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12 ways to improve cross-office collaboration

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 22:19

Successful collaboration requires trust. It’s hard enough to establish that bond of trust when someone works in the same room as you. This challenge becomes exponentially more difficult when you have teams collaborating from multiple locations. Throw in a few different timezones, some cultural differences, and language barrier... and you have one hell of a challenge on your hands. Don’t despair though. Most people want to work well together. Sometimes, the distance just makes it difficult. 

A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.

— Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) August 6, 2012

Here at Targetprocess, we have teams working all over the world. Most of the time, that’s a great thing. When teams collaborate, we are able to apply a global perspective to our work. However, the distance does create some obstacles. These obstacles help your teams to grow, but only if you tackle them appropriately. After 10 years of collaborating across oceans and timezones, we have some pretty good ideas on how to attack the problems that can be caused by working in different locations.

Video > Chat
  • It’s better to have a short video or phone call with a colleague than to go back and forth in your internal chat for 10 minutes (especially if there’s a disagreement about something).
  • Communicating through video allows you see the subtle emotions and facial expressions which you might have otherwise missed. Text-based communication lacks the full context of face-to-face conversation.
  • Careful though: don’t schedule meetings for things that could be accomplished with a simple email (or, better yet, a comment on a work item in Targetprocess)
  • Make sure you have solid equipment for video chats, and that you pick the right tool for your situation. For example: Lifesize is much better than Skype for large group meetings. For smaller meetings, we use GoToMeeting.
  • Some companies have experimented with putting up live televisions in all of their offices. This won't be practical for everyone, and could even be invasive for some, but it's nice having the option to see the rest of your teams. You could experiment with this during retrospectives, or even during co-scheduled company parties.
Mind the timezone
  • It seems like a basic rule, but it’s one of the most consistent issues for distributed teams. Whenever you ask for feedback, set up a meeting, plan when you’ll be able to send over some requested work, etc., make sure you pay attention to what timezone your colleagues are in and how it could potentially affect their response or next action.
  • If you’re a habitual procrastinator, be extra-mindful of this step. You’ll have less time to do things at the last minute if you wake up at the end of your colleague's work day.
  • Trying to keep track of meetings and appointments without a digital aid will inevitably lead to disaster. Use an online calendar that can think about those kind of things for you. We use ScheduleOnce to help our C-level employees and Sales team set up and keep track of meetings. Customers and leads can automatically check their availability and request a meeting. All of our employees are on Google Calendar (ScheduleOnce integrates with Google Calendar), so we can all view each other’s internal availability with ease.
  • Be polite about non-urgent communications outside of business hours. It seems like hardly anybody works regular hours these days, but it’s important to be mindful about what time it is when you contact colleagues.
  • Have a clear and automatic system for indicating when/if you’re available outside of regular business hours. Slack handles this for us: when someone is active on Slack, the dot next to their name turns green. This dot can be deactivated if you’re online but not available, and you can even add a time-dependent “Zzz” to indicate times that you’d prefer to not be disturbed.Working Across Timezones

    "Hey Dan, do you think you could send me those TPS reports real quick?"

