If you’re reading this on my blog, then it’s safe to say I didn’t spam you. Let’s face the facts: we live in an age where impersonations of the President of the United States start with pursed lips, hands apart mouthing “YUGE” [all caps added] with a silent ‘h’ thank you.
McDonalds sells the Giga Big Mac with 4 all beef patties, and Costco shoppers nation-wide give a whole new meaning to the Conehead phrase, “let us now consume mass quantities.” AT&T and even kids know bigger is better.
So what’s up with Big Visible Charts buried deep beneath small screens, in small cubes, in small distributed offices, in small teams? Now is no time you want to be small, in any way, shape or form. Go big, or go home…as they say.
A client of mine who was not particularly fluent in agile ideas, or developing software products was not seeing the merits of building wall-sized paper Kanban boards or having large meetings in big rooms with lots of people having long conversations about whatever they wish.
I tried explaining that we hang big clocks (as opposed to relying on puny watches) on walls because it keeps us mindful of the time, continuously through-out the day, and reads at a glance for everyone. Likewise, it is public for everyone to agree on. Big visible charts become a kind of gathering place, similar to how tribes gather around a campfire, to reflect on the day, or lay plans for the new one that is starting. As military strategists encircle a table while they gaze down at a map, they raise concerns, ask questions, request help and hypothesize on many scenarios.
Trying to find middle ground with my generation Y client, I proposed using both electronic and paper tools to visual the work, via. a Kanban board. “That wouldn’t be efficient. Besides, the paper wouldn’t travel well. It’s not mobile.” They are a remote team and travel occasionally. Having spent a few weeks with my uncle before he passed, I have experience with taking all the stickies off the wall where I work, placing them in my pocket, driving across 3 states, and putting them up on a wall in a nearby coffee shop where I continued working while staying with my uncle. How cumbersome could that possibly be? “Efficiency must not come at the cost of effectiveness…” I reasoned with her.
The client was not convinced. I relented. I’m open to observing how speed-talking through daily sit-downs (not Stand-ups) gazing at screens (not faces) works out for them. Time will tell.
When it comes to change, especially culture change at scale (enterprise-wide) I see OpenSpace Agility making a difference, with a Market Place filled with conversation topics. -The Market Place that covers the wall is a testament to the sense of Passion and Responsibility of the people who do the work, the problem solving, the ideation…explorers of the “How” in the organization. The record of the proceedings are compiled and printed on paper for the Sponsor to review, highlight, and harvest action items from. In fact, the Proceedings call out D.A.R.E. (Decisions, Agreements, Requests, and Experiments) for the Sponsor to respond to. That Sponsor would be wise to create a Big Visible Chart of the Requests for Action, in priority (or ROI) order with completion dates and target dates, to uphold his/her side of the bargain.
These artifacts (the Market Place, Proceedings, Prioritized Action Lists, Kanban boards, Task stickies, etc.) are the PAT answer: 1) Persistent, 2) Apparent, and 3) Triggering. What do I mean by that? I mean they hang around in your face, get up in your grill, reminding you “what’s next?” and give you a dopamine kick “PAT on the back” when you cross the line, move them to done, serving as trophies which commemorate your victory as a larger team. Zeros and ones floating in the ether just don’t do that.
The bigger the group, the greater the diversity of thought. The longer the conversation, the deeper it goes, and the stronger the cultural bond, alignment and resilience. It takes big rooms to serve as a container for all the bodies. This should go without saying, but apparently we need reminding. So, if you are someone who thinks that collaborating freely does not require much space, time or paper, please think again. I do.