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Laura Waite and Collin Lyons are a duo of Business Productivity Coaches with several decades of experience providing organisational transformation and executive coaching to CxO-led initiatives. We have worked with large and global organisations including: BT (British Telecom), BP (British Petroleum), Standard Life Assurance, British Gas/Centrica, JPMorgan Chase, Standard Life Investments, Wells Fargo, Allied Irish Bank and the UK Government. Specialties We excel at introducing cultural change initiatives to very large programmes and portfolios as well as the peripheral elements of delivery projects, such as finance, marketing and HR. What sets us apart is our ability to enthusiastically bring about the necessary steps to organisational transformation: encouraging people to challenge, grow and improve. Laura M. Waite And has posted 4 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Have Yourself An Agile Little Christmas...

12.25.2012
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Have yourself an Agile little Christmas
Let your heart be light yet priority-driven
From now on your organisational troubles will be out of sight
- From “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, Flowmotion adaption

As you might expect in Flowmotion’s field of transformative expertise, at this merry time of year we found ourselves literally inundated with a request to make everyone’s Christmas just that little bit more structured and systematic. With our Lean and Agile know-how, and your enthusiasm, we believe the holidays don’t need to be plagued by ineffective fun and unproductive eating. And so we hope that you, too, find techniques for seeing results quickly within this, our Christmas Lean and Agile Advice Column, and that it proves beneficial for your own plans to deal with Santa’s disorganised personality. Enjoy...


Help! Christmas Television Is Causing Festive Fights!
“I’ve been reading the TV guide and I can already predict what’s going to happen at 6pm on Christmas Day: there’ll be a fight between Grandma, Dad and Cousin Eric (not to mention the kids!) over which programmes to watch, which to record… and which ones get missed altogether. How do I help them decide without getting dragged into taking sides?” - Simon, Reindeerville

A difficult challenge that we all face at Christmas, this one - too much good telly to watch with the leftover turkey. We suggest you consider implementing a “value prioritisation model” to watch the top-valued show in real time, record the next show and miss the ones that come in at the bottom.
A difficult challenge that we all face at Christmas, this one - too much good telly to watch with the leftover turkey. We suggest you consider implementing a “value prioritisation model” to watch the top-valued show in real time, record the next show and miss the ones that come in at the bottom.

This can be done as follows: the names of the candidate television shows are stuck to the wall on sticky notes. Each person is given voting ‘dots’ equal to half of the number of TV shows plus 1. So, in the example above, each person would get 3 dots because there are 4 television shows to pick from (half of which is 2; add 1 and you get 3 :). Everyone gets to ‘spend’ their dots in any way they like by placing them on the sticky notes; the dots represent how much they like the show and thus the value of watching the show to them. It’s a perfectly valid strategy to place more than one dot on a sticky note, so Grandma can place all her votes with Lady Gaga’s Christmas Stripperoo if she wants to.


After the votes have been cast, the shows can be sequenced according to the number of voting dots on their sticky notes. The one with the highest number of votes gets to be watched in real time and the others are recorded or missed as appropriate. Cousin Eric will simply have to accept that nobody wants to watch A Jersey Shore Christmas. Nobody.

Help! This Gift is Turning Into A Ransom!
“My eldest child is blackmailing me - she says she’ll tell her brother and sister that Santa isn’t real unless there’s a Kindle Fire in her stocking. I don’t understand because she knows that he’s real, she met him last year!” - Sonia, Snowtown

We suggest you fight Fire with fire… or, rather, come up with an equally potent counter-plan. This might be the Christmas when the young ones are fed the sad adult lie that Santa is all made up. But, if you want to prolong the bliss of Jolly St. Nick for another year, we recommend, as a first step, asking her, “Why?”

Unless your eldest offspring is the nefarious villain from a Bond movie, there’ll be a good reason for her wanting to do this - and it probably isn’t the one you’re assuming it is. We’ve found that asking the question, really listening to the answer and, if applicable, coming up with an action plan to solve the problem you’ve uncovered works a charm. The key, of course, is really listening to the answer. It’s amazing how interesting our plans of attack can get if we feel we aren’t being listened to or considered.

If it does happen to turn out that she’s motivated by nothing more complicated than technological greed, we suggest you carefully construct a collection of items and scenarios that provide proof the Smiling Fat Man is real. Thoughtfully placed reindeer droppings and beard hair work well, and will leave your eldest child without a hoax-busting leg to stand on.

Help! Do I Need a New Boyfriend?

“My boyfriend spent pocket change on my present and I got him a Porsche. Should I still give him his gift, or should I take it back and buy myself some shoes (and a new boyfriend) instead?” - Sam, Mistletoe Creek

A very good question. Whatever you’ve been told about the joy being in the giving, there’s a whole lot of pleasure in the receiving part too - and a bargain bin bottle of wine just isn’t in the Christmas spirit. We say ditch the tightwad and use the Porsche as part of Project Get A New Boyfriend.

