...copyright Elena Yatzeck, 2010-2017

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Your Agile Transformation Needs to Start with a Quiet Phase

From a really great blog post on agile adoption:  http://smoovejazz.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/an-agile-approach-for-adopting-agile-practices/
I've observed some different agile transformation patterns, and maybe you have too:

Just Do Standups  (Shoot, then Aim):  some people feel that since you're "agile," you should just start doing stuff, like daily standups, and then build more of the the plan as you go.  Find a team and start doing some agile with them!  Start a revolution one practice at a time, one team at a time.
  • Pros:  you're very busy from the start.
  • Cons:  what exactly are you doing and why?
KPI-Driven Change (Aim, then Shoot): some people who have worked in large corporations for a while will tell you that to get the respect of the people, you need to start with a plan, support the plan with awesome printed and online collateral.  Then you "kick off," tell teams what to do, and measure them using "Key Productivity Indicators," KPI, to see whether they are good at the new thing you want them to do.
  • Pros:  you know what you're doing and why
  • Cons:  you could fail in a big, public way.  Live by the KPI, die by the KPI.  Unless you lie.
I'm not going to call "Do What You Want And Lie About It" a strategy, but it certainly is a pattern.

Plan-Do-Check-Act (Shoot Something Easy To Hit Successfully, Then Move On to Bigger Game):  W. Edwards Deming's PDCA takes out a lot of the risk out of KPI-driven change.  In this pattern, you plan something small, try it out as a pilot, verify that the small thing worked as expected, and then try it with any needed modifications on a larger scale.  You can create a whole program as a series of PDCA cycles.  You could even create your own new acronym, PPME:  "Plan, Pilot, Modify the bigger plan based on the pilot, and Execute for real."
  • Pros:  you never bet more than you can afford to lose
  • Cons: depending on when the review cycle occurs, it may not look like you've done much while you're still doing small pilots.
So here is my personal revelation for the week.  You can even improve on Plan-Do-Check-Act, even though it's designed to not allow for anyone to trump it, ever.  Think about it.

What if...

...you could LOOK like you were doing massively successful KPI-driven change, to impress all your command-and-control enterprise buddies, but you could control the risks the way you can with the PDCA method?  Allow me to introduce you to a standard practice of large-scale fund-raising:

The Quiet Phase (Don't Declare the Plan Until It's Already Succeeding):  An organization-scale transformation is extremely analogous to an institutional fundraising "capital campaign."  Just as you want to get a lot of your target employees to start developing software the agile way, fundraisers want to get a lot of target donors to actually give them money.  It's not clear what's hardest to do, and I suppose it partly depends on the economy.  But at any rate, suppose we stipulate that "raising billions of dollars is difficult," for purposes of the argument.  How do fundraisers do it?

Fundraisers always start their campaigns with a "quiet phase," in which a small number of "capital gifts" fund-raisers make personal appeals to large scale donors, asking them to help anchor the campaign.  Studies have shown that the most successful campaigns actually raise up to 40% of their targeted funds this way before the campaign is even announced.  So when the campaign kicks off, it is already successful.  (There also turns out to be an analogous "goal line effect," which is that a huge amount of donations come in after the campaign reaches 95% of its stated goal).

What can we learn from this?  If you need to do a very large transformation, plan to start by spending some time on a series of "Quiet Phase" Plan-Do-Check-Act pilots in a very "Lean Startup" entrepreneurial mode, tracking what works and what doesn't, and racking up success stories.  Once you know what important wins you are likely to gain at scale, and, more importantly, once you have actually achieved some important wins at scale, THEN do your kick-off and announce your KPIs.  You give the impression of having an incredible ability to succeed from the start, because you've made your mistakes before you were out in public.  And the people who had the "behind the scenes" view of the quiet phase feel all the more important because they were in on the ground floor.

As one of my awesome colleagues says, "perception is reality."  Make perception work for you, by setting the reality first.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tips for Those Suddenly Traveling Frequently

Do you suddenly need to travel a lot for work?  If so, here are some helpful ideas.  I'm not getting kick-backs from any of these companies--I just like some of these products and you might too!

Tiny laptop:  some people really can't deal with a tiny laptop, but if you can, then you should get one.  I have the 11" MacBook Air, which fits into my purse.  It's about the size of an iPad, but it's an actual laptop with an actual keyboard.  By the time you get the iPad case with the keyboard built in, you're carrying more weight than you would be if you just got the MacBook Air in the first place.  I'm not one of those Apple fanatics--I swear by my Android phone, and scoff at iPhone 5 users who are suddenly discovering spoken turn-by-turn navigation.  You can also get a tiny Intel-based PC.  The chip isn't the important thing--it's the size of the overall laptop and the screen quality that matter.

