Agile, Change and the things we can do

We home school our children and a few years ago my wife decided to utilize stories and a Kanban board to manage the kids work flow every day.

Doing this provided her the ability to build a backlog of work tasks that our children were going to work on (no we didn’t have them perform estimations or commitments ūüôā ) ¬†Each day she puts up the work that they need to complete in the Not Started column and then the kids can decide which ones that they want to work on and pull the ticket into the In Progress column.

Once they are done with a ticket my wife reviews the work and if accepted moves the ticket to Accepted. ¬†This approach provided our kids with some level of control over their work flow and also an understanding that they weren’t done until Mom signed off on their work. ¬†This way of managing their work provide them visibility to how much is left for the day and more importantly the topics that cause them more trouble.

Now that my daughter is working on her first business/website (she’s 13) we are using an Agile Discovery process where we are building a User Story backlog (she’s learning VOC) and developing low-fi wireframes (she’s learning design) for her website where she will be selling her customized jewelry made out of recycled products, photography of the animals she has seen across the country and raising awareness of animal conservation. ¬†She’s now comfortable with an Agile process because we laid the groundwork during school. ¬†I think in many ways teachers could utilize this process which would provide visibility to high performing individuals and those that are struggling. ¬†Taking a page from Scrum perhaps the high performing individuals can provide support to the ones that may be struggling, just like we would expect our Scrum teams to do when someone is struggling with a particularly gnarly code problem.

Agile is most commonly associated with Software Development, but really the iterative continuous improvement concepts apply to anything you want to focus on.

Agile can be applied to changing your habits. ¬†For example if you want to lose weight, write an Epic stating that value of losing weight, then write several thematic user stories with your intermediate goals and then write stories for your sprints with specific activities you need to accomplish (exercise, etc…) put it on the wall for your Kanban tracking. ¬†If necessary have a standup with people who are supporting you so you can report on your progress, impediments (Ben and Jerry’s is right next to my office…)

An underlying principle of Agile is the need to change behavior, not just of the teams building your product but those that want them built. ¬†You can’t have a smooth running organization if you don’t address the intrinsic ¬†behavior of people in general. ¬†Agile can provide the framework for helping make this change by providing a shared language.

When we work in an organization we may think we are all working towards an end goal (ie making great products, making money, etc…) but as soon as an organization begins to grow people who don’t know each other and who may have no shared experiences need to start communicating.

I recently completed McCarthy’s Core Protocol training ¬†and one of the things I came away from it was that getting people to have a shared framework of communication is the most important thing that high performing teams and organizations should focus on, the rest will come as a result of this effort. ¬†If you deliver this you deliver the ability for these teams to produce great product anywhere/anytime.

Think about it this way РWe are all organic systems, who behave based upon the experiences that we take in over our life time.  Since no two humans are organically the same ( not even your own family) we end up with an ineffective communication driven by our life experiences and trained responses.

Core Protocols and in my mind Agile, provide a framework to establish a common language, just as we do with disparate technical systems (isn’t that what a service based architecture is all about?), we write code that provides a common communication protocol between them, removing the impediment their different languages pose to having them communication effectively.

As you begin to start to adopt Agile understand that though the practices you read about, such a Release Planning, etc… are extremely important, the need to provide your teams and organizations a shared communication framework are equally important to long-term success.

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