Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We have moved

As of today we have moved our blog to http://peopleandleadership.wordpress.com

See you there!

The Authistic Organization

In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell tells a lot of stories about how too much or too litttle information and stress can hamper the human capability to make good decisions and cause the brain to enter an authistic mode. A lot of information gets down prioritized by our brains to prevent overload and the more stressful the situation is the more our brains filter out to keep our focus on what's most imortant. People involved in gun fights tell stories about not hearing the gun shots and seeing things in slow motion as their brain goes into overdrive to promote survival. In a stressed team you can observe the same symptoms. The more stress the team experience the less they will communicate and as the information flow decreases the quality of their decisions will decrease as well - the team goes authistic.
Being an Agile coach in large organisations in this time of financial crisis I see the same symptoms in managers. As the stress of financial survival increases a common reaction is to increase control and increased control most of the time means that someone has to measure more stuff and create reports based on those metrics. And all this leads to is an authistic organisation with loss of decision power as the result. A typical symptom of this is that meetings doesn't end in time and no real decisions are made.
The only sensible solution to this would be to provide the organisation with clear goals and make sure that everyone knows whats at stake - their jobs - and trust people to do what's best in every given situation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Stay focused!

In a team that I am coaching at the moment a problem with focus came up as they got closer to the end of an iteration. In the retrospective the team talked about the loss of energy and motivation towards the end of the iteration and decided that they had probably undercommitted and decided to shorten the next iteration since it contained less work and the goal was to get the software released. They estimated that they would be done in a week.

As the estimated week came to an end they again experienced a loss of energy and motivation. We had a discussion about it. If the length of the iteration did not stop them from loosing focus at the end then what was?

If I look at a typical iteration it contains larger chunks of work at the beginning. Towards the end the chunks get smaller; defects, adjustments, updates to documents and models and new small chunks keep appearing as the team runs test sessions. The problem seems to be that the smaller the chunks of work becomes the more the team loses focus.

In this case we solved it by shortening the lenght between team synchronization, from once a day to twice a day and that seemed to solve the problem. A simple solution to a difficult problem...