Valpak Agile Flyer … “Livin’ an Agile life”

My boss (CIO of Cox Target Media, Chris Cate) came looking for a one-page “media kit”, as he called it, to give to people interested in our Agile story.  This is what I came up with.  Any feedback is welcome!

Valpak Agile Flyer

 


Coming Down Off The Agile 2014 High

agile2014_banner_home

I’m just now finding time to blog after coming down off my Agile 2014 high.  In one word, Agile 2014 was filling … a week full of knowledge, introductions, and yes, food.  Oh, and I Tweeted my ass off!  I gained a few new followers and even met some old ones (although the guy that showed me my pic on his phone did kind of creep me out a bit).

I was thrilled to meet …

  • The Agile Alliance (Global) board as well as the Agile Alliance Brazil board (well, except Samuel who sadly couldn’t make it due to visa issues) … Very awesome people with good hearts and a strong passion for all that is Agile.
  • The man himself, Mike Cottmeyer of Leading Agile … Somewhere along the way he became somewhat of an Agile celebrity in my mind because he is such an up-and-coming thought leader in the space and I must have watched his “Blending Scrum and Kanban to Create an End-to-End Agile Enterprise” on loop when we were trying to figure out how to scale.  I’m even more thrilled that he is going to bring his Agile 2014 talk to the Tampa Bay Agile Meetup in October.
  • Mr Zombie Project Management, Derek Huether  … Finally!  We’ve been Twitter buddies for a while, but it was a long time coming to finally meet since we missed each other at Agile 2012 in Dallas.  I missed his talk on Personal Kanban on Friday, but I’m a firm believer that every time a Kanban goes up, an Agile gets its wings.
  • Diana Larsen, author, keynote speaker, and an altogether extraordinary human being … This woman knows how to have a good time!  I not only got to see her dance on stage and at the conference party, but I also got to spend a few quality moments, just her and I when we were waiting for the conference party.  Not to mention she co-authored the “Agile Retrospectives” book which has been an extremely good resource for getting us out of the retrospective rut.
  • 6 people from sister companies … Valpak is one of the many companies that are part of Cox Enterprise.  I was surprised to meet fellow Cox siblings from AutoTrader, Kelley Blue Book, and Manheim Auctions.  In fact, one of the Manheim Auctions guys actually gave a talk on Monday of the conference.

A few of the takeaways and observations I had from Agile 2014:

  • Apparently there is something called “naked planning” but you actually keep your clothes on … go figure!
  • I’m not crazy after all … WIP Limits at the Portfolio Kanban level are crazy-impossible.  Instead, I learned about something called “WIP Limits by Conversation” at Pawel Brodzinski’s talk on “Successful Evolutionary Change of Portfolio Management” which is essentially what we do here at Valpak (yeah, us!).
  • Commitment is still alive and well!
  • A common theme I heard was about the need for executives to get more engaged in Agile.   No, it’s not just that thing your teams do to be more productive … it is so much more!  Executives have an important role in Agile and it is about time they step up.
  • Apparently, SAFe is a 4-letter word to some folks; SAFe, as in Scaled Agile Framework.  The SAFe debate is hot right now! There was a lot of debate around whether or not SAFe is the Agile anti-Christ due to it’s very detailed structure.  I’m happy to say that I’ve taken a very pragmatic approach to implementing SAFe here at Valpak, as should everyone.  Use what you want and disregard the rest.  Do what works for you and your organization.  There is no one-size-fits-all Agile!  In fact, our implementation of scaled Agile is more a blend of SAFe and some Mike Cottmeyer inspirations.
  • There are indeed #womeninagile!  And, I’m happy to be one of them!  There was definitely a good showing of womankind at the conference.  I hope to see this continue and meet more of my fellow Agile sisters.
Even though you can't see it very well, that's me holding up my Agile 2014 badge that says "Board Member"

Even though you can’t see it very well, that’s me holding up my Agile 2014 badge that says “Board Member”

I can’t forget to mention the most awesome news of all! I was elected to the Agile Alliance Board of Directors for the 2015 to 2017 term.  After spending a week getting to know the rest of the board members, I know I have much to learn but I feel I have equally as much to contribute.  I am super excited for what the next few years will bring!  In fact, I’ve been jotting down ideas left and right and couldn’t help myself but pitch them now, even though my term doesn’t officially begin until January.   I’m on this train for 3 years, so this means I will definitely be seeing some of you at Agile 2015 in Washington DC.  Until then … May your Agile be fun and fulfilling!


