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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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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

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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Change is as much an art as it is a science, but it seems that too many people are focused on tool sand methods and are not thinking the art is needed as well.

Before the book Lean Change Management by Jason Little was published, 2 problems occurred:

  1. How can change agents convince stakeholders who promote change initiatives to accept uncertainty that change brings and use a feedback-driven approach to change?
  2. How do change agents start a change initiative using Lean Change Management approach?

After couple of weeks of study, Jason and other organizational practitioners came to the following conclusions:

  1. Change agents know that a feedback-driven approach to change is more effective. They also know that the plan does not survive the first contact with people affected by the change.
  2. Using lighter-weight planning tools is the key for convincing stakeholders that a plan is in place. The plan is created through organizational feedback.
  3. Using Agile practices, like lean coffee or retrospectives can reduce the symptom of resistance by creating an extra feedback loop about the change.
  4. Visualizing the change through canvases and big information radiators are more effective than traditional software-based tools.

It´s important to select and develop your own change process that best suits to your organization. There are 4 main components to developing your own change management process:

  1. Developing your Strategic Lean Change Canvas
  2. Aligning your organization
  3. Developing your Change Agent Network
  4. Executing the Lean Change Management Cycle

In this post, we will guide you through developing the strategic lean change canvas.

Developing your Strategic Lean Change Canvas Source: Lean Change Management by Jason Little

Many companies are starting with a change strategy. That´s important, however, it´s also crucial how you create it.

The best way is to create it through a facilitated session using big, visible canvases, and sticky notes on a wall.

The goal of the lean change canvas is to help align people in your organization to answer the most important questions they have when change is introduced:

  1. What is the vision for our organization? First talk about the vision and then do a visioning exercise
  2. Why is this change important to the organization? Create urgency by asking “Why is this change important?” Urgency is a matter of perspective, so consider multiple points of view.
  3. How will we measure success? These are typically business objectives.
  4. How will we show progress? These are the indicators that show your organization is heading in the right direction.
  5. Who is affected by the change and what will they need to do differently? You can explore this question using the McKinsey 7S model.
  6. How will the change team support people through the transition? You should answer the questions like “How will you communicate the change? How will you collect feedback about the change?”
  7. What´s the plan? Use ideas from Kanban to help you sequence the changes. One of the objectives of Kanban is to limit work in progress, by doing this it will reduce the change fatigue effect.
Facilitating a Strategic Change Canvas session

There are several different approaches for group facilitation. The most important thing is to visualize the canvas on a wall using sticky notes.

First create a lean change canvas on a wall and use the following questions to guide you to complete the canvas:

  1. What points haven´t we considered yet?
  2. What are our assumptions about this strategy?
  3. What is our riskiest assumption?
  4. How often should we review this strategy?
  5. How will we collect feedback from staff
  6. What other important information should we put on this canvas?

Who should be involved in a session?

The change sponsor: C-level executive or VP

The change team: It´s a team, employees, consultants that will facilitate the change. Do not rely only on consultants.

The executive team (optional): It´s up to you if you want to include executive team, it may depend on the size and structure of your organization.

Once the Strategic Lean Change Canvas has been created, it´s time to start aligning stakeholders in your organization with your change strategy.

If you´re interested in attending one of our Lean Change Agent workshops, please visit the training calendar page.


Sources and references:

Lean Change Management book by Jason Little

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Why Companies Struggle With Agile and Scrum

Agile methodologies involve new values, practices, principles, and benefits in comparison to traditional Waterfall method. As agile is a radical alternative to command-and-control-style management, its methodologies have spread across various industries and functions and also into the C-suite. National Public Radio(NPR) uses agile methods to create new programmes. One of the leaders in cloud backup services, Intronis, employs agile in marketing. C.H. Robinson is a known third-party logistics provider globally, deploys them in human resources.

The effective implementation allows businesses to take employees out of their functional silos and turning them to self-managed and customer-focused multidisciplinary teams, speeding up profitable growth and helping to create a new generation of skilled managers.

The general adoption of agile ideas, tools, and frameworks by businesses have happened, but only a few of them are making the most of its benefits by accepting agility as the end goal. Baked into frameworks of agile is risk mitigation. Risk can come in different forms like:

  • Not suitable for purpose
  • Not liked by customers
  • Changing of conditions
  • Cost overruns
  • Missing of deadlines
  • Quality is low
  • Compromise on security

If you are using Scrum, Kanban, XP, or SAFe; it doesn’t mean you are appropriately protecting yourself from these risks. This means you are not making the most of benefits. When it comes to traditional SDLCs, they were designed to mitigate risk. The roles of project managers make a difference, ensuring risk mitigation appropriately.

If we talk about flexibility and change; traditional SDLCs usually go too far with control and do not provide expected benefits. I am not saying waterfall is bad, but it requires you know with certainty the end state, the cost to get there, and its time of completion. Any change to the plan risks disrupting the certainty in these variables and the happiness of your customers.

Transition to agile requires the understanding of agile manifesto and its frameworks. This article guides about all the reasons behind the organization’s struggle with agile and scrum.

