Leading and lagging – take the weight off your feet

When speaking at conferences over the last few years I have always leant on weight loss as an example to emphasise the difference between leading and lagging indicators. To show how weight loss, the lagging indicator cannot be used in isolation to achieve ones goals. Getting on the scales at the end of the week to review our weight may or may not end positively and its actually about leading indicators such as diet and exercise that will ‘lead’ to achieve the lagging measures of success.

With that in mind imagine my shock when after a festive season filled with mince pies, cakes, caramel hot chocolates and lots of sitting down I discovered I was 11 stone. The heaviest I had been ‘since records began’. The heaviest I had been in my life. 11 stone felt like a lot for someone 5ft 5.5 inches (the .5 is important) and nearing 40.

More importantly it was how I felt, slow and unfit, heavy and not happy walking around in just my pants, which is an ancient past time of the Leach clan. So something had to be done. Like a lot of people in early January my instinct was to join the gym or buy lots of exercise equipment. Sadly I have previous for this.

So I decided to think through what I had been banging on about at the conferences. Using data to set goals, defining outcomes, creating something which is sustainable, using leading and lagging indicators.

I would start with doing some research into ways to lose weight and common approaches and methods, one of my heroes Mark Ridley practices fasting so this was also an area of interest.

My plan led me to 3 logical steps:

1. Reduce calorie intake – going from lots of cakes to no cakes would be bad. More generally slightly decreasing meal sizes

2. Cut down drastically on sugar – I have a very sweet tooth so this would be no mean feat

3. Start exercising more than not exercising at all

4. Needed a fourth step for actually sticking to it, discipline and intestinal fortitude are not strong traits in me, so would need some work .

My research led me to a decision to set myself 3 goals all of which would be timeboxed to 4 weeks and undertaken in order to give focus and to ensure there wasn’t too many variables in my experiment 😉

Goal 1

Drop calorie intake by 50%, Online tools helped me understand that I needed about 2000 calories, however I was currently at nearly double that. Crisps had become the norm at lunch, I had 4-5 cups of tea with 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar. A sugary dessert after dinner has also become mandatory. Plus breakfast was typically jam or peanut butter on toast.

So I set about cutting down, as I mentioned things need to be sustainable. It’s my belief that drastic changes are not sustainable so fad diets that make you unhappy will not be stuck to.

So day on day I cut back. No jam on the toast. Deserts every other day and 2 cups of tea not 4-5. Swapping the bag of crisps for a banana (this one hurt the most) damn fruit, my natural enemy.

It was working though, even after a few weeks I had lost a few pounds so those lagging indicators were giving me confidence that my leading indicators (behavioural) were correct.

I reached the end of month one and had lost half a stone (7lbs or 3kgs). I felt better and in other stages of my life this would be where I would stop. This time was different. I wanted to explore goals 2 and 3.

Goal 2

Cut down drastically on sugar. This one would ensure me and my best friend, my go to guy ‘the cup of tea’ would either part ways or have a very different relationship. I wanted to experiment with less sugar (manky) or different tea bags (weird). After 2 weeks of experimenting I actually settled on coffee. Working in central London I am spoilt for choice with coffee shops and ground coffee sourced from all over the world.

I always knew I liked coffee but now I absolutely love it. Often black and always without sugar. I had said goodbye to Tea and bye for now to jam, peanut butter and caramel.

So I’m lighter, happier, eating smaller portions and consuming far less sugar.

Goal 3

Burning calories of course, this puzzled me though as how to approach it, as I’ve joined a gym twice before and never stuck to it, swimming more than a few lengths makes me feel sick, running long distances makes my knees feel sick and exercise classes are just weird. Being nearly 40 and stood at the back of a room full of girls in short shorts makes me feel bad.

So I googled something far more masculine and something I now enjoyed watching, Boxing. I am lucky there is a boxing training class camply named ‘Boxercise’ based just a few miles down the road. I anxiously signed up and went along for the first class. It nearly killed me but was so much fun.

