Video: The secret of smooth Scrum sprints

This is the video of my talk from ACCU 2015 on 25th April 2015 where I spoke on Investing Upstream: The secret to smooth Scrum sprints

It’s great when teams reach delivery maturity with execution at speed and high quality.  It’s no surprise that there’s so much emphasis on doing Sprints well because that’s the heart of Scrum.

Paradoxically though, the secret to making it work well is actually investing time and effort upstream of Sprints to ensure that the Product Backlog is prioritised and broken-down into small items, that User Stories are well formed and that the Scrum team doesn’t meet items for the first time during Sprint Planning.

This ties in with solving the very difficult challenge of effective Product Ownership. Often the very people most valuable to the Scrum team are also the most valuable to the wider business, creating a conflict over their time. Many teams struggle with an absent Product Owner or one who is not sufficiently senior to make quick decisions.

The Scrum Guide says little about how to implement effective Product Ownership and how to get the Product Backlog into good shape. Most Scrum training focuses on the Sprints, so also misses this bigger picture.

Join us on our journey through a series of examples anchored in practical experience as we explore a range of tools and approaches to solve these problems. We’ll learn how to make Scrum function well in a way that meets both the Scrum team and Product Owner’s needs.


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Delivering Great Services: Merge the best of people and technology (Part I)

In the last few decades of service design we’ve gone from one extreme (people serving people without computers – *engaged tone*), through an intermediate stage (people serving people with computers – “Sorry, the system’s down at the moment”) to another extreme (computers serving people without people – “Error. Invalid service request.” or the exasperated frustration of millions in front of their computer screens).

This is often hailed as progress – yet services today are just as frustrating to deal with and customer satisfaction is poor. Everyone has their own computerised service nightmare story.

Why is this? It’s because in our haste to believe that technology would solve all our problems, we’ve misunderstood how services work and jumped straight to the wrong solution.



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Pure Kanban: Clearing the fog surrounding a simple and highly practical approach

What is Kanban? You’d think the answer would be simple but there’s a fog of definitions out there, many of which confuse and mix-up useful techniques from Agile, Lean and Systems Thinking with Kanban itself.

The result is confusion with people asking themselves: Am I doing Kanban right? If you’re asking that then you’re misinformed on what Kanban is and how to best harness its power. It’s really very very simple.

You’ll find many definitions of Kanban out there, Joseph Hurtado provides a useful summary of alternatives, David Anderson has his own unique definition and there are many other attempts to define it, some solid and others still evolving.

I don’t like many of them much because they tend to overlook theory and jump straight to defining a cobbled-together set of activities, each one somewhat different to the others. They ignore the fact that these activities are just a small subset of many possible activities, practices, techniques that can naturally follow if you understand the simple theory behind Kanban.

Understanding the theory frees you to create your own activities, practices and techniques that may be better suited to your environment than any “standard” ones you are “supposed” to follow because they are some consultant’s or trainer’s preference. That freedom is what Kanban is really about.

Read on for freedom.


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How do you handle Supply Chain Management?

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how to handle supply chain management within a service organisation.

I discuss the importance of effective supplier management and how key it is to understand what should be outsourced by properly understanding an organisation’s core competencies.

Through the example of a call centre operation, we explore the risks of badly-managed outsourcing, how to implement a better, more productive approach that is learning-driven and sourcing complete teams from suppliers. Finally, I discuss further symptoms of badly-managed procurement and outsourcing.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you Involve Customers in Improving Services?

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how to improve services by involving customers and building them into the development of the service.

I discuss how to bring customers in to the service design and development process, the importance of understanding variation and variability and why accommodating both in service design is so important. We cover the importance of testing out theories with real customers to find out if they work – not getting stuck in a “Theory Space”.

Through the example of Customer Segmentation we explore typical problems and their solutions including how to break down improvements into small discrete steps. I discuss the twin follies of thinking of process improvement as a process engineering problem and local optimisations – we cover how to put customers first and, how to re-organise internally to take big steps forward.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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