The Agility Series

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The Agility Series focuses on agile and agility across the organization not just in software and product development. Areas of agility that will be covered in blog posts will include: - Organizational Agility - Leadership Agility - Strategic Agility - Value Agility - Delivery Agility - Business Agility - Cultural Agility - Client Agility - Learning Agility

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What is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

Start at the end or the beginning? Perspective Counts!

Focus on the positive

What are your goals for 2017?

Outcomes Focused-Agility: Experience Report

What is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

Categories: agile, agility, culture, leadership

Image result for cultural agility

Now that the New Year is off and running, we will be getting started on the next book in The Agility Series which will be on Cultural Agility. So what exactly is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

Within the agile space much has been said and written about creating/enabling an agile culture or a culture of agility. Here's one definition I came across for an agile culture that pretty much sums it up: 

An "agile" culture (with a lower-case "a") is one that has adopted a style, approach, and community that is tolerant of failure, willing to test hypotheses, and able to adjust to changing market conditions as deemed necessary.(1)

But is that the same thing as cultural agility? Apparently not.  There are multiple definitions out there such as:

Cultural agility is the mega-competency which enables professionals to perform successfully in cross-cultural situations. Culturally agile professionals succeed in contexts where the successful outcome of their jobs, roles, positions, or tasks depends on dealing with an unfamiliar set of cultural norms—or multiple sets of them (2)

And this one:

Cultural agility is the ability to understand multiple local contexts and work within them to obtain consistent business results.  For today’s global organizations, cultural agility is the new competitive edge. While individual capacities are important, successful organizations build an institutional level of a global mindset and skills for effectively coordinating, negotiating and influencing across boundaries. (3)

While there are many other definitions, all seem to be focused on the fact that organizations may operate in different locales and need to be culturally aware (3) or there are many different cultural groups that may exist inside of your local organization (2). Most organizations that I have dealt with in recent years have an incredibly rich set of international cultures resident within them. This trend is increasing. And to me, that's a good thing.

I would take culture a step further and say that modern organizations need both an agile culture, and their people need to be culturally agile. My hypothesis is that the former provides focus for developing the shared values and principles that guide our collective actions, while the later helps us understand how we personally interpret and apply those shared values and principles, which will necessarily affect how we interact with those who are culturally different than we are. I feel both perspectives are crucial to success in modern organizations. I think it also fits with my humanist tendencies. Wikipedia defines humanism as:

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and affirms their ability to improve their lives through the use of reason and ingenuity as opposed to submitting blindly to tradition and authority or sinking into cruelty and brutality.

For those who may be wondering, this definition is not, for me, an anti-religious stance. It's more focused on the idea that we really all do need to get along if we are to create vibrant and long-lived organizations. We also need to be able to draw on the collective wisdom of all rather than on the ideas of just the few people at the top. 

The two books in The Agility Series so far have been guided by the ideas provided by people from Australia, Great Britain, Canada, USA, Singapore, France and Belgium. As these two were by invitation-only to be a member of the Wisdom Council for each book, we are planning to open it up for the remaining seven books in the series so that we can have an even greater mix of countries and cultures represented.

What better book to start doing that than with the next one we are tackling on Cultural Agility?

Want to explore what cultural agility means to you and why it matters?

To join in our next adventure in agility, look out for a post in a few weeks when we officially launch our first round of questions for the third book in The Agility Series on Cultural Agility. If you want to read the first two books in the series, go to www.mplaza.ca and download Organization Agility and Leadership Agility to get you into what we have explored so far. I have removed the pricing on Leadership Agility so it's now free to download!

Want to have a say in the questions we'll be asking in Round one?

Jen Hunter and I will be giving a presentation at PMIOVOC on January 25th at noon called Best decision yet: Aspiring together to co-create global wisdom! If you are in the Ottawa area, come join us as we let you in on how the Series came about. You'll also get a chance to provide input to the set of questions we will use in the first round of ideas gathering for Cultural Agility! Hope to see you there!

