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 Karl Weick, David Snowden and Nassim Taleb, respectively.
Read more of the series:
The post Why Organizations Can’t Learn 2: What Does it Mean for an Organization to Learn? – Peter Senge appeared first on SolutionsIQ.
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?
There have been some sleek updates on BERTEIG’s Worldmindware page. Have you had a chance to check them out? Here is the link. Let us know what you think in the comments below.Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!
Do you need to get up to speed on SAFe? Here are the three best agile resources for quickly learning what SAFe is all about. 1- Scaled Agile Framework Website The scaledagileframework.com site includes a graphical representation of the framework, … Continue reading →
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If you want to increase productivity, I believe you need 3 key things. In a previous post, I wrote you needed ritual and motivation. After some reflection, I decided to update that. First, create a system to ensure you are always getting stuff done, regardless if you’re motivated (though it helps). Second, create rituals to follow within the system. Last, repeat those rituals until they become habits.System
My system of choice, for my own work, is Kanban. It’s a method I use to manage everything I do. In short, Kanban is a visualization of value flowing through a system. I use sticky notes on a wall as signals of outcomes I’m working toward. I have columns on the wall; To Do, Work In Process (WIP), and Done. I also have the WIP column split into two rows. One row is for active work in process. The second row is for outcomes or work that is blocked. I believe one of the keys to a successful system is having clarity around its design but also to have low overhead (effort to maintain the system). It doesn’t matter if I use a physical wall or a virtual one, the importance is either are in my field of view. When on the road, I use a virtual Kanban. When at home, I prefer a physical one.
My supporting system is a Pomodoro. A Pomodoro is simply a kitchen timer. Like it or not, I respond really well to deadlines. One of my favorite quotes is:
A goal without a deadline is merely a dream.
Give me a goal with a deadline and I may not get it all done, but I’ll make progress and get you something. If I have a goal without a deadline, I can think something to death. Like with my Kanban, I prefer to go with physical but I’m happy to use a virtual one as well. The important thing is the timebox. It’s like personal sprints. (yep, like Scrum). Make a commitment; get it done.Ritual
- Every morning, I review my (virtual) LeanKit board
- I then review my physical Kanban board next
I review my Kanban board in a very specific order: Done, Work in Process, Blocked, To Do.  I do this to remind myself what I recently got done.  It allows me to verify if I finished something the day before but forgot to pull it to done.  It gives me a chance to pull something off the to-do column and put it back in my backlog, allowing space for something of higher value.
- I pull a card from To Do to WIP
- When I’m ready, I set the Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes and begin work
- When the timer goes off, I take a 5 minute break
- Reset the timer for another 25 minutes, review what my next highest priority is, and begin
- If I’m coming back from an extended break like lunch or dinner with the family, I still reset to 25 minutes
- I continue this process until I finished work for the day
It’s true if you get something done, regardless of the size and complexity, it makes you feel good (thanks to dopamine). If something makes you feel good, it physically reinforces your behaviour to do it again. You need a few quick wins (getting things to Done), to start releasing dopamine and establish the ritual for the longer term. If you don’t get outcomes, you’re not going to keep doing something. If you can create the habit of getting several smaller things done per day, you on your way. Habits are like safety nets. They are not for optimum productivity. They are there to ensure minimum productivity. I recommend breaking work into small enough chunks that you can get something done every hour.Summary
By doing these three things, you’ll achieve increased productivity. If you can get inspired and motivated, your increase will be even higher. Alas, inspiration and motivation are a different topic. Until then, capitalize on the system, rituals and habits, until the next time you get inspired.
If you are looking for a system to work beyond personal productivity, the same rules apply. Visualize your group or organization’s continuous flow of value on a wall or board (physical or virtual Kanban). Define timeboxes, like in Scrum, for teams to focus on work. Take a short break at the end of each timebox. Keep reflecting on the things you’ve accomplished. Get that dopamine flowing!
Localized/silo optimization will not enable faster value delivery; learn how optimizing across the IT value stream enables better, faster, cheaper IT.
The post The Pressures of Demand and Supply: Making IT Better, Faster, Cheaper appeared first on Blog | LeanKit.
Many organizations won’t survive the next decade. Of those that survive, even they are likely to be extinct before century’s end — especially the largest of contemporary organizations.
I was thinking today of a few essential adaptations that enterprises must make immediately in order to stave off their own almost-inevitable death.With Regard to Business Strategy
- Measure value delivered and make decisions empirically based on those data.
- Strive toward a single profit-and-loss statement. Understand which value streams contribute to profit, yes, but minimize fine-grained inspection of cost.
- Direct-to-consumer, small-batch delivery is winning. It will continue to win.
