The Long And Painful Road Part 2 of 2

March 1st, 2012 Published by Geoff Watts

I am a cumbersome organisation

There I said it. Apparently the first step in dealing with a problem is admitting you have a problem. I have kind of known this for a while but not really done much about it. Before now I have been able to function fairly well and get by but it is now undoubtedly having a noticeable affect on me, limiting what I can and cannot do. Even subtle things like my ability to hit a deadline has suffered as my tired teams are not as reactive and I make more mistakes.

Years ago it was easier. I didn’t need the discipline of agility, I had a natural level of performance that that was good enough. I knew it wasn’t true, even then, and looking back I changed my behaviours to suit my laziness but I still got results so what was the problem? Right?

So what am I going to do about it? Well I have made a promise to myself to address it. I have come to the conclusion that if I don’t, then things are only going to get progressively worse. And this cannot be a one-off effort. It had to be something I can sustain; it has to become part of my workstyle; my new mindset.
But it’s hard! In fact, right now it seems impossible. I am so far away from where I want/need to be. I have a long delivery cycle, my releases hurt, I don’t feel I have the energy to make a change, I don’t have the TIME to make a change.

So I try and imagine what I want the future to be. It’s not about getting more stuff done – I haven’t measured that for years so have no idea of that metric. What’s my goal then, if it’s not to get more stuff done? Perhaps it’s to be able to deliver as quickly as we did on that first project again or perhaps it’s to be able to deliver something with a low level of defects or perhaps it’s to be able to overtake Apple. Well, let’s not go too far!

Targets are important to me. They always have been. I like to achieve things. Mark them as complete. I certainly don’t like the alternative picture of being the company who’s seen as a bankruptcy risk because I can’t even get a basic product out to market.

So I started. I have been informed of some of my limitations – I can’t get our regression testing done quickly due to my technical debt – so I applied a few agile engineering practices. I committed to a small amount and set the clock for a month. I couldn’t do it. I managed a few days before I hit a wall. I resolved the issue and did another week or so but then had to cancel the work. That was disheartening! It was also boring.

The next time I made sure I had a little fun at the same time. I tried Scrum while I was doing the work. I had the double benefit of self-organising and motivated teams and it actually linked what was a slightly tortuous process to the concept of fun. It took my mind off the drudgery of turning the cogs. I lasted the whole month albeit at a slightly slower pace. I have also started playing some agile games – not to become good at games per se but because it’s a more fun way of getting things done – plus I get a coach to help me.

How can I ensure I keep doing this? It’s easy to do it once or twice and then slip back into the old routine. I know I can’t do this on my own. I could have hired an agile project manager, or outsourced the development but, to me, the prospect of my colleagues knowing I didn’t do what I said I would do is a motivator for me. I have published my schedule – made it visible. I have committed to a rhythm of monthly deliveries – and posted it in the office canteen and on the intranet. My colleagues know about it, my customer knows about it. If I miss a session, they will know.

How will I know I am improving? Like I said I am not measuring efficiency so I need some other metric. I could get scientific and measure something like ROI or share price or something. But that doesn’t mean anything to me – they are just numbers. For now, I am just going to see if I can do more in my timebox of one month. Can I increase the amount of work I can do in one month? Perhaps in the future I will change this to “how quickly can I do ten features”, who knows?

I also know I need to look at other things, such as HR policies, my relationships with 3rd parties and other aspects of my organisation but one step at a time…And I always have the memory of the first project delivery…

March 1st, 2012 Published by

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