PS: also come join the conversation on our LinkedIn Group 

(1) https://www.quora.com/What-is-Agile-Culture

(2) http://www.culturalagility.com/

(3) http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=cultural-agility

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How to contact me:

Want to engage me and my friends:

We also offer classroom training for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

 

Posted on: January 15, 2017 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Start at the end or the beginning? Perspective Counts!

In my recent articles on Outcomes-focused Agility I talked about starting with the end in mind. I said that Outcomes-focused agility helps us to figure the WHY before we focus on the WHAT, WHEN, HOW, or WHERE of our portfolios, programmes, and projects, let alone which products we should build using Scrum. So it makes sense to start at the end.

This is of course premised on the idea that your starting point is from Vision and Strategy and you have to figure how to achieve certain results.

So when does it make sense to start at the beginning? When you want the process to help you determine where you are going! So what's an example of that? The Agility Series of books that we started last year.

When you decide you want to write a book (in a work-world context) it's usually because you feel you have something worth-while to share. Whether you write alone or have a co-author or two, you have a pretty good idea of what you want to write about. So when I wrote Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers (available here and here), I had already written a few blog posts that had some of the ideas. The rest were developed as it was written - but the core ideas and what the book would cover, were mostly figured out in advance. That is, the expected results were pretty much known.

The Agility Series, is an entirely different exercise. I have no idea where it`s going to end up. You can read more about the call to action here that we sent out for the second book we published in the series Leadership Agility: Enabling Sustainable Organizations. In it I ask potential participants to come on an adventure with me as the Agility Series Facilitator, as I have no idea where we end up together. It's an entirely different approach than an outcomes-focused one.

We start by asking a series of questions of a Wisdom Council, that I co-develop with 3 others, Jen Hunter of GreatWork, Claude Emond, and Charlotte Goudreault. We ask Council members to offer up individual ideas (as many as they'd like to) for each of the questions which range from 5 to 7 questions in total.

Once we get all of their ideas, we analyze them and look for common themes within each set of question responses. We then go back for the second round where we slightly re-word the questions and ask them to rank the themes in a series of pair-wise comparisons. From this set of results, I have the base for the book, to which I add our further analyses and complimentary research.

The cycle-time has been roughly 3-4 months for each of the first two books from start to finish. But when we start each book-writing exercise, we literally have no idea where it will end up. It's actually quite exhilarating to get started each time, and extremely rewarding when we finish.

The model is based on Jen's truly great work and model that she has used successfully in helping organizations make difficult decisions. By asking powerful questions, she is able to help clients identify the most compelling options to strategic choices that need to be made. In this way she able to help her clients get broad support from their stakeholders for the decisions they ultimately have to make. You can see an example of that over at her website.

So perspective counts when deciding whether to start at the beginning (with no idea of where it might lead), versus starting with the end in mind ,where you would first articulate the results you want to achieve.

The really interesting part, though, is this. With Outcomes-focused Agility we actually utilize both perspectives. We do indeed start at the end in order to determine what we need to do and the order (or sequence) in which we need to do it. But once we start, we adopt parts of what Jen uncovered in her work that helped her create her great work contribution to her clients. That's the agility-side of Outcomes-focused Agility, as we use an inspect and adapt mindset to iterate our strategies, and to also re-frame our expected results based on what we discover along the way.

So we start at the end, and also at the beginning...in an iterative manner throughout delivery.

So what do you think? Beginning or end? Does perspective count?

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How to contact me:

Want to engage me and my friends:

We also offer classroom training for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

 

 

Posted on: January 11, 2017 07:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Focus on the positive

A big part of traditional project management is Risk Management which consists of the following steps

  • Risk Management Planning
  • Risk Identification
  • Qualitative Risk Analysis
  • Quantitative Risk Analysis
  • Risk Response Planning
  • Risk Monitoring and Control

Some teams will do all but the last step very early in the project - I have seen it done before they have even established WHY they are doing the project! In a recent post What? You don't know why you are doing your project?  I discussed how outcomes-focused agility helps us to figure the WHY before we focus on the WHAT, WHEN, HOW, or WHERE of our portfolios, programmes, and projects let alone which products we should build using Scrum.

