The definition of agile transformation is to transform an organisation into a mode that is flexible, collaborative, self-organising, and fast-changing. Fortunately, there are a few established frameworks to solve this simple problem. The most radical and effective is LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum).
Less is Scrum
LeSS introduces ten principles that give a high-level guidance of LeSS values and standards. The ten principles are well explained in the LeSS introduction , most noteworthy being the ‘Large-Scale Scrum is Scrum’ principle. See the simplified version of LeSS framework below.
All the teams follow the Scrum guidelines and ceremonies. There is one product owner, one product backlog, one product-level sprint, and one Definition of Done.* One full-time Scrum Master can serve one to three teams. Up to eight teams** are customer-focussed feature teams,*** and they manage their own Sprint Backlogs during sprints.
LeSS prefers decentralised and informal coordination. LeSS introduces various coordination practices such as cross-team meetings, component mentors, travellers between teams, scouts, and open spaces. The communities that ensure consistent quality are run by the team members and focus on areas like user experience, architecture, and testing.
Culture follows the structure
LeSS transforms the organisation structure to be as lean as possible. The work is organised around teams without extra layers or specialised groups. See the LeSS organisation structure below.
The Undone Department contains operations that are not supported by the Definition of Done. Quality assurance (QA), architecture design, and business analysis are typical activities in the Undone Department. The goal in LeSS is to shrink the Undone department and move the work to teams. Extending the Definition of Done drives these organisational changes.
Job safety, but not role safety
The team’s high autonomy and accountability shrink the management role. Due to this, managers are optional in LeSS. If managers do exist, how would their position change?
Firstly, managers can be part of the team as a normal team member. Secondly, managers can coach teams and remove obstacles like scrum masters. Thirdly, managers can make strategic decisions and apply Toyota principles such as ‘Go and See’ and ‘See the Whole’ .
Before you take the LeSS pill
The product owner’s job is extremely challenging and time-consuming in one team Scrum. The LeSS organisation should be aware of the product owner’s workload. One solution is to delegate operations like specification and customer feedback to teams.
In LeSS teams are self-managing, cross-functional and multi-skilled. This leads to a very high standard of excellence. Strategies to support the team to live up to these requirements are coaching, training, and adding more members to the team.
LeSS is more about embracing principles and less about following detailed rituals or rules. Strict roles, program management, finance, and governance are missing. Due to this, the organisation must have a strong knowledge of agile and lean practices before adopting LeSS.
LeSS reveals an organisations real culture and values. It won’t fit all organisations and there is an obvious risk of failure. But when it does fit, it gives an enormous competitive advantage.
Graphic design: Ismo Juntunen
* Definition of Done is a list of activities that add value to the product. Every task needs to meet the Definition of Done criteria.
** This article is focussed on the LeSS-framework. Larger organisations (more than 8 teams) can adopt Less Huge, which based on the same principles and rules. Read more
*** The feature team is a cross-component team that completes end-to-end customer features. The opposite of the feature team is the component team, such as the front-end team or the operation team.
Imagine it’s 4 in the morning and you’ve already been working for about 28 hours, short naps here and there. Your teammate approaches you and asks, “Shouldn’t we all get some proper sleep?”. You consider, after all you feel deadly tired, but when you look at the clock that sudden injection of adrenaline makes you awake again, there are only 8 hours left to deliver the project!
That’s how I felt on the second night of this Hackathon. If you’ve never been to a Hackathon, it’s an event at which you only have two days to create a whole new product/service/business from scratch and you’re expected to have at least a working prototype at the end.
Said to be the largest Hackathon in Europe, Junction had the confidence to invade Asia and set up an event in the heart of the land of the rising sun, Tokyo, Japan! And I was there, at Junction Tokyo!
How did that happen?