Reflecting on Agile Open Florida

Stephanie Stewart:

Mark summarizes the Agile Open Florida well. Can’t wait for next year!

Originally posted on A servant leader's lessons:

It’s been over 2 weeks since Agile Open Florida happened and I’m still buzzing with the possibilities of where Florida can go next.  Not only did we hold our first state-wide open space for agilists, but we were able to have one of my favorite OST facilitators, Ainsley Nies, hold the space for us.  Thank you Ainsley for your guidance in planning and your servant leadership in facilitating.  If you want to see photos and session notes, please go to http://agileopenflorida.com/2014-recap/

Ainsley Nies starts off Agile Open Florida - thanks to Dan Feldman for photo

Ainsley Nies starts off Agile Open Florida – thanks to Dan Feldman for photo

Me (orange volunteer shirt) with the SFAA agilists.

I also wanted to thank my co-organizers, Ryan Dorrell and Stephanie Stewart.  This was the first time Agile Orlando and Tampa Bay Agile collaborated on an event and I look forward to future opportunities.  I also want to thank members of the Agile Orlando community who…

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First Person Retrospective Idea

One of my Agile Project Leaders got creative and came up with special categories to use with with her Scrum team for their latest sprint retrospective.  She said it went over really well with the team.  Sharing with you all … feel free to borrow.

  • I should’ve…but I didn’t
  • I wanted to…but I couldn’t
  • I did…but I wish I didn’t
  • I wish I did…but I didn’t
  • I need help with…
  • Hey Man…thanks
  • Hey…Get off my back

Agile Open Florida 2014

Stephanie Stewart:

Yes, Agile Open Florida 2014 was indeed a success! Thanks Ryan for posting your inspirational intro and summarizing the feedback.

Originally posted on ryan_dorrell:

The reviews are in – Agile Open Florida 2014 was a huge success!

I wanted to share my opening remarks that I made as we got started. I’m sharing these because I firmly believe in what I said, and wanted to repeat myself.

Welcome to the first ever Agile Open Florida! This is the first event of its kind in the state of Florida! I would like to begin by saying that I’m am thrilled to see so many people here today. If you are here today, it is because you value uncovering better ways of developing software, and want to help others do it. You are here because you value individuals and interactions. You value collaboration. You value continuous improvement. And you value community. Our industry is special. Software is everywhere. It runs our transportation, our commerce, our health care. Nearly everything we touch today has software in it…

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Ingrained Simplicity: From the Trenches

Once again, guest blogger, Toby Morris, has a “from the trenches” perspective to share.  Toby, known around these parts as “The Amazing Toby”, is a software developer at Valpak.  Toby has been with Valpak for many years and has had the opportunity to experience our Agile transformation from the trenches, as the title of this post suggests.  Today, he has some interesting insights on what he observed in our Agile Enterprise Workshops.  Enjoy!

One of the goals of any organization adopting Agile processes is to reach the level of maturity where Agile is culturalized. Where it becomes second nature. You’re involuntarily looking for ways to maximize the amount of work not done. And it’s really exciting when you see first hand just how much your Agile adoption has matured over the years.

Our IT department began the Agile transformation more than two years ago. We are now working on an effort to expand the Agile process to the entire enterprise. Today, we held the last of our  Agile Enterprise Workshops. These workshops are a way of introducing Agile to departments that have not already adopted Agile. We included established scrum teams in these workshops to act as “agile buddies”. Folks who’ve been through the transformation who can be there for moral support to help the new folks get through the trying times.

