In Lean and Agile organizations teams are in charge of the delivery of the entire product or service. That’s very different from other organizations, where individual specialists have learned to take responsibility for only their specialized contributions and where project managers are hired for coordination.
In Lean & Agile organizations teams of professionals assume responsibility for the entire product or service. Individual team members work together to complete all that needs doing. They don’t rest as long as some of the necessary tasks remain open. When a colleague is having trouble to complete one of the open tasks, they try to help her out, even if open tasks are not within their own core competences. They can do this, because most tasks require some training and preparation, but can be done by non specialists too. At least, if team members are reasonably skilled and well motivated to do so. And if the organization makes use of standardized work instructions to specify tasks and jobs. And as long work is scheduled in a balanced way and made clearly visible. So individual team members know what needs to be done to complete everything that’s needed -and also if their colleagues are busy or facing trouble in completing parts of it-.
Whenever all this happens, work gets really done and more quickly than thought possible. Meanwhile team members start to learn from each other -a lot-. And they can then shift to an exciting state of achievement. Because getting things done, getting results is fun.
During the last couple of decades professionals have become extremely specialized. And to make things worse, many professionals tend to stick strictly to their skill set only. And don’t want others to touch it. This has many causes: Vocational education and universities alike tend to train people at young ages for specialist jobs. Companies have developed a liking to have the best man or woman for every specific job. Individuals are often valued for their unique contributions to the company goals. For them too it can be nice to be the only one who knows how to handle something and to have others depend on that knowledge. Also, because being the only one who knows about it, gives a certain degree of liberty. One can do as one likes, no need to tell others about the details, the operation, the expected lead times, the reason to be involved in different meetings… As long as one continues to deliver from time to time… chances are that no questions are asked at all.
And indeed, to a certain degree having a specialists’ contribution, is a good thing too. We like to know that a trained surgeon is doing the operation -rather than her assistant-. And that a pilot is flying the plane we travel with, rather than the purser. So, specialisms remain important. It’s always good to have people with certain very specific skill sets. But not necessarily for all of their work.
Organizations assuming Lean & Agile are basically replacing the paradigm of individual specialists by that of professional teams. This is quite a change for everyone. It can be a lot of fun, but at first it’s hard. Most people need to come out of their comfort zones of doing their work as they like it. They have to sit and write down what it actually is that they’re doing. And this can be scaring. It may not be as hard or exciting as everyone now assumes it is. It may be less work than others thought. Also, it may be threatening if others suddenly can do that same previously unique job too.
Or it may be difficult and time consuming to discover what it is that one actually does. Many specialists simply don’t really know what the secret to their work is. They have to think deeply about it, they need to share many thoughts with others, before they can possibly reveal all tacit knowledge they use to do their jobs as good as they do.
Waypoint comes in as it makes work visible for all. Waypoint is great because it helps the individual specialists to break down their work from Themes, into User Stories, into Tasks. This may look like a bureaucratic exercise -and it can be if done ahead of time or for jobs that will never be shared-. But whenever it is done in order to facilitate the sharing of the work within professional teams, it’s gold: Breaking down the work then leads to better understanding of all team members of what is actually needed. And it helps to facilitate individual team members to help each other, to hand over work to others -perhaps not yet as skilled as the specialist herself- and that way to be able to accomplish so much more.
If done that way, using Waypoint is great leverage for getting things done. It allows the individual professional to multiply her knowledge and skills endlessly and to be able to accomplish a manifold of her traditional results.
So we do suggest to use Waypoint -or to test is it- with your team. And to invite your colleagues. That will allow you to have the discussion you eventually want. That will help your team to think ahead, iteration by iteration, on the job at hand. To breakdown the work. To allow for colleagues to take over each others’ tasks and to help each other. That way, you will be able to complete scheduled work on an iterative basis, without increasing traditional command & control methodology.
If you use or test Waypoint with your team, you will start to make full use of Lean and Agile. And only then will the administrative burden also include the great rewards you would be after: Of making work transparent, of learning, of delivering with a team, of getting to the secret of making great products consistently over a long period of time. That’s what Lean & Agile is all about. We believe it’s more than worth it.