You can’t deliver a task

As suggested in the July roundup, this is the first of a few posts expanding on tweets that have sprung to mind while writing (or thinking about writing) my third book, working title Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile.

Years ago, in my past life as a manager (which I still re-enter from time to time as an interim), I learned that there was little value in me tracking tasks. What mattered to me was the deliverable. Interestingly, I noticed that when I visibly stopped taking an interest in tasks, most of my team members followed suit. I said “It’s completely fine by me to tasks on the board if that’s what works for you, but I’m not going to ask about them”, and soon the task stickies disappeared.

As a team, we made rare exceptions for features that failed our “2 day rule”, which is to say features that at a very rough guess would require more than a couple of days worth of development. Experience taught us that these were disproportionately risky, so it seemed justified to insist on some kind of plan. Of course what actually happened was that most of these big features got sliced into smaller features, and then everyone’s happy to go back to feature-level tracking.

Stop tracking tasks, and no longer does the tracking system drive the developer to work in a way that doesn’t seem natural. A bit over here, a bit over there, then back to the first bit… if the tests say it’s fine, it’s fine! Two people with different skills working together on the same feature? Go for it! And at a stroke it eliminates the anti-pattern of “tasks for quality” – ie separate tasks for unit tests, refactoring, and the like (in the global department I ran more than a decade ago, these tasks disappeared when I asked why these things weren’t happening as the code was being written; I guess my predecessor didn’t see things in quite the same way).

And then there’s the whole question of when a task can be said to be “done”. How do you that some low-level piece of work is really done if the feature as a whole isn’t yet working? Somehow I think that this may have come up before….

Screenshot 2018-05-05 06.23.15Our handy, referenceable, Definition of Done

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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

#Right2LeftGuide is #Agendashift (outcome-orientation) for delivery

Going by chapter counts, Agendashift [1] is 80% outcome-oriented change and 20% continuous transformation. It describes an approach to Lean-Agile transformation that  rejects imposition, replacing it with meaningful agreement on outcomes, bringing together organisational ambitions and the needs of everyone who will help bring those ambitions to reality.

Can we do for delivery what Agendashift does for change? Of course we can. The only surprise it that it’s so necessary!

It has always been well understood in Lean circles that to make proper sense of a delivery process, you must start with how the thing that is being delivered creates value in the eyes of the customer, and work backwards from there. Somehow, that lesson gets forgotten in Agile circles; either Agile is all about teams (a view I can find some respect for, even if I don’t fully buy it), or we’re fed the ironically process-centric lie that teams start with backlogs and create value from there.

Screenshot 2018-05-05 06.23.15
Our handy, referenceable, Definition of Done

#Right2LeftGuide is about recovering a focus on customer outcomes for Lean-Agile delivery [2], and maintaining that perspective as we work backwards through the delivery process, understanding it better, managing it better, and finding ways to do it better.

It’s a simple but surprisingly radical change of perspective. With it, it’s surprisingly easy to see that there are two Scrums [3], the mechanistic, backlog-first left-to-right version and the ‘iterated goal-seeking’ right-to-left version. It turns out that there are two versions of SAFe too; expect to see more on that soon (and not just from me). I haven’t yet established whether there are left-to-right and right-to-left versions of the other leading scaling frameworks; it would be nice to identify some that are predominantly right-to-left, but we’ll see (if you can help or just want to stay in touch with this work, join us in the #right-to-left channel in the Agendashift Slack [4]).

The Right to Left book [5] will come out next summer. Meanwhile, Agendashift has plenty to offer. For example, how do you explain survey results [6] like these?

Screenshot 2018-07-20 10.59.11

When I see results like these (which I do a lot), it’s all I can do to resist sarcastic lines like “Great to see all that leadership put to such good use!”. There’s some good(ish) news –transparency, balance, and collaboration are doing somewhat ok, relatively speaking (even if the numbers aren’t great in absolute terms and they’re not having the impact on flow that we would hope for), but just look at customer focus! Fortunately, I see a great appetite for doing something about this, paying more attention to needs, embracing validation, and so on.

I’ve said a few times now that I would be happy to see the rest of my career (I’m 53) being devoted to outcomes. When I first started saying it, I didn’t have #Right2LeftGuide in mind, but that’s 100% ok. Perhaps one day we’ll be describing #Agendashift as the #Right2LeftGuide for change!

[1] Agendashift (www.agendashift.com)
[2] Understanding Lean-Agile, right to left (blog.agendashift.com)
[3] #Right2LeftGuide works for Scrum too (blog.agendashift.com)
[4] Agendashift on Slack (www.agendashift.com)
[5] Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile (www.agendashift.com)
[6] Agendashift™ Assessments, also chapter 2 of the book (www.agendashift.com)


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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

Agendashift roundup, May 2018

In this edition:  ‘Done’ goes viral; Right to left; Reviews for Agendashift; Munich and South Wales; Tools and translations; Upcoming; Top posts

‘Done’ goes viral

I don’t usually start with the blog, but within days of posting, My handy, referenceable Definition of Done jumped to the top of the leader board for 2018, bringing with it a linked post from 2016, Better user stories start with authentic situations of need.

