Books, Meeting Facilitation

6-3-5 brainwriting, 2020 Vision & NUF Test

In the last weeks I facilitated three sessions for our Sales Team in which I mixed up or combined different creative methods: 6-3-5 brainwriting, 2020 Vision and NUF Test. The goal was to create different ranked lists with answers to the question “How can we increase our total revenue?”

6-3-5 brainwriting
6-3-5 brainwriting, 2020 Vision, NUF TestThe 6-3-5 brainwriting was the first session and created 162 ideas from 9 different persons within 45 minutes. (Read my post on how to use 6-3-5 brainwriting here ») A Sales colleague and myself clustered the ideas afterwards and we could start the following session with 17 topics that directly resulted out of the clustering of the 6-3-5 brainwriting.

2020 Vision & NUF Test
The second session lasted 90 minutes (with a 5 minutes break). I started with introducing the cluster generated topics. After that we discussed and noted the benefits for each topic. This very straight forward excercise is necessary to shed a light on all topics, so that everyone gets about the same idea what is understood by the topic. I left out the ranking part of the 2020 vision and continued with the NUF Test.

The NUF Test “tests” each topic on three different criteria. We chose “new” (Is it a new idea?), “useful” (Would it really help to increase our total revenue?) and “feasible” (Can it be realized or is it utopia?) as the criteria, but you could as well adapt the criteria to your needs. The group rates each topic on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being poor and 10 being top) for each criterion.

To get a quick agreement of the group for the individual scores we used a normal deck of cards (with Ace (=1) to 10) : Like in Agile Planning Poker everyone put the card with his score upside down on the table. After everyone had put down their card, everyone turns the card and checks with the group members. After a bumpy start with the first ratings we gained speed and quickly rated all topics. (And it was fun! :))
As a result you already have a nicely ranked list of your ideas by simply adding up all scores for each topic.
But we wanted to take it one step further and met for a third session….

(2020 Vision and NUF Test are best described in the book Gamestroming from D. Gray, S. Brown and J. Macanufo. If you don’t have it, BUY IT!)

NUF Test and Ranking

As an additional criterion we added “estimated earnings” to our list of 17 topics. This turned out to be difficult for some of the group because it is hard to give an estimating for a topic you are not really familiar with. (But it’s “only” an estimate, isn’t it?) This time, we used post-its to write down the estimates individually and then adjusted the estimate with the group.
Finally we split all topics in two categories (Can we realize the topic predominantly by ourselves? OR Is there predominantly an external dependency to realize it?) and finished the session after 50 minutes.

After the three session we had four ranked lists:
– all topics ranked by NUF
– all topics ranked by “Est. Earnings”
– topics that can be realized by ourselves ranked by NUF and “Est. Earnings”
– topics that can be realized only with external dependency ranked by NUF and “Est. Earnings”

What do you think?
Does it sound like combining too many methods or like worth giving it a try?

Agile Coaching, Books, Kanban, Scrum, Scrumban

Soft Agile Transition: Slowly from nowhere to Scrum

Lean Thinking is what I’m trying to learn and adopt at the moment.
What a perfect coincidence that I stumbled over Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum from Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. On page 54 they describe Kaizen, one of the crucial Lean Principles, as a plausible “inspect & adapt”:

  1. choose and practice techniques the team and/or product group has agreed to try, until they are well understood
  2. experiment until you find a better way
  3. repeat forever

When I try to find this Kaizen practice in my work of the last years, it fits to what I call the “soft agile transition from nowhere to Scrum.” 😉
Here is the formula:
(0) Nothing > (1) Daily communication > (2) Visual Workflow > (3) Kanban > (4) Scrumban > (5) Scrum

When we started working with agile techniques we had a divergent mindset in our product teams. Only one team was ready and willing to start with Scrum straight away. Other teams were reluctant to try anything agile and stayed with “Nothing” or were led by project management.

By now all our teams are somewhere in the “soft agile transition from nowhere to Scrum” and I’m happy that all of them have passed step “(1) Daily communication” already.

The above described Kaizen was my fundamental line of action to move step by step from (0) to (5).

What are your experiences with introducing agile techniques to your company?

from nowhere to scrum via kanban and scrumban

Characteristics of the “soft agile transition from nowhere to Scrum”

(0) Nothing
– Black Box
– Led by Project Management

(1) Daily communication
– Daily Scrum

(2) Visual Workflow
– Daily Scrum
– Team board
– Regular Retrospectives

(3) Kanban
– Daily Scrum
– Team board
– Regular Retrospectives
– Lead Time
– Optimize size of batches

(4) Scrumban
– Daily Scrum
– Team board
– Regular Retrospectives
– Lead Time
– Optimize size of batches
– Agile Estimation
– Regular Review Meetings
– Release Plan via Lead Time

(5) Scrum
Do it without ScrumButs

Books, Kanban, Scrum, Scrumban

3 Retrospectives in 2 Days

Last week I had retrospectives with three different agile teams within 2 days. I love retrospectives and a retrospective meeting is one of the first agile things I try to establish when I start working with a team. Every team needs to get used to the advantages of retrospectives though…

The agenda for retrospectives always includes the following 4 questions:

  • What went well since our last retrospective?
  • How can we do better, how can we improve our process?
  • Is there anything we CAN’T change by ourselves?
  • What in detail will we change until the next retrospective?

Besides those questions I experienced that a warm-up at the beginning is more than helpful: Draw a timeline of the past sprint (or period of time concerned in the retrospective) on a flipchart. Ask the team “What has happened in the last weeks?” and then let the team put sticky notes with their answers on that timeline.

The warm-up helps everyone to get their minds focused and it shows that everyone in the team can have a different view of the past couple of weeks.
In addition:
For teams that work with a Kanban system it is sometimes difficult to see what has been accomplished in the last weeks. This warm-up shows them that a lot of work has been finished.

Maybe you like to try out 2 things I experienced as useful:

  1. Have a short break after you have answered the first question (“What went well since our last retrospective?”): It could be a smoking break or as simple as just opening the windows to let in some fresh air for some minutes. The team (normally) has just mentioned a lot of positive things, so try to keep the good vibes for some moments! 😉
  2. Feel comfortable with the silence while the team is writing their sticky notes. Don’t hustle the team when the team seemingly is not writing anything more. Sometimes it only takes a couple of seconds and someone starts writing again.

Read “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great” from Esther Derby and Diana Larsen for different tools and recipes in retrospective meetings.

In the next weeks I will try to write a post about how to get the results of retrospectives done.
[Update Sept. 07, 2011: Done. 😉 Please read How to Deal with Results from an Agile Retrospective?]

Agile Coaching, Books

Really listening

At the moment I’m reading “Agile Coaching” from Rachel Davies & Liz Sedley.

It strikes me, how much of the things they describe as the basics I’ve naturally done in the last years. Nevertheless one of the most important, easiest but also hardest things is to really listen to & to really pay attention to your colleagues when they are talking to you.

A lot of colleagues visit me in my office these days. It’s ok that most of them ignore that I’m either actually working on something or am just about to leave for a meeting; they simply jump in…
For a couple of days I find myself restarting in those situations:
I’m listening to what my colleague has to say, I’m trying to be open and relaxed, I allow silence in the conversation and try to pay my complete attention to the colleague.

We all know it’s important. It sounds easy. But it’s hard.