What I have discovered is that when you are padded and sparring with a partner you need to focus, need concentration and need to put 100% effort in else you impact the level of workout that the other person gets. Getting the motivation for weeks 2 and 3 was difficult but I’m now 15 sessions in and loving it.

Outcomes

My goals for the 3 months had been met:

Reduce calories, cut down sugar (related to goal 1 but specific), start and maintain exercise. Whilst I have been on the scales on and off, those lagging indicators were going to be slightly irrelevant as I was confident in the leading indicators and had met or exceeded them.

My daily calorie intake was now 2000-2200 which was balanced against the weekly boxing class and average daily steps of 8,000, I was enjoying coffee without sugar and really enjoying the occasional chocolate brownie. When you have treats less often they really do taste amazing. The nut and chocolate brownie from the Kiosk in Kings cross station is amazing.

As of July 2018 I had dropped the lagging indicator of weight from 11stone (69kgs) to 9 stone 9lbs (62kgs). My previous weight actually had me at a BMI of 25.4 (not good) now I’m down to a happier 22.

Whilst this is all very positive and I feel more comfortable walking around in my pants it does question what next. I’m happier, fitter and thinner. I’m exercising regularly and enjoying what I eat. Maybe my goal is one of sustainability now.

The other thing I haven’t mentioned again is that of fasting. As part of the calorie reduction once I had cut out Jam on toast for breakfast and cut down the size of my dinner and cut out regular afters I then decided the conditions were right to introduce intermittent fasting.

Eating for 6 hours a day only. This by now wasn’t a difficult thing to cut out breakfast and just enjoy lunch and dinner. Avoiding beer after 7pm and milk in coffee before lunch were the only hardships.

The most important thing for me was that all this felt sustainable. My annoying craving for sugar before bed and something at 11am between breakfast and lunch were now a thing of the past.

My body feels stronger and I liked myself again.

I had lived the theory, set goals, used leading and lagging indicators, used data and research to drive decision making. Life is good.

FACT hunt:

I lost 17lbs in 20 weeks

My BMI went from 25+ (overweight) to 22 (middle of healthy)

I love coffee and chocolate brownies more than ever

My love for freshly cooked bread has increased

I was never going to give up or reduce my intake of wheat as i wouldnt have stuck to anything else (I love wheat beers and bread)

Most of my jeans no longer fit

I now consume far less sugar – 2 1kg bags per month less.

There is no picture of me holding out small trousers

I do actually have some discipline

I lost 2 inches off my waistline and am now happier in shorts

Suns out guns out

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There is no ‘I’ in team but there is in Indispensable

trust-1

In Simon Sinek’s video – A leader without a vision is a follower he speaks passionately about the leader’s responsibility to make the team they lead feel protected and safe.

Simon talks about the fact we should think of our teams as family – we do not get to choose our family, but we give them our undying love and support.  We celebrate their strengths and do not constantly point out their weaknesses.  Sometimes you let them fail and sometimes you discipline them and sometimes you let them go.  All we want for them is to achieve more than we achieved, we offer them support and protection.

Simon, as do I, strongly believes that this should be the same at work.  It’s even more unacceptable as we choose the people that we bring into our teams.

STOP saying our company is like a family, IT IS A FAMILY.  Make sure your team members can achieve more than you ever did.

The people matter more than numbers and customers.  Take the leap of faith that supporting your teams will mean they feel safe, they work hard, learn and achieve great things.  That in turn will lead to better products and services, happier customers and higher profits.  It just will.

Too often we still demand certainty in outcome in an uncertain world.  If we fail to achieve then we sacrifice our teams.

Stop identifying goals like increased top line growth for next year, start by aspiring to a company that will last 100 years.  We cannot predict the future but we stand a better chance of being around when we create teams that care for each other.  The best teams can create any product and solve any problem, this is very different to ‘any team can build my product’.

My team can build any product……very different to any team can build my product

Speed seems to be more important now than ever given the increased adoption of new technology, but this cannot be at the expense of the people creating and embracing that technology.  Technology will not just keep advancing, it needs people driven and motivated to do so.  Leadership or more specifically, servant leadership, has never been more important.

