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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My KCE talk on 8th January: Investing in Upstream Flow

I’m speaking on Thursday 8th January at the London Kanban Coaching Exchange on Investing in Upstream Flow: Landscaping a smooth river from idea to execution

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 this because there are still so many people struggling. But it’s important that we don’t just learn how to do the wrong things well.

Organisations need a smoothly functioning upstream system that can take in good ideas from anywhere, triage and decide which get investment. Then safely shepherd and grow them through to adolescence until they are ready to be implemented. This is key to doing the right things well.


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Video: AgileMK – The Agile Organisation and People

This is a talk and interactive session that I ran with Dan Rough at Agile:MK on 1st September 2014.

We speak about The Agile Organisation and its effects – the effects on people, how work is managed and on organisational culture.

We follow up with a practical exercise in small groups – asking participants to list the people and organisational challenges that they have with Agile in their organisations and then to work together to design a time-boxed experiment that they can run to start solving the problem.



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Video: Cultivating Culture Change with Tom Sedge

In this video, we take an example-led practical tour of Cultivating Culture Change within organisations using the metaphor of gardening. This draws on my experience to include a range of techniques and tools that you can use in your organisation. We explore what a workplace can look like when it has undergone a cultural transformation and where to get started.

Traditionally people approach culture change as an engineering problem or by telling their people what to be. But it just doesn’t work like that. Culture is different: it’s an emergent property and that requires a different approach.



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Measure Outcomes, not People

I recently had an exchange with Jurgen Appelo on Twitter about measuring people’s performance. During the conversation, he said it was impossible to fit the dozen or so recommendations he had into a single tweet.

It all just sounded too complex (complicated? :-) ) to me and why bother with measuring individual performance when there are more useful ways to improve outcomes? So this blog post is to present my own perspective.



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What are the most common Organisational Problems?

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand what are the most common organisational problems.

I discuss the common problem of siloed functional hierarchies and the role they play in subverting the purpose of organisations and disruption to collaboration and communication. Local optimisation is at the heart of a lot of well-meaning but destructive change.

Through the example of delivering a new service, we discuss how to structure people in a different way to create highly effective collaborations that focus on end-to-end delivery. Key is the role that these collaborations play in identifying waste and enabling big improvement leaps.

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


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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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Explored: Management in Networks by Harold Jarche

I recently came across an excellent thought-provoking article by Harold Jarche titled Management in Networks. The ideas within are well worth expanding on and spreading more widely, hence this post.

Jarche’s central point is that within a network structure (peer-to-peer), cooperation is more important than traditional ideas of common objectives and managed collaboration. As organisations become flatter, people connect directly to others to pursue new objectives. In this world, success is founded on a high degree of knowledge sharing and exploration of areas outside core objectives that traditionally would not be permitted.


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