Use Fast Feedback to Reduce Bottlenecks

Software engineers get feedback from their development environment and automated test suites in real-time. Errors can be fixed and verified in minutes. However, when organizations extend Agile beyond technology, feedback from stakeholders takes days and the “feedback frenzies” can drag on for weeks or even months. Completing a story within a sprint seems impossible. It is time for “the business” to dramatically reduce lead time and stop getting blamed for delays.

This workshop will teach you how to run a value stream mapping activity. This immersive group activity will expose needless delays and help find ways to to shorten cycle time to minutes, reducing overall lead time by 80% or more. It will include a way to overlay feedback loops on the value stream map, which can help you find the source of significant delays.

You will also hear how creative teams are adapting mob programming techniques into their work in ways that build feedback into their processes in order to accelerate delivery from business teams.

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Outline/Structure of the Workshop

When bringing Agile beyond IT, business teams often claim that Scrum could not work for them because the nature of their work prevents them from delivering value in very short iterations. Their work gets blocked waiting for review and signoff from their stakeholders. This review process often turns into a “feedback frenzy” as more senior leaders offer the “wisdom of their experience”, sometimes contradicting the feedback from earlier reviewers.

This interactive, hands-on workshop will give attendees ways to dramatically accelerate their feedback loops and complete user stories that deliver customer value within a single sprint. Drawing on real world examples, this workshop will show that prolonged feedback loops are the primary source of delay. Attendees will learn how to create and evaluate Value Stream Maps in order to identify bottlenecks. They can be used to identify high value and low value feedback loops. By removing the low value feedback loops entirely and shortening the high value feedback loops by 95% or more, cycle times drop and throughput increases. Delays that have been accepted as just “the way things are done” can disappear and the Agile goal of delivering more value to customers sooner can be achieved across the entire organization. Business people typically want to find a better way of working. Inviting them to a brief experiment and invest an hour or two in Value Stream Mapping will open up their eyes to the possibilities.

Workshop outline:
(00:00-00:10) Connection: Pair & Share – For one of your team’s processes, write down the things that slow them down. Pick a partner you don’t usually work with and share what you’ve written. One or two people will be asked to share what they wrote with the entire room.
(00:10-00:20) Concepts: Discussion of bottlenecks, blockers and delays in business processes. We will describe cost of delay and how that can be used to catalyze the organization.
(00:20-00:30) Table exercise – The hidden cost of multitasking. Handout different sized rectangles representing time (width) and value (height). Calculate revenue generated by serial vs. parallel approach. Demonstrate value of accelerating concept to cash.
(00:30-00:40) Discussion:
• Comparison of sources of delay for technology vs. “the business”
• Typical lead times for delivering approved creative assets – 12 weeks
• Explanation of why feedback loops are more protracted in business processes
• Real world examples from agile transformations outside of technology – experiments to find low value feedback loops that were eliminated, and high value feedback loops that were accelerated
• Systematic approach to finding and reducing delays
• Value stream maps – what they are, how to use them to identify bottlenecks.
• Process efficiency – takt time vs. elapsed time. Feedback loops on the business side tend to have the lowest process efficiency.
(00:40-01:05) Concrete Practice: Create a Value Stream Map for a simple process, calculate process efficiency.

(01:05-01:15) Discussion:

• Annotating value stream maps – how to indicate feedback loops
• Process efficiency – takt time vs. elapsed time. Feedback loops on the business side tend to have the lowest process efficiency.
• How to apply Agile principles (e.g. collaboration over contract negotiation, face-to-face communication, etc.) to dramatically speed up feedback, revision, and eliminate further review cycles
• Demonstrated lead time improvements 80-90%. 12 weeks -> 4 days

(01:15-01:25) Concrete Practice: Annotate your value stream map with feedback loops. Which ones can be eliminated? Which can be substantially reduced using Agile principles?

(01:25-01:30) Conclusion:

• Accelerating feedback dramatically reduces lead time and cycle time, enabling business teams to complete stories in a single sprint.
• Mob Design (derived from Mob Programming) eliminates the need for feedback through co-creation
• Concluding activity: write down 2 feedback loops in your world that you will focus on accelerating or eliminating as soon as you get back to work. Pick an accountability partner, exchange emails & commit to follow up with each other on this

Learning Outcome

  • The value of fast delivery
  • Sources of delay, particularly outside of IT
  • How to reduce lead time by 80% or more
  • How to create a value stream map
  • How to calculate process efficiency
  • How to identify high value and low value feedback
  • How to use experiments to safely eliminate feedback frenzies

Target Audience

Coaches, Scrum Masters, Managers

Prerequisites for Attendees

Familiarity with Agile practices

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