To go fast go alone, to go far go together

Intrinsic motivation needs to be understood.  With unemployment at a 42 year low and software craftsmanship and digital expertise in demand, the extrinsic motivations of money and competition will no longer motivate the team.  We must look to the intrinsic motivations of purpose, mastery and autonomy (as specified by Dan Pink).

With all that in mind when did it become OK at work to stop caring about each other?  For the task to become more important than the happiness of the person carrying out the task, for it not to matter at all who is even doing the task.  To become so fixated on a goal to complete a task for your business, that the duty of care for the people in your teams to be forgotten or ignored.

I find it unacceptable the so called leaders in large organisations who seem to pay lip service to peoples’ feelings, to people aspirations and desires for support and development, when it becomes clear that the only concern is for the job that needs to be done and for their own survival and reputation.

Once the tribe figure out that the leader will not keep them safe then we are all in danger.  The tribe starts worrying about it’s own personal safety, they even stop looking out for each other.

Don’t let that happen.  Lead by example.  First thing tomorrow, ask someone in your team how they are feeling, ask them what you can do to help them improve.  Ask them what they want to learn.

 

i_is_for_indispensable_by_otisframpton-d75evk6

The importance of performance

Speaking recently about the importance of Product Owners being aware of the importance of performance of products, not just based on more business focused KPIs but also from a technical perspective. Google in particular are ensuring that we ensure sites and apps perform well for users.

It’s complex though, we have to balance time to market, many different technologies and cost.

This video talks about things to consider.

 

 

To innovate or to disrupt?

 

For years now we have been trying to shock leaders into action with statements such as “innovate or die” or “burning platforms” or “your industry competitors in 10 years time haven’t been founded yet”.

Whilst most still haven’t really grasped what it means to create and foster true organisational agility, we are shifting the goalposts again.

A few years ago, it was enough to do business with a few of the top right quadrant cloud SaaS vendors and setup an innovation hub.  Now it seems the only way to survive and gain an advantage on your competitors is to create the disruption yourself.

I must admit, the most inspired I have ever been is when my CTO stated that if you are expecting to be disrupted, why not seek out and create that disruption yourself?

There seems to still be a kind of arrogance in large enterprise businesses, in particular I’ve observed in retail.  A sense that we are still too big to fail and if we do tomorrow what we did yesterday, then we will still have high spending and loyal customers.

I’m being harsh, there is some great work that goes on under very challenging circumstances.  However, customers care little for legacy infrastructure and high levels of technical debt; they are more interested in software that makes for friction-less and valuable experiences.

So what am I jabbering on about?  I suppose it’s the fact that whilst sat at some recent “IT” conferences, I felt that although there is a world of opportunity out there, we only ever seem to be playing catch-up.  Talking about what could be possible, if only we had the time, money and capability.

Retailers always bemoan being one step behind their pureplay/digital/startup counterparts, in a constant battle to stay relevant.

I would suggest it’s time to be brave.  We need to accept that every single company will eventually go out of business, some faster than others, but all will fall.  Some will pivot business models, some will launch new brands and some will move into entirely new sectors.  Only Trigger from “Only Fools and Horses” would claim that it’s still the same broom.

I think it’s time to start looking at that broom and stop thinking about the process and materials taken to make the broom faster and cheaper.  Stop thinking about sweeping and start thinking about why we need to sweep in the first place.

When thinking about traffic congestion, Elon Musk decided to go down not up.  This took him on a journey to create the boring company, challenging each and every assumption along the way.  He had no real right and no real experience to question long standing rules and regulations, but we are all glad that he is.

We are on the cusp of another wave of change, often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.  Whether you believe it, all or some of it will touch our lives very soon and some already has; robotics, chatbots, automation (RPA), cryptography, block chain, distributed ledger technology, predictive medicine, drones, iOT, platform economy, AI, machine learning, human 2.0, Elon Musk….

As Matthew Griffen said: “Do you want to innovate or do you want to change the world?”

Answering this question in any business is crucial.  I know change is hard, I know transformation is years in the making but as leaders ask yourself this – if our company, our brand, our products did not exist, would anybody be worse off?

