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Making Sense of Your Company’s Knowledge Capital – Communities of Practice Measurement

Several factors affect the growth of a business or an organisation such as; the economic conditions in a country, changes in government policies, changes in the industry factors, and the competence of the team. In most cases, it’s virtually impossible to control the first three factors. These are external factors that are affected by the local and international community. Fortunately, you can take charge and influence the growth of your team without being pushy about it. One of the best frameworks to do this is through the formation of communities of practice in your company.

What is a Community of Practice?

A community of learners/practice (CoL/CoP) is defined as a group of individuals who shares beliefs, practices and values and actively engages with one another. This learning practice aims to create a system of learning by which both students and educators learn from each other and create a system of knowledge capital. The ability of the community to learn is determined by the members’ ability to gather information and formulate methodologies collectively.  By forming communities of practice in your organisation your team learns and grows “organically” in their profession and trade. Also, in return for cultivating this professional growth and learning community, it will affect the growth of your company.

Understanding Knowledge Capital

Knowledge capital is often referred to as the intangible assets of a company. It is comprised of the acquired techniques, knowledge and innovations. The intellectual capital guides a company in making decisions. It also gives a company a higher competitive edge because the employees have access to the necessary knowledge and techniques they need to work.

Human Capital – This may be the skills, information, technique or a different perspective provided by a team member. Other personal values are included such the ability of a person to inspire and drive change.

Reputational Capital – This is the collective voice of a company or community. What are the characteristics of the team? How is the team different from the others? The reputational capital helps increase the collaboration between each member plus external groups such as company partners and affiliates.

Social Capital – This refers to the relationship between the members of a team, the company collaborators, sponsors, partners and other entities. It also covers the personal reputation of the members.

Now that we’ve established the value of Knowledge Capital let’s focus on using the communities of practice measurement that we should apply in assessing your company CoPs.

How to Gauge the Contributions of CoP within your Organisation

More often, it is not easy to measure the success or the contributions of a CoP to a company or an organisation. Etienne Wenger, Beverly Trayner and Maarten de Laat laid out a framework that can be used to assess the value of this type of network. The framework was published by the Open University of Netherlands.

It aims to help organisations and institutions generate both qualitative and quantitative data to help assess the efficacy of the community of practice. Below are the five levels of values and metrics that you can use to evaluate the community of practice in your organisation:

Immediate Value – refers to the valuable interactions or activities between the members of the community. A few examples include helping a team member work on an arduous task, visiting a new office location and assessing the tips provided by a colleague. These activities not only generate value in terms of the collected knowledge but also allows members to explore new perspectives.

Potential Value – not all of member activities or interactions immediately provide value to the community. Some are only saved up for later. For example, a colleague shares how he handled conflicts with other members of the team for future reference. While the issue might never happen again, it still provided valuable information to the team.

Applied Value – some of the knowledge acquired by the community may or may not be useful, which is why they need to be tested through application. Picture a team changing the procedures according to the collated information. Applied value is observed when the team opts to revise a procedure to test the knowledge capital they have.

Realized Value – Continuous improvement is not guaranteed even after a set of knowledge is applied and validated. It is also crucial to identify the effects of applying such knowledge. For example, once the changes are implemented, what are the effects observed for both the team and each member?

Reframing Value – there are instances when a proven knowledge capital changes the way the organisation defines success. For example, changing the procedure did not help the team meet the selling quota, but it led to the uncovering of a new market. This will prompt the team to reassess priorities, strategies, values and even the end goals.

Aside from the framework, you can also assess the benefits you get from establishing communities of practice by correlating the company or group’s productivity to the number of new members, engagement rate, number of successful activities, and rate of resolving disputes.

An Example of an Organisation that Uses Community of Practice to Achieve its Goals

IRRESISTIBLE stands for Including Responsible Research and innovation in cutting Edge Science and Inquiry-based Science education to improve Teacher’s Ability of Bridging Learning Environments. It is a project founded by the European Union last 2013. The project involves ten countries and 14 partner companies.

Their goal is to create activities that help students and help the public understand how Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) works and raise social awareness on the issues that surround it. The project used formal and informal learning approaches.

Their learning community is comprised of teachers who work in classrooms, researchers who use high-end technology, science centres which focus on using informal teaching approaches and educators who aim to share their knowledge about research.

The project has two phases. During the first phase, ten modules were developed by the CoP on several assigned RRI topics. The modules are then tested by each class. For the second phase, each teacher involved in the first phase will have to train colleagues on how to use the modules. This is one great example of how powerful a CoP can be in terms of Knowledge Capital.

However, having a community of practice is not all sunshine and roses. There are “dangers” to a community such as the tendency to become impermeable due to the history of the group and their established way of handling matters. Over time, if the strategy and the system used by the CoP is not re-evaluated, the group becomes inward-focused.

As such, it is crucial to sustaining the engagement between the members while maintaining the identity of the entire group. Constant negotiation and renegotiation are also required to encourage the development of the community’s knowledge.

Establishing a community of learners within your organisation can help you reap various benefits such as faster resolution of disputes, increased team productivity, more group innovations and lesser time and resources spent on training.

Working with Me Or Evolution4all

I have developed the Organisational Mastery” product. The aim of this product is to create a coalition that drives change and internal innovation alongside shared knowledge throughout the organisation. It’s extremely suitable for companies that want drastically improve the alignment between executive leadership and delivery teams.

ORGANISATIONAL MASTERY SCORECARD

We have developed a free assessment in the form of a Scorecard to help you establish which areas of business you need to focus on to achieve your particular Organisational Mastery.

Take The Test
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The post Communities of Practice Measurement: Focusing on the Right Metrics to Grow Your Company’s Knowledge Capital appeared first on Luís Gonçalves.

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When I started blogging 7 years ago, my main idea was to share my experience with the agile community. I wanted to share my learnings so others would not waste time doing the same mistakes.

After several years, my target audience changed and nowadays I write mainly for executives and entrepreneurs, but the idea is still the same: educating people and sharing my experience and learning so they do not do the same mistakes I did.

This week I want to share something with all of you. For past couple of years I have performed several leadership roles but everything changes when you own your company. I think the responsibility is different and the way how you manage your own employees is a bit different than when you are employed and you have a team of Scrum Masters.

I have always preached to my customers and managers how important it is to have a policy of a salary transparency, actually not only salary but a complete monetary transparency.

I also challenge my customers about the vision. Most of them do not understand why I am so pushy about this topic, but hopefully at the end of this post you will better understand why.

Now I want to share a story with you . Some of you know that I am in a process of hiring the first employee for evolution4all. This person is a brilliant lady that I put a lot of hope for. She hasn´t started working yet, but we already discuss the conferences and trainings she wants to attend. And this is when my story begins…

Often I explain to many people and to her as well what vision do I have for my company, what is our customer target audience and what is our market.

Our soon to be colleague will soon become a CST  and she must attend several Scrum gatherings in order to reach that milestone. So we discussed a possibility for her to attend the Scrum gathering in South Africa.

To be very honest, I am sure if I said no, she would be upset and we would not start the relationship in the best possible way, but instead, I asked: “Can you tell me the vision of our company, what is our target customer and market?”

