Building Skyscrapers and Shattering Dreams in Product Development | Guest post by Rainer Tikk

Rainer Tikk writes this guest blog post about what Product Development looks like from the perspective of a leader of a software organization in a mid-size bank. He’s the Head of Software Development at LHV, an Estonian bank betting on IT as a competitive advantage.

To a non-IT person, developing an IT solution might often seem like a mystical activity that boys with ponytails (and some girls) do in a dark basement somewhere. Moreover, software development, in general, is an expensive activity altogether and often takes more time than it really should. And even if there is money available to pay for the software development, more often than not, it’s almost impossible to find a developer to build the stuff you need.

Continue reading Building Skyscrapers and Shattering Dreams in Product Development | Guest post by Rainer Tikk

Dirk Fabricius: Helping Scrum teams survive micromanagement

Sooner or later, Scrum Masters will face the micro-management anti-pattern. What should Scrum Masters do in that case? In this episode, we talk about the anti-patterns that can emerge in a team that is subject to micro-management and some of the tools that Scrum Masters can use in those situations.

We discuss the Game of Trust and the Niko Niko Calendar.

Featured book for the Week: Scrum Mastery by Geoff Watts

Geoff Watts has been a past guest of the Scrum Master Toolbox podcast, and is also the author of Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership. In that book, Dirk found out about servant leadership and how that could change his approach to the Scrum Master role.

In this segment, we also mention Scrum for the people by Tobias Mayer and Product Mastery by Geoff Watts.

About Dirk Fabricius

Dirk has worked in jobs with IT focus for 20 years. He has had the roles of Project Lead, Developer (Backend), Product Owner and Scrum Master. He’s also been a Teacher in Public Schools for 7 years.

You can link with Dirk Fabricius on LinkedIn.

Keep your negotiation value-centered and finish them in a second! – an #ExtremeContracts principle

This is a guest blog post by Jacopo Romei. Author of the Italian version of the book Extreme Contracts, and author of an upcoming book on the same topic in English.

A few years ago I managed to work less than a week for a 5-digit fee. The best part is that my customer was very happy to pay and didn’t even try to negotiate the price down: they just accepted my proposal as-is. Do you want to know how I did it? I just made my agreement value-centered. Read on for the details!

Continue reading Keep your negotiation value-centered and finish them in a second! – an #ExtremeContracts principle

Attract the right customers with another #ExtremeContracts principle: Customer Channel

This is a guest blog post by Jacopo Romei. Author of the Italian version of the book Extreme Contracts, and author of an upcoming book on the same topic in English.

We all know how easy it is to leave Netflix after having subscribed to their service.

Whenever you want to cancel the subscription, you just click a button and you are free, no questions, no tricks, no cheating.

You are free to use the service until the date you had paid for and you will be free to rejoin again, whenever you want. This feeling of freedom is a crucial part of Netflix branding, and was a key attractor for their first users. You read it on their homepage, clear and bold: “Watch anywhere. Cancel anytime.” It is a promise, second only to the one about the chance to see your favorite movies in full mobility on any device.

Now, imagine for a minute, what would happen if Netflix were to not keep their promises. Imagine that Netflix would ask for extra documentation before the user was allowed to leave, perhaps even setting a mandatory notice period, preventing users from quitting when too close to the subscription expiry date.

Imagine what would happen if Netflix wouldn’t actually allow you to “cancel anytime.” If this nightmare scenario was a reality, tons of disappointed friends would tell you that Netflix is not up to expectations, they would abandon the service with no intention to return, and they would actively discourage other people from subscribing in the first place! In the end, Netflix would see fewer users and less engagement.

The Anti-Netflix contract

The plot thickens…

Continue reading Attract the right customers with another #ExtremeContracts principle: Customer Channel

Building trust in negotiations – Talk to the Grinder, an #ExtremeContracts principle

This is a guest blog post by Jacopo Romei. Author of the Italian version of the book Extreme Contracts, and author of an upcoming book on the same topic in English.

