7 Questions to change your Daily Meetings.

7 Questions to change your Daily Meetings.

By Florian Lefebvre

Holding a daily meeting early in the morning is often considered one of the first steps of “becoming Agile.” You get your team together, and everyone says what they’ve done the day before, what they plan on doing today, and mention any issue they might have faced.

The problem is that, more often than not, when you get to it the magic just isn’t there. You find yourself with a group of people standing up together and talking aimlessly. You might even start being mad at them for not having things happen the way you see them in your head.

Here are simple questions to ask yourself to help you improve your daily meeting.

Why do you have a daily meeting?

When you set up this practice in your company, you might know precisely what you’re expecting to get out of it. Or you might have heard that it is a great practice, that it will help make your company more Agile.

You might want to try to use this daily meeting as a way for everyone on a team to synchronize, make sure the project is on track, and have an opportunity to help each other.

Now, whatever your reason is, you need to have one. If you can’t find one good reason for taking people’s time every day, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to simply put an end to it.

Is it a ritual?

The best way to anchor a daily practice in everyone’s mind is to make sure everything happens in the same setting every time. You want to make it a habit for people to be there daily.

Do you have the right space for holding your meeting? You need a place where you can fit your whole group. If the location you choose, may it be behind a desk or in a dedicated room, can’t hold your entire group at the same time, then you might have to rethink your choice.

Have the meeting happen every day at the same time. Your daily meeting should be a ritual, which means starting right on time, but also being timeboxed. It should never last longer than the maximum amount of time allocated to it. A maximum of fifteen minutes usually prevents from becoming a full-on meeting.

Do you have visual aids?

Talking as a group about what is going on with the project is great. But it might be hard to keep every task’s current status in mind. What is being worked on? Is this feature completed? Have we fixed this production issue?

One way to help get everyone on the same page is to have a visual aid. It might be a wall with post-it notes holding everyone’s tasks, or a Trello board on a screen. Maybe it’s your internal ticketing system or even a list on a whiteboard.

Whatever you choose to use, adding a visual component to your meeting can help make the various discussions more concrete in people’s minds.

What are people working for?

People will feel more invested in their daily meeting, and the project in general, if they feel they have a reason to. Yes, they are paid, that’s why they’re there and why they do the work.

But being invested is more than that. It’s about finding meaning in your work, knowing that you give a part of yourself for something. People must have a goal that they can get behind.

If your team members really are trying to accomplish something, they will use the daily meeting as a tool to reach that goal.

Do they work together?

It might seem like a weird question, but if you put people together and have them talk about what they’re working on, they better be sharing work at some point.

It’s not enough that they are in the same team or company. If they work on different projects that have nothing in common, then they aren’t really working together.

If you’re in this situation, you have one of two choices. Either you have people work together more, or you split your meeting in two or more meetings.The Power of TeamworkThe benefits of being an actual team for you and your companymedium.com

Do people know what is expected of them?

Going back to the first point, where you have this perfect vision of a meeting in your head. Have you shared that vision with your team members?

For people to participate and do well in their roles, they need to understand the role. What are they supposed to share? When are they suppose to intervene during other people’s speeches? What liberties do they have? What are the do’s and don’ts of the meeting?

Make sure the rules are clear for everyone so that people can be at their best.

Have you asked others for their opinions?

You have a vision for what this daily ritual should be like. Whether it happens how you want it to or not, remember that you are working with human beings.

People participate in this meeting every day. That makes it their meeting too. How do they like it? What issues can they see? What would they change to make it better? Having people share ownership of the meeting by being allowed to make it better will definitely make them more invested. It will matter to them on a whole different level.

Feel free to experiment

Rome wasn’t built in one day. The right recipe for your daily meeting won’t be found in one day either. You have to allow yourself and your team to experiment. Make sure you’re honest about how things go, what works, and what doesn’t. Only through regular improvement will you find what works for you and your team.

Beyond Agile: Teal

Beyond Agile: Teal

First there was agile. Then there was teal.

By Karin Dames

Agile is fast maturing and its time to look at what’s next. In my opinion, it’s called teal. Agile, but more. But first, a short walk down memory lane to get some context.

Remember the Future

Agile took the world by storm and Scrum quickly became more synonymous with software development than rugby. Scrum Masters popped up like cosmos flowers after the first summer rains, polluting the software development job boards as the need for more agile organizations grew.

The word Scrum (to me that is) implies separate teams pushing against each other with the strongest team winning, the other team being the loser. There can be only one winner, with the most agile on the field the most likely to win.

