Watch What You Say About VSM

SD Times Virtual VSMcon 2022 Event - Sponsored by ConnectALL.  Watch Tim Stiling while he discusses the importance of how we talk about Value Stream


Tim Stiling: Thanks for joining my session. Now, before we get started, there's one thing that I want to make very clear, no matter who you are, what part of the organization you're in, what your job title is, where you're located, or how large, or how small your organization is. We're going to be focusing on one thing that we all have in common. So we are all going to be on the same level for this presentation. What is that level you might ask? We're all salespeople. I fully believe this quote by Zig Ziglar that no matter who we are, if we deal with people, we're selling something, we're salesmen, we're sales women. And ultimately, as we think about this, and as we think about this concept of the fact that if we deal with people, we are selling something that is the crux of today's presentation, because I'm going to make the point that we are all not only selling value stream management within our organizations, but I think the market is approaching it incorrectly. 

 And so we need to really pivot how we're selling VSM or else it's going to die on the vine. And let me illustrate that point. By talking to you about two assassins. These assassins have one thing in common. They both killed a President of the United States. And let me tell you a little bit about assassin number one. This person was born in 1838, and he's from the US state of Maryland. And as a member of the prestigious family from the state of Maryland, he realized that he was good at acting. And so he did that as his day job meant he got caught up in a lot of war hysteria that was going on in the nation. He killed the President of the United States and after his crime, he ran away. He was tracked down and he was killed during a standoff with the officers. 

 And he passed away at the age of 26, who is this assassin? This assassin is John Wilkes Booth. Now let me tell you about another assassin. This assassin came of age during a time when the nation was divided, brother was against brother. Father was against son, friends were against friends on the battlefield. And most people that were living during this time knew someone very close to them that was injured or killed on the battlefield. So people lost their husbands. People lost their brothers. People lost their friends, and this was all over a conflict within the same nation. And so there was a lot of division, a lot of heartbreak and stepping into the fold was the President of the victorious side, Abraham Lincoln. A lot of people were in Lincoln's ear trying to talk to him and say, this was a brutal war. We want to punish the losing side, the Confederacy, but Abraham Lincoln took a different approach. 

 He wanted to look at reunifying the country and bring the country back together. Unfortunately, he did not get a chance to implement some of these ideas that he had because shortly after the war ended, he was brutally murdered during a play. And in theater, the assassin ran off and he went across state borders and he engaged in a heated standoff with officers where he found his justice at the end of a smoking gun. And he was killed at the age of 26. As he may have realized, assassin number two is also John Wilkes Booth, but what's the difference between the way that these two men were presented? The first one was all facts, no hook. I told you when he was born, I told you where he was from. I told you when he died, but the second story is one that all of us can relate to in a way we all understand how painful it would have to be to fight our father or son or our brother, or, you know, somebody that's very close to us on the battlefield. 

 And we all understand the importance of unity within a country. And we also understand the drive for justice when we feel like we've been wronged. And so the second story is probably going to stick with us a lot more than just a list of facts. What does this have to do with value stream management? Let's think about how we would normally talk about value stream management. First of all, we might talk about flow, how important it is managing the flow of your work through your value stream. We might talk about finding efficiencies in our value stream and being able to become more efficient in our processes. From end to end, we might talk about the metrics. What is it that we need to measure? What is it that we need to track? What is it that we need to try to wrangle in our spreadsheets to tell us the full story of what's going on in our value stream? 

And even as I've used the word value stream, we assume people know what we're talking about. And we think that value streams are the next big thing. And so we talk a lot about value streams and looking at value streams and mapping value streams. And it always comes back to delivering value. We never really talk about what value is, but we know that value is important. And what is the reaction that a lot of people probably get when we're talking about these things? It's like the Charlie Brown teacher, when you hear the wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah. Ultimately, as we talk about some of these different pieces of value stream management, all of which are legitimate and all of which are important, we need to realize that though it matters to us, who are attending a value stream management conference, the people we talked to may want nothing to do with it, or more likely just are apathetic to it. 