Work Culture

Organizations need to understand that the methods that comprise “Agile” will not solve any pertinent issue in their culture or “the behavior of their employees.” Problems of distrust, lack accountability, respect, or fear of failure are all readily exposed by Scrum( Framework of agile). For instance, the goal of scrum is to produce a potentially releasable product increment in every sprint that often exposes the business to the “technical debt” due to past product development efforts that has not been paid off and lack of quality practices within software engineering.

Most of the organizations are not able to deal with these surfacing issues. As they don’t have a neutral party to facilitate their exploration and resolution, most organizations tend to ignore them or consider Agile/Scrum liable to create them.

One of the co-founders of Scrum, Ken Schwaber, states that Scrum holds a mirror up to the organization.

In case that mirror reflects back, an organization does not like and blames the “mirror” rather than looking at the objectively provided feedback and evaluating to address it.

Independent work

The scrum involves two concepts empowerment and autonomy and if a team is not functioning independently; there is a problem.  According to Michele Sliger, coauthor of The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility and president of Sliger Consulting, it may be that team members don’t understand how to adapt their new roles. Most of the times, it’s an indication that a project manager does not want to give up control.

According to Sliger, ” The control freak project managers do not let go of decision making and give no control to the members of team.”

What is the result?

When the team members do not feel that they are in charge, they do not accept changes and revert to take orders and prefer to work within their comfort zones, taking them back to waterfall. “Giving ownership to the team will bring accountability,” according to Sliger. Your employees are likely to step back from responsibilities if they feel that they are doing what they are told and the attitude is like, ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

What is the way to foster independence?

If you want the effective implementation of agile methodologies, empower your teams to work freely while relaxing them from constant checking of higher-ups or set them free to make decisions and changes. If the project manager can’t cede control, then agile and Scrum training may help them to adapt to their new role in Scrum.

Not implementing as directed

As Agile methods are framework-based; they provide the minimal set of artifacts, roles, and ceremonies essential to create a product frequently. The adoption of these methods allows people to add things to the framework that are beneficial to them. For instance, various teams often leverage practices from Extreme Programming (XP) like Pair programming or Continuous Integration. The additions are accepted because they help teams to become self-organizing that is important in agile.

Sometimes, organizations take advantage of freedom and compromise on the simple set of practices that Scrum advocates. Scrum necessitates on the need for a Product Owner who is knowledgeable, decisive and available to the team, but organizations mostly skip this as they find difficult to search for a suitable person with required skills. Scrum is a framework, and the organizations move forward adopting “Scrum” without a Product Owner. When they struggle, they don’t get the reason for their failure that why they are not realizing the benefits from it as in real they are not practicing it perfectly.

The solution to this struggle is to invest in experienced and dedicated Scrum Masters. A Scrum Master is an unbiased, servant leader who makes sure that Scrum team lives by the values and practices of Scrum. He/She removes impediments to progress, facilitate meetings, and work with the product owner to keep the product backlog in good shape and ready for the next sprint.


Agile is worth investing the effort and time in for your company. You just need to practice it correctly, and it will become easy to incorporate it into an existing company framework. A business can expect to have a bumpy road with some developers, and it remains for some time, and your business will soon realize its benefits after its proper implementation.

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Lean Change Management Book – Understand what makes your organization tick

Resisting the change is a natural reaction, when you don´t involve people affected by the change. Jason Little wrote a book called Lean Change Management, this book shows how to implement successful change through examples of innovative practices that can dramatically improve the success of change programs.

In this blog post, I want to deeply talk about the Insights, the first step of the Lean Change Management Cycle by Jason Little.

Insights is the first step of the Lean Change Management Model, but change has really no logical starting point. Change agents are always stepping in the middle of constantly evolving reality. However, traditional, plan-driven methods presume that change has a logical starting point. The traditional project contains a plan that is created based on organizational insights. By the time the plan is put in practice, the reality has changed, and the plan is no longer up-to-date.

Plans become out-of-date so quickly because there is simply too much emphasis on trying to create a perfect change plan. And as everyone thinks the plan is perfect, then they hit the wall!

It´s important to break down the plan into smaller chunks and releasing those changes slowly to the organization. This approach will reduce confusion caused by introducing too many changes and it helps the adapt the feedback and shape the future changes. This is called a feedback-driven approach.

And this feedback begins at the first step – generating Insights. Insights can be generated from various practices or assessments.

After gathering Insights, you create Options based on different points of view. You can for example consider the differences and similarities between how managers feel about the change.

Sometimes it´s hard to start facilitating the change. You need to get feedback first to do the next step. You will only understand the impact of the changes after you receive feedback.

Practices that generate Insights

Practices are specific processes or actions to generate Insights. There are many change management processes that have their own practices, so you can freely combine any of theses.

Jason Little in his Lean Change Management book is focusing on 5 main practices for generating Insights:

  1.  Information Radiators
  2. Lean Coffee
  3. Culture Hacking
  4. Retrospectives
  5. Force Field Analysis
Information Radiators

Information Radiators is a term initially used by Alistair Cockburn. The Information Radiators are visual management tools and help build trust by making work transparent.

These are simply sticky notes used on a wall. They´re big, easy-to-read, and help everyone understand the complexity of knowledge work. Sticky notes can help manage any level of complexity, not matter how big your project is. You can even visualize work for a 300 person department.