Grasp that and turn it into a vision.  Know why you exist, know what problems you are solving and inspire not just your customers but most importantly your employees.  Those teams that work in your innovation hubs don’t (in the main) come into work simply for the money.  They want to do their best work knowing that the work they do is meaningful.

In the same way coming in and playing with cool gadgets will not motivate many for long.  The snooker tables and bean bags are not the main requirement for innovation, they become symbolic of the culture you are aiming to foster.  One of trust, autonomy and experimentation.

The exciting but terrifying thing for most leaders in this new and ever changing world is that we cannot create a roadmap, set deadlines and set teams to work safe in the knowledge we will be successful.  A lot of ideas, however much we validate them, will ultimately not have the desired impact.  The behaviour of humans is changing.  The way we interact with the world and each other is changing.  So we must be open to experimenting and learning.

For those developing eCommerce solutions, voice could completely change the way you do business, it could even make the idea of a brand irrelevant. “Alexa, order me some batteries”.  People won’t ask Alexa for a specific retailer and possibly not even a particular brand of battery.  For those doing logistics, machine learning coupled with autonomous lorries and robotics could change all that you do.  This is no longer just interesting futurology, this is reality.

It’s a brave new world out there and one I am really looking forward to.

So ask yourself this, what’s your product or service equivalent to the broom?  Ask do we even need a broom?  Do we even still need to sweep?

Never waste a crisis.  Now is the time to make change.

trigger

 

 

Respecting time – trains, school bells and meeting etiquette

wedgies Google Search

It was a rainy Thursday morning and again, despite my good intentions, I found myself leaving the house with only minutes to spare before the train pulled in.  As I dashed down the road, I could hear the train approaching.  A glance at my overpriced Apple watch suggested I still had 90 seconds.  I got to the station and straddled my way down the many steps, just as the doors closed and the train pulled away.  “Damn and blast!” I thought to myself, whilst trying to style out the fact I had just run all the way from my house, some 6oo yards away.

Whilst waiting for the next train and gathering my breath, well, trying to stop gasping for air actually (it’s been many years and several pastries since I last did any strenuous exercise), I pondered my frustration about the train doors closing “early”.  If you read the website terms and conditions (which I did), the facts state that the timetabled time is the time that train leaves the station.  Several activities take place before this time including all doors being shut, the platform checked, signals checked and controls activated in the drivers cab.

So by rights the train doors should beep 30 seconds before the stated time of the train, remembering that the stated time is the time the train should depart, not the time it arrives.  I think we have fallen victim to the trains being constantly late.

I then started to consider this behaviour within schools and our workplaces.  When we were at school, the times stated on the timetable were the times the lesson started, similarly when at work we state the start of the meeting time.

However, when at school, someone else takes on the responsibility of ringing a bell 5 minutes before the start of the next lesson, giving us ample time (in theory at least, not taking into account trips and wedgies on the way) to wander to the next lesson so that we started on  time.  Do we ring any bells when at work?  We have all at some time or another discussed meeting etiquette and how we should arrange meetings with a clear agenda, that start on time, set clear actions with clear minutes and end on time.

How often in reality have we spent all day apologising for being late rather than apologising for leaving 5 minutes before the end of the current meeting to avoid being late for the next?  It’s not rude, its ensuring we offer courtesy to each and every meeting we have accepted.  Remember, if meetings are arranged where you are not clear what the agenda is or why you are needed, ask.  Your time and the time of others is precious, don’t waste it.

P.s. I’m a fan of meetings, for me they are not something to be mocked, rather to be valued, they are opportunities to collaborate with our amazing peers, so respect that time and respect your peers, ensure there is an agenda and make sure you adhere to the timebox.

Remember, it’s OK for meetings to deliver value early.

Agile and strategic thinking – conference talk – aginext.io London 2017

For those who were able to watch my first talk back in September 2016 this latest video is iteration 4 of the same subject matter, hopefully becoming more valuable.

