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If you look hard enough, you can find an Agile conference to attend every month of the year. Whether you prefer international, national, regional, local, or even group meetups, there is a something for everyone these days. What I like most about conferences is the people! There are so many interesting people with their own fascinating stories that attend these events and, although the energy can be overwhelming at times, I find that conference experiences stay with me for a long time and I learn so much from them. My favorite conference has got to be Southern Fried Agile in Charlotte, North Carolina. But I must say I’m a little biased: I’ve been the chair for this event for the last few years. Even so, this is an excellent event for so many reasons, which I wanted to share here, along with some of my personal history with SFA.
About four years ago I decided to get involved in an Agile conference by volunteering for the first time at Southern Fried Agile. We had about 250 attendees from local companies in primarily Financial Services and Retail. All of the speakers were local, which gave the conference a very down-to-earth vibe. You could see friends from down the street as well as meet others you didn’t realize you were already connected too. It was almost like bringing LinkedIn to life.
I also volunteered at later Southern Fried Agile events, but I couldn’t settle for being a volunteer. I wanted to have more of a leadership role. So I connected with James Collins and Tom Wessel, the founders of Southern Fried Agile and shared my desire to really get more engaged. James and Tom had started SFA in 2010 and it had already grown roots well beyond that 75 attendees that attended that first year. Because I believe in the power of people and really wanted to get more involved, I knew I could help the event grow even more. Fast forward to today: we are planning SFA 2016 at the Charlotte Convention Center, the largest indoor venue in Charlotte, and are expecting over 700 attendees. We have speakers from within Charlotte and all over the country.
The thing I love about SFA is that, even as we continue to grow, we still maintain our small-town feel. People come to this event now to see friends they haven’t seen since the year before. The energy is extremely lively, people are laughing, talking, enjoying the day while learning and sharing with and from others. To keep the Southern hospitality and maintain our roots, every year Southern Fried Agile offers a fried chicken lunch that so many people have grown to love and expect. Other lunch options are available but there is something about southern fried chicken.
Southern charm, maintaining ties & fried chicken is what #SouthernFriedAgile is all about
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Whether or not fried chicken is your thing, Agilists should be excited that our opening keynote for the event is the incomparable Esther Derby. Here’s a taste of her charm and wit to tide you over until October 28!
Even though Esther is keeping her keynote topic a secret, you can be sure it’ll be worth the wait. We’re also excited to be taking our Agile Amped podcast to Charlotte to capture all the happenings and share them with our followers. (Subscribe here.)
Southern Fried Agile isn’t just a conference; it is truly a place where people come to connect and re-energize themselves as people that enjoy the art of Agile. If you’re on the fence about joining us, I say, “What have you got to lose?”
Did I mention you get fried chicken out of it as well?
Interested in attending Southern Fried Agile this year in Charlotte, NC? It’s as easy as clicking on the link below.Register Now
I’m registered for #SouthernFriedAgile2016 – are you?
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The post All the Charm and Chicken of Southern Fried Agile in One Place appeared first on SolutionsIQ.
“Real Agility to me means being aware of and accepting of the present, in order to respond and chart new courses for the future,” David Sabine
My name is David Sabine. I’m a Real Agility Coach and have been thinking about what Real Agility means to me.
My introduction to Real Agility began in 2007 when the CTO of the college I was working at in Fort McMurray, Alberta brought in Mishkin Berteig as a third party consultant. Back then, I was a software developer and what I experienced then is still true today. The value of bringing in a third party to solve business challenges is immeasurable.
Time and time again, as I have been involved with companies, either in a training or a consulting capacity, I have found that a third party presence provides or creates a break-through. The purpose is not that I go to a company as a consultant and I bring my new ideas, as though I am the only one with new ideas. What happens instead is that I visit a company and my presence, as a coach, opens the door for the internal staff to explore their own new thoughts, or concepts or possible solutions. So the ideas that are already in the company are just allowed to blossom a little bit in the presence of a third party,because this third party allows or creates a sense of permission, a sense of autonomy for those staff. They’ve been invited to explore concepts and they’ve been invited to think through their business problems from a different perspective and I am there just to reflect what they already have or what they already know.
That occurred when Mishkin Berteig visited the college in 2007, and that occurs every time I go and visit a company for training or consulting.
To really understand what Real Agility means to me, I’d like to tell you about how I came to software development in the first place beginning back in 1993 when I was starting university and was a freelance musician.
I had two passions at the time: the pursuit of music and the logic of programming. My computer tended to pay the bills, more so than being a freelance musician, so as a career path I guess I was drawn to software development and started to build my own products early on in 1996-1997. I was writing software for small business clients with the aim to eventually build a product on my own and release it for sale worldwide.
In 2000, I started to develop a product with a friend of mine. In 2001 we released it to other developers in the world. Our first sale of that product was in Belgium and for the next few years it sold worldwide. We had about 2000 websites that were using our product and it was translated into seven different languages by the community of users. It provided my friend and I with a reasonable income and a great opportunity. It was fun!
