Roger Swannell

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Boring Instagram: Animals Looking At You

The first of my Boring Instagram Collections is ‘Animals Looking At You’

Boring Instagram: Animals Looking At You

Closing the loop in Customer Service

No customer contacts Customer Service for the sake of it. They do it because they have hit a barrier somewhere else in the organisation that is stopping them from achieving the things they set out to do, and they turn to the Customer Service to offer solutions.

When this happens customers want:

  • To be able to contact an organisation in ways that suit them.
  • To have their questions answered quickly, accurately and in language that suits them.
  • To feel listened to and understood.
  • To get back to doing the thing that they wanted to do in the first place. (Sometimes this is impossible and there is no solution, sometimes the customer journey goes into a dead end, what then?)

Organisations need:

  • Tools/systems/processes/teams to facilitate these outcomes for the customers.
  • To have a process for understanding the barriers and dead ends and deciding what to do about them.

Customer Service in isolation helps the problems to keep occuring.

Customer are the best testers an organisation could ever have. They’ll break every process, introduce every edge case, overcome every barrier and dead end. The challenge is to get that feedback from customers, through the Customer Service team, and on to the teams that can use it to make improvements. Close the loop.

Old lines

I went for a walk in Shotover.

I remembered all the old mountainboarding tracks I used to ride.

I wonder when the last time someone rode here was. I wonder who it was.

I wonder if anyone will ever ride here again.

What can we do about Workshop Remorse?

Modern Agile Workshop Remorse

A workshop is arranged with the goal of solving a particular problem. Let’s say the problem is that the pages in a section of a website have become messy and need to be reorganised to improve the usability for visitors. The workshop uses a card sorting exercise to rearrange the existing pages and create a new structure. Everyone in the workshop accepts it and agrees the next steps.

Then… a few days after the workshop, some worries start to creep in. Things like, what if the changes affect our page search rankings, what if the changes make it harder for my customers to do what I want them to do, what if my manager doesn’t like the changes I agreed to.

That’s workshop remorse.

So then the emails start, emails that communicate those doubts and create little speed bumps. Shared among the group those worries multiply, and quickly people start to think of reasons why not to do what was they agreed at the workshop. The speed bumps grow into road blocks and everyone agrees that it would be better to wait some for seemingly connected thing to happen before we go back to solving this problem.

That’s the impact of workshop remorse.

How can we tackle it?

Every workshop should be about creating a space that has psychological safety for those involved. They should feel safe to say things they wouldn’t normally allow themselves to.

Maybe a part of a workshop should be spent talking about fears, concerns, barriers, internal agendas and organisational politics to bring this remorse to the forefront before it happens. Talk about it and tackle it.

Let’s see if by making the organisational politics visible we can challenge it. There’s no blame, we are all victims of our organisational culture and all implicit in creating it, so let’s be open about it.

Let’s see if by admitting our fears and worries we can overcome them and take control of them rather than allowing them to impact the work we want to do. It’s fine to have fears, we’re all human.

Let’s see if by talking about internal agendas we can reach some shared objectives that help everyone achieve. It’s not a zero sum game. One person doesn’t have to lose in order for another to win. We can all win if we work together.

What could we do?

We could hold a ‘Confessions time’ as part of the workshop. Maybe people would feel like it’s ok to open up.

Someone who has been workshops like this before might say: “I’m concerned that we’ll do this exercise but it’ll take so long for us to make any positive changes that we’ll all lose our enthusiasm and it’ll feel like wasted effort.”

The person running the workshop might say: “My worry is that you all won’t trust in the process and will want to feel in control of what we produce rather than allowing what users want to guide us.”

One of the less confident people in the group might say: “I’m worried that my part of business will be under-represented and I won’t achieve what I’m supposed to.”

And so everyone starts to understand how everyone else is feeling.

Then we can get on with the card sorting, because actually the workshop isn’t really about organising pages on a website, it’s really about having a safe and inspiring place to work, it’s about how we can improve the organisation one step at a time, its’ about people working together to create something awesome.

No deadlines

Scrum works for cross-functional teams of specialists that only work on one thing at a time and have everything they need within the team to complete the work.

Scrum has the #NoEstimates movement that says slicing work small enough enables teams to incrementally deliver value without requiring any kind of estimation.

But Scrum doesn’t work for multi-functional teams of generalists that work on lots of different things at the same time and have to work with other parts of the business to accomplish their goals.

I’d like to propose #NoDeadlines for modern agile teams not using Scrum and working in ways that mean the work they are doing requires collaboration with other people and teams who also have other work and different priorities, and which is often out of the teams control.

#NoDeadlines recognises that it’s impossible to accurately predict when work will be completed if it is dependent on people that aren’t part of the core team doing the work. The more people and teams involved, and the more things those teams are working on, the more impossible it becomes to accurately predict when any piece of work will be completed.

Commitment to deadlines should only be made if everything that is required to meet that deadline is within the control of the person making the commitment. If any element of the work requires input from someone who isn’t part of the team doing the work, isn’t asked to commit to the same deadline, has other priorities, works to a different schedule, or suffers no consequences from not meeting the deadline, then deadlines should not be set.

Deadlines set in these kinds of situations are at best completely arbitrary and at worst pure fantasy. Communicating fantasy deadlines to other parts of the business undermine the team when those deadlines aren’t achieved because the team needed input from other people who weren’t committed to the work in the same way.

Not setting deadlines takes the pressure off of teams from chasing unrealistic fantasy deadlines that they don’t have control over and provides psychological safety to experiment rapidly and focus on delivering value to the customers when that value is ready.

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Copyright © 2018 Roger Swannell

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