Replace operations team managers with Super7 Coaches

As Super7 teams get more mature, it may be wise to assign Super7 Coaches and scale down even further on opertions managers.

More and more organizations are succesfully applying small, autonomous Lean teams – Super7 teams – within their operational departments. More autonomy, more employee engagement, better results. In this transition towards Super7 Operations, the role of the operational team manager has changed enormously.

Within the Netherlands, ING has been working with Super7 teams for almost 5 years now. As more experience is gained, new questions are raised. One in particular (thanks Ingrid and Jacqueline!) really made me think: should ING assign Super7 coaches, in parallel with the Agile coaches that are widely applied in Agile organizations?

The parallels between Super7 Operations and Agile are eminent. After all, both are based on very similar principles, derived from the same classical Lean production principles. So why not learn from the ‘management’ roles that Agile appies.

As you may know, Agile doesn’t use managers. Part of the of the old manager’s responibility is delegated towards the autonomous teams. The people/skills development part is now the responsibiltiy of the Chapter Lead. And Agile coaches are responsible for helping the team to become mature in autonomy and agility.

It may be wise to assign Super7 Coaches and scale down even further on opertions managers. Our experiency with Super7 teams shows that it is hard to maintain the momentum in team development. Some teams do fly, some teams reach a certain level and then developments seems to slow down or stop altogether. In theory, the team manager should help the Super7’s with their development towards maturity. But is this the best solution? Super7 coaches may be better equipped for this job.

But what would that mean for the oprations team managers? As with Agile, part of the old manager’s responisibility – planning, senior process knowledge, scheduling – has already been delegated to the Super7 teams. When Super7 coaches take over the responisibilty of coaching the team towards maturity, the role of the team manager becomes smaller again.

The team manager would still be responsible for the development and appraisal of individuale. And, he or she would still be the one that set the output targets for the teams, translated from the departmental goals.

To keep work load large enough, we would however need less managers – more direct reports per manager. This would mean that some of the team managers would lose their job, and I do understand that can be a dificult situation. However, a trend towards less management does seem fitting for an organization that works with autonomous team, don’t you think?

Menno R. van Dijk.

 

 

 

Situational Leadership for development of autonomous team

Leaders of developing autonomous teams can use the Situational Leadership theory to help and support the teams in their growth towards autonomy. Autonomous teams – Super7’s, Agile Squads, Scrum Teams, etc., can’t be fully autonomous from day one. So, how does a manager manage an autonomous team or Super7 that is still developing towards true autonomy? The answer: apply Situational Leadership.

Situational Leadership is based on the Hersey Blanchard Leadership Style matrix (see figure).

Hersey Blanchard Leadership Style matrix

leadership styles for autonomous teams

A newly formed not-yet-autonomous team benefits from the directing leadership style. For instance, an Agile Squad in this phase needs to be told how to work the agile way. And the operations team manager of an immature Super7 team may need to tell the team to use their team board for daily planning.

As the autonomous team develops, the required leadership style changes accordingly. From Directing to Coaching, then on to Supporing and finally Delegating.

In practice, however, this can be quite challenging for a team manager. In my experience with Super7 Operations, the most difficult part of the implementation of Super7 is often to apply the right management style at the right time. And, every manager has his or her preferred style: the style that he or she does best. In a traditional operations department where managers steer on input and use strict quantitative controls, directing and coaching are most often needed. In a mature Super7 organization, however, Delegating and Supporting are the most useful styles.

As a result, the managers that are good at Directing and Coaching often make the most progress at the start of the implementation. But in the long run, a Super7 Operations department thrives under managers that are good at Delegating and Supporting. This asks a lot from the managers. It is good to acknowledge this fact. A successful implementation needs to address not only the methodological side of Super7 , but also take into account the ‘warm undercurrent’ of the change on a personal level.

Menno R. van Dijk.

 

Improvement Kata for Agile teams, Squads, Scrum and Super7 teams

Improvement Kata for Agile teams, Agile Squads, Scrum teams or Super7 teams: the Improvement Kata is an excellent tool for all forms of autonomous teams.

Agile teams can use Improvement Kata in their start-up phase, to quickly get to the next step of team maturity. They can use the improvement kata to solve issues, impediments and problems.