Because I constantly communicate the vision that I have for the company, it was very easy for her to answer my questions and understand that a Scrum gathering in South Africa did not have anything to do with what evolution4all aspires for.

Afterwards, I was very transparent with her and told her exactly how much money our customer will pay for her services and how much money we would loose if she went to South Africa. I explained the cost that evolution4all have with her, including her salary, social security, health care and all the costs associated of having her as employee.

It was very easy for her to understand that attending a Scrum gathering in South Africa would cost almost the entire salary.

I asked her what she would do if she were me, and she agreed that this would not be a wise investment for the company. Instead, she would look for options that would be aligned with evolution4all vision.

Being transparent to you, our target audience is Executive leaders in Europe, our vision is to create a better world by improving one company at a time and we do that by deploying our Organisational Mastery product at medium sized companies.

This being said, a Scrum gathering will never be evolution4all main focus but everyone knows that supporting a colleague that wants to become a CST is a great asset for any business. What we will do is to find events that will enable her become a CST but at the same time we relate it to our vision.

Why did I share this story? Because I believe if I wasn´t completely transparent with my employee about our vision, strategy and cost structure, I would not be able to have such an open and productive discussion.

I really believe that employees care with companies, but I also believe that 99% of employees do not have a clue about the current strategy of their company. And most probably they do not have any idea how their work contributes to the revenue and how much they cost to an organisation.

Having a very strong vision together with a cost transparency policy is the key to get employees making the right decisions for your company.

I really hope you enjoyed this personal story.

Working with Me Or Evolution4all

I have developed the Organisational Mastery” product. The aim of this product is to create a coalition that drives change and internal innovation alongside shared knowledge throughout the organisation. It’s extremely suitable for companies that want drastically improve the alignment between executive leadership and delivery teams.

ORGANISATIONAL MASTERY SCORECARD

We have developed a free assessment in the form of a Scorecard to help you establish which areas of business you need to focus on to achieve your particular Organisational Mastery.

Take The Test
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The post Why transparency and strong vision are crucial to run a company appeared first on Luís Gonçalves.

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It’s interesting that a lot of IT projects are considered as failures even though the development teams were able to submit the output on time and within budget. As it turns out, these projects were not considered as successes since they didn’t meet the demands or standards of the stakeholders. There was also minimal coordination between the project team and the investors.

Of course, IT and project development teams can only manage so much, especially if the client is confused as to what they want or what they expect from their investment. Luckily, the agile method does away with most of these problems, making it easier to manage and close projects on a high note.

What is Agile Portfolio Management?

Agile is a project management method characterised by the division of tasks into short time frames and frequent coordination with clients to assess, reassess and adapt plans. The agile method is often used for software development.

Agile portfolio management deals with how an organisation identifies, prioritises, organises and manages different products. This is done in a streamlined way to optimise the development of value in a manner that’s sustainable in the long run.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcXvx8FH8Vw

What are the Key Principles of Agile Portfolio Management?

An agile manager needs to have the proper mindset to successfully manage an agile portfolio. The agile outlook has been outlined and discussed in the Principles of Lean Software Development and Disciplined Age Manifesto.

Here are some of the key principles you need to understand when it comes to agile portfolio management:

  • Simple and Streamlined is the Way to Go: Portfolio managers know that agile activities and projects have to be kept streamlined. Bear in mind that the end goal here is to make the right decisions when it comes to projects and to provide the right guidance to project team members. Therefore, there’s no need for generating and reviewing extensive documentation.
  • Put More Emphasis on Value Instead of Cost: Any portfolio manager worth their salt knows that the value of a project will create is more important than the price tag attached to it. Putting more emphasis and focus on value will help the manager come up with ways on how to enhance the business’ current and future endeavours. Plus, any positive changes in this area will only serve to extend the team’s capacity to develop more value for consumers.
  • Lessen the Cost of Delay (CoD): A good strategy is to optimise the stakeholder’s value by developing functionalities that will provide the company with the most revenue or worth in the shortest possible time. For instance, if a functionality is delayed by half a year and it’s estimated to generate about $10 million in annual revenue, then the company will lose $5 million due to Cost of Delay.

This can be avoided under a good portfolio manager since they will consider factors like the cost of developing a solution, the CoD from not pursuing or starting said solution, and the revenue or savings cost when they evaluate and assess the worth of the proposed solution.

  • Stable Teams are Better Options to Project Teams: There’s more to agile portfolio management than coordinating with and managing different teams. The agile method understands that the team’s responsibility and initiative don’t stop just because a project ends. Clients will expect and demand changes, and the team will be expected to design and release another solution. Because of this, it’s better to have long-standing stable teams – which has members that have evolved and sharpened their skills through various projects – than teams who work only on short-term projects. Aside from the former having numerous advantages over the latter, it has been proven that there’s a boost in productivity when a company gives the project to a stable team instead of pulling people from different departments to create a new team.
  • Remember That Diversity Empowers: A lot of companies now understand that diversity empowers. In every new project, the team member will encounter a unique situation that will change over time. Therefore, teams should be given the freedom to group themselves and change their methods in relation to the circumstances.

An agile frame of mind focuses on providing, and contrasting and comparing, different methodologies and techniques. This means that managers should also be adaptable and have various ways of managing each team and handling each project. And while every team deals with projects in their unique way, managers still have to monitor and guide them, which is why flexibility is a must.

What are the Factors to Consider in Portfolio Management?

There are a number of key factors to think about in the agile portfolio management process.

  • Identify Upcoming Value: The portfolio manager and his/her team are mandated to identify what new products to design and build, as well as come up with new features and ideas. The team accomplishes this by monitoring the relevant business niche and the competitors, securing feedback from clients and anticipating what their customers might need in the future.  
  • Look for Potential Endeavors: The management team will look for and try to understand the merits of potential projects. The team can start a case study, run a focus group, study return on investment or analyse a product’s market potential.
  • Prioritize Possible Projects: Companies often have to prioritise possible projects because of budget constraints. They then invest in projects that have the highest potential. To do this, the team has to consider factors like product value, business risk and deadlines.
  • Start on the Endeavors: New features or products have to be designed and built by the project team. Depending on the kind of product and its uniqueness, the company might have to start with an exploratory or lean startup approach. This means the product’s market potential has to be validated first via numerous experiments.
  • Fund the Project: Every future project will need funding. This includes the initial budget for teams created for the project’s inception, the development efforts and the funding for ongoing Construction and Transition as well as the launch and implementation of the project. The funding will require regular and responsible monitoring to make sure that the money is used properly.  
  • Plan IT Capacities: The portfolio manager also has to plan and manage the resources of the different department. This includes the budget and personnel. In short, the manager has to ensure that the company’s employees have proper skill and are available at the proper time.
  • Manage Vendors: Vendor or supplier management is a vital component of agile portfolio management. This means the portfolio team is tasked to procure or award contracts, narrow down and identify possible vendors, oversee ongoing projects and end a contract.
  • Manage Portfolio: There should also be someone tasked to manage the whole portfolio. This includes all current development projects as well as upcoming operational solutions.

In Conclusion

Agile portfolio management makes certain that a business can supply their clients with the value they deserve for their investment. A responsible portfolio manager or team knows and embodies the principles of the agile method while also taking into account the factors essential to the success of the company’s projects.

