Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Eight Agile Wastes of Hanukah: #8 Human potential

Originating in 17th century Poland, it has been customary for parents to give children gelt (i.e. money) for Hanukah.

Since the 20th century this has transformed into giving chocolate coins as a substitute or in addition to the cash.

If they wish they can then risk some of their chocolate coins by playing the Dreidel game (see Agile Waste #3).

Agile Waste #8: Human potential

When we regard human beings as cogs in a machine we cheat ourselves (and them) of their greatest ability: to learn and improve. Moreover, they frequently become demoralised and disengaged.

It is only human beings that can inspect and adapt: they can study the system in which they are part of and eliminate wastes and embrace opportunities.

Many management practices are either anything goes (which works at very small scale) or soul-crushingly bureaucratic. In this hyper-competitive and fast moving era we can and must do better.

By valuing and supporting people, they will become more energised, more productive, and less likely to leave. Replacing knowledge-workers is far more expensive than manual labour, as the time to acquire local and tacit knowledge in a new environment is typically lengthy and will require significant additional effort from existing staff.

What to do instead

There are many approaches to personal, team, and organisational development. Here are just a few suggestions:
  1. Reserve substantial time for learning and improvement. As with product delivery, small batches are best: e.g. half an hour or an hour each day, or half a day to a day each fortnight. Blend individual and team learning, and personal and organisational learning priorities. Team-members should have significant autonomy in choice of learning areas. This is more difficult than it seems, but worth it!
  2. Embrace the 70 : 20 : 10 model for learning and development: 10% formal training and coursework; 20% coaching and mentoring; 70% challenging assignments.
  3. In product development organisations hold occasional hackathons
  4. In a software team trial mob programming or start a coding dojo
  5. Start a book club and read and discuss relevant books as a team or management team. Nowadays, what with books being so old school, you can also read blogs and watch and discuss relevant Youtube videos together.
Outside of work: For health and character development I personally practice martial arts, but that's not for everyone. Something that will take you on a journey to mastery that is probably not directly work-related is the ticket. Practice something meaningful long enough, and it will eventually influence how you work: here are my 10 Agile lessons from the martial arts.

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