Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak about Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) at Agile PM meet up group  in Melbourne.  It was really an honor to speak with such an incredibly experienced, knowledgeable audience. At the end of the session, we had very engaging Q&A.

As part of the session, I shared some of the challenges of  scaling Agile and possible solutions as well. One of the solution being, applying the Large Scale Scrum(LeSS). 

Based on my experience of working on several large scale Agile projects, I have come to realize the following 4 types of challenges common across large enterprises.  They are People, Process, Tools/Technology and Org Structure/Culture. 

I have summarized the challenges into this diagram


Even though these challenges are common in small Agile projects but gets amplified while scaling Agile.

The popular  Scaling Frameworks are as follows:   Spotify,  XScale, SAFe, DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery).


In addition to the above,  Large Scale Scrum(LeSS) by Craig Larman is popular as well.  I have personally applied this while working with Craig Larman during 2006 at Valtech India. LeSS and LeSS Huge are two variants for large scale projects.  LeSS huge can be depicted as shown in the diagram below:


LeSS is based on some of the proven principles around Queuing Theory,  Systems Thinking  and Empirical Process Control  as shown below.


If you want to learn more about  applying Large Scale Scrum on your projects, do drop me an email and happy to share the ideas.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What is Loyalty ?

No one plans to fall sick isn't it? Similarly, when I caught some flu couple of years ago, we were eager to see a doctor. Being new to our suburb, googled around to find a nearby medical center. Took an appointment with "any available GP," visited and got better.

After some time, it was my wife's turn. When she wasn't keeping well, she too called the medical center, took an appointment with "any available GP" and felt better.

Apparently she visited a different GP than mine. She recommended me to see him next. Over the course of time, we noted his name and started getting appointment specifically with him when needed. Suddenly one day we heard that he moved out of this medical center, and the receptionist wasn't eager to share his new coordinates.
We felt a bit sad as he knew us well, and we had a built a good rapport over the years and now we don’t know his whereabouts.

Later due to circumstances, we moved to a different suburb and once again started the search for "any available GP". We weren't so happy with the GPs we had seen compared to our earlier one. We used to remember our earlier GP once in a while.

One day we casually thought of searching our earlier GPs name on google, and some names came up. We called a few and one of them actually turned out to be our earlier GP. Everyone was elated, and we went and met him as well. He was not only surprised to see us but was beaming with a big smile.

I would call our selves as the loyal customers for this GP as we did everything we could do get the services only from him even when several options were available.

Loyalty is something when you chose a specific service inspite of having many options in available to you. Of course, a more formal definition from Wikipedia would be “Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause.”

On the other hand, repeat business is something where customers use existing service as they don't have an alternate option.

It is shameful to see that many companies measure "repeat business" rather than "loyalty." Loyalty is much more powerful than getting a repeat customer. Loyalty is something that will enable the company to grow during downturns and fierce competition. Repeat customer will leave you and go when they find better options.

Nowadays companies rollout the so-called "loyalty program." Big shopping malls and airlines have this loyalty program. I feel that this is a bit misnomer. People tend to go back to these companies not because they like the service, but because they get some discounts or redeemable reward points. I don't call such programs as a "loyalty programs", but as "carrot programs."

Couple of things I liked about our family GP has been his relationship building skills, his frankness, his specialty, customer service and respect for us.

Here is another personal example, while I moved to a new suburb, I was scouting for an electricity provider. I was calling each provider and gathering various details. As one could see, each one was tried their level best to sell a service by sharing their discount program, except one of them who explained their weaknesses as well. She not only suggested alternate but better options. I genuinely got connected with this company. Lesson learnt, being truthful and genuine breeds loyalty.

To conclude, It is very important for a business to evaluate if the returning customer is a loyal one or a repeat.

Even though we have tools like NPS, it won't clearly tell you the difference between loyalty and repeat. It partially helps to understand the situation though.

Always try to build a loyal customer base and work towards converting the repeat customers to loyal ones.

I have also posted this article on LinkedIn

Monday, September 15, 2014

Increase speed by incentives and sacrifice quality

Recently  I read an article in the news paper about improving the speed of passport delivery to citizens.  This is the news published in Times of India. It seems that passports are getting delayed as the police verification is taking a lot of time. In order to improve the speed, the passport office is planning to incentivize the police.  That is, if  the police completes their verification within 21 days, then would get more money else they are penalized by reducing the incentive.  I felt that this is one of the most dumbest idea ever implemented !!

Here is the quote from the news paper:

However, he said the delivery of passports has been expedited by incentivizing police. "We have reduced the time taken for delivery once the application is sent for processing. We are insisting that the police department send in police verification reports in 21 days. For each report sent before 21 days, cops are incentivized Rs 150 per report. If sent later, they get Rs 25 only. This will reduce the time taken to get the passport delivered. In some cases, the passport is delivered less than a week if verification report is sent fast,"

There are couple of issues with the above idea:

1. I don’t think any root cause analysis has been done to identify the delay in verification. There could be various reasons for the delay.

      For example, this passport verification may not be the top of police’s backlog list.  It is also possible that police force don’t have sufficient people to support this activity.

A root cause analysis could have helped to unearth the real cause of the delay and proper action could have been taken.

2. Going forward, I could see that the all police verification will complete within 21 days due to incentives. Question is, at the cost of  WHAT ?    I could see that the quality of verification will drop heavily as the possible root causes are never addressed. 

Being in the software industry, we keep hearing that external motivation causes more harm than the anything else.  The above story correlates to what we commonly see in the organizations. Employees are incentivized for ensuring on time delivery. But the companies pays for the cost of quality at a later stage, which no one really bothers or accounts for. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Your understanding of Kaizen is wrong

Kaizen is popularly associated with continuous learning or continuous improvement.  However, where people get wrong is who should continuously improve ? 

Most Agilists and Leanists use Kaizen in the context of team improvement. That is, an agile team should continuously improve, and thus excluding the managers/leaders, rest of the company. 

This is exactly where the understanding goes wrong.   The true Kaizen involves continuous improvement across the organization starting from the CxOs, and involving HR department, Finance, PMOs, Sales and marketing. It is also about improving everyday and everywhere. 

So to conclude, you are not really following Kaizen if the expectation for improvement is only for the team(shopfloor) and rest are excluded !!!

Watch this video to hear directly from the master Masaaki Imai, founder of Kaizen Institute