The values of innovation

They say groups make bad decisions. That’s why we need leadership.

The solution might be a team leader, who makes decisions on behalf of the group: Limit decision power, and decisions will become consistent, on target and effective.

This works great in a number of circumstances. In a restaurant kitchen, for instance, nobody wants chefs who disagree on how long to cook the aspargus. People are hungry – we need a ruler.

Conversely, a ruler is a disaster in innovation. To creative minds, pursuing “the next big thing” (whatever it may be), nothing pacifies more than a micromanaging split- and conquer regime.

Give them a clear objective, a business goal, you might say. “Increase market share by 20% over the next 18 months”. If the goal is realistic, they may reach it. But will it be innovation?

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Idle your product owner

As a first step towards dealing with an over-loaded development team, we showed an organization how to visualize their work by representing work items with Post-its on the wall, flowing from to-do, to in progress, testing and doneThe organization quickly catched the idea, and soon priorities were respected, deliveries became more predictable, and developers had a process to improve.

Which is what they did, and after some time we saw a new work pattern emerge:

  1. A product owner identifies a need and wants a designer to work on the details
  2. The designer grabs the task and sketches out a solution
  3. Developer tasks can now be defined, and they go into a special planning column, which gradually started to increase in size

Things are finally happening

Although tasks are completed at this point, the need is still not solved. Nevertheless, the message becomes: “Hold on tight everyone, things are finally happening now,” and while waiting for it, the product owner may start working on even more needs, which creates even more work for the designers, and subsequently even more tasks for the developers.

Which is what they did.

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