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TECHNOLOGY & LIFE

How To Build Successful Agile Practices - Jeff Gothelf

28th April 2018

Our workshop started with a clip from one of my favorites movies, the founder.

In this short clip, we can see Agile and Lean into place:

  • POCs.
  • Experimentation.
  • Wireframing.
  • Iteration.
  • ...

This exercise helped the McDonald brothers to save thousands of dollars when it came to assemble the right kitchen. At the time, they run this experiment, McDonalds brothers had already a successful business, however they decided to close down for a while to design a kitchen setup that would reduce your burger waiting time from 30 minutes to 30 seconds.

Jeff Gothelf showed Juicero as an example of a waterfall approach. A company that spent a lot of money to build a juice package squeezer that could actually be squeeze with your hands.They tried to revolutionise the way we make our juices every morning however they ended up in talks and keynotes as an example of a bad product process design.

One inspiring example on how things can be turned around is NUMMI.
NUMMI was the worst manufacturing factory car plant for General Motors. When Toyota tried to enter the American market, GM sold this plant to Toyota. Toyota flew all the staff to Japan to teach them the Toyota Production System. After the trip to Japan and the adoption of the new process NUMMI became the most productive plant of the US.

Why companies should change?

You are in the Software Business. Basically, your business is no longer your only business. You are now an IT Driven company, and that brings new challenges. Software opposed to other businesses like car manufacturing in the 20th century, is everything but predictable, so either you adapt fast or you will be out of the game soon.

As an example, NYT (New York Times) vs Buzzfeed. NYT a 167 year old company is fighting against a 12 years old company like Buzzfeed. In the leaked innovation report unveils a clear need for a culture change in the organization, "The Times must be willing to experiment more"

The way you define success in your company changes in this new technological context. Your business adds online content new users and a new market that needs different ways of thinking and therefore different processes.
Again, you are now an IT driven company, processes that proved to be successful 20 years ago for printing press seem not to be able to cope with the new challenges faced today.

Looking at car manufacturing companies, 20 years ago the only way to get a new car with new updated features would be to wait till next year. Today, TESLA is able to provide you with a new car with a single software upgrade. It took 6 days, see Elon Musk reacting to a customer complaint, to ship a software upgrade that fixed customer problems.

No industry is inmune.

In this context, it is very important to be able to run experiments, minimising the costs of failure. The foundations must be based on a mindset of continuous improvement.

MVPs and Experiments Define your MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

  • What is the smallest thing we can do or make to test our hypothesis?

At each decision point, when we need to set priorities we should be asking ourselves the following two questions:

  • What is the next most important thing we need to learn?
  • What is the least amount of work we need to do to learn the next most important thing?

When we talk about the least amount of work we don't mean to be lazy but lean. See this POC for self-driving cars built by Ford to find out people reactions when confronted with a self driving car.

Framing work with outcomes encourages exploration but complicates management.

We can use OKR's (Objectives and key results) to keep the customer front and center with our experiments. We should be managing to outcomes, using metrics to validate your status at any given moment. These metrics cascade from strategic to tactical. Strategic metrics are only met when customers change their behaviour. Let's visualise this with an example, all the credits go to Jeff Gothelf.

PRINCIPLES FOR LEAN TEAMS

  • Prioritize learning over delivery.
  • Manage to outcomes, not outputs.
  • Do less, more often.
  • Get out of the building.
  • One, cross-functional team (not just product/tech but SME’s, Legal, HR, Finance, Sales).
  • Evidence-based decision making.
  • Every decision you make is a hypothesis.
  • Transparency.
  • Humility.
  • Iterative over incremental.

Jeff suggested the use of the Sense & Respond Kata as a model for continuous improvement of product, processes and people.

sense&response kata model

Use the following sentence template and fill the gaps with the relevant information for your experiment.

WE BELIEVE THAT [TAKING THIS ACTION] WILL HELP [THESE PEOPLE] TO [ACHIEVE THIS GOAL].

WE WILL KNOW WE ARE RIGHT WHEN WE SEE [THIS CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR].

The template starts with the hypothesis we want to test, what do we believe we can do to make things better? It then talks about the group of people we are going to impact and the GOALS for each audience type.

The last part, is the key to measure success.

CONCLUSSION

I tried to summarise here, one day of workshop, which is almost impossible. I hope, I managed at least to describe the most important ideas. A keynote with Jeff Gothelf it is an experience in itself, as he possesses a broad experience coaching companies and he is a great communicator. So if you get the opportunity to attend to one of his workshops, I am sure you will enjoy it.

Questions to ponder:

Are you or your company Agile?

  • WHAT ARE YOUR EXPERIMENTS? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE?

  • AGILITY IS NOT A PROCESS, IT’S A MINDSET.

  • SUCCESS IS A MEANINGFUL CHANGE IN CUSTOMER BEHAVIOUR
    (OUTCOMES, NOT OUTPUTS).
  • AGILE CYCLES GIVE US OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN CONTINUOUSLY.
  • THE ONLY WAY TO CREATE A CULTURE OF CONTINUOUS LEARNING (AGILITY) IS TO TRUST YOUR TEAMS TO SOLVE PROBLEMS.
  • VALUE LEARNING OVER DELIVERY.
  • EVERYTHING YOU DO IS AN EXPERIMENT.
  • THE GOAL IS TO BE AGILE, NOT JUST TO “DO IT”.

Let´s wrap it up with music

As we went to Dublin to attend this magistral workshop/keynote, I kind of felt forced to post here a song from the most international Irish band of all times, U2. I hope you like it, enjoy the life!

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