Broaden your discussions
  • A key element of collaboration is friendship. I know, this sounds lame, but it’s inescapably true. The ability to chat about the news at lunch, or to bounce ideas back and forth with your desk neighbor provides a huge amount of mental stimulation and gives you a wider perspective for your daily work. It’s impossible to completely replicate the closeness of an office environment, but you can get pretty close by discussing new movies, music, current events (it’s probably best to stay away from politics though), and even family life. For example: did you recently get a cute new puppy? Bring her in for your next cross-office video meeting! She can have a temporary position as your Chief Happiness Officer.
  • Recognize and share any cultural differences you might have with team members. For myself: it's been quite interesting to see my colleagues' social media posts of cities, neighborhoods, and parks all over the world.
  • Everyone can appreciate a funny meme or Youtube video. Encourage the practice of sharing these things across offices (but don’t let this practice turn into procrastination).
Use a real-time work management solution
  • Obviously, we use Targetprocess to manage our work. All of our teams and departments are in the system, so everything can be managed and viewed from a central place. All data is displayed in real-time, and integrations with email and Slack make communication a breeze.
  • Transparency is important here. If many of your boards are private and only accessible to managers or the assigned teams, then a lot of the power of your management tool will remain untapped. Make sure that important information is accessible to everyone.
  • If you’re collaborating with someone outside of your organization (such as stakeholders or customers), find a way to share real-time information from your management solution. At Targetprocess, we use the Share View mashup for this.
Standardize your work storage and communication practices
  • Make sure everyone understands your organization’s “filing system” and knows where to put new things, where to find old things, and how to properly catalogue items. Ideally, your work management solution should satisfy this requirement, but it’s still wise to actively manage your company’s additional storage areas (e.g. Google Drive).
  • Establish a consistent, central place to document meetings and important decisions. Make sure this a real-time source, so you don’t have to worry about managing multiple versions of information. Your work management solution should ideally be able to manage this activity as well.  
  • Try to stick to a common language, even if you’re having a private one-on-one chat. After all, you might have to copy text over to a public channel. If you’re talking on the phone in a different language than your local colleagues are used to, try to have the conversation in private to avoid distracting anyone.  
  • Beware of document deprecation! There’s few things more frustrating and wasteful than hunting for a specific document, doing work based on the information inside of it, only to discover that the document is obsolete and the current version is in a different folder that you didn’t even think to look through. Avoid creating multiple versions of documents. If you do have multiple versions, make sure you label them correctly and delete/archive any obsolete items.
  • Understand what medium of internal communication is best for your current objective. Need an answer from a colleague for a yes or no question? Send them a message in your internal chat. Need a comprehensive report on the results of last week's company meeting? Send your request in an email. Need to kick off a new marketing campaign, or get detailed help on a work item? Create an entity in Targetprocess and tag your colleague so they receive a concise email notification. 
  • Establish automated communication for regular updates. For example: we have a bot in one of our Slack channels that lets us know when builds are being pushed to servers.
Borrow team members for meetings and projects
  • This one is simple enough. If your sales teams in Europe and North America are having a remote meeting, bring in a developer from both locations. The intersection of different teams from different locations will help to facilitate better understanding between offices and departments. Two birds, one stone.
  • If your marketing team is working on a new campaign, bring in someone from QA to give feedback. They might bring in a new perspective that you hadn’t even considered. Worst case scenario: they go back to the QA team with a better understanding of what marketing does all day, and they share this knowledge with their team.
Leverage social media
  • Many companies seem to have lost the original idea behind social media. It’s a great tool for publicizing your product and building your brand, but nobody wants to be on a platform that’s just filled with marketers and bots sending tracked links to each other (just look at the steady decline of Twitter). The purpose of social media is to connect. Connecting with your employees on social media will help you establish better connections with your customers.
  • Encourage everyone to lose their fear of social media. Active and fearless posting from your teams will help to unite your company across offices, as well as display a great example of your company to your followers and customers.
  • If you haven’t already, create a company Instagram. Don’t just recycle your Twitter posts into this platform; post pictures of your office, of your team eating lunch together, your company picnic, or even your employee pets. This might be one of the only opportunities your teams may have to explore the lives of their colleagues. An Instagram can be good for your brand, but it can also be great for your company’s sense of community.

    Our teams meet at the cabin — from the Targetprocess Instagram

  • Your marketing team doesn’t have to handle all of your social media tasks. Encourage your teams to create Pinterest boards to share their hobbies and interests. It’s generally better for these things to be work-related, but it’s also good to step outside of the box from time to time.
  • You may have to take the initiative to get these internal social campaigns started, but they can be a great morale booster if the idea takes hold. It will also help to drive engagement on company posts; your employees are one of the greatest assets you have for increasing this metric.
Never stop paying attention to presence disparity
  • Try to imagine what team members outside of the room are thinking and feeling. If remote colleagues aren’t participating as much in your meetings, they might be feeling left out... or perhaps it’s the end of the work day in their timezone, and they’ve already checked out. You have to think about these things with a critical mind at all times.
  • Avoid consistently “short-sticking” anybody. For example: just because your Australian office is small doesn’t mean that they should be the ones to wake up at an obscene time to catch meetings.
  • Working remotely is great, but it can get lonely. Even worse, it can be technically isolating. If you don’t have solid communication practices built up at your company, you run the risk of leaving your remote workers with an information gap that will impede them from performing their jobs.
  • Before every meeting, make certain that everyone can hear and see everybody else. Work with the equipment you have to reduce the feelings of isolation that can come with attending a meeting remotely.
    Presence Disparity
Meet in person
  • This won’t always be a feasible option, but if you can afford the time and travel cost, meeting your colleagues face-to-face can have an incredible effect on how well you are able to collaborate when working remotely.
  • Meeting someone in person adds a whole new layer of depth to a working relationship. You might discover shared interests and common pain points.
  • When a new team member joins Targetprocess, we try to allocate some budget to allow everyone to get to know each other. In general, it’s good to exchange people between offices for 2-4 weeks every 1-2 years.
  • Trips across the ocean can’t happen too often, but at the very least, we will organize some initial cross-office interaction between teams on the same continent.
Organize team presentations
  • Have your teams put together regular presentations where they can discuss what they do for your organization.
  • Have one team member per month write a personal bio about how they came to work for your organization, what their strong points/weak points, and a little bit about their personal life and hobbies. This could even be a jumping board into publishing employee bios on your organization’s blog to help humanize your company to customers.
Find out how your teams feel about communication between offices
  • Send out an optional survey to "take your teams' temperature" and identify any common problems.
  • Hold a focus group with team leaders from each office or department. Come up with some ways to simplify, improve, or even automate communication across offices and departments.
  • Gauge the efficacy of your internal company chat. Decide if you need to archive some excess channels, or maybe add some new ones to reflect your current strategy.
  • Try new things. Most changes will at least have a positive short-term effect on your teams, especially if the idea came from within. Don't be afraid to try out a new strategy.