In 2006, I realized that my own growth as a computer scientist required working with others beyond this friend, to work in a team, in fact. I moved to Northern Alberta and worked in IT department for a college. As I mentioned, in 2007, the CTO, brought in Mishkin Berteig to provide us with a 3-day training course on Scrum. Quite immediately I loved it because I could see how it would provide us with a lot of opportunity to solve problems we were facing in an IT department and, secondly, it just seemed like a more human way to work. I was reflecting on all of these periods I had had as a musician, working with other musicians, and it just seemed like a better way to approach the creative endeavor than other project management methods that were in play at the time.
Since that time, I’ve been practicing them in a variety of settings and I’m more convinced now than ever that the Agile Manifesto provides us with a great solution space as we respond to business challenges. Recently I’ve decided not to be a developer or product owner but have decided to join Berteig full time and train and coach other teams.
So that’s the story of my personal evolution. My personal journey.
Looking back on that training I can see how I felt immediately that Real Agility was an alternative way of doing things.
I studied music since I was a child and music has always been a huge part of my life,and as a musician, one becomes aware of or familiar with continuous improvement. This is the same concept found in Real Agility. But with music it’s incremental, tiny, tiny increments of improvement over time. We respond to an audience. We respond in real time to our fellow musicians. We are always taking in input and that informs our performance of the music. As musicians, we spend a lot of personal time developing our craft. We spend significant time in performance so we can receive the audience feedback.
What I mean to say is that musicians are excellent examples of high performance teams and are excellent examples of creative excellence, who understand tactical excellence and what it means to get there.
When I joined Software development in a large, bureaucratic institution – the college – it was anything but natural for me. At that time, I was more than just a software developer. I was systems analyst, database admin and a variety of positions or roles. It just felt like an industrialized, mechanical environment where people were expected to behave as interchangeable units of skill. Work was expected to get done in the prescribed procedure. And decisions were expected only to be made by the smartest or the highest paid few and if you weren’t of that ilk, you were not expected to behave autonomously. You were expected to be just part of the machine and it felt very inhuman, as most people feel as a part of a large hierarchical bureaucracy.
When Mishkin facilitated the Certified Scrum Master training course in 2007, it just blew all those doors open. It reminded me that we can approach our work the way I had naturally approached it, as a creative individual who is capable of learning and wants to receive immediate feedback from audience or user, and who can make autonomous decisions about how to apply that feedback into the continuous development of software and systems and large infrastructure.
These business challenges are pretty common. They are delayed projects or projects that that blow the budget, or where a group of people are assigned to the project and they can’t possibly complete the scope of work in the time given. Or staff are demoralized, and how that expands through enterprises. There are many examples. The college where I was working suffered all of the most common issues and the one that hurt me the most or I felt the most was attrition. Dis-engaged staff. The reason for it was simple. The college had not presented with them a purpose or opportunity to be masterful. The extrinsic motivators, salaries and such, were just enough to keep people for a little while and then they would leave. And so the college at the time was experiencing attrition of 35-40% per year and that’s what I meant by inhuman.
“These Real Agility methods presented a change. In fact, people become centric to the purpose!”
When I read the Agile Manifesto I think that it provides us with solutions, and so if our current business problem or business circumstance is that we have disengaged staff who aren’t very productive and aren’t getting along well, then the Agile Manifesto reminds us that perhaps business people and developers can work daily throughout the project together. They can have continual interaction, and then individuals and their interactions become more valuable than the process and the organizational tools that have been put in their way. It reminds us that people should be allowed to work at a sustainable pace. We should build projects around motivated individuals. And that poses questions about how to do those things. What does it mean to be motivated, and how do we build projects around motivated people?
So Agile Manifesto presents us with some challenges, as a mental process, and then when we work through that we understand how it can inform good decisions about how to solve business problems.
“Real Agility to me means being aware of and accepting of the present, in order to respond and chart new courses for the future.”
In other words, Agility means being nimble, the ability to adapt to current circumstance, but more than that, Real Agility means that we should approach our work with the intention that we stay light-weight so that when our circumstances change we can adapt without a lot of inertial resistance. So there’s two components there. One is being able to adapt quickly, and being aware of present circumstance but the other is that we don’t want to take on weight and institutional mass, because that’s inertia, the status quo.Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!
Our new Help Desk beta is now available.
Yes, available – not planned, expected, or hoped for. We know that some of you have been waiting a very, very long time for this. We’ve promised it many times, started it several times, but so far have failed to deliver. This time, we have something real for you.
If you are half as excited as we are and can’t wait another 3-5 minutes to know all the details, you can scroll down to FAQ section (though, we encourage you to read on).Rebranding
The possibilities we are planning to provide go way beyond software support. It is already more than just a Help Desk, and future improvements will make the old name too confusing, potentially hiding the possible benefits from you. We decided to use a different name for it: Service Desk, which is a more general term. Don’t worry; if you refer to it as the new Help Desk or Help Desk v.3, we’ll still know what you’re talking about.Functionality that is ready:
The first thing we had to do is match the functionality of our previous version of Help Desk, so that you don’t have to worry about making a decision on whether you want to sacrifice certain features in order get the newer version. Just like Help Desk, the Service Desk allows you to:
- submit public and private Issues, Ideas or Questions
- search and vote for them
- track the status of requests and related items
- add comments
- upload attachments
These features are foundation that we built off of. Service Desk is still in progress, but we’ve made some nice improvements that we can proudly share with you:A better UI
The original Help Desk portal was released in 2008. It was a decent software back then, and almost 20% of the company development force was allocated to it (at the time, this was a total of 1 person). Over time, the software began to become outdated. We did a face-lift on the program about a year ago, which helped a little – but in order to move forward, we knew we had to throw everything away and start from scratch.
