All posts by Roy Marriott

Getting Off the Plateau – and becoming 14 times more Agile!

It was a nice problem to have: the Scrum team was performing well, but stuck on a plateau.

At each retro they’d consider what had been working well and what hadn’t, and take some actions to address the problems - but nothing moved the needle very far.

Then the Scrum Master (Chris) tried something new, with dramatic results. You could say it was a 14-fold increase in Agility, in that they went from getting customer/stakeholder feedback once a fortnight to at least 7 times per week. Customers and sales people were delighted to be getting software that really met their needs much more quickly, and relationships improved all around.

How did that happen?

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PI Planning – Remotely

We're getting used to working remotely and running meetings remotely - but what about big meetings like PI Planning? How can we run them remotely, and have them work well?

This is the result of a meetup on this topic - bringing together Agile Coaches wanting to develop their skills at running these meetings remotely, with Judy Rees who has extensive experience of running very large events for multinationals, charities and other organisations around the world.

After some introductions, we had a mini open-space, where we were able to visit 5 breakout rooms in Zoom, each with their own topic and their own section in a Google Doc. The task was to fill in "Challenges" and "What Works" in each topic, and then present back. After that, Judy answered some outstanding questions.

So here's the output:

  • "Challenges" and "What Works" for each topic
  • Video of Judy answering outstanding questions
  • Highlights of the session for people

This will probably make more sense if you were there, but hopefully you'll find it useful even if you weren't.

Good luck with your own endeavours!

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Generating Change without Generating Resistance

Is it part of your job to generate change? Do you need to persuade people to do things differently to the way they've always done them? Do you get frustrated by resistance to change?

If so, you're not alone! As I talk to people, especially people involved in Agile Transformations, this is one of the most common frustrations I hear. In fact, it's so common that many people believe it's not possible to have change without resistance.

I disagree! I've been running workshops on the topic for a year or so now, and they're always really popular (the picture above is of when I ran it at Jagex HQ for Cambridge Agile Exchange - their most popular event ever!). When people explore in the right way, they find plenty of examples of change without resistance, and things that were done to make it happen - each post-it in the photo above is an example! When we add in the "Solution Focus" model of change (which is so aligned with the Agile Manifesto) and my "Zone of Productive Change", it becomes clear that there are plenty of ways to Generate Change without Generating Resistance.

If you'd like to hear more about what's possible and how it works, listen to my podcast with Carrie Beddingfield.

If you'd like to attend a "Generating Change without Generating Resistance" workshop, come to Agile Tour London, or email me to arrange a workshop at your workplace.

From 3% to 52% growth per year – how did Hi5 do it?

Hi5 is an IT consultancy in Umeå, Sweden. They develop software and provide bespoke IT solutions to their customers around their region. From 2002 to 2013, their revenue growth was 3.4% per year – but from 2013 to 2018 it was 52%. Not only that, profitability actually increased too – from 3.7% to 4.1%.

How did they do that?

In 2011 Niklas attended a conference on “Solutions Focus.” He was deeply impressed, and took the ideas back home - where his colleagues wondered what he’d been smoking! But he won people over, brought in some training, and they applied SF to every aspect of Hi5. Along the way they generated some amazing results that contributed to this remarkable increase in growth-rate:

  • More efficient planning workshops with customers - hours instead of days
  • Those planning workshops also increased flexibility on the customer side, resulting in a better service at lower cost.
  • Customer feedback: “There’s something different in having a dialogue with you that feels better, makes it more fun and rewarding to work with you”
  • A “monster” project, which they estimated would take 12-18 months, was competed in 2 months.
  • Faster decision-making – for example, a 2 year deadlock resolved in 5 minutes
  • Meetings that are 3x more effective (in the same length of time)
  • Performance Appraisals that people look forward to – and after which, people “can’t wait to get started.”
  • Even during the training workshops there were “at least five really big WOW moments,” for example one participant saying “I’ve been thinking about this problem all summer and now, in a matter of minutes, it’s all clear to me exactly what I need to do.”

When I interviewed Niklas in 2018, he said, "I think this is probably the best tool we have found so far for impacting our bottom line."

Probably the best tool we have found so far for impacting our bottom line.

How did all this happen?

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How Niklas resolved a 2 year deadlock in 5 minutes

As CEO of an IT consultancy, Niklas knows how crucial security is to his customers. Yet there was one potential issue he and his team had been grappling with for over 2 years. Despite 20 or 30 attempts, they hadn't even been able to define the problem.

Then he changed tack, and within 5 minutes they had generated a breakthrough. Two weeks later they’d implemented a quick fix to halve the risk, and fully designed a long term solution.

What was going wrong?

How had the team got stuck in a deadlock that had lasted so long?

Basically, they'd been trying to precisely define the problem. When they tried, all sorts of questions had arisen. Is this really a problem? How much of a problem is it? What is the REAL problem? Are (various other related problems) really connected? Why haven't we already done something about it? Was someone to blame? The list goes on - and they couldn't agree answers to any of those questions.

And as Niklas put it, "Our technical people are VERY skilled and where we usually end up is in an endless 'battle of skills' focused on who can best define the problem using knowledge, experience, hearing of what has happened elsewhere, or even only the loudest voice as the ammo. Focus gradually shifts to winning the discussion and the reason for being there in the first place (actually creating some positive change) is forgotten about."

How did the breakthrough happen?

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The Power of a Positive No

What do you do when you’ve got too much to do?

You can work your tail off and get it all done (but at a cost to health, relationships and happiness in general). Or you can fall behind (and let people down).

Its not a great choice, is it?

So let’s step back and see how we get into this situation - and how we can avoid it.

Overcommitment

We end up with too much to do by taking on too many commitments, by saying yes to too many things.

But why? Why don’t we just say no?

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