Agile

Lean vs Agile. What is the difference, really?

Oftentimes both terms are mentioned in one and the same breath, but are they interchangeable? Where do they come from?

On Lean.

Lean as a term is coined in the 90ies and reflects the ideas and practices behind the Toyota Production System (the car manufacturer). Lean is short for Lean Manufacturing and aims at focussing the production effort to generate true customer value by reducing everything else (which is considered to be waste). It’s basically a way to make manufacturing systems customer centric.

The key concept in lean-approaches is waste or, as it is called, “Muda” (Japanese for waste). Next to this direct waste (Muda), oftentimes the terms “Muri” and “Mura” are used, designating secondary waste stemming from either overburden (Muri) or from unevenness in workloads (Mura).

The reverse of waste is “value” and is, in Lean, defined as any action or process that a customer woud be willing to pay for.

This implies that in order to become Lean every process is evaluated against the customer relevance and either considered a waste or a value-add. In a service organisation this entails often that the whole meeting-approach is turned upside down (and slashed), a strong push towards automation, eradicating multi-tasking, etc. The time expenditure is geared towards the things of which the organisation knows customers will need in the future and aim for a delivery as-fast-as-possible.

The emphasis of Lean is on the system “as a whole”. There is always a helicopter perspective at play and micro-management is shunned (micro-management generates non-value-added work, which is exactly what is not acceptable in a Lean system).

Related concepts are:

  • Six Sigma: set of techniques and tools focussed on eliminating defects and reducing variability (6 sigma variance is a statistical concept by which is designated that, in case of a production line the output is 99.99966% free of defects, or in short: 3.4 DPMO (defective features per million opportunities)
  • Value Stream Mapping: method for analysing the current state of the system and designing the future state: the core to many system improvement initiatives.
  • Kanban: an inventory-control system to control the supply chain. It is the key planning tool in a lean system. A Kanban (Japanese for Billboard) is a card that states the inventory going in, being in and going out of each subprocess or task. It enables you to see the backlogs, where inventory is being built up, etc. In short where the potential for the creation of Mura and Muri exists.
  • KPI of Key Performance Indicator and Balanced Scorecard: means of tracking the system as a whole, focussing the value-add of the customer and evidentiating the interrelationships between the customer, financial resources, organisational capacity and internal processes. It’s a way to track the execution of the company’s strategy.
  • The Deming Cycle: Plan-Do-Check-Act (which is core to continuous improvement or Kaizen).

In short the lean principles are:

  1. Define Value: you need to understand what brings value
  2. Map the Value Stream: how to create and deliver the value to the customer
  3. Establish Flow: create a continuous stream end-to-end
  4. Implement Pull: make the customer aware and nurture the perceived need for the value (the customer has to be aware that there is value produced): no pull, no production
  5. Work to perfection (continuous improvement)
  6. And: mind the waste 🙂

On Agile.

Agile was launched in 2001 and comprises a set of principles put forth in the infamous Agile Manifesto and stems from the software industry as a reaction against the heavyweight methodologies that were the norm and out of frustration because so many projects were never really delivered upon within time and budget.

Agile starts with a set of values which are at its core:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: i.e. self-organisation and motivation through e.g. co-location, working in pairs…
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation: focus on the added value (working software) over wasting time on writing lengthy manuals
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: not all the software requirements can be clear at the start of a project. Therefore a continuous involvement of the customers is necessary throughout the project
  • Responding to change over following a plan: quick responses to change and a continuous development

The typical work method is called the Scrum which is a flexible, “holistic” product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal.

A scrum team consists of people fulfilling 1 of 3 roles:

  • Product Owner, representing the stakeholders and the voice of the customer. The PO is responsible for ensuring the team delivers value to the business. Typically user stories are used to point to the value components. (S)he manages the so-called product-backlog: what needs to be developed.
  • Development Team: responsible for producing and delivering the chunks of value (called: potentially shippable increments or PSI) at the end of each Sprint. A sprint is a block of time reserved to work on an item of the backlog. Usually the period spans a couple of days to a month.
  • Scrum Master. This is not a team leader, but the person responsible to “hold the space” and make sure the team can deliver free from distractions from the outside. (S)he also ensures that the sprint runs smoothly and according to the rules. The role is that of a team facilitator or servant leader.

On Lean + Agile.

More and more we see a combination of both Agile and Lean approaches melting into one. This is especially true in a start-up/scale-up environment where scrums make it difficult for larger chunks to be handled (unless they are arbitrarily cut up in smaller pieces). A Kanban approach can provide the overall framework and the handling of larger workpieces while scrums allow for the nimbleness and the self-organisation and feedback benefits.

Coaching

How Coaching Turbo-charges Your Career

A coach isn’t a therapist, a friend, a mentor or a counsellor. The focus of coaching is on achieving specific goals. In this increasingly complex and fast-moving world, managers need all the support they can get to enable them to achieve their goals.

A coach will help you build specific skills that will bolster your professional performance. While a coach might encourage you to share your past experiences, the emphasis is on the future and, especially, on removing particular roadblocks from your path.