Working with Me Or Evolution4all

I have developed the Organisational Mastery” product. The aim of this product is to create a coalition that drives change and internal innovation alongside shared knowledge throughout the organisation. It’s extremely suitable for companies that want drastically improve the alignment between executive leadership and delivery teams.

ORGANISATIONAL MASTERY SCORECARD

We have developed a free assessment in the form of a Scorecard to help you establish which areas of business you need to focus on to achieve your particular Organisational Mastery.

Take The Test
Rate this post:

The post Agile Portfolio Management Definition: How To Run Your Company at Its Fullest Potential appeared first on Luís Gonçalves.

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Deciding which project should be given top priority is a dilemma that business owners and managers face regularly. For instance, would it serve the company better if it focuses on a $1 million, a three-month-long project first or push through with the smaller project that would cost $20,000 but with a two-week deadline? Sadly, making a concrete decision isn’t easy and often entails blurry visualisations using project management tools that don’t really tell you anything.

This is why more companies are actively using Cost of Delay (CoD) projection when it comes to determining its future projects. Why? Because it’s the most straightforward data-backed decision-making approach that you can bet your company’s future on. Well, using CoD is just one tool that you can learn now after reading this blog post. If you want to see it in action and other forecasting techniques, check out this blog post on how I save a company from spending another 20 Million Euro on a failing project where they already spent 15 Million Euro.

In this blog post, you will learn how you can use CoD to make reliable decisions in a very limited time.

What is Cost of Delay?

Cost of Delay is the monetary impact of a project’s delay. It pertains to how much a company will lose, or how massive the fallout will be if the project does not meet its deadline.

Let’s say one manager got caught in traffic and was subsequently late to a crucial meeting with an investor. Obviously, this delay will cost the company in terms of time and resources. The example is simple, and it goes without saying that there’s more on the line when it comes to delays in vital company projects. Missed deadlines and delays can lead to high labour costs, the loss of a client or the launch of a poorly-designed product.

How is Cost of Delay Calculated?

When it comes to calculating Cost of Delay, critical elements like additional labour cost, the market value of the product or feature or missed business opportunities should be taken into account. There are several ways of computing CoD (or its metrics). Here are some of them:

  1. You can compute the cost of delay by estimating the revenue or sales the project is expected to generate once it’s launched and how much a delay will cost. For example, your product’s new feature is estimated to generate weekly revenue of $15,000. This means your company will lose $60,000 if the project is delayed for four weeks. You also have to consider the salaries you’ll continue to pay the team, the changes in marketing and any damage the delay will have to your company’s reputation.
  2. Another way to compute Cost of Delay is to follow Cost of Delay Divided by Duration (CD3). To compute using this method, you have to:

Once the computations are done, you can compare which projects have higher CD3 value. A higher CD3 means the return of investment is quicker. Therefore these are the projects that should be given top priority.

  1. CoD can also be computed using the formula –

Total Cost of Delay = Lost Month Cost + Peak Reduction Cost

Lost Month Cost indicates the peak month of sales – the period wherein sales of the product are high or stable and before it begins its downward turn. You can calculate Lost Month Cost by multiplying the product margin and the sales volume of the peak month. Most consider Lost Month Cost as part of the CoD.

Meanwhile, peak reduction cost deals with the product cycle. This refers to the sales volume, which can be determined by how fast the product is developed and launched, how quickly the sales and marketing team can advertise it to clients and secure sales. Unfortunately, delays in the product launch have a significant impact on sales and leads to a lower sales peak. Assigning a number to the reduced peak in revenue is not simple, which is why most companies disregard it.

What are the Different Types of Cost of Delay?

Companies should also familiarise themselves with the various types of Cost of Delay since these can affect CoD calculations.  

  • Fixed Date Curve: This type of CoD refers to projects that have a fixed and rigid time frame. It’s therefore vital that a company follow a strict schedule in order to meet the deadline, as missing it will be costly. For instance, the product has to be launched before a new regulation that will greatly affect the product is passed. Or the company has a TV advertisement that’s set to be released internationally.

In this situation, calculating the Cost of Delay is a little complicated. The company should expect the CoD to grow at an average pace initially. But there will be a large sales increase following a particular time frame before settling to a minimal growth rate.

  • Intangible Curve: Projects with a low Cost of Delay typically have an intangible curve. This is because they have little effect on the company due to it being low on the project food chain. The company faces no risks even if these projects are delayed since CoD in virtually nonexistent.
  • Standard Curve: Projects with a standard curve shows a Cost of Delay that moves in a linear manner. It’s also easy to compute this type of CoD since there’s no difference regardless of how long the project lasts.
  • Urgent Curve: As the name implies, projects with a compelling curve CoD have to be wrapped up and launched as soon as possible to create value for the business. Any delay to the project will end with the company losing revenue. For example, your company has to come up with a product in order to compete with a competitor that’s already preparing for a huge product launch. Projects with this type of curve will see high Cost of Delay when the deadline hits, and this will continue to increase over time.

Cost of Delay is very fluid, and the CoD curve is subject to change. Let’s say a company as successfully launched a unique product feature. Since it has no competitors, the company will follow a standard CoD curve. But if after a year a rival company launches a similar feature on one of its products, the standard CoD curve can change and become a fixed date one.

Last Words…

Companies should understand how vital Cost of Delay is when it comes to choosing and managing projects. It’s also vital they know how to calculate CoD since it has a significant impact on the business. It also assists the management in deciding which projects should be moved up or down the pipeline.

Successful companies are based on five pillars: the ability to reduce time to market, connecting strategy to daily operations, having an environment of continuous improvement, creating an environment of sharing knowledge and drive innovation. Analyse these 5 areas in your organisation right now to find out how close your organisation is from achieving fantastic results.

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The post How to Calculate Cost of Delay So You Know Where You’re Losing Money appeared first on Luís Gonçalves.

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Time to Market: How your Company Can Keep Launching New Products and Features Ahead of Your Competition

Companies like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have proven that innovation is the key to greatness. That’s why most businesses put a significant premium on it. However, just coming out with innovative products or new features is not enough. Companies also have to make sure their products and services reach the market in time. After all, it’s a cutthroat world out there and delaying the launch of a product can have serious repercussions, especially since a product’s novelty diminishes quickly.

Since it’s essential for your business to get your innovative new products out to the market before your competitors do, it’s imperative that you learn and understand the idea of Time to Market.

Importance of Time to Market

Time to Market (TTM) refers to the period that a company needs to develop a product and launch it. This duration includes the generation of ideas, designing, developing and testing it, and introducing it to consumers.  The more organised and efficient your business’ product development system is, the more effective you’ll be at scheduling the time to market. This can also help you develop plans on how to release the product at the appropriate time and place.

The concept of Time to Market is also known as Speed to Market (STM). There are several reasons why TTM is the key deciding element on whether a new product or service will become successful. First, the majority of companies invest in innovations, albeit with different levels of importance. Second, putting off developing your improvements or ideas gives your competitors an edge over you. Next, remember that most innovations or product enhancements depend on technology or are enabled by it. Technology changes at a rapid pace and taking the long road with your products could mean that by the time it hits the market, it’s already redundant. Lastly, there’s a small window of opportunity for the optimal pricing of a product, and this window shrinks slowly every day. Once an enhanced product or feature or improved service becomes mainstream, it will no longer provide high returns.

