3 things you need to increase productivity

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What I Believe

If you want to increase productivity, I believe you need 3 key things. In a previous post,  I wrote you needed ritual and motivation.  After some reflection, I decided to update that.  First, create a system to ensure you are always getting stuff done, regardless if you’re motivated (though it helps). Second, create rituals to follow within the system.  Last, repeat those rituals until they become habits.

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Discipline over Motivation

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thief of time

I recently read a compelling piece titled Screw motivation, what you need is discipline.

It claimed…

If you want to get anything done, there are two basic ways to get yourself to do it.

The first, more popular and devastatingly wrong option is to try to motivate yourself.

The second, somewhat unpopular and entirely correct choice is to cultivate discipline.

It doesn’t sound convincingly balanced, does it? Read More…

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Agile Police or Ambassadors

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What do some vegetarians and some agilists have in common? It sounds like the setup of a bad joke, doesn’t it?  Actually, some believe their practice is best and you are wrong for doing things differently.  Well, at least that’s my first hand experience.

Over the weekend, I overheard a conversation while we were dining out.

So-and-so isn’t a real vegetarian. She eats fish.

It was a little deja vu to me.  Just days earlier I overheard a similar conversation.

So-and-so isn’t really doing Scrum.  They use a Product Owner team.

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Correct Context for an Agile Transformation

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A few weeks ago, I spoke at the Heart of Agile conference up in Philadelphia. The conference was a two-day conference dedicated to educate attendees on Alistair Cockburn’s new methodology, The Heart of Agile.

The Heart of Agile is focused on getting back to the basics of Agile. In the last 15 years, Agile has been weighed down with frameworks and practices of many shapes and sizes. At the Heart of Agile are 4 key concepts: Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect and Improve. From this center we can branch out to all of the principals, practices, skills, and tools.

The two-day event offered:

Opening and closing keynotes by Alistair Cockburn focused on the “Heart of Agile”
Speakers – presentations and discussion tracks for Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect, and Improve:
Tutorials – Speakers provided presentations and facilitated conversations on hot topics and key trends on Agile principles and practices. This was an opportunity for experienced practitioners to demonstrate and share their knowledge in a specific topic, solution, or technique.
Collaborative Conversation – Joint problem-solving with other experienced participants in a topic. A facilitated peer-to-peer event, where everyone had something to contribute to the topic, though may not have been an expert at the topic. The coordinator proposed a topic and a facilitation structure, the attendees worked in small groups (typically 4-8 people), and mutually exchanged and collaborated their outputs.
Experience Reports – Experience reports contained first-hand information and reflection: “We saw this…,” “Our team did that…,” or “We learned the following from our experience…” Experience reports served as an exchange opportunity for practitioners to learn from others. Focus of these discussions was to share successes, failures, and lessons learned.
Open Space – Ongoing facilitated discussions of topics that were suggested by the attendees.

Experience Report

I was asked to present a report on one of my recent experiences.

Instead of presenting the below embedded deck about the correct context for an Agile transformation, I drew everything on a flipchart. If you know your content, you don’t need a PowerPoint deck! I wanted to make the original presentation available for others who were not in the room (and those who were).

Correct Context for an Agile Transformation

If there is one question I would ask, to know if you should view/download this presentation, it would be: Are you exactly like Spotify?  If you are not Spotify or your company business goals do not align with Spotify, then this would be a good presentation to view or to talk with me about.

Get a free copy of the presentation from Derek Huether
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Work in Process – WIP

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What is ‘Work In Process – WIP’

Work in process, also known as WIP, refers to activities that have entered the completion process but are not yet outcomes. Work in progress (WIP) refers to all materials and partly finished products that are at various stages of the production process. WIP excludes inventory of time or materials at the start of the completion cycle and finished products inventory at the end of the production cycle.  That means you don’t count the things you have not started or have not finished.

Work in Process vs Progress

I see the difference between process and progress as being very small but I want to make a distinction.  I see progress being anchored to physical goods at different stages of completeness on an assembly line and process being completion of any activity as part of a goal or outcome.  Your process could be as simple as To-do and Done.  If you are multi-tasking and have 5 things started all at the same time, you have a WIP of 5.

Personal Agility Tip

One of the secrets of managing your work in process is to only start work on things you actually have capacity to work on. When you have capacity, you can pull work into your “queue”. Rather than accepting and starting every task that comes your way, limit the amount of stuff that you’re working on at any given time.  Focus less on starting things in your queue and more on finishing them, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll get more done.

Personally, I know that I can only deal with three activities at a time before things start to get dropped. Know your personal limits and set them accordingly. If you’re working on something and you get blocked, don’t just pull in more work. Add a visual indicator that shows the item is blocked and continue pulling working to done. Once you unblock work, you can pull it the rest of the way through your system to done.

Have questions?  Ask me how I do it!

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Personal Agility

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Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how to increase personal agility. No, I’m not talking about doing somersaults or some crazy yoga poses. I’m speaking of the ability to focus on value and be adaptable in what I do every day; the agility mentioned in the values and principles of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.  When the Manifesto was written back in 2001, there were representatives from Extreme Programming, Scrum, DSDM, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal, Feature-Driven Development, Pragmatic Programming, and others present.  So, when I say agile, I don’t necessarily mean Scrum.

Scrum for One?

For the sake of this post, I want to direct focus to people and not organizations.  Being an Agile coach and consultant, I have learned a lot of strategies that have helped me manage customers and accounts.  While working with large complex organizations, I have seen productivity improvements on organizational levels by leveraging Lean and Kanban and on a team level by leveraging Scrum and Kanban. But what about all of the individuals who work for those organizations or on those Scrum teams? What about people who have no idea what Scrum is and don’t care? How can they better their productivity?

In the Lifehack article “Scrum for One,” Dustin Wax describes how many of the elements of Scrum could be adapted for individual productivity. When reading the article, I wasn’t sold on the idea. Scrum is an awesome framework for teams but it’s like jamming a round peg in square hole, if you want to use Scrum for your day-to-day productivity.

In Scrum, you demonstrate value to your customer or customer representative every 2-4 weeks, as part of a sprint.  Does that make sense for managing your personal work? No.

In Scrum, you have a 3 roles: ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and Team.  Unless you have a split personality, it’s just you!

Most of the things I think about when getting things done include: Aligning activities to outcomes, breaking work into managing chunks, iterating on what was creating so it can be improved over time… The list goes on.  To that, these are not elements exclusive to Scrum.  So, why limit yourself to Scrum?

Personal Agility Manifesto

I believe personal productivity needs to be rethought.  Is personal productivity about being really busy or is it about getting things done?  To be productive, it means you must produce.  If not, you are active. There is a difference!  To help shape my thoughts, I wrote a personal agility manifesto.  You’ll notice it’s a lot like the Agile Manifesto.  But, there are key differences.

First, (any) outcomes are the primary measure of progress.  This isn’t all about software development.

Second, I’m focused on minutes, hours, and days to get things done.  Teams will continue to focus on days, weeks, and months to get work done and shipped.

Conclusion

I’m looking to dig into something anyone can use.  When you hear “Agile” it’s actually a pretty niche group. But, when you talk personal productivity, the audience size explodes.  Like with agile, I don’t think there is a single right way.  So, I’m looking to experiment and continue to try and get better. Hell, I’ve been writing about Personal Kanban since 2010.  You’d think I’d have this figured out by now.  Well, I don’t.  If you have any tips or tricks, I would love to hear them.

 

Categories: Agile