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.

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About Stephanie Davis

Stephanie Davis is Senior Director of Enterprise Agility & Digital Product Leadership at Cox Target Media. In this role, Stephanie champions agility across the enterprise, leads the Agile PMO, and manages the CTM portfolio while also overseeing the Digital Product Leadership team. Stephanie leads the team of Agile Project Leaders in the roles of ScrumMaster, Kanban Lead, and/or Agile Project Manager as well as overseeing the IT Business Analysts. Stephanie is a career project leader with over 16 years in the field, including past positions with AT&T Business and IBM Global Services, and has maintained the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification since early in her career. She also maintains the PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credentials. Her academic credentials include a BS in Marketing and an MBA in International Business. Stephanie serves and supports Agile within her community and beyond as organizer for the Tampa Bay Agile Meetup and the Agile Open Florida. Most recently, Stephanie has been elected to the Agile Alliance board for the 2015 to 2017 term. View all posts by Stephanie Davis

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