Saturday, 21 July 2012

Why are we here?

As a new team of Agile Coaches, we are in the process of creating our Vision and Mission, the message we send to the other teams, mostly our clients, on what are we here to do for them. During the discussion, the business need came up, more specifically:  "Our IT team was not delivering, that's why we created this team". I thought about it and although I understand that the delivery problem triggered the need for change and the birth of my team, I think there is more to this.
From my point of view, my team was created because " the IT team was not delivering AND this IT team decided to become Lean/Agile".
Recognising a problem, being strong enough to bring it up and make it visible, is the very first step an organisation can do in order to improve. I say "strong enough" because it takes a lot of guts to admit the problem, to admit that somewhere down the road you have made a wrong choice that right now is proving to create some roadblocks.
Some decide to hide it. If you hide it and you try to patch it, maybe you will be able to fix it without others being aware of this problem, without others knowing that you made a mistake. We are humans, and we are evaluated based on our wins, not our mistakes. I know that someone said "I learned so much from my mistakes that I am thinking to make some new ones". But in business, a long trail of mistakes is not on your side when it comes to choosing the next leader. Because of this fear and this thinking, we can go deeper and deeper in defending the first mistake; we make more mistakes. For how long? Nowadays, usually you can't go on like this for too long. People are educated. They read, they are in touch with business, they are in touch with the latest technology and practises. You can't keep people blind for long. They will either leave you (and you will end up without the required talent to run an organisation) or their commitment level and energy will fall down (as result the productivity falls down). At the end, you haven't fixed your problem, you are elongating the trail of your mistakes and you lost some talent or they are bored.
Some others decide to fix it. As my manager reminds us often "There are different ways to skin a cat". Usually, you do not have the luxury where business/clients come to you everyday with a new "cat" and ask "How will you skin this cat today since I didn't like the way you did it yesterday and the day before? I am willing to continue paying you for experimenting on this." So, what to do?
You need to come up with a strategy, with a framework and with the right support for these.
The strategy will help you focus to where you would like to go, how do you want this problem to be in X months (10% less, 50% more client returns, 30% customer satisfaction, 20% increase on ROI, etc, etc). And then you decide on the framework.

Maybe it makes sense to close the door, sell everything and start something new.
Maybe it makes sense to fire some managers, hire some new ones that are presented to you as "rock stars" and give them X-y months to bring some improvements.
Maybe it makes sense to stop offering one of the products and hammer on the other one that seems to be successful.
Maybe it makes sense to hire contractors all over the place and tie them on short leash with some heavy duty PM.

Maybe.. there are so many maybe-s you can come up with. But you have to pick the framework for you, the one that will make sense to your strategy, the one that you see fitting, the one that you see beneficial for a long term. And frankly, I am glad that in the sea of options out there, my organisation chose to become Lean and not something else (like RUP, or SixSigma or ..). Why am I happy?
Because my organisation is in public sector and as a tax payer in this province, I am happy to know that $$ is not wasted in long processes, old management styles and pre-historic expensive technologies. Because I do believe that agility is the key in today's business. I do believe that long are gone the days where IT can operate in long term plans and put down daily fires without making any change to the ongoing projects. Because I believe that people want to improve their career skill set not just in technology but also in business and management. I believe that it is time to consider everyone in the team as a "partner" and not just someone that will do what manager says and how the manager says.
And that's why my team was created, to support this strategy and this framework. Had this organisation chosen another way to "skin this cat", someone else would be doing something else right now. Someone else would be taking this organisation to a different way of thinking, different processes with different values.
While my team is working on the Lean/Agile framework, we are taking this organisation to new processes, new ways of thinking, new ways of collaborating, new technology and IT craftsmanship. While we are doing all this, day by day, we are creating an environment where the same people that were here 6 months ago, will now start delivering IT projects. My team will NOT deliver these projects, my team will not commit to business requirements, my team will not be executing the projects using new tech tools and issue tracking systems. The people in this IT organisation will do all this, the same people that before, in another framework, could not satisfy the business needs.
So, my team is here "Because this IT organisation wants to start delivering IT projects, and they want to deliver them in an Agile way, using Lean practises"

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