In the background, however, a much more subtler, softer shade of agile has been growing for the past decade or more called teal with companies like Patagonia, Buurtzorg and SoundsTrue a few of the super successful examples. These companies all have one thing in common — better than expected return on investment and continuous, long-term growth.

More like the gentle lavender fields, it takes much more care and nurturing to grow compared to the weed-like cosmos which grows wild next to the road in rural South Africa, exploding in splashes of pink and white as far as the eye can see.

The word teal to me implies integration (blue and green), wisdom, freedom, power, together, tranquil — the color I most associate with the vast open skies or the palegic ocean.

Teal Time

Software development and good coffee to me is like salt and pepper — an undeniably excellent partnership. I haven’t met a technology geek who doesn’t love good coffee. It’s just one of those small little unwritten rules if you want to be part of the technology club. If there was to be an ad for the typical persona on a dating website for technology geeks, there will be stipulated:

“Must love good coffee.”

Agility and caffeine just goes well together it seems. It’s fast, exciting, and changes direction quickly. The stronger, the better. It kicks you into action if you’re procrastinating or bored and it fuels the fires while you burn the midnight candles to get the release out the door.

Teal, on the other hand, is much more comparable like tea-time. It’s gentler, softer, slower. Teal is more about human connection, wholeness, purpose.

Where agile can be compared to a smooth running machine where each spoke is well-oiled and running at optimum speed, teal can be compared to a delicate living organism. It’s more sensitive to the surroundings and needs time to rest and restore, like all living things. It can’t run on optimal power for extended periods of time like a machine, but it can think for itself and service itself when needed and before it breaks down. This eco-system needs to be nurtured and is always in search of equilibrium, compared to an engine in search of optimization. Where Scrum often aims to do everything faster, better, more, Teal aims keep these forces in balance with a continuous improvement culture.

Teal vs Agile — a Rough Guide

There are more differences than an be mentioned in one post, but on a high level, here are the top five elements that differentiates agile from teal, taking into consideration that teal inherently means that a company is fully agile. However, an agile company is not guaranteed to be teal.

1. Organizational agility

Agility originated when developers realized they’re not able to meet expectations if they’re so tightly managed and controlled in a super-structured waterfall approach, run by control and demand of the managers.

With agile, these development teams were given a little more freedom in a less structured Scrum team where they were encouraged to report to each other rather than a team lead, take ownership of their workload and provide more input into estimations, amongst others. The rest of the organization however remained as structured and controlled as before.

A difference between agile and teal is that agile is focused on the software delivery process, one part at a time mostly, whereas teal expands towards organizational agility, including not only the software delivery process, but the supporting processes too as a whole. Teal organizations are not limited to software development or technology, but can be applied equally to a farm, a building site, a law firm, a bank or a software development house.

2. No Standardization

Scrum aims to standardize work — again driven by the control-and demanding leadership style that drives it. The process is standardized, the workflow (to-do, in progress, done) is standardized, even the ceremonies and schedule for these ceremonies are standardized. The only freedom the team has is often choosing the sprint duration.

Teal, on the other hand, doesn’t standardize anything. Rather, it relies on good cross-functional communication and includes an advisory process and a conflict resolution process to ensure alignment between different teams and the organizational purpose.

What is more important than standardization is good communication and an organizational team spirit.

3. Coaching rather than Consulting

Scrum and agile generally relies on consulting as teaching mechanism. Each team has a Scrum Master or Agile Coach who’s role it is to make sure that the team understands and follows the process.

Typically, a Scrum Master will be asked what to do in a specific situation and the response will be advise based on experience. Basically, it’s telling the team what the answer is or what to try.

Teal, on the other hand, takes coaching to the next level. The management team is replaced by team coaches. Agile coaches and Scrum Masters become team coaches, driving change and establishing equilibrium within a team.

The role of the team coach is to maintain harmony within an entire team by asking the right questions to help guide the thinking of the team, without ever giving a direct answer.

As apposed to pointing out the problem to the team that, for example, the CEO is talking too much or demanding too long sessions at a time, the team coach will notice the issue, then ask the team what they notice or how they feel or what they think they should do next in an attempt to raise their awareness to identify problems themselves.

The world of coaching started with individual coaching, yet team coaching is fast becoming the norm. A team coach is all about getting the team as a whole to function together whereas a personal coach is about developing a single person at a time, outside the context of the team he or she works in. Teal adds context and more perspectives to a problem, enabling solutions to be discovered exponentially faster than what is possible in an individual session.

4. Inclusive rather than Exclusive

Agile, or Scrum, is commonly viewed as a competition, where different teams are compared to each other to see who the ‘best’ performer is, much like the word “scrum” implies. That is like comparing the heart to the liver in a human body, trying to see which one is the better one, while both are equally important, just for different reasons. You can’t live without either.