In general, there are two kinds of executive coaching. The first is remedial coaching. This is when a manager, director or executive is creating problems, and possibly completely out of their depth and misaligned. However, turning to a coach when everyone is at the end of their tether seems logical but is never ideal.

The second, and most successful, kind of coaching is when a manager, director or executive is feeling challenged, and may be in a “stretch” position. A coach can help to equip you with what is needed to do the job well. In an ideal world the situation is pre-empted and the coaching starts when the goal-setting takes place.

In other words: don’t wait for a crisis before contacting a coach. Instead, consider coaching when you are not feeling entirely up to dealing with the challenges you’re facing. Typically executive coaching helps managers who want to move on to the next level of leadership. Coaching works for anyone who knows they can do a lot better, who is not satisfied with their current performance and has a bigger dream.

How does coaching work?

The approach will depend on the needs of a client. Typically I start with a 90 minute session exploring goals, values, strengths & weaknesses, pitfalls, etc.

Goals are critical in coaching. Unlike therapy and mentoring, coaching is exclusively focused on achieving specific objectives. These could include a whole range of goals from all areas of life. Oftentimes these areas are interconnected and progress on one side might lead to leaps on another side.

The relationship with your coach will typically have an end-date, and won’t continue indefinitely. The coaching sessions are typically intensive for the first few weeks, and then less frequent as the client works on achieving goals. A large part of coaching is holding you (the client) accountable to do the work for themselves. While everyone is different, it can take three to six months before behaviours start to shift in a meaningful way.

How do you choose a coach?

The coaching sector is relatively unregulated. Currently, the gold standard is an accreditation from the International Coach Federation (ICF). ICF coaches have completed courses that have been certified by the organisation.

To find the right person for you, personal referrals can be useful. Get references and also scrutinise the coach’s CV to see whether they have the skills that will help you. Get a sense of where the person has worked and confirm their qualifications. The latter is crucial, she says. Many so-called coaches will punt their experience – “30 years in HR” or “extensive consulting work” – but don’t have any credible (e.g. ICF-certified) coach-specific training.

Also, and probably most importantly, have a coffee (or a call) with a prospective coach to make sure you are a good match. It has to be someone you will trust. There should be chemistry between you: your interaction should not be forced and you should feel understood.

Curious to find out more? Why not give it a try!

Coaching

Why CEO’s really want to get coached (and Boards…

“It’s lonely at the top” appears to be truer than ever. A 2013 study conducted by the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business demonstrated that nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches (dito for almost half of senior executives).

Interesting is that nearly 100% of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice.

To me it’s eerie to see that CxO’s are left in the dark when it comes to uncovering their own blind spots. How can they ensure they deliver a continuous top-notch performance, time and again?

Some key findings from the survey include:

  • Shortage of advice at the top. Nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback. Nearly 80% of directors said that their CEO is receptive to coaching. (side note for European readers: “directors” are “board members”)
  • CEOs are the ones looking to be coached. When asked “Whose decision was it for you to receive coaching?” 78% of CEOs said it was their own idea. Twenty-one (21) percent said that coaching was the board chairman’s idea. This highlights that we are moving away from coaching being perceived as ‘remedial’ to where it should be: something that improves performance, similar to how elite athletes use a coach.
  • Coaching “progress” is largely kept private. More than 60% of CEOs responded that the progress they are making in their coaching sessions is kept between themselves and their coach; only a third said that this information is shared with the board of directors. Although much of the coaching discussion should be treated confidentially keeping the board informed of progress can improve CEO/board relations.
  • How to handle conflict ranks as highest area of concern for CEOs. When asked which is the biggest area for their own personal development, nearly 43% of CEOs rated “conflict management skills” the highest. Managing effectively through conflict is clearly one of the top priorities for CEOs. After all, when you are in the CEO role, most things that come to your desk only get there because there is a difficult decision to be made — which often has some level of conflict associated with it.
  • Boards are eager for CEOs to improve talent development. The top two areas board directors say their CEOs need to work on are “mentoring skills/developing internal talent” and “sharing leadership/delegation skills.” The high ranking of these areas among board respondents shows a real recognition of the importance of the talent pool. Today, boards are placing a keener focus on succession planning and people development, and are challenging their CEOs to keep this front and center.

Top areas that CEOs use coaching to improve. Sharing leadership and delegation, conflict management, team building, and mentoring. Bottom of the list: motivational skills, compassion/empathy, and persuasion skills. A lot of people steer away from coaching some of the less tangible skills because they are uncomfortable with touching on these areas or really don’t have the capability to do it. These skills are more nuanced and actually more difficult to coach because many people are more sensitive about these areas. However, when combined with the ‘harder’ skills, improving a CEO’s ability to motivate and inspire can really make a difference in his or her overall effectiveness. This is also where co-active coaching makes a real difference: action orientation from a grounded perspective.

The full report can be viewed here

Curious to find out to what extent co-active coaching can bring to your company? Give it a try, call for a free consultation! I’ll be having your back.

