Tag Archive: Innovation


Hello Reader,

I would like your insight on something. I’d like to start a Meetup.com group centered on OpenAgile, but I’m hung up on what it should be called and what the main aim would be. One reason I want to start a new group rather than tack onto another group is to try to attract people from other fields. There are already lots of agile and project management groups in the Bay Area, but there might be another audience for OpenAgile that we haven’t thought of. Also, beyond it’s popularity, a benefit of using Meetup.com is that the group can get sponsors and find some small means of funding itself.

I would welcome your feedback on these ideas or any others that you may have.

1) Bay Area OpenAgile Champions

Essentially, people who are working on developing OpenAgile would come together regularly to talk about the work in the current Cycle. This idea is more focused on keeping us in tune and engaged. Think community building as much as getting stuff done. Hmmm, we could probably do this without Meetup.com…

2) Agile Service Project (or “OpenAgile” Service Project?)

I tried to do something like this in Toronto, but it was hard to get off the ground. https://davidparker9.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/agile-service-project-toronto-2010/ I could see it working here. The audience that this would attract is project oriented, volunteer people. It would also give people who want certification in OpenAgile a way to get some hands on experience and be mentored through several Cycles.

3) New Economy Innovators (or Innovative Methodologies meetup)

Partly an attempt to move away from the word “agile” because it carries certain contexts – software, project management, technology – all very popular in the Bay Area. The focus would be on bringing people together who are coming up with new approaches to solving complex challenges. I spoke at a symposium in Toronto about this and got a very warm reception: https://davidparker9.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/the-story-behind-the-innovative-methodologies-session-april-28-in-toronto/ Truth is there are a lot of these kinds of meetups in the Bay Area as well.

So what do you think?

Cross-posted from www.openagile.com, this is an interview I conducted with Mishkin Berteig, Co-Founder of Berteig Consulting, about the world’s need for an open source agile methodology. Along with Mishkin and myself, there are 20 other dedicated people who have arisen to serve the OpenAgile Community as champions. They’re applying OpenAgile to many different environments and sharing what they’re learning so we can improve the methodology.  For example, Barry Turner of Turner Agile Project Solutions is implementing this approach at a small town museum, and Jim Heidema of Professional Sales Plus has been active in using OpenAgile in the financial services industry. Everyone is welcome to get involved and contribute.
I am engaged in a learning process with a charity that has undertaken to implement a new model of volunteer coordination based on OpenAgile, an open source agile method.  We recently held an orientation with our new volunteers.  In the hopes that this information will be useful to others who are trying to innovate on their  model of volunteer coordination, here are the instructions I shared with the volunteers.  In summary, they cover our process for sharing tasks, the tools we use to communicate with each other, and our use of what we are calling “60/40 time” a twist on Google’s “20 percent time“.

ORIENTATION INSTRUCTIONS:

I. Agile Volunteer Team Process

We are all here to support the charity. We are inspired by its mission and goals, and we want to help in a way that draws on all of our abilities, knowledge, skills, and creativity.
Our team uses a specific system for producing valuable results. We work in Cycles of 5 weeks. The charity’s staff talk with the stakeholders and decide what steps are necessary for accomplishing the organization’s goals. Each one of these steps, called Value Drivers, add up to providing value for the stakeholders once they’re delivered. The staff also decide the priority order for completing the Value Drivers.
In week 1 of the Cycle, there is a planning meeting with all the volunteers who are committed to doing work during the 5 week Cycle. All volunteers are urged to attend and participate.
  1. The meeting begins with reflecting on the results of the previous Cycle. These observations and lessons are an important part of the planning process.
  2. Next, the team of volunteers works together to create a Cycle Plan by taking the highest priority Value Driver and breaking it down into tasks. Tasks are represented by sticky notes on the wall.
  3. Third, the volunteer team counts the number of tasks needed to complete the highest priority Value Driver. If the past Cycle showed that the team can complete more tasks, then the team takes the next Value Driver in the list and breaks it down into tasks. This process continues until the team makes a unified decision that it has taken on the amount of work it can actually accomplish.
  4. The last part of the meeting is commitment. Everyone shares the responsibility for completing the Value Driver (represented by multiple tasks) by the end of the Cycle of work. Therefore each volunteer must truthfully commit to completing the work. If a volunteer is not comfortable committing to all the work on the task wall, then some tasks must be removed until everyone is able to commit.
In week 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Cycle, the team of volunteers complete the tasks in the Cycle Plan (aka “doing work”).
  1. Volunteers are free to take whatever task is of interest to them. If they need more information about the task, they ask the other volunteers or the staff for details.
  2. When a volunteer begins a task, they sign their name on the bottom of the sticky and move the task into the “in progress” column.
  3. When a volunteer completes a task, they move the task into the “done” column.
  4. There are weekly conference calls where all the volunteers check in. They answer 4 simple questions
    1. What did I do last week?
    2. What will I do this week?
    3. What did I learn/observe?
    4. What obstacles, if any, are affecting my ability to do work?
  5. New tasks can be added to the wall based on any of the volunteers’ observations, obstacles, clarifications, questions, urgent new tasks, etc. If you add a new task to the wall, add your name to the bottom of the task, so that other volunteers can know who to go to for questions. Note that these new tasks must also be completed by the end of the 5 week Cycle.
At the end of the 5 week Cycle, the team presents the valuable results it has produced to the charity staff/stakeholders. Any insights, observations, corrections, etc. are factored into the next Cycle Plan.

