Lean and Agile Coach at Object Consulting

I am excited about joining Object Consulting as a Lean and Agile Coach.  I am really looking forward to working with Object and working side-by-side with our clients in the coming months.

Here’s an article that was published in today’s Australian IT with the announcement of my appointment at Object Consulting.   Except of announcement:

OBJECT Consulting has appointed Chris Chan to the role of lead Agile coach, responsible for teaching clients how to effectively use the technology/methodology to accelerate development.

It is the latest in a string of new hires for Object, which now employs about 300 developers and related professionals, working on government, banking and wider enterprise solutions.

Chan has 13 years’ experience as an Agile practitioner/coach and software designer. Previous employers include Hewlett-Packard and EDS.

“My role is to mentor and grow productive teams who are continuously beating their own standards for excellence,” Chan says.

Southern region general manager Tim Hastings says that while Australia does not yet have the level of demand evident in Europe and North America, where up to half of all projects use Agile methodologies, there are good reasons to support its growth. “Chief among these is that it helps our teams deliver quickly and adapt readily — which makes it a natural fit for the results-oriented developments our enterprise customers require.”

Object Consulting specialises in enterprise business solutions.

I am passionate about Lean and Agile values and principles. I have a pragmatic approach and can adapt to your specific environment. Please feel free to ping me if you have any questions about how I can help you.

A Kanban Christmas Story

Here is a nice Christmas Story with a Kanban twist.

Tree Trunks on Beach

Tree Trunks on Beach. 1/400 sec, f/5.0 at ISO100.

This photo was taken on a windy day on a beach near Cairns, Australia.

Training to become an Agile Coach?

[Edited: Updated links 28 Feb 2011]

Today I received an interesting question – “What training is there to develop agile coaches as output of the training?”

The goal of an Agile coach is grow a productive Agile team that thinks for itself rather than relying on someone to prescribe the way to do things. Showing people how to be Agile isn’t enough. They need to change how they work and how they think in order for Agile to stick. A coach helps people to unlearn old habits and break the old mental models we are so use to before so people can work effectively as members of an Agile Team. As an Agile Coach, you must guide people through rough patches until they can find their own way.

The Agile Coach is also a mentor. They support engagements in exploring, adopting and optimizing Agile principles and practices. The Agile Coach mentors Scrum Teams and ScrumMasters, and coaches Product Owners. They help develop and sustain a simple measurement system for the Team performance and help teams and stakeholders to define and experiment with various countermeasures to the impediments uncovered in the work process. An an Agile Coach you may also need to develop customized training materials and deliver training for Management, Executives, product owners and other team members (business analysts, developers, testers, etc.).

To be a good Agile Coach you must have experienced the pain of working on Agile engagements. I think an Agile Coach is a natural progression by someone who has many years as an Agile practitioner and has the right mindset, lean thinking and then having the ability to help teams so they become better.

I think my past experiences have made me into a better coach and I certainly would not feel that I would perform my role properly as an Agile Coach without that experience.

There are definitely some good resources to become a better coach, but I wouldn’t think you could have a training program that turns someone who hasn’t experienced Agile into a Coach (well a good one anyways). Using an analogy – many sports coach (eg tennis, basketball, football) have had experience playing and studying their sport before imparting their knowledge to their protégé.

Here are some good related links on Agile Coaching that I have come across:

You might also want to check out Lyssa Adkins’ book, Coaching Agile Teams, which I am reading now.  I will post a book review when I am done.

Cost Center Disease

I recently attended the local Melbourne Agile user group meetup where Mary Poppendieck gave a couple of great presentations. I have watched many of Mary’s presentations over the Internet so it was a welcome change to hear her speak in person. It was also good to hear two presentations that I haven’t seen or heard before from Mary.  The presentation titles were:

  • It’s Not About Working Software: First Build the Right Thing
  • Socio-Technical Systems: Cost-Center Disease

I love the term “Cost Center Disease” that Mary introduced. I have seen many projects and organizations with symptoms of this disease. I would go as far as saying it would be a chronic disease in some organizations.

Cost Center Disease afflicts IT departments, government organizations, even consulting firms – anywhere the value created by one organization is realized by another organization and the governance system substitutes an artificial target for providing real value. – Mary Poppendieck

Organizations need to strike a balance between cost containment and delivering value.  However, too many times organizations focus too much heavily on costs and not enough on delivering value and ultimately the business goals takes a back seat.

Cost Center disease leads to local sub-optimization and projects and organizations that focus too much on costs often results in a ‘pants on fire’ delivery schedule.  This leads to overall increased costs due to teams adding technical debt, constant fire-fighting and overburdened processes due to management having a tendency to over micro-manage in an attempt to ‘control costs’ in the first place.

One attempt to control cost is to focus on people’s utilization which is a form of local sub-optimization – people have to be 100% utilized so they are efficiently used.  Focusing on utilization ignores the reality of software systems.  In a recent post, Alan Shalloway says:

While Lean adopters are looking for higher productivity and lower cost, they have learned that going after these directly actually results in lower true productivity (value delivered per person) and higher costs. The reason is that productivity measures too often are geared toward how much work people are doing rather than how much true value is being delivered and cost, alone, is inadequate for deciding on process and/or product improvements.  For example, measuring how much work people are doing leads to keeping people busy. Unfortunately, this leads to overworked analysts, developers and testers are incredibly busy while seemingly taking forever to deliver what the business stakeholders need. It does not translate into true added value.

Organizations with Cost Center Disease tend to have a mentality of contract negotiation over customer collaboration which results in additional legal costs which would have been better spent on delivering the customer value in the first place.  Decreased team morale is also evident which further deteriorates the system.

Due to a cause and effect relationship, I believe that by focusing and making decisions based on costs will have an opposite effect and not deliver the anticipated cost reduction or cost savings that is promised.

Ultimately, the one that suffers the most from Cost Center Disease is the customer.  Unhappy customers will soon turn to no customer.  And no customer will lead to no business.  So start focusing on delivering customer value.

Rainforest near Lake St Clair in Tasmania

Rainforest near Lake St Clair in Tasmania, Australia

Rainforest near Lake St Clair in Tasmania, Australia. 5 Sec, f/8 at ISO100.

Pier Fading Into Blue

Pier Fading Into Blue In the Afternoon

Pier Fading Into Blue In the Afternoon. 1/125 sec, f/4 at ISO100.

Cradle Mountain Reflections

Cradle Mountain reflections

Cradle Mountain reflections, Tasmania, Australia. 1/100 sec, f/5 at ISO100

I love this pic, the water was so calm and sky was so clear.

Cradle Mountain is one of the rainiest and overcast places in Australia. This photo was taken on one of the rare clear days at Cradle Mountain where cold, wet weather is the rule in the Cradle Valley area. It rains 7 out of 10 days and is cloudy 8 days out of 10 days wher you can’t see the Mountain top. Apparently it clear and sunny only but a handful of days in a year. We got lucky!!!

Blue Birdie

Blue Wren

Blue Wren. 1/160 sec, f/5 at ISO100.

Path Through The Rainforest

Path through the rainforest

Path through the rainforest. 0.3 sec, f/4 at ISO100.

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