Process governance and agile

Do you need processes at team level?

At the heart of an agile organization is a deep understanding of how we work together. In an agile team, the constant collaboration between the members help doing so. Retrospective meetings are the institutionalised forum for talking about “how we work”. In reality, every time people talk together there is a little bit of “how” in the conversation. How many conversations end with “you do this, then I do that”.

There is little need to formalise processes in too much details at a team level. This is compensated by clear and open communication between the members.

Do you need processes at an organisation level?

This gets more complicated when several teams are working together (team = sharing coffee machine). Such as procurement and production; or sales and accounting. Or Head office – regional offices.

At this level, the interactions are less regular, and, we do not systematically voice concerns or “just” change  how things work. Processes change are often heavy and it’s easier to not do it.

This is where process definition gets critical to understand how things work. And this is where you need some sort of governance to make it right, especially around change.

What is process governance in an agile organization?

This post finishes with a list of open questions / thoughts because I don’t have a definitive answer (yet).

  • Create a system that allows continuous improvement (CI) of processes (willingness to do so, and an approach to make it) at cross-functional level
  • Create the incentive to do CI across several teams (incentive = people will find the time to do it)
  • Have a common language to describe the work so that everyone can prepare in the best way (Hello, Skore)
  • Process owner is key role to make that happen
  • Middle management is a key role to make that happen
  • Good understanding of outcomes of the process vs. outputs to be in the right context

The key seems to be to create “space” in the organisation for continuous improvement activities…

To be continued.

Skore service interruption – March 22nd 2018

The main Skore service (https://app.justskore.it) suffered a short interruption at 15.07 GMT today and lasted up to 20 minutes for some users.

Those editing or viewing processes would have seen several error messages including; Server Unavailable, Proxy Error and 503 error.

The outage was caused during a routine reboot of servers in order to apply security patches to protect against the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

Rebooting the servers took longer than anticipated which led to longer outage of the core Skore services. The knock on effect was that some services became temporarily unavailable.

We are reviewing our risk analysis for maintenance to ensure that we are taking all necessary precautions for future maintenance so that we can better inform customers during such updates.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Project management vs. process is there such a thing ?

I was on a call and we had this discussion about, supposedly, 2 types of processes:

  1. Process as a “recommendation”: process says A-B-C but you can do A-C-B if you think it’s relevant. Maybe it’s good for a project.
  2. Processes as mandatory instructions:  process says A-B-C, you must do A-B-C. It’s best for repetitive processes that need a lot of structure.

Ok… so one is more flexible than the other?

In (1) people use their expertise and experience to know what is best to do and adapt the process to their needs to get the best performance.

In (2) people use their expertise and experience to know that it is best to follow the process in order (A-B-C) to get the best performance.

So to me there is no such thing as a process for “repetitive / structured” activities or a “project process”. We rely on people using the process to know when to adapt and when to comply. The end goal being the same : how can I get the best performance.

We are in the business of creating shared understanding between functions so they can work together in the best way.

Describing a way to do a project as a process helps understanding all the tasks of the project and how they are linked. The role of the project manager is to understand these tasks and coordinate them so they produce what needs to be done.

What do Swiss trains and creativity have in common?

An example of a product packaging design process in Skore app.

 

Skore (Thu Feb 18 2016 11-01-21)
Packaging design process steps in Skore app

View this process in full

 

What?! a process to limit my creativity? I quit!!!!

There is almost a philosophical opposition to processes in some marketing teams. Nevertheless, those who embraces processes them don’t seem to do that bad. What happened? First. Let’s go in the Swiss Alps.

What do Swiss trains and creativity have in common?

Most trains in Switzerland are scheduled with a “regular interval” timetable. A given train will leave every day at 11:36, 12:36, 13:36, etc. Does it hinder or foster creativity? Probably the later! The schedule is predictable and reliable. I can focus on what I do best and know that a train will be there when I expect it.

A good process serves the same purpose: make the business predictable about what will happen next, so we can all follow a similar track: we can all work together.

When working with customer my ambition is to get various departments work together. Better.

They all need a common understanding of what a team will deliver and when. Good processes describe just that. Good processes don’t need to go in too much detail on how the work is done. Team members will certainly know how to proceed.

Benefits of processes for creative teams

 

  • Describing different phases at a high level, so that anyone can understand them (see picture above or open the full process)

Getting alignment helps maintaining consistency accross a variety of teams, phasing projects so they are not all requiring validation at the same time, planning resources, etc.

  • Highlighting the approval steps. We made the approval steps orange with a flag so they stand out.
Skore (Thu Feb 18 2016 10-56-31)
Approval step in a process with a flag icon to make it stand out

A consistency in the approval process creates shows what is the important thing to focus on.

 

  • Clarifying the Roles & Responsibilities in the design process between the Marketing Manager, the Packaging Design Specialist and the Agency working with them

 

 

How is it done in Skore app ?