Teal organizations view the entire organization as a living organism where each part is as necessary as the next. They even go one step further and include the suppliers and customers and even competitors in their goal to maintain equilibrium. They understand that there’s no business if there’s no suppliers or customers, as there is no business without employees.

Teal organizations seek strategic partnerships and win-win relationships between everyone involved. It’s an intersection of needs and wants based on a shared purpose.

It’s not teal if everyone doesn’t win.

5. Happiness matters

In agile organizations the emphasis is mainly on delivery, whatever it takes. It matters that the customers are happy and it matters that the shareholders are happy, but when employees are unhappy, it is the individual that often is expected to change.

In teal organizations, the primary measure for success is happiness. If the workers aren’t happy it is considered a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It’s not acceptable for the leader to enforce his ideas or rules on the workers, rather, it is a collaborative, inclusive creation. Where the general leadership style in agile organizations are still demand-and control, the general leadership style in teal organizations are more free, compassionate and empowering.

The unhappiness is viewed as an indication that something is not working, with the assumption that the worker is the best informed person to know when something needs to change. Employee happiness becomes one of the most important measures of the organization’s success, as teal organizations understand that happy people do good work, they are more engaged and thus more productive and innovative.

Organizational structure in the age of unpredictability.

Organizational structure in the age of unpredictability.

In a perfectly predictable world, what’s the best way of organising a business? My guess is that it would be run like a perfect machine. Or like a big, monolithic computer. Programmed in best in class business processes. In a world with no surprises, you could build the perfect machine, program it perfectly by complex business processes, hire only the ‘resources’ that fit perfectly into those existing processes, and hone the whole organisation to deliver the ideal input/output ratio.

In fact, this is the way most businesses are set up. At least it’s the target state of most traditional companies. This is because the world used to be much more predictable and therefore better suited to such ‘Tayloristic’ models. The underlying goal was to distribute known packages of work in the most efficient manner. Today, however, things are increasingly unpredictable and fast. And this has some fundamental impacts. In such an environment, it’s impossible to plan the perfect organisational machine.

So, rather than planning for efficiency, forward-looking businesses are rebuilding their organisational structures around agility, robustness and innovation. And as businesses adapt to this new normal, the top-down management structures of old are coming under pressure. It’s easy to see why: the centralised decision-making, business siloes and organisational hierarchies of old put barriers in the way of adaptable operations.

Organising around adaptability

What does the future-fit organisation look like? For me, the answer’s simple: businesses need to put in place a structure which gives their people the freedom to act autonomously and quickly. It’s a simple idea, but one which demands profound change.

The first step is to enable employees to accept ownership over things, again. Interestingly enough many engaged leaders are caught by surprise, how difficult this is for many of their employees. Many experiences and traditional ‘tayloristic’ principles have to be ‘unlearned’ to accept ownership. Decision ownership has to be pushed out to every single employee and allows to think and decide for themselves. Step two goes further; creating an organisation in which employees are encouraged to seek out the most important and immediate challenges for the company, and to solve them.

At Siemens, we call this ‘ownership culture’: employees are empowered to make decisions for themselves and proactively drive change. We know that we can’t “switch it on” from one day to the other. But we implement it as an increasingly fundamental guiding principle across the company. The model is like that used in Open Source software development, where developers work in loosely organised networks to solve challenges. And it’s an approach makes perfect sense in a wider business context; after all, who’s better placed to understand how to improve the business and adapt to change than the people on the front line?

Here, the role of the manager changes. Rather than telling employees what they should work on, managers act as coach and guide their teams through their work. Their role is to ask those important ‘why’ questions to help employees stay on track. It’s an incredibly rewarding role and one that we know managers embrace once they’ve made the initial adjustment from linear management processes.

Self-organised networks

At Siemens, we’ve gone further and encouraged self-organised, bottom-up communities to flourish. These are entirely created and run by employees, with absolutely no functional management oversight. Indeed, they spring up in response to challenges that are often not even on managements’ radar and earn their legitimacy through their value-creation, purpose and passion of the employees that participate in them. There is no filtering process for the best initiatives, but it is evolutionary and the best will survive.

One such initiative is Grow2Glow (G2G). The aim of G2G at Siemens is to help women unlock their potential through coaching and find the inner strength to strike out for new horizons. The programme helps match trained coaches within the Siemens family with women who request coaching. Today, some 140 qualified coaches across all areas and disciplines respond to the needs throughout the company. The role of management in this success has been limited: all we’ve done is give the network the space it needed to grow.

