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Running Agile at Home

Agile For All - Bob Hartman - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 17:58

Agile is merely a philosophy of how to change the way we think about delivering value. Powerful ideas have grown from the original philosophy, namely frameworks, like Scrum and Kanban.

Manufacturing, product development, service development, sales, marketing, and yes, even management can benefit from the ideas espoused from Agile. Having helped all sorts of companies use the backbone of Agile to help them transform their delivery mechanisms has been not only one of the most fun things to do as a career, but we can take this stuff home too!

[Richard Lawrence has written on this before: Agile Homeschool and Agile Homeschool Update]

How to Run Agile at Home

What you’ll need (oh yes, it’s that simple):

  • Wallspace for a wallboard
  • Stickies
  • Sharpies/Pens
  • Painters tape

What you’ll need to decide:

  • How complex you want your wallboard to be
  • How to begin introducing the idea to your spouse/kids
My experience:

We’ve been running Agile at home for many years now. Here is our first idea for my office years ago:

personal-kanban-board-peter-saddington-home

You see the Product Owner? She ENABLES me to do great work!

My wife loved the idea. She even made a wallboard for me immediately…

I always de-prioritize VAC & STEAMING the floors... because I hate doing it...

I always de-prioritize VAC & STEAMING the floors… because I hate doing it…

Benefits of Running Agile at Home

The power of running Agile at home are exactly the same of running Agile at a company level:

  • Overall transparency where work effort is going
  • Tracking progress in real-time (we use the terms “physical accountability“)
  • Focus time for work (no interruptions)
  • Organizational (family) alignment
  • Delivering highest-priority and highest-value first
  • Negotiating execution order (I lose willingly most of the time :)
  • Negotiating value
Running Agile with Your Kids

Aww yeh! A tea set!

Aww yeh! A tea set!

I also use Agile with my eldest daughter!

Recently she’s been asking for an AMAZING TEA SET. She’s been begging and asking for the longest time and we decided to (as a new years resolution) to go back to utilizing Agile to help her track progress, tasks, and t0-do’s in order for her to have a successful sprint/release (so she can get the tea set)!

The Set Up

Her wallboard is on IdeaPaint and we use FrogTape (it’s much better than blue tape) to set up 3 columns: TO DO // DOING // DONE

The Sprint Goal is a TEA SET!

The Sprint Goal is a TEA SET!

 The Coaching and Sprint Planning Co-located Sprint Planning

Co-located Sprint Planning

Describing the Sprint Goal, going through highest priorities, ordering the sprint package (prioritized and value sorted by process orientation [days]).

Verify Sprint Goal

Verify Sprint Goal!

Ensuring the team is aligned to the sprint is very important before we commit (to do our best) to deliver!

A successful release today (comes in the mail today)!

A successful release today (comes in the mail today)!

Sprint Retrospective

There is a lot of great things that come out of managing flow and work with kids using Agile/Scrum:

  • Alignment around tasks to do
  • Negotiating! – One of the best things that come out of this is teaching (early on) the skills of negotiating, positive engagement patters and communication patterns in a family. Even at a young age, my daughter negotiated many aspects of the User Stories and tasks associated with them. Even negotiating cleaning the play room a day in advance because she could knock it out sooner than expected! The Product Owner (me) was VERY pleased!
  • Understanding the value of transparency when we work, being honest, clear in communication, and executing to shared expectations and shared understanding
A very happy (future) engineer!

A very happy (future) engineer!

Summary

Running Agile at home isn’t that tough, and you can reap many powerful benefits of using Agile at home. Even in our Scrum classes, we teach principles, techniques, and methods that extend far beyond just “work.” These are powerful ideas that you can take to any endeavor, whether in extracurricular activities, clubs, home-life, and more.

It’s always fun to share my experiences with my students and clients of how we use Agile at home. Maybe this year, it could be part of your new years resolutions?

Happy 2015 everybody!

The post Running Agile at Home appeared first on Agile For All.

Categories: Blogs

Announcing: The Real Agility Program

Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.com

Real Agility Program LogoThe Real Agility Program is an Enterprise Agile change program to help organizations develop high-performance teams, deliver amazing products, dramatically improve time to market and quality, and create work environments that are awesome for employees.

This article is a written summary of the Executive Briefing presentation available upon request from the Real Agility Program web site.  If you obtain the executive briefing, you can follow along with the article below and use it to present Real Agility to your enterprise stakeholders.

The Problem

At Berteig Consulting we have been working for 10 years to learn how to help organizations transform people, process and culture.  The problem is simple to state: there is a huge amount of opportunity waste and process waste in most normal enterprise-scale organizations.  If you have more than a couple hundred people in your organization, this almost certainly affects you.

We like to call this problem “the Bureaucratic Beast”.  The Bureaucratic Beast is a self-serving monster that seems to grow and grow and grow.  As it grows, this Beast makes it progressively more difficult for business leaders to innovate, respond to changes in the market, satisfy existing customers, and retain great employees.

Real Agility, a system to tame the Bureaucratic Beast, comes from our experience working with numerous enterprise Agile adoptions.  This experience, in turn, rests on the shoulders of giants like John Kotter (“Leading Change”), Edgar Schein (“The Corporate Culture Survival Guide”), Jim Collins (“Good to Great” and “Built to Last”), Mary Poppendieck (“Lean Software Development”) Jon Katzenbach (“The Wisdom of Teams”) and Frederick Brooks (“The Mythical Man-Month”).  Real Agility is designed to tame all the behaviours of the Bureaucratic Beast: inefficiency, dis-engaged staff, poor quality and slow time-to-market.

Studies have proven that Agile methods work in IT.  In 2012, the Standish Group observed that 42% of Agile projects succeed vs. just 14% of projects done with traditional “Bureaucratic Beast” methods.  Agile and associated techniques aren’t just for IT.  There is growing use of these same techniques in non-technoogy environments such as marketing, operations, sales, education, healthcare, and even heavy industry like mining.

Real Agility Basics: Agile + Lean

Real Agility is a combination of Agile and Lean; both systems used harmoniously throughout an enterprise.  Real Agility affects delivery processes by taking long-term goals and dividing them into short cycles of work that deliver valuable results rapidly while providing fast feedback on scope, quality and most importantly value.  Real Agility affects management processes by finding and eliminating wasteful activities with a system view.  And Real Agility affects human resources (people!) by creating “Delivery Teams” which have clear goals, are composed of multi-skilled people who self-organize, and are stable in membership over long periods of time.

There are lots of radical differences between Real Agility and traditional management (that led to the Bureaucratic Beast in the first place).  Real Agility prioritizes work by value instead of critical path, encourages self-organizing instead of command-and-control management, a team focus instead of project focus, evolving requirements instead of frozen requirements, skills-based interactions instead of roles-based interaction, continuous learning instead of crisis management, and many others.

Real Agility is built on a rich Agile and Lean ecosystem of values, principles and tools.  Examples include the Agile Manifesto, the “Stop the Line” practice, various retrospective techniques, methods and frameworks such as Scrum and OpenAgile, and various thinking tools compatible with the Agile – Lean ecosystem such as those developed by Edward de Bono (“Lateral Thinking”) and Genrich Altshuller (“TRIZ”).