It might sound basic, but our old Help Desk did not allow you to apply a filter to see requests from a particular project. Now, you can.
As you know, the name of a request does not always give you a clue as to what it is about. Instead of wasting time opening such requests, you can now see part of the description directly on the request’s card. You can even preview images! We hope this will help you to save time while looking for a specific request or trying to get an overview of what’s in the system.Last official reply
Similar to the previous change, we now also show the last comment submitted by someone in Targetprocess directly on the card. We may improve this further, perhaps by adding the ability to “pin” important replies (such as an official effort estimation for an Idea), but that would depend on your feedback.Hierarchical Comment Trees
Just like in Targetprocess (well, and many other applications too, to be honest), you can have a structured discussion by replying to a particular comment.
A lot of folks were confused when they tried to access the Help Desk, but their password from Targetprocess did not work. This happened because Targetprocess users and Help Desk requesters were different users, and you needed to sign up outside of Targetprocess to access the Help Desk. Now, you can login to the Service Desk with your Targetprocess email and password. In future, you won’t even have to worry about it, if you’re already logged in to Targetprocess on your computer.
Please note that Targetprocess users and Service Desk users are still separate in the beta release, but we are planning to merge them and transfer all requests to the main Targetprocess user. If that could potentially be a bad thing for you, now is the right time to let us know.Custom fields
This is a big one. You can significantly increase the number of possible use cases and scenarios with the help of custom fields. However, we know that you might not want to always display all fields, since they may contain sensitive internal information. That is why the fields are white-listed you define which fields should be available for users to fill out, and which fields should remain hidden.
Some minor things
We’ve made several more small improvements to the system. Issues will now be submitted as private entities by default, and the ordering of comments has changed to allow you to place either the oldest or most recent comments at the top.What’s next?
Certainly, we are not planning to stop with what we already have. Apart from polishing things here and there, we plan to make the software more customizable in order to give it the potential to support even more scenarios and business cases. We will allow you to add your own custom request types, not just Issues, Questions, and Ideas. Each of them can have their own personalized “add-request” form with a separate set of fields and predefined data. After all, a request to your IT department to replace a broken mouse is very different from a high level Marketing Project Request. Combine this new functionality with the flexibility and power of Targetprocess, and you’ll have a solution capable of tackling a dynamic array of challenges. It will also be possible to customize the look and feel of the Service Desk with your own logo and custom theme uploaded.
By the way, we already tried it at the 2016 Gartner PPM & IT Governance Summit in London this June, and it proved to be a valuable addition to our Project Portfolio Management solution when used as an entry point for Project Requests.
Q: Wow, I want to try that out ASAP! How can I get one?
A: You can activate it from General Settings in Targetprocess, right under the old Help Desk configuration. You need administrator permissions to do so.
Important: In this beta the configuration area you see above is a sort of prototype. It works fine for initial setup, but it does not "remember" the settings you entered before. You can still use it to update the mode or list of custom fields, but you would have to enter all the settings from scratch. You can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll take care of that. Don’t worry, this is just a temporary obstacle; we’ll be adding a real Settings page soon.
Q: I have an onsite (on premise) version of Targetprocess. Can I try it out now?
A: Not yet, sorry. We are running it on our hosted environment so that we can monitor and fix issues on the fly. Once we’ve had a chance to make sure everything runs smoothly, we’ll support local installations as well.
Q: Will I have to pay for Service Desk?
A: No, just like the previous version of Help Desk, Service Desk comes free with your Targetprocess account. You do not have to pay for deployment or requesters.
Q: Can I use it without Targetprocess?
A: No, Targetprocess is required for using Service Desk. Besides, we recommend support staff or whoever is processing the requests to work from Targetprocess, not Service Desk All administration, merging, and state-changing is done from Targetprocess. By the way, here is a nice article on how you can use Targetprocess for customer support: https://www.targetprocess.com/guide/helpdesk-portal/how-to-use-targetprocess-for-support/
Q: I have a question, issue or suggestion.
A: That’s great! We would be happy if you shared it with us. You can use the feedback button right in the app, and the message will go directly to our team. You can also go to our own instance of Service Desk at https://helpdesk.targetprocess.com, pick Service Desk Feedback as a product, and submit a ticket. Alternatively, you can always reach our support team via email@example.com.
A lot of people have been waiting a very long time for this. We're sorry it took so long, but we had to make sure it was done right. The old solution wasn't good enough, but now we have a solution that we think you'll really appreciate:
- It is fast
- It is detailed - you can see all entity states
- It is interactive - you can hide states and explore dynamics within the selected time period
- It can be included on a Dashboard
Check out the CFD user guide page to get all the details
From now on, it will be possible to split entities of several types in Targetprocess: Epics, Features, User Stories, Bugs, Tasks, and Requests.
For example: when your Team is doing Backlog grooming and decides that some work assigned to the current Feature should be moved to the next Iteration or Release, you can choose to split the Feature into two entities and plan the second one for another Release.
On the split form, you can see and edit entity properties such as State, Business Value, Epic, Release, and others.