Understanding the Difference Between Resource Efficiency and Flow Efficiency

Resource efficiency or Flow efficiency? Companies have to choose the ideal work system for them in order for their departments to work well and come up with the innovations they need. But to do so, one needs to understand the difference between resource efficiency and flow efficiency.

Resource efficiency is the system wherein the work flows from one employee to the other. This system regards each employee as a specialist, the only person capable of doing a particular job. Every person in a resource efficient company is fully optimised and utilised. However, it also means that whatever task that has to be done or feature to be developed can only be done when the specialist finally gets around to it. This method typically results in a “cost of delay” as employees wait for the other to accomplish their duties first before they can even start on their own tasks.

Flow efficiency focuses on the opposite. Instead of individual employees, this system concentrates on the whole team. This means that every team member is a specialist so even if one member is missing, the work can still continue. This process admittedly tends to be slower because every member has the same skills and degree of expertise. However, this method guarantees that the project will be finished on time.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. Resource efficiency is all about optimising the employee’s skills while flow efficiency optimises the features the team is developing. The former method can cause work queues to pile up if the member in charge of the product hits a roadblock or works slowly. Meanwhile, the rest of the members will probably commence working on other features or tasks that they can do. This can lead to multi-tasking and additional stress when the deadline draws near and crucial functions or elements are still unfinished.

The scenario is different with flow efficiency. Because the whole team is on even ground and works together, they also accomplish things together. For instance, one member can work on the UI while another can commence developing automated tests that do not need a fully functioning UI yet. The progress might be slow, but the team will definitely have a sense of accomplishment as the project moves forward slowly and steadily.

3 Advantages of Improving Your Company’s Time to Market

Regardless of whether your company is utilising the flow efficiency or resource efficiency process, improving Time to Market is still the end goal.

The duration of your company’s Time to Market can have a major impact on a product’s success. Businesses and product design departments these days misuse 40% or more of their supplies or resources, which causes delays. The majority of wasted resources is because of inefficiency, like repetitive work, redundant administrative paperwork, unnecessary product features, inferior product roll-outs or poor information management. What makes it worse is that 80% of a company’s data (social media accounts, emails, videos, photos) are complicated and disorganised while the needed tools do not give the appropriate support.

It’s therefore critical for a company to speed up its time to market. Doing so can result in these three advantages:

  • Economical Managerial Procedures: Creating a steady timeline lets your company’s key team streamline and manage production time and cost as well as develop schedules based on headcount planning and lead time.
  • Improve Revenue Margin:  Your business will enjoy improved revenue margins as new products and services are released earlier than expected and it meets what the market demands.
  • Gives You a Leg Up Over Your Competitors: A solid speed to market pace will provide you with a leg over your competitors while providing you with the opportunity to maximise new technology. Your company will also be exposed to more market opportunities and hopefully secure higher market shares.
5 Ways to Accelerate Time to Market

Time to market is undeniably very important to a business. What remains to be done now is to find ways on how you can speed it up. Here are some suggestions:

  • Mix Business With Technology: One mistake a lot of companies make is to keep their design and innovation bases separate from each other while key departments do not get involved in the design and development process. This slows down TTM and reduces the company’s drive to take risks. Get the different departments involved. Having their own stake in the process will boost time to market.
  • Select a Clear Revenue Target: Giving your innovation team a clear target – in financial terms – that they have to reach will spur them to try harder to succeed. Innovations are innately connected to the company’s business model so there should be a clear way to measure its success from a financial viewpoint. This will encourage teams to push for a faster TTM.
  • Make Good Use of Outsourcing Services: You can actually outsource all components of the TTM process aside for some critical areas. For instance, you can tap another company to identify what customers should be targeted, manage promotion channels, and come up with price points. Create a mutually beneficial ecosystem with supporting partners that can help roll out innovations and see your time to market go faster. 
  • Design Organized Workflows: Develop a workflow that lessens downtime and encourages efficiency. For instance, put a stop to compartmentalised departments and have a system wherein all workers can share their expertise openly.  
  • Find Ways to Track Results Effectively:  Ideally, every team member should be involved in the design and development process. One way to do this is to share information as this encourages collaboration and fluidity among teams. Bear in mind that gathering and sharing crucial and real-time information helps the various innovation teams develop agility and make good decisions quickly and efficiently.

The odds that your company will succeed grows the more you can reduce Time to Market for innovations. A fast TTM means consumers will receive your product faster, giving you a big advantage over your competitors. So think carefully about whether your company should opt for resource efficiency or flow efficiency as this will impact how your innovations will be handled.

Successful companies are based on five pillars: the ability to reduce time to market, connecting strategy to daily operations, having an environment of continuous improvement, creating an environment of sharing knowledge and drive innovation. Analyse these 5 areas in your organisation right now to find out how close your organisation is from achieving fantastic results.

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In a 2014 assessment handled by the Design Management Institute, the performance of design-led corporations like Apple, Nike, and Procter & Gamble exceeded that of the S&P 500 for the past decade by as much as 219%. Now many organizations want to learn design-based thinking – a distinct way that designers come up with solutions to problems.

When people are faced with a problem, their initial reaction is that they have to solve it. But a better question they should be asking is what they can do to help them understand the problem or situation better and how to move forward. This is where Design Thinking comes into play. When design principles are adapted to innovation and strategy, the odds of developing something worthwhile increases dramatically.

Understanding Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a method used by designers to figure out complicated problems and find the best solutions for their clients. A designer’s mentality is more focused on the solution than the problem. After all, a designer is geared to act and create a preferred future. The process calls on imagination, intuition, logic, as well as systemic reasoning to explore all possible options and to design the desired result that would give the end user the greatest advantage.

Unsurprisingly, many educators and corporate individuals are skeptical of Design Thinking and wary of how it can positively impact their system. But as Nigel Cross said in his book “Designerly Ways of Knowing,” one’s whole environment has been designed. He also stated that “Design ability is, in fact, one of the three fundamental dimensions of human intelligence.”

Art, design, and science are the triumvirate responsible for the cognitive abilities of humans. Art is all about finding the differences among similar things while science finds similarities among that which are different. Meanwhile, the design brings about inconceivable “parts” or situations to create a possible “whole” or solution.

Benefits of Using the Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking provides people with a novel and effective way of thinking about the things they question about in the world and the problems they usually face. It helps a person to step outside traditional methods and to discover new solutions to old problems. Sometimes it’s not even about solving a problem, but about finding a better way to do things.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, Design Thinking is not just for design-oriented and technology companies. Government agencies, health care, the financial sector and non-profit organizations can also benefit from it. In short, every industry would do well to take advantage of this fashion of thinking and enjoy the following benefits:

  •    Design Thinking Prioritizes the User

This method places a high priority on the end user. The aim is to design products and solutions that perfectly align with the users’ needs. Design Thinking is innately human-centric, which means solutions entail getting close to the user to see how they feel about the problem and how their lives and experiences can be improved.