Screenshot 2018-05-05 06.23.15

The reaction to this post was striking. Clearly, most people got what I was doing right away, but a few (5% maybe) seemed offended that I had dared to subvert a cherished Agile concept, the definition of done. I have absolutely no regrets on that score, and not just because it provoked a response: it’s a legitimate target that I’d be only too happy taken down and replaced with better things – definitions of ready (the obvious technical alternative), needs, outcomes, goals, validation, and so on.

Right to left

It seems slightly crazy that I’ve started work on a new book (my third) so soon after Agendashift, but I just can’t help myself!

Are you tired of introductions to Agile (and actual implementations, for that matter) that start “on the left” with projects and backlogs and work their way slowly rightwards to where the long-suffering customer patiently waits for something of value actually to happen? Well so am I, and I’m doing something about it.

My best guess is that Right to left will be available sometime in 2019, and hopefully no more than 12 months from now – let’s call it early summer ’19. There’s no landing page for it yet but there is a #right-to-left channel in the Agendashift Slack and some blog posts:

For completeness, theme 3 of 3, “upside down”, the supportive organisation, will get its own post in the next few days.

In terms of tone, I’m aiming for “a book you’ll happily give your manager and hope they’ll want to pass on to theirs” – less practitioner-focussed than KFTI and Agendashift then, but plenty for the expert to enjoy too I’m sure.

Word count so far: 2,910 (May 31st, 2018).

Reviews for Agendashift

Fewer than I’d like (to be honest I’m a little frustrated), but the reviews we do have are great, all 5-star so far. See for yourself:

Many thanks to those that have taken the trouble so far, and keep them coming!

Munich, and South Wales

For reasons we don’t fully understand, the Munich workshop didn’t quite get off the ground. There were sales, but not quite enough of them came soon enough for us to be confident of being able to give a good experience. Postponed rather than cancelled, and we may find a client organisation both to host it and to ensure numbers. That’s a model that could work in your city too; do get in touch if you have even just a small core of people interested.

Cardiff though – with DevOpsGuys as both excellent hosts and active participants – was great. Again some fantastic feedback for the 2-day Advanced workshop, and I spoke afterwards at the South Wales Agile Group.

I’ll be in South Wales again in July for Agile Cymru, where no fewer than five Agendashift partners will be speaking:  Cat SwetelJose CasalKarl ScotlandMatt Turner, and yours truly. That’s amazing! Clearly, if you want to find good people, you should check out the partner directory, and perhaps decide to join that list yourself 😉

Tools and translations

  • The 15-minute FOTO cue card is now available in German – thank you Agendashift partner Alex Pukinskis
  • Featureban is now available in Spanish – thank you Youssef Oufaska and Daniel Carroza

After a long wait, we finally got to play Changeban during the Cardiff workshop and it worked great! A new version of the deck is now available, a couple of bugs fixed (just with the deck, the game itself worked as planned). More here:

Upcoming

Speaking:

Over the summer period, the only workshops I’ll be doing will either be private or the Agendashift Studio event on July 7th (in my home studio office in Chesterfield, UK, and it’s sold out). Watch this space for an exciting autumn/winter programme.

Top posts

Recent:

From the archives:


Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
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Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
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We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based evolution of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

My handy, referenceable Definition of Done

Now in handy, referenceable [1] form, my working definition of “Done” [2]:

Done

[1] agendashift.com/done
[2] A good working definition of “Done”, also Better user stories start with authentic situations of need

Handy links to closely-related resources:

  • agendashift.com/book – chapter 3 in particular
  • agendashift.com/true-north – “…needs met at just the right time”
  • agendashift.com/principles – Start with needs” is principle #1

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Agendashift-cover-thumbBlog: Monthly roundups | Classic posts
Links: 
Home | About | Partners | Resources | Contact | Mike
Community: Slack | LinkedIn group | Twitter

We are champions and enablers of outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation. Building from agreement on outcomes, Agendashift facilitates rapid, experiment-based emergence of process, practice, and organisation. Instead of Lean and Agile by imposition – contradictory and ultimately self-defeating – we help you keep your business vision and transformation strategy aligned with and energised by a culture of meaningful participation. More…

A good working definition of “Done”

Ever got into one of those discussions about what constitutes “done”, “done done”, or even “done DONE done done”? It’s done when it’s code complete? Tested? Deployed?

What you’re really discussing there is not the actual work, but the process and its policies. That’s not a bad thing to discuss (quite the contrary), but still it risks missing the point.

How about a definition of done that’s not about roles or activities (“code complete”, “tested”, etc)? Try this one for size:

How (if at all) does your process confirm to you that someone’s need was indeed met?

Update: How do you identify the need in the first place?


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