Real Agility acknowledges that there are various approaches to Agile adoption at the enterprise level: Ad Hoc (not usually successful – Nortel tried this), Grassroots (e.g. Yahoo!), Pragmatic (SAFe and DAD fall into this category), Transformative (the best balance of speed of change and risk reduction – this is where the Real Agility Program falls), and Big-Bang (only used in situations of true desperation).

Why Choose Transformative?

One way to think about these five approaches to Agile adoption is to compare the magnitude of actual business results.  This is certainly the all-important bottom line.  But most businesses also consider risk (or certainty of results).  Ad-Hoc approaches to Agile adoption have poor business results and a very high level of risk.  Big-Bang approaches (changing a whole enterprise to Agile literally over night) often have truly stunning business results, but are also extremely high risk.  Grassroots, where leaders give staff a great deal of choice about how and when to adopt Agile, is a bit better in that the risk is lower, but the business results often take quite a while to manifest themselves.  Pragmatic approaches tend to be very low risk because they often accommodate the Bureaucratic Beast, but that also limits their business results to merely “good” and not great.  Transformative approaches which systematically address organizational culture are just a bit riskier than Pragmatic approaches, but the business results are generally outstanding.

More specifically, Pragmatic approaches such as SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) are popular because they are designed to fit in with existing middle management structures (where the Bureaucratic Beast is most often found).  As a result, there is slow incremental change that typically has to be driven top-down from leadership.  Initial results are good, but modest.  And the long term?  These techniques haven’t been around long enough to know, but in theory it will take a long time to get to full organizational Agility.  Bottom line is that Pragmatic approaches are low risk but the results are modest.

Transformative approaches such as the Real Agility Program (there are others too) are less popular because there is significantly more disruption: the Bureaucratic Beast has to be completely tamed to serve a new master: business leadership!  Transformative approaches require top-to-bottom organizational and structural change.  They include a change in power relationships to allow for grassroots-driven change that is empowered by servant leaders.  Transformative approaches are moderate in some ways: they are systematic and they don’t require all change to be done overnight. Nevertheless, often great business results are obtained relatively quickly.  There is a moderate risk that the change won’t deliver the great results, but that moderate risk is usually worth taking.

Regardless of adoption strategy (Transformative or otherwise) there are a few critical success factors.  Truthfulness is the foundation because without it, it is impossible to see the whole picture including organizational culture.  And love is the strongest driver of change because cultural and behavioural change requires emotional commitment on the part of everyone.

Culture change is often challenging.  There are unexpected problems.  Two steps forward are often followed by one step back.  Some roadblocks to culture change will be surprisingly persistent.  Leaders need patience and persistence… and a systematic change program.

The Real Agility Program

The Real Agility Program has four tracks or lines of action (links take you to the Real Agility Program web site):

  1. Recommendations: consultants assess an organization and create a playbook that customizes the other tracks of the Real Agility Program as well as dealing with any important outliers.
  2. Execution: coaches help to launch project, product and operational Delivery Teams and Delivery Groups that learn the techniques of grassroots-driven continuous improvement.
  3. Accompaniment: trainer/coaches help you develop key staff into in-house Real Agility Coaches that learn to manage Delivery Groups for sustainable long-term efforts such as a product or line of business.
  4. Leadership: coaches help your executive team to drive strategic change for long-term results with an approach that helps executives lead by example for enterprise culture change.

Structurally an enterprise using Real Agility is organized into Delivery Groups.  A Delivery Group is composed of one or more Delivery Teams (up to 150 people) who work together to produce business results.  Key roles include a Business leader, a People leader and a Technology leader all of whom become Real Agility Coaches and take the place of traditional functional management.  As well, coordination across multiple Delivery Teams within a Delivery Group is done using an organized list of “Value Drivers” maintained by the Business leader and a supporting Business Leadership Group. Cross-team support is handled by a People and Technology Support Group co-led by the People and Technology leaders.  Depending on need there may also be a number of communities of practice for Delivery Team members to help spread learning.

At an organizational or enterprise level, the Leadership Team includes top executives from business, finance, technology, HR, operations and any other critical parts of the organization.  This Leadership Team communicates the importance of the changes that the Delivery Groups are going through.  They lead by example using techniques from Real Agility to execute organizational changes.  And, of course, they manage the accountability of the various Delivery Groups throughout the enterprise.

The results of using the Real Agility Program are usually exceptional.  Typical results include:

  • 20x improvement in quality
  • 10x improvement in speed to market
  • 5x improvement in process efficiency
  • and 60% improvement in employee retention.

Of course, these results depend on baseline measures and that key risk factors are properly managed by the Leadership Team.

Your Organization

Not every organization needs (or is ready for) the Real Agility Program.  Your organization is likely a good candidate if three or more of the following problems are true for your organization:

  • high operating costs
  • late project deliveries
  • poor quality in products or services
  • low stakeholder satisfaction
  • managers overworked
  • organizational mis-alignment
  • slow time-to-market
  • low staff morale
  • excessive overtime
    or…
  • you need to tame the Bureaucratic Beast

Consider that list carefully and if you feel like you have enough of the above problems, please contact us at tame.the.beast@berteigconsulting.com. or read more about the Real Agility Program for Enterprise Agility on the website.

Try out our Virtual Scrum Coach with the Scrum Team Assessment tool - just $500 for a team to get targeted advice and great how-to informationPlease share!
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Categories: Blogs

Why Not What – An Example

Tyner Blain - Scott Sehlhorst - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 15:02

Obscenely complicated WW2 U-Boat controls

Forbes quoted Steve Jobs as saying “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”  This is a really enlightened perspective – and a way to enforce focus from the top down.  Before you can drive a “this goal is more important than that goal” focus, you have to make sure you’re actually focusing on the goals.

The Customer Does NOT Know Best

customer request from the Google Play store

The top review of a mobile phone app caught my attention over the weekend.  I highlighted a section which really provided clarity for me about the difference between building what the customer asks for, and what the customer actually needs.

The app provides food-item nutritional information.  As you might imagine, navigating the tables of information on a smaller touch-screen device (phone or tablet) could be tedious or tricky.  Definitely a place where the user’s experience could be improved.  This user, who likes the app, wrote a request to be able to sort the tables by column – a “faster horse” for the smart phone era.

This reviewer also added some prose to justify the request for sorting – the desire to avoid foods which are bad for him.

The extra information actually allows us to get closer to the “why” – a desire to eat healthy foods – and not fixate on the “what” – the ability to sort the information. I’ve worked with many people who would do something like the following:

  1. Add a story / feature request to the backlog / spreadsheet, to enable users to sort the information in the tables.
  2. Get feedback from other users – “would you like to be able to sort?”
  3. Prioritize and schedule the feature to be built.

This can easily happen because the product manager focused on the “what” of sorting.  It is an easy mistake to make.  The customer asked for sorting, so the customer wants (needs) sorting.  When I asked other customers if they wanted to be able to sort, they all said “sure.”  This is being customer-driven, and outside-in, right?  Wrong.

