@johncutlefish's blog

I recently co-wrote the North Star Playbook. Please check it out.

How Do We Go Faster?

Published: September 14, 2017

I find myself answering this question often. Sharing a response here…


1. First, accept that you will probably need to focus and go slower. It’ll help you go faster eventually.

2. Second, you must reframe your view of faster. The speed we care about is frequency of learning, frequency of delivering actual value (outcomes), and speed to respond to changes in our environment.

Some ideas…

Make​ ​​psychological​ ​safety​​ ​a​ ​prerequisite,​ ​at​ ​all​ ​levels

  1. Research work of Amy C. Edmondson, Project Aristotle (Google)
  2. Do​ ​Crucial​ ​Conversations​ ​training
  3. Leaders​ ​model​ ​(and​ ​encourage)​ ​speaking​ ​out​ ​about​ ​challenging​ ​topics
  4. Disincentivize​ ​managers​ ​and​ ​leaders​ ​from​ ​information​ ​and​ ​feedback​ ​hoarding
  5. Address​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​very​ ​visible​ ​trust​ ​issues​ ​between​ ​parts​ ​of​ ​the​ ​organization

    Start​ ​an​ ​agile​ ​coaching​ ​practice

  6. Hire​ ​Agile​ ​Coaches​ ​(not​ ​scrum​ ​masters,​ ​not​ ​project​ ​managers)
  7. Make​ ​sure​ ​the​ ​coaches​ ​are​ ​​unbiased​,​ ​and​ ​not​ ​connected​ ​to​ ​an​ ​individual​ ​department. Ideally, they should be PULLed into teams. Not pushed
  8. Conduct​ ​large​ ​scale​ ​(org​ ​wide),​ ​facilitated​ ​continuous​ ​improvement​ ​events​ ​(k​aizen​)
  9. Have​ ​unbiased​ ​facilitators​ ​for​ ​retrospectives
  10. Conduct​ ​cross-team​ ​retrospectives​ ​for​ ​larger​ ​initiatives
  11. Offer​ ​1:1​ ​coaching​ ​for​ ​managers,​ ​senior​ ​managers,​ ​leaders,​ ​etc.
  12. Discontinue​ ​wasteful,​ ​non-value-add​ ​practices​ ​(e.g.​ ​story-point​ ​estimation)

    Structure​ ​/​ ​Systems

  13. Tighter​ ​integration​ ​between​ ​product​ ​and​ ​engineering
  14. Clarify​ ​the​ ​role​ ​of​ ​engineering​ ​front-line,​ ​mid-line​ ​managers
  15. Either​ ​address​ ​dependency​ ​issues,​ ​or​ ​make​ ​“products”​ ​/​ ​silos​ ​completely​ ​autonomous
  16. Build​ ​team​ ​resiliency​ ​to​ ​the​ ​point​ ​where​ ​most​ ​teams​ ​can​ ​self-manage
  17. Reduce​ ​areas​ ​of​ ​local​ ​optimization​. Root​ ​out​ ​“kingdom​ ​building”,​ ​especially​ ​among​ ​frontline​ ​managers/directors
  18. Explicitly​ ​call​ ​out​​ ​all​​ ​shared​ ​services​ ​(aspects​ ​of​ ​support,​ ​ops,​ ​infra,​ ​etc.). Aggressively challenge economy of scale assumptions
  19. Encourage​ ​more​ ​aggressive​ ​rotating,​ ​​reteaming​,​ ​and​ ​swarming​ ​practices
  20. Flatten​ ​the​ ​organization​ ​overall.​ ​Information​ ​loss​ ​is​ likely ​too​ ​high
  21. Break​ ​down​ ​structural​ ​silos​ ​between​ ​ops​ ​and​ ​engineering

    Visualize​ ​Work,​ ​Manage​ ​WIP,​ ​Optimize​ ​for​ ​Flow​ ​Efficiency

  22. Go slower. Be less busy. Be more disciplined. Be more focused
  23. Require​ ​everyone​ ​in​ ​product​ ​and​ ​engineering​ ​to​ ​read​ ​​Principles​ ​of​ ​Product​ ​Development​ ​Flow by Donald Reinertsen
  24. Deliver​ ​a​ ​training​ ​program​ ​focused​ ​on​ ​lean​ ​principles
  25. Adopt​ ​program​ ​and​ ​portfolio​ ​level​ ​Kanban​ ​with​ ​aggressive​ ​WIP​ ​constraints
  26. Encourage​ ​lower​ ​utilization​ ​rates​ ​on​ ​teams,​ ​and​ ​WIP​ ​constraints​ ​(focus​ ​and​ ​slack)
  27. Visualize​ ​​all​ ​​work​ ​including​ ​maintenance,​ ​triage,​ ​and​ ​production​ ​support
  28. Resolve​ ​dependencies​ ​by​ ​blocking​ ​dependent​ ​teams​ ​(not​ ​over-utilization,​ ​not​ ​multitasking)
  29. Prioritize​ ​based​ ​on​ ​apples-apples​ ​cost​ ​of​ ​delay​
  30. Focus​ ​on​ ​flow​ ​efficiency,​ ​rapid learning, lower​ ​utilization,​ ​and​ ​small​ ​batches
  31. Track​ ​lead​ ​times,​ ​cycle​ ​times,​ ​and​ ​categorize​ ​work​ ​into​ ​work​ ​classes
  32. Swarm​ ​bottlenecks​ ​wherever​ ​they​ ​exist.​ ​Fluidly​ ​move​ ​resources/focus​ ​to​ ​bottlenecks
  33. Move​ ​to​ ​continuous​ ​planning​ ​with​ ​quarterly​ ​reviews​ ​(not​ ​quarterly​ ​planning)
  34. Move​ ​to​ ​more​ ​continuous​ ​value​ ​delivery​ ​(over​ ​scrumfall​ ​and​ ​big​ ​project​ ​batches)
  35. For​ ​cross-team​ ​efforts,​ ​involve​ ​all​ ​front-line​ ​ICs​ ​in​ ​regular​ ​standups,​ ​reviews