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Choosing a Continuous Improvement Focus with the Wheel of (Collaborative) Fortune


Ahhhh, Wheel of Fortune.  How I loved that show when I was a kid.  Was it the spinning of a giant wheel, or the chance of winning a fortune?  The spinning of a giant wheel does have some child-like appeal.  And it seems I’m not the only one that feels that way, because Nat Gorman, sent us this – his Wheel of Collaborative Project Procurement Arrangements.

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Dr Derek Walker’s book, Collaborative Project Procurement Arrangements identifies 16 behaviours and practices that lead to greater collaboration and thus better outcomes for projects.  Nat and his team use the wheel to provide a focus for some of their continuous improvement work.

We spin, then deep dive into one, then rate ourselves, others, teams, groups, departments, orgs … for that element at that time to form spider diagrams over time  –  project metrics generated each time we’re at the agile board/at a stand up…

This spinning mechanism itself looks like it required some serious hacking, but also could easily be repurposed to easily create other wheels.

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Hacky Holidays


Quick tree hack for you all.

Thanks for reading this year. May it snow or shine, whichever is appropriate for your geography!

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Information gathering – a woolly solution


The best thing about a physical wall, in my mind, is the interactiveness of it.  The easier it is to engage with something, the higher the collaboration, understanding, learning.  So I was pretty interested when I saw this in street the other day.  What was going on?  What problem were they trying to solve with this?

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The local community had realised that despite having a lot of American Census data about their neighbourhood, there wasn’t any qualitative information gathered – things like how people perceive their community and how they want to see it.  So they wanted to survey the community, and get data they could correlate with the census data.  But they also wanted to overcome the problem of getting people to participate.  They didn’t want another boring survey, they wanted something that was fun and easy to interact with.

They set up an intriguing information radiator outside the library, on a market morning.  And it worked.  There was no need to entice people to fill in surveys because people couldn’t help but stop to look.  And then, they took a piece of wool and tied it to the pins that represented how they felt about their neighbourhood.  The same kind of questions that you’d get on a standard survey, but much more fun to answer.

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Different coloured wool represented different demographics within the neighbourhood.  And they match the demographics from the American Census, so data can be correlated accordingly.  (I got to tie on a white string).

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On the back of the board there were some more traditional activities going on – collecting suggestions on post-it notes as well as quadrant mapping feelings about various neighbourhood facilities.

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It was a great reminder of how the physical and interactive can engage and delight, and of the importance of making it easy to interact with.  I’m looking for a reason to use this at work soon…

For more information, see Community Census.

 

 

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Remote retro


At first glance, this is not a board hack.  I’ve been working more and more with remote teams lately, and that makes the use of physical, easily hackable materials much more difficult.  So my concept of a hack has altered slightly.   What ‘hacks’ to the physical process will make it work for a team that is not co-located?

I’ve run retros where a couple of team members have been remote.  And I always make sure to enable them to participate as fully as possible in the physical sticky note activities – by getting them to message/slack.text them to me so I can write them up.  But what about when everyone is remote?  What happens then?  Last week I ran my first retro where the entire team was remote. That’s right, not one of us was in the same room!

So my beloved post-it notes were replaced with a tool called stickies.io. It lets everyone log into a shared ‘wall’ where they can individually create sticky notes, then we can group them, vote on them and discuss them.  We used Google hangouts, with chat and also Slack for text communication.  It certainly was not as good as a physical interaction, but it turned out better than I expected.

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What did we learn?

  • The experience was “equalizing” – we all learned what it felt like to be someone working remotely.  Usually this team has 4 or 5 people co-located, and they tend to get most of the air time in meetings, having everyone remote meant the interactions were more equal.
  • Facilitating when you can’t see people’s faces is difficult. It took a while to get used to scanning Hangouts, watching the chat, Slack and reading the sticky notes. Practice makes perfect!
  • We had to turn off video because the connection was dropping out. This improved the connection, but the facilitating was even harder.
  • stickies.io is tricky to use on a small screen with so many people (easy to stick notes on top of one another, and group them by mistake). But it is infinitely scalable so a big screen made a big difference.
  • For me, the cognitive load of interacting with the technology (typing, organising stickies) whilst facilitating was much more difficult than dealing with physical post-its, so having a second person move the sticky notes around and another capture actions while I facilitated helped a lot.  This will probably get easier the more time I do it.
  • It’s can be to tell who someone is from their stickies.io avatar, especially if it doesn’t match their Slack and their Hangouts avatars. Next time we might preface each sticky with the author’s name.
  • We were pretty good at not talking over each other.  This team is used to having 3 or 4 remote members at any one time, so they are aware of this already, if you’ve working with a team not used to this then you might need some tactics to combat it.

stickies.io has a handy feature that allows the facilitator to switch the board to incognito mode so that everyone can focus on just their own stickies – solo brainstorming.  Of course, there’s always someone who wants to game the system, so in less than a minute one of our developers had hacked this too.  Not quite the kind of hack I hope for…

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Who invented the post-it note? And why?


