Sept. 10, 2011

Awesome Coach of the Week: Stephen Parry

We honor Stephen Parry as Awesome Coach of the Week 36, 2011!

Stephen LeanVoices Parry is an unusual addition to our list, as he is not an agile coach. Stephen is a management coach working on the same goal as we are: business transformation. What I like about his approach is that he recognises the similarity and relationship of Lean and Agile. When he submitted his talk on “Creating an Integrated ICT Value Stream Using Lean and Agile Thinking” for ALE2011 which took place this week in Berlin, I was delighted to have such an experienced Lean expert at the conference, but at the same time... Wondered why he wanted to come.

Stephen Parry Presenting at ALE2011

21st century organisation

We met by chance last Tuesday, the day before the unconference started, when I arrived at the hotel to prepare the venue for our event. A few people who had arrived early decided to have lunch together, and he decided to join us... Then he told me that he learned about our plans on Twitter, and started to get interested when we published details about our distributed lean organisation. Then he sketched an interesting perspective: like us he's been irritated in recent years about big consultancies who sell Lean (and now start to sell Agile) to big enterprises to cut costs and lay off people. The effect of these “transformations” is that these enterprises do “the wrong things righter”.

Our own experience is similar: as long as you only coach an organisation's dev teams to be Agile, the mindset of the organisation does not change. To change the organisational culture, you need to apply Lean principles and disciplines to change the way organisations think about their processes: instead of creating products, they should create value. Instead of asking the customer, “We build a nice product, why don't you buy it?”, they should ask, “which product do you need to create the best value?”

Waste? Ask the Customer!

Most lean initiatives focus on eliminating waste. But they look for it in the wrong place, Stephen said in his talk. Instead of focussing on waste within their own organisation, they should focus on waste they create in the customers' organisations: When the products we produce have errors, are inconvenient to use or don't have the right features, the value of our products for the customer is greatly reduced. Most product organisations have service departments that actually collect data about this situation, but they don't pay attention:

When you start using customer service data to drive improvements, focus on the creation of new features or products and realisation of opportunities, you can greatly improve your organisation by focussing on the “right things”—instead of letting your development department “do agile” so that they produce the same stuff as before, just faster and with better quality. The full slides of his talk are here:


Engaging, Learning, Leading, Improving

in the second half of his talk, Stephen explained his approach at evaluating and changing the culture of an organisation:

Do you allow your staff to engage with customers and users? Is everything forbidden unless permitted, or is everything permitted unless forbidden?

Does your work environment support learning? Does your management focus on employee utilisation or rather on creativity and problem solving?

On leading: Do you create a no-blame climate and a fail-safe environment? Do you focus on functional targets or on end-to-end effectiveness?

Can your employees improve business processes, products and services? What influence do they have on the measurement system?

I recorded part of his explanations:


Awesome Coach of the Week

This is why I think Stephen Parry is an Awesome Coach. If you can add an awesome experience with Stephen, please do so in the comments. We honour one Coach a week—suggestions welcome!

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