Visualizing work on a wall using sticky notes creates more effective collaboration and cooperation, compared to filing details into a software.

Lean Coffee

Lean Coffee is a perfect way to maximize the communication when there is anger, uncertainty or frustration at stake. Lean Coffee is a Lean approach to running an informal meeting. The participants decide on the agenda, which normally has a certain theme.

A typical set-up of a Lean Coffee session:

  1. The facilitator sets up a Kanban board with 3 columns: To Discuss, Discussing, and Discussed
  2. The facilitator shares the theme. Participants write down questions related to the theme on sticky notes.
  3. All sticky notes are posted on the wall or flip chart to the column “To Discuss”.
  4. The facilitator reads aloud the questions and if necessary, the person who wrote the question can interfere.
  5. Now is a voting time. To decide which topics to talk about first, everyone votes twice. The participants vote by marking the sticky note with a dot. The sticky note that receives the most votes is put into the “Discussing” column. The remaining notes are arranged in the “To Discuss” column based on priority.
  6. Each topic is discussed for 5 minutes. Afterwards, people vote to continue the discussion for another 2 minutes.
Culture Hacking

Culture Hacking, term used by Stefan Haas, is a practice that contains 3 components: the Crack, the Hack, and the Hacking Zones.

The Crack

A Crack is an organizational dysfunction that feels uncomfortable. The Crack creates tension, frustration, or even bad vibes. You can see it as conflicting goas in the organization, false assumptions, or unexpressed feelings that could serve as leverage for the hack.

The Hack

The Hack is the action you take to expose and point out the crack to the organization. It´s a successful intervention that exploits the crack to influence the culture of an organization. You´ve probably experience people saying: “Well, that´s just the way things work around here.”. The Hack is something you do to expose the reality so that people simply see the status quo. By exposing this reality in a polite way, you´ll open their eyes and make them aware of the dysfunction.

Hacking Zones

Hacks have 3 hacking zones:

  1. Green Zone (Safe): These are gentle warnings that will help an organization become self-aware. They´re the least disruptive.
  2. Blue Zone (Risky): These hacks are risky and can result in the opposite effect you´re trying to achieve.
  3. Red Zone (Dangerous): These hacks are the most disruptive and can lead you to be fired. They can also harm the company.
Agile Retrospectives

Retrospective is a meeting the team has every after Sprint or Iteration. After each sprint the team reflects on what worked well and wha did not, and what needs to be changes.

Retrospectives are a powerful practice for understanding the current situation. Frequent feedback through retrospectives increases communication and transparency.

Force Field Analysis

Force Field Analysis is practice known by Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist and pioneer of organizational psychology and change management.

Force Field Analysis is a great practice to find out what´s working against the change and what is is working to support it. It´s a simple technique that is helpful for making sense of what happens during a change process.

Assessments that generate Insights

Assessments are more formal ways of generating Insights. These assessments provide valuable Insights, but require big data analysis.

There are 3 types of assessments as described in the Lean Change Management book:

  1. Prosci ADKAR
  2. OCAI Cultural Assessment
  3. Schneider Culture Model
Prosci ADKAR

It´s one of the most popular change management method, many companies follow it because it´s logical and straightforward.

ADKAR has 2 dimensions – the Business and the People dimension.

The Business dimension has 4 steps:

  1. Business need – business need and opportunity identification
  2. Concept and Design – plan creation for a change process
  3. Implementing – executing the change
  4. Post-implementation – project post-implementation activities

The ADKAR assessment can be a valuable tool for understanding the current situation at the beginning of an organizational change.

OCAI – Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument

The main concept behind OCAI model is the Competing Values Framework. This framework refers to sense-making device that helps leaders understand how to manage the harmony and tension that occur in the organizations.

The OCAI model describes 4 culture typs:

  1. Clan: Internally focused, values flexibility and freedom
  2. Hierarchy: Internally focused, values stability and control
  3. Adhocracy: Externally focused, values flexibility and freedom
  4. Market: Externally focused, values stability and control

Schneider Culture Model

William Schneider, the author of the book “The Re-Engineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work”, describes 4 cultures that are similar to OCAI cultures:

  1. Collaboration: “We succeed by working together” (people and reality oriented)
  2. Control: “We succeed by establishing and maintaining control” (company and reality oriented)
  3. Cultivation: “We succeed by growing our people” (people and possibility oriented)
  4. Competence: “We succeed by being the best” (company and reality oriented)

The above mentioned practices and assessments can be used to generate Insights about the current situation in your organization. You just need to learn how to choose the right practice or assessment that´s right for your organization. It can be both fun and challenging. How is it for you, as a change agent?

If you´re interested in attending one of our Lean Change Agent workshops, please visit the training calendar page.


Sources and references:

Lean Change Management book by Jason Little

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Change Management Framework to make sense of Insights – Lean Change Management

Resisting the change is a natural reaction, when you don´t involve people affected by the change. Jason Little wrote a book called Lean Change Management, this book shows how to implement successful change through examples of innovative practices that can dramatically improve the success of change programs.

Lean Change Management model consists of 3 parts: Insights, Options and Experiments.

Insights is the first step of the Lean Change Management Model. Insights can be generated from various practices or assessments, like Lean Coffee, Force Field Analysis, or Retrospectives. To read more about these practices click here.

