A few weeks ago I had a chance to interview Kamal Manglani for Projects at Work. Kamal is an Agile coach who has written a book, The Apprentice and the Project Manager, that was recently released on HappyAbout.
The book includes a narrative based in the past and the present. Stories from earlier work experiences as an apprentice mechanic and current experiences working as a technology project manager are used as a metaphor to explain some key concepts that factor into Agile and Lean.
Explaining an Agile process/framework as a call and response narrative is not a new approach, but what is unique and refreshing about Kamal's book is that in taking a practical approach to getting work done and coping with very specific situations, the author has made a choice to steer clear of promoting one method over another and just kept it to a very pragmatic, straight up approach.
If you are new to Agile and/or Lean, this book would be a great starting place to introduce some of the key concepts without drowning you in jargon and trying to sell you on having found "THE WAY".
When I interviewed Kamal we discussed the book and he mentioned that one of his goals in writing it was to provide a unique perspective on Agility that crossed the boundaries of different areas within an organization (like Quality, Security and Infrastructure) in a way that would make it easy for executives to see how Agile and Lean could help them take advantage of opportunities.
For me, as someone who has spent a lot of time working in both traditional project management and in Agile, my favorite section of this book was the chapter on Financial Health. It is great to see a book for people who lead projects include an easy to understand explanation of why it is so important to factor finance into our decision making process and how to go about doing that in a responsible manner.
You can check out the Apprentice and the Project Manager at HappyAbout.
Personal Kanban Weeks 13-16:
Zen and the Art of Personal Kanban Maintenance
Phaedrus had Quality
The more I examine my approach to getting work done, the more I am aware of the inefficiency I have baked into it. The more I study about Lean, the more I become concerned about "waste". Waste is bad. Waste must be exterminated!
But what about the waste that is in there on purpose? Is that really waste?
When I teach classes, I bring a few extra workbooks for students, just in case. Most of the time, it goes in the trash at the end. So, the waste of creating extra materials for extra money is made worse by discarding it at the end of the class. Massive waste. However, that waste provided me with peace of mind that enabled me to be better focused on teaching the class. So, was it really waste?
To understand what waste is occurring and where it is taking place, I need to understand what I am doing that does not contribute to "value".
Value = ?
In interviewing people about Personal Kanban, several of them said they prioritize work based on what makes them happy and that they only do things with make them happy.
Initially, this sounded great, but,
IF (value = happy)
THEN (who changes cat litter?)
I wasn't doubting the people who told me they prioritize based on what makes them happy, I was just struggling with all the other stuff that still had to get done. When I asked what they did with the work that did not make them happy, they said they would delegate it if it was truly necessary. This was not something I was able to envision applying to my own world though. I have no one to delegate to.
(Minions would be nice.) Even if I did, the thought of just dumping all the not happy work on them does not seem entirely in synch with my understanding of servant leadership.
I am clearly struggling with "value". I need some help.
To mark the halfway point in my 6-month experiment with Personal Kanban here is an update on where I am with it…
Original Goals - 100% achieved
1. I have learned more about how Kanban works and how it is different from Personal Kanban.
2. I have demonstrated to myself that I am capable of actually practicing some version of Personal Kanban
Having reached a point where I have solved my initial questions (above), I realized that to go any further with this I was going to need to solve a different (bigger) question:
What is value?
I also realized that if I wasn't going to go the same route as Phaedrus, I was going to need some assistance.
While I've coached teams in Agile, I've never actually had a coach myself. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. I asked Brian Bozzuto if he would be kind enough to coach me and he was kind/foolish enough to agree to work with me for a few weeks. During our initial calls we talked about a number of topics which I will be posting about in the coming weeks. One of these, however, was "value". After discussing the prioritizing by happiness approach, it seemed that defining happiness first would be key. Boz suggested we both try an experiment. We each signed up for Track Your Happiness http://www.trackyourhappiness.org/. Once you sign up you begin receiving polls from them a few times a day trying to determine your relative level of happiness. After you complete a number of surveys they create a report that is designed to provide you with a better understanding of the things which truly bring you happiness.
In the next post I will explain why the DFW is (sadly) my happy place.