Tim Meyer's Page

My thoughts on the World

Are your policies making it hard for your employees to treat the customer well?

We just had a new washer and dryer purchased at Lowe’s delivered and installed in our house. 30 min after the installers left, we turned on the dryer to find out the electronics were faulty. After a long conversation with a friendly local store manager, we found out that they could not just replace the faulty unit with a new working one. We would have to purchase a second dryer, have it delivered, and they would refund us for the first unit when they got it back to the store.

(To be totally transparent, we were told that we could return it to the store ourselves and then they would schedule the delivery of another unit. That is not possible for us because I am currently working with a Physical Therapist to fix a shoulder injury and should not lift that type of weight.)

During the conversation, the manager was really trying to help solve the problem, but her hands were tied by corporate policy. She understood the pain the customer was going through by receiving a bad unit and was trying to resolve it. She tried to provide great customer service but the organization she worked for stood in her way. Let me reiterate, the organization, Lowe’s, states that one of its four pillars is “customer engagement”, yet it was making it difficult for employees to help the customer.

I wonder if the people involved took a systematic look at the situation? Did they take into consideration some of the long term effects of this policy? Is this a situation where the group making the policy is not the one that feels the pain of the policy? In system thinking, this is called a “Shifting the burden” archetype.

In a “shifting the burden” archetype, a proposed solution is implemented without fully considering the consequences to everyone in the system. I wonder if the impact to the customer or the front line manager was evaluated or considered. It’s easy to make a decision if you are insulated from the full consequence of the decision.

To make it clear, I don’t think that Lowe’s is much different from most large organizations. This type of shifting the burden occurs within many organizations because the systems within the organization are designed to reward this type of behavior. Whenever an organization is split up into departments or silos internally and the departments are rewarded for local optimization, this type of behavior will exist. Most of the time the reward is a financial reward.

At the end of the day, we purchased a second dryer so we could get a working unit delivered. Ultimately, the burden was shifted to the customer, us. If you fail to analyze how the system created within your organization affects others, someone else will. Over the past 6 years, we have purchased 12 appliances, all from Lowes. Maybe we will look somewhere else next time.

Where have you seen a “shifting the burden” system? How can the system be designed better?

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

What does it cost?

It’s a Tuesday morning, and a customer shows up at a car dealership. He is tired from being up all night in the hospital with this wife, celebrating the birth of their first child. He explains to the salesperson that they need a newer vehicle now that they have a child. After a quick walk around the lot, the customer points to a small blue car and askes, “How much will it cost to drive it off the lot?” The Salesperson says, “$1,500 plus monthly payments.” “SOLD!!” blurts out the new father. Quickly the papers were signed and off the lot he drove.

To anyone that has bought a car, this seems like a crazy example. No questions about how big the payments are or for how long? No test drive to see if validate it will solve the needs of the new family? Although this is a made-up example, organizations make these types of decisions regularly.

Let’s look at an example. I once coached a program that used two different overseas outsourcing companies, one for development and one for testing. Although I never got a complete answer to why two different companies, the reason floating around the organization was to minimize the hourly bill rate. The assumed reason was to reduce cost.

On the surface, it might look like the question “What does it cost?” was asked, but so many other “costs” were completely forgotten or ignored.

For instance, if an overseas tester found an issue in the middle of the night, they stopped testing, created a ticket, and emailed the onsite test lead. The onsite testing lead would then look at the tickets in the morning and discuss them with the onsite dev lead. Then dev lead would then send the ticket to an overseas developer that would hopefully look at it overnight. IF the developer didn’t have a question, the issue might be fixed the next morning and then passed back to testing. If problems arose, the whole process needed to be reversed. At times, it would take a week or two to fix issues using this process.

The leaders that decided to sign the contracts were not dumb people. They looked at multiple proposals and chose what they thought would be the lowest cost. They might have asked how much it cost but did not take a system view to determine what the TOTAL cost would be.

Total cost is not just the financials. The behavior of the system needs to be also questioned. In the example above, the cost per hour worked was lower due to overseas labor, but the total hours required to complete a story or feature were considerably higher. Also, the lead time was substantially longer. These factors, and others, cut into the bill rate savings. Instead of comparing bill rates, they should have looked at a system metric of flow like cost per feature.