For more details, please see the User Guide article on How to Split Entities.More Batch Actions
Finally, you can assign a user to multiple items!
Starting with v.3.10.0, you can apply a lot more changes to a set of cards. Move several items to another Project; change their Release, Sprint, or Team Sprint; update the drop-down Custom Fields; change their parent Feature or User Story; assign several entities at once to a user.
Have you ever had problems sorting through all the boards and views in the left menu? Us too. It can definitely get cluttered in there, especially when the menu is minimized and only showing the preset icons.
That's why we're adding support for emojis in Targetprocess. Don't underestimate their power. They can make classifying and quickly identifying your views a breeze. Just mark your views with the appropriate emoji icon, and watch the left menu fill up with cheerful (and quickly decipherable) symbols:
You can also mark your stories and other entities using emojis by adding them as tags:
Emojis can also be used to improve visual encoding by adding them as Graphic Tags. Graphic Tags can be added to the smallest card size in all views. Board icons and the Graphic Tags custom unit on cards can be added from View Setup.
In version 3.10.0, we've made List views look more like a table. Every column has a translucent separator. Dragging this separator adjusts column width.
Redesigned View settings
We’ve made the UI for views a little less cluttered by moving several controls to the Actions menu. If you need to switch to a different view mode, hide empty lanes, or change the zoom level for cards, just open the Actions menu and select the appropriate option.
- Bugzilla Integration Plugin: Map bug fields to Bugzilla custom fields
- Test Run Import plugin: FTPS resources supported
- Dropdown custom field name is listed as a value in a quick add
- Mylyn connector updated to work with Targetprocess versions above 3.9.0
- Fixed Screen Capture Extension: Login doesn't work correctly
Successful collaboration requires trust. It’s hard enough to establish that bond of trust when someone works in the same room as you. This challenge becomes exponentially more difficult when you have teams collaborating from multiple locations. Throw in a few different timezones, some cultural differences, and language barrier... and you have one hell of a challenge on your hands. Don’t despair though. Most people want to work well together. Sometimes, the distance just makes it difficult.
A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.
— Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) August 6, 2012
Here at Targetprocess, we have teams working all over the world. Most of the time, that’s a great thing. When teams collaborate, we are able to apply a global perspective to our work. However, the distance does create some obstacles. These obstacles help your teams to grow, but only if you tackle them appropriately. After 10 years of collaborating across oceans and timezones, we have some pretty good ideas on how to attack the problems that can be caused by working in different locations.Video > Chat
- It’s better to have a short video or phone call with a colleague than to go back and forth in your internal chat for 10 minutes (especially if there’s a disagreement about something).
- Communicating through video allows you see the subtle emotions and facial expressions which you might have otherwise missed. Text-based communication lacks the full context of face-to-face conversation.
- Careful though: don’t schedule meetings for things that could be accomplished with a simple email (or, better yet, a comment on a work item in Targetprocess)
- Make sure you have solid equipment for video chats, and that you pick the right tool for your situation. For example: Lifesize is much better than Skype for large group meetings. For smaller meetings, we use GoToMeeting.
- Some companies have experimented with putting up live televisions in all of their offices. This won't be practical for everyone, and could even be invasive for some, but it's nice having the option to see the rest of your teams. You could experiment with this during retrospectives, or even during co-scheduled company parties.
- It seems like a basic rule, but it’s one of the most consistent issues for distributed teams. Whenever you ask for feedback, set up a meeting, plan when you’ll be able to send over some requested work, etc., make sure you pay attention to what timezone your colleagues are in and how it could potentially affect their response or next action.
- If you’re a habitual procrastinator, be extra-mindful of this step. You’ll have less time to do things at the last minute if you wake up at the end of your colleague's work day.
- Trying to keep track of meetings and appointments without a digital aid will inevitably lead to disaster. Use an online calendar that can think about those kind of things for you. We use ScheduleOnce to help our C-level employees and Sales team set up and keep track of meetings. Customers and leads can automatically check their availability and request a meeting. All of our employees are on Google Calendar (ScheduleOnce integrates with Google Calendar), so we can all view each other’s internal availability with ease.
- Be polite about non-urgent communications outside of business hours. It seems like hardly anybody works regular hours these days, but it’s important to be mindful about what time it is when you contact colleagues.
- Have a clear and automatic system for indicating when/if you’re available outside of regular business hours. Slack handles this for us: when someone is active on Slack, the dot next to their name turns green. This dot can be deactivated if you’re online but not available, and you can even add a time-dependent “Zzz” to indicate times that you’d prefer to not be disturbed.
- A key element of collaboration is friendship. I know, this sounds lame, but it’s inescapably true. The ability to chat about the news at lunch, or to bounce ideas back and forth with your desk neighbor provides a huge amount of mental stimulation and gives you a wider perspective for your daily work. It’s impossible to completely replicate the closeness of an office environment, but you can get pretty close by discussing new movies, music, current events (it’s probably best to stay away from politics though), and even family life. For example: did you recently get a cute new puppy? Bring her in for your next cross-office video meeting! She can have a temporary position as your Chief Happiness Officer.
- Recognize and share any cultural differences you might have with team members. For myself: it's been quite interesting to see my colleagues' social media posts of cities, neighborhoods, and parks all over the world.