Being Market Drive Requires Synthesis

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve already heard 100 times the importance of asking “Why?”  A different question approach, based on Clayton Christensen’s work in The Innovator’s Solution and the Jobs to be Done approach, will simultaneously ask “why?” and initiate the synthesis process.

“What are you trying to do, when you want to sort?”

There may be a much better way to avoid unhealthy foods than giving users the ability to sort.

You shouldn’t stop here, either.

What are you really trying to accomplish, which is driving you to avoid unhealthy foods?

Perhaps the user has a medical condition which restricts their dietary choices, if the goal is to feel better (in order to spend higher quality time with their family).

Conclusion

If you’re trying to build a nutrition-information app with the goal of helping someone feel better, you probably wouldn’t put “sort by sodium level” at the top of your backlog.  Instead you might build an app which asks them how they feel every day, correlates that with what they ate recently, and then warns them when they are about to make historically bad choices (or rewards them for repeated good behavior).

Being market driven is about synthesizing what customers tell you. Your area of expertise is to understand what is needed, based on what is asked for.  The customer’s area of expertise is not in root-cause analysis, abstraction, interface design, and software development – they won’t make directly-useful requests.

Give them what they need, not what they ask for.
Categories: Blogs

An invitation to join a learning consortium

Scrum Breakfast - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 11:00
As many of you know, I have been working with Steve Denning, author of Radical Management, unofficial speaker for the Drucker Forum, and Member of the Board of the Scrum Alliance. His passion is about how management needs to reinvent itself to meet the challenges of the creative economy.

Steve and the Scrum Alliance are striving to build a Learning Consortium to explore the management implications of the emerging Creative Economy.

The members of the Learning Consortium will select five organizations from among these submissions and organize one-day site visits at their locations. Each host organization will make presentations and hold discussions about what it is doing, how it is doing it, and what it is learning. Membership of the consortium is limited to 30 organizations.

Each organization will be invited to send participants on the site visits. Once the site visits are complete, Scrum Alliance will organize a conference at which the Learning Consortium will make presentations and hold discussions about what has been learned. The Learning Consortium will produce a report of the conclusions of the visits and its review. The report will be made available to the 30 organizations.

Could your organization want to be one those 30 companies?

Are you curious? If so, please contact me, and I will be happy to put you in touch with Steve! Or here is more info:


Could someone in your organization be interested in participating? If so, please drop me a line! And I will be happy to put you in touch with Steve directly.

EDIT: fixed missing links, formatting.
Categories: Blogs

Peace of mind in a state of overload

Xebia Blog - Sun, 01/04/2015 - 22:23

This article is meant for knowledge workers that want to be more on top of things and feel secure that they haven’t forgotten about something, freeing their mind for the actual tasks at hand. It especially applies to those that are using or want to use SCRUM, a popular and formalized Agile methodology, in their day to day work.
I got hooked on Agile back in 2005, while working for Db4o, and never looked back since. Improving the process per iteration and having a manageable amount of work per sprint gave me peace of mind and focus, enabling me to deliver the right software solutions to the stakeholders. When I got asked to join a tech startup in 2011 as its CTO I suddenly had a lot more to deal with: hiring and managing staff, managing costs, reporting to the board, applying for subsidies and making sure the books were kept in order. On top of this I still operated as SCRUM Master and technical lead within a SCRUM team.
During this period one of my co-founders introduced me to Getting things done by David Allen. It took him only about 15 minutes to explain the basics and I got started with it straight away.

You can optionally watch this presentation to go along with the article:

Diverse responsibilities

As knowledge workers, and more specifically consultants, we have a diversity of responsibilities. You have personal responsibilities, like planning a doctor’s appointment or picking up your kids from daycare, and you have responsibilities from your employer like ordering a backup disk, co-creating a course or preparing a presentation. Lastly you also have responsibilities from your client, like sprint tasks, meetings and organizing innovation days. Truly staying on top of all these responsibilities is tough, real tough!

Agile

For those of you that are not familiar with Agile methodologies. Agile is an iterative process. In each iteration a team commits to a finite amount of work. A typical iteration has a length of two weeks, which is its deadline. All stories, the units of work in an iteration, can be made actionable by the Agile team.

GTD

Getting Things Done takes a slightly different approach. There is a single inbox, comparable to the part of a backlog in SCRUM, that hasn’t been groomed yet. By regularly reviewing the inbox, it can be emptied by turning items into actionable tasks, high-level projects, calendar items, reference material or just trash. Actionable tasks can be extracted from a project, that will move it forward. Actionable tasks should be kept together to be able to prioritize them upon review.

GTD Chart

GTD Chart

Please refer to the book Getting Things Done by David Allen in order to get the full explanation but below follows a quick overview.

Quick overview of GTD Inbox

The purpose of the GTD inbox is to collect anything new that might or might not require your attention. Whenever something pops up into your mind that you think requires your attention, either now or in the future, you collect it here. It doesn’t need to be organised. It doesn’t even need to be an attainable goal. As long as you get it off your mind and file it away for review, the inbox has done its job. Reviewing the inbox will empty it into one of the following categories.

Trash

You may find that a lot of the things you collect in your GTD inbox don’t really require you to take any action at all, so you can throw them away with impunity! Good riddance!

File

Many a time you get a piece of information that you don’t need immediately but would like to be able to reference in the future. These items go from your inbox into a file. This file can be physical, a folder structure on your computer system or something completely different.

Calendar

Though people have a tendency to put too many things in their calendar that really don’t need to be done at that exact time, inbox items that do have a specific time window move from there to your calendar.

Waiting for

If you delegate something you expect it to be done after a certain period of time. Though these dependencies are kept out of SCRUM for a good reason they are a part of everyday life. Move these from your inbox to your waiting for list so you can check in with whoever you delegated it to in order to be aware of their status.

Someday maybe

Colleague sent you an adorable youtube frolicking puppy compilation? Maybe you didn’t have time to watch it when it was brought to your attention but why not put it away to watch later? Items that you don’t need to do but would like to get around to eventually should be moved over here.

Projects

There are many things that people have on their to do list that they keep on staring at and get intimidated by for some reason. Often this pertains to items that are of a too high level to pick up straight away. This can range from Bring about world peace to Organise daughter’s birthday party. Both of these tasks really consist of multiple clearly actionable tasks even though one gets the impression the latter is easier to attain in one’s lifetime. Things that should be more clearly defined belong here. Review them and extract actionable tasks from them that move the projects closer to their goal.

Next actions

This is the work horse of the GTD system and is where you actually pick up tasks to do. You place well defined tasks here. If you need to call someone about a case, be sure to save this tasks along with the name of the person, their phone number and case reference to remove any impediments, like having to look up their number or the case reference. This way you make the barrier to get something done as low as possible.

Obstacles

Of course there are a few obstacles to overcome using these two methods side by side as a consultant.

Since GTD encourages you to work on the most important thing at that time, you could be required to make private phone calls during consultancy hours or respond to a mail from a co-worker while getting ready for work. This causes work-time and private time to overlap. The obvious solution would be to track work intervals for each task. However, this takes a little bit of time and discipline so should ideally be automated.

