[Guest Post: Paul Boos serves as the software maintenance lead for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). His team currently uses Kanban and Scrum to maintain the OPP legacy code base. Prior to that he implemented Scrum as the Branch Chief for the National Development Branch within USDA/Rural Development. Follow him on twitter: @paul_boos]
Creating a Culture for Government Innovation following the Feng Shui
In my last post, I discussed characteristics of the innovation Personae, but how do we harness the power of our people to actually create innovation. What does it take to have team be successful in an innovation? All teams operate with a set of values, usually implicitly. In this post, I am going to discuss the 4 primary values that a innovative team will exhibit. These values are what allow a team to be creative in constructing and implementing an innovation.
The first value is one of recognizing that Team Interactions between People is how information gets shared and product or service innovation gets constructed. Without interactions, nothing will get produced. The higher the bandwidth these interactions take place, the faster construction can take place. If one relies on email and written documents, a lot of useful information gets lost. For starters, the amount and type of questions that get asked is curtailed and questions provide clarity on information. Without clarity, what gets constructed and how it gets constructed may be not be a best fit for the innovation needed. This is not to say that documents won’t get created, but they should get created or shared alongside a set of interactions, preferably face-to-face.
Focus on Working Product
The second value is to focus on a working product (or service); it is not until there is a working product or service that interactions can become more meaningful. Will the product or service meet the need? It’s not exactly known until on is in place and a gap analysis can be done. Additionally by focusing on getting a working product or service that is providing value to an end customer, the providers can begin having a feeling of accomplishment, even if it still needs changes to meet the needs entirely. This helps maintain the passion of the individuals in the team and gives them something to focus their learning on.
Involve the Customer
The interactions that are occurring within the team should also involve the customer; the interactions become collaborative decision-making and information sharing. If the customer is not a part of the construction, then the likelihood that the gap in what is produced and what is needed will be greater. The mental models on what the innovation should entail be much greater between those constructing it and the one(s) that will use it.
The last value is for a team to welcome change. Even with customer collaboration, there will be gaps in what is needed and what is delivered and thus one should expect change to occur from these gaps. Additionally, the environment is not a static one; change will need to take place to keep the innovation relevant to the need. This is true even if the need was not recognized originally before the innovation was delivered. To help folks in understanding this last point, I’ll use the innovation of the compact disc as an example.
When Sony developed this and it provided a convenient means for music that would maintain its play quality (no wear from a needle) one could have thought they were done, but they had to react when these were added to a car by incorporating anti-skipping technology; they had to adapt. If they had simply ignored the need for change, then the technology may never have displaced tapes which then could have been played in mobile and static environments (as far as the player).
Folks in the Agile community may recognize that these four values equate basically to the Agile Manifesto. Innovations rarely are a sole person; it takes a team of people to enable a new innovative product or service and these values are aligned to welcoming the necessary change needed for innovation as well as ensuring the innovation appropriately meets the needs to which it is targeted.
Teams holding these four values will find that because they welcome change, are willing to collaborate and interact closely between themselves and their customer, and regularly are producing a working innovation that provides value, then the will actually find an inner peace; they will feel stable, grounded. They will have a sense of security even while everything they do encompasses and promotes change. When any of these values are missing, they lack feedback to know their innovation is on track, they will be unsure they are providing something useful, and/or they will struggle to cope with the changes taking place. Inner peace will be lost.
In the next post, I will discuss what the organization needs to possess in order to foster teams that have these values as well as grow the characteristics needed in its individuals.
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