- Everyone can appreciate a funny meme or Youtube video. Encourage the practice of sharing these things across offices (but don’t let this practice turn into procrastination).
- Obviously, we use Targetprocess to manage our work. All of our teams and departments are in the system, so everything can be managed and viewed from a central place. All data is displayed in real-time, and integrations with email and Slack make communication a breeze.
- Transparency is important here. If many of your boards are private and only accessible to managers or the assigned teams, then a lot of the power of your management tool will remain untapped. Make sure that important information is accessible to everyone.
- If you’re collaborating with someone outside of your organization (such as stakeholders or customers), find a way to share real-time information from your management solution. At Targetprocess, we use the Share View mashup for this.
- Make sure everyone understands your organization’s “filing system” and knows where to put new things, where to find old things, and how to properly catalogue items. Ideally, your work management solution should satisfy this requirement, but it’s still wise to actively manage your company’s additional storage areas (e.g. Google Drive).
- Establish a consistent, central place to document meetings and important decisions. Make sure this a real-time source, so you don’t have to worry about managing multiple versions of information. Your work management solution should ideally be able to manage this activity as well.
- Try to stick to a common language, even if you’re having a private one-on-one chat. After all, you might have to copy text over to a public channel. If you’re talking on the phone in a different language than your local colleagues are used to, try to have the conversation in private to avoid distracting anyone.
- Beware of document deprecation! There’s few things more frustrating and wasteful than hunting for a specific document, doing work based on the information inside of it, only to discover that the document is obsolete and the current version is in a different folder that you didn’t even think to look through. Avoid creating multiple versions of documents. If you do have multiple versions, make sure you label them correctly and delete/archive any obsolete items.
- Understand what medium of internal communication is best for your current objective. Need an answer from a colleague for a yes or no question? Send them a message in your internal chat. Need a comprehensive report on the results of last week's company meeting? Send your request in an email. Need to kick off a new marketing campaign, or get detailed help on a work item? Create an entity in Targetprocess and tag your colleague so they receive a concise email notification.
- Establish automated communication for regular updates. For example: we have a bot in one of our Slack channels that lets us know when builds are being pushed to servers.
- This one is simple enough. If your sales teams in Europe and North America are having a remote meeting, bring in a developer from both locations. The intersection of different teams from different locations will help to facilitate better understanding between offices and departments. Two birds, one stone.
- If your marketing team is working on a new campaign, bring in someone from QA to give feedback. They might bring in a new perspective that you hadn’t even considered. Worst case scenario: they go back to the QA team with a better understanding of what marketing does all day, and they share this knowledge with their team.
- Many companies seem to have lost the original idea behind social media. It’s a great tool for publicizing your product and building your brand, but nobody wants to be on a platform that’s just filled with marketers and bots sending tracked links to each other (just look at the steady decline of Twitter). The purpose of social media is to connect. Connecting with your employees on social media will help you establish better connections with your customers.
- Encourage everyone to lose their fear of social media. Active and fearless posting from your teams will help to unite your company across offices, as well as display a great example of your company to your followers and customers.
- If you haven’t already, create a company Instagram. Don’t just recycle your Twitter posts into this platform; post pictures of your office, of your team eating lunch together, your company picnic, or even your employee pets. This might be one of the only opportunities your teams may have to explore the lives of their colleagues. An Instagram can be good for your brand, but it can also be great for your company’s sense of community.
- Your marketing team doesn’t have to handle all of your social media tasks. Encourage your teams to create Pinterest boards to share their hobbies and interests. It’s generally better for these things to be work-related, but it’s also good to step outside of the box from time to time.
- You may have to take the initiative to get these internal social campaigns started, but they can be a great morale booster if the idea takes hold. It will also help to drive engagement on company posts; your employees are one of the greatest assets you have for increasing this metric.
- Try to imagine what team members outside of the room are thinking and feeling. If remote colleagues aren’t participating as much in your meetings, they might be feeling left out... or perhaps it’s the end of the work day in their timezone, and they’ve already checked out. You have to think about these things with a critical mind at all times.
- Avoid consistently “short-sticking” anybody. For example: just because your Australian office is small doesn’t mean that they should be the ones to wake up at an obscene time to catch meetings.
- Working remotely is great, but it can get lonely. Even worse, it can be technically isolating. If you don’t have solid communication practices built up at your company, you run the risk of leaving your remote workers with an information gap that will impede them from performing their jobs.
- Before every meeting, make certain that everyone can hear and see everybody else. Work with the equipment you have to reduce the feelings of isolation that can come with attending a meeting remotely.
- This won’t always be a feasible option, but if you can afford the time and travel cost, meeting your colleagues face-to-face can have an incredible effect on how well you are able to collaborate when working remotely.
- Meeting someone in person adds a whole new layer of depth to a working relationship. You might discover shared interests and common pain points.
- When a new team member joins Targetprocess, we try to allocate some budget to allow everyone to get to know each other. In general, it’s good to exchange people between offices for 2-4 weeks every 1-2 years.
- Trips across the ocean can’t happen too often, but at the very least, we will organize some initial cross-office interaction between teams on the same continent.
- Have your teams put together regular presentations where they can discuss what they do for your organization.
