Kaizen Story

As I’ve worked with Scrum in a context that is not software development, I’ve come to define Scrum thus:

Scrum is a framework for getting stuff done that embraces change, while promoting transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

You get transparency from the Daily Stand-Up meeting (this is called the Scrum, too), and both the Sprint Burndown Chart and the Release Burndown Chart. Everybody starts the day on the same page, blockers are identified, and outside parties are privy to the progress during the Sprint and towards a release-worthy product; these are formats for easy sharing and digesting of Sprint-related information.

From all the data being laid out from the Burndown Charts, we can get inspection. The Sprint-end demonstration (part of the Review) also allows for a frequent check on the state of the software and acceptance of the stories done during the Sprint: inspection of the work. Inspection of the process is done during the Retrospective.

And the Retrospective is THE place where adaptation is determined. After inspecting the process, using methods I’ve mentioned in the previous two posts, we ideally get a somewhat prioritized list of stuff we either want to keep, stop, or start doing: a backlog of adaptation options.

Now, we pat ourselves on the back, go straight into Sprint Planning, and restart the Sprintly cycle.

And fail.

I mean, if we just come up with a list of ways we can get better, but don’t really do anything about it, then the Retrospective was a jolly ol’ waste of time. Does this sound like post-mortem meetings you’ve been a part of? Were they called ‘Lessons Learned’ meetings? See, I passionately dislike that term, ‘Lessons Learned’. You cannot say you’ve properly learned your lesson unless you repeat a situation and then exhibit ‘better’ behaviour, thus proving that you have indeed learned your lesson. Until then, you’re just talking about ‘how it all went’, an ‘Issues Encountered’ meeting, sharing what you’d do better next time.

The Retrospective is different.

At the top of the backlog of adaptation options, there must be an immediately actionable process improvement that can be implemented. How to ensure you do this? Make it a story for the upcoming Sprint: the Kaizen Story. Kaizen? Yeah, it’s Japanese:

Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc. Kaizen literally means ‘improvement’.

So, via Kaizen, we adapt. Via the Kaizen Story, a properly formed Sprint backlog item with points and acceptance criteria… and is independent, negotiable, valuable, ‘estimatable’, sized to fit, and testable… and is otherwise meeting a Definition of Ready for stories, the team is constantly working on improving the Scrum process, specifically using a measure uncovered and set by the team itself. (What’s that? At the back of the room… is that… is that the ‘self-management’ flag being waved? Why yes. Yes it is.)

I don’t have a clever way to end this post besides expressing how I think this idea is just so damn cool: Scrum becomes a framework for both getting stuff done and for improving how stuff gets done.

Genius.

Visualizing Via Pinterest

Crap, I’m addicted. I mean, I was addicted, but only for the whole evening yesterday.

Pinterest is a site to post linked pictures, organized by ‘boards’. Simple. It’s popular enough that when you’re reading an article that features a picture, right next to those buttons where you can Tweet it or Facebook it (that’s a verb now?) or Google Plus it (Google add it?), you can now Pin it to a board of yours.

What’s so (P)interesting about this?

I now have suit coats because I wandered in Marshall’s and knew what to look for. I knew what to look for because between Sprints (during my Sprint Planning), I read over all of my Product Backlog. Sure, this takes a few minutes, but it’s worth it – it reminds me of the person I want to be via clear (and Independent and Negotiable and Valuable and ‘Estimatable’ and Small and Testable) stories to get there. One of those stories for an awesome me was amassing a collection of suit coats. This wish comes from what I think is a better version of “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

Dress as the man that I want to be.

And how did this get onto my Product Backlog / master-list-of-what-makes-up-a-future-and-awesome-Merrill? I sat and thought, like Pooh Bear, and wrote it down. I visualized and wrote it down. What does Pinterest give me? A way to visualize (and find online or snap a pic of something) and pin it up. It’s a vision board. ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne covers this, where you work with The Law of Attraction to bring to you what you want, which only really works with some deliberate measure if you know what you want.

So, in the Scrum spirit of things, I’ll be transparent (shameless?) and share my Pinterest boards, so you can see how I use them as vision boards:

http://pinterest.com/mblamont3

Happy pinning!