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"Would you like to become my mentee?"
Christian Wikander
Development Team Manager at IKEA Group

Key learnings from two years with IKEA

Christian is the network’s first community supporter and he is passionate about Agile and Lean working methods. Here you’ll find his first shared key learning working with Agile. 

The first learning is the importance of frequent deliveries. Frequent deliveries have a number of benefits and should be adopted as soon as possible. You should be able to get to a delivery cadence of two to four weeks if you put your mind to it.

Frequent deliveries…

… Builds trust. Your stakeholders know that even if you fail with one delivery (you will), they only have to wait two weeks for the next one.

… Enables fast feedback. When you deliver functionality to a stakeholder you also allow them to provide feedback. Early feedback means that you will know early if you are going in the right direction. Fail fast.

… Turns our investment into profit. Until we have released something we are investing our time in the solution. While the investment may seem like a good thing (it is), the sole purpose is to make a profit from the investment. The profit is enabled by delivering your functionality. Until you’ve delivered you are just a cost.

A common objection to delivering often is that there needs to be some minimum functionality available for a feature to be useful. Leave this judgment to the marketing people. Concentrate on delivering and give them the benefit of choosing if we should market the feature. Let’s not be the ones that prevent the profit from our investment.

… Reveals our bottlenecks. When trying to release often you will quite quickly be aware of where your bottlenecks are. Find them and fix them. Releasing software is not a value adding exercise, make sure that the effort is minimal.

The last bullet leads into my other learning, the importance of automation.

When developing software you want to spend as little time as possible on fixing customer problems. An error report from the field means that a customer is unhappy, but it also often means that we need to hold off on our new development to address the issue found.

The best way to prevent annoying your customers is to create an automated regression suite covering all business critical flows. There is a balancing act here. You can build too much automation making the test suite too slow for your needs. But the bottom line is that functionality that is covered by automated testing will not fail. And keep in mind that humans are smart people, if there is a way around a problem, most users will find it. They may still report an error, but at least they are not held up.

If you want to take this a step further, consider test driven or even better business driven development (TDD/BDD). If you are writing automated tests, you are much better off doing it early because that will allow you to save time on automated testing in the sprint. I’d like to offer a provocative thought. If your functionality is not important enough to be covered by automation it means that we do not think it’s important to test all the time. Why then test it at all? Build your automation up front, and let that be all your testing.

In the end, you can spend more time on what most software engineers love the most, building new functionality.

Writer

Christian Wikander

Christian Wikander

The Start & Stay Agile Workshop

The Start & Stay Agile workshop 4th of June

We had an interesting morning the 4th of June about how to implement change in an organisation.

Katarina Erlingson talked about her experience in how to deal with mind set shifts, finding new ways to approach old rules and toxic cultures/organisations.

In the workshops we identified challenges to change, such as a lack of communication and transparency and when not all levels in the organisation understand what Agile means.

The solutions generated by the participants focused on the people perspective. After all, it is seldom the structures themselves that cause the problems, rather how they are understood and applied.

Identification of challenges:

  • The need of mind set shift
  • The lack of clarity of goals
  • Management need to work in a new way
  • Uncertainties related to change

Identification of solutions:

  • Communication of goals to all levels and stakeholders
  • Visualisation to generate concrete outcomes
  • Work on safety of the group and seeing mistakes as a learning opportunity

Tool: SOLO (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome) as a structure to identify, follow and support a learning process

The challenges identified in the workshop were mostly related to the mind set shift needed; we identified problems such as the difficulty in creating a common understanding of goals and how to get managers to redefine their role (from ruler to enabler). The mind set shift, like all change, also gives rise to uncertainties, many of which has to do with lack of time to understand to processes and what it means for the individual.

The solutions centred around the people processes, the need to get everyone on board. By communicating and anchoring goals, we contribute to motivation and mind set shifts. The goals also need to be clarified, eg by visualisation, so that everyone knows what we are going to achieve. This will also enable the management to let go of micromanagement and focus on the outcomes. The challenges of uncertainties can be met by working on group safety and trust, were we encourage the discussions around what can be learned from mistakes, rather than punishing them. 

We also tried out a tool that enables you to facilitate a learning process (SOLO). Learning takes place in identifiable steps and you need to adapt the learning to the step you are on. If you try to teach on eg step 4 when the organisation is at step 1, you will have no advancement. Hence, a tool to identify where your organisation is in the learning process is vital for mind set shifts.

Download the workshop presentation PDF here or here

Brain-Brain

Our event at IKEA Helsingborg 3/4 produced a ranked wish-list of topics for the coming events

Best way to start Agile – even when you think you are

Measure how Agile an organisation is

Psychological safety to get good teams

Adopt agile to other organisations

Agile alignment in the organisation

The Agile mind set

We also discussed how Agile can help your organisation to develop. Many of the benefits comes from the increased transparency, such as defining what steps needs to be taken and the possibilities opened up by this; anchoring, flexibility and focusing on the basic 20%. Not as often mentioned, but central, is that failure is ok, expected and quickly identified.

Next event will be at Studio, Malmö in the beginning of June. As promised, this will be about the top ranking subject: Best way to start Agile!

Meet our new agile mentor - Christian

Christian is the network’s first community supporter and he is passionate about Agile and Lean working methods. So passionate, that he is offering you his time to mentor you in your quest to become more Agile. 

In January 2017 I reached out to my network to offer my services as a mentor. Given how much fun I think it is to mentor people I feel it’s time to do this again.

I have been working actively with Agile for over seven years. During this time, I have set up and managed several Agile teams that have run different flavors of processes influenced by Scrum and SAFe. Because we have sometimes moved faster than the rest of the company I have also handled situations where we are running with Agile while people around the team are expecting something else.

Since I’m a strong believer in Agile principles I would like to offer you as a member of The Agile Network to tap in to my knowledge by signing up to become my mentee. I can act as a mentor on topics related to implementing or running Agile from different aspects such as line manager, product manager, project manager and scrum master. The only requirement I have on you is that you are actively going to use whatever we discuss.

I will run this in my spare time, i.e. weekends and weekday evenings Europe time. We can meet in person, through Skype etc. There is no cost involved.

If there is a large interest I will decide which mentor relationship I will take on.

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Digital meeting workshop

We are passionate about Agile and Lean and meeting you to discuss how to continue developing these ideas and techniques! Yes, we live in a stressful world, where time to learn and develop isn’t always prioritised. Therefore we are creating quick video workshops that will help you to fit this learning into your daily schedules. 

More about this in shortly.