Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moved my blog to

Now I have moved my agile blog to my brand new domain - this is my German and English blog at

See you all there!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A great audiovisual 15 min training on Product Ownership

Yesterday a friend sent me the link to a great audiovisual mini-training on Product Ownership, that Henrik Kniberg just published on the CRISP blog

It is amazing. It does not only explain important aspects of the Product Owner role is an easy to understand way, but also visualizes central aspects of agile software development like fast feedback, velocity, and release forecast. And all of this in only 15 min!

The technique used reminds me of the famous "RSA Animate" 10 min science videos. One of the most remarkable maybe the one explaining Dan Pink's research about what motivates us.

Well done, Henrik!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Role and responsibility of executives in a lean/agile transition

1) Choose internal change agents carefully

Positive mind and change orientated
Sense of urgency
Capacity for reflection
Work level experience in software development
Transition team covers different project roles and organizational units
Involve line management
Involve product management / business people
Involve process / Quality Management early

2) Be sponsor to the transition team

Give your vision, or agree explicitly to vision and mission of the transition team
Tell them what the constraints are
Be interested in plans and results.
Reed at least one good book yourself that does not look like a Scrum Bible, but something explaining what may work and why.
Do not expect to have NO impact on project time lines, this is just wishful thinking.
Give a reasonable budget based on estimates of the transition team
Do not tell them how to make the transition. Rather be able to discuss organizational changes on their request.
Let the team choose external consultants, but ask these people a couple of tough questions before you contract them.

3) Take care about trust in your organization

Do you, and do your middle managers trust your teams to get their job done? This is an essential part of any lean/agile transition.
If you are still not there, expect transparency to grow at the project team level, but you have to inspire trust from the management level. You need to start! You need to express trust to your teams and act accordingly yourself.

4) Do not combine a lean/agile transition with negative measures

Especially, do not try to reduce headcount. This is directly counterproductive to encouraging people to share their knowledge.

5) Foster a learning organization

Expect your organization to be on a learning journey for more than the transition lasts. The agile principles expect you to hire the best people, and give them the environment so they can be productive. In traditional hierarchical companies, often people need to learn to learn again. And often the environment consists of crappy old tools that make them slow. You may have tons of legacy code without automated tests. They will not magically disappear at the agile transition. The teams have to learn and improve a lot until they will really feel agile.
You will see improvements very soon, but this is not the end of your journey.

6) Look for opportunities to benchmark your transition with others

As executive you should use your connections with your colleagues from other companies for exchanging with them and creating opportunities for the transition teams and different project roles for comparing and exchanging experience so that you all learn more quickly.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Great places to work: learning from SEMCO

A couple of weeks ago in Karmakonsum, a German blog for eco fair life style and economy, I came across Ricardo Semler and SEMCO - the incredibly successful Brazilian company that is directed mostly by its workers and employees since the 1980es. How did I not discover it earlier? Now that I have read Semler´s book "Maverick" from 1993, I have found a lot of good things to learn for companies who want to get really agile and lean beyond software development departments.

At SEMCO they have proven it is possible to get rid of basically all kind of bureaucracy, if you start treating your employees as adults.
Written down process manuals are replaced by common sense, expanded knowledge, plus motivation to do your work in the best possible way to make your company succeed. Control and the needed to ask for permission for all kind of small things can be reduced to a minimum, from travel expenses to lunch invitations - if you just ask everybody to employ common sense, and have transparency on the numbers. Transparency is an important part of the SEMCO miracle. All employees and workers have full knowledge of revenue and expenses. This allows them to take meaningful decisions in factory committees, about what to change to get more efficient and make the customers happier. They are also fixing their own wages and hiring their managers. Hey, managers, getting scared now?

Of course such a company also needs leaders. But being leader there is not a question of status and privileges. They do not expect big personal offices and secretaries, but are just full of new ideas and ask nasty questions.

One important human organization principle that the company leaders adopted is keeping the units small: one plant or sub-company should not be bigger than 150 people. Pretty interesting, that Dave Snowdon gave the same number in his ALE2011 keynote asan evolution-built-in human constant for the size of a group a human will be able to identify with.

Democracy and open communication define the SEMCO identity rather than saying they agree in this or that business. There is a lot we can learn from them, if we are brave and fearless. Starting at a huge company may not be as easy, as there are politics around on many levels, and dragons.
What seems more promising to me is starting at a small or mid sized company, where the existing amount of process is not so overwhelming. First I would inspire lean and Agile principles. Software developers are often open to democratic principles, and shop floor workers often already know and apply a few lean methods nowadays. If we then start to engage teams of software and hardware developers, scientists, workers and sales people in how to build better products for the customers, our how to make design or production more efficient, they will sparkle with new ideas.
As people are learning together and get a broader view on the company's goals and the boundary conditions, they can make good improvement proposals. Then step by step some of them will learn to see the whole, at least to have a bigger interest in the company's business, and feel responsible for making their work more efficient.

Another book I have read recently is "Delivering Happiness" from Tony Hsieh, which will get its own blog post: learning how to really, really have company values and use them in daily life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Our big agile transition at the OOP 2012 Munich

As Agile Transition Lead of our business unit, I have introduced agile project management into a regulated development environment at Siemens Healthcare. The challenge is there to reduce process overhead and improve team member motivation without hampering the necessary quality. Since 2008, I have been starting and coaching Scrum teams, as well as working with the management on transformation of the structure and on communication.

At the OOP 2012 conference in Munich, I presented together with a colleague from the higher management about our agile transition. Here you can find our slideset at Slideshare.

We have gone a long way from piloting to the real big transition, and now after the first big agile project has been successfully finished, there is still much to do in the sense of getting more efficient and having more fun...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Agile is about the people!

