6 Tips towards Business Agility

Agile, and Agile methods, like Scrum and Kanban, have had tremendous success over the past few decades, but still, most organizations are not getting the value and expected outcomes from their Agile initiatives. A big reason is that people often confuse Agile methods, or applying the methods in one department, with agility, which means having the ability to adopt these methods and deliver value to both the business and customers. Having that organizational ability is the essence of Business Agility. You can also refer to it as scaling Agile to the whole organization.

As co-organizer of the yearly Agile People Sweden conference, we have recognized that this is a current challenge for most organizations today, and hence the Business Agility is the theme for this year´s conference.

Business Agility is about creating an Agile Organizations adaptable for the VUCA world

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Kari Kelly from Atypical Workplace LLC.  It resulted in 6 tips for how your organization can create value through Business Agility.

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The Product Roadmap Agility Checklist

I see many versions of product roadmaps in my work. Unfortunately very few pass this agility test. Does your product roadmap pass the Product Roadmap Agility checklist?

Download the checklist here.

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How self driving car company AID builds its organisation using Agile – interview with the CEO

How do you grow, innovate, and deliver – at the same time? AID (Audi’s unit for self-driving cars) uses Agile to build its organisation at the same pace as their product. We interviewed their CEO Karlheinz Wurm on why they have chosen to do so. We also sneaked in a question – how is it (really) to get feedback as a leader?

Enter The Target Sergeant

Hi there, it’s been a while since you last heard from me, I know.

I have to admit it, I’ve been feeling lost for some time now. Since our company adopted Agile, I haven’t felt at home. People around me started thinking, took initiatives, started to talk about building a “culture”. I felt lost as my position was being challenged. I’ve done my best to highlight the threats of Agile all this time but no one ever listens (and what the heck is a “growth mindset” anyway?). But fear not, redemption is finally at hand! I got promoted to Controller (*cough* there was apparently no other position to put me in) and our CEO just briefed us that he was thinking of introducing OKR’s (obviously, everyone else is doing it). Now here’s an opportunity! Enter the target sergeant!

This thing about letting people think, and “self-organization”, why don’t people get it that this is the recipe for chaos! But – I see my part of the equation clearly now. There is a gap to fill! The target sergeant is what I need to reclaim my importance.

Let me quickly summarize the key success factors for the target sergeant:

  • Highlight the risks. Whenever there’s a creative initiative in your surroundings, highlight the risks. Always begin by acknowledging that it is a great initiative. Then do a silent pause. Raise your voice and start your next sentence with “but…” (oh this always works BTW). You’ll start noticing a few eyeballs darting from side to side. Then, build up a focused crescendo, “…have you thought about the risks?”(Of course they haven’t! Seize the moment as you’ve got the whole management team by the balls now). Your fellow management colleagues will start to panic. Because, let’s be honest, who wants to insert risks? If anyone at this point has the gumption to object, then cut them off with, “We have commitments to keep!” Game over! Silently smile and lean back as your peers start to appreciate the senior wisdom you bring to the table (a great example has been made. Who would dare to be creative now. Ha!).
  • A master target sergeant recognizes that few ever really meet their targets. This is a problem! How can our company ever be competitive as long as this is happening? Become a target sergeant master by always highlighting the target gaps in anyone’s execution. Aren’t they committed to the cause? Silently smile and lean back as your colleagues scurry around like mice squabbling over the safest bet during target setting meetings. Then raise your voice “shouldn’t our targets be aggressive”? Watch your colleagues squirm! Muhaha!
  • Oh, and this is one of my favorites,“Has anyone tried this before?” (…of course not, that’s why it’s a novel idea, duh! ) Look around and you’ll see signs of doubt. Should we really be the first ones to try this out? Who would dare to object to that?
  • The final killer: Put emphasis on the time pressure we are under. This is the simplest trick in the book! You are always late! This is due to the fact that you set impossible stretch goals in the first place! (does that ring a bell?) When “time pressure” and “late” appear in the same sentence, the meeting will quickly loose interest and move over to the next status point on the agenda. Watch the nods around the table as your peers recognize your senior wisdom!

To sum it up, I realize that my Controller role wasn’t so bad after all. I’ll make sure we avoid chaos and my CEO has hinted that I will be considered for the CFO position – he wants more execution at the top level!

Final target sergeant advice: Always remember to jump ship and move on to the next company before the ship sinks. The story will be that your peers failed in executing the vision. You are exonerated because you pointed this out from the start. (At this point in time, everyone will have forgotten that what you really failed to do was to innovate muhahaha). Happy drilling Sergeants!

