Tag Archive: non-profit


Another in a series of articles intended to briefly explain how to apply different agile practices to the work of social innovators, today’s topic is Progress Meetings:

Over the past few days, I have had some great conversations about Progress Meetings, also known as Daily Standups. While there is much more that can be said about these short meetings, I wanted to give a quick recap of the three questions along with a bit of guidance about how to make these meetings effective.

Progress Meetings take place in the context of a Cycle Plan. Members of the Team start their day with a short meeting that intended to keep the team aligned, focused, and constantly adapting. Generally, Progress Meetings cover three basic questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday (or in the last work period)? – the length of the work period depends on the length of time that might elapse until the Team can get together to update their status again, such as a team of volunteers
  2. What am I going to do today? – this question orients the Team member to the tasks of the next work period; consider it mini-planning
  3. What did I learn/observe in the last work period that might be helpful for others on the team? (Alternatively, you can ask “Were there any obstacles preventing me from getting work done?”) – this is intended to carve out a moment of daily reflection, sharing, & learning that will aid the Team to become high performing

Some Guidance about Progress Meetings

Remember that the Progress Meeting should be short. That’s why it is useful to have everyone standing up. Once people start to fidget, you know the meeting has gone on long enough. Keep the meeting simple and focused on answering only the three questions. Most importantly, avoid having discussions about any particular points that come up. If more discussion is needed, you should schedule a separate meeting for discussing that specific issue.

Would you like help becoming more agile?

If you would like help implementing Progress Meetings or any of the agile practices in your organization, 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.

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I was recently interviewed for HowtoBecome.TV by Jayce Broda, a social entrepreneur in his own right, who aspires to “tell stories of those in the business of change.” It is an honor to be included. I hope you enjoy my very first interview on social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and building a career in the social economy.

http://blip.tv/play/hrwrgovCdwI%2Em4v

Here’s the link to the interview on HowtoBecome.TV: http://howtobecome.tv/2010/11/how-to-become-a-social-entrepreneur-david-parker/

Let’s continue this discussion on Twitter. Follow me at http://twitter.com/davidparker9

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/

There are numerous resources on the web that cover traditional ways of looking at volunteer management. However, there is very little written about how one might create a job description for a volunteer at an Agile non-profit organization. Here’s a little comparison of the two perspectives:

The traditional human resource approach puts volunteer job descriptions in the context of the organization’s strategic plan. Proponents essentially say:

  1. develop a strategic plan
  2. decide and document the tasks needed to carry out the plan
  3. decide if you need volunteers to do those tasks given your constraints
  4. create a job description of those tasks
  5. recruit the volunteer to fit the job description
  6. train the volunteer so they’re clear on your expectations
  7. monitor to see if the volunteer is meeting your expectations

The traditional human resource approach says everyone should have a job description that lays out the organization’s expectations and the person’s specific duties. The underlying idea is that people are more likely to give their time when they know what they will be doing. People also want assurance that their work is important and contributes to the goals of the organization. Without this comfort and confidence, they will be unsatisfied with the volunteer opportunity and will do a poor job, leave the organization, or worse, do some damage to the organization’s reputation.

An Agile Approach

Thanks to OpenAgile, Agile is not just for software development anymore, and many of the practices seem to be a strong fit for maximizing resources at a non-profit organization, especially when it comes to managing volunteers. Some of the principles underlying an Agile approach are to avoid excessive bureaucracy, long-term planning, and static role definitions. Proponents of Agile think of job descriptions as guidelines rather than requirements. An Agile process to managing volunteers could look something like this:

  1. the organization starts with a goal
  2. begin working toward the goal with anyone who is committed to doing the work (the “team”)
  3. as the team works through successive iterations (cycles of action, reflection, learning, and planning), the team learns what they need to be more efficient and effective
  4. if the team learns that they need specific skills, the team makes obtaining those skills a priority and they learn the skill themselves or seek someone with those skills to contribute to the work
  5. if a volunteer is interested in contributing to the work, the team can decide if the skills that person offers matches what the team needs to do their work
  6. welcome the skills and interests of the new team member and continue working towards the goal

Agile encourages organizations to use cross-functional teams composed of people who are committed to doing the work and willing to experiment by trying and learning. In an Agile environment, the team focuses on the goal, not their personal job descriptions. Team members are free to complete any task they want. For example, imagine a task for doing some work on a website. I may not have experience to complete the task easily, but if I’m free to try. It’s possible that I’ll learn something new that will make it easier to complete the task the next time. As they work, volunteers develop competencies and skills that complement those of the other members of the team.

Template for creating a job description for an Agile volunteer:

Position: Team Member

Purpose: To provide value to the stakeholders of the organization (ex. staff, community members, constituents, frontline workers)

Primary Duty: To aggressively learn and experiment to improve the ways the organization does work. This applies to all aspects of our work, including: stakeholder relationships, organizational effectiveness, process and tool efficiency, skill and capacity building, and underlying conceptual framework.

Secondary Duties:
To work jointly with all team members to help achieve the organization’s goals
To engage with the team members to create and commit to a Cycle Plan
To use your knowledge, interests, and skills to help the team complete the work in the Cycle Plan
To participate in regularly scheduled progress meetings with the team
To help the team to keep its commitments to the organization and its stakeholders
To make sure that the work done holds to the organization’s standards

Interesting Resources for Further Reading:

Agile:

OpenAgile – The OpenAgile Primer

Scott Ambler, Agile Modeling – Generalizing Specialists: Improving Your IT Career Skills

Mishkin Berteig, AgileAdvice – The Wisdom of Teams and”generalizing specialists”

Susan M. Heathfield, About.com Guide – Are You Ready for an Agile Future? An Agile Organization Embraces Change

Traditional:

Community Services Council Newfoundland and Labrador – Volunteer Management Resources

Joanne Fritz, About.com Guide – Before You Recruit Volunteers

Mary V. Merrill, World Volunteer Web – Developing volunteer job descriptions

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