Improvement Kata is also an excellent method for their support staff: Agile coaches, Scrum masters, Lean coaches and Lean Six Sigma Blackbelts.

Similar to how Agile develops, Kata improves in small steps and doesn’t plan the whole path to the desired improvement. The desired end state or ‘definition of awesome’ is known. But only the first achievable target condition is determined in advance. No further milestones.

Additional to how Agile develops, Kata Improvement put even more emphasis on learning. An experiment may fail, as long as the team has learned from it. Agile does this to some extent, by working on minimal viable products that can be tested in practice. The experiments in the Improvement Kata are even more frequent. Many small experiments ensure continuous learning and continuous improvement.

How does Improvement Kata for Agile work?

Traditional improvement is project based – see figure 1.

figure 1 - the old way of improving

figure 1 – the old way of improving

 

 

 

 

 

The Improvement Kata doesn’t plan the whole route: only the next target condition is clearly defined. See figure 2.

 

Figure 2 - the Improvement Kata

Figure 2 – the Improvement Kata

 

 

 

 

The Improvement Kata doesn’t tell you how to get to the next target condition, let alone how to get to your desired situation. It doesn’t tell you which steps to take to reach this year’s target. The Improvement Kata lets you discover the route as you go. See figure 3.

 

Figure 3 - finding the path to improvement

Figure 3 – finding the path to improvement

 

 

 

 

More theory and examples of Kata coaching can be found on www.lean.org/kata or in books and you-tube posts of Mike Rother.

The improvement Kata shows strong similarities to Agile and Scrum. This makes it the best improvement and problem solving method for Agile teams, Squads, Tribes, Scrum Teams. And it has proven itself for Super7 teams, also. It’s the best way to get to a true learning organization and continuous improvement. This enables you to cope with the ever changing demands of customers and regulators, especially in the current market for Financial Services.

Menno R. van Dijk.

Meet the writer Menno van Dijk

Last week, I was invited to speak at a Meet The Writer event at ING. A group of enthusiastic readers invited me to talk about Super7 Operations – the Next Step for Lean in Financial Service

Event: meet the writer Menno van Dijk
Event: meet the writer Menno van Dijk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had interesting discussions about teamwork and cooperation. What made the Super7’s such a success? (it was the people that did it).  What did it bring to the operations departments where Super7 was introduced? (more engagement, lower costs, better service)

Next to that, I was asked about “Menno van Dijk the writer”. What made me want to write this book (basically, I’m so enthousiastic about what people can achieve when they truely work together, and I wanted to share this whit as many people as possible)? And how much time it took to write a book (three months), and to get it published (another 9 months).

Event: meet the writer Menno van Dijk

Event: meet the writer Menno van Dijk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, books were signed and the participants said the session was worth their while. Plans are already being made for a second “Meet the Writer – Menno van Dijk” event.

Menno R. van Dijk – writer.

New White Paper on Hoshin Kanri for Agile

A new White Paper is available on www.cooperationalexcellence.nl. This White Paper describes Hoshin Kanri for Agile in detail. In this White Paper, Menno R. van Dijk explains how to get alignment and direction for autonomous Agile teams. First, the model is introduced. Then, each step is illlustrated and practical tips are given for how to make Hoshin Kanri for Agile work for your Agile organization.

White Paper on Hoshin Kanri for Agile

The autor, Menno R. van Dijk, has previously published several white papers on cooperation and teamwork on www.cooperationalexcellence.nl. His book, Super7 Operation – the Next Step for Lean in Financial Services, is available in bookstores (Super7 Operations – a book by Menno R. van Dijk ).

 

Hoshin Kanri for agile: align Squad backlog with mission and purpose

Hoshin Kanri for Agile – Toyota’s lean policy deployment translated to Agile – is also an excellent tool to align Squad backlog with their Tribe’s purpose in an Agile organization. In my previous post on Hoshin Kanri for Agile, I introduced an innovative way to apply Hoshin Kanri to align the mission of squads with the purpose of their tribe. But the effect carries on even further: the entire backlog of the squads will remain in line with the mission and purpose. Again, this requires a slightly different use of the principles of Hoshin Kanri.