To truly understand the total cost, a systemic view of the REAL process is needed. The process is not what senior leadership hopes or says it is; it is what is happening where the work is being done. The people that know the process best are the ones on the front line.

In this example, several of the front line people saw the problem early in the program. They raised the issue in the hope of improving the system, but instead, the issue got addressed through performance standards. Instead of fixing the system, management tried to fix the people.

If you don’t take a serious look at the system and interactions within the system, cost analysis will become more of a guessing game full of assumptions and biases. You might be able to create some great charts and spreadsheets to show your premises, but it will still be a guess.

The reduction of cost in one area can have a considerable effect on other areas. Due to the increased hours required for a feature in the example, it is likely the total cost for two different off-source teams to develop and test was the same as having people on site. Possible more!! By looking at the system as a whole, they most likely would have gotten faster performance for the same cost.

By understanding the system and the interdependence within the system, you can start to get a better view of the true cost. It does no good to reduce costs in one area by 15% to find out it double the cost over the whole system. Make sure you look end to end when you ask, “What does it cost?”

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Can Inclusion save lives?

It happened early one morning in 1986. The Space Shuttle Challenger was sitting on the launch pad ready for launch. It was 18 deg F outside.

The now infamous O-rings on the Shuttle were designed and tested to perform in 40 deg F or above. NASA knew this. The contractor (Morton-Thiokol) knew this also. But NASA wanted to launch. The team of engineers experienced with the O-rings assembled and debated (again) whether they could be sure the O-rings would not fail at the low temp.

On a conference call with the engineers, senior leaders, and NASA, the engineering team recommended waiting until the temperature reached above the 40 deg mark. Due pressure from NASA and the willingness of senior managers at Morton-Thiokol to ignore the recommendation of its engineers, the company changed its decision. NASA got the green light they wanted.

The Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into the flight, killing everyone on board.

How to create a Catastrophe:

When a corporate culture fails, often, there is a pervasive culture of fear involved.

The leadership pattern that doomed the Shuttle Challenger is alive and well in many organizations and industries. This pattern is all too predictable.

  1. A problem is known by the team members closed to the issue.
  2. The problem is raised to the attention of senior leadership.
  3. The problem is inconvenient.
  4. Instead of addressing the problem, the questioning parties are ignored, minimized, or silenced.
  5. The operation continues until…. Something Catastrophic happens
  6. Seniors leadership either look for someone to blame or brush it under the rug.

Catastrophes don’t always need to kill people, like on the Challenger. (As a side note, this same pattern lead to the two Boing 737Max planes crashing and killing everyone on board). Some are large, public failure, but many never see the light of day.

The vast majority of catastrophes are hidden deep within the walls of an organization. Large amounts of money and time are lost. People are minimized or fired. Scapegoats are named, and then the situation is conveniently forgotten.

The Solution:

So, how can this be addressed? The solution is simple but very difficult to implement. It’s call Inclusion. Not just the inclusion of people based on external traits but the inclusion of ideas.

Many companies have focused on inclusion efforts on external traits like color, race, ethnicity, etc. That is a great start! But these external traits don’t always result in a diversity of ideas.

Real inclusion is about the inclusion of dissenting opinions.

Real inclusion is hard work. It involved setting the ego aside and listening, truly listening, to a different opinion. Not listening to respond, but listening to understand. It is about taking a stance of humility and trying to see the world from someone else’s perspective.

The O-ring engineers were included on a teleconference the night before the launch of the Challenger. The engineer’s recommendation was reversed by senior managers on a second conference call were the engineering where excluded.

What would have happened if the engineers were not silenced?

When have you excluded people because you don’t want to hear their opinion? What Catastrophe are you contributing to?

