ”the frontline people” became empowered. Their new servant leadership felt unusual and they needed to learn new ways to handle this.

7. Taking Risks
Here is a quote from this chapter that I really like:

”Wrong decisions should be used as the basis for training; right decisions should be used as the basis for praise and positive examples. A person who is admonished for his mistakes should be entitled to appeal his case without fear of retribution.”

8.  Communicating
In 1981 to prepare for many organizational changes a booklet called ”Let’s Get in There and Fight” was distributed to all employees of SAS (20.000 persons). The booklet was a tool to present the overall vision and strategy, but most important, set the expectations on the employees themselves. Communication, especially with employees, has always been a top priority for Jan Carlzon. During his first year he spent exactly half of his time ”out on the field” talking to SAS people. Another good quote:

”A leader’s ways are watched carefully and adopted by others in the organization.”

Setting a good example is truly the most effective way of communication, and setting a poor one is disastrous!

9. Boards and Unions
The trick here is to share the knowledge about where the company is and where it should be heading to the boards, unions and employees. For the vision to become reality, it must be their vision too.

10. Measuring Results
One of the most basic mistakes that a service-oriented business can make is to promise one thing and measuring another. You will always steer behavior towards what you measure. If you measure ”the wrong thing”, you will also get ”the wrong behavior”.

11. Rewarding Employees
Unfortunately, in many companies (especially in Sweden) the only thing that gets attention is a mistake. To reward employees can be done in a number of ways, some will be good and others will be bad (it’s the same thing as for measuring, see above), but in the end, the richest reward of them all is being proud of your work!

12. The second Wave
How should you continue when you have reached all your goals, is it then time to settle down? No, because ”Everyone wants a challenge”! I end this chapter with a final quote:

”A true leader is one who designs the cathedral and then shares the vision that inspires others to build it.”

Recommendation

What has this old book have to do while lean and agile, you may wonder. First and foremost the values in this book is well inline with the agile thinking, talking about empowered teams that are cross-functional and customer focused.  Secondly this book is for good and bad still as relevant as it was back in 1985. It’s somewhat sad that we haven’t come further in more companies in the world today. If you are an agile person in Sweden I assume you have already read this book 🙂 For you others in the rest of the world, pick up a copy right now!

I should also say that ”Riv pyramiderna” (the version in Swedish, seen to the right in the picture above) is longer, 213 pages and holds more content (a summary and afterwords written by Jan Carlzon in 2008).

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Kanban in Action

In just a moment this will be a book review of ”Kanban in Action” by Marcus Hammarberg and Joakim Sundén, but first I must tell you a story.


””Kanban

Story

I’ve been working with Agile methods since 2008, starting out with Scrum, and sometimes I think that I’ve got a pretty good hang of it during the years. I’ve got some recognition for my increasing knowledge in the area by my co-workers, but nothing whatsoever from my boss. I’ve struggled along for sure, but that one piece of recognition have been missing…

I’ve read books about Kanban before I started to read ”Kanban in Action”, but with this book my knowledge took a gigantic step! I was sitting in a meeting with my boss and some other colleagues, talking about Kanban versus other methods for software development, when all of a sudden my manager turned to me and said: ”What are your thoughts on this, Tomas? You are our expert in this area!”. Yes, what a feeling, my boss had never mentioned my name and the word expert in the same sentence before :).

Content

The book was released March 17, 2014, and it’s divided into three sections:

  • Part 1 – Learning Kanban
  • Part 2 – Understanding Kanban
  • Part 3 – Advanced Kanban

The first part, Learning Kanban, includes only one chapter, but what a chapter it is! It is 44 pages jam packed with just about everything you need to know to get started with Kanban. In fact you can stop reading the book just after this and still be very satisfied. The idea of explaining Kanban by using the fictive story about the Kanbaneros team is nothing but brilliant! There is no way I will go about and spoil this future reading for you, but I will give you my personal best take way from this part and that is: ”Stop starting, start finishing”. To me those four words sums it all up, to constantly think about flow through your process, to complete things before you start new to not clog the system.

”What now, didn’t you say that the reading could end after the first chapter?”, you might ask. Hold on, now comes the beauty of it, if you hunger for more there is plenty left to learn in part 2 and 3 (if you want to become an expert, remember 🙂 ).

Part 2 – Understanding Kanban, rewinds back to the beginning once more and goes through the cornerstones of Kanban, they are:

  • Kanban principles
  • Visualizing your work
  • Work items
  • Work in process
  • Limiting work in process (WIP)
  • Managing flow

One very specific text in this part is ”How to remove a sticky note from the pack”. It’s exactly what is sounds like! This really tells you how serious Joakim and Marcus are in their pursuit to explain Kanban in this book!

Advanced Kanban, the final part, goes even deeper into the kingdom of Kanban. Here you find things like:

  • Classes of service
  • Planning and estimating
  • Process improvement
  • Using metrics to guide improvements
  • Kanban pitfalls
  • Teaching kanban through games

A lot of good stuff, in which I can really recommend the last chapter about games. We have played both ”Pass the pennies” and ”The number multitasking game”. Those games will give all participants a deeper understanding in Kanban principles (in this case ”limiting WIP” and ”avoid multitasking” to be specific).

Recommendation

Today when I searched for ”kanban” on amazon.com and the list was sorted by relevance,  ”Kanban in Action” was the second book that came up. Only beaten by ”Kanban” (or ”the blue book” as it’s also called) written by David J. Anderson, the ”father” of Kanban. This itself tells you how important this book is.

I can truly recommend ”Kanban in Action” to anyone that wants to know just the slightest bit about managing knowledge work. From the first moment I started reading it, this has been my holy bible of Kanban!

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist

Scrumban

I stumbled across this book after I’ve learnt about Kanban, and coming in from the Scrum ”horizon”. This is a pretty common scenario, I think. Since Scrum is older and more spread, it has been the starting point for many development organizations when Waterfall was abandoned. Running Scrum for a while and have seen the problems with time-boxing, teams have moved to Kanban. But is there anything in between? Well, Scrumban 🙂


””Scrumban

The structure of this book isn’t perfect, but it holds some great content! It really gave me an in-depth knowledge! Some highlights for me:

I can really recommend this book if you want to get a deeper understanding of Kanban. Hats off to Corey Ladas!

Theory of constraints

This theory (more information can be found here) basically says that any manageable system is being limited in achieving more of its goals by a very small number of constraints (bottlenecks). Or if you want to simplify and put it into other words, ”A chain is not stronger than it’s weakest link”.


”Bottleneck”

The theory holds five focusing steps to address constraints:

  1. Identify the system’s constraint(s).
  2. Decide how to exploit the system’s constraint(s).
  3. Subordinate everything else to the above decision(s).
  4. Elevate the system’s constraint(s).
  5. Warning! If in the previous steps a constraint has been broken, go back to step 1, but do not allow inertia to cause a system’s constraint.

How do you solve a bottleneck then?

Short term

You need to maximize utilization of the bottleneck. Let’s say that the bottleneck in your work process lies in analysis. You have one analyst in the team and he or she is sometimes forced to work up to 50% with other tasks. If you can find other persons within the organization that can handle those other tasks the flow through the work process will be doubled.

Long term

Invest to remove the bottleneck. To continue on the example above, a second analyst is hired and starts to work in the team.

What will happen then? Will you have an unlimited flow through your work process?

The answer is no, the bottleneck will only move to some other place in your work process. This is where kaizen (continuous improvements) come into place.