Agile squads work in sprints. At the end of each sprint, they deliver fully functional solutions for their customers. These solutions should be in line with their mission. And this mission should be in line with their tribe’s purpose. Innovative companies like Spotify use this Agile way of working to continuously deliver improved user experiences. Their product range is relatively simple, and their services are fully digital. But how will this work when traditional companies, banks for instance, transform into digital agile companies? Hoshin Kanri is the right tool for the job.

Hoshin Kanri Policy Deployment starts at a strategic level:

  1. Formulate break-through goals for 3 to 5 years ahead. These are the goals that will make a real impact on the purpose of the tribe.
  2. Translate these break-through goals into one-year goals. This is the annual plan for the tribe, with challenging but achievable goals.
  3. Translate these goals to Squad Missions. These missions describe the processes that need to be improved.
  4. Determine which metrics will show the progress of the improvement.

Then, the squad gets to work. But not by creating a backlog directly from their mission. The mission should be used as a starting point for improvements. The squad has a set of proven Lean improvement techniques at their disposal. From large scale to small scale (and from low to high frequency):

  1. (Re)design, e.g. Value Stream Mapping, Design for Six Sigma or Washing Lanes
  2. DMAIC projects, executed by green- and blackbelts
  3. KAIZEN improvements, team improvement sessions
  4. Kata improvement, weekly improvement as a habit
Hoshin Kanri for Agile
Hoshin Kanri for Agile

 

Finally, the backlog is filled from each of these improvements. As each of the improvements are focused on the same strategic priorities, the backlog will be completely in line with mission and purpose.

 

Menno R. van Dijk

Hoshin Kanri Policy Deployment to align Agile Squad missions and Tribe purpose

Hoshin Kanri – Toyota’s Lean take on policy deployment – is an excellent tool to align Squad missions and Tribe purpose in an Agile organization. When traditional organizations in Financial Services transform into Agile organizations, new challenges will arise. One of these challenges could well be: how to keep the improvement efforts of all the autonomous Squads aligned with the Tribe’s purpose?

Hoshin Kanri Policy Deployment starts with formulating break-through goals for 3 to 5 years ahead. These are the goals that will make a real impact on the purpose of the tribe. Second step is to translate these break-through goals into one-year goals. This is the annual plan for the tribe, with challenging but achievable goals. Third step is to translate these goals to Squad Missions. These missions describe the processes that need to be improved. Final step is to determine which metrics will show the progress of the improvement. Translating the squad’s improvement goals into KPI’s and targets makes it possible to steer on output and still make sure things are moving in the right direction. The picture below illustrates this.

Hoshin Kanri aligns squads with the tribe purpose

Hoshin Kanri aligns squads with the tribe purpose

The outcome of the Hoshin Kanri Policy Deploycement gets a prominent place on the “Plan” wall in the Obeya Room of the tribe, and the improvement can start within the squads. Squads can be autonomous, because alignment is ensured through the Hoshin Kanri.

Each squad will get to work improving what needs to be improved. They can use their Improvement Kata for small, incremental improvements. Larger improvements require a Kaizen approach. For problems where the solution isn’t clear, DMAIC projects can be started. And the biggest changes require redesign or innovation. But whatever the approach is, the overall progress can be monitored in the KPI’s. This is show in the second picture.

Hoshin Kanri aligns the improvement efforts of squads

Hoshin Kanri aligns the improvement efforts of squads

All these elements together ensure that the squads start improving in the right direction. Of course, it wouldn’t be Agile if there wouldn’t be room to make changes along the way. But this shouldn’t be needed too often. All in all, I’m very excited about using Hoshin Kanri Policy Deployment to align autonomous agile squads with their tribe’s purpose.

Menno R. van Dijk.

Gamification helps Super7 teams to become successful

Recently, I attended a presentation on how Gamification can help Super7 teams to become successful. A talented graduate student had designed a method where super7 teams manage not their actual performance, but instead manage a virtual company.

First, a Super7 team got to choose their virtual business. For instance, a team would choose to become a virtual coffee bar or tea parlor. Their operational results as a Super7 were translated into virtual sales figures and profits. When quality or timeliness would fall behind slightly, this would show up in customers staying away from their virtual company. Excellent service in their real work would boost their virtual popularity and sales. And, the amount of capacity needed to process their real work would determine the costs side of their business.