II. Communication Tools

Over the time we have worked together, the volunteer team has decided to use a few tools to help us communicate. The main tool is the task wall and sticky notes. The secondary tool is a shared Gmail account.
NOTE: This list of instructions is a working, evolving document; it is not set in stone. Volunteers are encouraged to work together and adapt the way we do things to create a system that works well for all of us.
ACCOUNT INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Login and read new messages
  2. Emails in the Inbox means there is work to be done (if the task is complete, archive the email to remove from the Inbox aka the To Do List)
  3. Apply Labels – Gmail doesn’t use folders; it uses labels instead. Apply labels to emails to assist other volunteers with how to treat the content of that message.
  4. Write up volunteer tasks for the task wall (Note: Label as “Task Written & Posted”)
  5. Get work done:
  6. Move the task on the wall to in progress
  7. If the task came from an email, label the task with your name
  8. When the task is complete, label as “Task Complete” and archive the email so it doesn’t appear in the Inbox
CURRENT LABELS:
  • ??? – this means more information or context is required to understand the request –> ASK QUESTIONS, or get help, to complete the task
  • By Volunteer Name –> This means the task/email is in progress; A volunteer labels the email with their name when they accept responsibility for a particular task
  • FYI (For Your Information) – these are emails that contain information that is relevant to volunteers, but does not necessarily require action be taken. If action is required, write up a task and post it on the wall)
  • Task Complete – Use this to label When a task is complete; archive the email so it doesn’t appear in the Inbox
  • Task Written & Posted – apply this label after you write up the task and post it on the wall
  • Social Media – these are emails that apply specifically to social media like Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Website – these emails are relevant to website updates

III. What is 60/40 Time?

There are many reasons why people volunteer.  Here is a short list that comes from Molly Schar’s article Making the Most of Nonprofit Volunteers:
  • Belief in the mission of the charity
  • Desire to “give back”
  • Meet new people
  • Make new business contacts
  • Invited or inspired by another volunteer or staff member
  • Improve resume
  • Learn new skills
  • Benefits such as free events
We want all of our volunteers to get the most out of their experience here. Rather than insisting that every moment of a volunteer’s time be spent on completing tasks on the wall, we ask you to split your time 60/40. We want to give our volunteers freedom to spend a large portion of time doing things that satisfy their motivations while still providing value to the organization. For example, if someone has an interest in building skills in using social media, but there aren’t currently any tasks on the wall related to social media. The volunteer would be encouraged to use 40% of their time using social media to benefit the charity. The remaining 60% of the time is essential for delivering other important results to the organization. We aspire to having a trusting environment, so it is up to you to monitor how you’re spending your time. During progress updates, all volunteers are encouraged to share what they’ve accomplished during their 40% time. This will help other volunteers to learn what motivates their teammates and will give the team information that can be integrated into future Cycle Plans.

Another article in a series intended to briefly explain how to apply different agile practices to work in social purpose organizations, today’s topic is: The Agile Workspace

Agility requires that we create an environment that is conducive to fruitful interaction. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a value delivery team is face-to-face conversation. Team effectiveness increases as barriers to communication decrease.

An agile workspace is anti-cubicle farm. It provides a mixture of collaborative, social, and private space. The collaborative space at the hub of activity is the “team room”. The ideal team room can be easily reconfigured based on the team’s needs. Team members face each other, usually at tables in the center of the room. Walls are used for posting notes, displaying charts, graphs, and the results of brainstorms. There should also be space for writing or drawing, such as a white board or chalk board, so that team members can creatively express and capture their ideas and progress. Social space in an agile work environment should include things to make the team members comfortable, such as a kitchen with snacks and a good coffee machine. Finally, it is helpful to have a nearby room for private conversations or to allow team members to “check out” if they need to focus or clear their head.

