“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”

I heard this saying (a Chinese proverb) a couple of times in the last days. Today again in Buitenhof, a tv talkshow. And I think I read it in “Steal like an artist” from Austin Kleon (highly recommended by the way). As it is December and almost everybody is thinking about new years resolutions, the saying resonates.

🤮 One part of me mentally throws up a bit every time somebody talks about new years resolutions. The reason is that you can start with something new every day. Every day can be a new beginning, a new year, so start now.

⏰ On the other hand, it helps to have some kind of marking moment to try to get the right start. It helps to give a basis, a “special” moment in time to give the starting moment a bit more emphasis. And it helps if others do the same, so you can keep each other accountable.

🎬 The proverb also helps to realise, that yes, a needed change could and maybe should have been done earlier (days, months or even years), but there’s no changing the past.

What you can do is to start NOW.

Antifragile instead of Agile

I think Antifragile is a better term than Agile.

Agile for me is a term related to flexible, able to go with the flow, and “bend” to change and able to move quickly. But do you really want to bend to change? Do you really want to move quickly all the time?

Antifragile is a term introduced to me by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book with the same name: Antifragile, things that gain from disorder.

The definition is: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better”

For me antifragile includes agile, but you need more than just agile. The idea is that you get better with every change or set back you have, you come out stronger. That’s what you want as a company.

Stop hiring Agile Coaches

You don’t need them on a permanent basis.

First, I’m all for the values and principles in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. And I believe these same values and most of the principles apply beyond the realm of software development.

Second, I’m all for collaboration within and between teams. If the Scrum Framework is a set of instrumental rules that helps use them. As a means, not as an end in itself though.

Third, I’m all for outside help with these values/principles and collaboration rules if needed. 

But

If a team/department or even an entire organisation needs permanent help with this, there’s something wrong within your team/department/organisation that has nothing to do with Agile/Scrum. There might be something wrong with any or all of these things (and the list is not exhaustive):

  • Leadership, especially with leading by example
  • Basic work ethics, such as showing up for meetings on time
  • Meaningful work as a team (ticking of to do’s, instead of solving problems)
  • The right person for the right job at the right time
  • Team dynamics on a more personal level

In any of the above things, leadership needs to step in!

Of course Agile coaches can help to teach and coach on the Agile values and principles and with the chose Agile collaboration framework of choice (except SAFe or LeSS, they are just evil). But it is a temporary thing, not a permanent thing. Here are some examples and a timeframe.

New Team > 3 months max

If you have a bright new team, with people that have never worked together an Agile Coach can help to set up the right rhythm of feedback loops and meetings, helping to crate a safe working environment and the “rituals” the team needs. So no by the book Scrum implementation please. If in 3 months the team hasn’t found their rhythm, something else is wrong. By the way, this is not full time work for 1 Agile Coach, so if you don’t have an Agile Coach that coaches several teams (5-10) hire a freelancer.

Existing team with “challenges” > 1-2 months max

If an existing team faces challenges, an outside coach can help to sort things out. Emphasis on outside coach, a person not in the team and preferably not in the organisation that reflects with the team on what’s going on and helps them out. When deeper shit surfaces and/or the problem cannot be solved in 1-2 months, there something else going on an normal management needs to step in.

Large organisation with 10 teams or more

Preferably, have a network of a couple of freelance Agile coaches that can help out. If that’s not possible, hire 1 or 2 Agile Coaches on a permanent basis to help out teams when they need them. These Agile coaches need to be fully independent and self-starters, their only job is to help solve a problem and then leave the team again. Or if new teams are formed, get them started and then leave.

Leadership that isn’t Agile > 3 months max

Now you definitely need an outsider. Never, ever use an inside Agile Coach to teach you the simple values and principles. Leadership needs to live it, action it and not just know it. If you as leadership cannot do that, look in the mirror! And for a max of 3 months you need that mirror to come from outside your organisation.

By the way: Same applies for Scrum Masters…

When frameworks and manifestos start dying

Manifestos and frameworks (Agile, Scrum, PrinceII, ITIL, <insert example here>) start dying the moment they become “ends”, goals in themselves.

Usually they start as a means to an end, or a set of values and principles. Of course, it could be that people don’t immediately understand them and some learning and coaching is needed. That’s a means to spread the idea/framework/manifesto.