Too much of an upfront emphasis on Risk Management has us focusing on what will go wrong before we have truly focused on what must go right. Humans have a bias towards negative thoughts according to Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist. He says

Our minds naturally focus on the bad and discard the good. It was much more important for our ancestors to avoid threats than to collect rewards: An individual who successfully avoided a threat would wake up the next morning and have another opportunity to collect a reward, but an individual who didn’t avoid the threat would have no such opportunity.

He describes the brain as like "Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones." While that may have been important when we were mostly hunter-gatherers, it is not such an important behaviour to have in modern organizations.

In our second book in The Agility Series, Leadership Agility: Enabling Organizational Sustainability, we said that mindfulness is a core value of leaders that exhibit agility. Being mindful helps us to counter the effects of negative thinking (or the overemphasis what on might go wrong), as opposed to what must go right for us to be successful.

Another example from everyday life - if you watch or read the news you would believe that 2016 was a horrible disaster. However, Col. Chris Hadfield, the renowned Canadian astronaut reminded us recently with a list of 46 things that show 2016 was actually pretty good. He concluded with

There are countless more examples, big and small. If you refocus on the things that are working, your year will be better than the last.

So what does that have to do with portfolios, programmes, and projects and risk management? Lots. An overemphasis on risk can cause us to forget to focus on the positive. So what is the positive for portfolios, programmes, and projects? Answering the WHY question before we jump into the WHAT, WHEN, HOW, or WHERE. Outcomes-focused Agility enables us to thrive in a VUCA-world where we face mostly holistic messes rather than discrete problems.

Having a positive focus enables us to meet each unexpected event using an inspect and adapt mindset. Being mindful as a leader, is having the willingness to self-reflect and change our behaviors, attitudes, practices and processes, based on what we now know to be true. In my webinar Are you an Agile project manager or an Agile project leader? And why does that question matter? I talked about the fact that projects consist of known knowns, know unknowns (the risks we try to identify), and the known unknowns (those things we don't know and could never anticipate but that we must respond to when they occur).

Focusing on knowing our WHY enables us to respond to each unexpected event or new realization along the way within the context of the specifics of what we are trying to accomplish, rather than focusing on all of the bad things that can go wrong that may have nothing to do with our WHY. If we instead focus on what we need to do (the positive) to achieve our WHY, then we will be far more likely to actually achieve it. When we spend most of our energy on making good things happen, and when engaging with our stakeholders more often and in a more positive context, then far less of the bad will actually happen.

Positive thinking is not only good for ensuring success in our projects, it's also good for own personal well-being and the well-being of those around us.

So what are you doing to engage in mindfulness and focusing on the positive so you and your teams can be successful? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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How to contact me:

  1. Send me an e-mail directly
  2. Follow me on Twitter: @cooperlk99
  3. Connect to The Agility Series Webinar Channel

Want to engage me and my friends:

  1. Check out our LinkedIn Group
  2. Check out our learning portal: www.MPlaza.ca - lots of free stuff plus some great courses on Scrum  and PRINE2 Agile. Go get The Adaptive Strategy Guide and Organizational Agility while you are there - both are FREE.
  3. You can also purchase the second book in the Agility Series on Leadership Agility or my very first book Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers
  4. We provide coaching and mentoring in Agile and Scrum for public and private sector clients. Contact me for more details
  5. We also offer classroom training  for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

Posted on: January 06, 2017 07:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

What are your goals for 2017?

Each new year brings with it a wealth of new possibilities and untapped opportunities. I once read something to the effect that opportunity is the domain of the prepared mind. So how do we best prepare our mind for opportunity?

As a practitioner in, and writer about agility, I tend to turn my attentions towards how I can improve my mind and my ability to more adaptable. Most years that meant more reading, more thinking, and more writing.

