It’s good to talk

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No this is not a phone commercial. Yesterday was great. On the train in to work I had a chat with a friend who does similar work to myself. A couple of things he said struck a chord and I am going to implement them at work.

In work we had a director come out and chat with us about future plans, limitations and opportunities and generally make us feel involved. We then had a large group of managers out to Paisley and had a really good chat. We talked about how we were doing things, and what lessons could be applied across the business.

At lunch I called my sister and we caught up about family stuff.

All of these positive experiences would have been destroyed by doing them as word documents. A nice word document is good for audit but it would have been time consuming, scope limiting and ultimately never read by anyone. In others words “Waste”. It would have slowed down sharing of info and ideas and also supported behaviours such as people disengaging if they were not the ones writing the document.

Future Diagnostic Workshop

In the afternoon I tried in vain to finish a document on Future Online Diagnostics Options. I have been finding excuses to not finish this document for days. That is pretty unusual for us at Paisley but it does happen. It usually means that subconsciously we are rejecting something as being waste or at least sub-optimal. I had done all the research and I am passionate about the subject but I still couldn’t get the document finished. In the end David and I grabbed a few whiteboards and drew out the various options on them…….and then we had a chat about them. In truth the chat we had fleshed out at least as many ideas as I had gathered in my research. It also highlighted new areas that up till now had been “nagging doubts” which we had not fully explored.

In part it is about giving up ownership of a piece of work. Once it stands on its own feet it is much easier for different people to add to it and make it grow. Saying
“I’m writing a document about that “is almost like a defence mechanism to stop conversation and get people to leave you alone. Talking is also a much easier way to bash ideas into shape and flesh out things that are nagging away at the back of your mind, but are only exposed during conversation. It also makes it a bit sticky. People walking by may see it and be attracted to the conversation or even the pictures.
The bottom line is that:

  • the conversation fleshed out all the work that I had already done
  • added David’s views to it and in doing so altered the work
  • got us talking about payload types (rather than how we got to them)
  • helped flesh out the mobile payload types that were not really being talked about

We played it back to the team and supplier representatives and the feedback was great. I have never had someone clap in response to one of my word documents….ever.

Up until now we have been looking at delivering things dreamed up in Desktop world and then saying we need to remember to do this in a “Mobile First” manner.

Here is an example:
We have an export diagnostic tool that asks you some questions, and then gives you a tailored plan of what areas you need to concentrate on to get you exporting. We looked at how this should look in a mobile first world. This effectively made us do “Enforced-Prioritisation”. This is all good but it is still retrofitting the Mobile Experience onto a largely Desktop-Centric experience. This limits our thinking
What if Mobile & Desktop experiences did not need to be cut-down/blinged-up versions of the same thing all the time? In a genuinely Mobile First world we might consider some different payload options such as;

After answering your questions:

  • We know that you are in Stirling and there is a local export adviser with free appointment slots in tomorrow. Do you want us to book you an advisor appointment?
  • We know that you are in Glasgow and there is an event there later this week. Do you want booked onto the event?
  • We know that you are on LinkedIn. There is a networking group that is relevant to your business that you can join. Do you want invited to the group?
  • We might stitch together a video that tells you the relevant info rather than trying to read it on mobile.
  • We might message you with contact details for relevant advisors in your area/sector.
  • We might email you a link to relevant content that makes it easier for you to then view on desktop/tablet etc… at your leisure.
  • We might offer you a call-back. We might just call you.
  • We might kick off an “Assisted Digital” processes.
  • And many others…

Whiteboard with notes and drawings

So in summary:

  • It is good to talk. It is the very definition of a collaborative process.
  • Documents tend to be less collaborative.
  • If you talk a lot your head may explode. This can be avoided by using Post-It notes or Drawing. In long conversations it can be hard to keep everything in your head. Post-It notes and drawings help to add some place holders to larger conversations. They are truly collaborative whilst still being quicker that formal documentation.
  • Talking fosters strong human connections, which are at the heart of most successful organisations.
  • If talking is ever feeling painful then stand up and hand your colleague a pen. Start drawing.

2 Replies to “It’s good to talk”

  1. It’s the difference between “doing agile” and “being agile”.

    You can “do” agile – follow the rituals, have stand-ups, wrangle post-its and wield sharpies – you can even wear jeans if you want. But none of that will help if you’re stuck in conventional thinking.

    “We did this before, and it kind of sort of worked (we think) so let’s do that again.”

    And you can “do” agile based on that.

    But if you want to truly be agile you need to go right back to the root and think: Is there a better solution to this problem?

    This is what we did here. We asked: what are we trying to achieve? The definition of done was:

    Identify and log options and ideas for approach to new diagnostic, ensuring focus is on user experience and need

    So Martin had started off down a conventional path: write a document that no-one will read. It’s an easy, reflex action.

    I had been on holiday for a week, and he hadn’t really gone anywhere with it. Partly because it’s a dreary, unrewarding task. But mostly because it’s a dreary, unrewarding task.

    So when I was catching up with work on the board I thought “that could be a blog post”. Not a Word document. I said so. We talked a bit, then walked up the room and wiped 3 whiteboards and started drawing and talking.

    That’s the point at which we started being – not doing – agile.

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