All still fine.

But then some people think they are better in it than others and start selling trainings and certifications. At that moment the framework changes from a “means to and end” to “the end”.

At this point we could still resuscitate the framework.

That moment passes the moment frameworks of frameworks emerge, for example scaling frameworks such as SAFe, ITIL4 , LESS etc.

You know something is really dead when the manifesto or framework becomes religious. That happens when the first person declares him/herself as …-ist, for example “Agilist”.

Could be a nice article, the 3 stages of a dying framework…

Hurry when you have time, so you have time when you need to hurry

🪖 The first time I heard this was during my 2-weeks basic training in the National Reserves. And it hit home. Not because it is super profound or anything, just because of the simplicity of it and its practical use in every aspect of your life.

🫡 During basic training we usually got orders like:

“You have to clean your gun, have lunch, chance clothes, clean your desk and everything is done in 50 minutes time. A good soldier can do this in 40 min, so you have 10 minutes to relax.”

That usually meant this as a reaction, “I’m a good soldier! I can relax now for 10 minutes and be finished on time”

🚨 WRONG (most of the times). Something always happens!

  • Your gun is dirtier than expected
  • Lunch comes 10 minutes late
  • You cannot find the second clean sock
  • There’s a stain that just won’t go away

🧘 The ones that started working on their chores immediately, usually got 5 min to relax after everything was done. Because they had time when they needed to hurry

😰 The ones that started relaxing, usually were late, had more stress at the end, making mistakes, or didn’t finish a chore, meaning more work! And more work in the Army isn’t always fun…

The Ethics of Post Payment

There’s a different between “Can we offer post payment?” from a feasibility/value standpoint and “Should we offer post payment?” from an ethical standpoint. This blog scratches the surface on both.

💸 Profit
Post Payment, including buying with a credit card, is profitable for businesses. And it is profitable for businesses that offer post payment as a service to other businesses (Klarna, Riverty etc.). It is profitable because of:
– Higher conversion rates (people buy more often)
– Bigger basket sizes (people buy more per time)
– Reminder fees
– Interest rates
And probably some other things as well

🚨Risk
The risk appetite deals with the question: “ Can we offer post payment?”. It’s all about the risk appetite. Usually, not every customer is offered post payment. The business does one or several risk assessments. Most common are the credit risk (do we think the person has the money, but also is the person already in debt collection) and fraud risk (what’s the chance and impact for this order or customer of deliberately not paying or worse). Combining the risk assessments with a risk appetite gives you a means to determine how much post payment is offered to who.

👍👎 Ethics
The ethical part deals with the question: “Should we offer post payment?” Here are some ethical considerations:
– 🗓️ Post payment separates the date/time of buying from the date/time of paying. And by doing this, customers have and feel freedom. It can be considered as their fundamental right to choose when they order and when they pay. 
– 👮‍♀️ Post Payment is legal. It is up to the market on how this exactly works, how post payment is offered to whom and how much it costs. More and more countries have legislation and rules for post payment and the processes behind it (e.g. only give 1 reminder fee for all outstanding orders instead of a reminder fee per order), limiting what’s legal or not.
– 🐛 Post payment opens up a whole can of worms concerning fraud, the simplest one is just deliberately ordering something and not paying. Therefore there is more fraud in the world with post payment than without.
– 🌍 Post payment enables us to consume more than we need. This has great impact on the environment and how we treat our planetary resources
– 🎄 Post Payment offers a way for poor people to buy something for their kids for Christmas or Sinterklaas. But they also know they cannot afford it, deliberately putting them in debt (even further).
– 💉 Shopping can be an addiction and post payment offers a more easy way to not feel the “pain” immediately 
– ❓ What other ethical considerations do you see?

🤔 My opinion
I’m concerned that organisations know these ethical considerations, but that with every chance or adjustment in the system, technology or just the risk appetite, they aren’t actively answering the question if they should. The ethical discussion should always be part of any change or experiment with post payment and the organisation should make a conscious decision not just on the business case but also on what other impact it might have on their customers.

The simple truth about scaling fraud management

Fraud detection doesn’t scale, fraud prevention does. It’s not complex, so let’s make it simple.