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Coach-Client Agreement

Within the industry, the role of an agile coach is not consistent or clearly defined. It involves a mix of traditional coaching, mentoring, teaching, and consulting. Both Bill Gates (former CEO of Microsoft) and Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google) have publicly stated that everyone needs a coach. Eric goes on to say that one challenge that everyone has is seeing themselves as others see them and that having a coach is critical to giving people perspective. This brief document is designed to lay out a high-level understanding of what is needed to get started and how we will work together. This list is not exhaustive and may be modified in a specific situation by mutual consent.

For coaching to work, the client and/or teams needs to answer yes to the following questions:

Does the client/team have clear goals that focus on delivering business value? – As a client, you need to have a clear goal of business values you would like to improve. Change for change’s sake doesn’t work. A coach can help you find clarify your goal, but the goal is to improve business value, not become agile.

Is the client/team committed to achieving your goal? – Do you have the right people in place? Part of committing to achieving your goal is to have the right people engaged and willing to participate. This will include representatives from business, technology, operations, etc… This might mean you need to have people several levels above you onboard and willing to actively engage in the process.

Is the client/team motivated to work with the Coach? – The client/team must have a burning desire to improve. They must have a sense of urgency to make improvements. Without a sense of urgency, any change will be minimal and short-lived.

Does the client/team have realistic expectations from the Coach? – The role of an agile coach is to guide and help the clients but the client needs to do the work. The work to make improvements cannot be dictated by or delegated to the coach or to anyone else.

Is the client/team ready to invest time, money and energy in the coaching process? – Making improvements is hard work. It takes more time, money and energy than originally planned. If the client/team is not allowed the time, money or energy to dedicate to improving business values, then it is better to not start.

As we work together, we agree to the following:

Everything is voluntary. – We know that you are capable of making your own decisions. We are not the Agile police. We will share observations and suggestions for improvement, but it is ultimately your responsibility to do the hard work of making changes to the organizational systems you work within.

We work together through mutual respect. – The client and the coach are experts in their domain. The client knows what is needed within their business line. The coach has experience on how to improve systems to deliver results. By respecting and combining this expertise, we will work together to find the best ideas for the organization.

Positive Intent. – As we seek to understand the current situation, what’s working and possible areas for improvements for the system, we will question why things are the way they are. Hindsight is always 20/20. At all times, we will assume that the people did the best they could with the knowledge, understanding, and time limitation presented to them.

We are looking at the system as a whole. – The design of the system accounts for the majority of the performance within a group, a team, or a department. We agree to look at the system as a whole to determine how the organizational systems either contributed to or inhibited from, providing value for the customer.

Leadership is responsible for defining and improving the system. – People are the ones that build and designed the systems used within an organization. These systems were built over time to address specific issues that may or may not currently exist within the organization. In many cases, leadership is the only one that has sufficient influence to make changes to the system. Since system design accounts for the majority of the performance, leadership’s biggest wins come from improvements to the system.

Change needs to be modeled and demonstrated by leadership. – Whether we like it or not, leaders are always leading by example. A leader’s actions communicate far more than the words they use. We agree to share observations and suggestions with each other on ways to model and demonstrate the needed change within the organization.

The coach will ask difficult, uncomfortable questions. – The role of a coach is to help the client and organization grow by creating awareness through transformational questions. These questions will dig into areas that are uncomfortable and challenging. At times, the questions will seem not to be relevant to the immediate situation. The primary goal of transformation questions is to create awareness of possibilities. Only by looking at things differently, can we find new solutions and create lasting change.

Agile coaching is about mindset more than a toolset. – Albert Einstein is credited with the idea that “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Agile at its core is a mindset, not a toolset. We can decide to implement and use different toolsets, but the toolset will always adapt to the mindset. Real, lasting change can only happen when we change how we think. This change in thinking will support our change in action.

Growth only occurs outside the comfort zone. – It has been said that there is no growth in the comfort zone, no comfort in the growth zone. Humans are creatures of habit and resist change. As a coach, we will support you in your growth zone. As a client, we ask that you are willing to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. The more you do, the bigger your comfort zone becomes.

We can not change others, only ourselves. – The only person we can really change is ourselves. By pushing others to change, we create resistance and damage relationships. Change should be done by invitation only. Change is a voluntary action, motivated by an eagerness to learn.