This year I thought I'd start off a little differently, so I've decided to take a couple of courses, one on how to improve my mind,  and the other in how to improve my writing.

As we age we gather more and more information. But how much of what we read and hear do we actually retain? When you essentially make your living, as many of us do, in the collection, distillation, and sense-making from large volumes of information, having a mind that is better prepared to do that becomes important. We are constantly inundated with blogs posts, eBooks, social media and all manner of different sources of information. We are often in information overload. It can be overwhelming.

As an HBR article recently noted, Peter Drucker realized that we now generate value with our minds more than with our muscle:

since at least 1959, when in Landmarks of Tomorrow he first described the rise of “knowledge work.” Three decades later, Drucker had become convinced that knowledge was a more crucial economic resource than land, labor, or financial assets, leading to what he called a “post-capitalist society.” And shortly thereafter (and not long before he died in 2005), Drucker declared that increasing the productivity of knowledge workers was “the most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century.”

But is it someone else's responsibility or our own to increase our mental capacities? Who can decide to improve your mind but yourself? I think you know my answer. I think we are each responsible for our own personal and professional development. It's our own careers and livelihoods that we are nurturing. Plus it's rewarding to feel we are always improving our preparedness for opportunity whenever and wherever it may arise.

We collect, distill, and sense-make from the voluminous amounts of information so we can communicate its meaning to colleagues, clients, or customers, whether verbally or in writing. To do hat we need to have effective writing and communication skills. Funnily enough, good communications and good writing are complimentary skills.

So for me in 2017, instead of looking forward to retirement as many of age cohorts are doing (I am not really the retiring type - at least not yet), I am looking forward to improving my learning, thinking and writing skills so I can continue to generate value with my mind.

Doing those two things will also help me to prepare for starting our third book in The Agility Series on Cultural Agility. It will also me to help collect, distill and sense-make from what is happening at the Inaugural Business Agility Conference in NYC Feb 23-24th with my good friends Evan Leybourn and Jen Hunter. Hope to see you there!

********************************************************************************************

How to contact me:

  1. Send me an e-mail directly
  2. Follow me on Twitter: @cooperlk99
  3. Connect to The Agility Series Webinar Channel

Want to engage me and my friends:

  1. Check out our LinkedIn Group
  2. Check out our learning portal: www.MPlaza.ca - lots of free stuff plus some great courses on Scrum  and PRINE2 Agile. Go get The Adaptive Strategy Guide and Organizational Agility while you are there - both are FREE.
  3. You can also purchase the second book in the Agility Series on Leadership Agility or my very first book Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers
  4. We provide coaching and mentoring in Agile and Scrum for public and private sector clients. Contact me for more details
  5. We also offer classroom training  for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

Posted on: January 04, 2017 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Outcomes Focused-Agility: Experience Report

In my recent post What? You don't know why you are doing your project?  I indicated that I would do a follow-up post on examples of where I have used the Outcomes approach successfully. As you recall, the post was subtitled "Outcomes Focused Agility - Story Mapping our Strategic Intent".

In this post, I'll provide two examples of where I have applied it successfully as well as provide an example of where I am currently using it with good success so far.

Procure and Implement a Learning Management System (LMS)

My role: had overall portfolio responsibility for guiding both the technical  and  business teams.

The Context

Several years ago I was hired by the Learning and Development group of a local government agency to help them procure and implement an LMS. They used to have all of their employees in one building. The situation was that employees were now in different cities, in different countries, and on different continents.

Most PMs would view this as an IT project and would proceed to begin developing the procurement documents, and then following the procurement, getting it installed and configured for use. And if they did that within the expected 18 month timeline and $2.5M budget we had, they would have considered the project a success. However, by the measures of value that really needed to be satisfied, they would have failed.