Enkelt att ta bort 10 miljoner ton CO2 ur atmosfären och lagra i marken

Det är tekniskt och finansiellt möjligt att inom några få år kunna ta bort CO2 från atmosfären och lagra i marken “negativt utsläpp” med så kallad bio-CCS i Sverige.
Det enda som hindrar är lite lagar och regler.

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Playing with Power – Game of Structure, Beta version

Two years ago I created a simple role-play card game called Game of Structure. After trying it out a couple of times it has been sitting idle, and what fun is that? So now I am making it available with this post.

=> Game of Structure – Beta version

The game is Creative Commons Attribution 4.0, so you may use it freely as long as you honor it’s origin. If there is enough interest I may go ahead and create a physical card deck based on this game.

What type of game is this?

The idea is to offer an experience of how a single hierarchy of fixed power roles can generate some common patterns of stuck attention, conversation and challenge that we frequently see in organizations. Often we spend a lot of time managing those conversations without seeing that some of them may emerge just from the power structure itself as a design choice. If we can experience that this may be the case we can talk about it and consider redesigning those structures rather than having to fix these challenges directly.

This game helps you see and experience some of the load of this extra complexity. Have fun!

Disclaimer – The game is fun as it is but I invite you to be a little careful when drawing conclusions from it – there may be some fallacies and traps! If you want to dive down this perhaps sensitive and deeper rabbit hole, read on through the second part of this blog post. read more »

Understand the Essence of Your Product

In my prior blog, I shared that the Product Canvas is a tool anchoring a shared understanding of your product. Part 1 of the canvas provides contextual and strategic information. Part 2 summarizes the key compositional element of your product requirements using the 7 Product Dimensions.

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Health checks for Teams and Leadership

In this blog post I want to share a powerful tool, the Leadership Health Check. It will help you become stronger as a management team and reveal improvement opportunities for how you, as a team of active servant leaders, better can enable the agile teams you support.

But first, let’s take it from the beginning.

One of my favourite exercises in my toolbox as an agile coach is something I learned during my years at Spotify; the Squad Health Check. It’s a retrospectives format, a self-evaluation workshop, in which the teams express how they feel they’re doing on wide variety of topics such as collaboration, value of what is delivered, ability to influence, received organizational support, etc. The result generates insights and commitment to actions of improvement for both the team and the supporting leadership. I love it because I believe it’s a great tool for strengthening autonomy, culture and continuous learning.

More than a year ago, a colleague at Spotify Georgiana Laura Levinta and I created a health check for the leadership of our Tribe (Tribe is a semi-autonomous department at Spotify encapsulating 4-8 teams and with a dedicated set of leaders and managers). Geo and I were inspired by the Squad Health Check, but the goal with this adoptation was to help the Tribe’s managers perform a self-evaluation of their ability to provide active supportive leadership to the squads within the tribe, and to generate a discussion on how they can improve as a team to be able to provide even better support.

Since then, I have together with my current client Casumo, adopted this for their context, culture and beliefs. We’ve run it several times with great success and value, both with the company’s leadership team but also on cluster level (semi-autonomous department). I believe the Team Health Check and the Leadership Health Check both are tremendously powerful; hence I want to unleash them to the wider agile community, hoping that more organizations will find them valuable and useful. Or at least be inspired by them, and then try something totally different.

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Go Blue or go Black – New Jimmy Cards now available!

I’m blown away of the popularity of the Jimmy Cards I created a few years ago. The massive amount of feedback and appreciative comments inspired me to compile two additional decks. The goal of the original red is to help new teams gel. The new black deck is aimed to challenge mature teams that have worked together for some time. The new blue deck will help the leadership team collaborate more effectively. And now, finally, the labour is done and the physical cards have actually been printed and are available to buy!

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Know Your Product with the Product Canvas

What is your product?

If you ask your product development team members, product managers or owners, colleagues in finance, service or operations, marketing, sales, compliance, and all the other departments and teams that make up your organization, would they agree?

It might surprise you to realize that for many organizations, not everyone has clarity around something so fundamental. I’ve developed a Product Canvas to address this issue. The canvas also helps product managers or owners proactively steer their products.

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What is Agile marketing – new article

Consumer behaviors are transforming and the speed of IT development is accellerating.  Launching new products is becoming ever easier. This means new challenges – and new opportunities – for marketing departments.  The companies that learn to master Agile marketing, in a faster changing world, stands a better chance of building long-lasting relationships with their customers.