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Source: http://meatfighter.com/postit/

Funnliy, for someone who uses so many post it notes, I have never asked myself this question.  (I am a little embarrassed by this since ‘Why?’ is such a fundamental question in Agile Coaching!}  Today, by accident, I discovered the answer.

In a book for Agile stationery-lovers everywhere, The Perfection of the Paper Clip, author James Ward reveals the answer:

“The Post-it note came about by accident, really. There was a guy called Spencer Silver, who was working at 3M. He was trying to come up with a really strong glue. Unfortunately, he got the formula wrong and created a very, very weak glue, which is not much use if you’re a company that sells glue. There was another colleague there called Art Fry, who as well as working for 3M, he was in a choir, and he used to use little pieces of paper to mark the pages in his hymn book. And those bits of paper would keep falling out, and he thought, oh, if only there was some kind of weak glue that I could use to stick these bits of paper in the book … and that’s how the Post-it note was born.”

Ironically, a solution looking for a problem!

Read more about the book and listen to the author on NPR radio here.  For more on the history of the post-it note, visit the post-it website.

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A Most Excellent Roadmap for your Adventure


Like they say at UK.gov, ” if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

This post is so perfect, we just had to link to it. Read and enjoy.

http://www.mindtheproduct.com/2014/07/experiments-roadmapping-gov-uk/

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Worst Jobs in History: Who sits where?


Here’s a candidate for the worst job in history. Put your hand up to be the one who figures out who sits where in an office, when there is a move or a restructure on.  An endless cycle of creating spreadsheets, consulting with people, updating spreadsheets, consulting again.  And no one is allowed to see it until it’s final for fear that they complain.  What a nightmare.

But my friend Nat has it figured out. The ultimate transparency in seating plans.  Instead of the endless rounds of secret consultations, and paper updating, he creates a place for conversation and thinking about who is going to sit where. On his filing cabinet, he sticks up a seating chart and uses people-shaped memo magnets, colour-coded further with liquid paper and highlighters to represent different teams:

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Each team can see where they are sitting, and can try out different combinations with Nat.  “What if we did this?…”

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It’s easy to update and change, you never have to worry about accidentally deleting someone (you can’t lose these magnets, they are so strong that if they are anywhere near the filing cabinet they will home in like an exocet missile), and if you need a soft-copy – just snap a picture.

(But what if you don’t have a handy filing cabinet?  Aussiemagnets.com.au also stock a range of flexible iron products that can make a magnetic surface where there is none. Want to use magnetic cards but you have a glass wall?  You can attach flexible iron to the walls with double-sided tape, and the whole area is magnet-friendly.)

 

Spotted: If we tell you we’ll have to kill you.

 

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Lego Calendar


Lego calendar

On the topic of 3d hacks, did you see this excellent calendar?

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Lean Coffee?


You know how Melbournites can get about our coffee – if you dis my macchiato dealer, you’ll get into a stoush faster than you can say “Carlton sucks”.

One of my locals is the Postal Hall. I was intrigued recently by the particular visual dialect they use to make their tasks and queues visible. Look at the pictures below:

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This is a queue. And the arrangement of spoons, bottle caps and milk jugs are the visual language.

The first cup in the queue is a flat white (milk jug) for the outside right table (see bottle cap), with one sugar (1 spoon). And it’s followed up by a cafe latte with two sugars for the same table.

If customers have a special requirement, this is signalled with the use of an ice cream stick: “smokin hot”!

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The waitstaff bring the jobs in and set them up, and the barista creates the brew. No need to read a list, a quick glance at the setup tells the barista all he needs to know.

Next up, WIP queue limits?

For another example of lean in the fast food industry, see Nigel Dalton‘s classic post here.

We’d love to hear of other examples. Seen any lately?

Spotted: Postal Hall, 116 Russell St, Melbourne.

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Blocks of Time


Trying to keep track of time spent on different tasks. Or clients. Or projects. Maybe you have had this problem. I know I have. You want to do it easily as you go. We all hate timesheets, and trying to remember what we did all day. Imagine if it easy. Imagine if it was fun!

If you’re a consultant, you need it for billing purposes. If you’re not, your boss, or your timesheet might require it – or you might just be interested in understanding your work.  Michael Hunger had this problem, and he created this 3D hack to solve it:

Michael Hunger's week, represented in Lego.

Michael Hunger’s week, represented in Lego.

Here’s how it works.

Right there, that’s Michael’s week. Each row of bricks represents an hour, and each tower is a day. As he goes through his day, he uses the coloured blocks to represent the project he’s working on (the box of lego came with 8 colours, and he figures thats enough to cover his projects).  As he goes hour by hour, he adds the coloured bricks to the row for that hour. And builds up his day. The sizes of the bricks allow Michael to track in 15 minute increments, which should be enough.

When he’s building his day tower, he has a single unit lego “day” ruler next to it, to remind him how high 8 hours is. For him, thats his 10am to 6pm day. You can see this below:

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Read the full details about this hack on Michael’s excellent blog, Better Software Development.

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