Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Eight Agile Wastes of Hanukah: #2 Handovers

Each night of Hanukah, the custom is to light an increasing number of candles, placed in a nine-slot candelabra, the hanukiyah. Two candles are lit on the first night of Hanukah, three on second night, culminating with all nine on the eighth night. One candle — the shamash — is lit with a match and used to light the others. Blessings are said, songs are sung, specific games are played, foods are eaten, and so on. More on these later.

How many candles are needed for Hanukah?

2 + 3 + ... + 9  = (2+9) + (3+8) + ... = 11 x 4 = 44

Agile Waste #2: Handovers

The second Agile waste, common in software development and other forms of knowledge work arises from excessive and ineffective handovers. Like the children's game of telephone, where one child whispers a message to another and another until a garbled message arrives at the last child.

Similarly, when the creation of a complex product or service is split between many people in a strictly linear fashion, with documents and artefacts handed from one person to the next, without confirmation and discussion creating feedback loops, misunderstandings are magnified and collaboration and creativity are constrained.

Arranging larger organisations into functional teams and silos institutionalise and slow down handovers, as do excessive role specialisation.

What to do instead

We reduce handovers through increased collaboration.

  1. Develop broad expertise in addition to special skills. Become a generalising specialist or T-shaped person. This will allow you to collaborate and contribute to a broader range of activities.
  2. Adopt swarming strategies for work: in software, learn pair programming (two heads are better than one) or mob programming (many heads!). Non-software equivalents abound: e.g. pairs of writers get together to spitball ideas. Don't just pair to solve hard problems: pair to learn new skills.
  3. Workshop ideas rather than passing a document around ad nauseam: get all the right people in a room and thrash it out. The more people, and the less skilled they are at collaborating, the more value you will get out of strong and structured facilitation.
  4. Work in cross-functional teams rather than functional teams
  5. Reduce or eliminate functional silos in your organisation and reorganise around value streams. In technology companies DevOps seeks to remove the distinction between Development and Operations: if you make it, you run it, you support it. If something breaks it's your problem to fix it — and that's a healthy feedback loop!
Finally, just as a single candle is used to light all the other candles on each night of Hanukah rather than each lighting the next relay-style, ensure that your on-site customer or Product Owner is highly available to the whole development team to discuss and clarify nuance and detail.

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