In 2011 I had the ultimate bad experience that pushed me to investigate how I could craft better agreements with my customers. I had already spent months fighting a battle to bring home a web development project for a large Italian non-profit. Requirements were very volatile, the product owner—the person in charge of defining them and their priority—was candid enough to declare “I don’t understand anything about the web.” In general, in that organization, getting even the slightest focus on the project they had assigned to us seemed impossible.

We had set up an iterative development agreement to deliver working software every two weeks so that we could use it as an effective measure of progress. Iteration by iteration, we had tried to make sense out of the mess of requirements that kept emerging from the product owner and other random users, all the while hoping to converge on a successful conclusion of the project within the planned deadline. We had signed a fixed price agreement with a fixed delivery date. That meant—now I know—only one thing: they had the upper hand, and had no incentive to reduce the ever-growing volatility in their requirements. Unsurprisingly, the project ended up being very late, after the advance payment we got was way overspent.

“How can I avoid this in the future?” was the question I had to answer…

Continue reading Building trust in negotiations – Talk to the Grinder, an #ExtremeContracts principle

Generating options to change lose-lose contracts to win-win contracts and relationships, an #ExtremeContracts blog post

This is a guest blog post by Jacopo Romei. Author of the Italian version of the book Extreme Contracts, and author of an upcoming book on the same topic in English.

Contracts are usually designed around a unique way to deliver some effort, assuming there will only be one solution to the problem at issue.

This is wrong.

Not only conceiving more than one solution will enhance the chances to create a better one, but if we take into account some basic risk management principles, we may even help to shape a prosperous collaboration between us and our customers. In Extreme Contracts, we call this principle Optionality, and this is a story about how to see options where none seem to exist.

One problem, many solutions

Continue reading Generating options to change lose-lose contracts to win-win contracts and relationships, an #ExtremeContracts blog post

Get hired as a Scrum Master: 10 Techniques to Get 10x More Views on Your LinkedIn Profile

This is a guest post by Estelle Liotard. A fresh perspective on LinkedIn for Scrum Masters and freelance consultants.

If we look at the most popular social networks, Facebook still reigns supreme, leaps and bounds ahead of LinkedIn. However, from a business standpoint, you can gain more benefits from optimizing your LinkedIn profile compared to optimizing your Facebook profile.

Why? Because unlike all the other social networks, LinkedIn was designed specifically for professionals and B2B connections. When signing in on LinkedIn, users aren’t looking to check out what their friends have been up to. They are investing their time looking for suppliers, business partners, clients, and employers.

A post on the LinkedIn marketing blog reveals that 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn. Additionally, 43% of marketers say that they have sourced a customer from LinkedIn.

When a platform can play such a big role in gaining exposure for your services or business, getting more views is worth every effort. Follow these 10 techniques to boost your visibility on LinkedIn and take advantage of everything this platform has to offer:

1. Complete your profile

There are about 450 million registered users on LinkedIn and, if you want to stand out, you need to cross your T’s and dot your I’s on your profile. If you leave some sections blank, your profile automatically becomes less attractive to visitors, so take the time to fill in every detail about yourself. Remember, sharing builds trust upfront!

From the headline and previous jobs to skills and samples of your work, you should take full advantage of every profile section. And don’t forget to upload a professional photo of yourself! LinkedIn users are more likely to reply if your profile photo is of an actual person, not a business logo.

Pro Tip: many LinkedIn users polish the description for the job they currently hold, but neglect the previous ones. Those are relevant too, so optimize your previous job titles to make them SEO-friendly.

2. Join LinkedIn groups

Groups are one of the most powerful LinkedIn features when it comes to gaining visibility and exposure for yourself and your services. This is because groups help you widen your network with 2nd-degree connections, gain influence, and interact with other industry professionals. In groups, you can post meaningful articles about your industry, discuss interesting news and trends, even find answers to difficult business problems.