  •    Process Influences Collective Expertise

By creating multidisciplinary teams and engaging numerous voices and experts, Design Thinking helps problem solvers break out of their niches or industries to influence collective expertise, experience, and knowledge. With numerous skills and philosophies involved, solutions become inclusive and flexible.

  •    Method Utilizes Empathy

Empathy is at the center of Design Thinking. Empathy is sometimes referred to as “understanding” or “discovery.” Regardless of the term use, it demands understanding and identifying with the needs and difficulties of the product user, the system used or the experience. Empathy is different from sympathy. Empathy is feeling for the end user.  Sympathy is merely acknowledging the feeling of your end user. Design Thinking thrives in the essence of empathy. Problem solvers put themselves in the shoes of the users instead of just referencing from the feedbacks provided to them.

  •    Design Thinking Tests Until Perfect

If empathy is the heart of Design Thinking, “design, test, and repeat” is its core mantra. This allows designers to have unexpected breakthroughs by creating numerous prototypes rapidly and stimulating quick feedback from real customers and actual users before the company spends too much time, money, or effort on one idea. The methodology is not as clean as the more linear and traditional problem-solving approaches but it generates more powerful and interesting results.

  •    Values are Created While Crucial Problems are Solved

Design Thinking is not just about inventing new products and services; it’s also about creating value and finding good solutions to existing problems. The method uses design principles to solve small and large issues of every industry.

When done properly, design thinking grabs the mindset and requirements of the people you’re designing for. It also provides you with a look at the opportunities that will be opened based on the needs of the client. It can also be used as the cornerstone of your offers and designs.

5 Stages of the Design Thinking Method

There’s no question that the Design Thinking method is very useful in dealing with challenging problems that are unknown or ill-defined. Problem solvers can do so by having a keen understanding of the human needs at play and then re-evaluating the situation in a human-centric way. They can then start brainstorming to create various ideas and then developing prototypes of the solution and testing them.

You can apply this method to solve difficult problems that crop up, regardless of whether it’s in a business setting or something larger. But in order to do that, one has to understand the methodology.

There are various Design Thinking models. One of the earliest ones was created by Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize laureate. His model consisted of seven stages and influenced most of the Design Thinking models being used today.

Another popularly used model was developed by Standford University’s Hasso-Plattner Institute. According to this model, there are five stages of Design Thinking – Empathise, Defining the Problem, Ideate/ Idea Generation, Prototype, and Test.

  1. Empathize

The first step in Design Thinking is to put yourself in your client’s shoes and acquire an empathic understanding of the dilemma you are tasked to solve. You can do this through immersion – literally living in the physical construct in order to have a deep personal understanding of the issues. Another option would be to consult specialists to learn more about the situation through observation, engagement and empathizing with others to understand their side, motivations, and experiences.

Empathy is vital in such a human-centric process like Design Thinking. It allows designers to remain objective about the situation so they can have a clear insight of the clients and their needs. While there might be time constraints on the project, this is the stage where copious amounts of data are gathered. The information collected will be used in the next step and is also utilized to create the best view of the users, their requirements, and the roadblocks that face the development of a specific product.

  1. Defining the Problem

After empathizing and gathering information, the next step is to collate all data and start defining the problem. As the problem solver, you will have to assess and analyze all information and synthesize them to identify the main problems. In this stage, you have to come up with a problem statement that will define the problem in a human-centric way.

Typically, companies would define the problem as one of their needs. For instance, they would state something like “We have to boost our product’s market share among preteens by 10 percent.” However, a better option of defining the problem in a humanizing way would be to say “Preteens require nutrient-rich food in order to grow, remain healthy and thrive.”

The second stage is also where the design team begins to gather ideas to establish functions, features, and other vital components that will assist them in either coming up with a solution or helping users resolve issues independently with minimal difficulties. At this junction, problem solvers will start laying the groundwork for the third stage by developing questions that can jumpstart the creation of solutions. For instance, the team might ask themselves – “How can we encourage preteens to do something that will keep them healthy while involving our product or service?”

  1. Idea Generation

The third stage of the Design Thinking process will see the design team ready to begin generating possible solutions. With the empathy you developed for the client in the first stage and a clear definition of the problem, you and your team can start generating ideas to either create new solutions or to look for another method of viewing the dilemma. This is also the stage where designers have to think outside the box and unleash their creativity.

Design teams can use any of the numerous idea creation techniques at their disposal, like Brainstorm, SCAMPER, or Worst Possible Idea. Each technique has their own pros and cons, but it’s critical that you create as many solutions or ideas as possible at this stage before you can take the next step and start testing them.

  1. Prototype Development

Problem solvers would start producing several scaled-down prototypes of the product or its particular features so the team can examine the solutions generated during the previous stage. These prototypes can be shared and investigated by the design team, by other departments, or by a small section of people outside the company. Bear in mind that the goal of this stage is to pinpoint the best solution for every problem identified during the initial stages so there are a lot of experimentation involved. The solutions are then executed on the prototypes, examined, and are approved, enhanced and reassessed, or rejected outright. Any rejection will have to be based on the clients’ experiences and feedback.

After testing the prototypes, the designers would have a good idea of the product’s limitations, any problems that have surfaced, and have a clearer perspective of how users will behave, feel, and think when using the product.

  1. Testing

The final stage of the Design Thinking process will see the design team vigorously testing the product using the best solution chosen during the prototyping stage. This is a repetitive process. The results of the tests are used to reevaluate problems and update users’ understanding, the conditions the product is used, how the consumer would behave, feel, and think, and to empathize. Changes and refinements are still being made to the product at this stage. This is to rule out every solution and develop a deep understanding of the product and the consumers.

It should be pointed out that while the aforementioned Design Thinking stages are discussed in a linear fashion, the process is very flexible. For instance, stages can be conducted simultaneously by different team members. Designers can also gather information and churn out prototypes during the entirety of the project so that they can visualize every solution. Results from the testing stage could also result in new ideas and lead to another round of brainstorming or prototype development.

What Design Thinking Means in Business

Design thinking is perfect for coming up with cutting-edge solutions. With it, companies can make decisions and come up with changes based on what prospective clients really desire instead of just depending on historical data or taking risky chances. They can depend on tangible evidence and not just rely on instinct, thereby saving money in the long run.

Remember that every business has a long-list of goals, from developing and releasing new products, boosting sales by engaging customers to providing clients with better customer support. But whenever a business decides to try and meet those goals, large amounts of time and money are utilized, especially in major corporations. Applying the Design Thinking method can help a company save money immediately since it targets specific solutions that customers need. This is achieved after discovering different ways of looking at the problem while providing insights and data that would be used to develop a solution that will help the company make money.

Design Thinking can also mean huge savings in government agencies. For instance, utilizing this method helped the US Department of Veteran Affairs Center for Innovation understand how war veterans interacted with the department. The steps used in Design Thinking showed the government the challenges veterans face when working with the VA. It also provided insight as to how employees can empathize, connect with their customers and work more effectively.

Design Thinking is the future. With it, businesses can really meet consumer demands and come up with the solutions that are user-centric. But a clear understanding of how to use this method is necessary if you want to stay ahead of the competition.

