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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Renee Troughton on Collaborative Learning, an Agile Transformation Meta Model and Visual Management

Renee Troughton on Collaborative Learning, an Agile Transformation Meta Model and Visual Management


3. And you also are 1/3 of the Agile Revolution podcast, which I’m sure many of our audience have heard. So, maybe they could see you for the first time rather than just hear you. So, impressions of the conference, how is Agile 2015 gone for you?

People are lovely, very welcoming, some great diversity in topics which I think’s been quite awesome. I’ve really liked the opportunity, through the long lunches and even through the long breaks, to actually catch up with people, meet people for the first time that I’ve never actually met in person but talked to a lot through Twitter.

Connections are really strong and really important to me, so that’s been great. Finding every now and then some interesting tidbits to follow, but as well everything is aligning quite well with my thought process and things that I’ve learned to date. So, great to have a huge community here in America, and certainly by far the biggest conference I’ve ever come to for Agile.


4. Cool. Great. So, you spoke on building a learning culture, and the catch phrase which, I heard a number of people talking using in the passageways actually, was Agile passion fruits. What’s an Agile passion fruit?

An Agile passion fruit is as you do a transformation, those champions, for lack of a better term I guess, who have high levels of interest in Agile that they get it. They’ve been using it for a little while; in Alistair Cockburn’s model, on the cusp of going from Shu to Ha. But they don’t really know how to get there as far as learning is concerned. So, they’ve been doing Agile for awhile. They’re starting to think about what their mindset is, but they don’t necessarily have a huge tool kit in order to utilize on a day-to-day basis.

I created a program in an organization, a very large financial services organization, which was focused on these people, these champions who are passionate about Agile, and I called them Passion Fruits, and it grew from there.


5. What are some of the things that these passion fruits need?

What they need? Yes. So, interestingly for me, a lot of the program wasn’t focused on Agile. There was a lot of elements in it that was more about critical thinking skills than anything else. So, education and leaning around learning models, and what’s out there and how we learn as individuals, how we better learn. Looking at critical thinking through problem solving and solution analysis techniques, effective facilitation, visual management, and I think more importantly the crux of the program was these are assignment areas. And these are assignment areas where are in about 20 or so different books.

And it was identified in the first of the sessions what book may align better with your learning needs. And, what was important was the individual had that assignment area, that book to read. They had a few weeks to read it. But more importantly, they were expected to teach their peers in the group what that book was about with a number of reflection elements inside of it. So, I’m a really strong advocate for this term called collaborative learning, and it’s a model whereby you learn not through a teacher led session, but through your peers. And this program was a start of my own journey inside of collaborative learning in trialing that.

And I guess now, as I’m starting to learn more about collaborative learning, trying to shift even more towards the extreme versions of this. How could we amplify this to the max? And what that would look like is as we go into organizations, do extremely light version of Agile basics, and then handing out micro assignments where each person learns a little bit about Agile and then starts teaching their peers. That makes me look like a bit of a lazy coach or a lazy transformationist, but in essence, collaborative learning has a really high ratio of people to retain information, and ownership to adapt the information. I think that’s something that is really missing inside of transformation to date. People don’t own learning. They get given learning by a coach. They don’t own the process, the process gets inferred on them by a coach or by a transformation group, so I really want to break that model through collaborative learning.


6. Interesting approach. One of the things that I know you’ve been working on is the Enterprise Transformation Meta Model. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what’s happening there and what it is?

Yes. It’s a thought process that I’ve had for a bit over 12 months now, and it’s released as a website and it’s just being refactored before it gets released a little bit further. So, it’s coming out soon as the set of narrators about I’ve utilized, and a sort of walkthrough and how it works as well.

But in essence, when I do a transformation, and have seen a lot of transformations, they get very much led from the bottom up. So, a team will start doing Scrum or Kanban and then you have a few teams that start doing it, almost this pilot group. But inevitably, as it starts to become successful, and it generally always is, the scaling complexity hits.

And you look at how you can transform across lots of groups at a time. We’ve got scaling methods that help with that, but they only work to a certain extent, so they don’t address things very well such like finance, governance is still quite weak, I feel, in some of the scaling methods and they don’t especially address the HR area, and that’s something I’m quite passionate about at the moment.

When I say HR, I mean things such as how do we organize our organizations, and how they’re structured. How is remuneration and performance done? How do we reward people? Those sorts of elements. And so the Enterprise Transformation Meta Model is two pyramids. And the top pyramid is focusing on values, principles, process, practices and techniques. And then the bottom of the pyramid talks about three levels across, so team, department or scale then organization. And then as you go down that pyramid on the bottom pyramid, it’s looking at things such as how we do work at the bottom. How we govern our work at the next layer. How we finance our work. And then, how we govern and finance our people. And what the Enterprise Transformation Meta Model is agnostic term methodology or approach.