Generating Insights is not easy. People often need a structure, a process to follow. And therefore, Jason suggests that using change management framework is helping people gain an input into a change plan.

Frameworks Kotter´s Model

Dr. John Kotter wrote a book “Leading Change”, where he describes 8-step process for leading change

  1. Create Urgency – “Urgency for change emerges through honest dialogue between people with different points of view”, Jason states in his book.
  2. Form a Powerful Coalition – this simply means creating a team of change agents that facilitate the change. John Kotter recommends team members to rotate every now and then to bring a fresh perspective.
  3. Create a Vision for the Change – the vision must be specific, measurable, actionable, inspiring and realistic. Think of the vision as a 30-second elevator pitch.
  4. Communicate the Vision – try visualizing your vision, this makes the communication much simpler
  5. Remove Obstacles – when undergoing change, people that are part of it need to feel they are supported. Making problems visible and tracking the issues helps people to see that there is a progress
  6. Create Short Term Wins – this step talks about the risk of people falling back into old habits if they don´t see quick wins. A Kudo wall is a good way to start with.
  7. Build on the Change – when you experience small wins, you can easily intensify their impact
  8. Anchor the Change in Corporate Culture – when people incorporate the changes into their minds, then applying new practices is just a natural way to do it
McKinsey 7S framework

7S framework was created by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman in the 1980s. Peters and Waterman mentioned that if you want to analyze and solve organizational problems, you need to think about more than just the structure. The structure is one of the factors of 7S frame

They classified other six factors: Strategy, Systems, Skills, Style, Staff and Shared values. They divided these into hard and soft factors:

Hard factors: Structure, Strategy, Systems

Soft factors: Skills, Style, Staff, Shared values

If you change one of the seven factors, it will impact the others. You have to then manage those impacts and make appropriate changes to bring all factors into alignment again.


Kotter´s model provides 8 steps  – a list of ingredients you can use to lead a successful change recipe. Jason in his Lean Change Management book advises to not go through these steps in a linear way, instead, he says to treat them as a guideline. A guideline that helps to direct the messy process.

McKinsey´s 7S model is a powerful framework to construct the dynamic elements of change and anticipate the ripples a change will create.

These frameworks, generally, help you understand how correlated today´s organizations are and what features must be present in your change strategy.

Lean Change Management cycle consists of three parts – Insights, Options and Experiments. Insights is the first step of this model and you can generate Insights by using the above mentioned frameworks.

If you´re interested in attending one of our Lean Change Agent workshops, please visit the training calendar page.


Sources and references:

Lean Change Management book by Jason Little

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I believe that many organizations implementing OKRs are making a big mistake. At the very least, OKRs will not solve the problems companies are expecting them to resolve.

OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a simple way to align the organization’s goals with its strategy. Companies define their strategic themes, then create Objectives and respective Key Results to align everyone with the most important strategic goals.

The concept is like Management by Objectives; senior managers place their vision on the top, then cascade down to the bottom of the organization as they define their strategic goals, but let’s take a better look at the differences.

OKR and MBO – What is the difference?

OKR is evolved from MBO (Management by Objectives), taking the best practices out of and adding a few on its own. MBO was introduced by Peter Drucker in 1954. Both MBO and OKR are goal-setting frameworks. Their principle is to evaluate and enhance the performance of employees over a period of time. They are however few differences, like the way in which they measure performance, frequency or their end purpose.

Important differences between OKR and MBO

Frequency of review

Companies that use MBO normally perform yearly performance reviews. They set the objectives for employees for the entire year, so the performance is analyzed and the end of each year. The goals are broad.

OKRs have a higher frequency of reviews. Companies set goals monthly or quarterly and are then evaluated accordingly. This allows people make corrections earlier when there is still a chance.

Mode of measurement

MBO scoring models are flexible, they´re open-ended and use both qualitative and quantitative measures.

OKR measurement is quantitative and is precise. OKR rely on SMART goal setting technique.


MBO is strictly confidential as it is done between a manager and his employee. Objectives are set individually for each employee. The performance directly influences compensation.

In OKR, the key results of individual employees are aligned with team and company objectives. There is no confidentiality. The objectives need to be linked together to achieve company goals.

Purpose of review

The main purpose of MBOs is to resolve the compensation of employees based on their annual performance. The focus is always on the individual performance.

Compensation is not affected by the achievement of OKRs. The main focus is to push to achieve excellence.

Expected performance

With MBO, you are expected to achieve 100% or more. If you achieve less, your compensation is affected.

Normally, 60-70% achievement is expected with OKRs. The goal setting should be ambitious, but also realistic.

Everything looks good but…

The OKR method allows every staff member to have a very clear understanding of the company’s vision and mission. Everyone in the organization can create their own objectives to fulfill the company’s strategic goals. Managers can then create their objectives to support the staff goals.

In theory, this is a fantastic approach because society is moving so fast, and we live in a very complex world. Frontline workers are the best people to understand the customer’s needs and fulfill their requirements. Therefore, they should be the ones who create the products that delight customers.

Because they understand the customer’s pains, the team defines their objectives to create great products. Managers can then create their goals to support the line below and so on.

In truth, this practice does not work. In the following section, I will show several reasons why OKRs will not solve the big problems in your organization.