Keep in mind that groups aren’t created randomly on LinkedIn. Each group is built with a specific demographic in mind, and you need to know what that demographic is before posting.

Which groups should you join?

  • Look for groups containing specific keywords related to your field. It can be something general, like “Scrum Masters”, or more specific, like “Scrum Masters in San Diego”.
  • Always join active groups where new discussions are started every week.
  • If you’re not a member of any group, start by joining one small group (<100 members), one medium group, and one large group (>1000 members).

Research the group to get a feel for the style

Before posting anything in a LinkedIn group, lurk around and take a few hours to get to know the members and the topics they talk about. What positions do they have, what style do they use and what is their angle on approaching industry-specific issues? Are they friendly and informal or are they formal and professional? Do they prefer short articles or long-form content? Do they encourage debate?

Bring a valuable contribution to the groups you joined

A LinkedIn group is no place for spam and irrelevant self-promotion. To position yourself as an expert in your industry, you need to bring a valuable topic and start a productive conversation, not just post for the sake of posting. People will only click on your profile if they like what they read.

If you agree with someone, don’t just say “I agree with you.”. Explain why you agree and bring your own point of view. If you disagree, friendly debate is always encouraged, but be polite.

You can promote your services and your brand, as long as it is relevant to the conversation. Follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of your contribution has to be valuable information, 20% self-promotion. Let your expertise speak for itself.

3. Start your own discussion

After you’ve contributed to a few discussions in small groups, it’s time to start your own. Share some interesting news about your industry, some research you conducted, or ask the other members about their experience with a certain problem.

Just make sure no one has discussed the same topic recently and, if they have, give that topic a fresh perspective. Once people start answering, reply to every comment to show you are involved.

4. Get as many connections possible

The LinkedIn algorithm places profiles with more connections higher in search results, so don’t limit yourself to a handful of workmates and former colleagues. Expand your network with 2nd and 3rd level connections too. Use these tricks to make more connections:

  • See if your high school or college has an alumni group you can join
  • Connect on LinkedIn with professionals you meet at conferences and other work-related events
  • When adding new contacts, don’t use the Connect button from the People You May Know field. Instead. Click on their profile and use the Connect button there to send them a personalized request.

Remember: asking for recommendations, testimonials, and endorsements is key in growing your LinkedIn network!

5. Replace the default URL

When you first create a LinkedIn account, your profile URL is made up of a string of numbers. If you change this URL to display your name, your profile will pop up sooner in search engines when people search your name or company. Besides, a custom LinkedIn URL is easier to remember and looks better on business cards compared to the default one. Here’s how you can change your LinkedIn Profile page URL.

6. Promote your LinkedIn profile to get inbound links

Although adding more connections and being active in LinkedIn Groups are the two major strategies you can use to get more views, you shouldn’t forget about external promotion either.

Make sure you connect your LinkedIn account with other social media accounts and use these strategies to get more inbound links:

  • Put your LinkedIn profile in your email signature, along with your phone number, website, and Facebook page.
  • Become a contributor to industry blogs and add your LinkedIn profile in the bio. Not only will this help you drive more traffic, but also become known as an expert in your field.
  • Be a guest on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, to get a high-traffic link to your LinkedIn page.

7. Get more recommendations and endorsements

Testimonials, recommendations, and endorsements are at the heart of the LinkedIn algorithm. For example, ProFinder, LinkedIn’s feature for hiring top local freelancers, ranks profiles based on the number of testimonials.

Always follow-up on your messages and ask your connections to endorse your skills and recommend you. From your work colleagues to your former boss or the clients you’ve worked with, anyone can contribute, so don’t hesitate to ask them.

Remember: if you become a power user, endorsements will come on their own. Be professional in everything you do and everyone from colleagues and fellow group members will recommend you.

Pro Tip: A good way to start a request for an endorsement is to write one for your colleagues first, and then ask them to write one for you. Reciprocity is a very powerful unwritten rule between people who trust each other!