 

Agile Success conference talk

My talk last year on Agile success. Linking strategy and vision to objectives and measures of success and how measures can impact behaviours. Behaviour defines culture so getting the right measures of success is crucial.

 

 

 

Agile Coach or (Agile and Coach)

agile-coaching-33-638.jpg

 

I recently started thinking about job titles.  Working in Agile and the transformation environment  means you see a lot of differing titles, each with a given objective and sentiment for the role holder…

 

Scrum Master – Utilise and teach the benefits of Scrum

Delivery Manager – Agile aswell but please just get things delivered and quickly

Agile PM – Erm get stuff done and be agile about it

 

The most popular currently seems to be that of an Agile coach.  I’ve also got caught up in this craze. Seeing Agile Coach as a promotion from a Delivery Manager or Scrum Master.

 

I think this was wrong and does the intention and importance of the role a dis service.

 

Park that for a second.

 

I also saw a trend 10 years ago in the difference within the unified process between Business Analyst, Systems Analyst and Solutions Architect.  At the time Solutions Architect was not a job title it was a project role. So a BA could take on a SA role for a given project.  This in theory was alluding to the T shape that we seen in agile.  Solutions design and not just a collection of use cases of functional requirements.

 

Sadly its human nature for us to take everything literally and within a few weeks we were hiring the job title of Solution Architect, this of course unsettled alot of BAs as they saw SA as a promotion.

 

I also see this now with Agile Coaches, recruiters encouraged to hire Agile Coaches and not Scrum Masters.  Scrum Master is also a role and in theory not a job title, a team should choose the framework and processes that make them most efficient so with that said we wouldn’t have a Scrumban Master or a Xanpan coach.

 

That all said take the agile word away and you are left with a coach, someone who possesses the skill to coach others.  Coaching is an extremely powerful skill and has to be taught and refined.  I actually do not know very many Agile coaches who have had any real coaching training or experience.  

 

To me this makes for a dangerous misalignment of role expectation and ability. I have worked with some Agile coaches who whilst they live and breath agile and can help teams deliver from a coaching point of view they have destroyed relationships.  So the process of doing the work is great but the softer human side is eroded as they lack the expertise and self awareness required.

 

My feeling is that those with an understanding of agile principles and the ability to work with teams to deliver and continuously improve how the work is done is very different to coaching individuals and teams outside of the context of the actual backlogs.  How to be more effective as a group regardless of the domain or product.  Some individuals will want this support some will not.

 

Perhaps question if your delivery focused team based Scrum Masters or Kanban practitioners are part of the digital/IT/product organisation and your coaches are a learning and development function. Coaching is a fantastic investment if supported and delivered effectively.  Else it’s an exhausting waste of time for the coach.

 

Approaches such as Management 3.0 and the thinking behind teal organisations have far reaching implications for organsiations way outside of simple IT delivery.  An interesting future lies ahead.

 

What do you think?

All it takes is a little initiative

initiative

In recent roles I have been much more focused on ensuring the people around me understand the agile values and principles and the benefits they can bring to enjoyment and fulfilment at work.

 

Agile leads us to talk alot more about the importance of mindset and the belief that if you hire for attitude and train for skill but can you hire for skill and train attitude?

 

I have had a couple of team members and peers recently whos attitude and behaviour has been brought into question.  When speaking with them many techniques are used with the core objective to bring a sense of self awareness.  Why are they behaving in a particular way and did they realise the negative impact on others.

 

Whilst on most occasions this has seen an improvement in behaviour, in the short term at least, we encountered another issue of questionable initiative.  Initiative? Where did that come from? Did we test for that in interview? What does it even mean?

 

We talk about creativity and curiosity which when coupled with initiative are extremely powerful but what affects people’s ability to be perceived as having and using initiative?

 

I started to realise that there is something much deeper going on.  Whilst we can claim that some people just simply lack initiative our upbringing, society and work culture do have a direct impact on how much we are encouraged to use these important attributes.

 

If we have tight boundaries as we grow up and are not encouraged to try new things and gain some independence then this can have an impact, in society a shift towards a “blame” culture, deferring responsibility and becoming extremely risk averse.  In work how much autonomy are we actually afforded to explore new things?