GTD requires you to review at least daily what should be done with stuff in your inbox and what the next most important actions are. This takes time. Is this personal time? Should it be billable? In my opinion working with GTD reduces stress and increases productivity and effectiveness. Thus working with GTD will make you a more valuable employee which is something your employer should invest in.

While both GTD as well as Agile work with definitions of work, the priority of stories in SCRUM is determined by the Product Owner. How can this be incorporated into GTD? Well, even though the Product Owner is in charge of the priorities inside the sprint, he does not have a full overview of everything that needs doing in your life. Therefore you are the one that determines the order in which your tasks need to be performed. Within these tasks only the ones coming from your sprint have a relative order pre-determined by the PO.

Improvements

In my day to day usage of GTD I found that there are a few identifiable improvements.

Due to work requirements I need to maintain multiple calendars. Since some GTD inbox items end up in your calendar this sometimes means having to create multiple items in your calendar, which causes needless overhead. It would be beneficial if this would be supported by software, so that a GTD inbox item can automatically be delegated to one or more calendars.

When tasks are coming from external applications like Jira they have to be kept in sync. It would save time if this could be managed automatically.

Lastly the question of ownership. Who owns a task? The assignee, the author or the company on who’s behalf it needs to be performed? I strongly believe that tasks belong to the author or organisation that the author wrote them for. If tasks have been delegated or synced from external systems they should be revocable by their owner. At the same hand an organisation should not have or control access to tasks a person authored without the author’s permission.

Conclusion

Unfortunately there is currently no software tool that would serve all my needs as outlined here. However the most essential properties of such a tool should be: multi-platform to ensure availability, tagging support to be able to categorise without having to split up the list and owned by you.

Categories: Companies

Some Thoughts on LeadingAgile Going Into 2015

Leading Agile - Mike Cottmeyer - Sun, 01/04/2015 - 19:42

One nice thing about being in the consulting industry is that you typically end up with a little downtime around the holidays. Most of our customers slow down, and even if people are still working, there often isn’t much appetite for change. For me, the year can get pretty noisy and it’s really tough to get contiguous time to sit and think. I’ve grown to appreciate this time of year as a time to get my thoughts in order, figure out what’s important, and decide how I want to move forward. It’s really a sort of built in time to retrospect on the year past and plan a little for what lies ahead.

I’ve spent the past few days sitting in my office mind-mapping and getting some of this stuff onto paper. I’ve been thinking about LeadingAgile as a company and what it means to shape it’s future… what do I want, what do our people want… how do we build the best company we can possibly build? I’ve been thinking about our approach to agile, how to make it better, and how to communicate our emerging models to the community in a meaningful way. As our thinking has progressed, it’s become way more difficult to write contextually in the short format of a blog post. That poses some interesting challenges for us as we move into 2015.

The themes that keep coming back to me as I noodle on this stuff are around managing risk and uncertainty, how to decouple teams, how to minimize dependencies, how to focus on flow of value, and really how to get people to see how to do this and what’s the change management processes necessary to move the needle forward with companies in a meaningful way. I think the mechanics and value of team level agile are well understood at this point in our evolution. I think that we are starting to see some interesting scaling models that will help some companies some of the time get better business outcomes.

I think that the main challenge going into 2015 isn’t a better articulation of values and principles or a better articulation of potential scaling patterns… I think that the main challenge is engaging companies where they are today… deeply understanding why they are the way they are and their real underlying constraints… and helping them craft change management strategies for safely and pragmatically moving forward. As an industry we have rejected the status quo of the waterfall based SDLC. We’ve embraced agile and many of the emerging patterns for agile at scale. I don’t think we are talking enough about how we get there.

Part of the problem is belief based and part comes down to raw economics. As a community, we often want to believe that if we point people in the right direction, and get them to believe the right things, they will self-organize into the patterns we are prescribing. They’ll figure it out along the way. I think this will work with some companies some of the time… but many organizations are suffering from some severe constraints and timing issues that have to be managed. These companies have people steeped in the old way of doing things and not much incentive to put themselves at risk for a new model of dubious merit.

The other thing that gets in our way are the economics around training and certification. As business people, consulting and training companies, are looking to reduce risk, keep people busy, and stay profitable. Our market wants training, they want certification, and people want to believe that if you send folks to a few days of indoctrination, they’ll come back with the necessary skills to do agile. I think that educating people on how work within an established framework is valuable. Training people on a model that is not established, and expecting them to go back into their companies and lead the implementation of the framework, is doubtful.

I think as a community, we have to recognize that many of the companies that want to adopt agile are a long way from having the infrastructure, management paradigm, culture and practices to actually effectively do agile. Sometimes we have to meet them where they are and help them get them to where they need to be. One of the toughest pills to swallow as an agile company, helping other companies adopting agile, is that early on we might have to build a plan… even a Gantt Chart… for how the transformation is going to proceed. Sometimes getting traction and gaining trust involves playing by someone else’s rules for a while as you get started.

So… as I think about 2015 and the challenges that lie ahead for LeadingAgile and our industry… I’m going to try to lead some conversation around the intermediate states as a company transitions to agile. I’m going to try to get more explicit around the patterns of transformation and how a company goes from point A to point B or C on that journey. I don’t think that all of this exploration is going to be via the blog. We’ve build some infrastructure on the site to accommodate video, white papers, and presentations and we’ll try to communicate in whatever medium is fastest to market and makes the most sense.

Not sure exactly what all this means, but we are going to explore some mediums we haven’t explored yet, and try some new things. We’ll probably makes some mistakes and say some stupid stuff along the way. When you catch it, just let us know and we’ll do what we can do to get it cleaned up. There is a reason we decided to call our blog post Field Notes. We have an amazing client list and some customers that are really committed to working along side us to figure all this out. It’s time we start sharing some of what we are learning. The site as a whole will be the channel for this, but we’ll try to put pointers on the blog to keep everyone posted.

Anyway… hope everyone is tee’ing up for a great 2015. We wish everyone the best and hope you have a great new year!

The post Some Thoughts on LeadingAgile Going Into 2015 appeared first on LeadingAgile.

Categories: Blogs

Lessons Learned from John Maxwell Revisited

J.D. Meier's Blog - Sat, 01/03/2015 - 20:05

I did a major cleanup of my post on lessons learned from John Maxwell:

Lessons Learned from John Maxwell

It should be much easier to read now. 

It was worth cleaning up because John Maxwell is one of the deepest thinkers in the leadership space.  He’s published more than 50 books on leadership and he lives and breathes leadership in business and in life.

When I first started studying leadership long ago, John Maxwell’s definition of leadership was the most precise I found:

“Leadership is influence.”

As I began to dig through his work, I was amazed at the nuggets and gems and words of wisdom that he shared in so many books.  I started with Your Road Map for Success.   I think my next book was The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.   Ironically, I didn’t realize it was the same author until I started to notice on my shelf that I had a growing collection of leadership books, all by John Maxwell.

It was like finding the leadership Sherpa.

Sure enough, over the years, he continued to fill the shelves at Barnes & Nobles, with book after book on all the various nooks and crannies of leadership. 