- Have one team member per month write a personal bio about how they came to work for your organization, what their strong points/weak points, and a little bit about their personal life and hobbies. This could even be a jumping board into publishing employee bios on your organization’s blog to help humanize your company to customers.
- Send out an optional survey to "take your teams' temperature" and identify any common problems.
- Hold a focus group with team leaders from each office or department. Come up with some ways to simplify, improve, or even automate communication across offices and departments.
- Gauge the efficacy of your internal company chat. Decide if you need to archive some excess channels, or maybe add some new ones to reflect your current strategy.
- Try new things. Most changes will at least have a positive short-term effect on your teams, especially if the idea came from within. Don't be afraid to try out a new strategy.
In the end, there’s honestly no easy 12-step program to achieving better collaboration. Everything eventually comes down to trust. Do you trust your colleagues to treat you with respect? Do you trust that your remote workers aren’t just lounging in a pool somewhere? Do you trust everyone to work responsibly and select work items that will benefit the organization? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you might want to take a broader look at your company’s culture, hiring process, and overall goals to see what is going wrong and what you can do to improve. In a successful culture, trust will automatically breed responsibility and independence.
Millions of people around the world use a kanban board to organize their work and personal lives. Why? Because it’s intuitive, fun, and very easy to use. This article will introduce you to the Kanban Method, so you can start using it with your tasks and projects.Finding a way to do things more efficiently is important – no matter what business you are in or kind of projects you do.
The idea of the kanban board was originally used in Japan in production processes. Nowadays this method is popularized and utilized in many different areas. It is an approach to an incremental, evolutionary process and system change for organizations. We can describe it as:
- a way to organize the chaos that surrounds us by applying prioritization and focus;
- a way to uncover workflow and process problems so we may solve them in order to deliver satisfying results more quickly and smoothly.
Most projects can be viewed as a process – a series of steps or tasks that achieve a desired result. There are all kinds of processes – simple and complex, individual and team, quick and time-consuming. Sometimes large or overarching processes consist of a series of smaller processes.
Source: Jeff LasovskiKanban step by step…
Are you ready to learn how to successfully implement Kanban in your business process or life?
Let’s start from the basic kanban software principles defined by David Anderson, the inventor of the Kanban Method, and see how you can improve your productivity.Step 1: Visualize your workflow
Start with a visual representation of the process. It lets you see exactly how tasks go from being “not done” to “done right”. The more complex the process is, the more useful and important creating a visual workflow becomes. Kanban software can be used successfully no matter if you have just few steps (do, doing, done) or a lot of steps (Backlog To do, Development, Testing, Deployment etc.). By using online task management tools you can track progress & communicate easily in your team from anywhere in real-time.
How to do it?
First, map your current workflow. Create a column for each step that you take, begining from the moment you start, and finish at the result you want to achieve. If you do not know how to write down steps – start with the simple process: To do, Doing, Done. And then observe if you need any other steps. If it’s not obvious where a step begins or ends, look for handoffs and signoffs. Handoffs are points at which someone else has to take over a task and signoffs are points at which the person doing the work asks for confirmation that they’re doing it right. An example of a hand off in software development is when a programmer lets the testers know that a feature is ready to be tested. An example of a sign off is when a client is asked to verify that a set of acceptance tests are complete.
Now, write each task on a separate card in your kanban board. Try to use different colors for different types of tasks (e.g. design, development, tests). While your work progresses, each task will move from left to right through the process steps until it’s done.
Source: KanbaneryStep 2: Limit Work in a Process (WIP
Yes, it is possible to get more done by doing less. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is a powerful idea that has been proven to be true. Don’t try to be a superhero and do everything. Remember that with two hands you can only juggle a few balls before you start dropping them. Kanban teaches us that there is a limit of things you can do efficiently at the same time. In many cases it is a lower number than you think. It is all about maintaining a good flow and eliminating waste. A major source of waste is context-switching. When you have too many tasks being worked on at the same time, that means more switching between tasks and less focus on finishing them. For each column on your board, set a limit of the number of tasks that can be in that column at one time. You’ll know if the limits are too high if work gets backed up and you find yourself working on more than one task at a time. The limit is too low if it’s slowing down the whole team and creating a bottleneck. Use WIP Limits to enforce a smooth flow of work and to minimize of waste caused by context-switching. Remember, the goal isn’t to get as much work started as possible, or even to keep everyone as busy as possible. The goal is to maximize the rate at which tasks get finished.
How to do it?
Limiting the amount of tasks that can be in progress at any time discourages team members from wasteful ‘multi-tasking’, reduces switching costs, and encourages collaboration and cross-training. You can implement it by adding a limited capacity buffer between steps. A kanban tool allows you to set up limits in order to
keep a steady rhythm without overloading the members. Limiting WIP helps you to complete tasks faster. It is known that by focusing on only one task you would achieve better completion time than by working on two tasks at the same time.
Source: KanbaneryStep 3: Measure and improve value flow
In every life area – improvement should be based on objective measurements. Finding and applying good metrics is a difficult step. However by using some simple measures generated by a software kanban tool you can get the information you need to improve your current process. Your kanban board gives you a lot of helpful information, e.g. where do you have bottlenecks, which type of tasks you perform most often, what is blocking tasks from getting done, etc.
How to do it?
