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Talk to any senior leader or employee and they will complain about their organization having too many strategic initiatives, too many projects, and...
Last week I wrote about applying the five principles of human-centered ways of working to teams. This week I’ll illustrate a simple yet very effective methodology that can help you put the principles into practice.
But please remember: it’s not about blindly applying the methodology. The principles are essential. The method should only ease putting them into practice!
I developed this when working with a leadership team during a transformation project.
On the one hand, the team wanted to practice agile ways of working and sprints. But, on the other hand, they, and other key stakeholders involved, kept asking for “visibility “at least for a couple of months out.
My position was that I, and nobody else for that matter, couldn’t exactly tell them how long it would take to get everybody on board, what activities would be required or what we were going to be doing in 3 months. We might hypothesize about it, but there wouldn’t be any certainty. Too many pieces were unknown. On top of this, the organization was constantly fire fighting (covid, floods, a production accident,…), and these emergencies would need all hands on deck. Thus not only keeping us from delivering everything planned in such a week but also requiring much re-planning thereafter. More time would be spent on planning than on doing actual work.
While I argued with them for a very long time about not wanting to give in to their request for longer-term planning, at some point, I accepted that the organization was not ready, and it was too much of a stretch to go from traditional project planning to only planning the next sprint. I also realized that sometimes a feeling of control, order, and predictability is essential. Maybe especially in the face of constantly fluctuating circumstances.
Yet, I didn’t want to default to the traditional ways. “Too weak to give in, too strong to lose “as the Foo Fighters sing.😉
What was needed was a way to provide the required visibility and yet have the flexibility to adjust work to what was possible any given week.
The inspiration came from a personal productivity journal called 21/90 (link in the comments below) I came across. Wondering how I could adapt it to a corporate setting, I came up with the following.
90: You define the outcomes you’d like to achieve at the end of the next 90 days. It’s long enough to give the required “visibility” and align on results to be achieved while being short enough to stay flexible. Stakeholders know what they can expect, and teams know what they are working towards. Everybody is aligned on what needs to be accomplished at the end of the 90 days.
21: During those 90 days, you’ll run four sprints of three weeks, 21 days, each. The sprints increase your flexibility further while at the same time allowing the team to start practicing working in sprints. You’ll only plan one sprint at a time, though. If you need more “visibility” about what will happen during the 90 days, you can define outcomes to be achieved at the end of each sprint to reach the final 90-day outcomes. But specific activities to reach the sprint outcomes are only planned at the beginning of each sprint or even only at the beginning of each week.
7: Running four sprints of three weeks each means you’ll have one week left at the end to get to 90 days. This is your buffer week, or finish line sprint, allowing you to accommodate anything open or unforeseen — a little bit of safety, which puts many teams at ease.
Step 1: As a team, list all your projects, initiatives, or responsibilities and for each, define the following:
Step 2: At the end of the week, hold a retrospective:
Step 3: Plan the next seven days:
What needs to happen in the next seven days to move closer to your sprint results? What can you realistically achieve?
Step 4: Do a retrospective at the end of each sprint. Plan the next one. Maybe you need to update the outcomes?
Step 5: Repeat 🔄
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The Why, What and How of New Ways of Working Our fast-moving and digital world is building a tsunami of change, continually evolving our “normal”. As...
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How could your team design its own new ways of working? What questions to ask? Where to begin?