Archive for the ‘decision making process’ Category

Predictable & resilient programs

15 November, 2013

Too many efforts get lost in complexity or frustration.

“I wish we had known before, what we know now; we never would have started this project”

“Why don’t they listen to us?” asked the project manager himself about management

Many programs keep their focus regardless changes in the system around them

We live in a world that is dynamic and always in motion. That’s a fact. So, how can we know today, what will be the challenge of tomorrow? The answer is simple: we do not know, unless…

Starting a program is to achieve some goal that was defined yesterday. How do you manage a program that aims to achieve something that may or may not be changed while you do your utmost best to get there? How can you early recognize a changing goal that you targeted?

Organizations need to be able to apply a kind of rocket that is guided to it’s moving target by means of laser. Listen2Change offers this management guidance. We provide the laser beam that the decision maker transfers into an adjusted focus, based on new knowledge of the target and the system.

A program in a system influences the system and is impacted by unpredictable agents in that system and events outside that system.

We visualize the influences and resulting changes on regular basis (daily, weekly, ..). It enables weak signal detection to identify risks or opportunities.

For this we use short anecdotes from all stakeholders in the system. Each anacdote-teller adds predefined ‘tags’ or signifying data to their anecdote. The signification provides navigation through the hundreds of anecdotes. it unleashes understanding detailed changes and impact from the perspective of each participant.

The underlying assumption is that people exchange information via stories. The stories are triggered by open questions and gathered independent from each other.  The complete set of stories provide a true reflection of the  reality. As it is continuous it truly provides your laser beam towards a moving target.

The method provides any program or mission the means to start without a clear understanding of the final result. This result will emerge from the running program and its impact in the system.

 

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Giving customers their legitimate place in software development.

26 August, 2013

Being really lean means that only that functionality customers use (and are willing to pay for) is developed and released. That means being so agile, that trends and patterns in customer needs/wishes and problems are continuously understood and drive service/product development and delivery.

For this the ‘voice of the customer’ needs to be continuously monitored. The result of the listening is to be analyzed and integrated in the development life cycle (e.g. product backlogs).

As not all new functionality or innovations originate from customers, also the ‘voice of the internal-experts needs to be continuously monitored. This knowledge, experiences and ideas is integrated in the development life cycle as well.

In earlier blogs I wrote in Customer Sensor Networks. Being the same subject, it lacks the natural place in the present developments in agile software development methods. By lack of a better word I use in this blog the term CusDevCus which stands for Customer-Development-Customer. With Development I mean the complete development lifecycle including Marketing, Sales, Product Management, Development, Release and Operations, ect. I am open for any better term.

Core elements of CusDevCus are:

  1. Integrated customer feedback (or external expert feedback) into the development life cycle loop to create integrated feedback,. Integrated feedback
    1. is unlimited in size, the larger the amount of participants, the more effective the next release,
    2. gains insight in trends and weak signals for present and future functionality,
    3. is generated in the form of testing developed functionality as well as new (unrelated) ideas.
  2. Integrated employee (as internal experts) feedback with the same aspects explained under the integrated customer feedback and
    1. open to all employees, continuously…
  3. The feedback combines both quantitative and qualitative information.
  4. Each feedback is signified by the feedback provider. This provides navigation through large amount of feedback.
  5. The Product Owner analyses the feedback-patterns. The combined quantitative and qualitative information enables both a deep understanding of the explicit functionality-feedback and the high level patterns.
  6. Because the feedback is integrated in agile development methods (like Scrum, Kanban, OpenUP, ..) experimentation of new functionality is possible in a semi-real environment using real customers.  This seriously reduces R&D and Sales and Marketing effort and optimizes organizational learning.
  7. CusDevCus fully builds on devOps, BusDevOps lean startup and other agile evolutions.
  8. CusDevCus is based on open feedback in the form of narratives. That means there are no preformatted testforms or questionnaires for feedback.
  9. Of course the open format feedback does not eliminate the need for professional testing!

10. CusDevCus focuses on different user groups. Different user groups have different needs. They reveal different uses (or no use) of functionality.

