Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Road to Team Transformation: My First 30 Days

My first week at University of Michigan Medical School with the Data Management Services team was spent observing, asking questions and taking notes. The management and the team had previously worked with multiple agile organizations and people but found their approach heavy handed or not a good fit for what they were doing. Through conversations with the team and management there appeared to be a lack of big picture communicated to the team, a culture of blame existed (with team members, customers, management, and consultants), work was not visible, change was dictated, agile practices that were successful failed by the wayside with the loss of a project manager, the team was not empowered or self-managed and as a result the team lacked ownership and was not delivering.

A lot was going on and what was initially set forth for my first 30 days here was only achievable if I were to ignore everything I learned, continue down the path that plagued the team before and desired to simply put on a superhero cape. They needed to go slow to go fast. To be successful and for the team to reach there full potential we needed to do something different. The answer was not in some methodology but through allowing management and the people doing the work to work together to figure it out. So I recommended we experiment with a lean change canvas and was given the go-ahead.

Why Transformation Canvas?
My experience with lean change canvases were with using it for discovery, transparency, visibility and alignment on the big picture and for guiding the conversations between organizational leadership and it's teams. However, I was going to run this experiment at solely a team level with management. The hypothesis of this experiment is that with management and the team creating a shared vision, goals and collaborating on change experiments that a self managed and empowered team who delivers quality that can be trusted in short increments would be molded.

To begin I commandeered a wall and created the shell of a LEAN change canvas in the open which included an improvement strategy canvas that would be populated by change agents (i.e. executives and management), a team canvas, change options to be proposed from both change agents and the team, a kanban for the change options/experiments that are in play, and an area to capture wins. Lastly, I posted a sign that stated that this was a transformation canvas and it is a "thingamajig to iteratively transform the Data Management Services teams collaboratively".

So instead of jumping in and populating it I talked about what it was, what we could learn from it, and how to engage with it to the team, management, and all those who asked. Spending time socializing this was the first step to being transparent, inclusive, and getting people bought in.

I then set the stage for change by giving an interactive talk on removing blame, becoming solution focused, and providing them with tools to do so.
This was a session I did at self-conference in April; however, I made a few modifications to allow the team to work on real issues and leave with actionable items and solutions.
In the session the team and management were able to bring to light behaviors within their corporate/team culture they would like to change and come up with ideas collectively to try to change it. The feedback was quite positive.
Feedback will also be something I solicit throughout this process. Gauging sessions on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 needs work and 5 is awesome but if less than a 5 they need to state what would make it better.
Improvement Strategy Canvas
It was now time to build the strategy canvas for the next six months. This was done at the wall in the open with management. Powerful questions were asked and responses stayed away from solving solutions. Now visible to all was the vision of the change agents, what puzzles they felt needed to solve, what concerns them, and what success truly looks like to them. Possible change options were also identified. This was something we could now socialize to the team.

In a workshop the team reviewed the strategy canvas, discussed what stood out for them, what worried them and then built their own team canvas. The team canvas included what is supporting this change, what is working against this change, how the team can contribute to the vision of the strategy canvas, and what was the team's vision for the next six months, and their own change options.

Team Canvas
The team also decided to give Scrumban a try to help manage their workflow using agile and LEAN principles. I led an exercise with them that showed the benefits of a pull versus a push workflow using the LEAN dot game. They created a kanban for a pull workflow and rules on how they would use it. We have now established a cadence which will include iterations reviews and retrospectives. Reviews will give more visibility to their work with stakeholders and change agents. Retrospectives will include time for the team to refine the pull workflow and revisit the canvas.

The canvas will change with further conversations and input of the team as they evolve over the next six months. The team canvas and the response to the strategy canvas has already been socialized to the change agents. Stories are being pulled to play that will give the team more insight into their role in the big picture of the organization. We are currently working to transition all scheduled work to the support team so they can focus on project work. Up next we will build a story map for a project roadmap/plan, build a backlog of similar sized stories for the next few iterations and start using that kanban just built to move to a pull workflow.

Feedback Driven Change Process

Excitement is brewing about the transformation canvas. I have been approached by many to walk them through what we are doing. There is some desire for me to introduce this to other teams and others see promise at an organizational level.

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To learn more about lean change management visit

Workshop slides available on Slideshare:

Change Options

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