It is very difficult for Executives to give up their power

OKRs require a completely different mindset from management. If OKRs are applied properly, executives must delegate their responsibility to the whole team. Many executives feel like they have lost their power, which is very difficult for most leaders to do.

In many cases, when organizations apply OKRs, they apply the process the in the same format as Management by Objectives: using a Top-Down Approach. But this format does not create value for the organization because the top managers do not understand what the customer’s real problems are. When defining the objectives, they are usually not in alignment with the company’s current reality.

How consultants are selling OKRs to organizations

Another issue I see with implementing OKRs is that many consultants are selling OKRs as the new way for the organization to become Agile. Let´s be very careful with this thinking. Implementing a tool will never make your organization Agile if the culture and management style does not change first.

OKRs often create very challenging objectives that cannot be achieved. Consultants defend this by maintaining that reaching 70% of the OKR is a great work. However, optimally, you want to create an environment that encourages employees to achieve 100% of their goals, not 70%. In our opinion, by telling your employees it is OK to achieve only 70% is fostering a culture of underachievement.

In most of the companies where OKRs were implemented, I noticed that people do not reflect on how the OKRs impacted the business. At the end, OKRs just become a checklist for the managers to check if people fulfilled their OKRs.

In summary, I believe that in theory, OKRs could be a great tool. However, in practice, OKRs do not deliver the results they promise. Now you might say “How come when Google uses OKRs?”

That may be true, but let’s face it, your company is not Google! You do not have the same culture or the same developers that Google has. In my opinion, Google can try whatever they want; the result will always be good. Just think about a great football team, the coach can change a couple of players, but the team will still be great.

Most of us believe that copying another company’s best practices is the solution for our problems, but most of the time, this does not work.

So, if OKRs are not the best option; if they do not bring extra value to the organization, what is the alternative? What is the solution?

What should we do instead?

I coach, train, and consult organizations to implement an Agile Portfolio Management. In my opinion, this is a more interesting approach because the leaders in an organization can define their own budgets for strategic projects. Executives can define what projects or products the organization should work on in the next six to twelve months. They can also allow the people working on those projects to create their own “product backlog”.

As part of this process, the organization must list all the ongoing projects and map all the people who will be involved in each project.

This is a huge step that 90% of the organizations do not take. It creates complete transparency in the amount of work that is ongoing in the organization. The process proves that it is not possible to deliver the products as they should be delivered because there are too many parallel things happening simultaneously, and no real focus by the company.

After you identify your revenue streams – the products that are bringing the revenue to your company – it is time to start terminating or stopping the projects that are not directly connected to the strategy of the organization.

You can work on the strategic projects that you believe will add revenue to your company. In most cases, you will quickly learn that you do not have enough people to do everything. You will have to prioritize projects based on their business impact and not some gut feeling.

I usually work in three-month cycles to help organizations define the most important goals they want to achieve within the next three months of their Revenue Streams.

The teams provide product backlogs based on the customer’s needs. These goals are structured to define expected revenue, expected cost savings, improvements, and other measures that make sense for the organization.

If you start connecting your vision to your strategy, your strategy to your portfolio, and your portfolio to your products using clear goals for three months, you can create a highly focused organization that delivers its best work to their global market.

At the end of the three months, you can reflect on the business impact your product delivery has made. This is the point where I see most of the companies failing.

Many people talk about Agile Retrospectives, but no one does a “Business Retrospective”. I find this piece is missing in most of the companies. Of course, the scope of this activity differs significantly from a regular Agile Retrospective.

Often, companies produce “stuff”, hoping to get some business benefit out of it. Very seldom I encounter companies that reflect on the impact that their development has caused the company.

When you apply Agile Portfolio Management, you can perform a business retrospective to find out what you have delivered in the last three months.

When I say three-month intervals, it does not mean that you deliver your product after the three months. It means, you should be delivering every day, every minute, and every second, whenever your organization can deliver. Three months is an interval timeline for when your company makes its public release and analyses the business delivery to the market.

When you implement this process into your organization, you can start analyzing every task your teams perform. By doing this, you will have a better understanding of the impact that your actions and your development have on your business. Then, if you inject the learning and experiments into the next three months, you will start to see spectacular results. Your company will become Agile, Innovative and a Learning Organization.

Did you like this approach? Would you be interested in trying this out in your organization? Well, I´ve got a perfect training tackling this path. Why don´t you look at my company´s website at the Agile Portfolio Training for Leaders? Check for more information here.



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Resisting the change is a natural reaction, when you don´t involve people affected by the change. Jason Little wrote a book called Lean Change Management, this book shows how to implement successful change through examples of innovative practices that can dramatically improve the success of change programs.

About Lean Change Management Model

“All models are wrong, but some are useful” is a phrase acknowledged to a Professor of Statistics at the University of Wisconsin, George Box. He probably means that simple models can be useful for making sense of complex situations, even if they´re not 100% correct.

Below you can see the picture of the Lean Change Management Model by Jason Little. It consists of 3 main parts: Insights, Options, Experiments and 3 parts of Experiments – Prepare, Introduce, Review.