That’s the kind of great and unique experience that can happen when you work at Leadin! When I saw the possibility of going to Tokyo and being part of this massive tech Hackathon, I imagined how cool it would also be for Leadin to have someone in Japan for a couple of days, participating in something big, making interesting contacts, and bringing back some fresh knowledge to the team. Guess what? The guys at the top also loved the idea and sponsored me! Yay!
This edition of Junction had three tracks: Sustainable Development, by iamtheCODE, DMM, and SaharaSparks; Logistics and Storage, by Terrada; and Robotics, by SoftBank. Also IBM had a special challenge that could be combined with any of the tracks, with IBM’s Cloud Platform, Bluemix.
In a multidisciplinary team, along with two Japanese and three Thai, I embarked on a combination of the Robotics track and the Bluemix challenge, and we worked with Pepper, the super friendly SoftBank’s humanoid robot.
Changing the way people work
With the original challenge of “how can we change the way people work?” we have created an office buddy. Pepper would be responsible for arranging people’s schedules, propose different times for appointments, and be a friendly buddy to create a more relaxed and fun environment in the workplace.
At the end of the two days, the main working functionality we created with Pepper was the ability to book meetings with a voice command, say for example “Pepper, I’d like to have a meeting with Jake and Jane, on May 5 from 10 to 11”.
Under the hood, the voice would be recorded by Pepper and sent to IBM Watson’s Speech to Text API, to be turned into a text, processed in a series of scripts run in the Bluemix cloud with Node-RED, and turned into an HTTP request to the backend, which would finally send a message via Socket.io to the user interface to update the schedule in real time. Phew! I really couldn’t imagine we would achieve all of this in such a short time.
Coffee, energy drinks and pizza
Some more technicalities in case you are interested (sorry, I’m an Engineer, I can’t help), SoftBank’s Choregraphe was used to create nice interactions and answers from Pepper (like quoting Star Trek while the whole processing was happening), both the backend in Python and the frontend in ReactJS were hosted under different domains at Bluemix, and the frontend had an automated process to build and deploy as soon as a new commit was detected in GitHub. A kind of Frankenstein of technologies, but with such a short time everyone ended up using something that is more familiar, and then we figured out a way to integrate everything in the end.
In short, plenty of coffee, energy drinks, pizza, back pain, sleeping on a beanbag, going for a walk under the Sun or in the middle of the night to get some fresh air and stretch, a surprise yoga session in the morning (I don’t remember which morning anymore), learning a couple of words in Japanese, meeting and working with great people, programming a robot, and a lot more! I just don’t have enough words to describe how amazing this opportunity was.
Thanks to Leadin I had a blast in Japan! ?
This post was written by Fabiano who attended the Junction hackathon in Tokyo in April 2017 Picture credits: Junction Tokyo http://tokyo.hackjunction.com/
The development of digital technology has already brought most industries to the age of digital transformation. Many more are about to enter and in the end everyone will be affected. Technological breakthroughs allow industries to develop new and innovative service models, that in turn deliver a better customer experience and build access to new markets. However, they also expose industries to global competion and new entrants. [true for different parts of the financial industry]
Not everyone can be a winner, so what will be the deciding factor when determining success in the digital transformation? I believe success requires a capability to constantly change, challenge yourself and innovate. A culture (“the way we do things around here”) that embraces change provides the foundation for that capability. Customer-centric, data-driven organisations have this digital culture at their core. The most important attributes of a digital culture are:
A sense of purpose. Recognizing that people are driven and inspired by a sense of purpose is key. It is about how we think and communicate about what we do from future visions to every job at hand. People take inspiration from making a difference, learning new things or “making the world a better place”.
Transparency. Digital technology makes transparency so much easier in today’s working place. But transparency is not only about tools. Foremost it is about the mindset that information belongs to everyone. Transparency allows everyone to make the most educated decision in every situation.
Empowerment. The fast changing business environment creates more and more uncertainty for business. Instead of more control, the solution is trust. Empowered individuals and teams with permission to fail make decisions faster and also have the ability to learn faster from feedback. No lean development effort is possible without sufficiently empowered teams and inviduals.
