Saturday, April 30, 2022

Company Success with an Enterprise Pipeline of Ideas

The Enterprise Idea Pipeline provides you with an end-to-end view of the flow of ideas from the moment they are recorded to when they are released.  It is meant for the enterprise to respond to high value ideas the moment they came so the enterprise does not miss the idea’s window of opportunity.  

It provides three primary benefits to an enterprise.  First, it is a channel that provides an end-to-end flow of ideas from the moment they are recorded to when they are released and reflected upon.  Second, it is the enterprise level portfolio backlog of ideas.  Third, it is meant to highlight high value ideas the moment they came in so that the enterprise does not miss the idea’s window of opportunity.  

The culture needed for the Enterprise Idea Pipeline is one where the enterprise immediately considers ideas as they come in because they are based on a current problem or opportunity.  You don’t wait for the next budget cycle to consider the idea. The pipeline is a more adaptable way of managing the portfolio of work across your enterprise since ideas can be admitted anytime and feedback may adapt its priority or reshape the idea.  Also, the pipeline brings enterprise-wide visibility and transparency to the work occurring within an organization.

Before moving further, what is an idea?  An idea is something that is deemed as valuable and has yet to be created.  The moment it is recorded, it may be small or large.  Depending on its level of customer value, it may become work that is worthy of evolving into a product or service or a significant feature of each.    

The pipeline is a working example of the delivery axis focused on delivering customer value as illustrated above. As the delivery axis represents the end-to-end flow of customer value from the recording of the idea to the point where it is released and reflected upon so is the Enterprise Idea Pipeline. 

The Enterprise Idea Pipeline can be known by different names such as a portfolio backlog, enterprise kanban board, and idea pipeline. What makes them all similar is that they hold the big ideas that may eventually (or immediately) be worked on by teams.  The Enterprise Idea Pipeline acts as the parent and feeder to all product backlogs and helps you connect strategy and ideas to user stories (and even tasks) and visa-versa.  

The pipeline is primarily used in medium to large companies, when visibility is needed to make investment decisions across portfolios to better understand where the highest value work lives.  It also helps when there are dependencies across multiple products, or when ideas do not have an obvious resting place in a product backlog.  When an enterprise is small and made up of a singular product, then the product backlog acts as the enterprise idea pipeline as these are the ideas that may be included in the future of that product.  

To learn more about applying an Enterprise Pipeline of Ideas in your company so you can be more customer value driven, feel free to reach out to Mario Moreira at:

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Has Covid-19 boosted Business Agility?

Written by Nawel Lengliz and Mario Moreira

Economists might argue that the Covid 19 crisis caused a lot of disruption to companies. I strongly believe the pandemic has helped companies improve the way they collaborate, especially via remote work, which boosted their business or, more precisely, their business agility. Let me explain how.

First and foremost, remote work has helped teams in democratizing information sharing. In effect, by using digital tools, it has become easier to have access to information, to briefings of decisions or to digital white boards in the sense that people do not have to be physically present in meetings to understand the meeting outcomes.

Democratizing information sharing has paved the ground for a natural transition to something we believe in a lot in the Agile community: Visualization of the work. This technique, borrowed from lean manufacturing, consists of using a board that shows all the work being done via cards representing each piece of work, is simple and very powerful. Besides creating a shared understanding on who is doing what within the team, using boards helps to visualize problems in the system of work. For example you may find there is too much work in progress (WIP), work with competing priorities or tasks that have remained stagnant. Therefore, by making problems visible, it becomes easier for teams to discuss problems and try to overcome them by continuously improving their system of work. 

Another advantage to the transition to remote work is the ability to have worldwide access to talent. I remember when Covid 19 broke out, I was part of a global company and we wanted to create an Agile community of practice for the french speaking region. Thanks to remote collaboration, we were able to include skillful people located in francophone Africa. This cross-border collaboration allowed very creative ideas to emerge and spark new perspectives. We were all energized by the diversity of our backgrounds and experiences.

Finally, using digital tools during retrospectives or feedback sessions makes it possible for teams to write notes and share their ideas while building trust. This ability to speak up without fear helps to improve the Psychological Safety climate within teams. According to Amy Edmondson, a famous psychology researcher, creating psychological safety is the number one condition for creating high-performing teams.

Nevertheless, people working remotely sometimes miss face-to-face collaboration (I am among them). In fact, being in the same room creates energy as people communicate not only with words, but also with their body language. However, as food for thought, according to some research, flying generates an equivalent of ¼ tonne of CO2 per hour. Is it really worth generating such an amount of pollution to attend a couple of meetings over a day?

In summary, the Covid 19 pandemic urged companies to try or improve new ways of working remotely with such results as democratizing information sharing, making work visible, accessing talent everywhere and using digital tools to foster psychological safety. These techniques have helped companies move faster, be more inclusive and promote collaboration that helped employees to become happier and to our planet being more ecologically healthier. 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Good and Bad Reasons for Moving to Agile

There are various reasons behind moving to Agile. Some are proactive and some are reactive. Proactive motivations tend to be accompanied by a greater understanding of the business benefits of Agile and the culture change it implies. However, this is not always the case. The reasons behind the motivation can determine your chances to achieve a real transformation. Let’s take at a notional proactive-reactive model that looks at some motivations for moving to Agile and what you can do to enhance your chances of gaining the business benefits of doing so.  

