Posts Tagged ‘Agile’

We’ve got notes – Agile, Jackall, and ‘The’ Un,

April 6, 2013
Cover of "Moral Mazes: The World of Corpo...

Cover via Amazon

  • One of the ways we can take the next step in category management maturity is to become agile. Stay tuned for a fuller development of what this means. For now, I’ll just say that it involves empowerment of teams, treating team members with respect, and harnessing collective intelligence. It involves a higher level of leadership that borrows from what the US Army calls ‘Commander’s Intent’ – i.e. the commander can’t be there to make every decision (or slow things down tremendously if they could), but can influence decisions by focusing on the overall objective.
  • A challenge in becoming agile is that otherwise intelligent ‘knowledge workers’ have, in some cases, become so dependent on falling back on managers to ‘just tell me what you want me to do’ that it will be hard to re-activate the initiative that has gradually been pounded out of them over the years.
  • Couldn’t resist one more on agile…if Hoverstadt and others are to be believed, 70% of change projects fail. Part of the issue – within procurement anyway – is that we spend a good deal of time discussing and training on strategy development, but less time in what makes projects work. One of the keys to strategy is really to have one – whether it is perfect or not is a fun debate, but the key is making a decision and then driving forward. Consultants sometimes like to encourage the development of a big, slow document. The reality is that slow and painful does not drive benefits…action does. Recognizing this reality, then, becomes the first step to making projects agile. We can’t know exactly how the implementation will go up front. So, let’s establish some guiding principles, get them agreed, and get moving. There is a great deal more to making category management agile…that really is just a tease. The challenge awaits.
  • Hilarious quote that I stumbled upon from Robert Jackall in Moral Mazes ‘the basic principles of decision-making in this organization and probably any organization are: (1) Avoid making any decision if at all possible, (2) if a decision has to be made, involve as many people as you can so that, if things go wrong, you’re able to point in as many directions as possible.’ Do we have any hope of moving beyond the blame culture (except in small pockets, of course)?
  • Did anyone see Jon Stewart’s roasting of Kim Jong Un this week? Incredible stuff.

Can we improve our intelligence?

June 13, 2011

A recent study says that you can. Check out the story here (with WSJ subscription).

The article mentions that there is two types of intelligence,  fluid and crystallized intelligence. Crystallized intelligence is stuff that we learn, whereas fluid intelligence allow us to solve new problems. My thought is that there is some crossover between the two – i.e. you can teach yourself how to learn, thus increasing both.

Although intelligence is mostly determined by genetics, this study seems to agree…in a way. The results say that fluid intelligence can be increased through exercise. Kids were asked to do an exercise that basically required them to separate what was important from that which was not.

All of that sounds oddly familiar to me…successful people are able to sort out what is important and what is not, and focus on the important stuff. The less intelligent go running from minor task to minor task, distracting themselves from making progress at a strategic level.

The authors of Agile Development James Shore and Shane Warden talk about a similar phenomenon in the world of software and web development. If you try to match all the features of an established program, you’ll spend years, all your cash, and won’t ever differentiate yourself. However, if you match only what is barely acceptable, then focus on what your differentiating factors are, you’re in good shape. Learning to say no, and sorting through the noise, is a necessary thing whether it involves web development or improving the functioning of your brain.

Creatively high ceilings

May 4, 2011

Behavioral economics and other fields are delving ever more deeply into the human mind. Tapping the increasing level of knowledge in this area for improved quality of work and quality of life is a particular passion of mine.

The latest research done by Ohio State University and The National Institute of Mental health has discovered that a red color scheme helps with tasks related to attention to detail (e.g. proofreading a book chapter). Blue, on the other hand, is conducive to coming up with creative ideas. High ceilings allow people to make connections between seemingly unrelated topics. Click here if you have a Wall street journal subscription and would like to read more.

This information syncs with the book I have been reading lately – Agile Development by James Shore and Shane Warden. In it, they describe the need for Extreme Programming teams to sit together in a space that allows people to overhear each other’s conversations. Personally, I have seen this “cocktail party effect” in action in our offices at Positive Purchasing. We ignore conversations that have no relevance to us, but hear those that we can provide answers to.

Being in the same room allows for rapid answers to questions that would otherwise end up in an email that may take hours or days to answer. We often underestimate the information bottlenecks created when we can’t get immediate answers to questions or in hierarchical situations when one person needs to sign off on too many things. Sitting in a well-designed room, along with having the right people can go a long way to developing an ‘agile’ organization.

We’ll continue blogging about we believe needs to be in place to become agile, but room design is a key starting point.

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