8. Content is key

Apart from group contributions, LinkedIn articles are another excellent way to make your voice heard on LinkedIn and drive more traffic to your profile. In fact, LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for content marketing. Follow these tips to create high-quality, relevant content that your connections actually want to read:

  • Focus on long-form content (over 2,000 words) that includes actionable tips and advice
  • Give your unique perspective on an industry topic
  • Write a killer headline that captures the audience’s interest
  • Be a good storyteller. Don’t just enumerate facts, present them in a way that connects with the audience at an emotional level
  • Stay relevant. Professionals go to LinkedIn for professional content, the kind that they can only get from an industry expert, so don’t settle for low-quality posts that don’t provide any real value.
  • Be SEO-friendly. Include relevant keywords in your LinkedIn articles so they show up in search engine results pages. Don’t know what keywords to write about? Use a tool like BuzzSumo, which helps you find the most shared content on the Web.
  • Use images to make your articles look more appealing in the LinkedIn newsfeed.

9. Repost your content (Post multiple times per day)

On your company’s blog website, and other social media platforms, reposting content is something you should avoid, but you won’t have this problem on LinkedIn. If you wrote a high-quality, insightful article that you’re proud of, don’t be afraid to promote it, because Pulse (LinkedIn’s personalized newsfeed) won’t penalize you for it.

To increase the chances of being noticed,  even more, you can post updates at different times of day, so that they reach more users in different countries.

Pro Tip: when reposting a link to a LinkedIn article, write a new description every time.

10. Combine articles with long-form status updates

Many LinkedIn users have reported that status updates show up on their feed more often than articles and, while this doesn’t mean you should stop sharing articles, you can think of it as an opportunity to share both types of content.

In a status update, you have 1,300 characters to capture your audience’s interest (~300 words), which is not enough to offer the full perspective, but it’s enough to write a compelling introduction. Plus, you can always post a link to the article in the first comment so your followers can read more.

Whether you want to recruit, find investors, or gain leads, LinkedIn is a fantastic social network. Experiment with the strategies above to get more views, but remember that you will only get consistent results by posting regularly on LinkedIn. Be active every day and you’ll notice not only a surge in views but also an increase in your number of connections.

About Estelle Liotard

Estelle Liotard is a seasoned content writer and a blogger, with years of experience in different fields of marketing. She is a content editor at Trust My Paper and loves every second of it. Her passion is teaching people how to overcome digital marketing obstacles and help businesses communicate their messages to their customers.

 

Ethics over rules – An agile retrospective gone wrong, an #ExtremeContracts blog post

This is a guest blog post by Jacopo Romei. Author of the Italian version of the book Extreme Contracts, and author of an upcoming book on the same topic in English.

Simple rules frequently assessed are at the core of Extreme Contracts. In my experience, I observed that a contract filled up with rules won’t necessarily be fairer than a simpler agreement in which we pragmatically and iteratively assess the actual behavior of all the parts. Even more crucial: I am not interested in partners respecting the rules in a dull way as much as I want them to act ethically. In this article, I am going to show a key principle of Extreme Contracts, and a core aspect of Agile in general: Ethics over Rules.

It’s not about the law, it’s about trust

Have you ever thought about the difference between “legal” and “ethical”? To help you a bit, I will honor my Italian roots with an example based on football (some call it soccer ;).

When a football player gets seriously injured during a match, football rules don’t force the opponents to stop from exploiting the temporary one player advantage. Despite this, usually at that point, the ball gets kicked over the sideline to allow for the player to be cared for and give the injured player’s team time to re-organize. Football rules alone then dictate that the game is resumed with a throw-in, but again, despite this, usually the favor is returned, the ball is kicked out on the side one more time and the throw-in is reversed. They call it “fair play” and it’s a set of rules narrower and blurrier at the same time.

As Extreme Contracts practitioners, we care more about those unwritten rules than the rules we can capture in a contract. We reject a collaboration style which starts from nasty negotiations and ends up focusing on enforcing a set of rules instead of addressing the real ever-changing needs of all the parties involved.