  • First, I had mapped all the activities on a single “flat” diagram to see everyhing at once
  • I usually start with the activities before adding the responsibilities
  • I added icons to make the process more… visual
  • Then I created the high level view (the 3 boxes) and pushed the content in the detailed views
  • Then I customize the stylesheet to match the (virtual) customer brand colors

Skore Feature – Publish online as HTML file

Publish an interactive Skore on your intranet for everyone to see.

Interactive means that all features of a Skore are available : enter detailed view, open attachments, use the search, zoom, etc.

How?

Skore app normally produces .skore files. It is possible to save these files as .html files, or webpages.

Once created you can edit this .html file directly using Skore app. You can then publish the file on an intranet / website or google drive for example.

This video explains more.

 

Technical / Security note :

  • the content of your skore never reaches our servers. The html file will fetch some code to make a skore interactive (detailed view, attachments, etc.) but never transfer the content of the skore outside the browser.

Skore app new release – icons

In Skore app V3 we have added the ability to instantly add icons to processes. You can choose from over 600 icons to drag and drop straight into your process maps to make them more visually appealing and tell a better story.

Icons can be added to white space or placed directly into what and why boxes in two ways:

  • Drag and drop icons from the icon library
  • Use Markdown to add icons to what and why boxes

This video tells you more about how to use icons.

 

Skore app new release – stylesheets

Skore V3 is available ! Highlight of the day : stylesheets.

Give more personality to your process map by using stylesheets. Brand our processes according to your company or project guidelines so they are easier to recognise and adopt.

There are 2 ways to use stylesheets:

  • Change the stylesheet for the entire process map
  • Change the style of selected boxes

This video explains how.

2016-01-25 - Skore stylesheets

You can customize any elements of a Skore process map.

Why are LEAN Office projects so difficult; how to get started?

Typical question when I explain my work:

So you’re doing LEAN projects ?

I would love to say YES! but no. It is impossible to do Lean Office project if you haven’t understood what people do.

LEAN is born in the manufacturing environment where you can see physical products being transformed or moved on a production line. You can use your Lean toolkit to make things flow nicely through your factory…

People familiar with these projects know it: 2 production lines are both the same and different. You would make a “Lean Project” on one production line, and not everything will necessarily apply in the same way on another line. Though, again, this can be mitigated.

The work in an office is not like on a production line

The problem with Lean in the Office is that you have as many production lines as people working on progressing the projects. And it is impossible to improve something that you haven’t understood.

So how to get started for Lean Office project ?

  • Make a process map to understand how the work is done today. Not how the process should be; but how it is now.
  • !Important! Get evidence that this process is the actual process people do:
    • Measure the process for at least 3 months. Get data. Lead Time, “First Time Right”, delays, planned vs. actual delivery, approval loops, etc.
    • Make DILO “Day In the Life Of…” where you follow an actual project / document and ask EVERYONE what they do with it, how they use it, etc. You might learn more than you expected.
    • Review the process to ensure this is the real process.
    • Start looking for improvement opportunities (7 types of waste, etc.)

This should help you getting started!

Process workshop agenda

Prepared in advance or “on the spot” here is my standard process workshop agenda.

Introduction

Introduce yourself, and why you are here. You are likely to be new to a team of people who know each-other very well already. You are the alien! I mention other projects but rarely other people’s name (unless it’s someone you know is seen as a leader or has authority) … you never know about their relationships…

Expectations

Explain the agenda (like this one), discuss expectations, and timings. Always answer all questions; take notes of keywords they mention. Explain what processes can do and what they can’t do. Explain that mapping processes is very iterative and it’s impossible to get something right. Discuss the level of details you want to go in.

Example

Show a “finished” or “best in class” process and explain the methodology you will use to map processes. Typically, people who know it won’t mind a refresher; new people will hopefully learn something.

Leverage existing materials

List & review existing content they might already have. Some sort of processes certainly exists somewhere. They might not think about the existing materials on the spot: they probably don’t use them very often! Ask them why they are not using it; what would make them use it; what is the pain they have today?

Understand constraints

List existing standards, reference materials they have. Their head office might have a “generic” methodology, approach or process that business units have to use. You know, it’s always better to do what they head office wants, even it’s 10 000 miles away from the real work that happens in the business.

Focus

You probably can’t do everything during the workshop; refine the focus areas to cover and make sure everyone is on board. I mean everyone, not just the most senior person.

Iterate

I always try to iterate at least twice on a process, but ideally 4 times

  1. The work
  2. The roles
  3. The attached documents, templates, reference materials, etc.
  4. The interface with other process

Finish

Never, ever, finish late. If you have to, ask permission to finish late way in advance, like at -10min!

Always thrive to finish earlier than scheduled. Actually, you sent this 1h meeting request knowing that it will take only 30min. So you have a chance to do twice the work or finish in advance. In both cases you look awesome.