If we are in an environment where instructions are given top down and output is templated and constrained then how can we complain when in given situations individuals do not use initiative? Those full of creativity, curiosity and initiative may have already moved on to find a more suitable environment.
So when you are in a situation where you are questioning someone’s apparent lack of initiative think about how you can help them, understand what might be impacting their ability to use it and encourage them to be more self aware.  You might also want to think about how initiative can be given freedom to show itself within group scenarios when interviewing potential new employees.

But the Scrum book says no Business Analysts…..

business_analysis_role

5 years ago I planted a seed, an Agile Scrum seed at the company where I worked. It took a year to germinate and I actually left the company during that time. I was lucky enough to rejoin to take up the role of a Scrum Master.

The role I left behind was that of a Business Analyst. Like many others I have read all the recommended Agile and Scrum books. They do not speak of the BA role. It becomes very simple, become the PO, become a developer, move into commercial analysis or go to a company not doing agile or doing agile ‘wrong’.

I had the gut feeling that the BA team I so proudly managed would not be required in the new world, I’ve never written this down before and I regret not sharing this view with my team. I protected myself from this fate and moved to another company as a BA whilst I pondered my viewpoint and whether I could leave the profession behind.

8months later I took the decision that the time was right and the opportunity was available to move into Scrum Mastery, I didn’t fancy Product Ownership at that point as I wanted to be able to influence a change in the approach to ‘how’ the work was done not the ‘why’, ‘what’ or ‘when’.

When I returned, my old team had indeed moved out of the new ‘Scrum’ feature teams mostly because they were either seen as ‘waste’ or as a frustrated ‘proxy PO’.  They sat all together away from the teams, making up business cases for upcoming work.  In hindsight it was almost a necessary growing pain for the whole company. We questioned the value of the role, it evolved into product insight and commercial and financial analysis and they are in a really strong position now as a collective analytics, BI and data science team(s).

The standard role of a BA (interface between the business and IT) is too simplistic and means most agile teams fail to document new/changed logic for the future to make, in particular, operational support easier, to make change in that same area easier and cheaper in the future. To consider not only technical (non functional) but also customer facing considerations.

Agile encourages the T shape of skills and embrace exactly that, ‘skills’. Whilst we may question having one person sitting in the BA position, as we sometimes do with QA or SM. We still need the skills that the role normally brings.  We must train the team with those skills even if we make the roles non mandatory. Maybe we should all take the view that we should work to make ourselves redundant, share all our skills and automate as much as we can.

Besides there is always something more interesting to work on 🙂

work to make ourselves redundant, share all our skills and automate as much as we can.

So, fast forward to the present, I have a Scrum team with a BA and a PO, what’s that all about? I no longer see it as an obvious problem but I would advise you to review the team, the skills in that team and the context of the work they are doing. My view now is that you need either role or both roles and occasionally neither.

As businesses ‘go agile’ and they add POs and SMs and if you retain BAs, you will notice that the cost of teams stays quite high, I recently read that on average a traditional Scrum team costs £1million per year.  That’s a lot of revenue they need to generate. Thus the risk is quite high.

So why not start with the problem being solved/the objective being set and review the skills you think you need. Build up those skills as required, add people to the team as required. Start everything like a startup, review the potential value in solving the problem or doing the work and be strict on who you need involved. Its really simple, time invested = cost and we must generate more value than the cost.

Inspired by lean we should move the people to the work, so don’t just assign random features and projects to existing scrum teams, question who is best suited to achieve the goal.

It’s harder to manage but will be a better investment for the business as a whole and should hopefully encourage more learning in your teams, higher engagement and better products, always hopefully leading to happier customers.

we should move the people to the work, so don’t just assign random features and projects to existing scrum teams

We are all valuable and teams need a mix of skills, the lesson here is to be very honest about what skills we need, look to train skills within teams and recruit people eager to learn.

We need to move away from the days whereby to start more work we need a new team and that team by default needed 8-10 people. £1million is a lot of money, invest wisely.

 

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