- Heed Conway’s Law. Understand that patterns of communication between workers directly effect the design and structure of their results. Organize staff flexibly and in a way which resembles future states or ‘desired next-states’ so those people produce the future or desired next-architectures. This implies that functional business units and structures based on shared services must be disassembled; instead, organize people around products and then finance the work as long-term initiatives instead of finite projects.
- Distribute all decision-making to people closest to the market and assess their effectiveness by their results; ensure they interact directly with end users and measure (primarily) trailing indicators of value delivered. Influence decision-making with guiding principles, not policies.
- The words ‘manager’ and ‘management’ are derogatory terms and not to be used anymore.
- Teams are the performance unit, not individuals. Get over it.
- Technical excellence must be known by all to be the enabler of agility.
- Technical excellence cannot be purchased — it is an aspect of organizational culture.
For example, in the realm of software delivery, extremely high levels of quality are found in organizations with the shortest median times-to-market and the most code deployments per minute. The topic of Continuous Delivery is so important currently because reports show a direct correlation between (a) the frequency of deployment and (b) quality.
That is, as teams learn to deploy more frequently, their time-to-market (lead time), recovery rates, and success rates all change for the better — dramatically!
I have a theory which is exemplified in the following graph.Sabine’s Principle of Cumulative Quality Advantage Explained
As the intervals between deployments decrease (blue/descending line)
…quality increases (gold/ascending line)
…and the amount & cost of technical debt decreases (red area)
…and competitive advantage accumulates (green area).
Note: The cusp between red and green area represents the turning point an organization makes from responding to defects to preventing them.
This is a repost from David’s original article at tumblr.davesabine.com.
This post is inspired in part by these awesome texts:
- Mishkin Berteig’s article: Refactor or Die
- The Manifesto for Agile Software Development
- Building Cloud Value by Mary Allen & Michael O’Neil
- Measuring DevOps: the Key Metrics that Matter by Anders Wallgren
- Darel Hardy’s animation
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Woman: “Is this a girl thing?”
Man: “No, there’s some pretty whiney people in QA that are both guys and girls.”
Okay, okay, all kidding aside…It’s easy to get a chuckle out of noticing that retrospectives can bring up emotions for people, both men and women, inside or outside of QA.
This is not to poke fun at any gender or any department but just to share some light humour around how emotional the process can be for everyone.
This emotional connection is, in fact, one of the humanizing aspects of Agile methods. Our emotions are what make us human and being agile is about being more human.
This video made me smile and I hope it makes you smile too!
Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!
Did you know the “Agile Resources” page on this blog has 80 links to valuable Agile Resources compiled by Mishkin Berteig?
The page contains a number of links to recommended web sites, books or tools relating to Agile Work. It’s updated from time-to-time and as this is done, announcements are posted on the Agile Advice blog. As such, this page will always be “under construction”. If you have links to suggest, Mishkin will examine them for consideration.
Please feel free to post suggestions.We’d love to read your comments and ideas! A LIST OF 80 INCREDIBLE RESOURCES
The OpenAgile Primer
OpenAgile Resources and Presentations – English & Chinese available
Agile Work Cheat Sheets and White Papers – Berteig Consulting Inc. [pdf]
Agile Software Focus:
Methods and Tools
The Scrum Primer [PDF]
A Scrum Primer – Report from Yahoo! [PDF]
Scrum and XP from the Trenches
Scrum and Kanban
Control Chaos – Ken Schwaber and The Scrum Methodology
Agile Software Development by Alistair Cockburn
Agile vs. Lean – Thad Scheer
No Silver Bullet by Frederick Brooks
Agile Planet – agile blog aggregator
Buildix – agile software dev tools on a CD
Agile Project Management with Scrum – Ken Schwaber
Project Management Institute
Agile Project Management Yahoo! Group
Burndown and Burnup Charts
Huge List of Software Project Management resources
Scrum Alliance – Agile Project Management and Training
Project Management Resources – by Michael Greer. I don’t agree with everything on this site, but if you are looking for traditional PM stuff this is a good place to go.
Lean and Theory of Constraints:
Lean Software Development – Mary and Tom Poppendieck
Evolving Excellence – by Kevin Meyer, Bill Waddell, Dan Markovitz NEW!
Theory of Constraints – Eliyahu Goldratt
Agile Work for Flow Projects – Mishkin Berteig
The Toyota Production System
Practice Without Principles – TPS Without the Toyota Way – Victor Szalvay
Agile Work Uses Lean Thinking – Whitepaper [pdf] by Mishkin Berteig
Agile in Other Domains:
Experiences and Stories of Applying Agile in Other Domains:
The following sections of material are based on the Agile Work Cheat Sheet.
We are Creators
Reality is Perceived
An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Gerald M. Weinberg
Change is Natural
About “Resistance” by Dale H. Emery
Trust is the Foundation
Empower the Team
Abe Lincolnâ€™s Productivity Secret – a nice little bit about being properly prepared (although caution should be taken not to over-prepare!)