This was about the same time that I noticed how Edward de Bono had filled the shelves with books on thinking.  I realized that some people really share there life’s work as a rich library that is a timeless gift for the world.   I also realized that it really helps people stand out in their field or discipline when they contribute so many guides and guidance to the art and science of whatever their specific focus is.

What I like about John Maxwell’s work is that it’s plain English and down to Earth.  He writes in a very conversational way, and you can actually see his own progress throughout his books.  In Your Road Map for Success, it’s a great example of how he doesn’t treat leadership as something that comes naturally.  He works hard at it, to build his own knowledge base of patterns, practices, ideas, concepts, and inspirational stories.

While he’s created a wealth of wisdom to help advance the practice of leadership, I think perhaps his greatest contribution is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  It’s truly a work of art, and he does an amazing job of distilling down the principles that serve as the backbone of effective leadership.

Categories: Blogs

This Isn’t a Race!

Agile Management Blog - VersionOne - Fri, 01/02/2015 - 19:33

Have you experienced problems with competition amongst team members/developers within a Sprint. A Sprint is a race, after all. Most people associate this term to mean a short dash, going as fast as you can, competing against a number of others. There’s a great new show called Silicon Valley (by Mike Judge of Beavis and Butthead fame) that shows this dysfunction on a Scrum team.

Silicon Valley Scrum Pic

http://youtu.be/oyVksFviJVE (Warning: funny, but slightly inappropriate in areas)

After watching this, ask yourself, are we truly a team trying to achieve a common goal, or are we still individuals competing amongst one another? How do we measure progress? How do we reward folks? How do we handle the type of dysfunctional behavior in the above video, and who does it? Is this is a reason to begin using the term Iteration instead of Sprint?

In my experience, I’ve not seen the competition quite so blatant amongst developers as in the aforementioned video. But I have seen it. And as a Scrum Master and an Agile Coach, I have pointed them back to the Agile Manifesto’s 12 Principles…

http://www.agilemanifesto.org/principles.html

The one that stands out, to this point is…

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

In other words, we’re not measuring lines of code written, or story points completed, or hours worked. We’re measuring working software completed, at the Team level. Did we, as a Team, meet our Sprint goal, and deliver something valuable to our customer through early and continuous delivery.

Velocity is another metric that gets misconstrued, in my experience. At the end of the day, velocity is a planning metric for the Team. We shouldn’t use it as a measure of speed compared to another team or another individual; i.e. I’m a great developer because I was able to complete 4 stories for a total of 20 story points in this 2 week Iteration. The guy sitting next to me only got 10 story points done. Therefore, as their logic goes, I’m twice as good a developer as him. And I should be compensated accordingly when it comes bonus time.

Yeah, but what if we have slackers on our team, and there’s really only one or two people doing a majority of the work? Well, there’s probably a reason for this behavior, actual or perceived. My advice is to dig in to the root cause. Clearly fodder for the Retrospective at the end of the Iteration (a.k.a. Sprint). Beyond that, it’s really up to the Team to resolve if they can. Escalate as necessary.

My initial assumption starts with the idea that we have self-motivated individuals on our Teams. And that it’s my job as a Scrum Master to provide them the environment and support they need to get the job done. If I can’t do that myself, I get help. Servant leadership.

What experiences have you had with intra-team competition?

Categories: Companies

My Story of Personal Transformation

J.D. Meier's Blog - Fri, 01/02/2015 - 19:15

Everybody has a story.   I thought I would share mine at Sources of Insight:

My Story of Personal Transformation

It’s the story of how I figured out how to do more of what makes me come alive, and how to share my unique value with the world.

It’s a journey, but this story is a look backwards, and how it helped me shape my path forward.

I included some of the key questions I asked, as well as some of the key resources I used to get a new lens on work and life. 

Life can really be a game of chutes and ladders, depending on the questions you ask, the choices you make, and the actions you take.

I think one of the biggest challenges we have in life, is a very personal one.  It’s the challenge of finding our voice.   It’s the challenge of finding our passion, our purpose, and our talents.  It’s the challenge of becoming all that we’re capable of.  And, it’s the challenge of how to make the most of what we’ve got, while helping others in our unique way.

The other big challenge is avoiding regret, learning to live with regret, or learning how to live without regret.  What we regret the most, are the things we have a chance to change.  It’s our opportunities lost.  Or, to put it another way, we regret the things we didn’t do.   That can include things like not being true to ourselves, not expressing our feelings, not staying in touch with friends, or not letting ourselves be happier.

The top regrets in life based on research are: education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement, leisure, finance, health, friends, spirituality, and community.  Education is the top regret because it impacts so many areas of our life, and it’s within our control.

The way I learned to write my story forward is to combine a combination of answering the following questions on an on-gong basis:

  1. Who do I want to be and what experiences do I want to create?
  2. Am I giving my best where you have my best to give?
  3. Am I  living my values?
  4. Am I saying “Yes” to opportunities?
  5. Am I sharing what I think and feel to the people in my life?

Transformation is a journey of challenges and changes.  And that’s where our greatest growth comes from.

Best wishes for your best year, ever.

Categories: Blogs

Announcing New Agile Training for Coaches, Executives, Job Seekers and More

Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.com

New Agile Certification Training

Certified Real Agility Coach LogoOur new premium offering: the Certified Real Agility Coach course is delivered in an unusual format of 40 days (yes, forty) spread over one year.  This in-depth, advanced training program is designed to help people with experience on Agile teams to become fully-capable independent Agile coaches.  Worried about the time commitment?  A substantial portion of the course is delivered as on-the-job training and a significant number of course hours are outside regular working hours… and the schedule is flexible to accommodate participants’ unique scheduling needs.  Spots are extremely limited for this course.  Reserve your spot now! (Contributes all the training hours required for the Certified Scrum Professional designation.  As well, if you do not already have the CSM and CSPO designations, you will receive free enrolment in either or both of those courses once your registration has been confirmed.)

Scaled Agile Framework - SAFe Agiilist LogoSince Travis Birch and Mishkin Berteig have become Certified SAFE Program Consultants, we are now offering the Leading Safe 2-day course for project, program and functional managers, change agents and department leaders.  Learn about the Scaled Agile Framework; one the most popular enterprise Agile frameworks.  SAFe combines Scrum, Extreme Programming and Lean to effectively allow larger groups of people to execute programs while interfacing effectively with traditional corporate governance.  Do you have 25 people or more working on a program?  Then the Leading SAFe training is for you!

New Agile Introduction Courses

Scrum and Enterprise Agile for Executives is a half-day workshop designed to help you solve one of the biggest problems organizations have: how to become more Agile?  Using the tools and techniques of the Real Agility Program, participants will be guided to make effective long- and short-term plans for increasing productivity, innovation, quality and customer satisfaction.  This workshop is delivered by Mishkin Berteig who has helped numerous executives at organizations large and small with successful Agile transformations.  Just $250 per person!