Each day, review the status of the tasks on the Kanban board working from right to left. Where are the bottlenecks? What tasks are blocked? Who is multi-tasking? Which tasks seem stuck? Periodic review of visual charts of the past performance can help to illustrate developing problems or show the impact of improvements you’ve made. Using kanban software you can monitor your progress on charts like a cumulative flow diagram (below).
Observe your Kanban board and read the signs which it gives you. Whenever the work is going to be delayed, look at the Kanban board – it will give you an answer where the issues have their source.
A cumulative flow diagram is created by counting how many tasks enter each state over day. This cumulative flow diagram gives us an insight into the process, and shows past performance and allows us to predict future results.
We’re excited to announce that we will be holding Certified Scrum Product Owner training in Regina, SK on November 23 and 24. This will be our first public workshop held in Regina, so we’re looking forward to seeing all of our Saskatchewan friends. Please share this with anyone who you think may be interested.
Register now for this course! Early Bird tickets – save $300 – may still be available.
Register here for CSD, CSM, CSPO, CAL1, and SAFe for classed September through to December 2016.Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!
The post Announcement: New trainings listed for CSD, CSM, CSPO, CAL1 & SAFe this fall! appeared first on Agile Advice.
This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
You will never reach your destination
if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.
– Winston S. Churchill
When many people go into the office, they start their day by chatting with some colleagues, checking their email, and surfing the net for a while. Then they start working on whatever project is due that day. Soon, however, they hear the sound of a new email arriving, which they promptly open, leading them to other tasks. Before they know it, the day is over and they still don’t have that project finished. This happens repeatedly, making a thirty- minute task take two days to complete.
Every interruption requires time to refocus, and during that interval we lose momentum, either physical or mental. We may be very disciplined with what tasks we want to accomplish and in what order, but we can still fail at actually getting them done.
In most cases, distractions are self-inflicted: choosing to answer an email that could wait, saying hello to everyone that walks by, multitasking, or trying to find the end of the Internet. If you want to be more productive, it helps to get rid of the distractions that demand your attention. This could require you to communicate and manage expectations at your workplace. For example, you might need to explain to colleagues why you are keeping your door shut or not answering emails for a certain time period each morning.
I get easily distracted by physical things—pictures, books, knickknacks, scraps of paper, and the like. Therefore, I work very hard to have a clean, organized work area. Several times a week, I straighten it up, transferring notes to my journal (you might wonder why didn’t they go in there in the first place—me too), emptying the trash, scanning and shredding paperwork, and cleaning up my computer desktop. I’m working on trying to standardize this activity, but it’s hard.
Another way to be more productive is to understand how you work best. Everyone has an optimum length of time that they can focus on something. For most people, this is between twenty and ninety minutes, after which their attention spans rapidly decrease. For me, that amount of time is about one hour, after which a speck of dust is intriguing enough to divert my attention.
Figure out what the best time interval is for you and leverage it. I use a timer application on my computer (and one on my iPhone when I’m away from the office). I set it for fifty minutes, giving me a ten-minute break every hour. All potential distractions, such as email, web browsers, and even my phone are turned off. (This type of focused work/break sequence is commonly called a pomodoro. Francesco Cirillo coined the term in his book, The Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro, which means “tomato” in Italian, refers to the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo uses to divide his work time in to focused, manageable intervals.)
Once I start my timer, I’ll then work on one task for those fifty minutes, stopping for a ten minute break at the end. During my break time, I try not to check my email, as email seems to draw me in for far longer than ten minutes. (In fact, I’m working at trying to check email just two or three times a day.) When the break is over, I start another fifty minutes. I repeat this cycle as many times as I can, especially during my most productive time of the day.
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The Certified Product Owner training I attended recently has me reflecting on when I first heard about Agile.
My introduction was in 2012 on one of those really cold, dark wintery nights in the now-famous Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Garry Bertieg had invited me to consult about a challenge we were facing in a community development initiative. I remember it being so cold and dark I didn’t want to leave the house. But I was curious about what innovative team-building technique he wanted to share so I went to check it out.
We weren’t dealing with a business issue. And it wasn’t tech-related. But it was complex and it dealt with many groups, many individuals, and many Institutions. He felt Agile methods could help.
He presented some basic concepts from OpenAgile. He had a large poster board, sticky-notes and Kanban-style columns showing how items can move across the board while in progress on the way to “done”. He also presented the Learning Circle Model. I just made so much sense to me instantly. He remarked that he was surprised to see me so receptive to the material so quickly. It just made so much sense. This Learning Circle has formed the foundation of how I work ever since.
It was as though it combined the best of everything I had experienced in teacher’s college, in community development and in serving in community-level leadership roles for a decade.I started applying what I learned from that 3-hour session immediately and I saw the results instantly.
At the time, I was operating independently, so I didn’t have a manager to run anything through, and I was running a neighbourhood children’s class, responsible for supporting more than a dozen volunteers, teachers, and other coordinators. The OpenAgile model was a perfect fit and I attribute a lot of the success of that neighbourhood class to the framework within OpenAgile.
At the time, I knew nothing of Scrum, Kanban or even the way Agile first evolved from IT software development. I didn’t know any of that. But I started working with Agile methods then and continued until now.Certified Product Owner Training Took My Understanding To a New Level
Last week I had another agile-style life-changing experience in the Certified Scrum Product Owner training lead by Mishkin Berteig & Jerry Doucett.