Intros and SummariesScrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!
This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
Physical fitness is the basis for all other forms of excellence.
– John F. Kennedy
Growing up, I was a pretty healthy kid. My parents did a great job of feeding me well. They never let me eat too much junk food, soda, or candy. We stayed active, too. During high school, I was on the swim team, and our family did a LOT of walking while exploring South America, where we lived for seven years.
Then came college, where I discovered beer and pizza. I still remember the look on Mom’s face when I came home after that first semester, appearing somewhat rounder than when I left a few months earlier. Maintaining an acceptable weight and overall good level of fitness became a struggle for the next thirty years, when I was frequently twenty to thirty pounds above my optimum weight.
During that time, being overweight impacted my personal and professional leadership. It hurt my self-confidence, lowered my energy level, and complicated my life. Clothes didn’t fit right, so business travel and presentations took more planning.
I would try diets from time to time, but they were not well-planned and lacking in key nutrients, so the weight came back soon after I reached my goal. When I married my vegetarian wife, I became a “pescatarian” (including fish in a vegetarian diet), but, unfortunately, mushroom pizza is also vegetarian, so it was not easy to keep weight off. The best thing I did was to exercise regularly, especially during the last five or ten years. I even ran a full marathon to check one goal off my bucket list, but instead of taking advantage of the training to lose weight, I relished the fact that I could eat a whole pizza at night without gaining more weight! During times of extreme stress, even the exercise went out the window, further aggravating my weight problem.
Then, my friend Paul Akers, a Lean leader about my age who I respect on many levels, told me about his own physical trans-formation that included losing 50 pounds. He has since written a book about the process called Lean Health. As the title implies, Paul applied Lean concepts to his health. At the most fundamental level, he writes, your body is your customer, and having too much weight and consuming too much food is waste. He created accountability by using a fitness app and by sharing photos of what he was eating, a technique he calls the “photo diet,” and he standardized his routine by creating standard foods, exercise, and eating schedules.
With Paul’s encouragement, I began applying those same principles, and soon discovered that just about everything I thought I knew about nutrition and portion size was wrong. I adjusted portion sizes, eliminated unnecessary carbohydrates such as bread at dinner, and worked to balance my nutritional intake. In six months, I dropped thirty pounds while also meet- ing my balanced nutritional needs. The new diet, combined with the strength and aerobic conditioning I had been focusing on for the previous couple years, made me fitter than I have been since before college, more than thirty years ago. I feel great, and am more mentally sharp. Since I was careful to create a diet and exercise routine that I could be comfortable with over the long term, I have been able to sustain the improvements.
Good sleeping habits have also helped me improve my health. Without good rest, exercise and proper nutrition are much less effective. Most experts recommend eight or even nine hours of sleep each night, but that can vary considerably. In my case, a little over six hours, coincidentally about two REM cycles, seems best. Unless I have an important meeting or flight, I never set my alarm and still wake up around four. I don’t drink caffeinated coffee, but feel very alert until noon. I’ll often take a quick thirty-minute nap right after lunch, leaving me invigorated for the rest of the day. Figure out what amount of sleep works for you, erring on the longer side, and keeping in mind that experts probably recommend more than you think you need. Getting enough rest will multiply the effects of exercise and proper nutrition.
A fit body creates the foundation for a fit mind. Treat your body as your most important customer, reduce waste, gain energy, and create balance and harmony in your mind. This will help you be a more effective leader.
There will be numerous instances of each of these courses in locations such as: Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Mississauga, Waterloo and Markham. Other locations are possible based on demand. Look for these courses to also become listed on the main Scaled Agile event listing page (http://www.scaledagile.com/event-list/), as we are now a Silver Partner. Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!
Even worse ... I'm missing this pre-conference workshop. This really is one of those "don't miss" events and I'm missing it.
from chris: ---This year ahead of the Lean Agile Scotland conference they are offering a pre conference workshop run by Praxis Flow consultants and friends of Lean Agile Scotland Jabe Bloom and Will Evans.
Service Design in the Enterprise : Tuesday October 4th, 8:30am – 5pm, Edinburgh Training and Conference Venue
"Do you play a design, engineering, quality, or operations role in a large enterprise? Have you ever felt like it's incredibly hard to deliver quality value to your customers or end-users? Maybe you work on a team that describes what they do as providing a "service"? Would you like to help your team collaboratively create a more holistic view of the systems they are working in so that you can apply some of the methods, mindsets, and processes from Agile, Lean, or Design Thinking? Come learn how!"
It's a must for anyone who plays a design, engineering, quality or operations role in a large enterprise!
For more information and to book a ticket go to http://leanagile.scot/service-design-workshop/
Implementing Lean IT Operations results in a more stable, reliable, and effective IT Operations system with higher morale and faster value delivery.