I still rememeber the initial days when it was not mere than the initial idea of some engaged people, who wrer not beeing completely sure whether they’d be ‘allowed’ to start this at that time. Absolutely amazing what it has grown into in less than 2 years, globally.

Another great example of the power of self-guiding networks can be seen in the development of some of our most visible internal tools at Siemens. One of the tools was intended to be a simple way of showing employees our organisational structure. Traditionally, we would have briefed a group of designers to build it based on our specification. Instead we opened the project up to our employees and told them to create the solution they wanted. As a result, we now benefit from a far more user-centric AND feature-rich tool than everything we would have imagined. And it’s not finished: through our social page employees are still contributing new ideas to make the tool ever-more relevant and useful for them — at an amazing speed!

Unlearning the past

As professionals, we’re taught to be efficient. To work only on the jobs we’ve been tasked with. To play our roles as cogs in a well-defined machine. As managers our task was to program this ‘monolithic computer’ with best in class business processes. Ideally with business processes that treat people as anonymous resources rather than individuals. But this approach is no longer fit-for-purpose. Instead, as employees we must take ownership of our work and focus change and innovation on those areas where we know it needs to be focused. And as managers, we must give employees the space and freedom to innovate while providing coaching and support to ensure their innovations thrive. We must, in short, unlearn Tayloristic approaches and embrace flatter and more fluid organisational structures. This is not easy, especially for people who are long trained in such an environment. But the result will speak for itself: even more rewarding careers and better business outcomes.

By Robert Neuhauser, EVP and Global Head of Siemens People and Leadership

Agile beyond the fad.

Agile beyond the fad.

One of the challenges of agile is the word ‘agile’. Even now, the word puts some people off. They get, understandably, sceptical about the jargon, dismissing otherwise helpful insights as yet another digital fad.Meanwhile, other people end up embracing nothing but the jargon, without the substance underneath. They start standing up for their meetings and think this will deliver better outcomes for their customers or users.This is an important issue for digital transformation which, after all, is much more about transformation than it is about digital. i.e. good digital transformation is all about culture, and that means it relies on engaging people, communicating clearly on issues of substance, and persuading.

A. Boil it down to basic principles

So how do you do agile without the distraction of ‘agile’?One approach that can be helpful is to focus less on the word itself and more on two irreducible principles for how good products/services are designed.

  1. You should always start by defining your problem in terms of user needs — and,if you have to compromise, you should do so only later, reluctantly and consciously, and only if you have to.
  2. You should always build solutions quickly and simply at first — just get something workable finished. Then, show it to your customers/users to see what they think, and change it enthusiastically in response.

These rules capture many of the upsides of agile without the jargon.They also have the nice property of being both right and revolutionary. They’re right in that, when you apply them well, they lead to better products and services. But they’re also revolutionary, in that they’re the opposite of how most traditional organisations function, so although they sound simple, applying them well is really, really hard.

B. History also helps

The second approach I find useful, as a way of avoiding an unproductive debate about agile terminology, is to bring in some of the history.If you can give a good account of why agile makes sense today, it helps you focus on the substance, and it also reassures people that the ideas aren’t a fad. To do this, you need to show that material things have changed in our economy and that these changes privilege more iterative/adaptable ways of working.So what has changed in the world to make agile methods more effective?My sense is that the answer to this question has two parts, both of which stem from technological changes that have taken place since c.1994.

First, the economics of service delivery have changed.

In the old, pre-digital world, organisations could typically reach thousands of people with one instance of their product or service, and updating these products or services was a costly and imprecise business.To change a product or service was expensive, requiring retooling, repainting, or relaunching. It was also highly imprecise — even after you made changes, you couldn’t be all that sure they had been worthwhile.In 2018, things are different. With digital technologies, even a small organisation can reach millions of people with a single instance of their product or service.Meanwhile, revisions are cheap and, with good analytics, instantly informative. You can tweak a few lines of code and test the new version live (perhaps even alongside the old version). You can then learn, instantly and with statistical rigour, if your changes have worked. (And, if they don’t, you can even revert to the old one.)This simple change in the economics of service delivery means that iterative methods, in which you build something quickly so that you can start changing it sooner, are much more economically attractive than they used to be.

Second, real-world testing now matters more than it used to.

