Marketing circle operational enablement using agile principles and frameworks
February 2019 I got the assignment for solving challenges, and streamlining operations for marketing circle at a 55 people completely remote web services IT organization in alignment with current strategic objectives and scaling model, while also seeding agile practices.
Post interviewing for requirement discovery, the team was found to have the following challenges
There was not enough visibility on future tasks
Team was having difficulty in prioritization
Team was unable to plan for the day and had no sense of progress
Task ownership issues was leading to conflicts
Information segregated in google docs and no access to shared tool for managing and accessing documents
Tasks stayed in progress for a long time , there was no sense of completion
Priorities were shifting on a daily basis
Many ad-hoc requests from leaders in other organizational circles to not being able to follow a plan. Interdepartmental coordination was a challenge
The circle did not have any method to allocate tasks or to seek support from other circles
Team was completely disengaged from the rest of the organization
“Effectively everything is in progress for us” : By the team
Nature of tasks needed different workflow states
Team had no method to track their progress on KPI’s for appropriate action
More than 100 tickets in wish-list of which many were obsolete leading in considerable inefficiency
Existing workflow and boards provided had states which were inappropriate, for the team could not relate the dynamics with the verbiage provided.
Team had no clarity on when to use what ticket type
Tasks were not prioritized
Each team member was using the tool provided along with other tools leading to task redundancy, waste and no team alignment
Simply put, the team members were really frustrated impacting their relationships among themselves, with their leader and eventually impacting their happiness, motivation and engagement scores. They were completely silo-ed with no awareness of what the other was doing; trying to complete many in progress tasks and with no sense of accomplishment.
The circle sensed a dis-alignment and knew things needed to change. Some of the team members had some discovery and research to come out with following questions and solutions as recommendations to me
Would picking up a an existing workflow as a template solve all our problems?
Where in the process are we going wrong? Are we missing some important elements?
What task naming conventions should we follow to keep stakeholders from external circles happy?
Eager to self correct and enable structure, the team had already started naming tickets with KPI numbers followed by a colon and some attribute/identifier, followed by another colon and another identifier to enable easy identification - which of course was not meant to work with the design chosen. What do we do with the work outside the KPI’s? How do we structure?
and so on…. without realizing that majority of the above recommended solutions were kind of picking up components off the shelf and trying to fix a part of the problem as a patch , ignoring the relatedness and causal relationships between the issues. An inherent mutual exclusivity of the challenges, negligible cohesiveness was assumed., without realizing the systemic impact of the introduced solutions.
Having a decade of coding experience, sometimes a list of compilation errors can be fixed by an amazingly small number of solutions. One really does not need to write or borrow patches to assumingly solve a problem and experience it again on the timeline as the system evolves or manifest itself as another problem on another part of the product, here the marketing circle.
It would be easy for agile practitioners to relate to the challenges or disorder above.. With my experience, I knew I was on a new and an interesting adventure to architect and execute an agile and agility enablement. (agile as a choice for the inherent task and communication complexity along with scale) . Team was great, eager to learn and change management was not expected to be a challenge.
The engagement already ongoing, sharing here some of the operational, data structuring and agile solutions already in place , over the course of two months with the learning curve
Creation of a common communication channel for the entire circle for posting any challenges for JIT acknowledgement and collaborative awareness. Channel norms to keep related information together for reference later. Quite easy to manage with threads in slack.
At least two calls per week to dive deeper into closed requirements, new challenges and sharing of experiences with continuous communication on slack.
Strategic delineation of objectives against visions and goals to identify the core themes of work and providing structures in JIRA to allow for theme based management and delegation.
Training on scrum framework and enablement including time boxing, ceremonies, versioning, epics to plans features across sprints and stories.
Data classification using components and labels in JIRA . Component based filtered Kanbans for easier accessibility to needed information.
Separation of wishlist from immediate backlog for efficient grooming sessions. Collaborative understanding of what forms near-term and long-terms needs on the timeline. Establishment of common vocabulary and meaning for epics, backlog, wishlist, etc.
Swimlanes by epics and themes supporting two dimensional view. Component level filters to allow for need based third dimensional view.
Better control and management of parent less tickets allowing a mutually exclusive view.
Training on how to use relevant boards as inputs to effective and efficient meetings.
Component level auto-assignment. Component definitions based on scaling strategy in team numbers and roles to effectively use auto-assignment feature.
Manage uncertainty funnel in requirements via suitable parent child relationships with a team level central meaning on size delineation.
Customization to attributes on cards, ticket status customization and relate-able column names, Introduction of new states such as “On Hold” and other such project tailoring with full autonomy and flexibility for ticket maneuvering to support the learning curve. Lean and noise free information radiators by separated backlogs for themes.
A completely new workflow for the circle to allow for process amendment without impacting the other circles in the system.
Book recommendations and reads with follow up discussion sessions as needed by the team to support group learning.
Allocated responsibilities and tailoring of rights and permission schemes to allow for project management by specific folks.
Time logging and management of time logs over time for planned prioritization and meaningful commitments.
Prioritization, color coding and swimlanes and enablement of relevant card attributes.
Model to support interdepartmental coordination, support and internal and external stakeholder management
Model to allow for needs spanning across multiple themes and related stakeholder management in JIRA via components, labels and watchers, and tailoring to notification scheme.
Solution demanded a hoslistic approach with people enablement, tailoring/abandonment of processes, lean and needed tailoring on tools, introduction of new frameworks, continuous and Just-in-time communication and recording of challenges while keeping the morale and motivation levels high to deal with change easily, information structuring against strategies and long term plans to have a collaboratively built theme management, clear roles and responsibilities with “agile framework as a glue keeping it all together”.
With my experience patches never work, specifically for teams just starting fresh on the agile journey.
The program is still ongoing and team is “very” happy :-) (refer testimonials).