Information Radiator

Measuring Team Emotion

Team EmotionToo many times, companies focus too much attention on metrics like Team Performance and Team Efficiency, while ignoring metrics like Team Emotion or Happiness.  This last week,  I worked with a company and team which did not make this mistake. At the  conclusion of the iteration, they held a retrospective. As noted on a previous blog post,

a retrospective meeting is held at the end of a scheduled event or time interval. With the aid of a facilitator, a team discusses what went well and what could be improved during the next interval or prior to the next scheduled event.  The meeting is time-boxed to help ensure it doesn’t just turn into an out-of-control complaining session.  When properly facilitated, you come out of the meeting with an actionable list for improvement candidates.

At the conclusion of the team retrospective, it was time for the final task of the (2-week) iteration.  It was time to know how the team felt.

As you can see from this Cacoo drawing, the team was happy during iteration planning and the first week of the two-week iteration.  Things didn't go so well during the  second week or the Iteration Review. I was there during that meeting and not surprised they voted as they did.  What is telling from this diagram was their feelings of the actual Retrospective meeting.  They were very happy.

During the Retrospective,  the team discussed how they could make the next iteration (and Review) better.  It was a really healthy and productive conversation.  There was no blaming.  It was all about "how can we as a team do better?"

In closing, find out how your team feels.  You may be surprised how team performance and efficiency improve when the team is happier.  If you want true process or team improvement (Kaizen), track your feelings as well.


Judging an Agile Book

I'm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to speak at the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference.  If you ever imagined what an "Agile" company looked like, I think I am looking at it right now.  I'm blogging today from Atomic Object.  The exterior of the 100 year-old building is very unassuming.  Upon entering the building, I'm greeted by several dogs.  Yes, like in man's-best-friend dogs.  They give me the once-over and allowed me to pass.  I walk past a wall with mountain bikes and walk upstairs to discover a truly Agile workspace.

The floors are a light wood and the workspace is wide open.  There is plenty of natural light.  In the middle of the room is a functioning stop light.  It's exactly what I thought it was.  It's an information radiator to indicate if the build is broken or not.  Fortunately, the light is green.  I'm now sipping on a freshly brewed cup of black coffee and enjoying web access.  There are almost as many whiteboards as there are approachable friendly people.

I know you should not judge a book by its cover.  But, if I'm looking for a book on Agile, I would have a few expectations.  This place and the people working here exceed those expectations.

When I return to Washington DC tomorrow night, I'll take with me the first hand confirmation that Agile workspaces (and companies) are so much more inviting than those with cube farms or offices.

Just One Agile Thing

Shared IdeaI met with the Agile Influencers of DC, on Friday night.  The focus of the conversations for the evening was Agile Adoption.  One of the questions asked (I'm paraphrasing here) was

If you were on a project, and you could leverage just ONE "Agile" THING, what would it be and why would you choose it?

This is a little like the first episode of Surviver but it is a good exercise to make you think about what you find valuable in Agile. Would you choose the use of information radiators? Perhaps you favor retrospective meetings?  Or perhaps, you love the use of cross-functional co-located teams?

When I was asked, I chose empowered teams.  Look back at the Agile Manifesto and one of its principles.  Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

I believe if you build a team of professional and empowered people, you increase the probability of project success.  Give your people some general rules to follow and have the faith they will make the right decisions.  It beats the hell out of trying to control them!  Empowering them also gives you more time to help them when they really need you, rather than making trivial decisions.

So, what would be the one thing you would choose?  Why?

Like the image? Find it at Pictofigo

Starting Is Easy; Finishing Is Hard

I once saw (via video podcast) a wise man (Jason Calacanis) say "starting is easy; finishing is hard." When he said that, it was a moment of absolute clarity for me.  I'm not saying he verbalized the meaning of life.  He did state, however, what I've often conceptualized but was never able to verbalize.

What Jason stated in 6 words is what I've seen many colleagues struggle with.  Who doesn't have projects and tasks to complete and deadlines to meet?   I've tried multitasking, thinking it would make me more efficient.  I've tried using a productivity pyramid.   All I did was start more tasks, not finish more.  That's the key right there.  It doesn't matter how many things you start if you never finish them.

The solution to my past problems has been the use of kanbans, referring to them as information radiators.  These information radiators were large billboards strategically placed around the office so anyone could passively see the status of the current project.  You could see what the highest priority was, what was currently being completed, and what was being delayed.

I believe the key to those successes was in the ability to visualize our work.  Everyone knew exactly what they needed to complete and everyone else knew if it was getting done.  People were not allowed to go on to ancillary activities until their assigned tasks were completed.  Another important facet of the kanban, we limited our work-in-progress.  This forced-focus on limited tasks and constant feedback loop is very powerful and very productive.

If you would like to read my complete guest post at the Personal Kanban website, on how I visualize my work and FINISH it (don't forget the comments), just follow the [link].

My Personal Kanban Story

A little over a month ago, Agile Zen started following me on Twitter.  They are creators of a very clean web-based kanban solution.  Around the same time, I connected with Jim Benson.  Jim is a collaborative management consultant.  He is the CEO of Modus Cooperandi, a consultancy which combines Lean, Agile Management and Social Media principles to develop sustainable teams. Personal Kanban

Though I've used information radiators like kanbans in the past, I've been working in a non-Agile PMO for the last six months and it's all very foreign to them.  Thanks to reading the works of David Anderson, Jim Benson, and AgileZen, I'm back in the game.  I'm using AgileZen on a daily basis for everything from business deliverables, to an entrepreneurial project, to my wife's honey-do list.

My actual task completion velocity has noticeably increased in the last month.  I attribute that to AgileZen having a very easy to use product, Jim musing on a daily basis on the topic, and most importantly limiting what I'm working or focused on.

You can read one of Jim's recent postings [here] You can check out AgileZen [here]

I wish I could thank all of the kanban supporters out there that I follow on a daily basis.  These 3 really have to be mentioned.  If you're interested in Kanban, look them up.