Archives: July 29, 2013

Non Violent Communication

It is common knowledge of my dislike of snow, but what’s worse is this heat! Whilst I love going on holiday and basking in the sun,  It is normally accompanied by a pina colada and a dip every 10 minutes in the pool. Needless to say travelling on the central line in stifling heat has not been my preferred mode of travel. Don’t even get me going about sweaty people!

Apart from the heat the last couple of weeks I have been quite happy going about my usual activities. I am pleased to say that I have now completed my first course as an Accredited Kanban Trainer (AKT) and felt it went really well. All the feedback was positive and I got to sleep in a four poster bed for the first time.

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Last week we hosted the Agile Coaching Exchange (ACE) with Bob Marshall as our guest speaker for the evening. The topic of conversation was Non Violent Communication (NVC).

It was the first time we strayed into the more softer skills at the ACE and it seems to go down very well.

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So what is Non Violent communication?

So violence in this context is not about me physically assaulting someone, but it is about me getting others to do my will through fear, obligation or guilt (FOG).

So how many times have you been in a situation where:

  1. You went to the pub with your friend when you really fancied a night in, but they convinced you otherwise.
  2. Worked late or weekends to deliver a project when you really wanted to spend time with your family, when asked by a supervisor.
  3. Done a little extra at work as you are led to believe it will help you to secure a promotion or pay rise.

If you answered yes to any of the above, the chances are you have been subjected to a violent communication style.

It normally is delivered in the following key steps:

  • The Demand – “The board and I have been looking at your report and wondered if you can you get your team to work at the weekend as the project is running behind”.
  • The Resistance – You might ask if you can investigate other options, such as going to back to the stakeholders and reconsidering timescales or scope.
  • The Pressure & Threats – This request is met with reluctance and you are reminded that promotions and pay rises are coming up soon and getting this extremely important project over the line would be taken into consideration.
  • Compliance – If you don’t do this then your lively hood is threatened (even though this is not explicitly stated).

I can honestly say I have never used such as extreme examples as above, but I have used cohesion or blackmail to get others to do what I want. I am a woman of course Smile

I can only imagine though that the person on the end of the example feels as if they really have no choice but to comply.  How about if we had tackled the situation as follows:

  • Observation – “I see from your weekly report that the project is running behind”
  • Feelings – “ I am worried that we have made commitments to a third party and won’t be able to deliver on time. This could impact their impression on the company and it is important to us and our shareholders that we secure further business from them in the future”
  • The Need – “I need to understand how we can get the project back on track and can you help me to understand what the options are?”
  • The Request – Can you work with me to pull some information together to help us make a decision?”

Whilst these are extreme examples, in the second option the decision has not been made already and outside the control of the team. The team might well have decided to work the weekend but that would not have been through Fear, Obligation or Guilt. But through choice.

By using the 4 steps above we can really evaluate our communication style and start to consider what needs do I have, and what are the needs of the other person. When the needs of one person is put above the other, then violent communication is very much happening.

Another example of violent communication is judgement.

How many times have you judged a person by their size, shape, clothes or background?

It’s hard not to in many situations, but ultimately you are projecting your needs and insecurities on others and therefore you are acting violently towards them.

The subject on NVC is so broad and comprehensive, I have only touched the tip of the iceberg here and based on what I heard from Bob last week. There is a lot of literature out there and I know I am certainly going to be looking at this further starting with the founder Marshall Rosenburg.  I can only imagine that Bobs’ blog is a little goldmine as well!

Final thoughts

The term violent communication is extreme and should be used with caution in everyday life. As a coach I know if I start using the  term with my clients they are going to get turned off very quickly. But through subtle coaching I can get them to start thinking about the way they communicate with their people in a different way, creating an inclusive environment where mutual appreciation of needs is considered. Wouldn’t we all want to work in that environment? Productivity, quality and morale would surely follow.

I challenge you this week to think about how you communicate to your family, work colleagues and to strangers.

We have some really great speakers coming up at the ACE for rest of the year,  I recommend you pop by our page, have a look,  and get signed up.


The Goal

I have always had good banter with my girly friends that I am waiting for the right millionaire to come along and build me an enormous shoe cupboard. Alas, after some time I have relented in my waiting and opted to build it for myself, being the independent/impatient woman that I am. (When I say build it for myself, I mean pay some company to come in and do it for me Smile ).

