📬 The Backlog

📬 The Backlog is Thomas van Zuijlen's weekly newsletter on practical agility, with annotated articles on Scrum, facilitation, collaboration, and (product) development.

25 July 2022

📬 The Backlog #187

Stop focusing on intermediate metrics that hinder your agility, help managers say “people” instead of “resources”, and lay better workshop groundwork with IDOARRT.

  1. Salvatore Rinaldo explains how, in organisations striving for agility, paradoxically we often end up doing more work along old-fashioned patterns, because we find it hard to focus on the right metrics. As he puts it, then You Get What You Measure.

    Rinaldo: “When we optimise for flow we do it to deliver more customer value in less time. Every other metric, such as team’s velocity, cycle time, defect rates, etc. is in fact an intermediate metric. In reality, however, these intermediate metrics become the obsession of managers who are being rewarded for fixing these numbers at team level, often without a real impact on overall value creation and lead time.”

    In the article, he outlines alternative, more directly valuable metrics to those of us striving for agility, by reiterating the importance of hypothesis validation, quick iterations and a few other connected concepts.

    Even if you know most of this stuff by heart or by instinct, Rinaldo’s article is worth a bookmark because he uses such concise, clear language in his descriptions.

  2. Johanna Rothman published How to Start Thinking in Flow Efficiency for Better Teamwork & Throughput, which sounds pretty good by itself, but on top of that actually starts with a way to challenge managers who speak of resources when they mean people without resorting to semantics.


    She suggests removing the managers’ unhelpful language by reframing the matter of productivity from individuals to teams by focusing on flow:

    “If you want better teamwork and throughput, change your focus from individuals to teams. And if you can change your language from cost accounting terms when you refer to humans, you might create an even better environment for teams to do their best job. We can report in cost accounting terms. We don’t have to manage with cost accounting.”

  3. This past week I’ve facilitated two workshops for the same long-time client. These sessions were deemed essential and urgent, but neither one had an owner or a tightly defined goal.

    I usually make a point of getting all the parameters thoroughly set up with the person asking for a session, but this time I let myself get dragged along in the perceived urgency. (I violated my own process in haste, which is precisely what I usually try to help clients avoid. Lots to unpack there. Anyway –)

    In the case of the first workshop, I made a setup based on my interpretation ofo various emails from various involved colleagues. This proved to be a waste, because the CEO joined the session and set the agenda in the moment. At least I now found the meeting owner.

    The second time, I had less time to prepare and decided to use that as an advantage, involving the workshop participants in the design at the start of our session.

    That went slightly better, but immediately following the workshop, I got a message from their manager: “hey, why was Person X not invited to the meeting?” Answer: No idea, the guest list came with the room reservation, and apparently, I wasn’t the only one who’d assumed that some other person had thought things through. Too late to fix it.

    Without me as a facilitator, it would have been mildly annoying, but after I’d agreed to “make it work”, it was now a liability.

    So, from now on: No IDOARRT? No meeting. For realsies. Mischief Makers explain:

    “The power of IDOARRT is that it enables all participants to understand every aspect of the meeting ahead, so they can relax and trust their time is being put to good use. The acronym stands for intention, desired outcome, agenda, rules, roles and responsibilities and time.”

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and Scrum on,
Thomas van Zuijlen

PS —

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