Archives for the Month of February, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall… Why Me?

With Spring almost in the air, Agilistas around Europe are getting ready to attend the annual SPA 2008* residential conference from March 16 – 19 in Bedfordshire, UK.

In the Land of Agile Fairytales

Are you baffled yet fascinated by the behaviour of those around you? Have you ever wondered why they do what they do? If you answered ‘Yes’ to at least one of the questions above, then come join Chris Cooper-Bland and me at SPA on a mini-adventure of self-discovery with help from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

This is your chance to learn more about yourself to give you a better chance of understanding others. Think Kaizen Meets Agile Fairytales.

This is the second themed session in the Agile Fairytale series, beginning with a game of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Game to help you identify the characters who interest, trouble, confound and/or confuse you most at work.

Once you’ve developed new or more in-depth insights into your own character, you will be able to choose from one of four techniques to help improve your personal effectiveness. See here for more details on the session.

I’ll also be helping out with Chris Matts’s session on Real Options. He reckons learning about Real Options will change the way you make decisions forever. Come along to see if he’s right or wrong.

Post St. Valentine’s

After the mailman arrived yesterday morning, I found myself struggling to open my front door. Some of you probably had the same problem.

In my case, I couldn’t open my front door not because there was a gargantuan pile of love post but because I wasn’t at home. I was on an important mission. I was in Brussels meeting a completely new bunch of Agilistas to do work. Serious work.

Mission Impossible

Our goal was to be sure we delivered to our customers what they wanted. We already had a huge backlog of requirements. We had lots to do but no way of evaluating effectively the value of the requirements to our different customers with potentially conflicting priorities.

Each of us in the group had at least three roles. We were:

  • A member of the delivery team
  • A type of customer
  • An individual who wanted to work with and learn from other Agilistas.

The Crew

The individuals present were a great bunch. They were my favourite kind of Agilistas – demonstrably open, friendly, inclusive and enthusiastic. Most important of all, they were Active Doers not Snoozers.

Together, we turned Mission Impossible to Mission Possible. Yes, there was going to be a lot of work ahead of us, but deep down we also knew it would be a great source of fun. Satisfaction was guaranteed so long as we ensured what we did M-A-T-T-E-R-E-D. To our customers and, by association, to us.

What We Did Next

We began by establishing a common understanding, the foundation to any effective, well-functioning group: our values.

  1. We began by identifying and prioritising the values of the group using a brainstorming-clustering exercise.
  2. Next we identified our customers and grouped them by type.
  3. Then, voting using finger poker, we rated the importance of each of our group’s values from each customer’s perspective.
  4. Then we reflected and evaluated what the numbers told us. In my experience, this is the most insightful step in the process. On this occasion, everyone learnt something new about the correlation between our values and our customers. This step is usually a useful indicator of the value and quality of data we get from the exercise.
  5. Finally we re-prioritised our group’s values in the order of priority to our customers. This is because we all believed customer-value is what matters most.

The Magic Behind the Wisdom of Crowds

Thanks to the Wisdom of Crowds theory, we were able to derive and distil the values that reflected the essence of eleven independent, thinking individuals, each with different perspectives and motivations.

In the time it takes to make a roast dinner, the eleven of us established a common understanding with a common currency: four key values to guide us in what we do based on what’s most important to our customers and what’s most important to us. Of course this is only one way of deriving a value currency. What you end up with that determines whether or not you and your team are doing work that really M-A-T-T-E-R-S.