Having a goal is really important to me and so for this particular project I set myself the following:

‘A sliding door wardrobe that allows the storage of all of my shoes, clothes and handbags. The finish will be of high quality and will fit in with the look and feel of the rest of the house’

I didn’t say it had to be a complex goal, but you need to know what you are trying to achieve so that you know whether you have met it when the project is completed. The goal will also dictate my response to impediments that come my way, such as when the carpet in the room needed to be taken up. Now I could have done this myself, but I choose to get a professional fitter in at extra cost to avoid compromising quality and going against my goal.

There have been two events recently that have made me really re-consider my views on setting goals, specifically in the work environment. They are:

  • Reading the book The Goal by Eli Goldratt.
  • Replaying the Get Kanban Game at the Accredited Kanban Trainer (AKT) Course with each team having specific goals.

Firstly The Goal is an awesome book and if you haven’t read it then I would seriously consider adding it to your literary backlog. It tells the story of Alex Rogo who manages a production plant where everything is behind schedule and things are looking dire. He is given three months to turn things around. Remembering a distant acquaintance he met called Jonah, he sets about putting things right in the factory by applying certain practices that we know by the name the Theory of constraints. To do this though he needs to really think about what the factory is trying to achieve. I won’t spoil it!

Secondly during my AKT course I replayed the Get Kanban game, but this time the two teams were both given different goals.

  • Team 1 – To make the most money
  • Team 2 – To have the shortest lead time

To me the goal was very clear, we needed to reduce our Work In Progress (WIP) limit to the lowest figure that was sensible and in this case that was 1. In real life you wouldn’t normally expect a team to have a WIP of 1, but as this was the game then fine Smile

What surprised me is how quickly during the game that people forgot what the goal was. An example being an expedite task has come into the queue and if we complete it by a certain time then we get extra money. Now if I was in team 1 then this expedite task would have been the highest priority for us to complete, however I was in team 2 and so an expedite task would only extend the lead time, therefore breaking our goal. This scenario was thrown at us several times throughout the game and each time the team fell into the same trap. I found myself having to re-iterate.

“ How will this help us meet our goal of having the shortest lead time”

Now in fairness this was a game and we were all excited to be playing it, but how many times does this happen in reality in organisation that we work in every day.

That user story that Spongebob thinks is really important gets argued to the top of the queue, but in reality it doesn’t fit with the overall objective of the organisation or feature.

If I am honest I have seen this behaviour a lot and I am guilty of this myself.

So what can we do about it?

  • Understand the goal of your organisation – Like in the book never be afraid to question whether that is actually the right one. Chances are you could have made the wrong assumption.
  • Understand the goal of the feature that you are working on and how it relates to the organisational goal.
  • Create sprint goals to keep the teams true.
  • Take a whole team approach to challenging when something looks to derail you – never be afraid to say no!
  • Take a personal approach to ask yourself ‘How will this help us meet our goal of X’ .

Final thoughts

It is very easy to be caught up in the moment and go with the flow, but what is the impact of this?

What changes do you need to make to ensure that you, your team or your organisation keep true to what it is trying to achieve?

Now there are 20 plus occurrences of the word goal or goals in this blog and so hopefully by now you know how important they are Smile

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Evolutionary Stages

One of the best bits about working in London is the number of restaurants you have at your disposal. Being from Norwich I have pretty much been to every restaurant in the city so it is exciting to be faced with so much choice in London.

My most recent quest has been to find the best steak in London. Luckily, I have a couple of friends who help me indulge in this pleasure and we have been working our way around them.

Part of the experience at the end of a meal is a retrospective on where we think the restaurant rated on the Meek Scale. The scale is based on:

  • Taste
  • Cost
  • Ambience of restaurant
  • Service
  • Portion Size
  • Value for money

Taking all of these into account we rate the restaurant out of 7 and I have formulated my list of favourite restaurants. Being a geek I have not just done this for steak restaurants, but for all restaurants I have visited in the last 15 months I have been in London. As you can imagine it is quite a list Smile

I guess this information would be valuable to the restaurants as I would expect they continually look to improve the experience for the customers and best practice for their staff.

