Saturday, June 15, 2013

Holding Study Groups

It's possible for a person to have agile mindself by himself/herself, but difficult for a project to become agile by oneself unless it's a one person project.

Having executive support, making everybody take classes on agile, promoting people to get agile certification are all good but they have only limited effect. I think it's because it's not too "fun" because they somewhat seems "forced" from somebody from higher up.

Agile is about people to "like" their work. If people only think of "kaizen" as a "work", there's not going to be too useful improvements. In such a circumstance, getting somebody to hold a study group maybe helpful. A study group is a voluntary gathering initiated by a member. The goal of a study group is just not to study with other but to increase community spirit so they would have similar thoughts. As such, a study group is not mandatory and is a mixture of study and play (often in form of going out to a drink afterward).

A company can promote study groups by allowing them to be held in a room at the company and compensation for activities (such as paying a little for members to meet outside the company.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Moving beyond "Field of Dreams"

"Field of Dreams" is a terrific movie. If you haven't seen it, it's about a Iowa corn farmer who suddenly hear voice telling him that if he build it, he will come. Under threat of bankruptcy, the farmer plows his corn field to build a baseball field. The movie has a happy ending with people coming to watch baseball. Unfortunately, people don't hear voices too much. Building just based on a "dream" tends to lead to failure.

Nevertheless, I've seen so many companies following this path - "If you build it, it will sell". I haven't really seen any of these companies actually succeed, but they still hold this belief. Some have added "planning" - "If you plan it and build it, it will sell". This is true in some market, but I haven't seen any IT company succeed with this approach either because the market keeps changing.

It seems most human being don't have innate gift of knowing the right thing to build. We waste resources by building wrong things instead of being inefficient in our tasks. If a company is measuring utilization rate of their employee instead of trying to become a more of a learning organization, the company is actually wasting resources.

"Field of Dreams" is a good movie, but I'll rather bet on Lean Startup to start a business.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Doing Away with Personal Desks

I've previously talked about not having private rooms in an office to make communication better. We're not the first company to do this, but most employees also do not have fixed desks at our company (exception is our president who has a fixed desk so the employees will know when he's in). Employees are freely able to move about and sit with people they are working with. If an employee is working on several projects, he/she will be able to change desks during the day to communicate and work with other members of the project.

We, also, have white boards where people can easy sketch or paste task boards. The noise level isn't too much but if a person wants to concentrate on something, he/she is able to go to a "concentration room" located in another floor. To avoid a person from just locking himself/herself in the room too long, we have a time limit a person can use the room per day.

We have a chat system and each employee also has a mobile phone so users will be able to chat or talk across the room to find where the other person is at.

Managers tend not to always sit with members of a team unless he/she is needed at that time. Nevertheless, since we don't have private rooms and people can just see each other, members can just go up and talk with a manager when needed.

You may have noticed, but we don't have desk cabinets. Each employee is given a locker to put all his/her stuffs in. This discourages writing paper documentations - we value individuals and interactions over paper documentations.