There may be many ways to follow the rules and still take advantage of a weaker partner, customer or supplier. Especially in knowledge work, where requirements and the value to deliver can be so hard to grasp, it is very easy to end in a bad collaboration even when playing by the rules.

Let me give you an example in the following story.

A (not so) agile retrospective

I was standing in the meeting room. In front of me ten people: six non-developer employees of a bank and four outsourced IT consultants—three developers and a project manager. The developers and the project manager were from the same supplier. We were deep into an agile retrospective, held after the latest release. We had already listed and clustered all the good and bad things that had happened in the previous iteration, and we were about to dot vote those clusters to select and prioritize the following actions.

On the whiteboard, among many other small clusters, a prominent group of post-its was labeled “deployment”. Seven post-its had been written to raise an issue about the broken deployment process used for the last few releases. The deployment process was labeled buggy, unstable, unreliable and slow. Considering the group in the room, despite the anonymous gathering of the post-its, we could say that at least one person from the supplier company had written a post-it about the quality of the deployment process: seven post-its and six bank employees were enough to tell at least one IT consultant raised the issue about the deployment process.

When an agile retrospective goes wrong…

When I asked all the people in the room to vote which cluster to focus on in the remainder of the retrospective, Elena, the IT project manager, burst out. “This retrospective is broken!”, she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because this dot voting is useless. It is biased!”

I exchanged a doubtful glance with the two product owners from the bank.

“We wrote all the post-its anonymously, now the dot voting will be very open, so what bias are you afraid of?”, I asked.

“How can you be sure that everybody will tell the truth?”

I was quite surprised. I hadn’t even considered the chance that someone could lie or might not be interested in investigating the flaws in our workflow. The other people listening to the conversation kept silent.

I tried to reboot the conversation from the basics. “We are using this agile retrospective to improve the way we work as a Whole Team, and I am sure everybody here…”

“It’s stupid!”, she interrupted me. I caught sight of interest on the product owners’ face. “We, from the IT (the outside supplier) will never vote for the deployment issues!”

I was concerned. “Why?”

“Because we will never admit that the most critical issue here is due to us!”

One of the two bank’s product owners looked at me with a smile of entertainment and (uttered) “Gotcha!”, apparently enjoying her win on my argument.

Ethicless is pointless

What had just happened? Let’s review the whole sequence:

  1. The team was made of 10 people: 4 business experts, 3 IT developers and an IT project manager.
  2. At least some of the outsourced IT people were aware there was some problem with a very technical deployment procedure which they were accountable for.
  3. All the team members were given space to let issues emerge and be discussed in a non-blaming atmosphere, focusing on the resolution of the problems and not on trying to pass sentence on someone.
  4. The project manager said that they would never propose to focus on improving the deployment procedure because that would mean showing their weakness.
  5. As if this was not enough, the bank’s product owner—which would be the first one to be harmed by any loss of quality in the process—somehow took her side, celebrating the “strength” of her argument, and obviously shooting himself in the foot when it came to delivering working software…

So we had a customer—the bank—which had hired a supplier—providing the developers—to have a problem solved and its solution automated via some software. The contract, as too often we observe in IT market, was based on a fixed scope of features. The main consequence for the supplier was that they could simply deliver a collection of features—probably planned months before—to claim their money. The main consequence for the customer was that they had no way to compel the supplier to care about improving the whole collaboration. There was no possibility for any of the parties to go “beyond the contract”, and establish a way of working that would ultimately generate more value!

On top of this, as it showed, the rule-based mindset was so entrenched in the customer’s culture—here represented by its product owner—that they could not see how they were being deceived by their supplier: “yeah, they could be performing less than their full potential, but… they can! Cheers!”

This was too absurd. At that point, I realized that it made no sense to talk about improvement with that team. We carried the retrospective on that day, one way or another, but I quit my collaboration with the bank after a few days, because, for me, it doesn’t make sense to work in a place where rules are more relevant than the most basic ethical principles.