Sometimes I see blog posts or LinkedIn discussions where some agile specialist or special agilist reasons about the exact amount of minutes to spend on each Scrum meeting according to sprint length, or he asks how he can measure and compare the productivity of teams.
Often I have the impression if I asked him now “How is the motivation of your teams? How do they feel, are they happy or frustrated? Do they have all the tools to get their job done? When did you last time clear some organizational obstacles out of the way for them? Have you hired the right people, and given them lots of opportunities to learn?” or anything alike, this kind of specialist would stare at me without getting the issue.

Actually, this is the centre of the universe – is the people, not the final twisting and tuning of an ideal Scrum process. Scrum is about the people!

Even the managers I know, some managers who have done so incredibly many things right, - even they, at rare times, of course, come up with something like “but now if I would like to compare the productivity of two teams, how would I do it?” and they think very hard about it. 
Then I ask them: Have you invested already enough time into how they can learn something new about the product domain, stay up to date with their architecture and programming knowledge, know how to use the latest tools you have bought them? Have you spent a similar amount of time on how to sharpen the product vision with the Product Owner, so that he can really make developers happy working on this marvellous project? If I wake up a Scrum team member in the middle of the night, would he or she be able to tell me the product vision? Have you thought about organizing a FedEx day so they can try out new features of their favourite programming language just for fun, and get fresh motivation for a couple of sprints?

This is what I ask my managers in such cases. Metrics and measurements are fine, but you always need to seed before you harvest.

Hey, it’s about the people!

Friday, September 23, 2011

An incredibly intensive 1st ALE2011 Unconference – Agile and Lean Europe in Berlin

 (Olaf Lewitz, one of the central organizers, on a photo by Marcin Floryan)
In February, 2011, the Agile and Lean Europe network was founded in LinkedIn by Jurgen Appelo, Author of Management 3.0. He asked the European lean and agile practitioners and communicators to join. We were about 1000 members within a month, and there were lots of active interesting discussions, “bathtub conferences” and many ideas how to collaborate more closely. The first real-life meeting happened at XP2011 in May in Madrid. Since then, 47 people with a vision created the best and most intense (un)conference I have ever attended. My own role was to be part of the “industry sofa” – we had “sofas” instead of “chairs.” I spent some of my free time reviewing abstracts and finding out whether these people were good speakers, if I had not heard them speak before. The final result we composed is amazing - .
All further work was organized via real-time collaboration tools: Skype, Basecamp, GoogleDocs, Mindmeister, Twitter, and Conftool. Real-time mostly meant evenings, sometimes even weekends. The final event structure included one keynote every day - with Rachel Davies, Bjarte Bogsnes and David Snowden, we had three highly interesting speakers, two of which are not from the software world, but are teachers of lean concepts for management.  Each day started with a funny coding dojo warm up, followed by 30-minute talks in the morning, lightning talks after lunch, and Open Space all afternoon. Virtually everybody participated actively in something: more than 220 people from at least 27 European countries. Talk topics ranged from “Software Craftmanship” and “Metrics in a complex world” to “How to change the world.”
Bjarte Bogsnes from Statoil, Norway
For me, Bjarte Bogsnes with his “Beyond Budgeting” talk was most inspiring ( ), but… yes, but… the 7 levels of hierarchy between me and the CEO of our company make me think that this is not the easiest thing to put into practice by myself. Fortunately, many other talks also had inspiring contents!
From Henri Kivioja from Ericsson, Finland, I learned how we can guide managers to practice go and see with the Scrum teams: they just got rid of all kind of upward reporting from project to line managers. They also reduced their full test cycle dramatically, from about 1 year for the whole system (100%) to about 1 week for 90%.
Eva Kisonova and Sabine Canditt presented a funny game of cultural differences they have practiced with our Scrum teams in Slovakia. It showed the stereotypes that may exist on both sides, which can make collaboration difficult if the teams have not reflected on them. Putting it into practice in a small example among the participants was really fun.
Rob van Lanen explained why and how they had realized FedExDays with his company’s developers in the Netherlands. This is a 24-hour slot, in which the developers can develop whatever they want – the only condition is that they must present it after that time. The department provides food and drinks, and the CEO is present at the demo at the end. The participants created 4 products, a traffic light tool for the software build, and a gaming application. They self-organized to do Scrum in one-hour slots and even pair programming. It was a great motivational boost for the teams.
Claudio Perrone gave an excellent introduction to A3 and Kaizen, which can actually be understood when you look at this outstanding presentation: In this way, continuous improvement can be introduced on all levels: in the project team and on organizational level with the managers. This is something we should put more emphasis on soon.
Torsten Kalnin explained how the Wikispeed team builds modular speed cars using very little fuel with lean and agile virtual collaboration of volunteers around the world – an amazing example for agile hardware development – see also at
I visited a few more talks related to big agile transitions, offshore and distributed experiences, which we later followed up with discussions in the Open Space.
Open Space facilitated by Mike Sutton
The most intense part of the unconference was surely the Open Space sessions: everybody posted his/her topics at a common marketplace, and there were a lot of different spaces in the venue where we could start discussing around a flipchart. On the first day, I proposed a talk about organizational impediments, to get stories of what happened and how people actually resolved them.  Later, I was in another big agile transition discussion, and there I met a couple of people who also used communities of practice in their companies. So I had my topic for the next day: how to get CoPs going, and how to keep them alive in their original sense, as a means for knowledge acquisition, best practice exchange, and as a catalyst for improvements.
You can find almost all references from the conference in two places: and with #ALE2011 on Twitter. A lot of lean and agile conferences in the next future will be powered by the spirit of the ALE-Network, I am sure! J
Andrea Heck