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How Communities of Practice Help Companies Have Learning and Growth-Driven Employees

If your building a company that has a ‘culture of sharing’ where people regardless of their roles and tenure are willing to help one another; value learning as an inevitable tool to growth and success; and have the attitude of ‘making each other better’; you are undoubtedly building the right culture of your company.

Not only does this culture of knowledge transfer benefits the organization as a whole (as people share their best practices to achieve a common goal), it also benefits every individual in the organization through the continuous inflow of knowledge and ideas. It’s the power of Communities of Practice.

What are Communities of Practice?

In whatever kind of organization – may it be in business, education, or government – in one way or another people come together to collaborate, share ideas and know-how, and solve problems as a group.

It’s an age-old phenomenon. But it was not until in the early 1990s that it was put together in one learning concept that is used in many organizational settings today.

First introduced by Etienne Wenger (educational theorist) and Jean Lave  (cognitive anthropologist) in 1991, the communities of practice (CoP) refers to any group “of people who share a common interest” and learn how to “do it better through regular interaction”.

They can be any group of people – a group of engineers learning a new process, a network of medical practitioners exploring the effectiveness of certain drugs, or diplomats learning about how a new form of technology can benefit their nations.

Note, however, that not all communities can be considered communities of practices. There are three important elements that set CoPs apart from the rest:

Shared domain of interest (Domain) – CoPs are not simple ‘networks’ of people sharing one or two commonalities. A community of practice can be created with the goal of gaining knowledge related to a specific field. Domain refers to the group’s identity defined based on the common goals or interests of the people in the group. Members imply a commitment to that domain with a shared competence that distinguishes them from other people.  

The community – to achieve their common goals, people in a CoP engages in activities and discussions, sharing their own expertise and learning from others. Imagine a regular meetup of visual effects professionals in a certain location. Each month, they come together for a half-day of forum, inviting senior VFX directors or industry leaders to give a talk on certain topics. Regardless of the organizations, they’re part of, these people do share an identity and common goal, which is, most probably, to expand their skills and knowledge. Over time, through collaboration done over coffee and some pizzas, relationships are built, which in turn enable mutual learning.

The practice – members of CoPs are practitioners who share resources, tools, techniques, and ideas. They develop ways of addressing problems which often lead to innovation. Members apply their newly learned practices to their individual careers. Simply exchanging ideas about a certain topic through some random conversations is not enough. In CoPs, the ‘sharing culture’ is more or less self-conscious.

Communities of practice evolve and cultivate through these essential elements. Without one of these three, a CoP cannot exist.

CoPs in Organizational Settings

Communities of practices can collaborate practically anywhere.  They can exist in physical settings, for example, in the lunchroom at work or in a field setting. But members need not meet face-to-face. They can collaborate virtually and share their best practices. Think about webinars and online meetups. Some groups meet on a regular basis, some infrequently.

Some CoPs are highly organized, with codes of conducts, standard roles and responsibilities, strategic plans, even budgets.

What makes CoPs successful over time is their ability to generate enough value, relevance and excitement among members. As people are bound by their desire to learn, grow, and help their colleagues, communities of practices continue to attract and engage members.

Despite the differences in the setup, size, and number, communities of practices always involve learning. Learning is the major reason why people meet together or the unintentional outcome of the members’ regular interaction.

Thinking Together: Learning Within Communities of Practice

We all are part of a CoP in one way or another, maybe through our profession or trade, leisure or interest, or within our respective organizations. While individuals learn from their participation in the activities and discussions, the most important benefit of communities of practice is the development of newer or deeper levels of knowledge that result from the regular interaction and activities.

The second definition of the communities of practice, according to Lave and Wenger, is the process of generating, applying and reproducing knowledge. They call it “legitimate peripheral participation” (LPP). Based on this concept, learning takes place as people make their way towards full participation in the community. Initially, they may participate in simple low-risk tasks. But over time, they become more acquainted with the tasks, language, and organizing principles of the community.

As novice members turn into old timers and gain more mastery of their profession, their level of participation becomes even more central to the smooth functioning of the community.

Another key concept within LPP is that learners must have access to experts. They should either be members or aspire membership to the community wherein the experts’ practices are central. Otherwise, they will have less access to the tools and resources of the community, and therefore, have limited growth.

Communities of Practice vs. Teams

CoPs are often confused with other types of groups or functional teams. However, there are key differences that should be noted, according to the “Creating and Facilitating Communities of Practice” article published by the Queen’s University School of Business.

Objective – in CoPs, the main goal is to share knowledge and promote learning within their domain. In teams, however, members are more concerned about completing a task.

Membership – people join communities of practice voluntarily. In teams, members are selected based on their ability to contribute to the team’s goals.

Organization – CoPs can be either formal or informal, collaborating through coffee meetings or meetups. They are self-organizing and leaders might be selected depending on the issue being discussed. Teams are hierarchical in nature, with a lead or project manager supervising the entire group.

Management – CoPs are built on mutual relationships between members whereas, in teams, members coordinate with each other for many interdependent tasks.

Termination – the communities of practices evolve. It is terminated only when there is no more interest. Teams end when the project is completed, although in some cases, they may evolve into a community.

How to Build a Community of Practice within Your Organization

There are many benefits of cultivating a community of practice in corporate settings. Not only does it help expand the professional knowledge and skills of the members, it also helps the company develop strategies to address various challenges. Since communities of practice can exist online and offline. They are ideal for all types of organizations, from brick-and-mortar companies to web-based companies.

  • Create a clear set of objectives.

Because in organizations, the members have different backgrounds, probably coming from varying professions and skill sets, it is important to determine the specific goals of the community. Whether it’s developing a training strategy, changing processes, addressing a pressing issue, or improving the performance of a particular department, it is important for the members of a community of practice to understand what their goals for collaborating are.

  • Know each member.

Ideally, you want a diverse group of people who will each present something unique to the table. Since in corporate settings, the number of members can be limited (could be employees from just one department), you want to be sure that a wide range of employees is represented. If the intention of the CoP affects the organization as a whole, all departments or teams must have their own representatives.

  • Collaboration should be free-flowing.

Communities of practices aren’t like typical workshops or forums. In CoPs, members learn from each other. Discussions are lively, highly interactive, and targeted to a common interest or domain. Holding regular meetings are important not only for the purpose of sharing knowledge but also in establishing relationships and better communication – keys to a successful collaboration.

  • Utilize technology for better collaboration.

Project management software tools can boost the community’s effort to share resources and knowledge despite geographical boundaries. Through these platforms, members can share documents, assign tasks, communicate, and stay up-to-date with the group’s calendar of activities. In addition to these, social media platforms are also a great venue for forums, exchange of ideas, and other forms of communication. Creating innovative solutions is much quicker through these networking platforms.

  • Focus on value.

As mentioned earlier, communities of practices differ from teams because they focus on the value they deliver to one another, or in this case, their organization. Value is the key because CoPs are voluntary. At earlier stage of a CoP, the value comes from the current problems and needs of the community. As it grows and develops, the value is derived from creating a systematic body of knowledge that can be easily accessed by the members.

  • Encourage different levels of participation.

Members’ level of participation varies. It’s normal that some would participate regularly sharing insights to everyone in the group. Others follow the discussions but do not take leading roles in making contributions. Some may not be as active until some parts of the discussion has engaged them fully. All levels of participation should be accepted and encouraged within the community.