Source: leanchange.org

Here´s a brief explanation of the Lean Change Management Cycle:

Insights: It´s very important to understand the current state of the organization, before you can plan any change. In order to do that, there are several tools, assessments, and models you can apply to understand the current position. The Lean Change Management book describes many practices to collect Insights.

Options: When you gain enough Insights to start with the planning, you will need Options. Options have a cost, value and impact. Options usually include one or more hypotheses as well as expected benefits. These hypotheses are then turned into Experiments.

Experiments: Now it’s time to introduce a change and see if it works out. At this point you should learn enough about your current position and consider multiple Options.

Experiments also have a sub-cycle:

Prepare: This is the planning stage of your Experiment. At this point, all you have are your assumptions about the change. In this step you validate your approach with people affected by the change.

Introduce: In this step you start working with people affected by the change. Once a change will reach this step, it is part of the process.

Review: Here you review the outcomes of the Experiment. Normally you do this after the amount of time you thought you would need for the change to stick.

How to run a Lean Change Cycle

Lean Change Model is a nonlinear and feedback-driven model for managing change.

As described above, in this model, Insights is when you observe the situation as it currently is. Then you move to Options, where you evaluate cost, value, and impact of each possibility. From this you create a hypothesis to test the expected benefits of that test. Using that hypothesis, you form an Experiment.

Insights – listening the right way

When looking for Insights, the most important thing to do is listen but we must listen in the right way.

In order to actively listen, we need to use facial expressions and body language to show full attention. We should also ask clarifying questions that are neutral in language and without judgement.

We develop Insights by being curious, asking questions, and helping the people who want the change. By asking questions we can discover what the real problem is and discover new Insights.

Options – getting the root cause of a problem

Now, help people generate some Options by asking: What is the root cause of the problem they´re dealing with? Dig deeper and find out what is going on and what might be some possible solutions.

There are several exercises and practices that you can perform to get the root cause problem – for example Lean Coffee Session, Five Whys, Retrospectives, etc.

Experiments – building on curiosity

Now that you have some possible solutions, work together to create some Experiments to test them. Simply run one Experiment, and see what happens. The idea is to learn from that and determine your next steps.

Each experiment includes three parts: Prepare, Introduce, and Review.

What you need to do is to prepare for the experiment, introduce the experiment to those who are involved and then review the results together. Invite the team members to participate, get their feedback, and have empathy for their problems.

By using the Lean Change Model and conducting small Experiments, you can cause transformations in your company or on your team.
Creating hypothesis for experiments

All experiments start with hypothesis. Below you find a hypothesis structure:

We hypothesise by <implementing this change>

We will <solve this problem>

Which will have <these benefits>

As measured by <this measurement>

You can follow the following thought process:

  • think about what the experiment would be
  • think about who would be affected
  • think about what would be the benefit
  • think about how to validate the Experiment as successful
By using the Lean Change Model and conducting small Experiments, you can cause transformations in your company or on your team.
It´s important that there is a strong alignment between you – executive, management, and staff using this approach and making it successful.
Developing your own change management process

It´s crucial to select and develop your own change process that best suits to your organization. There are 4 main components to developing your own change management process:

  1. Developing your Strategic Change Canvas
  2. Aligning your organization
  3. Developing your Change Agent Network
  4. Executing the Lean Change Management Cycle
Developing your Strategic Change Canvas
The best way to create a change strategy is through a facilitated session using big, visible canvases, and sticky notes on a wall. It´s recommended to have your change agent or anyone responsible for change implementation do that.
Facilitating a Strategic Change Canvas session

There are several different approaches for group facilitation. The most important thing is to visualize the canvas on a wall using sticky notes.

First create a canvas on a wall and use the following questions to guide you to complete the canvas:

  1. What points haven´t we considered yet?
  2. What are our assumptions about this strategy?
  3. What is our riskiest assumption?
  4. How often should we review this strategy?
  5. How will we collect feedback from staff
  6. What other important information should we put on this canvas?

There are several key persons that should be involved in this session: the Change Sponsor, the Change team and optionally executive team (depending on the size of the organization).

Aligning your organization

Once the Strategic Change Canvas has been created, it´s time to start aligning stakeholders in your organization with your change strategy.

If your organization is small, you can facilitate a session with everyone, including management and employees.

Here are couple of tips that might help you facilitating the “Change Alignment” session:

  1. In bigger companies, re-purpose an existing department meeting and ask the manager and one member of the change team present the Strategic Change Canvas
  2. In smaller organizations, do a full-day company session using any type of facilitation approaches for the large group.
  3. Tip: facilitate this sessions starting with stakeholders that are affected by the change
  4. Do an ADKAR Assessment survey

It´s important that you, as an executive, and change sponsors leave details to the team when aligning with change. That includes measurements too; Avoid telling teams how you´ll measure them, let them figure out their own progress measurements.

Creating organizational alignment around change is difficult and time consuming, especially in bigger organizations.

Developing your Change Agent Network

It´s important you have internal change management team or anyone that is responsible for implementing change. Executives and managers need to act as change agents. The reason is because people are more likely to work with their peers rather than external consultants (which is recommended to have too).

People might feel threatened or feel that change is being forced on them if they don´t see their peers being involved first.

