Group work and the individual

I’ve been fortunate enough to be selected for some great training this month in LEAN and Warwick Uni’s flavour of it, SCD.

However a couple of the sessions really highlighted the difference between “working on your own first” or “starting in a group”.

When you’re sent off to do a group task on something new, you haven’t had to process the flow, the steps and the outcomes. Then trying to work it out together becomes a mix of people not really able to work together.

But when you give your attendees, time to work and process on their own before hitting the group, often the results are better as we’ve all processed on our own time how things work.

The 1st group event on a Training day is better preceded by some “own time”

After doing a bit of searching, Google Ventures agrees! https://www.fastcodesign.com/3034772/innovation-by-design/note-and-vote-how-google-ventures-avoids-groupthink-in-meetings

Meetings rarely offer individuals time to focus and think. Group brainstorms—where everyone shouts out ideas and builds off one another—can be fun, but in my experience, the strongest ideas always come from individuals.

Well isn’t that good.

The in-house Entrepeneur

Very pleased to share with you a recent win both of my team’s pitches have achieved in the Santander Digital Innovation Challenge.

Warwick Uni is putting some money where it’s mouth is and is sponsoring early stage ideas across the University to improve everyone’s working lives.

Both teams I put forward have won a cash prizes, and in February will be starting some early validation of ideas.

What are the ideas? Can’t say too much yet, but one is to disrupt an internal space rather than wait a large organisation to supply us with something (we will be doing validated learning to improve), the other is attempting to leverage some new tech to channel shift a team’s work load.

I’ve already said to much! But I’m glad we won so had to share something, more news in Feb 2017.

Midlands lead the way… Games for Health Conference 2016 #G4HUK2016

Who’d have thought I’d ever write that. After leaving the cosy bubble of Bristol, we were “sent to Cov” a couple of years back. It must have been something naughty we’d done…

But last week I attended a conference that is just another example of how Coventry and the Midlands is thinking now. The Games for Health UK Conference  run by Dr Pam Kato and Coventry University was truly outstanding (http://www.seriousgamesinstitute.co.uk/events/pages.aspx?section=29&item=241). When you’ve been to a lot of conferences, it’s easy to spot a good one, this was one and I only was able to make the afternoon which was packed with content.

My afternoon started off with Earnst, talking us through some very practical changes we can all make to our games. Talking through Visual edits and previews with viz. Then moving onto how actually journals in games help people with Mental disabilities to remember and piece together the game they’ve been through already.

Then after such a practical chat, we were blessed with a talk from @alacon who took us through a very cognitive session on Women in Games.

There was some great research which shows how our “work environment” in which we spend most of our time effects men and women differently.

Focus Games were next up @focusgames and they offered a new perspective on the digital games we produce by showing us how they produce their very “low tech” board games for health care learning. Apparently, Agile has no place in board games!

Who’s heard of GTA? You know, Grand Theft Auto One, that game where you steal, punch and make money being super naughty! Well, my friend and I bonded over that game massively and one of the lead producers came to talk to us at the Games for Health Conference.

This man, Jamie King was filled with practical thoughts and books with theory he cares for and was so happy to share it all. He was an absolute highlight to the whole event. I only wish I had time to write more.

Can’t wait for the next one!

Re: “Baking in” SCD…

Planning for Change, some evidence. Here’s a little follow up to my post, “Baking in” SCD.

I’ve been forwarded this link which is exceptional in it’s brevity and information. I suggest anyone in HE should read it’s from the, “Leadership foundation for Higher Education” and is called, “Adaptive capability in higher education institutions“.

It looks at 4 Universities and they change they went through with details from staff at all levels involved.

Some of the major points I thought were interesting.

  • Enterprise Enablers – in Plymouth Uni. 60 people who were enthusiastic about the changes from across the spectrum of the University. These people helped champion the change from all walks of the University staffing.
  • Town Hall meetings – Places to have open and frank discussions about the changes with the VC’s and people at the top.
  • Details reports on the actual state of the University – Senior staff having access to the correct information
  • A reason – The changes reported as successful had or created an urgent need
  • Removal of staff – Blindly reducing the headcount, left staff un-happy. But involving the unions, discussing reduced working hours and structural changes left staff with a better morale
  • Students suffer – There’s a massive tripartide relationship at Universities between Academics, Staff and Students. Balancing changes appeared to adversily affect the students.