Travis Birch, a Partner at Berteig Consulting who has years of experience helping Agile teams reach award-winning levels of performance, is going to be delivering two of our new offerings:

Choosing an Agile Career is a one-day workshop designed to help people who don’t yet know how they can best fit into the most important revolution sweeping the corporate world.  Should you be a ScrumMaster?  A Product Owner?  An Agile Coach?  Something else?  Ideal for people who have been asked by their executives to sort out their career path in a newly Agile organization or department.  $450/person with an early-bird discount available for some dates.

Kanban: Gentle Change is a deep-dive immersion into a critical process-improvement and teamwork technique  Learn how tools for making work visible can improve productivity, throughput and efficiency..  Ideally suited for team leads, project and functional managers, HR managers and process improvement managers.  $450/person with an early-bird discount available for some dates.  Counts as 7 PDUs with the PMI and contributes to the Agile Certified Practitioner designation.

Other Workshops

CSM Certified ScrumMaster LogoCSPO Certified Scrum Product Owner Logo

Of course, we continue to offer our extremely well-received (often sold out!) Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner training courses.  These courses are immersive, intensive, and designed to help you to become great ScrumMasters and Product Owners.

Please see our complete 2015 Agile and Scrum course schedule here!  Most of our courses are held in the Toronto area which has a great international airport, fantastic food, amazing entertainment, and is just generally a fun place to come for a bit of training and a bit of sight-seeing.  Some courses are also offered in other cities including Vancouver, London Ontario, and Waterloo.  Most of our courses are also available for in-house private dates.  Please contact learn@worldmindware.com for more information about group discounts, corporate savings programs or in-house private offerings.

COMING SOON We are working to offer Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) training as a complement to our already successful Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner training courses.  The CSD course will help technology professionals learn the critical Agile engineering and teamwork practices that are absolutely required to make Scrum successful in delivering software products.  This training is highly technical and participants are expected to already be strong software developers.

Try out our Virtual Scrum Coach with the Scrum Team Assessment tool - just $500 for a team to get targeted advice and great how-to informationPlease share!
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Categories: Blogs

Is your talent adorning the restroom?

Manage Well - Tathagat Varma - Fri, 01/02/2015 - 16:39
On my recent visit to a wonderful new luxury hotel in town, I found it very interesting that an artist's work was commissioned right outside the restroom. It seemed, at least to me, that the only reason that painter, or rather her talent, was of any particular importance to the hotel designers was if she could paint something that fitted the small wall that welcomed people to the restroom. Continue reading →
Categories: Blogs

Get Your Goals On

J.D. Meier's Blog - Fri, 01/02/2015 - 01:52

“Another year over, And a new one just begun.” – John Lennon

Ready to get your game on?

January is a great time to focus on what you want out of this year.  As you close out last year, you can reflect on what went well and what things you could improve.   Focus on the growth.

January is also a great time to build some momentum.  January and December are the bookends for your year.  It’s interesting how they are both a month apart and a year apart. 

What you fill that year with, is your opportunity.

If you’re having a hard time remembering what it means to dream big, I put together a collection of dream big quotes to rekindle your imagination.

I’ve also put together a set of posts to help you create goals with skill:

  • 10 Reasons that Stop You from Reaching Your Goals - I see so many people who achieve their goals, and so many people who don’t.  I thought it would be helpful to nail down why so many people don’t achieve their goals, even when they have such good intentions.
  • Are You Living Your Dreams? - Here is a blurb I found from Dr. Lisa Christiansen that helps remind us to dream big, dream often, and live our dreams.
  • Change Your Strategy, Change Your Story, Change Your State - If you want to change your life, you have to change your strategy, you have to change your story, and you have to change your state.
  • Goal-Setting vs. Goal-Planning - Most people don’t step into what achieving their goal would actually take, so they get frustrated or disheartened when they bump into the first obstacles.   Worse, they usually don’t align their schedule and their habits or environment to help them.  They want their goals, they think about their goals, but they don’t put enough structure in place to support them when they need it most, especially if it’s a big habit change.  Don’t let this be you.
  • How Brian Tracy Sets Goals - Brian Tracy has an twelve-step goal-setting methodology that he’s taught to more than a million people. If you follow his approach … You will amaze yourself.  With his goal-setting methodology, he’s seen people transform.  They are astounded by what they start to accomplish.  They become a more powerful, positive, and effective person.  They feel like a winner every hour of the day.  They have a tremendous sense of personal control and direction.  They have more energy and enthusiasm.
  • How John Maxwell Sets Goals - John Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author.  And, one of his specialties is turning dreams into reality through a simple process of setting goals.
  • How Tony Robbins Sets Goals - This goal-setting approach is one of the most effective ways to motivate you from the inside out and move you to action, so if you have a case of the blahs, or if you want big changes in your life this might just be your answer.
  • How Tony Robbins Transformed His Life with Goals - Tony Robbins wanted to change his life with a passion.  He had hit rock bottom.  He was frustrated and feeling like a failure.  He was physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially “broke.”  He was alone and almost 40 pounds over-weight.  He was living in a small, studio apartment where he had to wash his dishes in the bathtub, because there was no kitchen.  He wanted out.
  • The Power of Dreams - John Maxwell shares what he’s learned about the power of dreams to shape our goals, to shape our work, and to shape our lives.
  • The Real Price of Your Dreams - Tony Robbins walks through helping a young entrepreneur translate their dream of living like a billionaire into what their lifestyle might actually cost.

One of the most helpful things I’ve found with goal setting, is to start with 3 dreams or 3 wins for the year.  I learned this while I was putting together Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life.  As my story goes, I got frustrated and bogged down by a heavy goal process and lost in creating SMART goals.  I finally stepped back and just asked myself, what are Three Wins or Three Outcomes that I want out of this year?  The first things that came to mind were 1) ship my book, 2) get to my fighting weight, and 3) take an epic adventure.

It wasn’t scientific, but it was significant, and it was simple.  But most of all, it was empowering.

In retrospect, it seems so obvious now, but what I was missing in my goals was the part that always needs to happen first:  Dream big.  We need to first put our dreams on the table because that’s where meaningful goals are born from.  It’s the dreams that make our goals a force to be reckoned with.  Really, goals are just a way to break our dreams down into chunks of change we can deal with, and to help guide us on our journey towards the end in mind.   That’s why we have to keep pushing our dreams beyond our limits.  That way we don’t try to push ourselves with our goals.  Instead, we pull ourselves with our dreams.

If you want to know how to get started with Agile Results, before you get the book, you can use the Agile Results QuickStart guide.  You can use it to create your personal results system.   It’s a simple system, but a powerful one.  Individuals, teams, and leaders use it to bring out their best and to make the mot of what they’ve got.

To give you a quick example, if you want to rise above the noise of your day, just take a quick pause, and write down Three Wins that you want out of today.   If you’re day is pretty tough, you might say, “great breakfast, great lunch, great dinner.”  We have those days.  Or, if you’re feeling pretty good, you might say, “ship feature X” or “clear my backlog” or “finish my presentation” or “win a raving fan”, etc. 

It sounds simple but by having Three Wins to hold onto for today, it helps you focus.  It helps you prioritize.  And it helps you get back on track, when you get off track.  It also gives you a quick way to feel good about your achievements at the end of the day, because you can actually name them.  They are your private victories.

