October 28, 2015

Where's The Problem?

We're putting the finishing touches on a 4-year project this week. This was one of those once-or-twice in a lifetime things that can either suck the life out of you or energize you tremendously. If done well, it will do both, and this one did. And how cool is this: It works!

It really did enable transformation of our company by implementing a new core system that allows tremendous flexibility in how we define and configure our processes. In doing so, we had to essentially re-engineer everything we've done with technology over the past 20 years. Fun? Yes! Excruciating? For sure!

If that was all we did, we'd probably count it a success. But we gained a lot more. By running an agile team approach, we put business operations leads with architects and IT staff together to live, eat, and breathe each others lives. Eye-opening to say the least, and definitely earned most of us a new level of respect for the others' jobs. 

It also made us challenge each other constantly. "The way we've always done it" was no longer acceptable. We had to look at problems in new ways. Having the diversity of talent and background on the teams made a huge difference as we leveraged each others experience and viewpoints. 

Agile scrum is an approach that is pretty simple. It brings together a team every day to review what we accomplished the previous day, what we want to get done today, and what barriers we face. The team's job is to crush the barriers and keep progress moving. Sounds simple, right? Barriers are the most common cause of project slippage (John's opinion), yet they are sometimes the most elusive to uncover. Why is that?

Sometimes we just don't want to admit that we're stuck. We may not want to blame someone else for the barrier. This is very common in some cultures and may need some prodding to draw out of someone who isn't comfortable speaking out. 

But barriers must be broken down to have progress. Identification (admit you have a problem?) is always the first step. Sometimes the barrier isn't what it seems and may need some root cause analysis to get by. Often it will need help from upper management to break through some sacred cows or get past the one who just 'doesn't get it.'

Challenge your team: Call out the barrier you're facing, no matter how small. Identify it. Search for it. Name it. Then knock it down. Success follows.

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