The business of being agile

Recently I noted several large businesses announcing proudly they had adopted Agile development techniques – for example Suncorp, NBN Co, Allianz, Jemena.

There is a pattern to the adoption of a new methodology within an organisation. I have lived through the adoption of a number of new methodologies over the years at various companies, for example: Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Lean, Capability Maturity Model, and Balanced Scorecard (to name a few).

Like many corporates adopting a new idea I suspect that these four companies are in the honeymoon phase. They are still getting managers used to the ideas, training staff in the new processes. And the critical things for success will be:

  1. consistency of management support,
  2. consistency of practice, and
  3. consistency of internal reward systems.

Without these three kinds of consistency the adoption of the new methodology is a real challenge. Most importantly the internal reward systems – not just remuneration, but also promotion and recognition – need to be recalibrated to support and endorse the new methodology.

To effectively support Agile development (or Agile adoption in any other part of the business) it is necessary to change some of the cherished management tools and practices that date from the days of Taylorism.

Agile means doing something that seems counter-intuitive. It means accepting the uncertainty which is inherent in so many business activities. It also means working with that uncertainty to create change and build value based on the social nature of business and the creative process. It also means that we shift away from long-term highly-structured and well-documented plans and towards smaller chunks of work. Thus certainty is achieved in small focus deliverables and there is an ability to quickly adapt to new business needs and requirements.

At about the same time I saw the news about these four companies I also discovered a wonderful summary of the challenges we often face in adopting agile in an enterprise context in the form of the Manifesto for Half-Arsed Agile Software Development. This sums up the situation facing organisations that want to adopt Agile practices successfully.

https://www.halfarsedagilemanifesto.org/

Serious games for business and education #GlobalSCRM

I’ve never been a big online game player (the third world bandwidth here in Australia has been enough to discourage many like me). But, having observed the development of online games and the gamer communities since the early days of the internet, I can see clearly that this is a significant phenomenon. One need only to look at the size of the global games market. Here I am drawing a distinction between online games and online gaming (the latter is the online equivalent of going to the casino).

The session that I attended recently on The Future of Games: enterprises, education, social + more really got me thinking about how we can use games and games-like technology for better results in the workplace and education.

I learned new words like ‘gamification‘ and discovered that the power harnessed by computer games can also be channeled to achieve better health results or to drive changes in consumer and employee behaviour.

As a non-gamer I had never really stopped to think about this before. Although Chris Penn often writes about what he learns about business, the world and human behaviour from World of Warcraft (aka WoW) I had not generalised this thinking to the broader category of games and beyond to business and government applications.

But the mechanic of games touches on important human urges and needs in ways that other kinds of technology interactions do not. The popularity of games is not surprising when you consider, and not just hard core gamers, but games played by ordinary people (such as Farmville). One of the drivers of Facebook’s popularity has been the number of games available through its interface. My partner often plays chess on Facebook, while many other friends play word games and sudoku on a daily basis.

Consider also the millions of people – young and old – who play games on various devices everyday. No longer is the player tied to a PC or television, now the devices for playing games have gone mobile with access via mobile phones and portable games devices.

Thus with sites like Facebook we are seeing a broad majority of people being trained to use online games and to collaborate together using online tools. This new tendency has hardly been touched on in the workplace.

For many years we have struggled to get messages across at work or for public service – about important things like safety, diversity, legal compliance, health – with limited success. Admittedly our training methods were relatively primitive. Although there is a large body of work around adult education and online learning it has been a challenge to adopt these on a grand scale for workplace education. But games offer us a new channel to get these messages out more effectively.

The other part of the equation is that our customers have also been educated to use games and associated technology. This opens up new possibilities for our customer relationships. This is not to say that every brand needs to go out and develop a game (although that is probably what we can expect to see next from voracious marketers). Instead brands and products that need to drive behavioural change can leverage the repetitive nature of game play to build up that change over time. For instance, products like medications that require high levels of compliance and regularity of schedule to work properly could be tied to a game mechanic to assist consumers in achieving the full benefits of the treatment regime.

Games are not only a serious business for pleasure. They also offer significant promise for reshaping business and consumer interactions. Watch this space to grow over the next few years and expect to see various experiments of varying success as we evolve new ways of using games in mainstream business and marketing.