In my view the above described next step in agile (software) development is a natural one. The main question is whether companies are able to make the mental shift to integrate the customer as described in the software development lifecycle.

Human Sensor Networks

13 March, 2013

Michael Cheveldave from Cognitive Edge wrote a blog on human sensor networks. It is excellent reading material. This blog contains the highlights of Michael’s explanation, with references to Agile IT development and DevOps.

By changing human sensor networks into customer sensor networks, I merely focus on the application of CSN in IT Agile development life cycles. You may easily argue to keep human sensor networks, as also own employees or other relevant stakeholders provide feedback using the CSN system.

Michael explains the role SenseMaker® plays in delivering organizations the value of human sensor networks.

… by engaging a large number of people in the process of making sense of their everyday experiences and observations, and allowing meaning to be effectively layered on such experiences we stimulate a network of agents in the systems to make sense of the system themselves.

By integrating different customer groups in functionality definition we will

  • easier and sooner understand real customer needs
  • build a fruitful relationship with the customer-base
  • create pro-active sponsors at the customers of the product
  • enable the customer-base to better understand their needs, and innovative possibilities that the organization can provide
  • better understand which private betas to be tested by which user group type
  • better understand collected quantitative data by means of this qualitative data

… think about how traditional approaches often emphasise the value of external experts or selectively privilege a small team within the company on such strategic decisions.

The decision making process which functionality to build and release

  • focusses more quickly to that functionality actually needed by customers
  • enables, together with feature flags, different features to be released to different customers types (based on their needs)

Sales and marketing collect valuable information on their targeted customer groups. Information is achieved cheaper, faster and more reliable then based on traditional marketing research.

The approach (a human sensor network AK) allows for the executive team to tap into the distributed cognition, intelligence, scanning, and knowledge of a broader network in a way that effectively informs key strategic decisions.

Reading experiences, ideas and frustrations from actual users, exposes product management, marketing managers and developers to the impact of their initial ideas on what functionality is needed. When well guided, the team will quickly and easily understand existing patterns and needs. Future releases are more effective and efficient.

The ultimate result is a learning organization. People from different organizational silo’s co-interpret and co-decide based on both trends and contextual information. This leads to an organizational wide understanding of and believe in the business goals and opportunities.

Applying customer sensor networks (CSN) in Lean Startup and DevOps teams

7 March, 2013

The Lean Startup movement addresses the issue to match product functionality to market demand. For this a contextual external customer feedback loop needs to be implemented. A customer sensor network using SenseMaker® provides online, real-time and continuous contextual feedback, closing the feedback loop.

SenseMaker uses an online collector website that lets customers provide feedback by means of narratives. Each narrative gets a title. The customers also provide additional meaning to their narrative. The system categorizes feedback based on the meaning given by the customers. This avoids overhead during analysis for the organization. The SenseMaker analysis software supports the evaluation of the feedback. Enabling effective and short evaluation time. This feedback mechanism enables evaluation of large amounts of feedback from different customer or user groups.

The analysis software provides both quantitative and qualitative evaluation. The quantitative aspects provide insight if functionality acceptance level. The qualitative aspects provide deeper insight in innovation opportunities. For example alternative or unforeseen use of the functionality. On the other side of the same scale, the feedback points to a risk or threat. For example that the new functionality is not well accepted by early innovators.

Customer sensor networks integrate with Lean Startup pilot experiments and DevOps private beta’s. It also provides for DevOps implementation the needed internal and external feedback for development. The internal feedback from operations to development is useful in case when the DevOps consists of multiple team in different locations.

CSN makes it possible that for some types of development, product management joins DevOps teams to form ProDevOps. This really reduces overhead and transition costs. It enables a whole new approach to app development in a true Agile manner.

 

SenseMaker is a Cognitive Edge product linking micro-narratives with human sense-making to create advanced decision support, research and monitoring capability in both large and small organisations.

 

Sensemaking based employee satisfaction surveys for happy employees

7 June, 2012

Sensemaking based surveys supports organizations that wants to engage all their employees in strategic and tactical decision making, innovation and knowledge generator.
We at TOP innosense make this promise a guarantee.

