Metrics, Management & Revolution… in Cambridge

Earlier this week I wrote about some of the Agile Cambridge awesomeness over at the Novoda blog.

  • Could you use data to make better decisions?
  • Want to understand middle managers?
  • How about starting a revolution?

Check it out and let me know what you think

Insights from Agile Cambridge 2017

Before I set foot in Cambridge last week, I made a note of which sessions I was most looking forward to at Agile Cambridge 2017. Here’s what I thought of them…

The Metrics You Should Use But Don’t by Cat Swetel, a case study

We’ve been getting increasingly data-oriented at Novoda to make better decisions. This quarter, each department has been experimenting with paying attention to different metrics. So, I eagerly anticipated what I’d learn from this session.

Cat Swetel demonstrated how to use the same data to present different things to different people, depending on what they needed. Data can provide answers, tell stories, enable decisions and inform trade-offs, but it needs to be visualised in different ways. Cat showed us which visualisations she used for different needs. Bar charts made giving a direct answer straightforward and clear, whilst a scatter graph illustrated a story about the impact of one work type on delivery of another.

Cat gave us an invaluable reminder of the importance of context when looking at metrics, and of the danger of looking at numbers in isolation.

Next steps

I’m looking forward to watching the recording of this talk and going through the slides when they’re published. I’m having a play with some of the resources Cat shared, in order to increase my understanding and improve my analytical skills. I want to generate better insights from our historical data and communicate these more clearly.



📕 Dynamics in Action by Alicia Juarrero

📕 Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction by Daniel S. Vacanti

📕 The Big Book of Dashboards by Andy Cotgreave, Jeffrey Shaffer and Steve Wexler

Scatter graph of Time in Process (from 0 to 80, presumably days) against Date Delivered (Jan 2015 - Oct 2015, month by month), with two blank areas of the chart circled. March 2015 - October 2015, nothing took less than 10 days for delivery and April 2015 - October 2015, nothing took 30-50 days for delivery. Most items in these time periods were delivered within 10-30 days, with a few in the 50-60 days range.

Unblocking Middle Management by Dr Clara Juanes-Vallejo and Carl Whittaker

Sometimes people get stuck when it comes to driving change higher up the chain of command. It’s common when it comes to trying out different ways of working. I attended this workshop to learn about how to better support managers in this position.

Carl and Clara introduced us to the idea of using user personas… for managers. Personas help us understand the needs and capabilities of people, so why not apply that internally? Working in groups we extrapolated the influencing power and relationships of fictional characters. I loved the simplicity of taking a tool many of us are familiar with and applying it in a different context in this way.

Next steps

I’m excited to create a persona for myself and to share it, encouraging workmates to do the same.

Agile isn’t enough: Revolution over Transformation by Todd Charron, a tutorial

Photograph of a person, possibly a protester, in fancy dress or costume wear (some kind of a knight with a mask). Caption reads: People may become apathetic, skeptical and even hostile to the regime

I chose this session for a different approach to supporting organisations embracing change. I’m keen to learn as much I can from people’s diverse experiences of agile transformations.

Todd gave an overview of different styles of agile transformation: top down, bottom up, pilot, gradual evolution… and the perils of each. He made a persuasive case for pursuing a different course… revolution, which made for a compelling story.

The forces or challenges resisting the change are your dictator. Those championing the change alongside you are the rebels. With this in mind, Todd described features of dictatorships and revolutions. He emphasised the importance of a team identity, rituals and other initiatives.

Todd shared practical guidance for introducing change whilst demonstrating the power of storytelling.

Next steps: Books to read

📕 From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp

📕 Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet

📕 The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

📕 The Method Method by Eric Ryan, Adam Lowry and Lucas Conley

…and another thing

All the sessions were engaging, interesting and useful, with skilled and entertaining speakers. Dr Brian Little delighted us with his keynote “How Personality Matters”. Watch his TED talk: “Who are you, really?” to understand other people better and learn more about yourself too.

Check out #AgileCam on Twitter for a wealth of references and resources from an event rich with ideas and insights.

Looking forward to watching the videos from Agile Cambridge 2017 when they’re released. Can’t wait for next year’s event!

This article was first published on the Novoda blog on 3 October 2017.

Kathleen Bright's name tag for Agile Cambridge 2017