The folks at Sustainability Studio in Toronto have a beautiful agile workspace. The architects used modular walls that can be reconfigured as needs change. There is also a ton of natural light and the freedom to open a window for some fresh air. Take a look at the pictures. Just throw some sticky notes on the wall, and you would have what I’m talking about.

One question that inevitably arises is “what do we do if we can’t get everyone together?” Remember that learning is the means by which you achieve agility and deliver value to your stakeholders.  It is okay to accommodate distributed team members as long as you do your best to adhere to the principles of collaboration and consciously learn from the process.  For instance, if you usually have a weekly team meeting by phone, try getting a webcam and do a video Skype chat instead. This way the distributed team members of your team can have that extra visual connection. After trying this tool, reflect on its use and see what you learned from the experience. If you find something that works well, don’t change a thing. And if something didn’t work, try something different.

For more reading on agile workspaces, and plenty of pictures to inspire you, I recommend:

MIT School of Architecture + Planning The Agile Workplace: Transforming Work and the Workplace

The Ideal Agile Workspace | Mike Cohn’s Blog – Succeeding With Agile

The “Best Agile Work Space” Contest | Analytical-Mind

Would you like help becoming more agile?

If you would like help transforming your space to an Agile Workspace, or assistance with adopting any other agile practice, please post a comment on the blog. I am certified to provide OpenAgile training, coaching, and consulting, and I would be happy to aid your enterprise to realize the full benefits of being agile.

Several months ago, I attended an event of the Emerging Leaders Network. One of the amazing people I connected with was Maureen Fair, Executive Director at St. Christopher House.  In the Tipping-Point sense, Maureen is a connector.  She makes things happen by bringing people together.  That’s the genesis of the Innovative Methodologies Session, which will be taking place in Toronto on April 28.  Maureen and I got to talking about the work I’m doing on OpenAgile, and she introduced me to David Steeves who had earlier that day been expounding on the use of narratives and counter-narratives.  We got to talking and figured “Why don’t we all get together and share our approaches with others in the non-profit arena?”  Surely there would be others who could benefit from a fresh perspective on solving critical social challenges.  With the addition of two other Maureen connections, Liz Rykert, who would share her insights on using Positive Deviance, and Peter MacLeod to share details on Civic Lotteries and Citizen Reference Panels, we had a unique blend of talents and innovative ideas to make a great event.

I hope everyone reading this will consider joining us and inviting your colleagues.  Register here: http://innovativemethodologies.eventbrite.com/

Copy and forward this information to your contacts:

Innovative Methodologies Session

You are invited to a half-day workshop to introduce some innovative ways of analyzing and addressing problems:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

9:30 a.m. to 12 noon

St. Christopher House

248 Ossington Avenue

(Dundas & Ossington)

This is an opportunity to check cynicism at the door, meet with others to shake up our routines a bit, have some fun and hopefully leave feeling refreshed and re-energized to approach some common challenges with new insight and process.

We have 4 people who will briefly present on methodologies that they know and love:

  • OpenAgile with David Parker
  • Positive Deviance with Liz Rykert
  • The use of narrative and counter-narrative with David Steeves
  • Civic Lotteries and Citizen Reference Panels with Peter MacLeod, MASS LBP

These innovative methodologies are used in other sectors (software development, international development, criminal courts and government respectively), and we think there are likely some applications in organizational development, community social services delivery and in community development.

The morning will also include interactive activities to discuss and test these and other innovative methodologies further.

Tickets $20.  Available via Eventbrite or at the door.  More more information or to RSVP, contact Simone Cusenza, St. Christopher House, 416-504-3535, ext. 0

Directions:

TTC:  from the Ossington subway stop, take the Ossington #63 Southbound and get off at Dundas.  Or take the take the Dundas West streetcar and get off at Ossington.

Parking:  Green P parking on Dundas Street West, just East of Ossington on the South side next to the CIBC bank.

http://innovativemethodologies.eventbrite.com/

For the past several weeks, I have been helping a small charity solve a dilemma. Because the charity is well-recognized for their good work, they regularly attract volunteers who want to help. Unfortunately, the two overworked staff members are too busy to recruit, train, and manage them. My approach has been to use OpenAgile, an open source system for delivering value to stakeholders, to implement a few simple techniques to help them.

There are several aspects of OpenAgile that fit very well for managing volunteers:

1. Self-Organizing Behavior

This means people “volunteer” for tasks instead of doing them based on a tightly defined role or having someone tell them what to do. This frees the staff from having to assign work. Instead, they identify priorities and rely on the volunteer’s creativity and personal motivation to do the task in their own way.

