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Did you ever have an “Oh No” moment? That’s where you realize that what you thought was true is not.
When I was a software developer and tester, I had plenty of “Oh No!” moments. Those moments were often about my lack of understanding the requirements or what the code did. Yes, even if I wrote the code.
As a project manager, program manager, and manager, I had plenty of those moments also. They were more often about the people and the situations I saw and heard.
When you have an “Oh No” moment, you see the reality of the situation. Sometimes, that reality stings.
If you are trying to change something whether about yourself or at work, you have plenty of opportunities to see your reality.
Until you see your current reality, you can’t adapt or change to make progress. You might try these questions to see your reality:
- What data is available to me?
- What does the data say?
- What have I seen or heard that can show me the reality?
- Do I have other people I can ask to see if what I think is true really is?
- Can I take a small step to get more feedback and understand what’s really going on?
Daniel, a program manager, was confused by the lack of momentum on his program. When he visited each team, everyone said they were agile or lean. But weeks would go by before anyone integrated anything. What could he do?
Daniel asked each team privately to track their feature throughput for two weeks. He said, “I’m confused by our apparent lack of progress. Let’s focus on feature throughput, okay? Let’s measure throughput for now. Then we can decide what to do.”
When he did that, he asked about data. He asked the teams to see their reality and checked that everyone saw the same thing. He asked the feature teams to provide the data to verify what he saw. He asked the teams to focus on what they needed to release, features, in a two-week timebox so everyone could take a small step.
After the two-week experiment, the teams released a number of features. The program seemed to be on track. But, Daniel wasn’t so sure that their recent success would stick.
He visited each team, asking about what they were doing now to maintain momentum. The teams each said things like this:
- We’re focused on features.
- We reduced our work in progress, WIP so that we could finish features.
- We talked to other teams to make sure we understood what other teams needed when. We had to manage our interdependencies.
- Each team took a different approach. The teams maintained their momentum for the next two-week experiment.
Helping the teams see their reality helped Daniel’s program get back on track. When Daniel searched for data, everyone benefited.
If you want to make a change, big or small, it helps to know your reality. Try looking for all kinds of data first. Then you can choose how to adapt to your new reality.
If you liked this article about seeing your reality, you want to know about The Influential Agile Leader. Gil Broza and I create an environment where you will find it safe to learn. We teach experientially, so you have a chance to practice and reflect on your reality and how you might change it.
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© 2015 Johanna Rothman
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