So, if you want to practice Agile Results, just remember to think in threes: Three Wins for the Day, Three Wins for the Week, Three Wins for the Month, Three Wins for the Year.    It will help you funnel and focus your time and energy on meaningful results that matter.   And, you’ll build momentum a moment at a time, as you respond to challenges, exercises your choices, and drive your changes in work and in life.

Categories: Blogs

On 2015 and Beyond!

Agile For All - Bob Hartman - Thu, 01/01/2015 - 21:23
Agile in 2015

AFA-LogoAs we look into 2015, there is a lot of excitement, a lot of opportunity, and a lot of fun ahead of us. I’m glad to be a part of it as I begin rolling into the Agile For All fold.

We have a lot of great stuff happening, obviously our retinue of services have now been bolstered by even more expertise and our service offerings will continue to grow for our current and future clients.

Here’s what you can expect from us moving into 2015:

Peter Saddington‘s Take on 2015 agile-for-all-planning-2015

The Agile For All family planning for 2015!

I’m super excited for what 2015 will bring. For those that don’t know the newest addition to the wonderful Agile For All crew, you can find more information about me here in the Agile For All bio, and more here in an expanded version.

A couple of things I’m excited to bring into the fold:

  • Helping our clients understand the complexities of systems at scale. – Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you overlay scaled processes. This can (and often will) make the complex even more complex…
  • Bringing a deeper understanding of the sciences behind organizational agility, human capital, and cultural optimization.
  • Growing education in and within organizations – Kaizen (continual improvement) should be a business strategy, not just an afterthought.
  • And even more…

Let us know what you’d like to see, hear, or even experience as we continue to partner with many of you into 2015!

Thank you all! Here’s to a kick-booty 2015!

The post On 2015 and Beyond! appeared first on Agile For All.

Categories: Blogs

Scrum Australia 2014 : Build great products with Scrum + Design Thinking + Lean Startup

Agile World - Venkatesh Krishnamurthy - Thu, 01/01/2015 - 20:43

I had the privilege of speaking at Scrum Australia 2014 conference couple of months ago. It was a fascinating experience to stand in front of such an energetic and knowledgeable audience and share ideas.  Scrum Australia team had put a lot of effort and energy in getting good speakers not only from Oceania but from abroad as well.  I enjoyed every bit of this conference for 2 days.

image

The title of my topic was “Building products that customers love by strengthening Scrum with Design Thinking and Lean Startup methods” .

I believe that we need to combine various methods, and use their strengths to build the products. Scrum has its own strengths, and similarly Design Thinking and Lean Startup as well.  However, none of these methods on their own can be used on their own to build great products.

First of all one needs to ensure that any new product idea is viable, desirable and technologically feasible.

image

It is very important that one has a good understanding of the problem one needs to solve.  Most of the products fail mostly because of lack of understanding of the problems.

image

Design Thinking comes handy in articulating the problems, and Lean startup could be applied with product testing, pivoting.

I would like to thank  Lynne Cazaly for beautifully depicting my session with the following “Visual Note”

image

I had put together this idea of bringing the 3 methods together (Scrum + Design Thinking + Lean Startup) long ago. This idea was published by Cutter as an Agile advisor.  Cutter was also gracious enough to make this article public. The entire article is available here if any one is interested in getting  into a detail a bit.

image

I have been attending Scrum Australia conference without fail since the last couple of years, and return with a load of new knowledge and experience. I am already looking forward for the 2015 conference :-)

Categories: Blogs

New Gem: Yertle Formatter

I launched my first Ruby gem a few days ago, yertle_formatter. It’s a custom RSpec 3 formatter that prints out turtles for slow specs and then lists them in order of slowest specs.

I worked out a lot of experiments with:

With 2015 ahead I may be working on some new gems soon. As a first gem goes, writing a formatter was a nice way to get started and published.

Categories: Blogs

Best Agile Advice Articles – Ten Year Anniversary!

Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.com

Agile Advice was started in 2005.  In ten years, we have published over 850 articles (an average of just about 2 per week!).  Here are some collections of the ten “best” articles.  I hope you enjoy looking back at (or discovering for the first time!) some of the things that have made this such a great joy for me.

Ten Most Popular Agile Advice Articles

  1. How Two Hours Can Waste Two Weeks (75,000+ visits)
  2. The Seven Core Practices of Agile Work (25,000+ visits)
  3. Eight Barriers to Effective Listening (17,000+ visits)
  4. Seven Essential Teamwork Skills (17,000+ visits)
  5. 24 Common Scrum Pitfalls Summarized (15,000+ visits)
  6. Mentoring and Coaching: What is the Difference? (14,000+ visits)
  7. Wideband Delphi Estimation Technique (14,000+ visits)
  8. The Pros and Cons of Short Iterations (13,000+ visits)
  9. Three Concepts of Value Stream Mapping (13,000+ visits)
  10. Agile Work and the PMBoK Definition of Project (11,000+ visits)

Ten Most Commented Upon Agile Advice Articles

  1. 24 Common Scrum Pitfalls Summarized (19 comments)
  2. Agile Becomes Easier with Useful Tools (12 comments)
  3. Important Words about Scrum and Tools (9 comments)
  4. The Skills Matrix and Performance Evaluation on Agile Teams (9 comments)
  5. The Definition of Done is Badly Named (8 comments)
  6. How Two Hours Can Waste Two Weeks (7 comments)
  7. Agile is Not Communism (7 comments)
  8. Agile Tools vs. Agile Books (6 comments)
  9. The Decline and Fall of Agile and How Scrum Makes it Hurt More (5 comments)
  10. The Planning Game: an Estimation Method for Agile Teams (5 comments)

I also want to acknowledge that there are a number of other contributors to Agile Advice besides me (Mishkin).  These contributors are all experts, all have great experiences, and all are fantastic people to know.  I’m grateful for their contributions since they have all made Agile Advice a better place to browse!

Five Most Frequent Contributors (of Articles, besides Mishkin)

  1. Paul Heidema (34 articles)
  2. Travis Birch (24 articles)
  3. Christian Gruber (19 articles)
  4. Mike Caspar (16 articles)
  5. Shabnam Tashakour (13 articles)

Plans for the Future – Five Top Ideas for Series

  1. Essays on each of the Values and Principles of the Agile Manifesto
  2. Summary articles of several Agile methods including Scrum, OpenAgile, Kanban, Crystal, XP, and others
  3. Real Agility Program case studies
  4. Reviews of other scaling / enterprise Agile frameworks such as Disciplined Agile Delivery, Large Scale Scrum, Enterprise Scrum
  5. New guest articles from thought and practice leaders.
Try out our Virtual Scrum Coach with the Scrum Team Assessment tool - just $500 for a team to get targeted advice and great how-to informationPlease share!
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Categories: Blogs

What does it take to be a good Scrum Trainer...