Featured Image by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Retro on the System, not the Sprint.

I’ve seen teams fall into this pattern many times.

They start a retrospective by looking at the sprint team goals. Did they accomplish them? What could they have done better? What do we need to improve?

But after a while, the retros goes stale. The team continues to hit its sprint goals, but nothing is changing. Comfort sets in. Before they know it, a false sense of security has washed over the team.

Please don’t misunderstand. Looking at changes at the sprint level has its place, but it’s essential to keep the larger system in view.

Without explicitly looking at and questioning the system, having a retrospective on the sprint only offers minimal value. If you don’t actively try to improve the system, your sprint goals will drift to fit within the system.

Let me give you an example. I was working with a team that was proud of their record of accomplishing the stated sprint goals iteration after iteration. Their goal included separate elaboration, design, and development stories. Different people did each type of story within the team.

It was not uncommon for the team to work on feature elaboration and detailed designs months before the developers were slated to start working on the feature.

Unconsciously, the team learned to adjust their sprint goals to fit within the existing system instead of working to improve the system. The system expected this type of separation of work and the team complied.

Without changes and improvements to the system outside of the team, the team will hit a natural plateau. They will get to a point where they can’t make any more changes.

So, what can a team do when this happens? Ignore the sprint!!

What I mean by “ignoring the sprint” is to shift the team focus. Step back from the details of the current sprint and concentrate on the system.

Focus on what systems changes would offer the most significant improvements.

Ask questions like what changes to the system would help us provide value to the customer? If we had a magic wand and could change anything, what would that be?

By shifting the team’s perspective, new life will be breathed into the retrospective. By looking at the process from another direction, a better understanding of the issues can be found.

The list of possible changes and experiments will skyrocket.

The team then can start the hard work of influencing change within the organization. Step by step, piece by piece, the system can be slowly improved and changed.

Improving the system is hard work, but this is work that creates lasting change.

Photo by Jose Ros Photo on Unsplash

You’re too “by the Book!”

“Don’t be so by the book!’

“You are just a zealot!”

“We are different here.”

If you have ever helped lead change in an organization, I’m sure you have heard statements like this.

Mention how an agile scaling framework works or the beliefs of a thought leader in your field, and eventually, you will be accused of being rigid. A zealot. Refusing to compromise.

Just last week, I heard a well-intentioned leader utter the phrase, “that’s so by the book” to a coach that was trying to help the organization.

As leaders, we need to understand that statements like these are used to hide the real issues. They mask what is really going on. Think of them as a bate-and-switch to protect the accuser from digging deep into the core issue.

Step back and take a few minutes to dig into the core issue that is hiding by these statements. By digging in, you can start the hard work of building a relationship. You might also find out something about yourself.

But what could the core issue be? I have that nearly all objections fall into four fundamental core issues.

1). The person might not want to change. When change is being introduced to an organization, many people resist change due to fear of loss. That might be a loss of status, loss of a job, or loss of control.

Instead of owning up to the fear, they attack the idea (and the person with the idea). Instead of discussing the merit of the idea, they try to discredit the idea by discrediting the person. By painting a person as a zealot, they can shift the issue away from themselves.

This is a hard position to find yourself. People will not change until they are ready. Most of the time, there is nothing you can do about this situation. Give them space. Let them know you will be available when they are ready. Everyone has their own road to travel.

2). They don’t understand how the idea works. At times, people might not want to admit they don’t understand. The culture within many organizations doesn’t support those that admitting they don’t know. It is seen as a sign of weakness.

Find a way to allow a person to ask questions and get understanding while still allowing them to save face. This might be in a small group of trusted friends or in a 1:1 setting. Maybe this involved having a pre-meeting before the real meeting. Allow people to ask questions and be vulnerable while maintaining a safe space. If they don’t have phycological safety, they will not ask.

3). They understand, but they don’t agree. We all have different insights and opinions. Our preferred path to the final destination might be different than someone else. Just because they disagree doesn’t mean they are wrong. We might be wrong.