Collaboration. A social and collaborative culture invites trust. Collaboration is about cooperation with professionals of different backgrounds, working as a team. Real-time and spontaneous collaboration empowers people to participate, creating a strong buy-in for change. Self organisation and dynamic networked organisations should be favored over rigid hierarchial ones.
Discipline and resolve. Last but not least, getting things done requires resolve and discipline.
Today, any modern business development effort leverages lean and agile methodologies for speed and customer-centric thinking. In order for these methodologies to work, a digital culture needs to be instilled. This is true even more so when networking with startups and modern consultancies that provide innovative ideas and modern ways of working.
More often than not digital culture is created and left isolated in internal startups or business development programs tasked with digital transformation. While perhaps providing limited success and some fast results, this does not necessarily help the organisation as a whole.
Instilling the right culture – and constantly nurturing it – is not necessarily an easy task. It takes a lot of courage from everyone, especially from management. But a digital culture is not only a requirement in order to embrace change, it is also a key ingredient in a happy and attractive work place. This is often not the case with legacy culture.
Mikael Nylund spoke about the importance of culture in digital transformation at the MoneyFintech 2017 event in May 2017
The new wave of design and development companies are basically all about culture. Their whole identity, what they are and want to be, is based on shared values, norms and the way of viewing the world. Not only do these companies involve people in all of their decision-making, they also create and renew their vision through social interaction. The culture is construed and renewed in social encounters through language, Denken ist Sprechen. This also applies to micro cultures such as work communities.
But how do companies manage, when pressure comes to change the language?
Out of ‘local’ and into ‘international’
Leadin was still an infant company when we agreed our strategy to become an internationally significant UX agency. We were only about 10 people in the small town of Tampere, Finland, but many of us had our professional background in global companies. We saw that the business for high-end UX services in Finland was going to be limited, and we were not the only ones out there. So we would be better off looking at the bigger markets outside our national borders. The collaboration with our international clients had given us very positive indications that we have something unique to offer. We were hungry to get ourselves out of exclusively ‘local’ and into ‘international’.
First, we started a more active collaboration with the non-Finnish branches of the international client companies we already had. Then we got our first “real” foreign client through the traditional way (you know someone who introduces you to someone else who realises that you are offering something valuable, and off you go), then we got the second, then the third. It started to make sense to set up our first office outside of Finland, close to the client. Once our UK office was established we soon started to find ways to utilise our multisite presence as an asset that adds value to our clients in all locations. For example, as we now have offices in Finland, the UK and Germany, we can repeat a user study in three countries and three languages without hiring an external research agency to support us. All of a sudden we realised that we actually, REALLY had become an international company.
A common company language
Today Leadin operates in four countries. Our staff represent about ten nationalities from Brazil to China and from Denmark to the USA. We speak almost ten different languages, but English is the one that’s common to all.
At a certain point, companies have to ask themselves which one is more important: The culture built on communication in the local language or the opportunities provided by international clients and more diverse markets. Being inclusive to international employees, clients and partners requires you to be able to communicate with them fluently in a language they feel familiar with. You don’t set up a site abroad without an explicit or implicit take on how to deal with the language. But how would foreign employees and language affect the company culture? Turning all speech and writing into a non-native language challenges the very fundaments of the company and community.
Respect people and listen
So what would be the impact? Could we survive? That question can sound intimidating, but the answer is revealing: If everyone’s on board, changing the language actually does not weaken the culture, it strengthens it. You’re going to be well off simply by being faithful to the values you already have. Respect people, listen to them, give them the power to find their own way.
For Leadin this happened somewhat naturally. Getting the first non-Finnish employee on board was, and was not a big change. It was a big change because we had to wipe away the rust from our English small talk skills. It was not a big change because we had already practised our English skills with some of our clients and in other contexts. Everyone in Finland speaks ‘ok’ English, even those who think they don’t. What has become evident, however, is that the pros of adopting English as our company language have exceeded the cons by a million times!
