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What is it that actually delay our deliveries? What makes people plan for a delivery to take a certain amount of time, and then it takes 3-5 times as long to get them? Is the problem that people are lazy and don’t do what they should? That they are not productive enough? Is it that we are bad so bad at planning and that we need to be even more detailed in our plans to succeed?

No, it’s often about completely different things. What we are trying to deliver is often solutions to complex problems and therefore we can not plan our way to success. Instead we have to try things out to see what works or not. Then detailed plans quickly become obsolete. People are not the problem either. They work on it as best they can, but there are other system “errors” that affect us to a very large extent.

Download our canvas with the 5 anti patterns for free >

The biggest system “errors” for delayed deliverys are

  • Queues
  • Batch-size
  • Variation
  • Task-switching/Multi-tasking
  • Handovers

These are the most common reasons why our deliveries are delayed and why people get frustrated and stressed. If the system is set up so that queues are formed, we work with large batches, many variations, and we are forced to task-switch often and pass things on to others – then it is difficult even for those who do their best to deliver on time. Most organizations start several initiatives at the same time. This forces people into task-switching, it builds up queues and it creates variations. In addition, people work in silos, which means that we get a lot of handovers between people, teams, etc. and here, too, people are forced to task-switch and queues are forming.

I will explain them one by one, in more detail, and why they delay deliveries and make forecasting difficult.

Queues

We start with queues. Queues can take many different forms. It is easy to see when people are queuing in a store, or on the highway, but it is more difficult to see queues of information as a queue. A backlog is a queue – of a bunch of different results we want to achieve, customer needs we want to satisfy. Just as a list of activities to perform is also a queue.

The problem is often that people don’t realize it’s a queue. What do we do when queues occur? Well, in the store we open more checkouts to get rid of the queues. On the motorway when queues have been created due to accidents, it is required that we divert the traffic on to other roads to get rid of the queues. But what do we do with a backlog that has grown too long? In most cases nothing is done I would say. Often it just keeps growing and growing, and those who are supposed to deliver from it don’t have the capacity do the work at the same speed as the backlog grows. Then we have created a queue. Queues contribute to the biggest delays and often result in long wait. Queues make the system unpredictable and queues will always form. Just look at the highway how queues form due to different variations in driving styles. Someone drives fast, others brake violently, someone pulls out suddenly, others drive more slowly, etc.

Just now I said that queues are managed by opening multiple checkouts or redirecting traffic, and this is required because once we create a queue the system become slower. It’s easy to see on the highway when all the cars are crawling along, or if you look at customers in the store who have to wait an unreasonable amount of time to pay for their goods. So if we want the teams to be faster, keep the backlog short. Delete what doesn’t need to be done. Then you can keep a good flow in the team. In every system there is a limit to when we maintain a high flow. When the limit is reached and queues are formed, the throughput speed has also been reduced. This means that the speed will remain low and stay in that state, unless the queue is emptied. Often the speed the team could have is halved by a long queue. When the queue is empty, you have to experiment and see where the limitation is for when the flow goes down to find the bottleneck.

When we forecast, we don’t usually include queues as a risk factor. But if someone asks you when you think you’ll get home from work, we often look at the clock and say “it’s 5:30pm, so there will be queues. I’ll probably won’t be home until 6pm”. Here we clearly see that delivery time can be predicted by the fact that queues have formed in the system. When doing delivery work, we need to look for queues between teams, between silos, workstations, backlog length, etc. Then we can make sure to eliminate them as much as we can to get to the finish line faster.

Batch-sizes

Batch-size is another thing that plays a big role in the speed of delivery. Reducing the size of what needs to be done makes it more predictable. Small things have small variations, big things have large variations, and we want as little variation as possible to make deliveries predictable.

What do I mean by that? Well, if I’m going to change a sentence of a larger text, it’s a small batch, fairly predictable without much variation. I know exactly what to change, I just need to do it. If instead I have to write a research report that several different researchers have to review and approve, then it is a large batch, which is much more difficult to predict how long it will take and when it will be finished. We simply have a lot of factors at play here that are not that predictable. For example, I don’t know how my text will be perceived by all the different researchers who will review it, if it is considered to contain the right parameters, if all the text is in the right order and is structured correctly, if the research is considered sufficiently well-founded, etc.