Scrum Breakfast - Thu, 01/01/2015 - 11:54
... and, who would like some kind of training to help become one?
The Doctor: Am I a good man?
Clara: I don't know. But I think you try to be and I think that's probably the point.
The Doctor: I think you're probably an amazing teacher.This year, I have my second full year as a Certified Scrum Trainer behind me. Looking back, it seems the first thing that happened after becoming was a CST was getting a steady stream of requests from aspiring CSTs to co-train with them. I held off the requests until this year. I have now worked with four aspiring trainers. In each case, I learned a lot and have come to appreciate both the value and the limitations of the mentoring system. I want to create a workshop for aspiring Scrum Trainers, so that they can rapidly achieve the level of a good CST.
What does a good trainer do?In my eyes, the purpose of a Scrum Master course is not to teach people the basic mechanics of Scrum. You can learn that from a 10 or 12 page document. The purpose is to enable the participants to discover a new, better, and more fun way of working, and leave them inspired to take that vision back to their companies to make it a reality! And they should have enough hands-on experience to have confidence and enthusiasm while getting started.

Just as Morpheus could only lead Neo to the door, but Neo had to choose to pass through, the job of a Scrum Trainer is to offer people that red pill. If what they learn resonates with them, they will want to plunge down that rabbit hole and explore it for a long time to come!

How do you train that? I believe that being a good trainer is a mixture of passion, attitude, skills and experience.
PassionIf there is one thing that can't be taught, it is passion. On the other hand, passion is contagious. So I try to give participants the opportunity to feel my passion and understand why I am passionate about Scrum. I believe sharing stories and learning by doing are the only way. As a Scrum Trainer, you need to be able to tell inspiring stories and facilitate great experiences.AttitudeIf you teach inspect-and-adapt, you have to do inspect-and-adapt, otherwise it is not authentic. (And sooner or later, you won't be very good, compared to others who do.)

I thought I was a pretty good trainer when I started. (Actually, I thought I was a very good trainer when I applied, which probably slowed my application tremendously.) Shortly after I started teaching certified courses, I noticed my Net Promoter Scores were not what I thought they should be. I also realized that despite collecting feedback from participants since my first course, I had never actually implemented a suggestion based on that feedback!

I wasn't inspecting and adapting, so I resolved to start. Since that moment, I read all the feedback. After each course, I strive to implement at least one suggestion or address one issue in the next course. I also send a follow-up to my participants with a summary of their feedback, and if possible, tell them what I plan to do differently in the future thanks to their feedback.

A funny thing happened. After an initial and substantial improvement, it got harder to improve. In some cases, I even regressed. But I didn't stop, even as I suffered some low points. Some issues were really hard to solve. I knew what the problem was, but didn't know how to solve them, even as I heard, time after time, that I needed to do something about it.

My willingness to adapt actually made it easier for me to change when the time was ripe. By always looking at how my customers were dissatisfied, I knew what needed to be done. Sometimes it took a while, but when I saw the solution to my challenges, I was able to implement them right away! (Thank you to the trainers and co-trainers I have worked with this year: Lizzie, Hugo, Elena, Niranjan and Andreas. Each of you has helped me move forward in important ways.)

The jump in my Net Promoter Scores was immediate and has been sustainable. I don't know if that qualifies me as a good trainer, but I am certainly better than I was two years ago, and it is the inspect-and-adapt cycle of Scrum which enabled me to get here.

How would I summarize the right attitude? A willingness to inspect, adapt and collaborate. How could you train that? Again, I think learning by doing and experiencing a-ha moments is the way to go.
Skills and experienceWhat else does a top trainer need to know? I believe a CST-level Scrum Trainer should...
  • embrace the Agile Mindset
  • have a validated deep understanding of Scrum
  • have a validated understanding of what is not Scrum
  • know how to teach so people learn.
  • be able to teach any relevant topic spontaneously without powerpoint
  • be able to tell authentic stories about their own experience doing Scrum to illustrate key points
  • understand related approaches, e.g. Kanban, Radical Management, Lean Software Development, Extreme Programming, and how they relate to Scrum
  • understand effective approaches for change leadership, e.g. Leadership Storytelling, Working Agreements, and how they relate to Scrum
  • understand current vs. deprecated Scrum and agile practices
  • be able to work with very large groups effectively
A Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Trainer also has had their understanding, ability to teach, and course materials validated both against the authoritative Scrum literature and the understanding of Ri-level practitioners in the community. A CST candidate should be well prepared for the Scrum Alliance TAC (Trainer Acceptance Committee) process.
    Next StepsThis is a work in progress. Two questions:
    1. Have I captured the right vision for a good trainer? What's missing? What's excessive? What's just wrong? Please leave a comment!

    2. Is there interest from aspiring Scrum Trainers for such a training? Do you know anyone who would be interested in attending some kind of workshop (webinar? combination?) to become a better Scrum Trainer or have an easier time with the TAC? If so, please share this article with them and invite them to start the conversation on my contact form.
    Update: I realized that the form workshop was too limiting. Maybe a webinar, or a combination might be better, as it could be a) more long term, less geographically fixed.
    Categories: Blogs

    Pair Programming Lessons from Improv

    George Dinwiddie’s blog - Wed, 12/31/2014 - 21:41

    Thanks to Tim Ottinger for reminding me of Arlo Belshee’s post, “Is Pair Programming for Me?” Go read Arlo’s post, as it’s insightful and has more useful content than most articles on pairing. I’m just going to springboard off of one skill that Arlo mentioned being important to learn.

    How to avoid “paragraphing” when talking. Learning to speak in half-sentences, leaving room for the other to take the idea in an unexpected direction.

    A few years back, I took a course in “Beginning Improv Acting.” I don’t plan to make a living performing improv theater, but I thought it would be beneficial for becoming more comfortable and competent at public speaking. It did that, but it also taught me some deeper lessons about collaboration, some so deep I can’t yet articulate them.

    When performing improv, the flow on the scene might go in any direction, but it definitely won’t go the direction that you have in mind. No one else can see what’s in your mind, and they’re not working off your script. If you try to constrain them to your script, the scene quickly comes to a halt. In the class, we had one student who frequently caused this, and, while I learned how destructive this behavior is to collaboration, I also learned to avoid doing scenes with her whenever possible without being disruptive.

    Instead, a big key to successful improv is to provide the other person with as many options as you can. You want to be detailed and concrete with your contribution to the scene, but without requiring a lot of baggage that hasn’t yet been made explicit. I found it helpful to avoid thinking too far ahead, as I would get attached to my story line instead of our story line. By providing options to the other people in the scene, I was also providing options for my future self. And I was encouraging them to maximize the options they provided me. The resulting explosion of possibilities made every improv response much easier and more natural. It was a lot of fun when we achieved that level of flow.

    Pair programming with test driven development is, for me, exactly like that. When I’m pairing with someone who wants the code to go in a particular way, or when I want it to go in a particular way, it breaks the flow. Sometimes having a short design discussion leads us to agree on that particular way, and that usually works out OK. But the best pairing is when neither of us looks too far ahead, but writes the immediate concrete specifics of the moment. We trade frequently and excitedly, going in the direction that seems obvious. We achieve flow as a pair, and move quickly toward our functional goal.

    Perhaps not everyone can work this way. Some people claim that they can’t work in a pair. I suspect that, more likely, they and/or their pair just haven’t developed the skill, yet. And you can only develop this skill by trying, and by practicing.

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