 And we have to do better in positioning value, stream management in a way that will resonate with the stakeholders that we need to convince that value stream management is not just another buzzword. It's something that can legitimately help our organization. We have to do better. Value stream management deserves it. Our organizations deserve it because it can help them. But if we don't sell it effectively, it's going to die on the vine. So how do we do it? How do we start to position value stream management more effectively? Really It's the same way that we sell anything. The first step is we have to figure out who we're talking to. We have to identify our audience. Are we talking to person A? He's got his own life experiences. He's got, his likes, his dislikes, his passions, his fears, but then again, so does person B person B is going to require a different type of communication because her experiences are different than person a and something. 

That person A and person B find very interesting, person C might be bored out of his skull. So we have to think about who we're talking to before we think about how we're talking to them. So who are some of the people we might talk to about value stream management? Well, you might need to talk to your boss about this, and convince them. It's a good idea. You might have to talk to your boss's boss. If you're trying to champion it throughout a wider part of the organization, you might have to talk to your development team. These can be your peers. If you're in development, or these can be other stakeholders, if you're not. Even if you are in development, you might have to talk to other teams in the pipeline. You might have to talk to quality. The security team. You might have to talk to operations, to be able to get everyone end to end on board. 

You might have to talk to your customers about why the processes of working with you are changing and how this really is in fact for them. You might have to talk to your partners. As you change some of the ways that you work with your external partners in your internal systems, you might want to talk to your spouse or your friend or somebody that's asking you, “what is it that you do every day?” Well, this what we're doing, this is something I'm passionate about. And as you're talking to them about value stream management, you don't want to see the glazed look in their eyes and you might have to talk to somebody within your organization who signs the checks or somebody who's an executive sponsor or somebody that you need to champion this in order to have it latch on in your culture. 

Once you've identified who you're talking to, you have to understand what's the language they're speaking, and I'm not talking necessarily about a language like Spanish or English or Mandarin, but just what are the, what is the jargon that they use or what is the jargon that they don't use? What is it that they understand and care about? Because if you come in and you talk in a way that makes perfect sense to you and I am very guilty of this, I did this a lot when I was a middle school teacher. But if you talk in a way that assumes they know what you're talking about, then you're going to get a lot of blank stares. You're going to get a lot of confusion. And a lot of times when somebody doesn't understand, they're not going to point it out and ask you to explain further, they're just going to tune out. 

So we have to make sure that we're speaking the language of the people we're talking to. So, as an example, do they understand, or do they care about software? Do they think that a sprint is just what you Usain Bolt does to earn gold medals, or do they know that it's a part of your scrum? Do they know what a user story is? Do they know why it's important to address vulnerabilities or do they even care about that? Or do they just want to know that the customer's problem is fixed or the latest feature is developed? If they don't understand or care about software, then even though we have a legitimate value stream to show them it's not going to resonate. So what migh? Well, who likes pizza? I personally love pizza. And so when Chris Condo, who is actually presenting at this conference, was talking about a value stream in the context of Domino's pizza tracker, that resonated with me. 

And it was very helpful to even think through how value streams could be applicable in something like pizza delivery. And so I used some of my experience as a former delivery driver, and I built out a pizza delivery value stream. And you see it here. So somebody who may not understand software may understand what it looks like to optimize pizza delivery. You know, how you can make that process more efficient. They've held pizza boxes before they've called a pizza department. Excuse me, a pizza shop and placed an order. They've had the person deliver the pizza to them. So they know some of these things. And this may resonate. If you're trying to explain as an example, what a value stream is, then finally you need to make it relevant. Quite honestly, it doesn't matter what matters to you. It matters what matters to them. 

 So you have to think about what is it that will drive them to want to change their mindset and adopt something like value stream management? We have to position VSM based on what it is they care about. What is it that frustrates them? What is it that they would complain about that makes their days just a little bit more annoying? What excites them? What makes them want to come to work? What makes them want to engage in conversation with you? What gives them that glint in their eye, as they're talking to you? What is it that makes them angry? What does that cause in the world or even within their organization, that, that, that makes them angry enough to want to take action? What are they afraid of? What are those things that they hesitate to latch onto because of some type of internal fear. And if we think about positioning value, stream management, based on some of these emotional areas, then we're going to be much more successful in positioning value, stream management in a way that resonates to people. 