In this situation, spend less time talking and more time listening. Try to understand the objections to the ideas. Many complaints contain truth that has been overlooked. Find it. Tease it out. These truths can be used like a refiners fire, burning off the dross of a dull idea purifying the solution to something that will stand the test of time.

4). It’s too hard (or not possible) to make that change. From their perspective, this might be true. The larger and more established the organization, the more likely power, and the ability to make changes has been compartmentalized. The idea might be a great idea, just not doable in the current context.

Before pushing too hard, step back, and evaluate the situation. Could this person make the change if they wanted to? I worked with a program sponsor within a government agency that was bound by a legislative mandate. Although she understood and agreed, with the benefits of having the teams provide input on timelines. Unfortunately, the schedule was codified into state law. It was entirely outside of her control, and she could not change this if she wanted to.

Each of these four situations has one thing in common. They allow you to step back and work on the relationship. The agile manifesto calls for Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. A better way to say this is people before process.

It doesn’t matter if you are “right” or you have the best idea. If you don’t have the relationship to build on, the ideas will fail. They will be seen as a flavor of the month. Finding a way to work together is the foundation for finding a solution that works for everyone. It’s not the easiest way, but its the best way to create lasting change.

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Do you need new glasses?

Last year I got my first pair of progressive bifocal glasses.  I have been wearing glasses since middle school, so I didn’t think they would be much different, other than improving my ability to read up close.  I was wrong.

Yes, they help greatly with reading items up close.  I was able to clearly see the dash of my car for the first time in years.  (Scary thought, I know).  I was able to read a menu without having to take my glasses off, which was great.

But they also had some side effects that made me timid and made me questions whether I wanted to keep them.

My wife and I like to do day hikes when we travel, and we had a trip planned a few weeks after I got my first pair.  Since they double as sunglasses, I decided to wear them on the hike.  As we started to cross a stream between two waterfalls, I was starting to get worried.

As I scanned the rock looking for sure footing, the ground I wanted to step on seemed to move.  As I moved my head, the rocks below me seemed to move from side to side! 

This started to concern me.  If I’m not sure where the rocks are, how can I make sure I step on them correctly?  What If I step where I think they are and they are not really there?  What if I step on the side of a rock instead of solidly in the middle?  I didn’t want to go for a swim!!

Going through change is like getting a new pair of glasses.  At times, we notice our vision has changed which leads us to get a new pair.  Other times, we need someone else’s perspective to see that we need to change.  I didn’t understand how bad I needed a pair of bifocals until my optometrist showed me how much better I could see with them.

When we step off the edge and jump into the change, things will happen that we never thought of.  Issues will come to light.  These issues can shake our confidence and throw us into a state of chaos.

The progression of change can be seen using a Satir curve.  (See image below)

At the beginning of the curve is the old status quo.  The old status quo is comfortable.  We know what to expect.  It’s not perfect, but we know the rules.

Next comes the change that drives us down into resistance and/or chaos.  If the change is forced on us, we tend to show resistance until we realize that the change cannot be avoided.  The change disturbs our life and throws parts of it out of balance.  This lack of balance results in some level of chaos.

With my new bifocals, I experienced the ground and stairs moving when I walked.  I responded to the change by being more careful walking up curbs and holding the handrail tight when I walked downstairs.

People don’t like living in chaos.  It’s natural to try to find a way to experiment with ways to eliminate the chaos.  As the experiment goes on, ways to address and make sense of the chaos begin to be integrated into the process. 

Over time these new ways become the new status quo.

Several weeks after getting my bifocals, I didn’t even notice the ground moving.  My brain adapted to the new information.  It became the new status -quo.  But I needed to go through the chaos to get to the new status quo.

I’ve seen good-natured leaders attempt team change with the intent of avoiding the chaos phase.  They are always surprised when chaos happens.  Although the intention to minimize chaos is good, it cannot be completely eliminated.

The only way to completely eliminate chaos is to never change.

Without chaos, there is no need to experiment and integrate new ways of working and thinking.  If I didn’t keep my bifocals on, my brain would not have learned how to handle the new information.