Contracts destroy value in the relationship

The paradox of having a supplier admittedly choosing not to create value and a customer taking their side is possible because of the contract/agreement between those parts. The rules laid down by the contract did not help to improve the quality of the collaboration itself while being only focused on an easy-to-measure KPI—the number of implemented features or the number of person-days worked on the project. No clause in the contract would allow for the customer—the bank— to get rid of a supplier that was overtly trying not to contribute in the most honest way.

Most importantly: if an agreement allows the supplier to deliberately ignore improvements just because “I did my job”… well, how can we even think of working an agile way? If the flaws of the collaboration go unnoticed by the customer who seems even to appreciate how smart the supplier is in betraying their trust… well, how can we even think of pursuing the best possible result?

Agile contracts create value and include ethical principles

Instead of contracts like this, I prefer a frequent re-assessment of what’s right and what’s wrong, which is one of the core values of agile: “customer collaboration”. When it comes to contracts and vendor-buyer relationships, if we allow our collaboration to be re-assessed frequently enough, we can create an ad hoc and ever-changing rule set to address the dynamic and complex challenges that normally happen in business.

In the story above, I would have wanted to get rid of the supplier that was not interested in constantly and deliberately improve the ways we worked together. I would have wanted to make them accountable for their attitude in addition to being accountable for the features they were merely delivering, because at that moment, in that context, their attitude was hindering the chances of success of the project we were working on. The supplier was behaving according to the rules, but unethically!

Ethical behavior goes beyond what is legal. We should care a lot about abiding the law, but that’s not enough: we want collaborations to happen in the narrower space of ethics. We need to favor agreements that allow for continuous validation of the quality of the collaboration.

About Jacopo Romei

Jacopo is an independent strategy consultant, with a strong background in Agile product development.

Jacopo is also an entrepreneur & writer. After having founded a couple of IT companies and practiced agile software development, he started as a full-time freelance agile coach, coaching teams in Italy, Germany and UK.

He has worked with eBay Italia team to set their agile process up. Product ownership and agile UX are added skills acquired in the field.

As a writer, Jacopo published a couple of books on agile coding practices and the Italian version of “Extreme Contracts: knowledge work from negotiation to collaboration“.

Jacopo is a frequent public speaker in international conferences and events about how the way of working is changing in the software industry and organizations management.

 

#ExtremeContracts, an alternative to Fixed Projects and Time and Materials: The eight principles of #ExtremeContracts by Jacopo Romei

This is a guest blog post by Jacopo Romei. Author of the Italian version of the book Extreme Contracts, and author of an upcoming book on the same topic in English.

When in 2010 I started experimenting with new ways to shape trust-oriented agreements with my customers, I started crafting very practical contracts, meant to tackle my specific pain points: I wanted more freedom to work the way I want and I wanted to increase the upper bound of my revenues. Along the years I started spotting a few principles in common among the most effective solutions, either created by other practitioners or by me. Here follows a brief list of the eight principles I distilled in nine years of practice and investigation with Extreme Contracts.

Skin in the game

If we care about negotiating that’s because we care about a result that we can’t reach alone. If we have to collaborate, then it will make sense to long for collaboration. If we want healthy collaborations, we can’t do without all parts’ skin in the game.

If even one person or organization involved in collaboration doesn’t feel the pain of failure or the benefit of success, the collaboration itself will be doomed and will rely on good faith only. If a project fails, everybody should suffer from that failure, not just one party. If a project is a success, everybody must get something out of it.

In their shoes

We are usually very good at envisioning the negative consequences and damages of the smallest concession offered to counterparts we see as our opponents, but we are also usually very bad at realizing what their fears and needs are. If we are to get even the smallest chance of understanding their point of view, we must get in their shoes.

All the parties’ expectations are an incredible resource. They are the true north of a negotiation. They provide clues on what to give and what to keep without hurting trust. We must understand and fix our counterpart’s problem while maximizing the value of the agreement for us.