So practically, how does this work? One of the best real-world examples I know of is The Phoenix Project, which if you haven't read it, it's a great book that does an excellent job putting you in the shoes of Bill, who works for parts unlimited. And he sees firsthand how dev ops is able to help him succeed in IT Operations. I didn't really understand dev ops too well until I read this book. And it was huge because not only did I get the concepts, but it wasn't dry. It was a novel, it was something where I could put myself in his shoes. But we don't all have time to write a book. And even if we did, the people who we’re trying to convince, probably wouldn't read it. So how do we do that a little bit more quickly and effectively? Well, a practical example is car seats. 

If we were to start with what it is like, we typically do it value stream management. We may talk about the cushions. We may talk about the cup holders. We may talk about the double strap seat belts, but nobody buys a car seat because of the features it has. Then we may go a step further and talk about why it matters in a general sense. Well, first of all, car seats are legally required depending on the child's age. You want to make sure that you have a car seat so that your children will be safe. You want to make sure that you do so, so that you can make it from point A to point B without any incidents or harm. But then we need to take things a step further and talk about why it matters to them, why it's so critical for them to adopt a car seat. 

So we have to think about our audience. We're talking to parents of young children here, so they don't care what the chair is made out of. They want this focused on their children and their child's wellbeing. And the reason that a car seat is relevant to them is because they're afraid of accidents. Didn't we just address that when we talked about safety? Not really because safety is one thing, but the reason that they're so concerned about their child's safety is because they don't want their child to be injured. They have a pit in their stomach when they drive to the grocery store, thinking about how difficult their child's life will be if they're injured or if heaven forbid they're killed, this is something that is weighing heavily on parents. And so if, if a car seat is able to relieve some of that anxiety and some of that worry, which car seats are incredibly important and they matter, this is the story that you have to tell in order to get somebody to adopt this. 

And it's the same way and value stream management. How do we communicate this in a way that matters to the person we're talking to? Well, let's use Chuck, the developer as an example. So Chuck is somebody that's been with the organization for seven years and he definitely speaks technically. We can talk to him about software, but he's also very laid back. He's someone that we can get real with. And the relevance of value stream management is Chuck is very frustrated over all the activities he has to do that have nothing to do with coding. But if we stop there, we miss the real issue. What is it that Chuck is really frustrated about? Is it that he has to log into three different systems? Yes and no. It's the fact that having to log into three different systems and having to create reports and having to do all of these different things outside of coding has caused him to miss three family dinners this week. 

Something that's very important to Chuck and his family, and he wants to make sure he's there to see his two little girls grow up. He wants to hear about what their school day looked like. He wants to be able to talk to his wife. He wants to be able to see his family grow up. And he can't do that if he keeps working late nights, trying to catch up to deadlines. So as we're talking to Chuck, we want to make sure that we're telling him that value stream management is something that can relieve some of his stress so that he's able to see his family grow up. And so that he's able to, he's able to take away and automate some of those non-coding activities and get home on time to see his little girls at the end of their school day. 

Ariana the CTO, however, we want to talk to her completely differently. Her language is business oriented. She doesn't really care about, you know, the nuts and bolts of the development. She just wants to know that what she's envisioning for the product is coming into fruition when she expects it to, and she's really driven to achieve 20% revenue growth. But why is that? Well, her team's bonuses are tied to revenue growth. And as we learned during the all company meeting, she wants her team to give bonuses by Christmas, so that they can purchase their presence, using the bonuses and not have to stress about money. And so this is how we need to position value stream management. You know, the churn rates are very poor. So, you know, if we get better at responding to incidents in time, then we're going to be able to improve our customer churn, which helps us lead towards 20% revenue growth and gets your people paid out. 

This is something that as we communicate to Ariana versus Chuck, we're coming at it from two different angles, but we're still explaining it within the context of what value stream management can do. So in conclusion, if you actually want to see your organization implement VSM, you can't just tell people about it or generically, tell them why it matters. You have to make it interesting to them. You have to make it understandable to them, and you have to make it relevant to their day to day. Thanks again for joining my session, happy selling, no matter what it is that you're going to be selling today, tomorrow, or the next day, and best of luck with everything you're doing. And here are some of the photo credits from the pictures that have been used throughout this presentation. And I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.

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