In today’s workshop, nine members of IT Agile scum teams joined ten non-Agile workers. Part of the workshop was a quick example of lean. The ball circle exercise. For the exercise, everyone got into a big circle and a tennis ball was handed to one person. The one person was to start the exercise and be the end of the exercise. They were to pass the ball to one person, any person, in the circle. That person would then pass the ball to another person, and so on, until everyone had touched the ball once, and the ball ended back with the starter. It took fifty-four seconds on our first attempt, with four dropped balls. Not a stellar performance.

For the next step, we had to repeat the exercise, passing the ball in the same order we did previously, but we rearranged the room so that passer and passee were standing in the passing order. Whoever passed you the ball stood to your left and whoever you passed the ball to stood to your right. We then simply handed the ball from one person to the next and cut our time down to ten seconds with no dropped balls.

The interesting thing about this was how the ball was passed in the first attempt. EVERY agile worker passed the ball directly to the person to their right., unless that person had already touched the ball and was no longer eligible. EVERY non-agile worker tossed the ball across the circle to someone opposite them. Passing the ball to the nearest person was quicker and more accurate. It was simpler. It was lazier. And we didn’t even have to think about it.

So after more than two years of Agile, it appears we’ve been culturalized. At least by this completely non-scientific, anecdotal evidence. I would really like to see what would happen if we tried this exercise with nothing but Agile workers. To see if we’ve all come to completely internalize the simplicity we try to achieve.


Agile Enterprise or Bust!

In early May, Valpak’s internal newsletter, Monday Memo, published the following headline and article:

Valpak on its way to becoming an Agile enterprise

Agile workshops have begun and many teams are now using some of their newly learned techniques to help them manage their work. Agile organizations are fast moving, flexible and capable of rapid response to unexpected challenges, events and opportunities to achieve a continuous competitive advantage in serving customers.

Many of the principles of Agile focus on the idea of breaking work into smaller chunks and working on them in a self-organizing team with daily collaboration.

“With all the projects my team and I are faced with this year, we found the Agile approach to managing these projects extremely helpful for efficient planning and tracking our progress along the way,” said George McCarthy (Security & Safety Director) after his team’s recent Agile session.

That’s right! … we are well on our way towards our Agile Enterprise vision.  To date, we have trained about 80% of our knowledge workers (our manufacturing workers apply Lean to produce our famous Blue Envelope).  We have trained Marketing, Finance, Security, Franchise Sales, Infrastructure, BI, Digital Business Development, and more.  In fact, we refreshed training for the software development teams that have been Agile for over 2 years now by including them as resident experts with the other business areas trained.  Oh, and by “we”, I mean Tami Orr, our super awesome Employee Development Process Lead.  This wouldn’t be possible without her.  She self-taught Agile, Scrum, and Kanban and put together a fun and effective training program, not to mention the hours she stands in front of our folks to deliver the training.

I’m sure some of you are wondering about the training program we, I mean Tami, developed for our Agile Enterprise efforts.  While I can’t publish the deck, I can provide an outline of what was covered:

  • What is Agile?
  • The benefits of Agile
  • The Agile Manifesto
    • Brief history
    • The 4 Agile values
    • A deep dive into the 12 Agile principles (some with fun videos and activities to demonstrate)
  • Some Tools & Techniques of Agile
    • Scrum Overview
    • Kanban Overview
    • Kanban activity using a party planning scenario (something we can all identify with)
    • Kanban activity using a project specific to the department being trained
  • Agile in life (not just about work anymore)

“But wait, there’s more!”… Agile is not some “Set it, and forget it!” rotisserie.  This is a never-ending journey.  The Agile Enterprise is a major culture shift for any organization that must be nurtured each and every day, across all departments, and at all levels of the organization.  For us, change is in bloom!  Agile has become so much bigger than ME and I love it!  Business teams are adopting stand-ups over lengthy status meetings.  Rogue Kanbans are popping up left and right for everything from projects to be lead, department workflow to be managed, or even events to be coordinated.  In fact, we had a retirement party just yesterday for a 20 year employee whose wife (who also happens to work for the company) made him a Vision Board and a Kanban board (yes, that’s right … a Kanban Board) so that he could better “manage” his retirement.  Even better, we are having open discussions and healthy debate on topics like value, sustainable pace, empowerment, and simplicity.  I love this new Valpak!

 


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