Talk to the grinder, not the monkey

All negotiations happen among people, even when they represent entire organizations. Since trust is the key to a successful negotiation, it makes sense to negotiate only with true decision makers.

We must negotiate only with people in a position to make real final decisions. If negotiating is understanding each other’s needs, then every small error in how they will be perceived and communicated by a middle-person with no real authority will hinder your chances of success.

Value-driven

The value of an agreement is not the parties’ effort to create it, neither it’s the time spent working on it, and it’s not found in sweat and pain. A knowledge worker’s value is found in addressed needs and the end-to-end customer experience.

Our agreements should put needs and impact front center, address them and never focus on celebrating the sweat of our brows. We don’t sell & buy fatigue, but results and, often, repeatability.

Ethics over rules

Ethical behavior is more than what is legal. We care a lot about abiding the law, but that’s not enough: we care about collaborations happening in the narrower space of ethics.

In complex scenarios, a complicated and fixed set of rules will always fail. We need to favor agreements allowing to re-validate the quality of the collaboration, continuously.

Simple rules frequently assessed are at the core of Extreme Contracts. A rules-filled contract won’t necessarily be fairer than a more pragmatically iterative assessment of mutual respect.

Chaos in small doses

The maximum loss we can bear is the measure of what we can put at stake. If an agreement may kill us, we have to take a critical look at ourselves with no excuse: we let it happen. At the same time exposing our vulnerability is the way to grow trust.

In knowledge work we can rarely claim to have everything under control, even assuming that all the parties are acting in good faith. We are forced to explore our scenarios coping with chaos in small doses.

We cap our losses, and we relentlessly make them sustainable, even in the worst case. Exposing yourself to a potentially lethal failure is a choice, not fate.

Optionality

Our management mindset is strongly oriented to planning, and so are our agreements. We strive to foresee the future, with unsatisfying results in knowledge work.

An underrated substitute for smartness is optionality. If we always have a plan B or—even better—we manage to generate several plan B’s that may end up being even better than plan A, we don’t need the perfect plan anymore. We can enjoy our ignorance.

Creating alternative collaboration scenarios to create value and keeping them alive as long as possible is a valid alternative to understanding all the details of our collaboration in the future. Postpone all critical and irreversible decisions as long as possible.

Customer channel

Contracts are usually considered as a formal device, a necessary chore but not being part of our branding. Very few people realize that the agreements we propose are among the first touchpoints in our customers’ experience.

Our contracts are a compelling device to interact with our customer segments, delivering our culture and brand values.

All our future negotiations are strongly influenced by the way we negotiate today. If we are to attract the right customers and collaborators, we have to literally beam our values out to the world.  

About Jacopo Romei

Jacopo is an independent strategy consultant, with a strong background in Agile product development.

Jacopo is also an entrepreneur & writer. After having founded a couple of IT companies and practiced agile software development, he started as a full-time freelance agile coach, coaching teams in Italy, Germany and UK.

He has worked with eBay Italia team to set their agile process up. Product ownership and agile UX are added skills acquired in the field.

As a writer, Jacopo published a couple of books on agile coding practices and the Italian version of “Extreme Contracts: knowledge work from negotiation to collaboration“.

Jacopo is a frequent public speaker in international conferences and events about how the way of working is changing in the software industry and organizations management.

How metrics, used right, can drive learning in your organization: Measure to learn – The Bungsu metrics code

This is a guest post by Marcus Hammarberg, author of Salvation: The Bungsu Story, How Lean and Kanban saved a small hospital in Indonesia. Twice. And can help you reshape work in your company. (available on Amazon)

This is the fourth and last post on a series by Marcus Hammarberg about how metrics can help engage, motivate and ultimately push a team towards success! (See other blog posts in this series here)

When we first started to work with the Bungsu hospital they were in a devasting situation.

Fast forward 1,5 years and you would see a hospital that was making money every day.

