Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Communication during a transition

In summary it should be focused on what you hear not on what you say.

We recognised that communication with staff during an agile transition was important for two reasons; firstly so that the transition changes would be understood and accepted. Secondly and most importantly, so that issues and concerns from staff would be raised. We could only address concerns that we knew about so it was crucial that they were raised by the people who were feeling the impact of the changes.

Try as we might, deafening silence was the result of most of our communication approaches. 

While this blog post presents many communication approaches that failed to generate any feedback, overall the transition was a big success, with the results to prove it. The net positive survey response to ‘I am well informed about the agile transition’ rose from 70% to 84% and then to 90% over two years. However the ultimate indicator of success is that the vast majority of staff are really happy at work.

What I have taken away from all of this, is that communication should come from numerous channels and MUST be two way to be effective. It also brings to mind the Proverb "Listen to people twice as much as you speak." 

For those who are interested, the remainder of this blog explains the different approaches that we tried and a brief summary of the outcomes.

  • Email feedback inbox – e-mails received in two years, zero.
  • End of Transition Team sprint Email, explaining what we had done and are planning on doing. In there we linked to the feedback email address and mentioned that all of the Transition Team is open to being approached – feedback received, zero.
  • Chocolates hidden behind links in the End of Transition Team email - we ended up eating the chocolates ourselves as no one found them.
  • Directly telling people about chocolates hidden behind links – partial success, with some heavy hints, the chocolates were ‘found’ and handed out, excitement and interest created = zero.
  • End of sprint Blog, explaining what we had done and are planning on doing - very few people subscribed to the blog.
  • Transition Team members provided in person updates to teams after their stand ups – partial success, teams got the information and queried a few items; however where generally dis-interested and questioned why they get Management updates and Transition Team updates.
  • Submit news to go in Management Update – un-tested by this time the Transition was wrapping up and only one news item was submitted, ‘the disbanding of the Transition Team’.
  • Quarterly Staff speak ups – this generated a couple of questions but generally there was silence, at least they were there to hear the messages.
  • Ask Transition team for concerns, who in turn asked Scrum Masters, who in turn asked team members – success, a reasonable number of concerns were raised. Many of these were turned into Transition Team User Stories.
  • Surveys – ten questions one page, done via Survey Monkey, same survey three times over two years. Success: 80% of staff responded, plenty of meaningful and detailed feedback received. Many of these were turned into Transition Team User Stories.
  • Rick Roll entire division in Transition Team farewell e-mail – good result, at least five people contacted me ;-)
  • Scrum Masters discussing issues with their manager during regular 1 on 1s – success, plenty of issues where raised and then discussed by the Transition Team with several of these becoming Transition Team users stories and some guidance for stories already in progress or about to start.
  • Division Manager holding Staff Forums with small cross functional cross team groups – a great success, staff really got stuck into providing direct and honest feedback. Some of this was related to the transition and other items were more general. This provided some Transition Team user stories and some guidance for stories already in progress or about to start.

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