Innovative companies like Zalando and Telenor are already applying Agile tools inside marketing. However, what is Agile marketing all about? In this article we’ve summarised the key ingredients:

  • More time to create
  • Cross-functional teams
  • Data-driven insights
  • Engage with audience through social media

Read the full article here “Agile marketing in a nutshell”

The CTO Questions: 10 questions that help you gauge the current state of your tech operations

Ever heard this conversation play out?

Manager 1: “We should adopt scaling framework Y.”
Manager 2: “But scaling framework Y doesn’t have a recipe for baking cookies. So we need to do X.”
Manager 3: “Whut? You’re both wrong. We have Agile teams. We’re good!”

In fact, each statement above can be wrong. So the question is, how would you know?

As a coach, it never ceases to surprise me how often management teams lack a shared understanding of their current state of tech operations. If members of a leadership team do not share a common understanding of the current state, it’s easy to fall into the traps of process religion (“my tool is better than yours”), or status quo bias (“why change? From my perspective, everything seems just fine”), or just sheer complacency, “I don’t need to improve, they do”. One piece of solid advice, the last thing you want to do as the leader is to be oblivious to the current state of affairs.

My preferred method of learning the current state is to always start with an “outside-in” view. Assume your operations are a black box and look at the output first, then delve into how the cogs operate inside. Answering these 10 questions helps you do that:

Value oriented

  • Do we create innovations that give us unique marked advantages? How many per year?
  • What is our lead time from idea to delivery? From idea to customer value? Sample data from 2-3 projects.
  • What is our ROI profile? Do we invest first, work long and hard for months and years and hope to reap the business benefits later? Or do we deliver value continuously? Typically Agile?
  • Do we have the development capacity to take on all the good business opportunities that present themselves? What opportunities have we let slip by?

Quality oriented

  • How often can we do releases with quality that include a cross-section of our tech stack?
  • How often do we have slippage on big projects? How much slippage?
  • What proportion of support to business features is clogging up our development pipeline?

Engagement and operations indicators

  • How many projects are there running in parallel in our organization right now? Do we allow skilled people to work with focus?
  • Do we regularly work overtime to meet deadlines?
  • Do we have high personnel turnover for people in coordinating positions?

Of course, you don’t need to answer all the questions above. But getting the facts on the table is the key to building a shared understanding of where you are at, so the management team can start to pull in the same direction when improving.

Need help refining your backlog and finding small MVPs?

I guess you, like the most of us, have a problem breaking work down to small but still valuable pieces and that your MVP (minimal viable product) is more or less the same as the project scope. If you recognize yourself in this than keep reading.

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How to deploy a microservice application to AWS

In this post, I will use an example to show how you can:

  • Write a small microservice with a REST API in Java, using the Dropwizard framework
  • Containerize the application using Google JIB
  • Deploy the application to AWS using Ansible
    • With a robust, clustered and self-healing setup

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Bootstrapping a Working Agreement for the Agile Team

I suspect that running a session with a team to help them bootstrap a Working Agreement, is the single most common workshop I’ve been facilitating the last couple of years. And I’ve learned a lot of what works for me (and what doesn’t work). In my experience, this approach works equally well for the agile team, the department management group and the steering board team. This blog is me documenting how I ended up facilitating these sessions.

For me, a Working Agreement captures the expectations we have on each other within the team when we collaborate and communicate. I’ve seen teams call it “Code of Conduct” or “Ways of Working”. I call it Working Agreement. You call it whatever makes sense for you.

Running a Working Agreement workshop as early as possible is crucial for setting the team up for success. Preferably it’s done during the team’s two-day kick-off offsite, or at least within the first few weeks as a planned structured workshop.

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Remote or Distributed Retrospectives

Meaningful inclusive retrospectives are possible with distributed teams. Let’s talk about the basics you need to have in place, how you can facilitate a distributed retrospective, and what to look out for. This guide is based on the retrospective format that we used at LRF Media. The retrospective participants included 5 team members at the office in Stockholm, one person working from home, and 2 people working at the Kraków office.

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Agile Everywhere – slides from my keynote at Lean Forum

Here are the slides from my keynote “Agile Everywhere” at Lean Forum, Gothenburg.

Great conference, great atmosphere! Very inspiring to hang out with a bunch of super-experienced practitioners. I love conferences where it’s clear that everyone is there to learn and spread knowledge. It’s funny though, in lean circles like this I’m often known as the Agile Guy, while in agile circles I’m often known as the Lean Guy 🙂

Here are some sample pics.