Let’s take a moment, though, to investigate why the previous Get A New Boyfriend project went awry. Could it have been due to a lack of clarity on the outcome you wanted to achieve? As with most projects, you might have identified what you want (handsome, generous, smart, funny), but not in sufficient detail to know whether you got those things. In other words, your outcome was ambiguous. Here’s a set of techniques that will serve you well next time:

First, you need to clearly state what you want. For example: I want a boyfriend who is handsome, generous, smart and funny.

You then need to define how exactly you’ll determine whether you’ve truly met the boyfriend of your dreams, or if he’s just wrapped in pretty packaging. Acceptance Criteria will help you with this because they define the conditions under which you would say the outcome has been a success. To make your Acceptance Criteria, come up with a brief list of yes/no questions to which the answer of ‘yes’ would constitute an element of the outcome being achieved. For instance:

  • Do my friends think he's hot?
  • Has he demonstrated generous behaviour?
  • Is he able to hold up his end of the conversation with super-smart Aunt Sally?
  • Does he make my gran laugh (for the right reasons)?

Before you head for the mistletoe, there’s more. People have different ideas of ‘generous behaviour’ - whose standards matter to you most? How many of your friends need to think he’s hot? How frequently and hardily does he make your gran laugh? This is where you’ll need to come up with some Acceptance Tests (which are more specific than Acceptance Criteria).

‘Acceptance Tests’ are specific, unambiguous tests that verify whether a specific Acceptance Criteria has been met, sometimes with multiple of the former needed for one of the latter. Taking the generosity example, an Acceptance Test could be: “Did the new boyfriend spend at least 4,000 sheckles on his last partner’s birthday?”



That’s specific and much less open to interpretation (other than the obvious question of what the heck a sheckle is – we really ought to fire our writer). When you go about trying to achieve your outcome, everyone involved will know exactly what constitutes success and you will be much more likely to find your soulmate. Next year, you can expect a Lamborghini to be parked under the tree.

Help! There’s a Reindeer Peeing in my Flower Bed!

“I think my neighbour is letting his reindeer use my back garden as a toilet. Should I bring it up and, if so, how do I approach him? - Mark, Bognor Regis

Unless you’re planning to move, a quality relationship with your neighbour is a good thing, and Agile Values are an excellent starting point for creating one. Besides, Santa brings more gifts for those who are good to others and, as discussed in a previous question, Santa is absolutely, definitely real.

  • Courage: Bringing up the poop problem might be a little uncomfortable but, for the longer-term health of your relationship, you need to exercise a bit of courage. If you invest now, you’ll need less courage going forward - in fact, what you want to do is lay the foundation for a relationship in which you can be comfortable being courageous.
  • Feedback: If your neighbour’s reindeer is in fact using your back garden as a toilet, your neighbour might not realise it. Providing feedback (for example, “I think Blitzen might be exceeding his welcome near my begonias”) will allow your neighbour to do something about it. After all, if they don’t know there’s a problem, they can’t fix it.
  • Respect: An obvious one, this - everyone wants to be respected!
  • Communication: This is the heart of the matter. Without communication, the hope of resolution doesn’t exist. So let’s combine this with the last value…
  • Simplicity: With Lean and Agile, we’re always striving to find the simplest answer for even the most complicated, or contentious, of issues. This Value provides us with great insight for a technique you could use to address things with your neighbour...
We suggest arranging a ‘Retrospective’. Ask your neighbour over for brandy and a mince pie and propose you have a discussion about your neighbourly relationship around the reflective questions of a Retrospective:

  • What’s going well?
  • What’s not going so well?
  • What have I learned?
  • What still puzzles me?

First, take some quiet time to individually consider each question, then come together to share the points you’ve come up with. Use the “What still puzzles me?” question as an opportunity to voice your concern about the poop in your garden. Perhaps with something like, “I’m puzzled as to what the little brown pellets in my carrot patch might be”.

Once you’ve both expressed yourself (and remember that you may hear some valuable, and previously unknown, feedback from your neighbour as well), you can work together to come up with some Actions. These will help you keep doing the things that are going well, address the things that aren’t going so well, share your learnings, and gain clarity on the puzzling poop. Plus, if the unexpected feedback from your neighbour is what we think it might be, you’ll already have fulfilled your mince-pie-and-brandy obligation to Santa this year...

Having a Christmas crisis but not seeing the answer here? Our sack was as full as Santa’s this year, but the gifts we were asked for were ‘rescue’ and ‘relief’ rather than toy trains and dolls. Join us in our grotto for more stellar Christmas advice... 

Disclaimer: Of course, we don’t really believe that Christmas should be all about organisation and sensible planning, where’s the fun in that! Interesting, though, that Lean and Agile methods could even be applied to Christmas telly and reindeers, don’t you think…?

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Laura M. Waite And Collin Lyons.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)