The three measures for team effectiveness. However…

I suggest there are only three measures leaders should examine when considering a team’s effectiveness. However, read to the end to understand the dangers of measuring team effectiveness.

  1. The team’s track record of delivering outcomes that addresses user/client/stakeholder needs. This is the ultimate arbiter of team effectiveness. Emphasis: Building the right thing
  2. The typical time it takes for the team to start working towards an outcome, to the point the outcome has been achieved. In other words the cycle-time.  Emphasis: Building the thing fast
  3. Particularly if it’s a software team, their level of tech debt. This allows leaders to understand the team’s ability to deliver further business outcomes. Emphasis: Building the thing right

Considering any more measurements will run the risk that leaders get blinded by proxy information, and risks them misjudging the team.

Of course, the team are at liberty to consider other information. However, this should just be for the team to interpret and make use of.

Even these three measures could lead to misjudgement. Therefore I suggest leaders should be coached in how to interpret this information, and be cautioned in how it could be misinterpreted.

Trading-off the emphasises

There’s a trade-off between the emphasises of building the right outcome, building it fast, and building the thing right. Leaders should work closely with the team to ensure these trade-offs are appropriately balanced.

The balance should reflect the current and future state of product/service/process development.

However…..

…..conversations and co-creation are better than managing by measurements

Consider what Einstein is attributed to have said:

Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted

If leaders only use measurements to judge a team’s effectiveness, there’s a temptation to manage the team indirectly. There’s also a dangerous possibility of misjudging the team.

Ideally, the leadership team should create a structure and set of processes which allows them to have meaningful conversations with the team. Leaders should involve themselves with the team to co-create and co-discover the best outcomes for their customers/clients/stakeholders.

Such an environment will outcompete any alternative where the leaders manage indirectly, provide little direct support and manage by measurements alone.

If measurements are being considered, leaders and the team should discuss and agree on the intention behind for measurements. It’s likely unintended behaviours and incentives will emerge, so with the team, measurements and its impact should be reviewed periodically.

When it an outcome achieved?

Mike Burrows’ Definitions of Done helps teams focused on, and be measured by, their effectiveness at delivering genuine business outcomes.

An outcome is not achieved if it’s at a stage before users/clients/stakeholders are demonstrably benefiting from it.

Further reading and thanks

Feedback is welcome.

RUDE – Estimate more than team effort

RUDE is a handy mnemonic for estimating the work needed to deliver its intended outcome(s).

It stands for Risks, Uncertainties, Dependencies, Effort.

It reminds teams that when estimating work, they need to consider more than the effort needed to deliver the work.

FACTOR DESCRIPTION
Risks Consider the likelihood and impact of known aspects that, if they come true, will threaten the work or its outcome(s). Such aspects can be managed.
Uncertainties What unknowns could there be?
How unfamiliar is this work?
Amongst stakeholders, how acceptable is the work and its outcome(s)?
Early in the project, such factors are likely to be unpredictable.
Dependencies Who, and what, is the team depend upon to deliver the outcome(s). The greater the dependencies the greater the complexity.
Effort Estimated time and energy needed by the team to deliver the outcome(s).

This is separate from the effort of other parties who are needed to deliver the outcome(s), but should include the team’s effort to liaise with those parties.

Sizing work items

Teams may want to use Fibonacci estimation to size work items relevant to each other.

Note that two work items may be of the same size for different reasons.

For example, a work item may need little team effort but have high dependencies, whereas another work item – of the same size – may need lots of team effort but have no dependencies beyond the team.

Example – Project to build a house extension

The Goal

Your family would like a house extension built. Consider the family as the project team.

Risks

There could be known aspects which threaten the extension. For example, it may be known that it needs to be built on land prone to subsidence.

Uncertainties

This might be the first time the family is having a house extension built. So, for them, there are many unknowns.

The extension’s design will be subject to the agreement of local authorities, building regulations and your neighbours’ consent. Consider these parties as stakeholders.

Regarding the work itself, you may need to gain permission to access your neighbour’s land.

At the start of the project, stakeholders’ responses are likely to be unpredictable.

Dependencies

What specialists are needed to build a house extension? Has your team and the various specialists worked together before?

Effort

How much time and energy do you and your family estimate will be needed to manage the house extension project?

Related reading

Risk vs Uncertainty in Project Management

A letter to a future client

Recently a potential client approached me about starting an engagement following some agile training I provided to their leadership team.

Although they’re very keen to get me on board, I wanted to check whether they were ready to work with me to uncover and deliver profound change to the organisation; change that is likely to make many leaders uncomfortable and sceptical.

Here’s what I wrote to them. I’ve anonymised identifying details.

From: Dean Latchana

Sent: 19 October 2018 11:26

To: xxx

Subject: Thoughts on joining [company]

Hi xxx,

Thank you for the offer for me to join [company].

In order for me to truly help the organisation, and know if I’d be a good fit, I’d like to understand the potential appetite for fairly profound organisational change.

It’s likely we’d need to review and change some fundamental expectations of how [company] is structured, how colleagues work together and how they’re led.