Here are some tips for expanding your change team:

  • Get one person from each department that is affected by the change
  • Let early adopters that are being part of the change know that the change team involves extra work
  • “Promote” becoming member of a change team as something exclusive to attract the right people
  • Rotate the change team members periodically, depending on the type of change you´re implementing
Executing the Lean Change Management Cycle

Implementing a successful change program requires these basic building blocks. Change only fails when the people managing it blindly follow a structured process that isn´t compatible with the organization.

Therefore, it is important to build your own change management process using the Lean Change Management cycle.

Here´re some ideas:

  1. Create a change program room: make your plan visible (using Strategic Change Canvas and Experiments)
  2. Decide how often to have these meetings
    1. Change Team Daily Standups
    2. Change Team Retrospectives
    3. Strategic Change Canvas Refresh – revising the Strategic Change Canvas
    4. Lean Coffee
    5. Retrospectives
  3. Do not use status reporting – ask your change team to go to your big visible room. It´ll be hard but you need to stick to open and honest dialogue

These 3 pieces are the key points you need to build your own change process. Avoid creating too much process at the beginning.  The interactions among your change teams will be better equipped to deal with complexity. Therefore, create enough process to trigger these interactions.

If you´re interested in attending one of our Lean Change Agent workshops, please visit the training calendar page.


Sources and references: 

  • Lean Change Management book by Jason Little
  • Leanchange.org
  • How to run a Lean Change Cycle, Happy Melly
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The World Cafe format is well known in the moderation space, but I have rarely seen this setup used as an Agile Retrospective.

The World Cafe normally requires larger groups than a typical Scrum team.  For that reason, the World Cafe is recommended to us if you work on a multi Scrum-team project, or if you hold larger retrospectives with all team members on a regular basis.

What to expect

The World Cafe is useful to spread Scrum patterns, practices, tips and tricks across the teams. If done well, you can expect to gain benefits by using Scrum processes and experiments done by your teams.  On top of that, you as a Scrum Master, will get a good picture of where your team currently is in Scrum adoption.

What is needed for the World Cafe exercise

I recommend performing this exercise using round tables. Count with six to ten people per table. Place a big sheet of paper, pens or markers with various colours at each table. I´d suggest trying the paper napkins instead of flipchart sheets. In my experience, writing directly on the table triggers some kind of psychologic effect that increases creativity and removes the typical “post-it-format” boundaries set by countless “mad/glad/sad” retrospectives.

In addition, you´ll need to write three questions. I´ll describe more about that in a bit.

Source: Timothée Bourguignon The Flow

First, divide the group evenly at the tables and let them elect a moderator for each table. The moderators will stay at their tables during the whole retrospective.

Groups start discussing the first question and write down all the ideas they have. They are allowed to do anything – brainstorming, sketchnoting, mindmapping, etc. Set the timer for each discussion, when done, ask participants to go away.

The participants should now form into new groups, if possible, grouping with people they haven´t yet talked to. The moderators present a brief summary of what has been discussed at their table and introduce the second questions to the new group. They moderate the discussion further using the same or another technique, as they wish to.

Repeat the same format for the last question.

The Questions

The questions or statements to be discussed in this technique are key elements of a retrospective. Tip: choose the questions wisely, because choosing wrong ones you could threaten the whole discussion.

Some examples of statements:

  • „Our team has been dealing with following difficulties in the past sprint(s) <…>“
  • „Our team has been successful running the following experiments in the past <…>“
  • „X weeks/months from now, the project is a complete success, thanks to <…>“

Discussing the first question, you will experience current problems being verbalized and developed as people tell what has been painful in the past. Through the second question, different people will be laid onto the problems that are still visible on the table. Doing that, we want to have people think about the solution they implemented while being influenced by problems faced by others. The intention of the third question is to get new ideas out, ideas that often came out from the discussion but could not be expressed in the second round.


This technique is simple, but efficient in helping teams influence each other and come up with ideas on their own. Do not expect any radical ideas to emerge, but you should be able to see great ideas and experiments to run immediately.

To close this retrospective, gather the whole team and ask the moderators to present the outcome of their discussions. If you want, collect action items using silent voting (raising your hand) to prioritize the items in order of their importance.

Pictures credit: Tim Bourqguignon (Pictures are licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License”)

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This is a guest post written by Richard Atherton. The original version of this guest post was published on my company´s blog Evolution4all.

Why Lean Change Management is different

In the autumn of 2014, I led a pitch to implement a large change programme for a major broadcaster. On the Request for Proposal they had asked that we take an agile approach.

I have an Agile software development background, but my experience of using Lean or Agile techniques for managing change? Zero.

After reading Jason’s book “Lean Change Management”, I transformed my approach to leading that change programme. I experienced plenty of bumps along the road. However, implementing theses ideas helped me to lead one of the most successful change initiatives I’ve ever been involved with.

So, why Lean Change? Because it works better. We know that taking Lean and Agile approaches have proved to be significantly more effective in developing software. However, as change leaders and managers, we work at a level of complexity equalling if not exceeding that of software challenges. When we take a Lean/Agile approach, we markedly improve our effectiveness.

Writer Beatrice Kaufman once said:

“I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better!”

When it comes to change approaches, I can say:

“I’ve used traditional and I’ve used Lean/Agile. Lean/Agile is better!”

So how is it different?

Lean Change differs from traditional approaches in 5 major ways.

