GREAT DALLAS ICE STORM OF 2013

I think it was the winter of 2013. I was at the Scrum.org headquarters in Boston, attending training on Evidence Based Management. On the last day of the training, as we were wrapping up, I got an automated call from American Airlines – my flight to Dallas had been cancelled due to a terrible ice-storm in Dallas. I tried calling back to see if they could get me on the next flight, but nobody picked up.

At this point, I used a very powerful problem solving technique that I have mastered over the ages – walking around like a headless chicken with a deer in headlights look. All I wanted was to get back home to my wife, daughter and dogs and I could not figure out how to do so. My friends at Scrum.org noticed that I was looking more clueless than usual and I explained why. Somehow, word got to Ken and he asked me to sit down next to him.

Ken asked me if I had checked Jet Blue to see if they had any flights going to Dallas. I had not. I had vaguely heard about Jet Blue but had no clue that they flew to Boston. Besides I had made a assumption that if American Airlines could not fly from Boston to Dallas, no other airline in the universe could do it. Ken was not impressed with this infallible logic.

He started searching for Jet Blue flights to Dallas, found one, and used his Amex to get me on the next flight to Dallas. I cannot explain how touched I was with this gesture. I was not in the best place financially those days and I could not have gotten home to my family for a few days if Ken had not helped me.

THE NEXT MOUNTAIN

As I was watching Ken book my ticket, I asked him – “Ken, what is the next mountain you would like to climb?”. As co-creators of Scrum, Ken & Jeff had already revolutionized an entire industry and I was curious to see what might now challenge someone in his shoes. Ken said he wanted to rebuild trust and respect between Business and I.T. He was dismayed at the amount of distrust and hostility between these two groups of people who need to collaborate to make companies succeed and wanted to figure out how we could turn the tide.

This is was consistent with the core message of Evidence Based Management – the approach I was being trained in. As I look at the mission of scrum.org, this idea comes across loud and clear…

DENNIS MUDD SCHOOL OF ROOF REPAIR

As I thought about that conversation with Kenn, it reminded me of a story I read in a book by Marshall Goldsmith – one of the world’s most respected Leadership Thinkers. The book was either “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” or Mojo, I don’t remember which. The story was about a roof repairman called Dennis Mudd.

 

Dennis Mudd was a roof repairman who Marshall’s Dad called to help repair their roof. Dennis really needed the money and did a terrific job, but refused to take the money until Marshall’s Dad inspected the roof and was satisfied with the result. This incident shaped how Marshall does business. As an Executive Coach, he refuses to take money until a group of people who work closest with the person he has been coaching confirm that Marshall has in fact made a positive impact on his coachee.

 

FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, DOUBT

I see parallels between Dennis’s approach to roof repair, Marshall’s approach towards Executive Coaching and Ken’s approach towards Agile Transformation with Evidence Based Management. In each, case, there is no shortage of people who prey on the insecurities, doubts and fears of people, promising them the world at a time of vulnerability and need, quite like snake oil salesmen.

However, Dennis Mudd, Marshall Goldsmith and Ken Schwaber all challenge themselves and colleagues to validate delivery of value to stakeholders before any more investments are made in the hope of future value. It has become more necessary than ever before that we apply this kind of thinking in the business of Agile Transformation to earn back the trust of our Business Partners.

BEGINNING WITH THE END IN MIND

Before we can apply the same kind of rigor to the  business of Agile Transformation, as Denniss Mudd applied to roof repair, we must ask and answer some key questions about why we bring Agility into our organizations. And why we choose to scale Agility across the entire Enterprise.

  1. Why do we scale?
  2. What value are we after?
  3. What is the evidence?
  4. What is the hypothesis?
  5. What are the experiments?
  6. How do we validate?
  7. How do we learn?
  8. Can learning guide decisions?
And the most important question of all…

EVIDENCE BASED MANAGEMENT – EBMgt (TM)

This is where the Evidence Based Management- EBMgt (TM) can help. This framework begins by introducing 3 areas that represent outcomes of the organizational value we hope to realize by introducing Agility in our organization…

1. Current Value

2. Ability to Innovate

3. Time to Market

These 3 areas can be further broken up into a total of 11 indicators. You can learn more about these in a free booklet available at http://bit.ly/ebmgt-booklet

 Let’s try illustrating these with some familiar examples…

1. Current Value: At some point in the past, Blackberry had a large share of Enterprise Smart Phones, so it had a high current value. However, that did not prevent it from losing future value, arguably because they could not innovate.

2. Ability to Innovate: One of my friends loves his Lumia smart phone. So one could say that they were able to innovate, but perhaps they could not deliver to market soon enough to beat competition and grab market share.

3. Time to Market: Apple could be considered a company that succeeds in all 3 areas – it has current value, it can innovate and it can deliver to market faster than the competition, explaining why it is a company that has sustainable organizational value….

It is not important that you choose the specific indicators proposed in the EBMgt (TM) framework. What is more important is that you articulate the desired business value you would like to generate as a result of investment in Agile Tools, Training, Consulting and Coaching.

Once we have articulated our desired end value and outcomes, the EBMgt (TM) frame-work challenges us to create a hypothesis about what underlying activities might help us accomplish these desired outcomes. The EBMgt (TM) framework proposes a starter list of activities that you might consider. These activities are grouped under 5 broad categories shown below…

  1. Process
  2. Productivity
  3. Value
  4. Quality
  5. Enterprise

 Connecting all these pieces together, the framework proposes a 3 step, evidence-based approach towards generating sustainable business value…

1. Measure business outcomes using empirical evidence of business value.

2. Diagnose which underlying activities should be focused on to improve future outcomes and value

3. Make laser focused improvements in the areas chosen in step 2. Go to Step 1

A rigorous approach like this helps observe patterns and trends and co-relate activities to outcomes. If we create trends of captured evidence, we can now apply Dennis Mudd’s approach and refuse to make any investments (time, money, anything else) in Agile tools, training, consulting or coaching unless we can explain how past investments generated value for our organizations.

Using this kind of an approach might help us earn back the trust and respect of our business counterparts and break the dysfunctional pattern our industry has been trapped in…

PARTS 1 & 2: BB WATT’S & NAGAVINI’S EXPERIMENTS

If we now revisit Parts 1 & 2 of this blog series in the context of this approach, you may notice a difference between how BB Watts & NagaVini’s Experiments tried to solve Walt’s problems. Which approach are you using in your organization…?

LEARN MORE…

If any of these ideas intrigued you, you can learn more about the approach below…

http://bit.ly/ebmgt-booklet

http://bit.ly/ebmgt-whitepaper

http://bit.ly/ebmgt-keynote

Either way, I would love to hear what you think.

 

Keep calm and scrum on!