Suitcase:  avoid checking your bag.  One day they will lose it.  This is not an "if" proposition, but a "when."  Have you visited that store in Alabama where they sell stuff people have lost on planes?  Find a way to fit all of your stuff into a bag that will fit in the overhead bin of a normal plane.  My favorite bag is the Zuca Pro, because you can sit on it in an airport.
Note, one time I was traveling through Calgary on a slow day, and they brought all of the security people over to watch me unpack the bag, along with all of the little travel pouches.  But that's only happened once.

Also:  if you want, you can order flashing Magneto LED wheels for your Zuca.  I totally did!

Travel bottles:  But Elena, you may say, if I can't check my bag, how can I bring enough of my special shampoo and conditioner with me?  Exactly.  You do not have to rely on the drugstore "travel bottle" selection, which inevitably seems to consist of 2-ounce bottles of Head and Shoulders, even though the TSA will allow you 3 ounces.  For viscous liquids such as shampoo or face cream, I recommend the Humangear "GoTube 3," because these bottles hold 3 ounces, and are easy to fill or clean.

However, the GoTubes are not good for clear liquids, such as single malt whiskey.  Don't even ask.  Just buy those little travel sized bottles of alcohol for your in-flight and at-destination alcohol-related emergencies.

Loyalty programs and loyalty program credit cards:  if you're just about to start traveling all the time, figure out which airlines have a hub in your home airport, and which hotels your company wants you to stay at, and enroll right away into their frequent flyer or frequent visitor programs.  Make sure you get credit for all of your flights, stays, and purchases.  It adds up quickly to free flights and free hotel stays.  Even more importantly, once you get a few miles on your airline of choice, you start being upgraded to the not-coach seats.
Always bring a bathing suit so you can use the hotel pool and spa as needed.

Popup travel laundry hamper:  I'm not Ms. Neat Freak, but each day when I am on the road, I like to be able to tell the clean clothes from the used ones, in case I meet someone important who might regret my second day underthings even more than I will be.  If you get a popup hamper, you just set it up in your closet, and throw your already-worn clothes into it, leaving the others safely out for later use.  At the end of the trip, dump everything back in your suitcase willy-nilly and wash it when you get home!
Note, you will need to be able to figure out how to twist the little suckers up into a tiny 6" diameter circle, but surely you can do that!

Auxilliary power for all your gadgets:  I accidentally bought two different "extra power" gadgets to charge my phone before I realized that if I just got a USB charger for each gadget, I could charge everything on my laptop.  Don't do what I did.  Buy the cheap USB adaptors and just use your laptop as an extra battery in car, plane, and train!

Jersey clothes:  not the state, the fabric!  Jersey is your friend.  No-wrinkle, shake-out, washable, drape-able, fabulous!  Also, ballet flats, if you are woman-identified.  They take little room in your Zuca, and they do not hurt you.  Also, take a Pashmina to keep you warm, and leave the six chunky wool blazers at home.  Also, no-iron cotton shirts, if you are man-identified.  Same as Jersey, but masculine.  And for both genders (and those who go beyond gender), there is a whole new generation of wrinkle-free cloth you can use to make suits and jackets and things.  No-iron is your friend.

Appropriate planning for having mobile phone/text service, if you are traveling abroad.  My extremely beloved AT&T Samsung Galaxy III from the US, for example, does not work in India or in Hong Kong.  There are several mitigations you can consider (Lord knows I wish *I* had!), including getting a country-specific SIM card that you put into an unlocked phone that you carry around in addition to your home country smart phone.  But at minimum:  have some device with you that is wireless-capable, so you can email for help from Starbucks world-wide.  Ramp up the complexity of your phone strategy from there (portable routers!  internet phones!  service to forward your home number anywhere in the world!  skype or facetime on your tablet with wireless!  so many choices!  But all of the choices will be easier to put into action if you research and plan for them from home before you leave).

One last reminder in this category:  if you have a phone that already works on networks outside your native country, you should turn off "roaming data" to avoid HUGE phone bills, and you should arrange for an "international calling plan" with your home phone company.

Also for those traveling abroad:  talk to your credit card company before you go, to let them know where you will be and find out what restrictions they have.  I found out at an inconvenient time (when the tailor was delivering my custom-made clothes to me at a hotel in India) that my beloved credit card company will not allow transactions of a certain magnitude if the merchant sells garments.  Supposed garment transactions are apparently a big money laundering scam, or so my credit card company informed me on the phone call from my hotel room that cost as much as the clothes (see "arrange for a working mobile phone" above).  It was awkward, to say the least, and eventually I had to withdraw the money from an ATM in order to pay him.  So I suppose the additional points here are:  have multiple cards, and make sure you have a card you can use to withdraw money from ATMs as well as pure "credit" cards.

Also, of course, make sure you always know where you can find an ATM.  You might expect that hotels will have them in the lobby.  This is a classic case of "trust but verify."  Speaking again from sad experience.

Add your own!  This is the audience-participation part of the blog.  If you have additional travel tips or product recommendations, please add them!  And have a really nice week!