Everybody knows those standard surveys which state for example that the satisfaction rose from 6.7 last year to 6.8 this year. Everybody a bonus! But what these types of old fashioned surveys lack, is the actual engagement of all staff in the overall and daily strategic and tactical decision making, innovation and knowledge generator if the company. What a waste!

How to accomplish this? Simple by using the Cynefin framework and the supporting Sensemaking® software.

Managing an organization or any sized group of people is a complex task. There are too many stakeholders, events or other types of modulators that interact continuously and unpredictable. Any change can only be explained on hindsight. So starting with a predefined plan on any level (strategic or tactical) is doomed to fail.

Sensemaking lets the organization continuous listening to the (coffee machine) anecdotes or micro-stories. It enables all employees to enter their thoughts and ideas. The gathering is either written or spoken text, a picture or a photo. The anecdotes are provided additional meaning by the original authors. When also external stakeholders are invited to enter their thoughts, ideas and opinions in the Sensemaking database, the organization has an in depth knowledge on what is at stake below the surface,

Cynefin shows how to addressed and manage complex problems. Experiments supports learning and identifying in which direction the company and it’s strategy flows. Because of the agile approach, the company is continuously and fluently able to manoeuvre effectively.

Anyone in the organization is able to see the stories entered (continuous monitoring). Because the process is real time, your story is read and used tomorrow. This enables quick adaption of decisions directly after decisions have been made. This in turn enables adjusting decisions early in the process, when the cost or repair is still low, or the impact still limited.

What of all the above is the result on the morale of the employees? I guess you know 😉

Out-focussed (domain-novice) facilitation in Sensemaking projects for better results

31 May, 2012

Last week I participated in a very interactive and useful workshop on Sensemaker®. Sensemaker provides a platform to gather, process, and visualize knowledge. Part of the discussions in smaller groups went on the application of Sensemaker. One of the discussed aspects was the possible result of Sensemaking projects in the context of the customer. In this blog I’ll defend a bold statement: “the ‘novice-domain’ or ‘out-focused’ facilitator is more likely to provide surprising or unexpected results then the field-expert of in-focused.”

Underlying to this statement is the pure uniqueness of Sensemaking projects. It enables large-scale fine-tuned listening to an unlimited number of people. It provides decision makers, innovation seekers and researchers in general, a method to distill hidden or weak information/knowledge. This is based on the Cynefin framework and the Sensemaker Ecology, Also check Dave Snowden’s blogs.

Before going into details some explanation. In 2006 I learned out-focussed coaching in personal and team potential exploration programs. Out-focussed means that as coach (or facilitator) you do not need to understand the underlying problem being discussed. As coach you focus on the convictions of the coachee.

An example: Let’s say I coach Peter. Peter’s question is his effectiveness in his team. In the coaching session he recalls a difficult situation in his team. In stead of asking him to explain the situation (to understand what happened) I ask him what he wanted to get out of the situation, what prevented him to achieve this and what he can do different next time. As Peter doesn’t need to explain the situation (which he already knows), we save time and address the problem at hand directly. 
At the end of the session Peter leaves with a better understanding on his own actions and convictions. The result would have been much less if I coached in-focussed. Asking questions on the situation; what his history was with the team; explaining similar situations I had been; etc.

My statement is that out-focussed (of novice-domain experts) facilitators, are able to generate more surprising knowledge and results on the subject then domain experts who integrate their expertise during the whole project. Of course the out-focused facilitator needs to be an experienced and knowledgeable (big) group facilitator. He also is an Cynefin and Sensemaking expert.

During Sensemaking workshops and in the configuration of the Sensemaker tool, an out-focused facilitator is able to extract and use more and more unexpected information from the participants. By being out-focused the facilitator is also not tempted to steer the outcome of the evaluate the (intermediate) results himself. The latter is described as being in-focused.   
Out-focused Sensemaking expert enables knowledge, insights, answers and innovation ideas to emerge. Any intervention (a word, a proposal, a gesture) from the facilitator, is a risk that this unexpected emergence of knowledge is subdued.

