Know Thy Audience - Part 2

May 4, 2007 — Posted by Jim Trott

Listen to the podcast Know Thy Audience - Part 2

Happy Cinco de Mayo 2007!

I will be doing a couple of shows with Alan Chedalawada, the Chief Operating Officer and manager of the coaching practice at Net Objectives. He is a gifted coach who connects with senior management as good as anyone I have seen. He knows how to get things moving.

One of the critical success factors for introducing Lean-Agile software development into an organization is to be prepared. To understand who you are going to be working with. This is the first discipline you need to adopt to become a good Lean-Agile coach. Prepare and then prepare to be a learner (your first impressions are almost always wrong or at least incomplete).

This show continues the conversation on preparation that we have been having with Alan Chedalawada, the Chief Operating Officer and manager of the coaching practice at Net Objectives. I am highlighting him to you because I find him to be a gifted coach who connects with senior management as well as anyone I have seen. He knows how to get things moving. I learn a lot by watching him and I think you will glean important ideas as well.

You may recall, Alan categorizes clients into Entrepreneurial, Structured, and Highly-Defined organizations. How does this help him? He identifies several ways:

  • It indicates the approaches to take to help the organization learn this new approach
  • It gives a sense of their openness to innovation
  • It helps predict the number of projects and variety of experiences that will be required during the discovery phase before management and workers can feel that this approach will work in their environment.

Here is a little more detail

The benefit of categorization

First, categorization helps develop the approach to take to help the client learn this new way of doing product development. The more formal and specialized their work, the more they may have to unlearn before they can start to learn. The more centralized, the more likely it is that the central group will have to be involved in this “unlearning” early in the process.

Along this line, it gives a sense of how likely the organization is to be able to learn, to improve, and to innovate. A very telling measure is to ask, “How often have practices been revised? And by whom?” The more entrepreneurial, the more likely they will be able to embrace change and empower local improvements.

Categorizing customers indicates the breadth of “experimentation” or discovery that will be required in the consulting engagement. In an entrepreneurial organization, starting with local teams (the normal approach of Agile coaches) can be successful; but in highly-defined organizations, this will probably not be helpful: your sample size is just too small. The local team will often be so specialized that their issues will not be representative of the organization or the project types they face. You will not have demonstrated that the approach will work nor scale to the program level and so you will not get management buy-in.

How will you drive out risks: in teams and in the organization (is Agile sufficient?)

Remember, early in your consulting engagement, you are trying to drive out all of the risks that the client may face. It would be very easy to help local teams become highly productive product development engines. The main risk is just getting teams to adopt to a new way of thinking. If you can get over that, the “gossip network” will become a great ally. Emphasize an Agile approach and you will have good success with the team.

However, simply emphasizing Agile will not lead to long-term success in more highly-defined organizations. The more highly-defined the organization, the more likely it is that the risks will not be evident right away. Local teams may become efficient, but there will still be organizational impediments that get in the way of the larger objective: improving the throughput of value to the customer. Will the team be allowed to work in an Agile way? Will the business be able to adopt to the new way of working closely with the product developers? Will teams be empowered to change processes? This is where lean comes in.

In the more highly-defined organization, your consulting plan must be based on multiple projects and multiple team types to discover the impediments to success.

Do as much planning as necessary to get started… and no more

Alan expects to do as little planning as necessary on the highest priority issues and risks. I will work with the client to decide how we will address or mitigate the issues and risks or whether we will choose not to address them for now. Do enough planning to get started.

And then set the expectation that this will be a continually evolving effort.

Enjoy the show!

 

Talk to us

I want this to be very useful to you and want to dive into the issues you care most about. So, I would appreciate it if you would drop me a note to jim.trott@netobjectives.com with the topics you want us to cover. This blog and podcast series is really about how we can provide value to you.

Recommendations - Training by Net Objectives

Music used in this podcast:

For more information, contact info@netobjectives.com or visit us at https://www.netobjectives.com/

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About the author | Jim Trott

Jim Trott is a senior consultant for Net Objectives. He has used object-oriented and pattern-based analysis techniques throughout his 20 year career in knowledge management and knowledge engineering. He is the co-author of Design Patterns Explained: A New Perspective on Object-Oriented Design, Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility, and the Lean-Agile Pocket Guide for Scrum Teams.



        

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