When you take an outcomes-focused approach, you start by asking why are they feeling they need to do this particular project? Ask why (along with what and how) enough times and you uncover all manner of actual need, many of which are left hidden using most project approaches. Over a period of the first 2-3 months of the engagement I helped them discover/recognize the following :

  • They had no experience, tools or process for developing on-line course content
  • They had no content management system
  • They had not considered what new services as a Learning and Development group they would need to offer their internal clients once the new way of delivering learning content was in place
  • They had not considered the governance of learning within their organization and what that meant to how they approached employee development

The Portfolio

There were many other things we uncovered by asking why, but the above gives you a good idea of the real problems we had to tackle, which far exceeded just procuring and implementing an LMS. Using outcomes-focused agility, we were able to define the real work we had to do to make the implementation of the LMS a success for them:

  • We identified 4 additional value-streams that had to be addressed on top of the one to enable learning delivery management (the role of an LMS fits in that value-stream)
  • We uncovered that five different software products were needed and not just the LMS
  • We realized we had to design new processes for governance, learning content design and development, learning content management, learning management delivery (where the LMS was actually used), and talent management

We used a Services Canvas I designed based off of the Business Model Canvas to help them figure what services they offered to the rest of the organization and how they would be measured.

Once we had the initial versions of the outcomes map and the Service canvas, wee would  place the latest iterations of each on our wall and leave stickies and pens on a table beneath them. Most every day stakeholders and team members would walk by and spend a few minutes looking at the canvas and map and use the stickies to leave questions, comments, and ideas. This enabled serendipity across the team and stakeholders - while one person was adding stickies someone else would invariably walk by and they would then have a conversation about the map and canvas and the content of the stickies.

Every few days we would collect everything and update the map and canvas and then hold additional brainstorming sessions with everyone. Both the serendipitous and brainstorming events enabled us to create a shared understanding of the why, what, how, who, when and where of our portfolio and it's various programs and initiatives with all of the required players as all of them contributed at different times and to different degrees to their creation. No one felt left out.

We used Scrum on each of the initiatives including the procurement process, for doing business process design and development, and for systems integration. We also introduced the idea of using an agile approach to learning content development for the new content that would need be created for the new LMS to deliver. Without suitable content there was no need for an LMS!

Having taken an outcomes-focused approach we also created the basis for value-based decisions across the entire portfolio for each of the products that would be created to satisfy each outcome. While Scrum assumes that someone else has already decided which products should be developed, outcomes-focused agility helps us determine which products have to be developed ( in this case learning content, business processes, an RFP, systems integration, etc.). It also helped us to establish the basis for value prioritization within each initiative and product so product owners knew the higher-level strategic goals that were to be satisfied.

Remember products themselves are just outputs. They are not outcomes, nor do they measure the benefits of what you have done, and hence they also do not help you understand why you are creating them. They do contribute to outcomes, but they are not themselves actual outcomes.

The Results

Here is a summary of some of the project metrics (sufficient time has passed that I can share these):

  • Planned:
    • $1M to procure an LMS
    • Projected total 10 year license cost $9.8M
    • 200+page RFP document was expected based on what a similar agency had done to  recently procure an LMS
    • Do this in one project
  • Actual:
    • $25K to procure the LMS which was only 2.5% of actual budget that was to be used for procurement
    • Projected 10 year license costs were $75k
    • An 8 page RFP document that explained the RFP process was used to drive procurement along with other tools we developed for the exercise - no vendor was allowed to submit paper-bound responses - only electronic response were permitted
    • RFP and vendor evaluations including board-room demos only took 5 days to select the winner
    • There were 7 initiatives that had to be completed as part of a portfolio within a total of 5 separate value streams
    • The portfolio was completed within the 18-month original window and the $2.5M budget

The Learning and development group also restructured based on the new services they were now offering and the processes that supported them. The new processes and the restructuring ideas came from the people who were most affected by it - there was no need for organizational change management as it was change by engagement and with the design being done by the entire team.