1. People-first, not process-first

In many of the traditional change methods, we place a major emphasis on process. Let’s take  an example of Kotter’s 8 Steps. His approach is characterised as a set of steps to follow, from Establishing a Sense of Urgency through to Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture. Now of course Kotter’s work provides great wisdom. But, the issue with this and other approaches is the emphasis on the sequence of ‘best practice’ activities.

With Lean Change Management, we do have a loosely defined framework to design experiments. However, there is no overarching methodology for executing change. The key principle is to co-create change with the people affected, in whichever manner and sequence makes sense in context.

2. Co-creation not consultation

In traditional change programmes, the central key is a change team. They interview those affected, create change readiness assessments, design new processes, construct communication plans and so on. When they take your views, they analyse, synthesise and consolidate these inputs into ‘programme documentation’. When the change managers present this to people, it can seem like a confusion of corporate platitudes, or worse, something totally unrecognisable.

In the Lean Change paradigm, we see the central engine as an act of co-creation. Change agents and those affected design all aspects of the change initiative together.

3. Experiments not change activities

In traditional change programmes, the main currency is change activities. Activities broken down into tasks on a plan. The team must do interviews, workshops, presentation, and skills assessment.

In Lean Change Management, the main currency is experiments. From a design perspective:

  • Which type of experiment?
  • Who with?
  • How to prepare?

From a management perspective:

  • What’s the maximum number of experiments we can execute at once?
  • Which ones failed?
  • Which succeeded?
  • What did we learn?

We also acknowledge that any experiment successfully adopted will itself change the System. This new landscape provides us with the canvas to further experiment.

4. Feedback-driven not plan-driven

In traditional change, the change team carefully craft a set of dependent change activities; all laid out on a plan, with a defined start and end point. A lot of effort is spent maintaining that plan and tracking variance. There are three major risks in this approach.

Risk 1: Responsiveness

When being driven by a plan, the change initiative itself is much less responsive. Changing the direction of the change effort itself becomes much more expensive in traditional approaches. As the effort continues, it becomes increasingly hard to course-correct as the environment changes or underlying assumptions prove to be invalid.

By contrast, feedback from experiments drives Lean Change initiatives, with a strong focus on giving those affected a strong voice. Lean change agents create fora with a high degree of psychological safety. This means people at any level of the hierarchy can feedback and directly influence the next experiments for the team to conduct.

Crucially, lean change agents design the initiative such that it can be highly responsive to this feedback. Using kanban-style flow-based management of the change effort, the team can course-correct easily in response to feedback.

Risk 2: Horse before cart

The second risk of a plan-driven approach relates to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. The law states the following:

“In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to [] the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the [authentic] goals [] have less and less influence…”

As the English might say it, “putting the cart before the horse”. When we orchestrate change using traditional methods, we typically create a central function to plan and coordinate. By doing so, we create a greater risk of the Iron Law asserting itself. Namely, the risk that the planning functionaries become more powerful that those authentically committed to achieving change.

Risk 3: Self-fulfilling illusions

The final risk is that when we create large, centrally-managed programmes of change, we put many professional reputations at stake. In such a situation, the people around the change team adapt to provide the illusion that change is happening. Those in charge of the programme see want they want to see and those affected tell them want they want to hear.

As Lean Change Agents, we accept that some level of high-level planning and bureaucracy is valuable. However, we approach management differently. We use a lightweight approach to planning and commit ourselves to rapid ‘feedback-and-respond’ cycles.

5. “Catch the wave” don’t “initiate and drive”

The fifth and final differentiator of Lean Change lies in the fundamental premise of how change happens. In traditional approaches, people believe that change happens when senior authority figures lead people to a new way of operating. The Lean Change approach sees change as a social movement; a viral effect ignited by leaders potentially anywhere in the organisation.

The basic paradigm for traditional change programmes goes something like:

  1. Senior executive identifies an issue or set of issues.
  2. Senior executive secures budget and resources to ‘implement change’.
  3. Change team create vision, scope and plan to drive through the changes.

Change as a social movement

Lean Change turns this on its head. In Lean Change, the approach looks more like:

  1. Senior executive or manager identifies an issue or issues.
  2. Change agents scan the landscape for emergent responses to this issue; the ‘loan nuts’ and their ‘first followers’ trying something new.
  3. Change agents work with these activists, or provide spaces for theses activist to emerge. They seek to amplify their impact and accelerate the change through further experimentation.

Here we see the role of the change agent not principally as a designer and a planner, although this might be part of their job. Rather, we see the change agent as a scanner, an enabler and a protector of disruptors. Their second, equally important role, is to work with those being disrupted. As George Koenigsaecker puts it in his book ‘Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation’:

“If you only support [the activists], the antibodies will get more active and will multiply, offsetting the impact of your [activists]”

So, the change agent must, on the one hand support the disruptors. On the other, they must work attentively and assiduously with those being disrupted. The more these groups see a change as a threat, the more powerful their response to neutralise that threat. This is where the change agent must work hard to constantly maintain an open dialogue. They must listen, empathise, be straight and engage in ongoing co-creation with those affected.


In conclusion, Lean Change is a co-creation-led, responsive and experimental approach to change. It sees change as a social movement.

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