A colleague of mine, Heather Stagl, said “If you’re doing change management in an office with your door closed, you’re doing it wrong“.
I was working in a department of around 30 people where the managers felt that the biggest problem to solve was the fact that the team had too many meetings. After a conversation with the teams, the too many meetings problem never came up. In fact, at the end of the retrospective I poked the teams about it and they were confused as to why managers thought there were too many meetings.
We all have our blind spots. Your view isn’t necessarily the right view so when you’re working on implementing change, you need to understand the perspective of all of the people affected by the change. That includes the people directly affected, in-directly affected and the observers.
I sat down recently with Joanne Stone who is an Agile Evangelist for TELUS after she had the opportunity to try a Perspective Mapping session with 22 teams, their managers and their executives.
Jason: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Joanne! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your responsibilities at TELUS.
Joanne: I am an Agile Evangelist, Scrum Master, Change Agent, and Agile Coach at TELUS Communications Inc. Our organization has been on this journey now for the last 2 years. I have been very grateful to have the opportunity to “evangelize agile” at Telus since the beginning. The momentum that we have created over the last two years are fantastic and I truly believe that it is making a difference in our people, teams and organization.
Currently, I am part of a very passionate Agile Transformation Team at Telus. Most recently, I have been the team’s scrum master. We have had some great successes, and went from 10 teams to 80 in less than a year. Other than the number of teams, we have seen improvements in team engagement, stakeholder satisfaction and time to market. We are only at the beginning of our journey and expect this will continue for at least 2 more years. The transformation is not just for IT, it is for the entire organization, with some 15 of the 80 teams from the business. We are utilizing Lean Startup, Lean, Scrum, Kanban and Scrumban, anything the teams want to use to help them improve the way they are working. Recently, our Marketing Teams have been utilizing agile!
Jason: What prompted you to do a Perspective Mapping session?
Joanne: To get feedback from the agile teams in a specific VP area to build a 2015 plan that helps improve teams agile fluency and on-boarding new teams. This VP area had the majority of teams (33) and our transformation team wanted to see if our perception of the problems we saw were actual problems, or our biased view.
Jason: I remember when we started talking about this and a frequent challenge I’ve heard is that we’re a big enterprise…we can’t do that!! I’ve done this with 150 people in the same room, but you have problems with people being scattered all over Canada. Walk me through the logistics of how this worked.
Joanne: This was indeed fairly challenging and I would like to warn others, it took a long time to do. I started prepping teams in late December and did not finish until the end of February.
Based on previous experience, I found that doing a retrospective like this in a group setting made it very difficult. For multiple reasons
a) it was hard to find a time in everyone’s schedule and thus a smaller group participating
b) it was hard to facilitate a retrospective with a large group of folks (over 200).
BTW I had a target of getting results for minimally 75% of the teams. This approach allowed me to get 95% participation!!
The approach I took involved utilizing the Scrum Masters and/or Kanban Team Leads to gather the information from their teams (whichever way they wanted to do it). Every scrum master utilized the same set of questions. The logistics were as follows for each director area under this VP:
- Met with all of the Scrum masters/Kanban Team Leads in a director group, I explained why we were doing the perspective mapping and how to gather the information.
- Summarized all the information (removing duplicates) and presented it back to the Scrum Masters/Kanban Team Leads to ensure I accurately captured the information, asked them to dot vote on the most important initiatives that would help them improve mad/sad items.
- Met with all the Team Managers face to face, asked the same questions first to the Team Managers and then revealed the responses back to them from the teams. They also, dot voted on the most important initiatives that they felt would improve the mad/sad items.
- Grouped all of the Team Manager information with the Team Information, identifying any new areas added by managers.
- Met with the Director face to face, asked the same questions first to the Director and then revealed the responses from the Managers and Teams
The final step was grouping all of the data across all directors. Meeting with the VP face to face and doing the same process that I did with the Directors, Managers and Teams.
Jason: That’s great that you enlisted what I’d call ‘change champions‘ or the ‘change agent network‘ to do your bidding. I imagine that made it a little easier for you!