For the same reason, using internal Sensemaking experts is not advisable as the risk is even bigger. Unless of course the facilitator is not an domain-expert and is free from internal (political) strings.

How to deal with complexity before it kills your project

29 March, 2012

We live in an unpredictable world. Our relationships (family, friends, society), our products and organizational structures are complex. This complexity is ignored by most of us. On every level in our lives we ignore this complexity and act as if all our problems are simple.
On the same playing field we manage most of our projects as if they act in a fixed, stable environment. But every project manager knows that at project start most of the requirements are unclear, our (fixed) budget is wrong. No wonder project members and customers are frustrated and our project managers burned down!
I had my fair share of contribution to this situation. As a CMMI expert I told organizations and project managers how they were expected to run projects. Based on the knowledge of today, I sincerely apologize.

Projects
Typical projects deal with dozens, if not hundreds of stakeholders. Each of whom has personal-, team-, organizational targets, (limiting and changing) convictions, (hidden) agenda’s, political agenda’s etc. You’ll get the picture on how growling difficult it is for any project manager to successfully deliver a project.
To worsen things, projects (and organizations) are managed as if people, like machines, are capable of programmable repeatable executing intelligent tasks.
The solution then is to treat projects as complex systems. For this we need language and solutions capable dealing with complex problems.

Cynefin©
The solution to handle complexity and uncertainty, is to recognize the solution method  for the problem at hand. For this reason the Cynefin© model is helpful. Cynefin© describes 4 domains to categorize problems: simple, complicated, complex and chaotic. Depending in which domain your problem situates, it provides mechanisms to deal with the problem.
In the simple domain has a clear relationship between cause and effect. The problem is addressed by sensing the problem (I can’t read), categorize (it is dark) and respond (switch on the light)
Problems in the complicated domain require some form of investigation. Typically you would hire or go to an expert to get it fixed. This is done by sensing (my arm hurts) analyze (doctor identifies a broken arm) and response (applies a plaster bandage).
In a complex environment (covering most of the project management problems) the relationship between cause and effect is not known up front. It can only be determined afterwards. Therefore the approach here is to react by means of probe (try a small subset of requirements), sense (let the customer evaluate), response (redo if not ok, else continue with next subset).
The chaotic domain is not a domain where good or best practices work. Here acting is done (stop the traffic) sensing applied (2 cars, 1 truck, 5 injured) followed by response (you call for more support, you do traffic control, you attend to the wounded).

Scrum
Scrum in its core is essential an approach for complex problems. It is time-framed method in which a team addresses a subset of the total customer requests. At the end of each sprint the customer evaluates the delivered part of the solution. It applies the probe, sense and response approach from the Cynefin© model.
Introduction of scrum on project level only, without appliance of agile principles in other areas (e.g. product management, portfolio management), the positive effects of scrum will soon vaporize.

Software development and project management
Joseph Pelrine explains in his paper “on understanding software agility” 1 that most software development problems are situated in the complicated domain, whereas project management problems are mostly situated in the complex or chaotic domain.
This further supports the above statement that organizations need to apply lean principles on management then only on software development.

deal with complexity
In a next blog I’ll get more practical and discuss methods to support an agile approach in software development.
For more information about applying Cynefin based tools and methods I refer to TOP innosense. TOP innosense is a network partner of Cognitive Edge in The Netherlands.

1) On Understanding Software Agility—A Social Complexity Point Of View E:CO Issue Vol. 13 Nos. 1-2 2011 pp. 26-37

5 tips voor gelukkige en efficiënte medewerkers

8 January, 2012

Iedereen kent ze, medewerkers die ogenschijnlijk veel werk verzetten en dit doen zonder veel over te werken. Zij zijn ook nog eens goedgehumeurd en komen en gaan met een glimlach. Het zijn de mensen die zowel gelukkig als efficiënt hun werk doen. Het zijn ook deze mensen die anderen in hun omgeving beter laten presteren.

