My Kanban Diary – Danny Whear

Danny works at Shelterbox, which is a charity that provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to support communities around the world overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis. If there are families in need of emergency shelter, ShelterBox does everything it can to help them rebuild their lives. Due to his work he’s been to a lot of interesting places including North Korea.

Danny had been reading about agile and wanted to try and see if he could bring it into where hew worked and decided to keep a diary about his experience and the journey he undertook.

One of the things he learnt is that people are scared of Jazz and jazz is a bit like agile.
What were the challenges that Danny faced to try and make his company more agile?
– Too many projects
– Not enough time, budget
– Very varied organisation staffing

The solution?
– Lets try Agile-ish
– Implement Lean – principle of focus
– Coaching – invest in people
– Kaizen
– Inspiration from the world

So how did it all comes together for Danny? He started with just his team.

Interestingly the first thing he did was paint the walls using yellow as he read that this colour helps collaboration and blue as this inspired creativeness. The other teams were envious as by having a team area gave them a sense of pride, belonging and ownership. Danny’s team had a shared mission and a sense of identity. They started using post it notes to visualise their work, talking in the mornings about what they will be doing. But what is the next step once you’ve implemented ‘basic’ agile?

Danny again looked for inspiration and as he’s not come from an agile environment looked in many places. He realised that trying to improve a team isn’t just a business problem but can be found in many areas including sports. So he started looking into David Brailsford and the margin of gains idea. David Brailsford reviewed every process of a cyclists day and if possible improved each step by 1%, by adding up these percents the theory was that there would be a big gain. The saddle structure, tires, how you wash you hands were all areas that were improved. The British cycling team also got a new, slick outfit, giving them a sense of pride.

To become great you need to understanding failure. Danny suggest a way of doing this is normalising failure and used garage bands as an example. The feedback culture is hard. Before you’re in a band you practice lots and then you play together and it sucks! You need to hear the feedback to get better, to learn how you all fit in and can improve. It’s the same as any interest, like art school, you’re hoping to be the next Monet and then you  feedback on your art… And it hurts!

You need to realise that you need to hear the feedback. You need to celebrate and publicise your failure. Meet up about it and share, almost like an AA group!
My name is x and I failed. Do fail talks where everyone gets a go to speak about it.

Yvon Chouinard who owns Patagonia clothing is a big inspiration to Danny.
Both Yvon Chouinard and Steve Jobs created disruptive technology. They realised that happier staff were more productive. How could this work at Shelterbox? They looked into flexible hours, which allowed people to go surfing. You can’t plan a good wave. Danny also looked into other companies, especially other charities, like Just Giving, and was impressed at the benefits staff got there.

He was also interested in office design, why were they designed the way they were. He looked at Fast company for ideas and inspiration. Why are offices looking more like universities now? There is a lot more open space and outside space. With universities the idea was this outdoor spaces encourages talking between lectures.

There are three different types of spaces
1. Home space
2. Work space
3. Coffee houses
If you look at offices the coffee house space is creeping into office design. This allows roaming working and if managed well creates happy, productive staff. There are endless merits of a variety of work spaces.

Danny believe that you need to focus on people. Break behaviour patterns, not only in how you work, but where you work.
change curve
You need to look at the Change curve and understand the people you are working with to be able to flex around them. Danny’s team completed the SDI model which is a self-assessment tool that helps people understand what gives them a sense of self-worth and what’s important to them when relating with others. You have to do it twice
1. In natural state
2. In conflict state
This helps you to understand your team. They also fostered a coaching culture to increase self awareness and help the team to bring in ideas. They created pillars of self awareness, openness, honesty and teamwork. The team used active listening tools and took time out to coach and have team building. The GROW model was very successful for them. They also introduced walking around chats. It’s often easier for people to discus ideas when not looking at each other. This is even more true for the more introverted amongst us.

Danny has learnt a lot on his agile journey with the team. He appreciated that they feel good when they’re busy but that they can’t do everything. The new found focus really fosters agility. The team has invested into root cause analysis.

What began as a micro-experiment has had great results and was almost contagious as the other team wanted what Danny’s team had. It was great to see that confidence breads confidence.

As Danny says “Agile is not a thing. It’s different things to different people. It’s a culture and a mindset. It’s about people, bicycles and jazz music.”


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