We’re ignoring our stakeholders and they couldn’t be happier!

The following is a set of techniques that at WMG, Warwick University I have led and implemented on various digital projects to great success. Stakeholders are happy with it, and they’re not inadvertently altering the success chance of the projects.

You’ll recognise this. Every project you run, has a plethora of stakeholders involved. In some large organisations too, you’ll find they enjoy a rather flat structure where everyone’s opinion is valid and should be considered.

So when you invite lots of people to a meeting, you come out with a mess of features and a confusing array of project actions which possibly didn’t need chasing up. Because of this we need a framework that will allow for ideas from all people, but only qualify the ones which are “goers”.

Here’s 4 tips that I use with my teams at WMG to both keep the stakeholders happy. It makes but the project the most important success factor, not egos. It makes everyone nearly equal.

1. Have a shared Product Backlog or the “the duff idea buffer”

Headline.
This is a place where all ideas are held and are accessible to every stakeholder. This isn’t an obtuse Word Document you keep emailing round with “Track changes on” and forgetting to CC (Carbon Copy) people in, but more like a shared pinboard on Trello.com which you can export every so often to Excel.

Reasoning.
The reason for having a shared Product Backlog is more to do with human behaviour than anything else. Often in a working group of many, you’ll find most of the angst is whether or not someone’s personal idea was set down and recorded. Some / most of the suggestions will be pants, off-topic and not worth the keystrokes you took to record it, that’s natural, we all do it.

However, if it’s fairly recorded somewhere you can move on, rather than discussing its use-fullness there and then.

Often you’ll find that the person who raised it, after a couple of days, gets some perspective and realises they don’t think the idea’s any good anymore.

1. Have a Product Owner (the gatekeeper)

Headline.
This is 1 person. Not two, three or 12. Just 1. It is 1 person who was voted by the stakeholders as the “best decision maker for the project” and who always decides what’s the most important action for the project next.

Reasoning.
So sure, the stakeholders have now had their thoughts recorded into the backlog, but let’s be honest, quite a lot of that might not be immediately urgent or produce the highest business value. So a Product Owner is voted in by the stakeholders as the person best placed for making decisions on the product.

They have authority. They were voted in by their peers, and so can yay or ney actions confidently. Also, if you’re worried about someone being voted in that’s a bit power hungry, it’s good to know that this role has a lot of responsibility, so their decisions have to be good, they’re picking how the project progresses.

3. Be strict.

Yup. They’ll hate this bit, but you need to vote in someone who can stick to these rules and keep to the rhetoric of, “Great idea, put it in the Backlog”, “You don’t get to pick, it’s the Product Owner’s choice”.

This way, no stakeholders can adjust how the project goes as they agree to the rules of the Product Owner says what’s next. By staying strict it helps fight the “culture eats process for breakfast” saying and starts adjusting how you work together.

4. Keep everyone updated, frequently

Every 2 weeks, re-present to the stakeholders what’s done so far. Then chat about what they think is important next. Invite them all every time, and after a while you’ll see they more just want to leave you to your work and don’t turn up. Allowing the process to move on.

The Product Owner can then make the decisions based on feedback about what’s next.

I hope that helps!

Note…. In the title, I mean, “happier” with our process, I imagine their first child or standing on a surfboard might also be a happy event.

 

“Baking in” SCD tools to our staff’s daily appetite

Recently I started scratching the surface of SCD here at Warwick University by reading a couple of online resources. Then last week I planned to and meet some of the core team. The chats we had introduced some really interesting new discussions and concepts to me around change programmes.

SCD is a massive change programme here at Warwick University and it stands for Simplify, Collaborate and Deliver. It’s the concept that we can reduce waste on our tasks, work with each other and deliver change rather than just talking about it.

Here are some initial theories I’ve been knocking about in my head since that first chat and I wanted to ruminate and share them. Please bear in mind they are all TOTALLY un-tested and un-researched. For me this write up is more a process of going with the raw thoughts and seeing what rises up from it.