We can also easily see that batch sizes matter when we for example have to guess how long it takes to run 400 m, compared to guessing how long it takes to run 1 mile. If we look at 400 m as a small batch, then the variation within which I and other people manage to run 400 m, will be less than the variation when I guess how long it takes to run 1 mile.

The smaller batches we divide our work into, the less variation there will be and the more predictable it will be. Therefore, we divide our work into smaller parts that still creates value for our customers.

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One of the conditions of a Team is continuous coaching. This is to enable the team to become high-performing and well functioning. Without putting time and effort into team coaching it is very hard to become high-performing as a team, and most teams need experts to support in the beginning to move beyond friction and into the phase of the structure.

The 5 Stages of a Team

1. Inclusion

The team meets and learns about the work that needs to be done and what’s expected of them. Members avoid disagreement because they fear rejection at this stage, making the leader a central role providing
direction. There is a desire for order, roles, and structure.

The need of the team: All team members understand the purpose of the team and want to be part of it. Team members know and accept each other and feel accepted as a member of the team.

The leaders role: Provide structure. Make sure everyone is included. Initiate open discussions of values & goals.

Common leadership pitfalls: Analysis paralysis / Not daring to make decisions. Thinking the leader need to have all answers.


2. Friction

The team starts challenging the defined boundaries, such as process and working agreements and voice differences in individual working styles and behaviors. Team members challenge each other. Some question the team’s goals altogether. Typically, this will be a challenging phase.

The need of the team: Understanding of each other’s behavioral style and intention. Improved ability to resolve disagreement effectively. 

The leaders role: Support, coach & train the team in how to keep an open dialogue. Help solve conflicts. Build trust.

Common leadership pitfalls: Picking on individuals – stay focused on ideas, not personalities. A leader that’s unwilling to compromise. A belief that the team needs conflict to advance from this stage – allow disagreement but don’t foster conflict.


3. Structure

The team has the ability to resolve disagreement and integrates their personal differences. They revisit goals and objectives and redefine structures, working agreements, roles, and processes to support them.

The need of the team: Time to work out structures within the team such as processes, goals, roles, and working agreements. Everyone feels that issues regarding ways of working that are important to them have been discussed.

The leaders role: Act as consultants when needed. Support by removing impediments outside of the team.

Common leadership pitfalls: Not taking the time to make sure everyone’s perspective is represented. Trying to get everyone to conform to the same values. Trying to find the perfect solution.


4. Performing

The team have agreement on goals and objectives and work towards them together. The team is competent in decision making and conflict resolution with minimal or no supervision. The team rapidly gains important knowledge through knowledge sharing – there’s no information hoarding. Relationships and results are equally important.

The need of the team: The team is self-managed and continuously evaluate their own performance.

The leaders role: Share responsibilities with the team. Reward initiative. Coach & facilitate individual development.

Leadership pitfalls: Expecting to not have to further improve and still maintaining high performance.

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Are you a well-functioning Agile team?

These questions can give you an idea of what a well-functioning Agile team looks and feels like. If you are a newly formed team you can see the questions as a benchmark for the future and continue to revisit them as a team, as your Agility grows.

These questions can be discussed and answered in combination with the Team Maturity questions.

Why self-evaluation matters

There is a reason teams should evaluate themselves, and not be evaluated. If the team takes responsibility for their own progress and improvement, they also take ownership of evaluating their own performance. If someone else would use their data to compare teams across the organization, or to perhaps set salaries, then it would not be a safe place anymore and people and teams would not dare to show any flaws, and improvement would, therefore, be impossible.

Download and Print the Self Evaluation Sheet (PDF)

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What do you usually say is the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t? Those who succeed always tries something new when “failing” using the learnings, and they always take smaller steps moving in their wanted direction to get to their next goal on the way.

