Strategic Conversations

Our colleague Bruce Strong (with Mary Lee Kennedy) recently published an article on the effort to transform the New York Public Library for the digital age. How Employees Shaped Strategy at the New York Public Library (Harvard Business Review, December 5 2016) described an initiative that engaged over 250 staff – nearly 10% of its organization – in a collaborative process to improve library services.

Their approach focused on the the creation of three 'communities' for the key library functions of circulation, collections, and reference materials. Each community was comprised of a core team to identify process improvements, staff to pilot the innovations, and a larger group of contributors to give input and encouragement. The teams were provided a shared workspace at the main branch, a social media platform for collaboration, and most importantly time in a demanding work week to participate. The staff worked for more than six months, and identified critical improvements in how books are reserved, how collections are defined, and a renewed emphasis on in-branch use.

Software development projects at Quoin often require working in the context of large and complex enterprises where engaging stakeholders is a critical activity. Moreover, the approach described in the article is remarkably similar to some of the fundamental concepts in agile and lean development.

  • Engage domain experts throughout the organization
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Emphasize judgment by individuals who are responsible for delivering
  • Provide tools for communication and coordination
  • Work iteratively and deliver incrementally
  • Build in quality through validation and testing

From our perspective, this illustrates the flexibility and wide applicability of agile and lean practices. Software development is fundamentally similar to other endeavors that depend on people working together effectively.