THE IMPORTANCE OF SHARED PURPOSE

In our Kanban training, we present the following from Alice in Wonderland:

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It’s Certainly not a new concept or idea. Even in the software development field, I know this has been used before. Tom Gilb used it in his 1988 book, Principles of Software Engineering Management.

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Ajay Reddy makes further reference to this in his book Scrumban [R]evolution devoting Chapter 3 to the topic and specifically making them measured in a Scrumban framework.  Not many books in the Agile space makes such a cogent connection to vision, purpose and results in such a measured way.   The following diagram from the book represents the cohesion required from various forces like, marketplace needs and leaders vision, that go toward overall success.

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Excluding obvious bias – have a read of this book 😉

Moving past the obvious plug, there are some more recent writers that also remind us about purpose, vision and mission in various forms like Dan Pink and his book Drive which describes Autonomy, Purpose and Mastery as key motivators for people and David Marquet’s book Turn the Ship Around that describes Clarity as a key plank to success. It’s something that we all readily acknowledge is important, but executing on it is more difficult than it may seem.

Indeed, without a vision, and a purpose that is shared, it doesn’t really matter which path you take. There is a lot to be said for a solid vision that galvanizes a group of people to do great things. Making a start on one can have a great effect on a team.  If a team hasn’t done one before it may feel lame.  The practice of starting on one, to become practiced in it, is a good outcome in itself.

The process of creating a vision and accompanying artifacts are intense activities that can last several days. Cutting short this process usually means something will be missed.  Having a structure to lead people through the process is important as well. The time and effort devoted to this structured activity is definitely worth it.

How to start? There are a many ways to do this. I’ll share with you a couple of the better ways I’ve used that can be used by themselves or even combined. 

The first method is one that is presented in the book ‘Liftoff’ by Diana Larsen and Ainsley Nies. I summarized key activities here.  They move through a process that starts with a vision which informs the mission (how we achieve the vision) and mission tests (what measurements tell us we are achieving the mission). Mission Tests are another name for measurable goals. It recognizes that leaders can and should provide the vision for the organization and that those who are tasked with executing on that vision can have a say on its viability.

Another method which is applicable at any level of an organization comes from Lean. It’s called Hoishin Kanri. Hoishin Kanri works from goals to specific tactics and there is a built in validation loop called catchball that actually asks for and makes it safe to provide feedback and seek feedback on the viability of those goals. The process creates a document called an X-Matrix.  The group based activities that are described in LiftOff can help to create the X-Matrix.  For instance, if you’re struggling to find the goals, try using the vision exercise from LiftOff.

Both of these examples recognize the value of feedback in the process.  In Liftoff it starts with leaders setting the scene with a vision and asking the people to validate it and Hoishin Kanri says to play catchball.

At Code Genesys our coaches use these methods and sometimes combine them together.  The divergent/convergent idea generation techniques used in LiftOff can be used to generate goals that form part of Scrumban Planning activity.  The view below shows at a high level what we are helping organizations to see.

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We make use of X-Matrix as well.  This is a great image visualization of the X-Matrix:

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If you don’t have a vision and accompanying goals then it will be evident in the way people behave. A goal ‘straightens’ people out, providing a positive force to do great things.

You should reboot if you’re missing one, it’s not too late for that. You should also revisit it regularly to check that you are still on the right path or to update as new information becomes available.