Posts Tagged Kaizen
Many Agile coaches have their own list of top failure modes. My favorite one is Mike Cohn’s: “How To Fail With Agile: Twenty Tips to Help You Avoid Success“.
But I also want to publish my winning list of things that impact teams and undermine their trust in business and Agile (combined from experience gained observing different teams at different times, so no particular team is meant here 🙂 ).
So tips are written from the Product Owner perspective:
1. Argue in front of team at Sprint Planning. Let them see you were not capable to decide what you want to build them. Moreover, involve them into arguing. This will demonstrate how your (PO) team misses integrity;
2. Demonstrate that being on time does not matter: interrupt meetings with calls, side talks and questions. Leave the room occasionally and be late regularly. Doing this will make it almost impossible to demand on-time delivery from the team;
3. Continuously fail to deliver INVEST stories and integrity in sprint goal/product backlog. Let stories w/o details thought through, so that team feels you had not invest enough time to prepare them. This will also make it easier for team to fail delivering outcome of that stories to you, will make things more ambiguous, so that no one will understand where is failure or what was wrong and will never learn from it, so that improvement will not be feasible;
4. Ignore team signals on complex stories (the ones that are above ~13 story-points, the ones that are risky, big, and usually need to be analyzed and split into smaller chunks in advance). Just let big stories that have big doubts, leading to easier underestimations, over-commitments, sprint failures, causing less team confidence, further under-commitments and wastes of all kinds;
5. Present deadlines ignoring reality “I do not care how you do it, it MUST be done”. With this “masculine” management style you can always push things forward as Agile teams just delivery chain, so they must obey and no matter what they think and capable of;
6. Never share the Product Vision and mid-long term roadmap with the team (just keep it secret);
7. Ignore technical debt (just concentrate on #5);
8. Bombard team with in-sprint questions and “Can you do it now please?” tasks. Explain them that SCRUM is good but now we need to be more “FLEXIBLE”. Moreover, assign tasks to team members without talking to entire team. Demonstrate that you were not been able to plan things for an iteration, this will ruin team trust that they are working on most valuable things and completely undermine their ability to deliver;
9. Never groom your backlog just leave it to the sprint planning meeting when it is already too late. This will lead to long and stressful discussions as you will have to do it mid-planning,will drain team energy, lead further to fatigue, wrong estimations, poor planning and sprint failure;
10. Always try to find something that team did wrong to pin point and focus on blaming. This is proper way to avoid Kaizen and let team protect themself by “storytelling”;
Recently I observed an interesting trap one team fall into. When asked how confident guys feel about hitting the target, they was almost jointly saying they’re absolutely confident, however burndown chart trend told me they won’t make it.
Well, I am absolutely sure that this is what we all want to have – 100% confidence, however here’s the dangerous trap.
We may stay satisfied and oversee problems (or pretend that tomorow the problems will be gone). Or try not to rise them. Or feel uncomfortable rising them. Or think that others will feel uncomfortable if we raise them, etc…
But, they will NOT disappear. Problems usually have tendency to pile up… And when such a team recognizes that, it’s already too late…. and painful.
Kaizen mindset and “Toyota way of Lean Leadership” cultivate culture of “continuous crisis” that requires continuous improvement . Only having daily cultivated feeling of urgency and need, maintains the rhythm of tense and productive environment that reduces risk of facing a FAILURE.
As Toyota management team stated in 2010:
“We realized we need to develop a grater sense of urgency, in our business. Success is good, but without urgency serious weakness sets in, customer focus declines, creative ideas dry up and before you know it, you’re in trouble”.
So here is the trick to recognize: before you know it, you’re in trouble.
But the word and concept has negative tone and may have de-motivating impact on a team. How to make it distinct and positive?
Here is an advice…
Unlike panic or hysteria, urgency is a constructive, ordered and focused sense, therefore it should not de-motivate. Simply because it results in targeted and the only correct decision and action. Deffer commitment + deliver fast, guys!
To illustrate this imagine fighter aircraft pilot that needs to make the only correct decision and act accordingly within 10 seconds left before he may crash. And here is the difference that also proven by multiple real-life cases:
- Panic: an ordinary pilot most likely starts to hit all buttons around (maximizes focus and work-in-progress) or worse, thinks about death (we will fail…), not believing that this happens to him (we will not fail, I do not see problem, it’s not about us/me…);
- Urgency: trained pilot usually freezes for 7 seconds (analysis, defer commitment), makes decision, then within 3 remaining seconds quickly does (focused, fast) the only correct action to stabilize aircraft;
Feel the difference?
A takeaway is simple: stay open-eyed with reality, constantly challenge your confidence, do not fall into trap of satisfied optimism, distinguish among your will and reality, spread urgency around and stay hungry © for constant improvement.