Hun tegenpool kent ook iedereen. Je ziet ze vaak bij het koffieautomaat de gang van zaken van giftigecommentaar voorzien. Zij ontnemen anderen de lust en energie in het werk. Ze zijn de intriganten van uw team of onderneming.

Gelukkig is de gemiddelde medewerker niet zo extreem negatief. Maar ook niet echt positief. En dat is jammer. Want positief ingestelde mensen zijn blij, vriendelijk, energiek,  klantgericht, collegiaal en bereid tot leren. Dit artikel geeft enkele praktisch tips over hoe medewerkers gelukkiger én efficiënter te laten zijn.

Nog even iets over gelukkig zijn. Gelukkige mensen zijn mensen die best wel eens balen of teleurgesteld zijn. Maar zij herstellen snel van een tegenslag, en blijven hier niet in hangen. Als iets mislukt is, denken ze na op welke andere manier ze dit toch kunnen realiseren. Zij blijven niet hangen in wrok, en zoeken de oorzaak niet standaard buiten zichzelf. Zij beseffen dat dezelfde (re)acties, dezelfde resultaten opleveren. Na een mislukking proberen ze iets anders waardoor er een ander resulaat ontstaat. Kortom gelukkige mensen zijn vaak ook effectieve mensen.

Mensen gelukkig en efficiënt maken is onmogelijk. Mensen gelukkig en efficiënt laten worden is wel zeer goed mogelijk.  Ik geef een aantal tips die iedereen direct kan toepassen. Let wel, je hoeft geen directeur of manager te zijn om dit toe te passen. Begin gewoon in je eigen team.

1.  Wees zélf gelukkig en efficient.

Medewerkers prikken feilloos door loze woorden.  Dus wanneer je anderen gelukkiger en efficienter wilt maken, moet je zelf  gelukkig en efficient zijn. Je kunt hiervoor ook een bestaand rolmodel in de eigen organisatie gebruiken. Maar besef dat als je zelf niet de nodige stappen zet en laat zien dat je hier actief aan werkt, mensen niet zullen volgen. Mensen volgen actie, geen woorden.

2. Maak al aanwezige gelukkige en efficiënte medewerkers meer zichtbaar.

Dit is een variant op successen vieren. Medewerkers die gelukkig en efficient zijn in hun werk en anderen hiermee ondersteunen, zijn de ambassadeurs van de nieuwe manier van werken. Zij coachen anderen en u laat zich ook zichtbaar door hen coachen.

3.    Creëer een leeromgeving.

Kinderen leren door spel en het maken van fouten. Uw medewerkers leren te zien wat er is misgegaan door het analyseren van fouten.

Systeemfouten zijn er vaak de oorzaak van dat medewerkers fouten maken. Dit soort fouten vinden en oplossen is zeer efficient. Het voorkomt dat meerdere medewerkers (dezelfde) fouten maken. Daarnaast levert het ook een emotionele winst op omdat persoonlijke fouten op systeemniveau worden geaddresseerd. Dit geeft ruimte aan creativiteit en leren.

Straf (minder bonus, een reprimandum of ontslag) ontneemt iedere medewerker de lust om te leren. Fouten maken wordt zoveel mogelijk vermeden. Er ontstaat een cultuur van angst en starheid. In plaats van een mogelijk probleem snel te duiden, zullen medewerkers dit nalaten in de hoop dat iemand anders de dupe wordt.

4.    Creëer een omgeving waar mensen elkaar écht kennen.

Werken in een omgeving waar je je collega’s kent werkt stimulerend. Het is fijn te weten dat jouw zwakte de kracht van iemand anders is, zodat je hulp kunt vragen wanneer dit nodig is. Ook maakt het leren mogelijk. Wanneer collega’s bijvoorbeeld weten dat iemand thuis problemen heeft, zullen zij hun collega waar mogelijk helpen om te zorgen dat het team er niet onder lijdt.

Het kennen van collega’s heeft ook positieve resultaten over afdelingen heen.