As we explored during the training, regardless of business ‘silos’, we need to consider creating more cross-functional small teams who sit together, potentially alongside their clients.

Regarding the clients, we may need to put more focus on collaboration, co-discover and joint experimentation to drive toward shared outcomes, and therefore put less emphasis on expected pre-defined deliverables.

We should also examine and change the traditional role of leaders. Changing them from defining pre-determined deliverables in a top-down manner. We probably need to coach leaders to embrace uncertainty in terms of how [company] competes, serves its clients and in terms of the natural uncertainty of innovation. Leadership probably need to switch to a governance structure which supports empowered delivery teams who continuously pivot or terminate initiatives as insight is gathered.

We need to consider how budgets are set. In a complex business environment, budgets probably shouldn’t be set on a 12-month cycle with pre-defined targets and resource allocations. To increase agility, innovation and competitiveness, we need to consider delivery teams having access to the “bank” where initiatives are frequently reviewed and financed on the strength of their latest insights and ROI.

We need to work with HR and Recruitment to ensure we have the right colleagues who have the right mindset to not only refine BAU operations, but also develop a mindset of exploration where there’s an appetite for ambiguity and delivering business outcomes at pace.

We probably need to visualise existing work at a portfolio level. An enterprise portfolio view will help us decide where to put emphasis, and quickly terminate any ongoing initiatives which aren’t delivering value now or in the future. At the portfolio level, we should consider creating a balanced scorecard that monitors existing ROI and potential ROI.

There’s plenty more we can explore and I’m saying all this without understanding [company] in great detail. However, what I’ve said gives a flavour of what we may need to change in order for [company] to operate effectively, serve its clients and compete.

Do you think my role will have the c-suite support for us to seriously consider these profound changes?

No doubt there’ll be hesitancy and some scepticism, however tactics are available for the leadership team to learn and adjust these new ways of working.

Best,
Dean

Talk: No longer distant cousins. Agile working with Finance

The following talk was given at Agile Tour London 2018

The talk will be given again in London on 22nd November: No longer distant cousins. Agile working with Finance

Contact me if you’d like to have this talk given at your organisation or event.


No longer distant cousins. Agile and Finance working together to ensure your organisation makes the right decisions with the right support.

The worlds of agile and finance often feel like distant cousins. Yet, considering the uncertainties of the business environment, they should be interlinked. Interlinked to enable organisations are making the right decisions, with the right people, at the right time, and with the right funds.

This talk will explore how to:

  • Start conversations that’ll create stronger links between agility and finance, and how to keep their shared journey on track.
  • Help create shorter funding cycles that’ll enable teams to strike the right balance between knowledge value and customer value
  • Ensure every discussion, choice and activity increases confidence that team goals will benefit the bottom-line and increase customer satisfaction
  • Help move your organisation from cost-based accounting to value-based outcome-driven accounting
  • Reduce centralised budgeting to allow greater freedom that enables the discovery of new value propositions
  • Help create a financial governance structure that support teams in adapting to change over following a plan

Up your game by supporting your organisation in making better investment choices that supports your teams, stakeholders and customers.

Starting an Engagement

In this article I’ll explain my current approach to starting an engagement or initiative with the leadership team.

This approach will ensure the initiative gets off and continues on the right footing. It’s been inspired by Collis’ and Rukstad’s approach to articulating a strategy.

Let’s start with establishing and agreeing the initiative’s intent, what outcomes it’s trying to achieve, and the rules of engagement. Created collectively during a kick-off workshop, each of the following should have a statement written in a few clear sentences; the balanced scorecard will need something a little more elaborate.

Mission

Why the initiative exists. What’s the underlying motivation of the initiative; what’s its contribution to the wider organisation and whom it’s ultimately serving.

Values

Establish what the engagement team will believe in, and how it will behave. This team is a partnership of the key stakeholders/leaders and the consultants/coaches.

The values govern how the team behave (“doing the right thing”), not necessarily what the team should do (“the right thing to do”).

Vision

What we want the initiative to deliver. It could be an indeterminate future goal.

Strategy

What’s our game plan. Identify a number of coherent approaches that the team have reasonable confidence in. From these create an ordered backlog.

Ensure they’re SMART objectives. Know that certain approaches may fail, so ensure a plurality of strategies, and a flexible mindset.

To ensure understanding and alignment, use tools such as Karl Scotland’s Backbriefing A3.

Balanced Scorecard

Monitor and judge which approaches are working against success criteria.

To help with visibility and alignment, ensure the statements and balanced scorecard are shared across the organisation and with the relevant suppliers & partners.

Throughout the engagement judge buy-in and motivation, especially their appetite for uncertainty and the need to potentially change some established expectations. Establish how much genuine leadership commitment exists, especially when it comes to making some tough trade-offs.

The kick-off should be the start of an ongoing review to see if the initiative is on track; to check whether to continue with the current set of approaches or pivot with another set.

Importantly, if despite best efforts, the initiative isn’t providing value, exercise the option to end it early. There’s no point spending time and money flogging a dead horse.

I’m available if you’d like someone experienced to facilitate this as part of an engagement’s kick-off and to periodically review progress.

References