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How Business Mapping Increases Agility at Lloyds Bank

| by Ben Linders Follow 25 Followers on May 10, 2016. Estimated reading time: 6 minutes | NOTICE: The next QCon is in San Francisco Nov 5 - 9, 2018. Save an extra $100 with INFOQSF18!

Tony Grout and Chris Matts spoke about the emerging areas of business mapping and skills liquidity at QCon London 2016 and how they apply them at Lloyds Bank.

In their talk, Grout and Matts showed how they deploy these techniques at Lloyd. They explained how they combine business strategy with the abilities and aspirations of people to improve collaboration between business and technical stakeholders.

InfoQ interviewed them after their talk to get more detail.

InfoQ: Introducing agile in a large organization can result in people feeling uncertain about what will happen. What are your suggestions to deal with this?

Chris Matts: The first thing is to adopt an agile approach to introducing agile. Treat it like a product roll-out using the "crossing the chasm" approach. People then have the chance to see how it works in their company before it affects them personally, and work out where they fit on the bus.

The middle managers are normally the ones responsible for change in an organisation. They have to feel comfortable and in the driving seat rather than feeling "changed". I recently ran an open space for middle managers at a client. It was really effective at getting buy in and putting them back in charge of the change.

There is definitely one thing you should not do. You should not announce that middle managers and project managers are not needed, that they need to leave or become Scrum Masters. This is a naive and stupid thing to say and do. I have two clients who deeply regretted taking this advice from Agile "Thought Leaders".

Tony Grout: Organisational culture is a powerful enemy in scaling agility. A lesson I learnt practicing Judo is to use your enemy’s power against it. That’s where I came up with the idea of "Use the culture to change the culture".

I lead the change of an organisation with a hierarchical culture that was heavily metrics driven. Using the culture, we focused first on redesigning the metrics to instead drive a more agile culture. This worked well as this gave senior leaders a familiar tool but aiming at different outcomes.

InfoQ: You mentioned in the QCon talk that "queues are everywhere". Can you elaborate what you mean with this? What makes this a problem?

Chris Matts: The key improvement you are looking for is to improve lead time which then enables much less risky product development. Agile is great at optimising teams but weaker when it comes to delivering cross team initiatives. When you analyse the lead time of cross team initiatives, you discover that most of the delays are caused by queues. This is where all the queue management techniques come in, most of which make queues transparent. The techniques include Cumulative Flow Diagrams, Value Stream Mapping and Kanban Boards.

InfoQ: In building an agile organization using business mapping Dan North talked about business mapping, something that you are working on together. Can you give some examples of how you are applying this at Lloyds banking?

Chris Matts: I have only just started at Lloyds so it is too early to know whether Business Mapping will be an appropriate solution. First we have to turn on the lights to see what is going on.

Business Mapping is a set of practices that Dan and I have developed at clients to help with issues at scale. Demand Mapping is something that Tony and I developed with colleagues at Skype to identify which teams were the constraints in the organisation. We ran it on a quarterly basis to form the organisational backlog and identify the teams that were acting as constraints. Dan did something similar with his clients. Subsequently I have helped other clients adopt demand mapping and metric mapping.

Metric Mapping also came from the work we did at Skype. It helps organisations align and make prioritisation decisions using metrics.

Skills Mapping came out of work that Dan did at a client. He extended the use of the Skills Matrix to help align the needs of the organisation and individuals. Dan had discovered that individuals often become lost when an agile transformation sweeps away the previously understood career paths.

Tony Grout: It is possible we will be applying some of these techniques at Lloyds. However, we have to consider the three most important factors first… Context, Context and Context. When we better understand the context, we can decide whether they will help.

InfoQ: In your talk you gave an example of how you tried to have teams that had lower priority work to help other teams who were working at the highest priority stories. How did this work out? And what did you learn from this?

Chris Matts: Badly. This is the crux of an agile transformation. People working on the most important work rather than the work they are most effective at personally.

We had success changing the HR reward policies but struggled with managing the cultural change. Theory of Constraints applied to organisational change. :-)

Tony Grout: It’s tough and in most cases relies on teams doing what’s right in spite of the reward systems. Most large organisations are still paranoid about focusing on individual efficiency over organisation effectiveness using outdated models for social loafing and stack ranked performance management systems.

One of the easiest first steps towards this, that I’ve seen work, is where one team helps a team they’re dependent on. Having everyone focus on end to end lead time helps.

InfoQ: What if there are skills that are needed to solve the business need that the organization doesn’t possess and people are not aspiring to learn those skills. How to deal with that?

Chris Matts: Use common sense. It’s the same as buying a house in a foreign country with the same levels of risk.

Get all your internal advocates to research the agile community and network into it. Get them to read books and blogs. Get them to go to meet ups and conferences. In particular, encourage them to go to smaller conferences, especially ones with open space and workshops.

Do not get help from "Thought Leaders" until your people have done the research and understand what you are getting. Hire practitioners rather than professional trainers and consultants. Bring these in when you know what you need, but not as the first point of contact with the agile community. Do not ask your existing waterfall software service providers for help.

Tony Grout: Make the skills more valued if you need to sustain the skill. If you don’t need sustaining skill, hire in contract help and phase out the need for the skill as quickly as possible. If you do need the sustaining skills fast then hire in people who do want to do that skill, communicate their value to those already in your organisation and give the existing people the ability to buddy up.

Building on Chris’s point I’d hire practice leaders over thought leaders any day.

InfoQ: You mentioned in your talk that agile relies on disciplined people. Do you have suggestions for establishing a culture of discipline into an organization?

Chris Matts: Understand the behaviours you want. Chastise bad behaviours. Reward good behaviours.

Tony Grout: Understand that good people want to work with good people. Not only that, but they have choice over where they work.

Leadership have to live the values otherwise they will have no credibility.

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