We could leave it there. But I think it’s important not to overlook a second, subtler shift, which explains why real-world testing — and, therefore building a workable product/service as early as you can — now matters more than it used to.At root, this comes down to two mega-trends in our economy: the shift from hardware to software and the shift from an economy based on manufacturing to one based on services.If the archetypal outputs of the old economy were physical objects like cars, appliances, and clothing, the archetypal outputs of the new economy are digital services like search engines, social networks, and banking apps.This changes what you need to know in order to create valuable things.Let’s take the early days of industrialism as a starting point. It’s pretty clear that, right back at the start of the industrial age, knowledge of engineering was paramount over knowledge of user experience. Who cared if your loom/steam engine/high-speed steel was a pleasure to use? The value of innovation lay mainly in whether it worked.Later, in the age of mass-production, the balance shifted. If you’re making a mass-market consumer product, of course it still has to work in an engineering sense — but it also has to be gracefully designed. That’s why the 20th century was captured by the idea of combining form and function. And it’s why the iconic products of this era, from the Coca-cola bottle to the iPhone, are lauded for being both well-engineered and beautiful. They’re a delight to use.Today, the case for graceful, usable, beautifully-designed products/services — beyond those that are purely well-engineered — is surely more powerful than ever.Of course, that is not to say that engineering matters any less. The goal of all good products/services is still that holy grail: a fusion of form and function.But now, more than ever, you simply cannot get away with overlooking — even for a second — the design/user-testing side of things. The age in which you could occasionally get away with shoddy UX is dying, if it’s not dead already.Why? Again, for a really simple reason: because badly-designed digital services are literally worthless. They have no value whatsoever, in a way that isn’t quite true for a badly designed hammer or washing machine.In fact, badly designed digital services often actually destroy value. If you don’t believe me, just call O2’s voice-activated customer service line, as my partner did the other day. She phoned them with a query about her bill and, by the time she got through, she was so furious she cancelled her contract.

Agile without ‘agile’

To get the benefits of agile, then, it can be helpful to downplay the word in favor of underlying principles and reasoned arguments about why these methodologies and mindsets work.Two trends explain the need for more iterative/adaptable methods in service design. One is a change in the economics of product/service design. The other is a subtler shift in the kind of knowledge you need to build valuable things.Together, these trends explain why people who develop products/services today, whether in charities, government, or businesses, should focus more obsessively on user needs and should build workable stuff more quickly than they used to.Agile is not, in other words, a fad. It’s a new way of organising people to do good work, reflecting real changes in the way our economy functions.

By James Plunkett, published in Medium.

The Founding Fathers’ Surprising Skill Sets.

The Founding Fathers’ Surprising Skill Sets.

Who knew George Washington was big on diversity? Or that Ben Franklin was all about agility? And that, save for his famous midnight ride, Paul Revere was an expert on teamwork?

Indeed, the traits and skills that helped build a nation nearly 250 years ago could also work pretty well running a modern-day organization. In honor of Independence Day, here are four of the most important lessons today’s leaders can take away from America’s Founding Fathers.

Respect for Diversity

George Washington’s leadership style was completely at odds with not only that of England’s but also much of the history of leadership up to that point. Instead of being hierarchal, Washington encouraged discussion and consideration of alternative approaches. He had to—his army consisted of a diverse mix of volunteers and militias with different traditions and backgrounds, primarily loyal to their own town, region, or colony. “Washington made that diversity an asset by actively seeking the advice of his subordinates,” says Signe Spencer, a senior consultant with Korn Ferry. 

Learning Agility

Ben Franklin’s capacity for learning is both well-known and unmatched. The scientist, philosopher, cartographer, postmaster, diplomat, and journalist spent his life acquiring knowledge. That ability to adapt to constantly-changing conditions is in demand at the highest levels of modern-day organizations, says Kevin Cashman, global leader of Korn Ferry’s CEO and Executive Development practice. “Franklin embodied the best of transformational leadership,” says Cashman. 

Seamless Collaboration

Most know of Paul Revere only as the lone hero who rode a horse through the streets warning citizens that the British were coming. In fact, he was uniquely adept at uniting disparate and often competing groups around a common cause. Revere’s ride might never have been successful had he not first convinced several distinct Boston patriot groups, each with hundreds of influential citizens, to work together. “These groups all had their own focus and goals, with few connections and little or no formal communication between them,” says Spencer. “There was little overlap between them, and no overarching organization or command structure uniting them.” That is, until Revere took charge.

Purpose Power

Many factors contributed to the victory over the British—and the creation of the US Constitution, for that matter—but none perhaps more important than how everyone rallied around a common purpose. The Founding Fathers and the new country’s citizens all firmly believed in independence and came together to achieve it. Today, employees, consumers, and investors are demanding that organizations stand for more than just profit. They want to work at and back companies and leaders who are committed to making a positive social contribution. If harnessed correctly, purpose creates the conditions for success.

By Signe Spencer & Kevin Cashman
USA flag pattern on a ribbon.