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Making change happen

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

As a facilitator I have been helping management teams (often called “leadership teams”) in their retrospectives (..which they like to call “off-site planning day”). There usually is no trouble in finding problems, issues and discussion topics. Also, there is usually no problem in finding solutions — managers are trained to solve problems. And there is no problem to find a responsible person — managers can use their power to appoint someone to take care of business.

However, there is a problem of work avoidance: When it comes to taking action, everyone looks at their feet. Then someone solves the problem by appointing a person who is not present to drive the action. Wow, that takes things forward.

I usually do not allow team to nominate responsible person outside the room. This restriction may lead to situation where, instead of an action, the team creates “action to plan the action”. For example, action “Create a backlog for all project work and manage this queue properly” is diluted into “Call a meeting to decide about backlog process“.

To avoid this problem, I give the workshop team one piece of advice before they dive into action planning: Think of  the biggest sustainable and behaviour-changing actions that you and this group can make happen.

Change (Agile, Lean or whatever) is about changing your daily routines and underlying assumptions & culture. By focusing on behaviour-changing actions the team starts to think their behaviour (e.g. dropping useless meetings or deciding to Go-See every morning). Sustainable means that it not a one-shot action (“Call a meeting”) but rather a change that prevails long after the workshop has been forgotten.

p.s. See also Bas Vodde’s excellent technique for retrospectives: Plan for Action. You can use that together with my advice.

Good tweets

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I started tweeting a few days ago. Interesting, and I am still learning how to get most out of it.

I log here a couple of good tweets from yesterday, saved before I forget them.

DONE: “Done means that I don’t have to think about it anymore” — Roger Brown, Moon Rise Consulting

Scrum: “Test of whether you are doing Scrum well: Are you using Scrum to engage management or to isolate you from management?” — Alan Shalloway, NetObjectives

Categories: Agile and Lean

30 sec facilitation

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Credits for this idea goes to my wife, thanks Jaana!

Have you ever been facilitating an all-day session, where teams are trying to find improvement to their work? If yes, have you ever been in situation where people are all day talking about “quality” or “communication” when you strongly feel they should talk something else?

The story: I once facilitated a session where topic was — yes — “Quality”. Yellow stickers were posted, energies were high and lot of ideas came up. Then, at 2 p.m. on a coffee break someone said: “We always have the same ideas on the wall. Nothing ever happens. We never do anything we agree in workshops”. Bang! What a devastating piece of news. I felt all the effort was lost.

30 sec facilitation. After the normal opening rituals, I always ask people to come up with expectations (goals) for the day. In “30 sec facilitation” I let people start thinking the day’s topic in small groups. I interrupt them almost immediately. Then I take a large PostIt note and a thick pen, and write there “QUALITY”. I post it up and say: “Now, I have saved you at least half day worth of effort. I know you were going to propose we talk about quality. I ask you to stop and think further: we need to find out your real problems — not the most politically-correct discussion topics“.

Yes, I know, facilitator should not worry about finding the right problem. Participants will find it out eventually. And I know that this kind of attack can interfere with trust and atmosphere in the workshop. I will still give this a try, if I know the people and I get a feeling that workshops turn into “a great alternative to working”. Wakeup call is sometimes needed, if group working is nothing more than a nice get-together.

Categories: Facilitation, Team work