The Future of Games – Global Social CRM #GlobalSCRM

Yesterday I attended a fascinating session hosted by the Bay Area Executives Meetup on the topic of the The Future of Games: enterprises, education, social + more.

The session was conducted via CISCO Public TelePresence Suites, WebEx, Livestream, Twitter – with attendees from all around the world (Santa Clara, CA, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo). The panelists all have experience in social gaming in general and social gaming for education. Some of the questions we considered were:

  • How do we use the energy of gaming to support organizational activities and broader missions?
  • What are the other possible futures for gaming?

I suspect that many of the ideas covered during this session are going to ferment in my brain and lead to a number of follow up blog posts.  Kudos to Tatyana Kanzaveli for coordinating the session.

The panelists were:

  • Lyle Fong – CEO & Co-Founder – Lithium Technologies
  • Dr. Keith Devlin – Co-founder and Executive Director of the university’s H-STAR institute, a co-founder of the StanfordMedia X research network, and a Senior Researcher at CSLI.
  • Douglas Goldstein – a eFuturist and CEO of iConecto, Inc.
  • Mathias Crawford – Research Manager at the Institute for the Future

The session was moderated most excellently by Terri Griffith, Professor of Management, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University.

Attendees
Emmy Gengler
Patrick Searle
Carlos Miranda Levy
Carl Hewitt
Terry Mandel
Terri Ducay
Doug McDavid
Daniel Holden
IdaRose Sylvester
Matt Perez
Sanjeev Sisodiya
Patrick Nicolas
Robin Stavisky
Yuko Ihara
Haixia Yu
Kate Carruthers
Jay T Dautcher
Anca Mosoiu
Max Skibinsky
Keith Devlin
Lyle Fong
Terri Griffith
Tatyana Kanzaveli
Ian McGee
Jared Waxman
Kristi Miller
Tim Stephenson

Gender parity in Australia

Bain & Company have just released a brief titled “Level the playing field: A call for action on gender parity in Australia”.

The key findings are:

  • Australian men are 1.4 times more likely to believe that gender parity should be a strategic priority than men surveyed in the US and Europe
  • 9 in 10 women and 7 in 10 men believe that gender parity should be a strategic business imperative for their company
  • However, this strong belief has not translated through to a perception that women have equal opportunity to be selected for senior leadership positions
  • Only 1 in 5 women and 1 in 2 men believe that women have equal opportunity to be promoted to senior management positions

In their brief Bain & Company (opens PDF) argue that companies can take three measures to close the gap – and create a stronger talent pipeline:

  1. show a real commitment to gender parity
  2. lower the cultural barriers
  3. have a persistent approach to change management

This is all very well and nicely aspirational. But what are we to make of it, when (as apparently happened recently in Sydney at a women in business event) the male CEO of a large Australian organisation notes that, women do better in the Public Service because they have family friendly work hours and private industry does not.

There is some serious old-fashioned 1970s style consciousness raising that needs to go on at executive and board levels in this country. Surely nobody wants their own daughters and granddaughters to suffer inequitable access in business?

Girl Develop IT Sydney launches successfully #ozgdi

Girl Develop IT Sydney kicked off well last night with thirty eight students, led by the indomitable Pamela Fox and a number of teaching assistants.

Women from all sorts of jobs and backgrounds came along to grapple with the basics of web development – with the youngest still in high school.

The first session covered the basics of HTML and history of the web. Next sessions are:

Class 2: HTML Advanced Tags – Wednesday, Oct. 20
Class 3: CSS Selectors & Properties – Monday, Oct. 25th
Class 4: CSS Layout – Wednesday, October 27th
Class 5: Final Demos – Monday, November 1st

Google’s offices in Sydney are a great venue – kudos to them for supporting this initiative.

Blog action day 2010 – theme is water

Today is Blog Action Day 2010 and the theme is water. Many people are without access to this most basic of human needs. In Australia we need to find ways to conserve the water we so often take for granted.

http://www.change.org/widgets/content/petition_scroller_js?width=500&causes=all&color=00B1FF&partner=1654-164

  • 40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info »
  • 38,000 Children a Week: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info »
  • Wars Over Water: Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info »
  • A Human Right: In July, to address the water crisis, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right over. But we are far from implementing solutions to secure basic access to safe drinking water. More Info »