Risk

Risk in general and fraud risk as well, consists of 2 parts and is usually represented with a simple formula:

Risk = Chance x Impact

Fraud detection is all about reducing the impact of fraud. That means fraud already happened. You detect fraud, preferably as early as possible, so the financial 💸 and/or reputational damage is minimised.

Fraud prevention is all about reducing the chance of fraud. Fraud didn’t actually happen yet, but you are doing everything you can to prevent fraud. You want to know who or what you are dealing with before a final transaction happens (#kyc etc.)

Scaling Fraud management

Let’s say you want to grow as a business (that’s a choice by the way) and let’s say you want to double your revenue by doubling the amount or orders. If you keep your fraud management at the same level (both prevention and detection) the amount of fraud will also double. That means your fraud operations (detection) needs to double as well, including customer support, dealing with the police 👮‍♀️ etc, and so on. Furthermore, if you make your detection even better by innovating, you will probably find even more fraud. That means, at least temporarily, the damages grow 📈 even more percentage wise. So, although you can do fraud detection smarter, scaling is hard.

Fraud prevention does scale. When you put more innovation effort on how to prevent fraud from happening, you make sure the chance of fraud is lower. And as a consequence, the need for fraud detection lowers as well in the long run. The more you prevent, the less you need to detect. 

⚖️ We all know this is a 🐈 and 🐁 game, so you cannot only do one thing. Both prevention and detection need to be on par, especially because detection can give learnings for your prevention efforts. But, if you want to scale fraud management, double down on prevention.

#innovation #management #fraud #fraudprevention #frauddetection #kyc

Assumptions are NOT the mother of all f#&K ups

Actually in almost all situations, assumptions are all we’ve got. We just need to create the right experiments to validate (or falsify) them…

I’ve been re-reading “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. The book contains very important ideas on how to grow your business using validated learning, innovation accounting, the value and growth hypotheses and the way startups should handle all these things to be successful. While re-reading it, I kept on wondering how some of these things might apply to normal day to day business in a non-startup situation.

For me the crucial part lies in the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. Even more so in the reserve order in which it is initiated. To quote Ries:

“Although we write the feedback loop as Build-Measure-Learn because the activities happen in that order, our planning really works in the reverse order. We figure out what we need to learn, use innovation accounting to figure out what we need to measure to know if we are gaining validated learning, and then we figure out what product we need to build to run that experiment and get that measurement.” Page 78

I see that in “mature” companies, teams are creating new products or features in an existing product, based on assumptions made by the business or the teams themselves (and sometimes on customer research). Those assumptions are not that explicit, nobody knows exactly how they are going to measure any outcome and/or prove that the feature actually adds value. Management is frustrated because they “don’t see the value”. Teams are frustrated because management doesn’t understand what they are doing, etc, and so on.

Assumptions are not the problem here. The problem is that we do not test them in a good ‘scientific’ way. We need to Build-Measure-Learn or even better, we need to make the reserve order of that feedback loop very explicit!

  1. Make the assumptions explicit. “I think feature X helps to solve problem Y.” 
  2. Add the (potential) value it will (hopefully) bring (added revenue, time saved, performance improved by x amount). “I think feature X helps to solve problem Y with amount Z.”

Let’s pause here. 

You are still in assumption mode. Of course you want to make sure it is a good assumptions and you can spend a lot of time doing the math, but that feature x will bring value y is an assumption, or put in scientific terms, a hypothesis.

  1. Make the way to measure the outcome explicit “ I think feature X helps to solve problem Y with amount Z and we measure this with Q” (Q can be new or something already in place)
  2. Build the feature to test your assumptions. Nothing more! Just build that which is needed to validate your hypothesis
  3. Measure the outcome
  4. Share the outcome and make a decision if needed (rolling out to all users instead of a subset, make it a bit more pretty if it adds value, etc.)
  5. Learn what to do next (improve further, pivot, something new)

A feature is only done if the full B-M-L loop is fulfilled. For people using product backlog’s with items on them, that means 1-6 should be part of your product backlog item. 7 is the start of a new pbi.

And

“The truth is that none of these activities by itself is of paramount importance. Instead we need to focus our energies in minimising the total time through this feedback loop.” Page 76

For instance: don’t go into analysis paralysis on item 2. Don’t make 4 too fancy at first. Be data driven in 5 and 6 don’t over analyse again. And improve every step along the way to learn better and faster.