The thoughts are all based on, how do you “Bake in” SCD to peoples’ daily working lives? I’m sure this programme is going to be very successful. However, in my mind the questions which rose to the top were, how do you make change programme in any institution more than just being a whim for staff, some training imposed from above or worse… a new expensive fad which fades! How do you “bake it in” so that when ANY staff member has a work problem there’s something in the SCD toolkit to call upon as naturally as picking up their phone?

btw. “Baking in” is a term to describe that there’s no extra input needed, you’ve got access to it easily. You’ve baked in cranberries to that pie so you don’t need to add any separately. It’s just there, baked in.

Herd immunity

A well known medical term and practice for immunising a population against disease is Herd Immunity. The theory and practice is, you don’t have to immunise everyone, but at least a certain percentage of the population to prevent widespread pandemic… Obviously I don’t think the staff are herd, or that there’s a disease, but the point is that the population is resilient even if not everyone is immunised. Is there cross over in the theory here where if enough of the staff are trained in dealing with Waste and Change (SCD) that as a University we are resilient?

How would we know when we’ve hit that point or herd immunity status, what KPI’s and monitoring would you introduce to know we are “immune”.

Trickle down SCD

In the same way that “Trickle down economics” doesn’t work, how do we make sure this programme doesn’t fail from “Trickle-down change”? How do we inspire, support and sell grass-roots change?

Is there a way to create equality of access and interest in SCD so it’s “Four Legs Good, Two Legs baaaaaad”?

How can we make a culture where everyone feels the same responsibility and expectation of each other to practice and learn from it?

How can we make make sure we use people’s skill and enthusiasm across a spectrum of the Payroll Grading, the Departments and Skill sets?

Culture eats process for breakfast

It just does.

So why would most people here care about LEAN and SCD? A lot of people just want to get on with their job. Would purposefully identifying enthusiastic people lead other people change their culture?

Include it as a DPR requisite

Well if it’s that freaking important, how do we back that up and make it more than an avoidable fad?

How do we make sure it doesn’t go away, could we include a couple of questions or tick boxes in staffs’ reviews to remind them if they’ve practised SCD this year or not?

People do like to learn and would enjoy SCD, however they also have their day jobs. How do we make it a common thing for everyone to muck in with? Could we attach it to merit pay? How could we highlight and celebrate people who have purposefully called on SCD to solve a problem?

Done!

Anyway, there’s my initial and wide-ranging thoughts on a new subject. No answers yet, just questions! Also, I really enjoyed these pictures from this blog, have a look

https://hakanforss.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/are-you-too-busy-to-improve/

are-you-too-busy-to-improve2 are-you-too-busy-to-innovate1

Simplifying Digital Reporting Tools in WMG, Warwick Uni

As we’re speccing and delivering more digital systems at WMG, Warwick University, we’re beginning to re-evaluate how we handle reporting from each and every system. It’s becoming clear that every online application or process seems to implement a different set of reporting tools by default.

Currently we have 2 which output custom .csv’s (comma separated values), another system that you only get reports out if the developer is available and we have 3 more systems planned for release in the Summer all with reporting requirements.

Clearly we’re need to start offering a more unified interface for our users, so we can,

  • reduce the strain on developer time per. system (a premium)
  • simplify the learning requirements per. system per. staff member
  • improve product delivery time

As a potential solution I’ve been looking into clever add-ons from elastic.co, which as a dev is my favourite. However, that would be a new system for admin staff to have to learn. Also, we can’t implement it on all the systems, just a few of them.

Another potential system might be Microsoft performance point, however, no-one here knows that system. Also, we’re unsure of which technology stacks it will hook into.

However, we’ve discovered a more generic solution that would build on our staff’s Microsoft Office skills rather than learning technologies and it can access any technology stack.

It appears that Microsoft has an add-on called “Power Query” which connects directly to Azure, SQL and Mysql databases. With a read-only database account for staff and administrators, they would connect directly to the database and with some guidance access and work on real live data. If we were to organise a shared OneDrive folder with the queries and charts in, then we would reduce the team’s adoption.

This way, I won’t need request time to build custom reports on every project, unify our reporting technology to one piece of software and reduce the cost of licensing to our current Office 365 licence.

We’re at the stage where we are going to trial Power Query and I’ll report back on our findings.