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Showing posts from August, 2010

MegaAgileTron and Sharpie Man Move To A Smaller Tent

A friend of mine works for a company that did some one-stop shopping and hired the vendor of their agile project management software to also run their IT organization transformation.  Handily, the transformation consisted of implementing the tool, which I'll call MegaAgileTron, and then providing training on the tool.  Apparently, at my friend's Friday's stand-up meeting, one of the people on his team said proudly "Wow, I have a lot of work to do today in [MegaAgileTron]!" And everyone nodded enthusiastically about how agile they have all become.  As my friend said, "it wasn't funny at the time, but now that I think about it..."

Agile project management tracking software has become its own industry, and the gadget-oriented CIO may be tempted to think that the best way to take her organization to the next level is to buy, install, and provide training on a new project management tool.  This approach, once taken, has the handy side effect that she can…

Et tu, Toyota?

I was gripped by anxiety today when I found out that Toyota is recalling another 1.13 million vehicles, and even more if you count Canada.
I worry for Toyota owners of course, American and Canadian alike.  But professionally, I feel even more worried for us advocates of lean and agile principles who have depended on Toyota to provide a one-word motivation to our audiences.  For decades, Toyota has been our hero, and even if we quickly disavow the company now as having any major role to play with lean, the questions about Toyota’s quality and processes are going to come back to haunt us, and we need to be prepared.
So today’s recall news brings agile presenters (and would-be Toyota owners) together to ask three new common, and newly urgent, questions:
Is there actually a problem?  Do friends let friends buy Toyota any more?  Or is this nothing more than an emotional media circus?If there is a problem, was it caused by Toyota’s adherence to lean principles?  If so, what do we need to adjus…

The Agile Ronin

I was recently cheered and inspired by Jonathan Rasmussen's post on the "agile samurai," also the title of his recent book.  In his blog, he suggests that the the samurai, unlike the "rice pickers," are the ones who:

say what needs to be saidcall BS when they see itlaugh in the face of unrealistic schedules and expectationstackle all the hard, complex, thorny stuff no one else wants to wade intoare technically excellent at their crafttake pride in their workand are comfortable in their own skins I liked this description, but it made me nervous in some ways as well.

So since I'm prone to zealous pursuit of metaphors, to the point of finding and reading two or even three results of a Google search as I look for enlightenment, I investigated real-life samurais and found that they were actually constrained significantly in their behavior, living by a creed of "loyalty to one's master, self discipline and respectful, ethical behavior."  Such a pe…

The Good Silo -- Servant Leadership, Self-Organization and Yes, Old Fashioned Middle Management

Please be honest.  Does the concept of "self organizing teams" frighten you at all?  Do you picture everyone in your organization trooping into some large room with no chairs and being asked to arrange themselves into color-coded "pods" and then come up with plans for total quality management, preferably presented as a skit with lame props to upper management, who, naturally, will not be participating in the pods in any in-person sort of way?

If you're in charge of an IT organization of, say, 250 people, and you want to really shake things up the way British Telecom did, you would be fully within your rights to ask:  so how do we structure this?  And you should demand an answer from your transformation coach more specific than "well, we'll set up a bunch of collocated self-organizing teams" which is implicitly followed by the silent phrase ("and your middle management will hate it, hate us, and hate you, but mostly hate us, and won't THAT…

Distributed Agile: It’s the People, Stupid, er, Honored Colleague

Let's say you're provisioning a new project team with members on multiple continents.  As you look for ways to do your work quicker, better, and cheaper, you may ask yourself: “Can we approach this project in an "agile" manner?” But you may have just read Martin Fowler’s excellent description of the ideal team room, and detected that the prototypical agile workspace isn’t big enough to span multiple time zones.

Should you give up your dream of using your new project to launch the agile revolution at your firm?  Well, yes and no.  A distributed agile team will not gain all of the benefits of Alistair Cockburn’s “osmotic communication.”  The team members in Bosnia won't be overhearing the Toronto office's discussions and benefiting from them.  On the other hand, you may still prefer for your distributed team to be agile rather than not.  You don't want to kill something good while waiting for the perfect.  And you may be acting on a mandate from above whi…