With that in mind we designed this canvas as part of a training we created some time ago, the Dandy People Agile Power Up program. The main purpose of the improvement canvas is to give support to teams to continuously improve. What is great about it is that it works in any context, on BIG stuff or a bit smaller, and for any team or group, or individual.

During our training program that lasts over 10 weeks the participants gets to use it as an exercise in smaller groups to get familiar with how to use it and the thinking behind it, but also bring it in in to their day to day work. Many says it really helps them to focus and do real improvements step by step. Some also realize they have never really thought about change and improvement as a step by step process before and thet this canvas helped them to focus on finding the next small steps to take in the right direction, instead of trying to go big and reach that full, often too complex, goal directly.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Download the improvement canvas for free (PDF) >

The four different areas

Challenge / Current state

First you start by understanding your current situation and defining what the challenge is.This is a great thing to do together to get a shared view of how it is today and what you think could improve. Write it in the canvas.

Definition of awesome

Then you want to take a look at and define what it would look like if it was just awesome, if everything was like you would like it to be. Define it together as well and put it too into the canvas. Getting a shared picture of this is crucial for enabling you to get there together.

Next wanted state

What would a next target state look like as a step in the right direction? What would have changed then? Also look at the time frame, when would you like it to be achieved? This should then be something you can evaluate to see if you have reached this next wanted state or not – and if not come up with new next steps or experiments to do. Or if you have reached your next wanted state, is it like your definition of awesome, or do you want to continue to moe closer to it? If so, set your new next wanted state and continue once again.

First steps

What are the actions you can take to move closer to your next wanted state? Evaluate if you are moving towards your next wanted state when possible and adjust your actions if needed, and define more when needed.

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Collaboration, innovation, and high performance rarely come from teams that haven’t had the time or the chance to get to know each other, build a strong foundation of common values, and a psychologically safe environment.

No matter if it is a development team, a leadership team, or an operation team, as humans we all need to go through this process to make the magic happen. And when the team works remotely, this is even more important and it can take even longer.

The “Remote Team Culture Canvas” is a way to facilitate and speed up this process by filling up together the canvas, using it as a common ground for healthy -and fun- discussions.

Download the Team Canvas for free in high resolution (PDF) >

Remote team canvas
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En teambaserad organisation är ett ekosystem av team. Dessa kort är tänkta att användas för att kartlägga nuläget för respektive team i organisationen och sätta mål för vilka typer av team man skulle vilja ha och därigenom identifiera vad som håller teamen tillbaka från att ta sig dit.

Den här modifierade versionen av team topologier bygger på det fantastiska arbetet från teamtopologies.com som är skapat utifrån ett DevOps-perspektiv. De tillägg och justeringar vi har gjort på ursprungsmodellen syftar till att möjliggöra en tydligare produkt-ledd organisation där agila ledningsteam utifrån Agile Management Areas är en viktig del och justering för kundcentrerade produktteam där ofta även marknad och tech möts i gemensamma team, i stället för enbart stream aligned vilket är mer vanligt på en IT / Infrastrukturavdelning.

Conway’s Law är ett begrepp som pekar på att system ofta speglar organisationen som bygger dem, dvs för att justera de teamen man i nuläget har som ofta är av typen komponent-team och röra sig mot ett ekosystem som bygger på produktteam behöver man göra en omvänd Conway’s Law design. Då utgår man från vilka förmågor man skulle vilja att organisationen, och teamen har, kanske vill man att teamen har förmåga att ansvara för en optimal upplevelse direkt till slutanvändare utan mellanhänder. Äger produktutvecklings-processen end-to-end. Tar ansvar för det de bygger över tid och ser till att det skapar verksamhets och affärsnytta på både kort- och lång sikt – det vill säga vara ett Produktteam. Viktigt är att betona att man alltid behöver en mix av team i alla organisationer, enbart produkt-team är inte eftersträvansvärt, utan vanligt är att man har plattformsteam samt även enabling team, vad man dock vill gå ifrån är komplicerat subsystem-team (komponentteam), samt ha team med både produkt, plattform och enabling uppdrag.

