A Blog Guide to Go And See

invisible-manAre you familiar with the comics’ hero “Invisible Man”?
The more invisible he is, the more powerful he appears to be – as well as the perception around him.
He can appear at any moment” – people would whisper, carefully looking around. He is the (hidden) authority that everyone respects.

A fair share of management appears to be like hero(s) – perhaps visible to their peers and superiors, present in difficult situations/escalations, solving problems and… quite distant and invisible to the people they lead. Since managers determine people’s salaries, they are respected and represent the formal authority to make decisions. Their absence from the place where daily work is done seems to emphasize their just described reputation. This is a bit of an issue for a manager – how to keep authority and respect by being visible?



Once a manager is there, attends daily team’s stand-up meetings, hears what people say, what impediments they have, she/he could take those moments to understand better and find out how to add value.

There are few additional reasons why a manager needs to be at gemba (the real place – where work is done):

  • Manager should demonstrate a real interest, thus respect towards the work done by the people she/he leads. That creates mutual understanding and trust.
  • It eliminates the need for unnecessary reporting and steering forums being the time eaters and wasters (see the related post about waste).
  • Since, teams may be sometimes blind towards own work, managers, which are supposed to be the coaches, are there to help them to discover their blind spots, by finding the root causes for the problems they have.
  • Managers should make sure that a new energy is added to the team activities. There is no point to control how teams do the work, but to check how to help out.

The last point is essential. If people closest to the process, which execute value added actions are supervised and told what and how to do the job, then they lose ownership upon the actions and intrinsic motivation to continuously make improvements. The energy, once manager leaves, is simply sucked out, following the law of entropy – gradual decline into the steady, low engagement state.

The managers’ role is to make work easier for the teams, not for themselves. That is true respect. The managers are paid for it, and no one promised them an easy job.

A warmly recommended reading goes to 2 books:

I would appreciate to share a piece of your experience by commenting to this blog!
Thank You!

The Flow – You Mean Efficiency?

(From my book “On the Trace of Agile Leadership – The Alphabet of Principles and Practices for Human Work and Life“, )

8589130579962-chameleon-wallpaper-hdI imagine the organizational flow as a chameleon. There is around 160 species of chameleon on Earth and many of them are able to change their skin color. The usual belief is that they change their skin color to match the surrounding, to camouflage and protect themselves from danger. The scientific truth is that chameleons are not able to produce their own body heat and therefore, they change their skin color to reach or to maintain a favorable body temperature. A color of their skin also changes depending on their mood, where e.g. tension causes bright colors to dominate. Their color also changes to signal their potential partners a willingness to mate. More impressive than the color effect itself is the mechanism that enables chameleons to perform their transformational play. Namely, their skin constitutes of a number of layers, where the outer layer is transparent and quite resistant. The inner layers contain specific cells, filled with different kinds of pigment. Depending on the body temperature or a particular mood, the nervous systems acts towards the cells and makes them contract or expand, which in turn changes the color of the cells. All this is done in a blink.

It is hard to identify our flow with chameleon, especially because the chameleon is not exactly the embodiment of beauty. But, it is the unique specie and perfect in what it does. It took a long evolution process to perfect it; to be able to survive. So, chameleon has not adapted against the environment, but it has kept the skill to continuously adapt. That is the characteristic that we need for our process, for the flow.

The term flow I find appropriate because the value that is produced should be fluid and move nimbly over the obstacles in its way. The flow should be able to adapt to external factors (like temperature) and internal factors (like mood).

The people from The Gemba Academy, in their set of educational videos describe the flow through the Value Stream Map definition, saying: “…all the steps, value added and non-value added required to take a product or service from concept/raw material to the waiting customer”.  Mary Poppendieck, the lean SW guru, emphasizes the flow visualization through the sequence of timely labeled actions represented as a map of the value stream in her book “Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash“.

VSMThere are a number of authors and consultants suggesting the same or a similar approach. Still, very few organizations that I know use the value stream mapping to visualize the flow, and start learning to see the waste and non-value added steps that every organization has.

One of the main obstacles to see and to act supportivelly towards the flow is the organizational border, i.e. effects of local optimization - the situation (and the culture) where focus is on one’s own role and work based on input <>output, rather than working collaboratively on the highest priority/value.

The leaders contribute significantly in creating (or preventing) a flow, which should be as much as possible a continuous and as less interrupted as possible. It is a matter of education and maturity (no hard feelings!). The leaders, as mentioned, should get educated about Lean and flow and be determined to put the flow of value always in focus, rather than the success of their own team or department success. To my experience, this is the prime challenge with the Lean leadership.

The common issues seem to be the following:

  • Every department, or a team, or a person, has its own interpretation about the flow
  • There is a lack of agreement on which level should the flow be illustrated or drawn
  • There is no common interpretation on what the flow unit is (what actually ‘flows’)

When people from different departments, or teams, work together on a common value stream, it is a precondition to build a common perspective. The prerequisite is to look at the big picture, not individual processes. It is to realize that there is always the information flow attached to the production flow. The information flow is: all the documents, materials, visual information, etc. helping and supporting the production flow. Usually, there is a tendency to get involved with a lot of process details when drawing the flow image. We should start with the high level first.

In SW development, the unit of the flow may vary from organization to organization. It could be a feature, a requirement, or a user story..

Experiment with the flow and the unit of the flow, but have in mind that you always need to work on the most prioritized items. There are no successful and sustainable (Lean) benefits without focusing on the flow. As a matter of fact, Lean and flow are inseparable.

The Underestimated Way to Remain Human: Non-violent Communication

hipiThe non-violent communication is a language and a way of communication that strengthen our ability to remain human, no matter of a challenging situation that might appear. The pioneer of the NVC, Marshall B. Rosenberg, has written the bestselling book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life”. These methods are used for years around the world to resolve the most difficult conflicts such are the war conflicts and hostage situations. I hope we don’t have these dimensions in our agile teams…

The non-violent communication (NVC) might improve our lives. We are used to the verbal ‘aggression’ usually imposed by the position, an authority or power of the higher ranking, but it is not uncommon among the peers too. One example comes from the daily standup meeting in one of our teams:  A younger person was struggling with the unit tests execution for 2 days in a row. She was trying to dig out by herself was it a problem in the code or the tests themselves. She started to elaborate the details to the colleagues in the team. Being not the time and place at the daily meeting to go into details, the team facilitator interrupted the discussion by saying: “Can someone more competent finally do this?
Is this respect and does it help to improve the situation or motivate the team to do the work!?

When participating in one of the seminars, I learned this::

NVC is a lLanguage of Compassion Rather Than Domination

NVC is focusing attention

NVC is managing existing conflicts and preventing new

NVC is not about being nice; it’s about being real.


The NVC is “formalized” via 4 routines:

Observation -
observing the situation, what others are doing or saying. Articulating the situation without adding judgments: “When I (see, hear, remember, imagine, etc.)

we state how we feel when we observe this action: “I feel…

we express our needs related to the feelings we have identified: “…because I need…

we clearly say what we want from the other person to enrich our lives or make life more wonderful for us without demanding by saying e.g. “Would you be willing to…

It takes practice, as for everything, but in few cases it really worked well for me, even though I needed to prepare the wording scenario well in advance…



Judging and classifying people promotes ‘violence’ and I am sure we don’t need that.