  • "It’s the trendy thing to do." Agile is popular, so we should do it. This is reactive and not a strong motivator for change. When another trend comes along, Agile may be abandoned. Agile may be seen as a hollow initiative and some may wait it out to see if it will go away. It will be important to investigate the benefits of Agile to see if it is right for you. Then determine if real commitment can be gained. 
  • "The competition is doing it." Others are doing it, so we better do it. This is reactive. Although it may provide a driver for change, it does not provide clarity on why Agile was chosen. Some will question why what a competitor does is good for us. What happens when they do something else? It will be important to investigate the benefits of Agile to see if it is right for you. 
  • "We need to reduce costs." This is a reactive and insufficient reason whereby Agile is seen as a tool to cut costs and maybe the workforce. This will not lead to the business benefits of moving to Agile. Although it may be an outcome, other benefits of Agile may be gained if you are willing to adapt the culture. 
  • "What we have isn’t working." We’ve been using another process to deliver software and it isn’t effective. This is a reactive reason with little understanding of Agile, but it may provide an initial motivation for change. However, moving to Agile without understanding what it takes may lead to a failed deployment. It is best to understand the root cause for the failures in the past, because this can affect your change to Agile. 
  • "We hope to increase employee morale." This is a proactive reason based on an understanding of the importance of employee engagement and empowerment to improve morale. Validate that there is real commitment to empowering employees and self-organizing teams. 
  • "We hope to improve productivity." This is a proactive reason when the goal is to empower employees and help them improve productivity. The danger is that management may believe that Agile is something someone else must do to increase productivity or the real intent is to make employees work harder. The other challenge is that productivity may come at the expense of sacrificing quality. It will be important to investigate all of the benefits of Agile, not just productivity. 
  • “We aim to decrease time to market.” This is a proactive reason in which Agile is seen as a way to shorten release cycles. If there is an understanding that this implies a change across the organization to get from market idea to release and it is meant to satisfy the customer, then this is a good starting point. It is still important to discuss the benefits of Agile to see if it is right for you. 
  • “We want to deliver customer value.” This is a proactive and genuine reason if Agile is seen as a way to engage the customer and understand value. Validate whether there is a real commitment to delivering value and an understanding of the need to change organizational behaviors and processes to get there .
  • “We believe in the Agile values and principles.” This is a proactive and genuine reason where Agile may be seen as a positive change in company vision and behavior. Validate a drive toward continuous customer engagement and employee engagement that can help gain the business benefits that Agile can bring. 

In all of these cases, you need to validate commitment to the values and principles and the culture and business change it entails. Once the initial motivation is understood, we can work to adapt it with the goal of better gaining the business benefits of going Agile.  

Monday, January 31, 2022

What Color is receptive to Agile?

In Frederic Laloux’ book “Reinventing Organizations”, he describes organization paradigms as an evolution in human consciousness.  Examining these paradigms can provide insight into organization attributes that lend themselves to an Agile culture.  The early paradigm starts with the Reactive-Infrared paradigm and then Magic-Magenta paradigm.  Both of these embody the early stages of humankind which include smaller groups such as tribes of people.  This is followed by the Impulsive-Red paradigm which has the guiding metaphor of a wolf pack illustrated by tribal militia, mafia, and street gangs. 

The Conformist-Amber has the guiding metaphor of an army illustrated by a church hierarchy, military, and most government agencies.   Next is the Achievement-Orange which has the guiding metaphor of the machine illustrated by multinational companies and charter schools.  A majority of the organizations today tend to reflect a red, amber, or orange paradigm.

From an Agile perspective, it is after this where it becomes interesting.  A general alignment can be made to two of the latter paradigms that may be considered as behaviors you would hope to see in an Agile enterprise. These are the Pluralistic-Green and the Evolutionary-Teal paradigms. 

The Pluralistic-Green organization strives to bring equality where all viewpoints are treated equality irrespective of position and power.  It uses the family as the guiding metaphor where we are in it together and help each other out. One of the breakthroughs of a green organization is Empowerment. Empowerment is focused on pushing a majority of decisions down to the frontline (e.g., where the work is).  This is directly aligned with Agile thinking where there is a focus on pushing down decision-making to the lowest possible level where the most information resides regarding the topic.  

Another breakthrough of a green organization is that it is a values-driven culture. This very much aligns with the importance of leading with Agile values and principles. The green organization understands that a shared culture where leaders play by shared values is the glue that keeps those in organizations feeling appreciated and empowered that can lead to extraordinary employee motivation.  

The Evolutionary-Teal paradigm emphasizes that the organization adapts as circumstances change. Its metaphor is one where the organization is a separate living organism. In a teal paradigm, titles and positions are replaced with roles, where one worker can fill multiple roles. This is very much like the concept of the cross-functional team within an Agile structure.  This paradigm emphasizes the capability to self-organize around the organizational purpose.  The hierarchical structures are replaced with self-organization focusing on the smaller teams. This is aligned with the Agile principle of self-organizing teams (aka, the best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams).  

To read more about how the colors of Pluralistic-Green and Evolutionary-Teal can benefit an Agile journey, consider reading The Agile Enterprise: The Agile Enterprise: Building and Running Agile Organizations. You can also learn more about colors of organizations by reading Reinventing Organizations