In the end, we turned the hospital from a situation where only the director and her closest staff cared, to a situation where 100 people in the hospital were actively engaged in everyday improvements.

How is this possible? What kind of magic was applied?

Visualizing the right metric

Each morning we showed the result and it was good we had loud cheering among the staff. But for bad days it was mostly silence, head hung low.

I also noticed that the lady that was in charge of gathering the numbers, Ibu Elly (Mrs Elly) the directory secretary, behaved a bit different for days with bad numbers. She was almost reluctant to present them and quickly went over the whole thing.

We had talked about what we wanted to learn about the numbers and I had written “KENAPA” (WHY) beneath the graph. Because I wanted us to learn from the metric we were collecting and visualizing every day.

For example on this graph – can you see something that stands out?

 

See those regular dips? If you asked “KENAPA” and counted the dates, you could probably figure out that those dips are Sundays… People don’t go to a hospital, as much, on Sundays.

“KENAPA” – what can we learn? Well, we could (and did) try to be more open on Sundays, but pretty soon realized that it would be very costly to keep more staff around and that it was a cultural thing keeping people back.

Until that point, most of the management team understood the KENAPA-question, but it made Ibu Elly feel ashamed for bad days. That troubled me, until one day when she was bustling with joy. We had made an excellent result yesterday: 138 patients served in one day. The first time, above our goal of 134 patients.

As she entered the numbers and headed back to her seat I asked… “Kenapa, Ibu?”

She stopped in her step and turned around with a puzzled look. “No, you don’t understand. It was a good result, sir.”

I did understand that it was a good result but I pressed on. “I know, but why was it good”.

Poor Ibu Elly looked around for support and then back to me with an even more puzzled look. “Well… in the polyclinic, we had 32 patients, and then for the ER we had 12 patients and …” I interrupted her gently.

“I understand all of that. You are showing me the math. But why was it good yesterday?”. At this point, she gave up and just said “I don’t understand” and took her seat.

I felt bad for her but we had an important learning point here, so I pressed the others. “Anyone else knows why it was good yesterday? Kenapa?”.

After a few moments of hesitation, someone offered “Well, yesterday we had three doctors in the polyclinic, rather than our usual two. Dr Paula did an extra day for us.”

“AHA!” I exclaimed, a bit too loud if I’m honest… “So what can we learn?”

We eventually concluded that more doctors probably means more patients. At least that was a hypothesis we could use to run an experiment.

More importantly, with the visualized data and by continuously focusing on learning we found that knowledge nugget. We now had understood the value of asking “WHY” the data behaves as it behaves. And from this point on we viewed the graph differently – it was now a source of learning, regardless of the result.

There’s a lot more to talk about metrics, and how simple practices can transform your organization. The book shares a lot about that, of course, but here’s a podcast episode where I talk with Vasco about the same practices.

Do you need the one metric that matters to engage your team? This booklet is for you!

In the Bungsu’s Pirate Code for Visualization downloadable booklet I will go into details on how we made this “one metric that matters” engaging, kept it relevant and ultimately saved the hospital by keeping our focus there – using what we referred to as the Bungsu Pirate Code. Click here to download your guide to using the “one metric that matters” in your own team.

This is a very actionable tool that you can you use today in your organization to make your visualizations matter to everyone all the time.

The Bungsu Story is a fascinating account of a real-life crisis, and how Agile, Lean and Kanban saved the Hospital from bankruptcy! Twice! Get ready for the journey, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

About Marcus Hammarberg

Marcus is the author of Salvation: The Bungsu Story (available on Amazon), an inspiring and actionable story about how simple tools can help transform the productivity and impact of an organization. The real-life stories in The Bungsu can help you transform the productivity of your team. Marcus is also an renowned author and consultant in the Kanban community, he authored the book Kanban in Action with Joakim Sundén.
You can link with Marcus Hammarberg on LinkedIn, and connect with Marcus Hammarberg on twitter.