Last Monday I had the pleasure to visit the agile Roundtable from the DBSystel with a great talk from Klaus Lepold at @DB_Skydeck.
His talk was very inspiring especially for traditional companies with more hirarchies and project focus. His hypothesis and observation is based on the fact, that companies start too many projects in parallel which confuses the whole organisation. This leads to less results and customer outcomes due to context switching and overload of the whole organisation what Klaus observed in his studies:
5% active working time, 95% inactive project and switching
This is also promoted by the dream of multitasking doing things in parallel. It is proven due several researches, that multitasking causes switching costs which lower productivity. Please read Multitasking: Switching costs – Subtle “switching” costs cut efficiency, raise risk for more information or just search for further research.
The answer to this problem is very easy:
Limit the number of projects in progress!
This has several benefits like for example:
- Reduce cycle time and time to market
- Reduce switching overhead
- Reduce costs of delay
- Reduce delivery risks
- Increase predictability
Furthermore you are able to calculate the average cycle time due to Little’s Law:
But limiting the work in progress shouldn’t stay on one hierarchy level, it must leverage the whole organisation.
Stop starting, start finishing!
Agile portfolio management an limiting projects in progress might help to deliver more and faster to customers:
Important note: in the first time, the work in progress decreased, because in the first four month no new projects were started. This was mentioned as a difficult time were you’ll need the buy-in and strength of the senior management to succeed.
How does agility might help?
First of all you’ll need to understand the obvious: an organisation is not a container of independend teams. Instead you have exponential dependencies.
Agility of an organisation is not having many agile teams. Agility is about having agile interactions between teams.
That said about agility coordination and interaction is key to success for the whole organisation. This is where agile portfolio management comes into place.
Prioritize and reject ideas through different organisation & management levels
It seems obvious and simple as well that you’ll have to prioritize & focus on each and every level of the organisation. I believe this is the biggest challenge and lack in enterprise companies because of their organisational hierarchy structure.
You’ll need to focus on value streams on the operational structure & defocus the organisational structure.
Maximize the outcome and value for customers
I am so thankful and happy my teacher in practising product ownership is Jeff Patton. He always reminds me on the focus:
Thanks Martien for sharing his beautiful scetch.
Jeff is leading the one and only mindset for Product Owner to focus on outcome and value for customers. I’ve experienced and read about to many misleading management decisions about focussing on output, which is absolutely the wrong approach. My last post mentioned this
Focus on outcome and value for customers will lead into a huge impact for the organisation. Be patient for the impact for the organisation because it is lagging in time.
What are your thoughts? Comments? Let me know.
All the best,