You could stick a methodology into it and you say, “Okay, well what does Scrum do?” Well Scrums got to arguably values practices, principles and so forth in it. It’s really focused towards that bottom left of the pyramid, which is more work at the team basis than anything else. And then as you scale out, it starts to go upwards and more towards the right, if you use SAFe as an example.

You can start using this model to look at a, of the methods that we are applying - how is it impacting the organization? And, start shading it and grading it so as you apply method upon method, you can start to see the change impact to the organization. But in addition to this, you can see what’s being missed. What are we not fixing? And the gaps in the model also gives you the ability to look up to say, “Okay, well out of the roughly 50 different approaches that are out there nowadays.” Because there’s a lot out there. What helps fill this gap? So it’s really more of an education and communication tool and necessarily, something that you will ever get certified in.


7. And, where can people find it? Yes, this is the world’s largest domain name.

Shane: And, the other thing I know you’ve been looking at is some visual management stuff.

Yes. So, in a couple of previous organizations, we started doing education through it just being on a wall. I wanted to take that again to the extreme just to see what that would look like and I had a very great opportunity, the current organization that I’m working in at right now called Charter Hall, where they wanted to see exactly how far that could go. I ended up starting to draw it all in pictures, very simple little blobs of pictures around about this big. I don’t know if you’d see that, this big.

And, the values were in pictures. The principles were in pictures. The whole process was a good couple of meters wide in pictures, and then the roles and responsibilities. So things such as the Scrum Master role, Product Owner role, the team, and some of the governance roles, and every single responsibility or activity that someone would do would be a separate picture. And you’d be able to walk people through the wall. This was like five meters long or something like that. And you’d flip through and turn the picture over to actually be able to discuss it further.

In addition to that as I’ve been working with Scrum Masters, I’ve been looking at how we can break down things such as sprint or iteration planning into actual key activities that almost like an agenda item. And I’ve been giving Scrum Masters these cards where they can create a backlog doing, done on a wall, and they can actually move the cards across and visually manage the agenda through these cards. Team members are aware of what’s happening next, but also again has pictures on it so there’s an explanation about what to do.

What I’m currently working on is basically building this Agile bootstrap kit for organizations that are brand new to Agile, and teams that are brand new Agile, which will help them manage their transformation and manage the change, how to do Agile through cards.

Shane: Cool.

So that might be a bit longer before that one gets released.

Shane: One of the other things I know that you’re interested in, and are engaged in your copious amounts of spare time, is writing.

Yes, definitely.


8. What are you working out in the moment?

It feels like I’m not necessarily eating the best of my own dog food. I’ve been writing Agile Forest for awhile, which is a book around Australian marsupial animals and their journey into Agile. Which is a fictional tale, similar to Miles Berg’s Melting, and that’s still halfway through but I have strong intentions to get back to that over the next half year.

But in addition to that, I’ve been writing a book around visual management. And I think there’s a significant gap there around how we build some really great visual management boards. A lot of people call them task boards or Kanban boards. I call them visual measurement boards.

But visual management to me is more than just a board. So there’s the extra information radiator information that’s out there. And I’ve been looking at aligning this with Dan Pink’s work in Drive of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. And starting to think about visual management zones that are focused on autonomy, focused on mastery, and focused purpose.

Because I think in the Agile community, the only thing that we’re really focusing on is the work. We’re not visualizing anything about the people and their capabilities. And when we do a daily standup or a daily Scrum, we’re talking about the work through that visual management zone, which is effectively a board.

But again, in Kanban it talks about managing flow. And the second look to me is around managing the zone, and we don’t do a lot of effort around what’s the regular cadence under which we should be refining our board, and looking and assessing our board. So, it’s a gap that we’ve got.

So this first loop is the thing in the zone, the second is how the zone is managed and how it looks. And you can think about this two loops for everything, so for autonomy, for master and purpose. And it could be that you’re actually doing these cadence sessions in combined, or it could be that you’re doing in different scales of timeframe. So for a daily Scrum, we’re obviously doing it daily.

For a look at how we’re managing our work on our board and how we’re managing flow, then that could be every month, for example. How we’re looking at our team. So the capabilities that our team has, you might look at it once a week, for example. How we’re managing those capabilities as it visually exists could be every six weeks. So the book is both focused on just really awesome visual management in general, but also looking at refining this as a process and more clearly amplifying intrinsic motivation effectively.


9. Sounds fascinating. And any ideas when it’s going to be ready?

Current timebox I’m looking is getting a draft published within the next six months. So, I’m writing actively on it at the moment.

Shane: Wonderful. Renee, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to InfoQ.

You’re welcome.

Shane: And enjoy the rest of the conference.

Thank you.

Dec 27, 2015