What Your Organization Can Learn from Strawberry Shortcake

My 3 year old loves Strawberry Shortcake.  Thanks to new fangled computer graphics, Strawberry is back and better than every!  This particular episode was an eye-opener of process evolution and learnings that had an eerie parallel to how organizations move through change models and transform to Agile.

One of the characters in Berry Land (Orange) discovered a new game called Dandy-Ball. They had a ball stuffed with Dandelion seeds that they started hitting around.  Everybody loved it.

They realized they needed some rules so they created nets to keep score and made up rules as they went along.  This new game was incredibly popular so much of the work the characters used to do weren’t getting done anymore.   One of the characters, Blueberry asked Strawberry to help her clear out part of the field to make space for her dance recital.  Strawberry is like “the manager” in Berry Land, she asked Blueberry why she couldn’t use the space she normally uses.  “Because Dandy-Ball is being played there now“, was Blueberry’s reply.

Strawberry decided that they needed some planning to schedule all the games and work in Berry Land.   Strawberry asked for volunteers and Orange offered to help but the other characters piped in and suggested Lemon do it because she was great at schedules.

Lemon created a schedule and they tried it out.  After the first 1 hour scheduled session was over, the group was staring at the alarm clock waiting for time to expire.  Strawberry asked them why and they said “Because the schedule says we have to wait until times up before we can start our game

Strawberry so she went to see Lemon who was completely buried in paperwork and scrambling to get the schedule under control.  Strawberry said that having all the activities running for 1 hour didn’t work because some take longer than an hour and some don’t need a full hour.

Again Orange offered to help but the group decided to give Blueberry a shot at it since she was great at schedules.

Blueberry went off and created a really complex schedule and even did a presentation to the group.  She figured out a way to fill up 100% of the time to get all the activities done.  The group was confused by the schedule but decided to go ahead and try it.

The next day CHAOS ensued!  Nobody knew what activity needed to get done and all the characters were doing whatever activity they though needed to get done since they couldn’t understand the schedule.

The group went to Strawberry, the manager, to get her to create the schedule.  Strawberry suggests that Orange give it a try since she volunteered before but the group disagrees.   Orange was nervous and didn’t think she could do it either so Strawberry asked Orange to describe the work she does (Orange runs Berry Land’s general store).   Orange explained what she does to run the store and they all realize that she’d be great at creating a schedule for Berry Land’s activities.

Orange unveiled her plan and said that they can start with one activity and when it’s finished, move on to the next one.  She said she broke the work into small chunks, figured out on average how long the activities took to finish and then planned a season for Dandy-Ball.

The group loves the idea and Strawberry said “The only way to figure out what you can do well is to try it!”

We Need Process and Rules

The characters found something that provided Berry Land more value.  They put rules and process in place, blindly followed that process and then tried to fill up capacity to 100% to get everything done.  Eventually they ended up in complete chaos and nothing was getting done.

Does this sound familiar?  We need more process and control to get all the work done instead of focusing on what has the most value.

Strawberry is a Helluva Manager

Strawberry recognized early that Orange was motivated to figure out how to make it work but I supposed being a kid show if she just decided to let Orange do it in the first place the episode would have been over in 5 minutes.

Orange wasn’t sure she could do it and Strawberry encouraged and motivated her to help Orange understand she did have the skills and knowledge to be successful.   Throughout the episode, Strawberry sees the big picture, listens to the other characters, identifies what isn’t working and promotes change while leveraging the skills of her ‘workers’

She also recognizes the best way to learn is to try stuff out and see what happens.

Berry Land is Lean!

Orange discovers limiting work in progress gets stuff done.  She analyzes cycle time and figures out a ‘release plan’ that’s based on data and flow control.  She also breaks work into smaller pieces and recognizes Dandy-Ball is the most valuable so the activities in the release plan are planned in context of maximizing that value.

The Natural Evolution of Things

Berry Land went through a pretty substantial change model in this episode that is similar to what I see in organizations.  A more valuable project came along and instead of deciding to prioritize, they decided to try and figure out how to do all the regular work and pile more on top of it.

They focused on filling capacity instead of doing what is most valuable.

2 project managers (Lemon and Blueberry) “got fired” because their schedules didn’t work, Berry Land descended into chaos and they finally realized they couldn’t sustain the way they were operating.

In the end Strawberry had the leadership qualities that demonstrated how to solve problems Berry Land was facing and she displayed courage and patience with allowing the group to fail so they could realize how to fix their problems.  Strawberry demonstrated Agile’s values and principles and it helped Berry Land implement Lean.

Who’s the Strawberry in your organization?