Coaching

Five Strengths Coaches Bring to Your Table

Oftentimes I’m asked: “sure coaching, but does it really work?” And the answer is obviously: “yes, it does”. Other than pointing to independent research (see my previous article), there are some distinct benefits you get from working with a coach. Here are 5 essential ones:

A coach keeps you on track

A coaching relation starts (at least when working with me) with a solid mutual understanding of your vision, values and goals. Oftentimes I’ve seen that momentum is lost and motivation crumbles when we loose connection with these core elements of our being. Coaching ensures that you stay connected and that you don’t divert from those things you really treasure.

You get immediate feedback

You get what you buy. Oftentimes that implies that the vendor hides imperfection and sells you a dream. You can tell a coach anything you want, a coach will give you back i.m.m.e.d.i.a.t.e.l.y. what you are projecting, allowing you to understand and grow from there. When was the last time someone, anyone, really listened and gave you an honest feedback?

She hacks your growth

Keeping you close to your core, I keep you in check with your future. Oftentimes, we entrepreneurs, get faced with bolders that feel unsurmountable. However, our sheer will, passion and dedication, makes us believe we will prevail. Now imagine having someone by your side turning the boulders into pebbles, shifting your perspective and unlocking new paths to accomplish your objective.

She creates accountability

Isn’t it easy to say: “YES!” and than do something else, forget about it and having an excuse ready whenever you get called out upon it? After all, who is having your back? Who makes sure you keep to your promises to yourself? Your coach creates an environment where commitment happens. Your coach will make you commit and hold you accountable. When your coach sees it is really important to you, she will make you commit and make sure you deliver. She will make you accountable and champion you.

Your natural leadership comes to fruition

We all are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Being recognised for your true self unlocks all possibilities to further your journey starting from a place of conviction, passion and dedication. You unlock your potential and break through the boundaries you’ve set yourself today. What else would be possible? What more can be achieved?Really?

Does it really work?

Yes it does. In my previous article I touched upon a bunch of studies all supporting the ROI of coaching in leadership. Not sure whether it’s for you? Give it a try! Sample sessions are generally offered for free (like here): just call a couple of coaches, see how it works for you. Experience it.

Coaching

Coaching pays off. Here’s why.

“I encourage most of the CEOs I work with to get mentors or coaches (or both).” Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures (investments include Twitter, FourSquare, Zynga)

 

Who am I to state something different? After all, with 2 startups under my belt (and a Red Herring), I can state with confidence that with a coach, I definitely would have gotten to my goals much quicker and way more efficiently. Coaching really helps entrepreneurs become more successful by reaching and sustaining peak performance.

Studies in larger organizations show that coaching top executives at large companies yields 5 to 7 times the company’s initial investment! While studies haven’t been done on the value of coaching on smaller companies and startups, it’s reasonable to expect that entrepreneurs are under similar pressures and their actions at least as critical to the success of their organizations so that the value of coaching might be greater.

Entrepreneurs are generally lifelong learners; an executive coach may be the only person in your life who is solely devoted to accelerating and supporting your learning, growth, and self-knowledge. This in turn supports you making the best possible decisions and doing the best possible work for your company.

Wondering if coaching is worth it? Here are some studies about the return on investment for coaching:

  • Companies that have used professional coaching for business reasons have seen a median return on their investment of 7 times their initial investment, according to a study commissioned by ICF, and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Association Resource Centre Inc. (ICF Global Coaching Client Study, 2009)
  • A study commissioned by a professional services firm, and performed by MatrixGlobal showed that the ROI on coaching was 6.8x the initial investment. (The Business Impact of Leadership Coaching at a Professional Services Firm, Merrill C. Anderson, PhD, 2006)
  • Three stock portfolios comprised only of companies that spend aggressively on employee development each outperformed the S&P 500 by 17-35% during 2003. (How’s Your Return on People? Harvard Business Review, Laurie Bassi and Daniel McMurrer, 2004)
  • Employees at Nortel Networks estimate that their coaching programs earned the company a 5.2x return on investment and significant intangible benefits to the business, according to calculations prepared by Merrill C. Anderson, a professor of clinical education at Drake University. Including the financial benefits from employee retention boosted the returns to 7.8x the initial investment. (Coaching the Coaches, Psychology Today, 2004, and Case Study on the Return on Investment of Executive Coaching, Merrill C. Anderson, PhD, 2001)
  • According to a study of senior level executives at Fortune 1000 companies who received developmental coaching, the average return from the programs was nearly 5.7 times the initial investment. (Maximizing the Impact of Executive Coaching, The Manchester Review, Volume 6, Number 1, Joy McGovern, et.al., 2001).

Oh, one last note: don’t forget to do your homework. Don’t settle for any coach: look for coaches with an appropriate training (CTI, Newfield Network, Hudson Institute…), who adhere to the International Coach Federation (ICF) and are certified or at least under certification. Get a sample session, see how it gels and don’t hold back. A good coach won’t do that either…