The Team = The Product Board


When you’re blessed with a good client who made their career by building great teams, you’ll immediately find that they are easier to work with, for an external agile coach.  They just “get it.”  -No coaxing or convincing is required…even if they don’t know any more about agile than “I’m pretty sure it’s a four letter word!”  (Yeah, he really said it straight up like that.)

When setting the Metrics and Milestones for the agile Transformation engagement, the good client is not preoccupied with hitting some arbitrary sprint velocity number across their organization.  Rather, they want their team members to individually and collectively focus on Value.

Why? Because it creates profit.  If reliably delivering value to customers isn’t generating profits for them, then there are deeper issues to fix, which are much simpler than learning about agile, or even being agile.  Successful business owners have already figured out that the end game is all about setting the team up for extreme Value creation.  They optimize for it.  All.  The.  Time.

So, the good client/business owner wants to see a “Before” and “After” picture to compare and contrast in terms of Customer Value, and Business Value.  There is a certain amount of delta (or stark contrast) which the good client/business owner wants to see in the Definition of Done for the Transformation of the enterprise.  The Metrics and Milestones they want to see derive from incremental Steps and Scoring which attest to a clearly perceptible triangulation towards Done.

The client I’m serving in an agile Transformation using Open Space Agility (OSA) as a substrate, instinctively set the incremental metric: Number of agile Teams formed, pulling in work, and improving their process.   To that inspired request, my response was simply, “I’m Willing, sir.”

It’s a good Metric.  The Milestones are a little tougher.
M1 The teams are voluntarily “Playing” with agile.
M2 The teams have seriously “Adopted” agile, as their default behavior.
M3 The teams are continuously customizing agile to their context, and furthering the science.

[The above words are his words exactly.  I’m not joking.  All of this from a man who thinks that “Shu Ha Ri” is either a Japanese brand of beer, or a National Holiday in India…perhaps both.]

But what will shock you even more: We’re making it happen in 10 weeks.  -Not months!  Not years!  10 weeks, flat.

So, my Co-Coach, Harold Shinsato, and I set about our work with 2 main visualizations.
1. The Transformation Kanban
2. The Team = Product Board

Inside the Transformation Kanban Board we simply track the progress of our Coaching Backlog from “To Do” state, to “Doing Today” state, to “Done” state.  We have 3 kinds of activities in our Transformation Kanban Board.  1) Workshops 2) Conversations 3) Events

Most of the workshops are experiential learning curriculum we formulate on-the-fly, tailored to the needs of the specific people, we -the coaches are focusing on assisting at the moment.  We start out 1 team at a time.  They are the Product of our labors.

We have to build this airplane mid-flight, so there’s no luxury of running 2-day training. We’ve got 1 hour to deliver the learning, Just In Time (JIT).  It’s a LEAN thing. We put the challenge to our Workshop participants to “pay it forward” by delivering the workshop some day to their co-workers.  A little aggressive, but at least they can engage in the Workshop at that higher level of intensity.  As the JIT training facilitator, we have to be Uber-Intentional that we deliver Just Enough, and put them back to work practicing what they’ve just learned, for real-world reinforcement, before they start to forget.  Customers must not be inconvenienced or kept waiting.  Build in-flight.

The 1:1 coaching conversations we have with individual team members are: t < 1hr.
The OST-n events are: t < 3 hrs.

The Team = Product Board
The client didn’t know he was lifting this straight out of “Dynamics of Software Development” by Jim McCarthy, nor was he aware ofConway’s Law.  But, since it was our metric, we made the ScoreBoard: The Team = Product Board, which bears a strong resemblance to yet another Kanban.  Imagine that the yellow sticky with a circle in it, indicates how far each agile team has evolved along their adoption journey.

Team Members Team Named Chartered WIP EVAL Success Story
Jim, Jerry, Jon, Justin Customer A             O
Sean, Steve, Sue, Sam Java Dev          O
Mike, Mary, Marv, Mildred Happiness           O
Chris, Cameron, Carry, Corey Operations           O
Bob, Brian, Bill, Berry Help Desk           O
Tim, Tom, Terry, Trent Customer B           O
Fred, Frank, Phil, Ferris Customer C           O
Kristen, Kyle, Kirk, Kathy          O

Even though each team has covered an entire wall with their Kanban, throughout the building, the business owner could not possibly have the same level of exposure and granular information about how well the each team, and team member is progressing.

Just after OST-2, my Co-Coach and I take the business owner into our Den, where the posters used in the Circle from Open Space adorn the walls between our Transformation Kanban and the Team = Product Board.  We tell the Impactful Narrative of Data Stories recounting the feats, failures, accomplishments and exploits of each team.  As 1 team reaches the right column, they pull the chain of trailing teams along with them via. the Impactful Narratives they generate at the summit.  Each team incrementally does the same, for the following teams.  It’s like pulling a string of potatoes up out of the ground.

He soaks it in, while riffing about “I remember when they just started out…” or “The way they were being about it before was…”  and he builds the Backstory of the team members for us; long before we’d come on site.  He drifts into Origin Story of The Enterprise: Genesis.  Our understanding of the context grows.  We muse together with the business owner on the possibilities that now open up before us.  He sees a new Vision and begins authoring the next chapter.  Generative dialog, sheer power.  He’s rehearsing his Leadership StoryTelling.

M2 -Done.

/Run M3

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