@johncutlefish's blog

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Platitudes and Brass Tacks

Published: June 15, 2018

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In my experience, change doesn’t fail — or get hopelessly watered down — because of a lack of “high level alignment”, but rather by what happens when we get down to the nitty gritty.

If you’ve “done it” in a previous job/context, you’ll understand the nuance on a deep level. You’re prepared for the challenges and discomfort. But to the uninitiated, there’s simply no way to communicate all the gory details.

More Agile!Yes! Flexibility and nimbleness is good.

Limit work in progress and lower our planning inventory.Wait, wait, wait. What am I supposed to say to the people “waiting in line”? We don’t want anyone slacking, and limiting work in progress feels like that. Can they split their time if they’re blocked?

Outcomes over outputs!Of course. We don’t want to waste our time. We want to have an impact for our customers.

We pivot from efforts if they don’t achieve the desired outcome. Teams stick with efforts to see them through to an actual outcome.Oh but that is terribly inefficient. Also, can the teams be trusted to do that? Will they try to milk these efforts? And what about downtime as they’re gathering feedback?

We embrace continuous improvement.Always good to keep improving.

We dedicate between 20–30% of our throughput capacity to learning, refactoring, etc.Hold on…

We listen to our customers!Um yeah. No disagreements there.

The product development team meets with customers almost daily.Oh ***k no. We can’t do that. Our engineers will drive customers crazy. And legal will have a fit. You’re crazy.

Delightful, usable products …Damn straight!

We don’t release something unless we’ve usability tested the crap out of it, and have run limited betas (with the option of turning the feature off). To us that’s quality. It is non-negotiable.Oh hold on now. We can’t afford that. We can’t wait, and watching those tests is so…boring, you know?

No jerks!No kidding. What wants to work with a jerk?

That higher performing jerk with powerful connections…gotta fire them. Their behavior isn’t coherent with the culture here.Wait, wait, wait. Show some empathy! Who said work relationships would be easy. Sometimes you have to work with people and meet them on their level. Influence not authority, okay?

We value teamwork!I love being part of a great team.

We’ve shifted our performance management system to be almost entirely team centric, with teams owning actual business outcomes.You just can’t do that! What if my team has a lazy person on it? How will I get ahead? This is socialism!

Innovation is a central part of our culture.Sounds innovative.

We dedicate a day every two weeks to future-looking personal projects, and routinely launch new initiatives based on these experiments.That is 10% of all available time! You can’t do that.Those ad-hoc teams don’t even have a PM!

Quality is important.Yes it is. You can’t have stuff just breaking.

We have embedded testers on each team, and they’re involved right from the beginning. We also have a “Stop the Line” policy (Andon Cord). When someone pulls it, all new feature work stops until we’ve resolved the issue.Oh that’s not cost-efficient! Come on now…you can’t stop the line!

Small, autonomous, self-organizing teams.Just as it should be.

So the team self-organized and decided to ditch Scrum in exchange for a more continuous flow-based approach.No, no! We mean self-organizing as long as they don’t do anything too extreme! Without sprints, how can we hold people accountable?

We encourage bold risk taking. Be courageous!YES! I feel super supported now. I can take risks!

So I took this risk and set up a task-force to address this problem.You can’t do that! Who is in charge?

We’re a culture of accountability…Cool.

Executives make their performance measures public…No way.