What are you going do when it's really important, then?

I have a very particular set of memories from my childhood, that revolves around me falling, hitting or otherwise hurting myself. If it was just a bruise my father often said to me:

How bad is it? Is it worth crying for, like you do now?

(I was probably exaggerating quite a lot). Of course, it was!

Tell me, what are you going to do if it really hurts, then?

That was maybe not pedagogically correct for a child in pain but it at least got me thinking. Indeed… what comes after screaming and crying? Could I turn this up? Would it make a difference? Would I get … yes, what was it I wanted, really? Maybe just a hug or comfort. Could I get that by other means of communication that the display I was putting on now?

Of course, 7-year old Marcus didn’t reflect...

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Thinking in flow - some recent thoughts

I talk a lot about flow these days and I’m continuously fascinated how many good things follow by shifting our focus to supporting a better, faster and smoother flow.

In this post, I just wanted to share a few thoughts that have been on my mind lately.

Flow of what?

This picture above is my favourite picture on the net. I have done a 2-hour lecture on lean with this as the only slide.

I will not go into all details, that can be observed and learned from this picture, but note how much value that gets delivered. You can tell but I’m sure that poor animals legs are plenty busy, running for his life with fear. That business doesn’t help much. None of the bags on the trolley gets delivered.

At this point I often ask:

What is the simplest and...

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Priority 0 - we meet again

I once worked at a large company where they had so many priorities 1 features that they decided to introduce … bam-bam-ba-baaaa … Priority 0. But after a few minutes, we ended up with about 5 items in that category and we realized the ridiculousness of continue to do Priority -1 etc.

Today I saw this pattern in action again, and a new realization about a missed teaching opportunity washed over me. I wanted to share this with you in this post.

The team I’m working with right now have a long (50+) backlog of items that are due to work on. Their team lead created a nice visualized board with the priorities for the top 15 items. It is great and super clear what they are prioritizing. Priority #1 is to be worked first and if you cannot do that you can pick up #2 and so...

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A simple diagram and some conversations on flow efficiency

The last couple of weeks I have been re-discovering an old diagram (eerm … sketch really). You can find it scribbled on close to every whiteboard in our office now. Because it opened a lot of interesting discussions on flow, flow efficiency and optimizations for value delivery.

I wanted to share this with you here, in a few iterations and also share some of the discussion that it triggered.

First of all, this came up as we had a process that was taking a long time. Too long. It involved a few people from different departments that needed to do their work before handing it over to the next department. And then there was a user acceptance testing phase in the end that of course took a long time.

The backlog of work is growing much faster than these people are completing work. High stakes, stakeholders, and customers...

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My top 10 books

I often give out a lot of books tips in lectures and workshops, so instead of me typing and find links everywhere, I thought I’d put together a list of them here.

There are only 10, so if one is added another one needs to leave. That said - they are in no particular order.

For each, I’ve given a short little review and comment on why I like the book.

Toyota Kata - this book by Mike Rother is very interesting and useful. It describes how Toyota, inventors of Toyota Production System (that later became Lean) and the Toyota Way thinks. Because many organizations have tried to copy Toyota and failed - this book goes beyond the how and looks to the thinking, philosophy that makes the continuous improvement work.

Amazingly the book manages to do this in a very practical way and gives the reader...

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Futurespective - put the past in front of you

“Wow - this release was awesome. So fast, almost no manual testing and only one bug found in testing,” Sarah exclaimed in joy.

“Yeah, but there was that one bug. It should be zero, huh?”, Marcus responded grumpily from his corner, without looking up from the screen.

“Also - there are still manual testing going on. It should be all automated,” John chimed in, unimpressed.

“Fast and fast … still our build runs in 8 minutes. That is a long time. Way too long if you ask me!” Alex sighed as she pointed to the build log on the screen.

Sarah went back to her desk. Her enthusiasm was gone.

I think we often miss the improvements we made by not looking back and appreciate the journey we made. If we only talk about what is still not great we lose track of how far we have come. This is...

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Review - The art of coaching

Just finished “The Art of Coaching”, by Jenny Bird and Sara Gornall, that taught me a great deal so I thought I’d write down some thoughts and comments.

I honestly don’t remember putting this book into my basket and was quite surprised when it arrived among some other books in my package. Hence I read the book with very open mind and curiosity.

Confession time: I have no formal training as a coach, and still that is the most common name my roles have. But, as a friend of mine once said when my lack of formal training worried me:

Have you clients ever complained about your lack of formal training?

A great coaching question that moved me ahead in my thinking.

I’m leading with this story because this book is packed with stories like this. The reason the book is called “The art of...

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Some thoughts on organizing a team of developers

Got a question in an email the other day, asking some advice. Nowadays when that happens I ask permission to publish the answer here to not waste keystrokes into the email-bin.

The question was from my friend Jonas, that works in a start-up that is growing rapidly. He kindly granted me permission to answer here. He was asking this (my translation):

We are on the brink of a substantial expansion and I was wondering if I could pick your brain on experiences and best practices for how to organize a team of developers.

We’re thinking about a team of 4-6 people that has responsibility for a specific part of the product. What roles and responsibilities should be in, or out, of the team?

And in a follow-up mail:

In particular, the product owner role and what that role does and doesn’t do. I like the PO...

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Flow and dependencies

I’m talking less and less about agile and even lean, these days. Instead, the poison I’m selling now is flow. In all honesty, it might be better to put it like this:

Opening peoples eyes for the benefits focus on flowing work smoother and faster, alleviates discussions about lean and agile later.

Flow is an eye-opener and shifts your perspective. Things that previously was paramount (ensuring people are not idle, for example) becomes irrelevant or uninteresting. New ways, practices, and innovation quickly spur.

But also new problems occur. One of the most common ones is the fact that flow is severely hurt by tasks that have many dependencies. I think I talk to teams about 4-6 times a week about this.

In this post, I will offer a few thoughts on how to handle this type of situations.

You say ‘problem’ - I say ‘unrealized...

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Values and living them

As a consultant, you get to see many, different organizations and look deeply into what makes them tick. This is a great benefit of my job, but at the same time quite hard to find from time to time. The reason for that is that most organizations have very lofty and worthy values but what is lived out is something else.

But I’ve found… who am I kidding … stolen a way that make values more tangible and important in our everyday life. It’s a simple trick that you can start using tomorrow.

Regarding these lofty values I mentioned in the intro, you know what I’m talking about, right? The values are words and statements that basically no-one would disagree with:

  • Fun! Have you heard anyone say; No - I'm not fun. I don't want to be part of that
  • Professional! - BAH!...
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