We managed to achieve far more real value delivery in  the 18 months than was expected and for the same money, hence, we were able to deliver what they actually needed, rather than what they had originally intended of simply procuring and implementing an LMS.

Build  and Implement a Professional Licensure Management System

My role: had overall portfolio responsibility for guiding both the technical  and  business teams.

The Context

A national professional association wanted to build a professional licensure management system. Again, this sounds like an IT project to most - after all we would be building a software product but in reality it was more complex actual scenario:

  • There were 12 regulatory bodies, the national association, and an examining agency all of whom had to be factored in to whatever was created
  • The national association only had a few employees up until taking on this initiative
  • They had no real internal infrastructure or hosting capabilities

The Portfolio

Using outcomes-focused agility helped us to identify:

  • Ten separate value streams
  • The need to add new physical facilities, procure network infrastructure, new hosting services, etc.
  • The need to stand-up an entire new organization to support and operate the eventual systems and infrastructure
  • The need for  pathfinder projects to standardize the licensure process across the various licensure bodies, to gain experience with the support model that would be needed,  and to investigate required self-assessment capabilities for those seeking licensure
  • Instead of just one software development project, we identified 27 separate initiatives across 10 separate value streams - in essence  a portfolio with 10 separate programs

This was way more than simply building a software product.  

The Results

A coordinated delivery was established across multiple years covering facilities, infrastructure, hiring, product development, as well as an organizational restructuring that would enable them to stand-up and support a national professional licensure management system.

Mature People, Process and Technology Capabilities

My role: portfolio leadership and agility mentoring

The Context

The last one I'll report on is one that I am currently engaged in to mature people, process, and technology capabilities. The particular team in this case is a technical team that connects business line capabilities to one another. They have been in existence for 4 years and started out as part of a larger project. They split off into a separate team to carry on the operational side  for their original development efforts as well as to do similar development work for other business lines.

With the prospect of doing work for many business lines instead of just the original two, we felt that we needed to put more formality into what the team does and how it does it. We have identified four value streams to answer the four main outcomes questions as listed below:

  • How do we govern it?
  • How do we build it?
  • How do we operate it?
  • How do we sustain it?

The team sits inside of a very large IT organization, inside of a very large government department, so the work they do has a high degree of sophistication as well as being of significant consequence to the business.

The team currently owns the entire development and operational support of what they build including at the platform level so we have to address topics such as:

  • Business and technical governance
  • Architecture
  • On-boarding of new portfolios
  • All facets of DevOps
  • Systems management
  • Business activity management
  • Re-platforming
  • Migrations of existing products to newer platform technologies

As there are multiple very sophisticated technologies in play, it is not just enough to know what you must do, but you also need to figure out which technology is the right one to use in each circumstance. As a result, in order to determine what we must do (the initiatives) to satisfy a given outcome, we have had to create and execute initiatives whose goal it is to help us sort out our strategy for the actual initiatives to support the identified outcomes.

The Portfolio

By asking the four key questions above we have so far identified 40 initiatives that we need to undertake. The ones that are developing strategies for their focus areas will lead to the addition of more initiatives once they are completed.

This is another of the hidden benefits of outcomes-focused agility as noted above - we can use strategy-development initiatives to both identify and define the initiatives we need to undertake to  achieve a given set of outcomes on the map, even after we have already started on the portfolio - now that is the ultimate in outcomes-focused agility! We have also had to tweak some of outcomes statements as based on what we have learned in some of initiatives we have delivered on so far.

When faced with such a high degree of uncertainty and ambiguity as this one presents for the team, outcomes-focused agility is proving invaluable in enabling us to do the things we need to do, rather than what we may have intended to do at the outset, across a very complex landscape.

The Results - so far

The fact that the goal of our work is to mature people, process and technology is not lost on us - maturing our people means constant inspection and adaptation to what we learn along the way. We are also able to adapt to new circumstances as they have emerged as we continue to do other work for the business lines.

We are also advantaged by constantly iterating our overall strategy, based both on the strategy initiatives we have identified, as well as the ones that are implementing those strategies, that in some cases, we have yet to define.