It’s all positive!
Here are just some of the advantages: We are more alluring than other companies for non-native employees in our country, who may be for example university graduates with huge potential, but no access to the local job market because of the language handicap. We can offer international careers to our team. If someone doesn’t want to relocate, we can offer them natural situations to practice their language skills in their current location. This builds self-confidence for social situations. We can all learn from different cultures, and expand our understanding of the world around us. And business-wise: We are more capable of understanding clients and partners from different cultures, and we understand how to do business with them.
I am often asked the question about how foreign employees and language has affected our company culture. My answer: It’s all positive! Cultural diversity opens viewpoints and opportunities you wouldn’t even have thought about, without taking anything away from what you already had. The change is easier than you would think, but it won’t happen without a bit of effort from all involved.
This post was written by Topi who helps inspire #LeadinCrew to make people’s lives better through everything we do regardless of their culture or native language.
It’s hard to stand out, ain’t it? With so many players in the Fintech scene, we are in a situation where something pretty just isn’t enough anymore. Customers expect more to use their time and effort on something. So what’s the solution? Stand out by offering new value and have a place in people’s lives – in addition to being pretty. But how? Know your customers.
Whether you’re just a bank offering basic bank services or some other player in the Fintech scene, you are among the many that are offering the same thing. And switching from one service provider to another is easy in this digital era, but if the alternative offers nothing new, why bother. I’m sure most within the scene are trying to come up with something unique that will win the customers on their side. But how can you come up with anything that provides any value if you don’t know who are you doing it for and what they value
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I know who the customers are?
- Do I know what they value?
- Do I know what they need?
- Do I know where they need it, why they would need it and where?
If you are thinking “Yes, I know the answers to these questions”, then there’s two possible reasons for that. Either you have actually done work with the customers to know them or you are just making assumptions. And if you’re making assumptions, I’d advise you to stop that and start the process of understanding your customers.
There are only a few things you can take for granted about customers. Customers are by nature interested in personal security and security of their closest ones. Anything related to personal security, whether it be food, shelter, wealth or just the idea of being secure, will be appealing to the customers. But when we are operating in a market where most of the operators are appealing to the security needs that’s not going to make you stand out.
So what might they need and value? Well, it depends on your customers. They might need a solution for investing and they value ethical investments. They might need someone to take care of everything for them and to make as much money regardless of the ethical factors or to focus their investments on a specific industry. Some might own land, some might own art, some might want to drive an eV and they might want to get all that while sitting on a bus. Just a few random examples, but I think you get the picture.
Luckily you don’t have to know every customer and their individual needs and values. We humans are individuals, but we form groups with similar needs and values. These groups are the foundation of customer segmentation for your service. We have for example car owners, young and old people, students, those that sleep with a teddy under their arm and those that love sushi.
You might think that the way it works is that you create something and then find the right group that needs the think you provide. Put out ads or something like that to lure them. Sure, it might sometimes work like that, but most often it doesn’t. It works the other way around. You find a group with needs that you can solve and values that you can accommodate. That’s the way you stand out and that’s the way you offer something valued and needed.
So start doing work with the customers. Interviews, group talks, facilitated workshops, analytics, observations etc. and continue to do so on a regular basis. It might sound that getting the information needed is hard since the methods above might sound unfamiliar to you, but it really isn’t – just use the right methods and someone who knows how to use them. All you have to do is know the question you want answered and choose the method based on that. And it’s not that time consuming either. When using the right methods, it’s effective and fast. So no long ethnographic studies, but instead pin-pointed research to specific groups.
So if you are even after reading this still going to continue with your assumptions, I wish you luck. You’ll need it. What you don’t know sure will hurt you. And to those that are doing or will be doing more work with their customers to understand them, I wish you all the success you deserve.