2. Shared Responsibility for the Workload

When there is more than one volunteer, they work in a team and share the responsibility for the workload. The team of volunteers discuss the priorities of the organization, and decide among themselves what tasks need to be completed. Then, they create and commit to a 1-2 week short-term plan that will deliver those results. Finally, they come back after the 1-2 week period and reflect on what they accomplished.  This pattern of action, reflection, learning, and planning is one of the Foundations of OpenAgile.

3. Visible Tasks

This means that all people doing the work should be able to see what tasks needs to get done, what is in progress, and what tasks are done. One technique that co-located teams often use is simply posting tasks on a wall using sticky notes. (Check out my OpenAgile Task Wall Prezi) Another cool idea is Card Meeting which works on the same principle, but it can be useful for distributed teams.

4. Learning Manifesto

The emphasis on learning is perhaps the most important aspect of OpenAgile that aligns with the needs of volunteer management.  The Learning Manifesto states that “Learning is the key that unlocks human capacity.”  Volunteers are drawn to an organization because of its vision but can get pushed away when they feel they’re underutilized or not able to contribute in a meaningful way.  By making it explicit that the volunteer is primarily accountable for learning, the organization creates a safe space for experimentation and innovation.

As a voracious consumer of podcasts, I am always on the lookout for the latest and greatest coverage of the world of social innovation.  For other ‘changemakers in the making,’ here are ten essential podcasts on social innovation and social entrepreneurship that I recommend for your enjoyment and education:

1. AshokaTECH Podcast

Host Alex Budak brings you interviews with social entrepreneurs from around the world who are creating change both locally and globally through harnessing the power of technology. http://tech.ashoka.org/podcasts

2. Social Entrepreneurship coverage from Public Radio International

PRI’s Social Entrepreneurship Podcast highlights social entrepreneurs featured in PRI’s portfolio of programs. Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents and they seek creative, inventive, and sustainable approaches to seemingly intractable issues of our time, such as poverty, climate change, and global health. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/pri/.jukebox?action=viewPodcast&podcastId=14484

3. Sea Change Radio

Sea Change is a US nationally syndicated weekly radio show and podcast covering the shift to social, environmental, and economic sustainability. http://feeds.feedburner.com/SeaChangeMedia

4. Social Innovation Conversations

Educational podcasts for world changers! Social Innovation Conversations brings you social change ideas through audio lectures, panel discussions, audio interviews, and conference recordings. Download educational podcasts on social entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, responsible investing, and more. http://feeds.conversationsnetwork.org/channel/siconversations

5. The Social Enterprise Learning Series by Enterprising Non-Profits (enp)

The social enterprise podcast series is produced by enp to help your social enterprise succeed. We have gathered a handful of leading experts to provide practical business information to help you plan and run a successful business! http://www.enterprisingnonprofits.ca/podcasts

6. Big Vision Podcast

Britt Bravo interviews nonprofit workers, social entrepreneurs, green visionaries and social changemakers. Bravo was named the 2007 Best Podcaster/Blogger Most Dedicated to Social Change by the East Bay Express. Interview transcripts are available on her blog, Have Fun Do Goodhttp://bigvisionpodcast.libsyn.com/

7. Be Bold Podcast

A biweekly conversation on creating a career with impact. The show features listener questions answered by social impact career experts. Hosted by Britt Bravo and sponsored by Echoing Green. http://bebold.libsyn.com/

8. The Idealist.org Podcasts

This podcast tells stories of individuals and groups changing their communities in innovative ways to inspire you to do the same as well as interviews with nonprofit professionals about developing your career in the public good.

9. Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp Podcast

Craigslist Foundation believes that strong communities and neighborhoods are the cornerstone of our society. Boot Camp is a unique event focused on helping people learn how to effect a positive impact in their communities and neighborhoods. Over the past few years, we’ve recorded the workshops at Boot Camp and released them as a free podcast series. http://craigslistfoundation.libsyn.com/

10. Peter Day’s World of Business

Insights into the business world with Peter Day; featuring content from his Radio 4 In Business programme, and also Global Business from the BBC World Service. – Many of the topics he covers impact directly on social entrepreneurs who are trying to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/worldbiz

Here’s an interesting article by Isaac Sacolick entitled Top 5 Reasons Why Agile Development Spurs Innovation

He says “Following an agile software development process does not guarantee innovation, but following this development process does increase the odds of teams producing more innovation and innovative solutions.”

I agree with his 5 points, but I would add a 6th reason why Agile spurs innovation. Agile is a learning framework with truthfulness at it’s core. The more truthful the organization and members of a team are with each other, the deeper the learning. And the deeper the learning, the more innovative the approaches to development become. Take out the games, politics, hedging, and hoarding of information. Being authentic with other people is the surest way to freeing teams from the obstacles to innovation.

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