Another aspect of outcomes-focused agility is that it enables the portfolio team to more quickly assess the consequences of delays and changes in organizational priorities. Due to some external factors for example, we have had to revamp our outcomes delivery timelines within the portfolio.

In one example, we were able to assess the consequences of deferring some initiatives to a later FY on the basis of getting less money this FY. We were able to do this assessment in less than 30 minutes! All we were given was the dollar amount that had to be deferred.

Our map enabled us to make a value-centric decision as we already knew the relationships between initiatives, products, and outcomes (or results), and hence we could quickly determine which initiatives, products, and outcomes could be deferred while having the least detrimental impact on our overall strategic intent both in the short and long term.

Without these maps and their details, this would have taken days if not weeks for something this large, and even worse could have led us to defer the wrong things.

I have always ensured wherever possible that each of the  initiatives within an outcomes map  can be done within 3 months or less and that we use Scrum throughout. This incremental approach allows us to tackle complex situations in manageable pieces. It also allows us to re-vector our remaining work based on what we learn along the way.

We are very definitely seeing the value of allowing emergence to guide us by tackling things in small enough chunks, that even if something turns out to not be what we expected, our investment in each one is not that great, so our risk exposure is significantly reduced.

The Role of Emergence in Outcomes-Focused Agility

Emergence, as I discussed in Chapter 7 of Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers, is more than just about our architectures and design as described in the principles of The Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

It also applies to our understanding of the holistic messes we are solving that often contain many different problems as the examples above clearly demonstrated. In all of the above examples, it was never a single problem to be solved, nor a single project to be executed. I would suggest that this describes 99% of what we encounter in the real world, versus what is often attempted through single monolithic projects.  

Outcomes-focused agility directly supports this form of emergence, and also provides the context in which to story-map your strategic intent - even when you have yet to fully describe your strategic intent, as was demonstrated in the last example.

Understanding emergence, and how to leverage the opportunities it uncovers, helps us to be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. Outcomes-focused agility helps deal with emergence in a rational manner which then allows us to use and adapt multiple frameworks, practices, methods and techniques to achieve value-delivery.

We use what is most appropriate to the context of each single problem we are solving, rather than trying a one-size fits-all approach, or even believing that we are solving a single problem, as we rarely are.

One of the areas of outcomes-focused agility I have not yet attempted is to take the same focus towards the team itself - what outcomes matter to them? I hope to do some experiments with that over the coming months within my current portfolio.

Benefits Realization

Rather than address benefits realization under each of the above examples, I though I'd deal with it as a separate topic. For those of us familiar with outcomes-driven approaches, we know that the measure we use to determine the presence of our expected outcomes is to identify the benefits we would need to see in order to determine that the outcome was present. This is as I described it in Chapter 2 of Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers.

Outcomes cannot be directly observed. They are only observable through measurable benefits. Much has recently been written about benefits realization,  which is enjoying a noticeable resurgence of interest. However, without the context of outcomes-focused agility, we may end up focusing on the wrong things, and we still don't have a framework that facilitates our emergent and shared understanding in the face of ever-increasing uncertainty and ambiguity. Benefits realization by itself not enough.

Conclusion

Outcomes-focused Agility enables portfolio, program, and project teams to gain insights into both the magnitude,and the specifics, of what has to be done. It also provides executive levels with a high degree of confidence that we have thought things through enough at the front-end, without locking into solutions too soon, so that we can more fully create a shared-understanding of why we are doing things, and use that shared understanding to drive decision-making throughout and at all levels.

An incremental delivery approach through value-streams, and their associated programs within a portfolio framework, also significantly reduces financial, schedule, and delivery risks.

So we really don't have to plan or describe everything up-front. Recognizing this simple reality enables us to help the business and its customers/clients end up where they need to be, which may not be where they originally intended to be. And after all, isn't that what we all hope for?

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Posted on: December 18, 2016 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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