For the final article in this series, I’m going to expand on the athlete metaphor to illustrate the vital importance that leadership support plays to ensure optimal athlete and team performance over long, arduous initiatives.
There are few things tougher than the Comrades ultra marathon. The Comrades Marathon is by far the largest and most prestigious ultra marathon in the world. Every year, approximately 20,000 aspirant runners aim to complete 90 very hilly kilometres (56 miles) between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in under 12 hours. If you achieve a Top 10 finish at Comrades, you earn a coveted Gold medal.
In my opinion, the hardest part of an agile transformation is the change management – and the hardest minds to change are usually those of the leaders. However, active leadership buy-in, support, understanding and active participation is the number one critical success factor in any transformation initiative.
Below are three questions to help leaders on their journey. Each question helps to reframe the leadership role and relevance thereof in an agile organisation.
If you’re going to the Olympic Games and can pay for 100 people to go, how many athletes would you take and how many “support staff” (coaches, physios, administrators, the head of your national Olympic committee, etc.)?
There is no precise answer. However, you would definitely want to take more athletes than support staff. Extremes would be sub-optimal. Taking 100 athletes and no support staff would likely result in a much worse overall performance than if you got the balance ‘just right’? Whilst this is a question that falls into the ‘it depends’ answer category, I would expect that there is a generally accepted ‘rule of thumb’ ratio for optimal performance.
I recently presented a talk called “Back to the Feature” at the South African Scrum User Group (SUGSA) conference. The talk playfully references aspects of the Back to the Future trilogy to illustrate how business analysis can be done effectively in an agile environment. This article focusses on one specific topic I covered during the presentation – that written documentation is one of the worst ways to communicate with other humans*.
* And no, the irony of writing a detailed blog post about how poor written documentation is at communicating information is not lost on me!
The first Back to the Future movie concludes with Doc telling Marty, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” I paraphrase this iconic movie quote as, “Written documentation? With what we’re building, we don’t need (much) written documentation!”
I can’t remember the last time that I had the occasion to wear my smart black suit pants but it was well before the start of Covid. However, International Breast Cancer Awareness Day provided the catalyst to examine a forgotten part of my closet and ‘dress smart’ for a change. The dress code was a simple “wear pink” so out came my suave pink dress shirt and matching tie that I bought in Rome* many years ago.
In the first installment, we established that smaller is better when it comes to estimation and sizing. We used Camille Herron (holder of nine ultra marathons distance world records) to illustrate that as volume increases velocity, confidence and predictability decrease. Below is a table with her personal bests (several of which are world records).
Risk enters the race
One aspect that most people forget about when sizing is risk – and an important factor here is that as size increases, risk increases exponentially. Anyone, regardless of their current state of fitness, can start a one kilometre race highly confident that they will make it to the finish line within a reasonably small variance of their time estimation.
“Does size matter?” is probably the male equivalent to, “Does my bum look big in these pants?” And if you have to ask either question, it’s highly likely that you don’t really want an honest answer.
Size always matters – no surprise there but, in this article anyway, it’s probably not quite in the way that you think. As for potentially the more controversial part of the headline, who is the “best ultra marathon runner in the world”, I am going to make a case for Camille Herron.
For those on other parts of the planet, loadshedding is a shameful South African phenomenon that started in 2007 and has become progressively worse. The inability of the state-run electricity public utility monopoly to produce enough power for the country means that scheduled rolling blackouts are experienced for up to 12 hours per day. These rolling blackouts are euphemistically called ‘loadshedding’.
My wife and I are both firmly in the hybrid work model, spending roughly half of our salaried time working from home. Therefore, we urgently needed to implement some counter loadshedding measures.
As a first-time visitor to New York, I was faced with limitless tourist opportunities but had a finite period of time – just 48 hours – in which to accomplish everything. With an infinite backlog of exciting experiences and countless possibilities, demand far exceeded supply. Sound familiar? This is a challenge faced by all agile teams.
I had just attended the Scaled Agile (SAFe) Summit in Denver and was making the most of my carbon footprint by facilitating some workshops with our New York team the following week. I decided to practice what I preach as an agile coach (and applied some of what I learned at the SAFe Summit) by setting myself some TI (Tourist Increment) objectives for my weekend in New York.
When it comes to behavioural science, I am an enthusiastic amateur. I guess the same could be said for my marathon running infatuation which, although prolific with over 250 completed, is still firmly footed in the ‘recreational amateur’ category. My payslip reads ‘Agile Coach’ so I’d like to think that I’ve managed to breach the amateur category in my chosen career (but you might need to check with my colleagues to confirm whether I do indeed qualify as a professional). It’s not often that running, behavioural science and agile coaching intersect but recently they did, so I decided to use the opportunity to run an experiment and this is what happened. Continue reading “A Behavioural Science Experiment to get Leaders to Complete an Agile Maturity Assessment”