So why do we not do this for the teams we are working with?

Well firstly we would never want to rank teams or have the information used as a stick to beat them. But the concept of holding a team retrospective based on the best practice we see in really high performing Agile teams sounds useful.

At my last client I introduced something called Evolutionary Stages to of the teams. I cannot take sole credit of this as it was initially created by Steve Garnett, however the other RippleRock coaches and I certainly drove it to the next level of adoption.

The concept is a tool that enables teams to self-reflect on where their Agile, development and testing practices are compared to best practice and taking it one level further to the company’s long term goals.

I have written a user experience report on our journey and findings for your enjoyment.

Final Thoughts

Continuous improvement is vital in the tough and changing world that we live in. If organisations are going to continue being profitable and market leading we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We need to be continually thinking about evolving ways of working.

Evolutionary Stages is a great tool to help you focus on team and organisational practices, tracking from start to the end point of your journey. We often forget about our starting point and fail to celebrate our successes along the way. Let’s stop and celebrate what we have achieved.

If you happened to be interested in my list of ratings for restaurants I have visited – then drop me a line and I will send it to you Smile


Kanban – Taking it back to the basics

Last week I was fortunate to go to Sapanca in Turkey with the Lean Kanban University (LKU) for the Train the Trainer (TTT) course. It was a little daunting to work with 7 other candidates that I didn’t know from all over the world; however we soon bonded as a community in a shared goal.

Class of Sapanca July 2013

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It was great to finally meet David and some of his team who came with him (Mike, Dragos, Janice, Agnes and Mihaela) and to hear the journey they have been on with Kanban. The stories and learning they shared were extremely valuable and really helped me to understand how others across the globe had gone about their adoption and the roots of Kanban.

The course also highlighted that no matter how much we think we know as coaches, there is so much more out there to learn. Whilst it was a challenging week, I definitely believe I have grown in my Kanban knowledge and feel confident to co-train my first course next week. I am actually excited about the opportunity to share my knowledge and passion for Kanban as a newly Accredited Kanban Trainer (wooooo!)

Back to the Basics

I love the fact that Kanban (like other methods) has Values, Principles and Practices and this is something that I use and quote regularly to keep me true to what I am practicing. As practitioners & coaches we need to keep these close to our hearts and make them part of our everyday life.  You would not believe how many situations I find myself in day dreaming about flow optimisation. I can’t even go to Mc Donald’s now after Kanban Dan ruined it for me with his drive through flow scenario Smile

Lets take a minute to remind ourselves what they are:

The Values

  1. Understanding
  2. Agreement
  3. Respect
  4. Leadership
  5. Flow
  6. Customer Focus
  7. Transparency
  8. Balance
  9. Collaboration.

There is an awesome blog by Mike Burrows in this area.

The Principles

  1. Start with what you do now
  2. Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change
  3. Initially, respect current roles, responsibilities & job titles
  4. Encourage acts of leadership at all levels from individual contributor to senior management

The Core Practices

  1. Visualize
  2. Limit Work-in-Progress
  3. Manage Flow
  4. Make Policies Explicit
  5. Implement feedback Loops
  6. Improve Collaboratively (using safe to fail experiments)

I challenge you on your perceived knowledge of Kanban . There are so many misconceptions out there that it’s just about visual management, but it is so much more.  Kanban is an evolutionary method that uses scientific theory to enhance the flow of work in the system. There is also a misconception out there that Kanban can only be used in manufacturing, but this is not true. It can be used in software delivery, but also any knowledge work.

Kanban doesn’t imply that it is the end to end solution and recognizes that we pull from many different tool boxes in its application.

Part of the TTT course was based around the AKTs bringing case studies for how we have  implemented it in the organisations we work for and so I have not only experienced this first hand for myself, but seen other organisations deliver great results also.

Final Thoughts

What beliefs have you formed about Kanban or any method without really understanding what is at the heart of them.  We are often dismissive on little facts or one negative experience. Like learning to drive, maturity comes over time and with practice. Chances are that we may have a prang or maybe even a write off, but we still continue to drive and learn from the experience.

Consider getting yourself on a course and see how an AKT can open your mind.