In veel bedrijven zijn afdelingen fysiek en procesmatig gescheiden. Informatie wordt op 1 plek verwerkt en daarna doorgestuurd naar een andere afdeling. Veelal weten collega’s van verschillen afdelingen niet op welke manier hun informatie verderop in de procesketen wordt verwerkt. Door mensen van verschillende afdelingen met elkaar in contact te brengen zullen zij elkaar sneller betrekken in het ‘leanen’ van gegevensverwerking. Zo onstaat een geoptimaliseerde informatiestroom én zijn medewerkers effectiever, trots en dus gelukkiger.

5.   Evalueer regelmatig.

Leren is blijvend kijken naar wat goed ging en wat anders en beter kan. Het leuke van leren is dat het nooit ophoudt. Er bestaat geen perfecte manier van werken. Zodra een stap is geperfectioneerd, komen andere stappen in het vizier om te verbeteren.

Zelfevaluatie is een van de meest effectieve (in termen van kosten en opbrengsten) manieren om de eigen manier van werken continu te verbeteren.

Bovenstaande 5 stappen zijn een eerste aanzet voor positieve gedragsverandering. Het is een traject waarin doen en voorbeeldgedrag, en niet KPI’s en extern opgelegde richtlijnen, resultaten opleveren.

 

 

Co Chi faciliteert verandertrajecten voor professionals, teams en organisaties. Medewerkers worden daardoor gelukkiger en effcienter. De verandertrajecten hebben een korte, gefixeerde doorlooptijd.

Neem voor meer informative contact op met Arno Korpershoek: 06 50 828 718.

The myths of a management consultant

30 December, 2009

This blog is triggered by an interview with a managing partner of McKinsey.
The interviewer put forward some valid questions on the role, impact and responsibilities of a management consultant (or consultant). The questions that triggered me were the ones on the responsibility of consultants in big projects like the mergers of companies like ABNAMRO. And more precisely, their believed impact in company decisions.

There is some kind of negative myth on consultants that I will address here. There are also positive myths!

Myth 1: Consultants are heavily overpaid.
I believe consultants are well paid. But the fee of a consultant is not transferred directly to his bank account. The fee covers the following costs: salary (of the consultant, management layers, secretaries, accountant, IT people,…), travel expenses (hotel, flight, car, taxi), housing of the company, lower fees, times with no paid work, training, health insurance, pensions, insurance for claims, unpaid sales activities (tenders, visits, ..) holidays, taxes, IT costs, …

As I work alone, I do not have the costs like housing, expenses for managers etc. On the other side, I do not have any colleagues who bring in money when I do not have a paid assignment (holidays, illness, no work).  The challenge of a consultant is that money only comes in when he is on a paid assignment.

Myth 2: the almighty consultant.
This is the myth of the almighty consultant to whom company management just hands over the steering wheel.
Clearly the consultant, depending on the relative consultant/management skill and experience level, can have more or less impact on the decisions and direction of the company. But company management remains fully responsible of its decisions and actions. I do not know any manager, who accepts the word of any consultant, without making this decision his own.

Myth 3: A consultant cannot know what is best for us as he is from outside.
It is not uncommon to hear from company management that the special situation of that company is so special, that someone from outside the company is unable to help them. In many cases this is a typical over estimation of the own speciality. An analysis and proposed solution from outside can work beneficial, as it helps breaking the circle in which organizational management solves effects in stead of root causes.

The following is not another myth, but a characteristic.

The consultant is never right but company management is.
One key characteristic of a good consultant is to be able to leave honours and praise to the client (this is when the result is as expected) and to accept the blame for all that goes wrong. It’s part of the game.

I end with some valid reasons or what good a consultant can bring to any organisation:

  • Temporary needed skills and experience, saves hiring own staff
  • ‘Sell’ a decision or change program into the organisation
  • Provide an outside, fresh view on an internal situation, with an possible solution
  • Provide an objective benchmark on the performance level of the organisation
  • Coach and train organisational staff (management as well as technical)
  • Assist in decision making processes (objective, analytical, external info gathering and evaluation, decision criteria definition, …)

I wish you all an exiting and successful 2010!