I entered the class with an open mind, willing to learn, and eager to apply the learning in whatever ways are applicable in my current circumstances.
At a very foundational level I gained a new understanding and appreciation for the role of the Product Owner in creating the product backlog. I understand that is key.
I also enjoyed the simulation exercise of creating a product. The team I worked with at the table was excellent and worked so well together. At one point, we made this Product Box which demonstrated our vision for our product.
It was extremely valuable to also understand the way the Product Owner collaborates with the Scrum Master for the best possible results.
Since I am not currently working with a Scrum team, there are some parts of this learning which are not immediately applicable.
However, the training was exceptional and I came away with a much more thorough understanding of the Product Owner’s role as a whole.
It was a phenomenal experience with an excellent facilitator team.
I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn more and more about positive ways organizations are changing every day, both inside and outside of corporate environments.
Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!
The post Scrum Product Owner Training: Reflecting on Agile in Community Settings appeared first on Agile Advice.
As is typically the case with business buzzwords, “learning organization” means different things to different people. However, unlike many business buzzwords that simply rehash the same old same old, there is something vital here that is worth getting to the bottom of.
It would be great if we could look up the term in the dictionary and get a concise definition that was useful. Unfortunately we cannot. As a relatively new concept that is frequently misunderstood, the term “organizational learning” needs some careful grounding. Our approach will be to assemble a definition after considering the perspectives of four of the field’s pioneering thinkers. What better place to start than with the guy responsible for bringing the term into popular use.Peter Senge
Peter Senge, author of “The Fifth Principle”
In his book “The Fifth Discipline” (1990), Peter Senge says that, although it’s natural for individuals to wish to learn, structural obstacles within our organizations impede us from doing so. The solution is to become a learning organization, which — as he put it in his inspirational vision — are:
“…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”
Senge’s framework for becoming a learning organization introduced ways of talking about organizations that were (and probably still are) unfamiliar to most business leaders. Instead of talking about policies, procedures and reporting relationships, he discussed human dynamics, relationships and feedback. He discussed the behavior of organizations in terms of human systems.
Human systems develop distinct boundaries and characteristic behaviors through interactions with other systems both inside and outside the organization. These systems are comprised of various subgroups of the individuals that make up the broader organization. Holism, the systems property that the whole does not equal the sum of the parts, holds, which in this context means that the aggregate behaviour of the system cannot always be inferred from the individual behaviors of its members. One implication is that behavior at the systems level can interfere with the intentions of constituents. This begins to answer the question that Senge posed:
“How can a team of committed managers with individual IQs above 120 have a collective IQ of 63?”
It’s not only the systems that populate our organizations that can hold us back but also the assumptions, prejudices and beliefs that populate our minds. These mental models, often operating unconsciously, filter our experience of the world and create self-fulfilling prophecies about what may or may not be possible within our organizations. So even though we believe that we can hold the emotional content of our mind at bay, while we objectively view and then rationally respond to the world, we cannot.
However not all the forces that operate upon us and within us work against us. Senge also describes the power of teams, the unifying effect of shared vision and the universal human drive to achieve mastery. These forces bring us together and can dramatically magnify the positive impact of what otherwise would be our isolated individual efforts.
Senge did not invent most of the concepts discussed in the Fifth discipline. What he did do is demonstrate how they interoperate in an organizational context. Developing greater awareness of organizations as systems, Senges urged, would foster our ability to identify and remove structural impediments to learning and to better organize ourselves to achieve the higher purpose of learning collectively.
It’s worth noting that many of the key concepts that Senge introduced to the business community in 1990 (e.g., feedback, systems behavior, shared vision, team learning, individual mastery, the importance of collaboration, etc.) are also key concepts of the Agile movement, usually thought of as starting with the Agile Manifesto published in 2001. The fact that both are rooted in the same principles should make clear that, although the two movements emerged from different disciplines (i.e., software development and organizational development (OD)), they share a common philosophy. A bit down the road we will discuss in greater detail how, along with other disciplines, ideas from software development and organizational development are coalescing into a broader business agility movement.Sources
“The Fifth Discipline.” Senge, Peter. 1990.
Peter Senge is just one of the luminaries to have contributed to the definition of organizational learning. In the next three installments of this series, we will look at Carl Weicks, David Snowden and Nassim Taleb, respectively. Read more about why organizations can’t learn here.
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I’ve been thinking about and observing organizational change for a very long time.
It seems to me that –in their enthusiasm for efficiency, planning, “managing” change– people often overlook some critical questions.
A handful of questions that could lead to more effective action, but seldom get asked:
- What is working well now, that we can learn from?
- What is valuable about the past that is worth preserving?
- What do we want to /not/ change?
- Who benefits from the way things are now?
- Who will lose (status, identity, meaning, jobs…) based on the proposed new way?
- How will this change disrupt the informal networks that are essential to getting work done?
- How will this change ripple through the organization, touching the people and groups indirectly effected?
- What holds the current pattern in place?
- How can we dampen this change, if it goes the wrong direction?
- What is the smallest thing we can do to learn more about this proposed course of action?
- What subtle things might we discern that tell us this change is going in the right direction…or the wrong one?
- What is the time frame in which we expect to notice the effects of our efforts?
What questions would you add?