A few years ago I was at an Agile introduction meeting at CDS Global. Kristin Runyan did a bulk of the presentation. I remember then thinking, “wow, she really knows her stuff.” A few years later I got to know her as part of a coffee group we were both in. Since then Kristin has moved off to San Diego for a new career opportunity. I previously read and reviewed the Agile textbook that she co-wrote called Introduction to Agile Methods. When I heard she was writing another book that was in a fable format I thought that would be quite interesting.
When I originally heard about an Agile fable book I was thinking about The Phoenix Project. I think that if done correctly fables can work to teach methods and techniques. In Change Inc. An Agile Fable of Transformation the narrator in this story is named Lynn. She has an assignment from Dr. Steele to profile a local company regarding the companies success and opportunities for improvement. She knew he would not like students profiling high growth start-ups but, Lynn was intrigued by Ozzie Optics. So she reluctantly approaches Dr. Steele about profiling this start-up. After pushing through his resistance, Lynn convinces him to approve it.
Lynn had no contact at Ozzie Optics so she reached out to their Public Relations contact on their website. She explained what she wanting to do and they, of course, were interested. She was able to set an appointment to meet with the CEO. A few days later she meets the CEO at a coffee shop. In discussing the companies success, he mentions how the use of Agile has been part of its “magic formula.” The use it throughout the whole company.
In her first meeting with the Chief Financial Officer, Lynn learns about how they have a working agreement to help guide the finance department. They describe as, “A working agreement is a document that reflects the values, norms, and behaviors you expect and strive for on your team.” The finance department highlights how they honor their commitments, help each other, and meetings begin on time.
Scrum or Kanban
The next meeting is with the Chief Marketing Officer and the head or HR. As they discuss how each department is different they begin to elaborate on how they need a different approach. For projects that require concrete deliverables over short durations, they use Scrum. At the end of two weeks, they have something and they can review it.
Other projects that have continuous activity are better suited for Kanban. They discuss the example of IT Help Desk working with you to get your wi-fi on your laptop fixed. No one wants to wait for that. In Kanban, you keep your board prioritized and allocate resources accordingly. If a higher-priority request comes in we just move resources to it.
The work at Ozzie Optics is tracked on progress boards that have a grid laid out with five columns to represent the stages for each item of work. Lynn learns how the Scrum team has identified these stages starting from backlog, ready, in progress, review, and finally done. Items get moved to ready once they are prioritized and creative design was approved.
Each item on the progress board or Scrum board is a stick note of work to be done. The team has agreed upon a certain style and uses a template to guide them in creating the stories. Additionally, the board is easy to read and others not on the team can quickly see where a task is.
Face to Face
Next we meet how the teams at Ozzie Optics value face to face interactions. They try to make everyone who is working on the same or similar work co-located in the same room. The simple questions that come up can be quickly answered with a question. It cuts down on the time than if you have to get up and go to a different part of the building or send an email that may be responded to later.
Lynn’s next encounter with the Ozzie Optics team is with Tim, the Vice President of Sales. She witnesses the sales team’s daily stand-up meeting. The meetings are quick so everyone stands up instead of finding a seat. They answer three simple questions, what did you do yesterday? what are working on today? and do you have any roadblocks? If you have any more in-depth conversations they take it offline and meet after the main meeting. She notices that these meetings help calibrate the teams performance. It leads to better overall performance and results.
Kristen has done an excellent job of weaving the Agile principles into this fable. It takes the principles out of the technology department and shows how you can use them in other departments. I would suggest you pick up a copy of Change Inc. and see how you could apply these ideas to your company or organization.