Now that I’m on the other side of the change, I’m at a new status quo.  I can hike without worrying about the ground “moving” below me, and I can see up close.  By working through the chaos, I’m in a better place.

What about you?  What are the new glasses that you need to work through?

  Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash

Are you forcing people to be “Criminals”?

For the last two weeks, I have been driving a car with expired license plates.  This is not what I planned.  I’ve talked to representatives in two different states to try to fix the issue.  I want to find a way to become legal, but I’m not allowed to. Let me explain.

I purchased a car from an out of state dealer several weeks ago. I bought it out of state because I wanted a specific make, model, and trim package and they had it available.

As part of the purchase, the dealership agreed to register my car in my home state.   According to the laws of my home state, they had 30 days to register it.

For a reason unknown to me, they took over 45 days to mail the title to the third party processor handling the registration.  During this time, the 30-day temporary registration provided by the dealership expired.

While I waited for the title, I decided that I would renew my temporary registration.  I figured I would need to pay some small fee.  My goal was to comply with state law.

Both my state and the state where I purchased the car would not allow me to get another temporary license.  My state said that they would not issue a temporary plate because the car was purchased in another state.  The other state said they would not issue a second temporary registration.  It wasn’t allowed.

Each state had different answers, but they had the same problem. 

They built a system that didn’t tolerate mistakes.  

Both states have rules that need to be followed and assume the rules would be followed correctly 100% of the time.

Should the dealership have provided the title sooner?  Yes!  But that is not the point.

The reality of life is that things happen.  We are all human, and humans make mistakes.  To assume that people will follow, or even can follow, the rules 100% of the time is an exercise in futility.

All organization have both written and unwritten rules that people are expected to follow.  At times, things will happen and rules will not be complied with.

When this happens, how does your organization handle it?  Do you remind people of the rules?  Do you create more rules? 

A better solution is to plan for failure before it happens

Years ago, I was traveling overseas for work and stopped at a gas station to fill a rental car with gas.  I knew that I needed a receipt for all my credit card purchases, but I didn’t speak the language well enough to know how to ask for it. Every other time I stopped for gas, I was able to find someone who spoke English to ask for a receipt.  When I got back to the home office and told them about the situation, I was firmly reminded by our accounting department about the receipt rule.

Did reminding me about the rule help?  By telling me again, does that make the receipt magically appear?  The problem was not that I forgot; it was unable to comply because of the lack of knowing the local language.

Most of the time, people want to do what is right.  You should never force someone into a situation where they can’t do what is right. Your systems at work should be built to handle failure.  Not just known failure, but also the unknown issues that WILL happen.    

Think about your life.  Do you know of any rules, either written or unwritten, that don’t allow for failure?  Ask yourself, what happens if it is not done according to the rules?  Is there a way to recover from failure?

If the answer is no, then you have systems that allow people to stumble into a no-win situation.  Your digging a pit that will trap anyone that falls into it.

The key is to design the system to handle failure.  Think about ways that people might make mistakes.  Look at past data.  Commit a brainstorming session.  Find ways that systems can fail and assume it will happen.

With my car registration, either state could have planned for a way to allow for another temporary registration, and I would be within the law.  I would be allowed to comply.

The world is complicated.  Situations will arise that you can never plan for. Find ways to allow people to recover from mistakes.  Who knows, you might need to use it. 

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Daily Standup or Status Meeting??

The Daily Stand-up.  When done poorly, team members start to avoid it. Other’s schedule meeting overtop it.  For the ones that attend, is almost like you can see a thought bubble above their head saying

“Another boring status meeting.  If they want to know what I’m working on, why dont they look at the task board?!?”

If you have been in this situation, you are not alone.  It is easy to drift away from the true intent of the daily standup.

Even the standard questions “What did you do yesterday?”  “What are you going to do today?” “Do you have any impediments?”  can lull us into a mindless response. 

But the key to a great stand-up is to remember that The Daily standup is a planning session, not a status meeting.

The primary purpose of the daily standup is to plan the next 24 hours, not to summarize the last 24 hours.  I want the second part to sink in for a second.