I can only imagine the fun the teams must have had with this approach. And, the results where great, from what I heard. I hope to share more about the exciting possibilities of applying gamification for Super7’s in the near future. And, could this be a whole new way of engaging scrum teams or agile squads as well?

Menno R. van Dijk.

Principles of Agile and Super7 compared

Many companies are adopting the principles of agile, nowadays. And they often find that their operations departments are ahead in this field. This is because of their experience with Lean and autonomous teams – their experience with Super7 Operations.

So, how do the principles of agile compare to the princples of Super7 Operations?

The agile principles (source: www.agilemanifesto.org):

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change or the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

The principles of Super7 Operations:

  1. The Super7 team has a goal that is relevant for the customer. The Super 7 team can help each other in achieving this goal. The goal is translated daily to a goal for that day. The Super7 team is committed to achieving the daily goal. When problems arise during the day and the daily goal can’t be met, the Super 7 team responses by doing what they can to come as close as possible to the goal. When that isn’t enough to reach the goal, they ask for help from their team manager.
  2. All Super 7 team members have the skills for all types of work. The Super7 Skills-Matrix shows who can do what, and at what skill level. The Super 7 team members are sufficiently flexible in working hours to be able to meet customer demand on busy days.
  3. Team manager steers on output. Manager stimulates the Super 7 team to come up with solutions. Manager is available and helpful when the Super7 asks for help.
  4. The daily rhythm is tuned to the rhythm of the customer requests. There is a fixed schedule for Super 7 team stand-up meetings, focused on achieving the daily goal.
  5. Super 7 team is autonomous in work distribution and who does what. There is a standard way of working. The team can deviate from this standard, as part of an improvement experiment.
  6. The Super 7 team is stimulated to continuously make the daily goals more challenging. Standard norm times are improved and planning is made tighter. This is done though Improvement Kata and Kaizen. As an Improvement Kata habit, a Super7 conducts small experiments, aimed at achieving the next target condition. For larger improvements, they plan a Kaizen event. There is a constructive performance dialogue, based on facts and figures, on all level of the organization.
  7. The Super 7 uses visual management. Daily goal and progress towards this is visible on the Super7 team board. Performance of last period is visible, as is the trend. Running and planned experiments and improvements are visible on the Super7 team board.                                                                                

The similarities are clear:

  • Delivering value to the customer is the main priority
  • Teamwork is key
  • Self-organization
  • Flexibility over planning
  • Face-to-face is the best way
  • Continuous improvement based on reflection on performance

Because of these similarities, experience with Super7 Operations will facilitate the transition towards agility.

Menno R. van Dijk.

 

Transformation to Agile benefits from LeanSixSigma experience

When traditional organizations transform into Agile, they can benefit from their LeanSixSigma experience.

Many traditional companies are looking with great interest at how innovative tech companies are organized. Even in banking, an industry that is known for being conservative, experiments are taking place with Agile Organization:

  • multidisciplinary squads instead of functional teams,
  • tribes instead of departments
  • IT development and business management in close cooperation
  • Continuous delivery of small changes (sprints) instead of big projects

LSS
Lean Six Sigma has been applied in banking for more than a decade. Many banks have their own pool of Lean Experts or LeanSixSigma Blackbelts. As Agile is based on similar principles as Lean and the Toyota Production System, this experience may be very valuable in this transition.

 

Agile organizations use Agile Coaches, to help the team in the use of the Agile and Lean principles. LeanSixSigma could add to that. For instance:

  • Put focus on the Voice of the Customer. Challenge the Squads to determine and measure the customer impact of their work.
  • Make sure the quantitative results of every sprint are visible
  • Achieve alignment between squad missions, tribe purpose and company vision. This can be done through Hoshin Kanri – a method for policy deployment developed by Toyota and an important Lean method
  • Accelerate problem solving by applying the Coaching Kata to the squads Improvement Kata, and by applying Analytical Problem Solving techniques from LeanSixSigma

 

The transformation of classical Back-Offices to Lean Super7 Operations has been an exciting journey so far. The transformation from a top-down functional organization to an Agile organization promises to be even more so.

Menno R. van Dijk.