  • Offer support and resources to the community.

The success of communities of practice within the organization hinges greatly upon the support that the organization itself provides. The CoP must have access to the tools, resources, fund (if needed) that are necessary for them to continue their collaboration and activities, especially in the beginning stages. With the strong support from the organization, particularly its leaders, communities of practices are likely to develop better strategies to address the pressing needs of the entire organization.

Challenges

Despite the undeniable benefits of nurturing communities of practices within organizations, not all companies are able to effectively implement and sustain CoPs. Aside from the fact that the concept was just recently introduced, the informal and spontaneous nature of these communities make it difficult for most organizations to monitor and support their growth.

Takeaways . . .

The idea of sharing and collaboration as a means of obtaining knowledge has long been practiced by individuals around the world. However, it was not until about thirty years ago since that the idea became more standardized through the concept known as “communities of practice”.

Communities develop their practice through a variety of activities. These include access to information, sharing experiences, problem solving, coordination and strategy, building arguments, discussing projects and developments, and many more.

There isn’t a highly defined structural framework for a community of practice unlike most types of organized communities. The setup can be anywhere from a formal to informal networks designed specifically for efficient knowledge-sharing and exploration. CoPs can be role-based too. For instance, developers need to talk to other developers, quality auditors need to talk to other quality specialists, and project managers need to collaborate with other managers across teams. This is necessary for continuous learning and mastery of their roles, and for adopting new methods and techniques.

Forming communities of practice within your organization is one way to promote high-level of learning and development. Apart from helping the entire organization develop new strategies and solve company-wide challenges, CoP helps individual members expand their professional knowledge base. CoP members exhibit different levels of participation and move freely across these levels as their needs and interest evolve.

Regardless of the size and nature of your organization, tapping into the collective skill sets of your members is a powerful approach to scale up your organization as what I’ve always recommended long time ago in my previous blog post. Whether you’re exploring a new process or developing strategies, a community of practice provides room for creating a culture of sharing where members collaborate to share and obtain knowledge, and form innovative ideas that lead to groundbreaking outcomes.

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Agile Retrospective Format

In today´s post, I want to talk about the Agile Retrospective format. I met several Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches that facilitate Agile Retrospectives without knowing this concept. In my opinion, a successful Agile Retrospective must follow somehow this structure.

This concept was introduced some years ago by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen, in their book “Agile Retrospectives.

They explained to us that there are five different phases of an Agile Retrospective and this is what I want to explain to you in this post.

Set the Stage

When holding a retrospective, a direction is essential to a successful session. Ergo, always start with an introductory period that focuses on the retrospective: setting the stage and the atmosphere for the rest of the discussion.

Foremost, if you want people to be engaged and willing to work with you, it’s a good idea to take a moment to thank them for investing their time in the retrospective, as doing so will make them feel like valued contributors. Having done so, make the purpose of the retrospective clear, and outline the goal for the session. You should also give a timeframe for the session.

After the basics have been laid out, it’s imperative to have everyone in the room speak up; it only needs to be brief (a word or two from each person describing what he or she hopes to get out of the retrospective), but it’s important to break the ice in this manner.

It will go a long way toward helping those present to overcome any nerves, and communicate more readily: thereby facilitating group-think and effective learning.

Once everyone has made their verbal contribution, outline the approach for the session— this will maintain momentum and a sense of direction. Most people automatically “tune out” mentally when they feel they are about to be subjected to an aimless, dull meeting- so keeping a sense of pace is integral to a productive group session.

Once the framework for the retrospective is in place, work on making people feel comfortable with the idea of discussing difficult, challenging topics. Set parameters for acceptable behaviour (e.g. team values and working agreements) so that people know how to talk about difficult or emotional issues, and deliver news that may not be welcomed by the team.

If the team already has a set of team values, it’s a good idea to keep the values of the retrospective consistent with these, insofar as is possible. Think of how existing team values can be adapted to the retrospective, and be prepared to answer questions from team members regarding how these values can be applied.

Likewise, post the existing working agreement (if there is one) and adjust it as needed so that it effectively applies to the retrospective (for example, if the usual working agreement asks that code be ready by a certain juncture, adapt it to require that every team have their work ready to present to those attending the retrospective).

If there is no working agreement, draw one up before the retrospective goes any further. Generally, these should have fewer than five tenets—any more than this is too complicated to be practical—and should make everyone in the session accountable for his or her behaviour, so as to foster civility and collaboration.

While it’s true that doing this mid-session risks losing some of the inertia momentum you have been working to build, think of it as an investment; for the ten or fifteen minutes you spend on the working agreement, you get something you can use not only throughout future retrospectives but in daily working life as well. (Note that this exercise also often reveals what people are worried about, which is valuable information regarding what needs to be addressed).

The introductory session, when done right (and when values and working agreements already exist), may take as little as five minutes to complete. That being said, it remains valuable, and should not be skipped even as retrospective leaders and teams become more experienced. No matter how familiar people are with the proceedings, after all, failing to ensure that everyone speaks up early in the session may allow some team members to stay silent throughout, which impacts the overall quality of the retrospective.

Likewise, without there being a clear group approach, people may insert their own feelings and agendas into the retrospective, in turn derailing the session. If they do so, what will the interactions devolve into in the absence of working agreements and team values being firmly set in place? Prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure.

Gather Data

Iterations, while often brief, are packed with important events and interactions; as such, it’s highly recommended that data is gathered throughout  (the shorter the iteration is, the more important this actually becomes—consider the fact that if a team member misses one day in a week-long iteration, he or she will have missed 20% of it).

Likewise, when so much information is packed into a short period, team members often cannot catch everything that is going on around them, or may leap to hurried conclusions, and thus have conflicting ideas about the same events. Data, in such instances, is needed to create a clear shared picture of what has occurred.

Data should cover events (this can be anything suitably meaningful to the team, such as meetings, decision points, changes in team membership, milestones, celebrations, and implementing new technologies), metrics (burn-down charts, velocity, defect counts, etc.), and any features or stories the team has completed. Calendars, documents, charts, and so on should be used by the team to further enhance this data.

Data should be reported during retrospectives using a mix of verbal reporting and visual aids such as task boards and charts; if you’re going far back in time, a timeline will also be useful. Without well-planned visual aids, people often cannot detect relevant patterns and make other connections effectively.

Remember, too, that the content should not be completely “dry” in nature; feelings are also important to stories and reveal to team leaders what the members of the team were most concerned about during the iteration. If one does not allow an emotional component (and structure it properly) during retrospectives, these worries often slowly eat away at team members, undermining morale and productivity.

Close the ‘Data Gathering’ stage with a quick review of all available data, inviting everyone on the team to look through it and comment on any patterns or changes that they see. This allows everyone attending the retrospective to develop a group perspective on the data before proceeding, thus reducing the likelihood of conflict (as people will not be viewing the data from a narrow, individual perspective).

Generate Ideas

Data is useless without interpretation and insight; as such, every retrospective should contain a stage where people ask candid questions, where they point out what they see going wrong—and going right—and ask, “Why?”