Not everyone needs to talk about what they have done.  Your accomplishments over the last 24 hours should be shared ONLY if that information is needed to plan the next 24 hours.  At times this information is needed, but sometimes it is not.

Some of you might be looking for the torches and pitchforks, so let me provide an example.

A member of your team spent the last three days working on a report for a group of external regulators.  As part of the story, this team member finished the report and sent it to the appropriate people.    Assume that no other stories are dependent on the report, the team member doesn’t need to talk in detail about what was done yesterday (or during the last three days).  They only need to talk about the new story they plan to pick up.    

It’s easy to write down that a standup should be a planning meeting, but the question remains; How can we keep our daily standup on track and not sound like a status meeting?

One of the best ways I have found is to mentally change the direction you are looking during standup.  Instead of looking back, look forward.  Instead of thinking about what you’ve done, think of what you are going to do.

State your team’s most important vision or goal.  This might be your sprint goal.  It might be a PI objective.  It might be the next release.

With that vision in mind, have the team answer the following questions.

“What am I going to do today to advance our primary goal?” 

“What impediment do I have that is preventing me from advancing our primary goal?”

Only include what you did yesterday if it is needed to plan for today.  By excluding yesterday’s work when ever possible, the team starts to change habits and the standup start to lose the status feel.

This might seem difficult at first, but it is worth the effort.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash

Yes, No, and Not Yet.

Change is full of decisions and uncertainty.  At times it feels like stumbling upon a fork in the road on a foggy day when you don’t have a map, and you can’t see where the paths lead.  You know that you have to choose a way, but your not certain which way to go.

When presented with a change in which we need to make a decision, our response can be categorized as one of three responses; YES, NO, and NOT YET.  (Note:  Not deciding is a decision.  It’s an implied decision.)

Although this might seem obvious, even the most simple decision contains all of them.  Most of the time, we don’t see all three unless we look hard. 

Let’s start with YES.  We say YES are the things we actively choose to do.  Most of the time, we say YES is what we believe we want. (Unless we are choosing between the best of two bad situations, but we will cover that another time).  But with every YES, we are saying NO to a laundry list of possibilities, many of them unknown. 

For example, let’s say you get a dream job offer in another city.  It is what you have always hoped for at a salary beyond what you’re making currently.  With little hesitation, you jump at the opportunity.  Taking the job might seem like a simple YES

Let’s say that you had a second job offer at the same time.  It is obvious that you would have to say NO to that offer.   This is a known NO.  But what about the possible job that might come available a month later?  If you move to another city, you are also saying No to this and many other opportunities that might come up.  This one Yes can lead to a series of unknown NOs.

No can be just as complicated.  Some NOs are hard and fast NOs while others are unknown NOT YETs.  Many times, what we think is a NO is just a NOT YET

Over time, a NO can morph into a YES.

I’ve experienced this over the last few weeks.  I’ve been in the market for a used car and thought I had everything figured out.  I began the process with the idea I would only buy a car with one specific interior color (beige).  I was saying NO to all the other interiors (black).  As I continued to look at vehicles, the other colors started to grow on me until the point I bought a car with a black interior.   My first NO was an unknown NOT YET.  It then became a YES!

So why does this matter?  Is this just a philosophical muse?  I don’t think so.

As organizations, teams, and people go through changes, they need to make a multitude of choices.  Each one can contain a series of YESes, NOs and NOT YETs.  Many of these are hidden and unknown. 

As time goes on and more information becomes available, understanding will change.  Decisions will change. 

Ideas that a manager was dead set against six months ago might become the next thing to try.  A corporate policy that promised to solve everyone’s problems might be viewed as a failure in a year.

Knowledge has a way of turning YES to NO and NO to YES.  YES and NO are not black and white.  They each have a shade a gray.

When you say YES, try to understand the possible NOs that comes along with it.  When you say NO, look for what opens up. 

Most of all, show grace to everyone, including yourself, when you realize you chose the wrong option.  We all make mistakes.  We all change our mind as we get more information.   It’s part of being human. 

Can you think of a situation where a NO became a YES?  How have you changed because of that?

Photo by Alex Rodríguez Santibáñez on Unsplash

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