You mentioned you had them all ask the same questions, what were they?
Joanne: The questions were surround around improving agile fluency, adoption of new teams, and around coaching. Specifically the questions were :
- For Improving agile fluency: “As an agile team what made you happy? As an agile team what made you sad? As an agile team what made you mad”
- For Improving agile adoption: “As an agile team adopting agile what made you happy? As an agile team adopting agile what made you sad?” “As an agile team adopting agile what made you mad?”
- For working with agile coaches we used the following questions” While working with an Agile Coach what made you happy? While working with an Agile Coach what made you sad? While working with an Agile Coach what made you Mad?”
- For all of those items that made you mad/sad – what would you like to improve?
- What would you like to keep doing?
Jason: What benefits did you see from taking this approach?
Joanne: It had many benefits!
- Validation that the teams wanted to continue doing agile in this VP’s organization
- Everyone loved doing this, it was better than just a survey!!
- A list of challenges that need to be removed to help improve teams fluency and prioritized initiatives
- Alignment across all the Directors on the shared Challenges
- VPs, Director’s and Managers hearing what the individuals were saying that gained the support for action – “PRICELESS”
Furthermore, when we started this exercise, I was not really sure that the organization really wanted to do agile. My biggest fear, was that the teams thought they were forced to do it and/or they saw no benefit at all from doing it. After this survey, I found the proof that they did want to continue.
I found this, however, by complete accident. We started reviewing data in the order of glad, sad, and mad with the scrum masters and Kanban leaders. Now, you are probably seeing what I am seeing now, how would folks feel if the last thing you talked about was about mad information.
I pondered in the meeting, “should I have reversed the data and started with Mad and then go to Glad?”. Actually, I did not change my way of delivery to other teams, I took advantage of the feelings that mad/sad left the teams in. I asked the question, “Do you want to continue with Agile after reviewing what made you mad and sad?”. The response out of all teams across all directors was “YES but if we can change x, y, z …”. (BTW We had one Manager who was brave enough to say “NO but It would work if you change x,y,z …” this was my favourite as it sad the same as “YES but” however it had a more stronger punch). We even had some teams say “HELL YES” without any “but’s”. How cool is that?
Jason: That’s fantastic! Sounds like you received some candid feedback, especially from the manager who felt safe enough to say they didn’t want to keep ‘doing Agile’. Given how long and difficult this exercise was to do, was it worth it?
Joanne: “HELL YES x 2”
This is especially true in the case at Telus, as a change agent, I have been trying to help agile adoption across my team and the organization. It was more of a grass roots movement and was not mandated from above. For me, I was unable to meet with every team and did not have a good “read” as to whether or not folks wanted to do this. This technique allowed me to reach out to all, to speak to everyone, and get the real sense and confidence that this was the right thing to do.
Secondly, it was able to align all of the directors and VP on the objectives and plan for 2015. A group of people (one from each director area) has been established to help remove the challenges. (We are utilizing the experiment practices in your book with this team to help remove these challenges).
Jason: Thanks for the plug! 🙂 I’m wary of a big plan for the year, but given where you describe where you’re at, sometimes it’s necessary. What would you do differently next time?
Joanne: I would solicit help from a prime from each Director area to run the Director Meetings. I really wanted the team to “own” their own retrospective data and to ensure that all feedback from Director’s and Managers were shared with the teams. This may have helped with creating more ownership and a sense of urgency that could have reduced the time it took to do the whole process.
Jason: What advice would you have for someone who wants to try this?
Joanne: Patience – it takes a long time to accumulate all of the data and it is really worth it.
Don’t be fearful of asking the same question to the directors and VP’s. I was very fearful to ask the director’s and VP the same questions as I asked the teams. I was fearful that it may uncover misalignment which would cause conflict in the conversation I was having with them. For the most part, I was delighted, they were very much in tune with their teams and they also gave a higher level or bigger picture view. The other added benefit is that it was in Director/VP “speak” – something already consumable by other director’s and VPs to relate to.
Jason: Thanks very much Joanne, best of luck on your 2015 plan! 😉
Joanne: Haha! You’re welcome!