Utifrån det målet kan man sedan identifiera vilka typer av team man har i nuläget, samt vilka typer av team man behöver för att steg för steg förändra den tekniska arkitekturen och förmågan i organisationen för att möjliggöra mer autonoma produktteam på sikt.

Alla team behöver även få tydligt definierade mål som de kan arbeta mot. Dessa mål ser olika ut beroende på vilket typ av team de är, men målet brukar var att ha uppdrag för teamen som spänner över ca 6 – 12 månader som gör att de själva kan se om de bidrar med värde och stöttar dom i att göra löpande prioriteringar.

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“On the Cover” is a great exercise to define the vision for a product, service, company… you name it!

Use it with your team to define your vision. If you create one each you can then share your thoughts with each other. It might just be valuable to see if you are aligned with eachother on the big picture, but you can also create one picture together and build on what you all shared and find the next level together.

If you are far away from each other on important topics, talk about why and what that means. It is valuable to get a shared vision to be able to know if we are doing the right things and to engage the team.

Free High-Resolution Download of the “On the Cover Poster” (PDF) >

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When working in Agile teams, we want the teams to do usability testing to get quick feedback. This is the most efficient way to make sure we are building the right thing. The Test Canvas can be used to speed up the feedback process and enable more people to learn how to do it and join the process.

This canvas is created based on UX professionals practices and guide anyone through the process in a safe way as well as minimize the time to define and conduct usability testing on a continuous basis – it is perfect for building and scaling the UX capability in many product teams.

Download the test canvas for free as a high-resolution PDF >

Usability testing is qualitative as opposed to a quantitative method

The purpose of usability testing is to observe users and how they solve common user tasks in a prototype or existing service to see if the solution is working well. We want them to talk out loud so we can understand how they think when they use it.  We want to be able to ask them questions so we can better understand their mental models and experience. Since it is a qualitative test where we listen to and look at how users behave and how our service performed it is usually enough to test with 5-8 people. Once you realize nothing new “big” is coming from the tests you know you have reached the limit for what is needed now. But once you have fixed those issues you might test again on new people. You find more information about this in the canvas.

Usability testing can be done on anyone and any user type

Usability testing can be done on anyone and any user type. A user interview on the other hand is something else, that is when we need to learn if the solution solves a specific problem. In that case, we need to validate that on the target group and perhaps someone who is like our users and a specific persona. Often we then need to interview or observe 20 people instead of only 5-8.

Usability testing can be scary at the beginning

Meeting with customers and doing usability testing, in the beginning, can be intimidating. A good way to get started is by creating a safe-to-fail environment by practicing with people you know. Remember, if the team can test on real users once in a while and get valuable feedback, it is so much better than never getting to meet with any users and never getting any validation on what they do. It is also a lot better than only having experts outside of the team, or even worse outside of the organization.

Good methods for usability testing

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Making quick and good enough decisions can many times be difficult. Slow decision-making is one of the biggest problems in many organizations today. Therefore, it might be a good idea to find ways to speed up the decision making process. And, this “Decision-Making Canvas” could be something that helps you in your process.

When working in a fast-paced and complex environment, the trick is to make many smaller decisions based on current facts known at this moment in time. If we wait until we have all the facts, and there are no uncertainties, it will often be either too late – or the first facts will have changed.

Print out this canvas, or use it digitally, and use it as a template for making better and quicker decisions together as a team.

Download the FICA-template (pdf)


Did you like this post? Read more posts on Agile Leadership

>> The 7 Agile Leadership Principles

>> The Agile Leadership Bingo

>> The 7 Conditions for Effective Agile Leadership Teams

>> 5 Common Mistakes when Forming Agile Leadership Teams

>> Starting an Agile Leadership Team

>> How to Form a Team in 10 Minutes

>> The Strategic Leadership Room

>> Agile Management Areas

>> How to Manage the System – Not the People

>> Agile Leadership vs Agile Management

>> Learning Organization – What it is and Why it Matters

>> 7 Prerequisites of a Learning Organization


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Why we do things is the underlying foundation of our motivation and development. And when you work in an organization and in a team you need to feel that the organization’s and team’s purpose, vision, values, and mission is connected to your own foundation. “My leadership canvas” is a way to see if this is aligned and act as guidance in your personal development. 

