Agile leadership is different to traditional project management. Self-organizing teams, flat hierarchies, fast response-times, frequent changes, require a different style of working with people, but also new techniques. In this blog I want to cover once in a while things that I learned from working with agile teams.
September 2008 Archives
Just as describing a methodology through its process introduces problems of interpretation, so does describing it with its work products. In a small methodology such as Clear, the number and formality of intermediate work products is reduced quite significantly. The team lives from their personal communication, notes on the whiteboards or posters around the room, and demos or deliveries to the user base.
Nonetheless, a description of the work products is necessary. People just starting with Crystal Clear need to see what counts as an “acceptable” set of work products. Executives and sponsors need to see what they are entitled to ask for. Teachers need a set of work products to have students practice on. Teams that are doing too little in the way of planning and documentation need to see what is worth preparing in even a light agile methodology. People working to understand a methodology will want to examine the work products as part of the overall methodology package.
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"Each page would be examined and scored for its value against a set of heuristics e.g. if content is obsolete, outside of a review date, incorrect, incomplete or irrelevant the score would be 0. If there is some value on the page it could be marked as 0.5 and if the page content generally has value the score would be 1."
The objective is to provide intranet managers with a tool to assess the value of the portal or intranet that they manage. The page or section scores can be displayed graphically and can be used to motivate people to keep their sites up to date.
James Bilodeau, Project Manager, Financial Institutions Community
The Financial Development Index captures measures of financial stability related to financial turmoil in the US, UK and other countries. The Index puts these measures in the context of a broader assessment of financial development which we hope will promote a balanced agenda with respect to reform."
Via my feeds on Google Reader, I found a link to Alex Payne��s blog al3x.net in a post by Louis Gray. Alex��s recommendations for Computing Happiness are brilliant. Unfortunately, I have a windows machine, but everyone else in my family has a Mac. Knock on wood, the Mac��s always work. I can��t say the same thing about my Windows machines, which I am tinkering with all the time. He provides rules for software, hardware and file formats. Here is a taste:
- Use as little software as possible.
- Use software that does one thing well.
- Do not use software that does many things poorly.
- Do not use software that must sync over the internet to function.
- Do not use web applications that should be desktop applications.
- Do not use desktop applications that should be web applications.
When you think about documentation in Agile software development, most of the times it talks about “just enough” which definitely makes sense considering the thickness of design documents in traditional software development. The Agile mind specifically thinks what actually is required in terms of documentation.
Microsoft SharePoint can be a development environment as well as a portal and collaboration workspace. The Resource Center for SharePoint Server 2007 provides lots of information on solving problems and understanding how people have solved some of the common complaints.
Building a knowledge sharing culture requires that you involve business users in development of your knowledge management solution early and often. Here are some suggestions based on my experience:
You can begin to get your business users involved in the building the knowledge management solution by having them help to identify the documents or other content that has the most value to the business. I recommend that you have business users participate in creating and applying the metadata or taxonomy that will apply to the documents. The more precise you get in describing content, the easier it will be to find later. By getting the community of users involved early you can begin to explain knowledge management to them. The early participants and adopters can act as evangelists later. With user feedback you can identify and tag the most valuable material so that when users perform a search it appears at the top of the results list.
There are other ways to begin to build the culture of sharing. You will need to explain to your business users: "What is in it for me". They need to understand in a profoundly personal way how they will benefit from the KM initiative and how their work will change. This is usually done with anecdotes about a success that resulted from sharing knowledge. You can find examples of when your company performed the best; when everything worked just right, and ask people how it felt when that happens. Most of the time, the best practice involves collaboration, working as a team, and sharing knowledge to win new business or deliver a high quality product. The KM solution will enable the company to function like this more often. The objective is to find a story you can tell about knowledge sharing that is very positive and attractive. People can then begin to imagine how knowledge sharing will help them with their work.
In addition to working with the business users, it's critical to have visible top management support. This will not require much of top management's time, but they will need to demonstrate their enthusiasm for knowledge management frequently. They need to be convinced that this is an initiative that will create meaningful results in the business and they need to lead in that direction.
I recommend communicating frequently to business users, explaining the KM planning and rollout and how it will benefit their work. Don't overpromise, but keep them well informed. Show them example screen shots of the search page, or other functionality that will make their lives easier. You can use "use cases" or scenarios to demonstrate how people will use the new tools. This process of building actual scenarios that explain how users will search and apply content is very powerful.
Tagging content in a company's intranet has becoming an increasingly important functionality, although the return on investment has not been clear. IBM's case study suggests that tagging has already yield some monetary benefit. Here are the results that IBM reports:
- "The Enterprise Tagging Service in IBM aims to provide an alternative approach to helping people find information compared to traditional search engines. Search based on keyword analysis often relies on a taxonomy that is rigid due to the way the software performs its structural analysis of web pages, identifying and classifying the keywords. Social tagging allows people to add human semantics to keywords that they define that sometimes can amount to finding a resource faster based on what people think is relevant.
- IBM's ETS cost $700k to develop and deploy across the worldwide intranet as a sidebar to a number of key web properties: traditional search engine results, top content pages, and web applications like the IBM internal social brainstorming tool, Thinkplace. As a service it can really be added to any internal page. Readers can tag any page with the widget, look up tags they contributed, find others who have used the same tag, and certainly find other relevant resources by that same tag. The ETS tool was based on the Lotus Connections Dogear software.
- The ETS team instituted a survey to ask users how this tool helped them. What they found was amazing when you look at it in context: the average person saved 12 seconds, across the 286000+ searches performed through ETS each week. This sums up to 955 hours saved each week across the company. In terms of cost savings, it amounts to a rough estimate of $4.6 million a year, in terms of productivity gain. The reusability of this page widget also resulted in $2.4 million in cost avoidance (reimplementing this for each site)".
Say, for example, the business wants to improve sales performance and the key metric is win rate. Knowledge management can have a profound impact on win rate by helping the sales people understand their clients and sales prospects better and by helping them prepare for sales calls. The KM function can help the sales person understand what the customer has bought in the past and what other analogous solutions other companies in the same industry are buying. The KM function may be able to find information on the customer buying team and specific individuals in the company. If expertise in the company is mapped and searchable, the sales team can access subject matter specialists in the company to help with proposals. If you have a shared bookmarking capability in the company, the sales team can research sites that have been useful to others in the past. To make sales easier, there may be boiler plate language or certain valuable slides that are put in every sales presentation and the KM function can make this content visible to the entire sales community. So you can see there are many interventions that you can make to improve win rate.
Armed with the facts and the details about what the KM function did specifically to enable the sales process you can demonstrate the causal relationship between specific actions and increased sales performance. It is likely that you can even show that teams that took advantage of KM resources were more successful than teams that did not.
To make the business case for knowledge management and to demonstrate a return on investment, this type of detailed analysis is required. The depth of your analysis and your passion can be very convincing to management.
Leading Blog is an excellent source of current information about leadership and the resources that support learning about leadership. Since I have noticed a number of good books on leadership lately, I wanted to highlight some of the best leadership books that they have selected in September:
A Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter
The Encore Effect: How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do by Mark Sanborn
The Spider's Strategy: Creating Networks to Avert Crisis, Create Change, and Really Get Ahead by Amit S. Mukherjee
On Leadership: Essential Principles for Success by Donald J. Palmisano
The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success by Marcus Buckingham