Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Proposal Framework

I discovered the following framework for proposals (no not that kind!) while reading Marks and Meaning by Dave Gray. When making a proposal the golden rule is to keep it simple, brief and to the point. Here's the template Dave suggests:

  1. Why should you care: Briefly describe the problem and why the "as is" state needs to change.
  2. What you/we stand to gain: Briefly describe the "end state" you envision
  3. What I propose: Describe what you want to do, with special attention what's unique or different. You might need to explain how or why it is different than things that have been tried before.
  4. How it will work: Describe the resources you will need, and break down the entire plan into three easy-to-understand steps, complete with milestones and deadlines.
  5. Risk considerations: Take a balanced view and do your best to define the risks, relative to the rewards, of proceeeding
  6. Next steps: What specific action(s) fo you want from the person you're making the proposal to, right now?

As I jotted down this proposal I was reminded of an occasion a few months back when I excitedly shared an idea that I'd dreamed up with one of my colleagues. His response - sheer bewilderment. On reflection, I realise that I'd fast-tracked to Stage 3 and left him standing haplessly at Stage 1.

Sell the problem first before attempting to sell the solution. It's one of the cardinal rules of consultancy, i guess. If the customer doesn't realise that they have a problem then they're not likely to be too open to your solution, regardless of your tear jerking and heartfelt pitch.

3D: A Model for Learning and Improvement

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If work was more like games and play

What would work look like if it was more like a game, and playing the game was more like playing in the sand with you pals at age four? My guess it that it would be more fun,  effective and stimulating than today. This is my reasoning:
  • When we play a game, we readily, without objection, accept the rules of the game. No matter how ludicrous they might we, we simply accept that if we want to participate in this game we must obey to some laws that someone set up. And no matter how we roll the dice or upgrade our level 56 Blood Orch Mage we still accept these constraints.
  • On the other hand, when we used to play in the sandbox at kindergarten, we would dream up the most amazing stories of dragons, beasts, cars etc. And the possibilities where endless. If we wanted the car to fly it could, no questions asked.
What if we could combine these two views, and take them with us into work. How easy would in not be to try out a new process or method? We just set up Scrum for example, agree on the rules and then play! And how magnificent would not our stories, solutions and conversations be if we would just allow us to dream as we once did?! I think we would be the most creative company in the world, and having a laugh doing it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Waste of space! Or Why today’s electronic Scrum tools does not work!

I like computers. I like how they enable me to dream up things I could never have imagined, let me indulge in information from far and wide and communicate with my friends wherever whenever. I also like pen and paper (and whiteboards, coloured pens, index cards, post-it notes etc). And I like to communicate in real life!

As a coach in Scrum and team building I know what works for me in the small local team. We use all kinds of stickers, pens, flipcharts, post-its and what have you to make sure that information is radiant, free and flowing all the time. The ease of use and the unbelievable flexibility that these tools offer are probably endless. What I don’t like is stuff that interferes with this process, cramp it and my steal energy and time. Computerised Scrum tools are such tools! At least the ones I’ve tried so far.

I can understand why my clients wish their distributed organisations had the same flow as the single co-located team. I can also understand the problem with using my analogue tools over large distances. I can even understand, although I question this sometimes, the need to “document” stuff. But I can not accept the impacts it has on us. The tools often are extremely developer centric with all kinds of nifty features but not very flexible at all (also called waste in Lean). They force you into a, for me, unintuitive behaviour and after two hundred and forty eleven clicks I give up. It just takes way too much time to change a simple little number, add a special mark, or group a bunch of stories. Comments like “if froze for some reason and turned upside down”, “he’s the owner of that task but did not notice” and “the story is not in there, I can’t see it” simply never occur with analogue tools. If you add a story it’s there, right in front of you. You can touch it, change it and even remove it! And if you get short on time and need to rearrange, specially mark or add some info to a story it’s so intuitive that (believe it or not) someone without Scrum knowledge knows how to do this!

Don’t get me wrong, there is a need for digital Scrum tools. But it is not a trivial task to create them! I think we need to rethink how our Scrum tools work and which parts of the process it makes sense to digitalise. And we need to stop waste time, space and energy on repetitive tasks in tools that does not support agile thinking and behaviour! 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Look on the bright side

Since I wrote the post on appreciations I have had something tumbling around in my head, couldn't figure it out until I had a coaching session with a Product Owner the other day. We talked about the problems he saw in their organization and I pointed out to him that they had a lot of great things going for them and maybe it would be a good idea to use those to get even better.

So what I just realized is that if it is more efficient to give feedback about good stuff then bad stuff, maybe the same works for organisational problems? What if we, as consultants, tried to find the things that really work at our clients instead of focusing on what's really not working. If we could point out the good stuff and strengthen them instead of trying to get rid of the negative stuff I think we could generate a positive momentum and maybe even make change easier - now all I have to do is to figure out how to do just that.