As part of doing so, one should examine the various situations that arose in the prior iteration, breaking down the interactions that occurred within them and looking for patterns of either functionality or dysfunctionality. The team should assess risks and factor in unexpected events and outcomes.

This should take the form of a measured, logical approach; remember that people tend to leap to any and all available solutions once a problem is presented, and the first solution posited is often not the best one. During the insight-generating stage, all possibilities should be considered, along with their ramifications, and the group should be encouraged to do so analytically and to do so together.

Not only will this lead to better solutions, it will help the team learn to work together better, through exercising the overall group dynamic in an environment where free thought is encouraged. (Likewise, this kind of experimentation encourages “big picture” thinking).

The insight-generation stage is crucial as it allows the team to see how both circumstance and their own actions and behaviours affect their ability to develop software. Without this stage, there can be no establishing of cause and effect.

Decide what to do

Once the team has agreed on a handful of the best possible solutions, they need to settle on just one or two of them to utilise in the coming iteration and decide on how best to do so. The team leader must once again provide direction, in the form of structure and guidance, while the team plans the coming experiments and actions.

He or she needs to judge the overall mood of the team; are they ready to handle something complex? Or are they recovering from a stressful event and need to step back and work on something simple?

The Decision Stage should involve the use of story cards or backlog items during the planning process, as this will make it easier to implement improvement plans during the actual work that will occur in the next iteration.

Remember that the retrospective should segue naturally into iteration planning, so try to hold retrospectives just prior to that period (having the retrospective in the morning and iteration planning in the afternoon is ideal).

As a final note, while retrospectives revolve greatly around group-think, do ensure that by the Decision Stage, people have committed to the upcoming tasks individually as well. People need a clear sense of their individual duties—otherwise they tend to assume the group as a whole or someone else in the group, is responsible for the tasks at hand.

Closing

Try to close retrospectives in a proactive, inspiring, motivating way—the team will need this sense of momentum to take into the coming iteration. People should walk away with a clear idea of what needs to be done, how it will be documented, and what the follow-up will be.

The team should also leave with a host of reminders that will help them remember what they have learned during the retrospective; otherwise, at least some of it will slip away.

Illustrate new practices with posters or with large, visible charts and make sure the team records their progress on these. The whiteboard used during the retrospective should be printed or scanned.

Finally, take a few minutes, to sum up the retrospective itself and request feedback on what went well during it, and what needs to be done better next time. It’s not only our iterations that need improvement, after all—the whole teamwork ecosystem benefits from frequent reflection and maintenance.

If you are interested in getting some extra Agile Retrospectives exercises, I created a blog post with dozens of Agile Retrospectives Ideas, check them and see if you find something interesting.

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Fun Retrospective Activity – 2 Truths and a Lie Retrospective Exercise

Two Truths and a Lie is a fun retrospective activity that I have used couple of times to ‘break the ice’ at group meetings.

In past, I had a team that was very familiar with each other, but was getting bored with standard retrospective exercises, making the team collaboration inactive. That´s when I decided to transform this classic ice breaker activity into a new retrospective exercise.

What can you expect – the outcome

This fun retrospective activity will help you promote team collaboration, to generate a praise report and define actionable retrospective items. Action items are used to focus around team improvement areas and the praise report used by the team to celebrate the successes of the previous sprint.

Two Truths and a Lie exercise is suitable for all team maturity levels.

There is one rule I recommend to follow: each person should make three statements about the past sprint, of which two will be true and one will be a lie. These statements can be related to any likes/dislikes, experiences, skills or habits.

Instructions & Timing

Setting up the Game – 10 min

Gather the team members in a circle and explain the rules.  Give everyone post-its and a marker to write down their three statements (2 – true, 1 – lie). Give them 7 minutes to organize their ideas (statements). Afterwards, each team member will have 3 post-its, each containing one statement.

Playing Two Truths and a Lie – 3 min (per person)

Select a team member to present to the group there three statements.  After the statements have been presented, the group will discusses the statements and decide which statement they believe is the lie. If the group does not agree on which statement is a lie, have a show-of-hands vote, and select the statement with the majority of the votes.  After a statement has been selected, the presenter will then reveal to the group whether they guessed correctly, by indicating which of the statements is a lie.

Move on to the next team member and continue until everyone has revealed their statements.

Wrap up Discussion – 20 Min

After revealing the statements, collect and categorize all the Truths and Lies with a negative significance. Discuss these with the team and identify what could have been done better to remediate these items.

Afterwards, create a list of actionable solutions for each statement and ask the team to vote the items they want to focus on in the next sprint. Add the remaining actionable items to the retrospective backlog to be tackled in a future sprint.

Variations and tips for this fun retrospective activity

Two Truths and a Lie Strategies

People can use different tactics to hide their lies. For example, three unusual statements are possibly hardest to evaluate against each other. Lies are normally harder to identify if the group believes that the team member might be telling the truth. People find it harder to believe truths if they don´t feel they can relate them with the team member.

Two Truths and a Wish

In this variation, team members can identify 3 statements, two of which are true statements and one statement that is phrased as a wish, rather than a lie.  This is a fun alternative to help the team work through their statements, especially if you have a team that is struggling to create lie statements.

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The post Fun Retrospective Activity – 2 Truths and a Lie Retrospective Exercise appeared first on Luís Gonçalves.

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Express Yourself is a simple Check-In agile retrospective exercise that aims at visualizing the team´s ideas and helping to gather data early in the team retrospective session.

Often it is difficult for people to express their feelings and opinions especially when team members are shy or if there are new team members or even for members with strong personalities.

This activity gives everyone an opportunity to describe how they feel about a certain topic.

Benefits and what to consider before starting

This exercise gets the team members thinking about the events that triggered those feelings, which can lead to a deeper and more meaningful conversation later on.

Since this is an opening activity, it is a quick way to determine the team’s attitude coming into the session.  Additionally, it will be good for those who are ready to jump right into the details.

Sometimes team members go into the retrospective with issues in mind and are very passionate when expressing their opinion. The Scrum Master should be mindful to keep the scope of the conversation on the team’s sentiment, not finding solutions. This should be done in later exercises. Also, make sure the conversation doesn’t carry on too long as this is just a warm up activity.

Timeline to use in this team retrospective

This is the timeline I recommend to keep:

  • Set up 1 – 2 minutes
  • Silent writing 2 – 3 minutes
  • Post feelings 1 – 2 minutes
  • Discussion 6 – 8 minutes
Instructions

1. Draw a horizontal line or use tape on a white board, window or a wall.

2. Place one post-it note at one end with a smiley face and one at the other end with a sad face to create the range of emotions.

3. Provide each team member with 1 post-it note.

4. Allow the team to write one word that describes how they feel about the last Sprint or any other given topic. Use 2-3 minutes

5. Have the team place their post-it note on the range of emotions where they think their feeling best fits in.

6. Evaluate the emotions and discuss each one individually.

7. Ask the team to explain why they felt that way.  Make sure the conversation does not take more than 8 minutes. The focus is on the team’s current emotions. Solutions to problems should not be discussed yet.

8. Once everyone has shared their emotions, thank them for sharing their thoughts and move on to the next planned exercise.

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The post Helpful Way To Express Your Team´s Feelings in a Team Retrospective appeared first on Luís Gonçalves.

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