Episode 2 – Delivery Guild strikes back… with its board 

Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Delivery Guild emerged. Actually, it wasn’t that far away, so we can stick with just one iteration of far. If I am wrong, we could do another iteration and deliver one more far. Assuming of course we will have the same velocity. Anyway, the distance is greater than a single swallow could travel. Obviously African swallow and without coconuts. Yes… where was I.. aha, Delivery Guild.

A bit of context.

As the delivery Guild supports all operational activities like development, testing or business analysis, all Guild Masters within it have a lot of responsibilities. On top of that, Delivery Guild binds together almost 200 people, what by itself is a challenge. Finally, the tools and process around software delivery change very fast, so aiming for thought leadership requires not only staying on top but actually creating something new. Effective coordination of such amount of work proved to be really difficult. Amongst all the identified problems the biggest ones were: lack of synchronization between the teams, wrong prioritization and slow progress. There were cases where two guilds were working on the same item not knowing about each other and duplicating the work done. All these problems are not new and as usually in such cases, the idea for solution was right in front of our eyes.

Idea

What we came up with is Delivery Guild Board. Like all Kanban-like boards it has few columns showing work items in different stages (backlog, new, in progress and done). There is completely nothing new and fancy in the board itself, but what`s new for us, was using it for the management team. The board is on the wall of our office corridor, where everybody can see it.

Delivery_Board

 

Once a week, all Delivery Guild Masters meet and spend around half an hour walking through the items on the board and new ones. All the tasks are broken down in a way that they could be completed within a week (of course often it doesn’t happenJ) and are as SMART as possible. It is similar to a regular stand-up meeting.

Benefits ( so far as the board idea is couple of months old )

  • Work visibility – all Guild Masters see their own work items and update the rest of the team with progress, like in a regular development team. I don’t think I need to describe the benefits of that element.
  • Transparency – as mentioned earlier, this board is accessible to all the employees, so everybody knows what their Guild Masters focus on. This provides an ability to influence Guild Masters work and give feedback that something is more important for the teams than what is currently being done.
  • Information sharing – often other Guild Masters show up during the stand-up, so they can hear what the Delivery Guild is working on.
  • Discipline – Last but not least, such a weekly stand up adds a bit more discipline around the work done. We all felt that managerial roles benefit from that element.

So far we all like the idea and we all believe it is working. For sure our operations are more organized and we do not have the problem of work duplication. Finally, we had a case of first people actually adding sticky notes to our backlog with items, that are important for them. The challenges that we are focusing on now are:

  • limiting the work in progress (this board actually made us realize how big that is)
  • limiting the time spent on the weekly meeting, as occasionally it becomes longer
  • encouraging more people to take interest in this, as this is a great opportunity to focus our attention on something important

I guess this is it for now. Time will verify if the true value of the idea.

Why, How and What: Guilds and Tribes @ Objectivity

Why

The problem we are trying to solve is not unique – keeping efficiency while the company is constantly growing. What makes it even more challenging is that we don`t want to “f..k up the culture” and remain as agile as possible on the way. Finally, we would really like to avoid layers of management, that might generate unnecessary inertia and kill creativity and innovation.

How

The idea was to change the company structure. Through research we have discovered a “Guilds and Tribes” model proposed by Spotify. It seemed it is in line with all our beliefs and fulfills all the assumptions we had in mind. Although, as our business model is different, it had to be adjusted to suit our needs.

What

So what we have end up with roughly looks like this:

GuildsTribes_OnePager

 

Observations

So far, we can already see the first signs of Tribes becoming more and more self-organizing. The benefits of team empowerment are becoming more visible. Teams are taking decisions to reform or change the work practices to, optimize the delivery process for the customer. Finally, team leaders can spend their time developing their team members, who are close to their day to day work. In summary, all benefits of this model are starting to kick in on different levels in each tribe.

However, proper Guild introduction is taking us a bit longer. Maybe, because it was our decision to focus on the delivery part of the organisation, as it is our core business. Maybe because in some cases programmes where following the same principles already. Or maybe because the concept of Guilds is quiet difficult to fully understand. Still it is clear we need to focus on this part of the model now, as we can observe tiny signals of “silos”. There are cases where people do not see value in knowledge sharing and are not that keen on supporting the Guild activities. Fortunately, we are prepared for that with appropriate tools in hands like new training policy, time for communities and conferences and MVP roles. On top of that, all Guild activities and backlog are visible and accessible to all employees, so they can help us prioritize the Guild work and observe the progress and challenges of the Guild Masters. This is an experiment and we will see where it is going to take us. I will describe it in more details in one of my next posts.

As few months for such a change is a really short time span, we will continue to observe and adjust, If anything interesting will come out of this, it will be a good reason for another post.