Download the canvas here

WHY statement

To resonate further with your purpose in everything you do you can start by formulating your own WHY statement. The method is from Simon Sinek’s book “Start with why” where you can get deeper into the significance of starting with why.

To find your WHY statement you can follow these guidelines:

  • Simple and clear
  • Only one sentence
  • Languages ​​that resonate with you
  • Resonate both with work- and private life
  • Write several until you find the right one

As an example, my WHY statement is: “I empower myself and the people around me so we can become the best people that we can be”.

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This is a canvas you can use with your team to visualize some of the key concepts, facts about the team – but it is also a part of the process to build a high performance team to do the activities needed to fill out the canvas with the team. Keep it visual by the team and bring it with you on important team meetings.

Download the Team Canvas for free in high resolution (PDF) >
team canvas 1

Team Name
It is always great for the team spirit to come up with a nice and cool or funny name by them selves, don’t let any one else set it for them.

Purpose or Mission
It is crucial for the team to set a clear mission to enable them to focus and give clarity. It should be in connection with user- and business strategy and it is usually a job for the Product Owner if the team has one. What the team delivers and prioritizes depends on their mission. (more…)

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To be able to stay focused on what really matters you need to have a clear strategy. When companies are small it is not always easy to have a clear strategy and act on it, but it is usually a lot easier than in big companies. To be able to do innovation and also stay customer focused even in big organisations a clear vision and strategy is essential. And every one in the organisation needs to understand the strategy.

There is a research done by Harvard Business School saying only 5% of the employees know about their business strategy. This is really scary for anyone running a business, and something everyone in a position to make strategic decisions needs to take really seriously. If people in the organisation don’t know about, or understand the vision or the strategy, how can they then make tactical and operational smart decisions making the business go in the right direction? There is only one answer to that question, they cant.

A Collaboration and Visualization tool to make Strategy Transparent

This fall I’ve been doing a talk around the topic “Customer Focused with an Agile Mindset” where I talk about how leaders of organizations need to grow an Agile mindset and make a strategic decision to become customer focused to be able to survive in the fast moving complex world of today, and how that can be done. The Innovation Map is one of the slides of my talk and I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback on it. Something many people feel is missing today is a holistic overview of the different strategies the organization have, and to be able to use it in their daily work making sure they are on the right track.

The Innovation Map is a great tool to be able to visualize what strategic initiatives the organisation have, or perhaps don’t have. Also it can be used to visualize the initiatives TOGETHER, ACROSS the organization. In this way when involving more people we can easier see the full picture of where we are going, and what we can do about it. By involving the people working front line with the customers knowing about their needs as well as those that can create the solutions to help the customers and not only management, you grow both an understanding of what the business strategy is – AND – you get their valuable knowledge of what the customer needs are and what can actually be possible to do or not do today and in the future. Then it will be up to management to prioritize the strategy based on different business scenarios.

Download the FREE Innovation Map Now (.pdf)

innovation map

Debt in any level will eat your business

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The online version that you can run in Google Drive via Google Slide.

The speedboat format for retrospectives is something I like a lot and have used with teams or even whole organizations (divided into teams). I find it to be a good way for the team to think individually, and then collaborate and define solutions for their problems through visualization. Visualization helps the team to more easily figure out what problems they should solve them selves, and what problems needs to be solved through collaboration between the teams, and what they need to ask management to help with. Some Agile coaches or Scrum Masters only highlight the negative on retrospectives, I believe it is a great thing to focus on the positive and also help the team take action more easily on real issues. It´s the teams responsibility to handle issues within the team, the Agile Coach/Scrum Masters job is to give them the capabilities to do that (not to do it for them).

Download the speedboat retrospective poster in high resolution (PDF) here >

Download the speedboat retrospective Power Point here (instructions and online retro space)>

Free Mural template for this workshop >speedboat retrospective

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