Breaking patterns 2 enable change: Give everyone a voice
In my previous article Making things visible 2 enable change, I exposed my views about helping others with seeing things first, in order to enable change to happen in an evolving and iterative way.
In today’s article, I’ll focus on breaking patterns, as an alternative way to enable change, and I’ll use a case of study to show what we have put into practice, to make things happen.
- Business type: Technology
- How many years practicing agile methodologies? 8
- How many teams are involved? 5
- How many people are involved? between 30 to 40
- It this a Software Development organization? No
- Is the whole Company willing to change? No but the business unit yes.
- Is the department willing to change? Yes but …
- Are people conscious about what/where issues are? Yes
- Are people willing to change their ways, their habits? Yes but…
- Do we have the ideal conditions to turn this case of study into a case of success? No, but we will.
- Are people willing to survive and prevail? Some of them yes but…
Start by Exploring
I’ve spent at least four (4) weeks understanding the context, asking questions, validating perceptions and exploring the current state of things.
As Coach, I have two complementary mandates:
(1) Help a system engineers team to become more structured and organized with processes and tools in a constrained context.
(2) Help the organization, in this case, a department within a company that is part of another company, to survive, thrive and prevail; and that implies: better communication and collaboration between leaders, improved product management, all in sync priorities, and more structured and organized ways to work and get things done sooner than later.
Given that, I used the first part of the Arc of a Coaching Conversation created by Sue Johnston, as tool to help me help the organization with clarifying the “what”, and to help leaders with seeing clearly where to start solving which problems.
With the context at hand, I’ve shared my views with the head of the leadership team and he lead them to come up with a high level product vision for 2017, which was used as our starting point to create some momentum to start breaking patters at different levels.
From Product Vision to Ready to go
If I describe the process that we have followed using a timeline, it will look like this:
- Product Vision. The Product Manager presented his Product Vision for 2017 to the business unit, which seemed to be more like a product wish list than a high level Product Road Map.
- From Product Wish List to What to do in the First Quarter. Then, we started working with the Product Manager, to identify the highest priority items in the Product Wish List, trying to concentrate our focus only into what he would love to be completed by the end of the first Quarter of the year. In order to do that, we divided the original Product Wish List by four (4) (Quarters of the year), and we ended up with nine (9) items that we will be working upon.
- Project Charters (2 Pager). After that, I proposed to the Product Management team (Product Manager and Product Owners) to scope down items in the Product Wish List, using a light weight 2 pager project charter, to capture high level details of what the project was about and what needed to be completed, classified by “Must have” and “Nice to have”.
- Project Charter Validation (PM-PO’s-Software Development Director- System Engineers representative). The PO’s started immediately with creating project charters for the nine (9) initiatives previously identified, and the scope validation process started in parallel. A meeting was set by Product Owners to go over each project charter completed and clarify what needed to be done with the Product Manager (Product View), The Software Development Manager (Software Development View) and the System Engineer representative (Systems and Infrastructure View).
- Let’s Prioritize (leadership team). One of the issues that the business unit has faced last year, was about getting things prioritized. In order to improve on that, a bi-weekly meeting between Product Owners and the leadership team has been set, to discuss about project progression, major blockers and high level risks and decide/validate its impact on Road Map priorities.
- Project Charters technical Q&A rounds. Once everyone got aligned to which priorities we will work upon within the first quarter of the year, the Product Management team set a round of Q&A meetings with developers and system engineers, to go through project charters and get a clear picture of the need.
Up to here, the only thing that we have done is project planning, but what we feel make it better is that we have been able to include everyone into the conversation (Give everyone a voice into the changing process)
We have also created some momentum, by iteratively discuss about what needs to be done first, and we haven’t started building anything yet.
Why? this company needed to start talking and collaborating again, before building anything else. They are really good builders, but without hope and an inspiring vision, conditions weren’t ideal to do it.
Breaking patterns and fighting fears
The Stockdale Paradox (I have learned about it from a great book called “Good to Great” by John Collins, that I totally recommend you if you’re looking for inspiration about what make leaders great, with a 5 years research behind to support it) goes like this:
You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
AND at the same time…
You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
That’s what we have been doing in my current mandate. That’s the message that I’m carrying and do my best to share and get others around me to get inspired from.
So far, it seems to be working, but it will last? Well, I really don’t know but I promise I’ll let you know in the upcoming articles, when I’ll be sharing the next four steps that we have adopted, to get us ready for building great solutions:
- Wall Estimation Planning
- How do we get organized to do it?
- How do we face fear to change?
- Let’s start building
In the mean time, have fun and buy yourself a copy of my new book “Forming Agile Teams” in English or in Spanish.
Happy to hear your thoughts.
All the best,
The Stockdale Paradox by Nial Doherty
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