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Flow through Visualization – Video från SAST Stockholm

Den 20:e September presenterade jag på SAST Stockholm (Swedish Association for Software Testing). Under 30 minuter delade jag med mig av mina tankar kring hur man uppnår “Flow through Visualization”. Presentationen hittar du här, och nedan har du inspelningen av presentationen.

Videon fokuserar bara på mig, men med lite skicklighet kanske det går att klicka sig fram i presentationen i ungefär samma takt som jag pratar mig igenom den. Om man orkar 🙂

Are you curious? Seminar with Joshua Kerievsky, creator of Modern Agile

On September the 19th 2018, Joshua Kerivesky, creator of Modern Agile, gave this talk “Are you curious?” at Crisp Stockholm. This is the video recording from that evening. The seminar is 60 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A.

About the talk:

ARE YOU CURIOUS? Learning is key to improving. Yet without curiosity, learning stagnates. Are you continuously curious about your customers and their needs? Are you curious to understand what’s behind a colleague’s anger? Are you curious about how a change to your process might improve flow and outcomes? Curiosity may just be a superpower. We’ll explore this topic in depth in this new keynote talk.

Q & A with Bonnitta Roy on Open Participation

Bonnitta Roy was one of the keynote speakers at last year’s Agile People Sweden conference and she also held a course here at Crisp last February on self-organization beyond the team using Open Participatory Organizations (OPO), which was very well received by our course attendants. She is coming back to Stockholm in November and we got the opportunity to sit down with her and ask some questions about open participation and her work on the future of organizational life.

What is open participation and why does it matter in organizational life today?

Organizations face continuous pressure to “level up” to new social and economic realities. This places enormous strain on legacy structures which are difficult to overhaul, and conventional management practices which are difficult to shed. Instead of offering yet another “off-the-shelf” product, we help people see simple but powerful opportunities to become more open and more participatory in their everyday ordinary work.

In agile software development there is the notion of refactoring when code has become too unruly and is increasingly built up in an ad hoc manner. Refactoring means starting over with clean, elegant code. It releases a tremendous amount of complexity from the system. Open participatory practices do the same for organizational structures. It releases complexity and affords more elegant ways to solve complex problems.

So OPO is basically a location based structure to self-organize and to self-manage in organizations?

Self-organization and self-management are core principles of open participation. Location-based-structure is one way to optimize them. It is the only way I know that also avoids the “law of suboptimization” which states that when you optimize the lower system, you suboptimize the higher (and vice-versa). This “law” leads to paradoxes in incentive systems that have to juggle rewarding individual merit, team performance, and company profits.

Locations are defined as mutually interdependent. No individual location can be defined outside of its context with larger strategic wholes; but the “whole” is not defined other than by the interdependent coherence of all the locations. The language of “location” helps reinforce the synergistic way of thinking. If you renovate your kitchen you are simultaneously adding value to your house, and to the experience of everyone who lives there. Similarly, in the OPO, people focus on making sure that the locations are healthy, and that the relationships between them are synergistic. This simultaneously adds value to the larger whole.

Let’s ask some frequently asked questions, as most readers may be new to these ideas.

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Confessions of a Change Agent – my keynote from Agile Rock, Kiev

Here is the flipchart from my talk “Confessions of a Change Agent” at Agile Rock conference in Kiev. Click for a zoomed in version.

Confessions of a Change Agent

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Slides from KTH agile intro

Here are the slides from my agile intro at KTH last week. Hope you enjoyed it!

Some sample pics:

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Building Great Release Train Engineers – a talk with Mattias & Yuval

In the scaled Agile framework, one key role is the Release Train Engineer (RTE). But who should I look for to fill this role? What are the first few process improvements experienced RTE’s typically do? Yuval Yeret (AgileSparks) and Mattias Skarin (Crisp) took the time to discuss the traits of a good RTE.

What are the traits of a good RTE?

Yuval: The easy answer to this question is that you are looking for a Scrum master for a team of teams. Going beyond that, when it comes to specific traits, you are looking for someone who cares about process and improvements, someone who has the ability to orchestrate things. But at the same time, someone who also knows when to step back and let the teams organize themselves. A good RTE is a great communicator and can see and understand what is happening.

Mattias: Firstly, a good RTE should be a people person, someone you’d like to talk to and bounce ideas with. Someone who builds trust and energy with their presence. In essence, a good RTE is the Uber Scrum master across teams. Secondly, a good RTE is systematic and makes sure the process events are run and planned in advance. Thirdly, a good RTE should be a good problem solver.

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Slides from Agile Islands 2018 -“Decision making under uncertainty”

Åland has one of the coolest visions out there – build an Agile society. They also arrange Agile Islands, a small conference but with sharp content. This year I had the pleasure to speak, so I decided to shed some light on “Decision making under uncertainty”, which is a fascinating subject. Here are the slides.

Cheres

Mattias

Innovation Talk – an Introduction to Locations

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to give a keynote presentation at an internal innovation event hosted by one of the more pioneering product companies here in the Stockholm area.

The organizers requested the name of their organization to remain undisclosed, but were happy to see a video recording of the talk shared publicly. The presentation was prepared by me and Emil Vikström together and now that it is available I figured I might as well share it here on the blog as well.

So here it is!

Locations are a core concept in Open Participatory Organizations (OPO) which is the work of Bonnitta Roy. This talk attempts to explain how locations are a stable structure that is different from the stable agile teams and departments that we are used to; and how an organization built as a set of locations allow more autonomy, more open and distributed governance and other advantages compared to most of our agile organizations today. Some learnings from the field and tips for how to get started with some of these ideas are given at the end.

If this talk interests you I recommend you take a look at the OPO Foundations 2-day course in November (15-16) where Bonnita Roy comes to Stockholm to visit Crisp. If you are curiously looking for a solid realist viewpoint for finding better ways to practically explore the Future of Work it could be for you.

The Story of How to Implement a Zero Bug Policy

So how do you go about implementing a zero bug policy when you’ve got a long list of real bugs and users and stakeholders who want things fixed? I’ve been getting this question a lot after posting my blog entry Stop Managing Bugs, Start Focusing on Quality and creating the app and cards to help with the day-to-day maintenance of a zero bug policy. So over the summer I wrote a little story board book that will help you get started. Pass by the Crisp office if you’re in Stockholm to pick up a copy, or download the pdf on LeanPub. You can always find more information at FixItNowOrDeleteIt.com

Agile in Marketing

What happens when you use Agile in marketing? Zalando have been using Lean and Agile tools inside marketing for some time. That makes up an unique and interesting case study, from a company pushing the boundaries.

Here’s an interview with Julia Kummel, sharing their experiences from the journey:

psst: Do you want to learn how to get started with Agile in marketing? Try out brand new Agile Marketing class in September.

/Mattias

Modern Agile

The Agile Manifesto has been around since 2001, and agile ways of working have existed long before that. So what is this thing called Modern Agile? Is the manifesto outdated and needs to be replaced? All good questions, but let’s start with taking a look on what Modern Agile is.

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Using Lean and Agile in racing, interview with formula driver Linus Lundqvist

Racing is essentially product development on steroids.

For a number of years I’ve been following the development of a promising young racing driver – Linus Lundqvist.  Anyone with a little bit of knowledge about racing,knows that there are many components that need to work together, in order to forge success.  Talant – yes. Resources – yes. But – as important – is how you put them to use.  Here’s where Lean and Agile thinking comes into play.

We got the chance to interview Linus and his race engineer at LL Motorsports, Bo Hanner, on how they have used Lean and Agile thinking, in order to keep an edge on competition.

Where is Linus now? While it still early in the season and many races to go, Linus has put himself in a favourable position, as a frontrunner in the Formula 3 UK championship.

If you would like to dig deeper and learn how a race team works, or how they use Lean/Agile to keep an edge on competition, then take the chanse and meet Linus and LL motorsports here in Stockholm on October the 18:th, at the “Agile Procurement for Business Agility” conference.

 

 

 

Fix it now or delete it!

A flow chart showing the two paths to dealing with a bug. If you "should fix it" you proceed to "will we prioritize it" if not you proceed to "delete it". If you're going to prioritize it you get to "fix it now" otherwise you proceed to "delete it"

“Fix It Now or Delete It” is a simple method that gives you two options for dealing with a bug: Fix It Now, or Delete It! I wrote a blog entry about this method a few months ago, and now there are lots of resources to help you talk to your team about simplifying the way you deal with bugs.

As part of the preparations for the lightning talk I gave last week at Agila Sverige, I created an info-graphic, cards, a mobile app (thanks to Daniel Sundman for implementing it in react-native) for iOS and Android, and a website. There’s even a t-shirt or two.

I hope that these resources will help you and your team in your journey to a successful zero-bug policy!

ps Yes, I realize this was going overboard for a 10 minute talk, but I hope you enjoy it 🙂 There’s also a little picture book in the making.