In the end, there’s honestly no easy 12-step program to achieving better collaboration. Everything eventually comes down to trust. Do you trust your colleagues to treat you with respect?  Do you trust that your remote workers aren’t just lounging in a pool somewhere? Do you trust everyone to work responsibly and select work items that will benefit the organization? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you might want to take a broader look at your company’s culture, hiring process, and overall goals to see what is going wrong and what you can do to improve. In a successful culture, trust will automatically breed responsibility and independence.


Categories: Companies

Get started with Kanban

Kanbanery - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 18:48

Artykuł Get started with Kanban pochodzi z serwisu Kanbanery.

Millions of people around the world use a kanban board to organize their work and personal lives. Why? Because it’s intuitive, fun, and very easy to use. This article will introduce you to the Kanban Method, so you can start using it with your tasks and projects.

Finding a way to do things more efficiently is important – no matter what business you are in or kind of projects you do.

The idea of the kanban board was originally used in Japan in production processes. Nowadays this method is popularized and utilized in many different areas. It is an approach to an incremental, evolutionary process and system change for organizations. We can describe it as:

  • a way to organize the chaos that surrounds us by applying prioritization and focus;
  • a way to uncover workflow and process problems so we may solve them in order to deliver satisfying results more quickly and smoothly.

Most projects can be viewed as a process – a series of steps or tasks that achieve a desired result. There are all kinds of processes – simple and complex, individual and team, quick and time-consuming. Sometimes large or overarching processes consist of a series of smaller processes.

Simple-kanban-board-Source: Jeff Lasovski

Kanban step by step…

Are you ready to learn how to successfully implement Kanban in your business process or life?

Let’s start from the basic kanban software principles defined by David Anderson, the inventor of the Kanban Method, and see how you can improve your productivity.

Step 1: Visualize your workflow

Start with a visual representation of the process. It lets you see exactly how tasks go from being “not done” to “done right”. The more complex the process is, the more useful and important creating a visual workflow becomes. Kanban software can be used successfully no matter if you have just few steps (do, doing, done) or a lot of steps (Backlog To do, Development, Testing, Deployment etc.). By using online task management tools you can track progress & communicate easily in your team from anywhere in real-time.

How to do it?

First, map your current workflow. Create a column for each step that you take, begining from the moment you start, and finish at the result you want to achieve. If you do not know how to write down steps – start with the simple process: To do, Doing, Done. And then observe if you need any other steps. If it’s not obvious where a step begins or ends, look for handoffs and signoffs. Handoffs are points at which someone else has to take over a task and signoffs are points at which the person doing the work asks for confirmation that they’re doing it right. An example of a hand off in software development is when a programmer lets the testers know that a feature is ready to be tested. An example of a sign off is when a client is asked to verify that a set of acceptance tests are complete.
Now, write each task on a separate card in your kanban board. Try to use different colors for different types of tasks (e.g. design, development, tests). While your work progresses, each task will move from left to right through the process steps until it’s done.

Kanban board

Source: Kanbanery

Step 2: Limit Work in a Process (WIP)

Yes, it is possible to get more done by doing less. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is a powerful idea that has been proven to be true. Don’t try to be a superhero and do everything. Remember that with two hands you can only juggle a few balls before you start dropping them. Kanban teaches us that there is a limit of things you can do efficiently at the same time. In many cases it is a lower number than you think. It is all about maintaining a good flow and eliminating waste. A major source of waste is context-switching. When you have too many tasks being worked on at the same time, that means more switching between tasks and less focus on finishing them. For each column on your board, set a limit of the number of tasks that can be in that column at one time. You’ll know if the limits are too high if work gets backed up and you find yourself working on more than one task at a time. The limit is too low if it’s slowing down the whole team and creating a bottleneck. Use WIP Limits  to enforce a smooth flow of work and to minimize of waste caused by context-switching. Remember, the goal isn’t to get as much work started as possible, or even to keep everyone as busy as possible. The goal is to maximize the rate at which tasks get finished.

How to do it?

Limiting the amount of tasks that can be in progress at any time discourages team members from wasteful ‘multi-tasking’, reduces switching costs, and encourages collaboration and cross-training. You can implement it by adding a limited capacity buffer between steps. A kanban tool allows you to set up limits in order to

keep a steady rhythm without overloading the members. Limiting WIP helps you to complete tasks faster. It is known that by focusing on only one task you would achieve better completion time than by working on two tasks at the same time.

WIP on Kanban board

Source: Kanbanery

Step 3: Measure and improve value flow

In every life area – improvement should be based on objective measurements. Finding and applying good metrics is a difficult step. However by using some simple measures generated by a software kanban tool you can get the information you need to improve your current process. Your kanban board gives you a lot of helpful information, e.g. where do you have bottlenecks, which type of tasks you perform most often, what is blocking tasks from getting done, etc.

How to do it?

Each day, review the status of the tasks on the Kanban board working from right to left. Where are the bottlenecks? What tasks are blocked? Who is multi-tasking? Which tasks seem stuck? Periodic review of visual charts of the past performance can help to illustrate developing problems or show the impact of improvements you’ve made. Using kanban software you can monitor your progress on charts like a cumulative flow diagram (below).

Observe your Kanban board and read the signs which it gives you. Whenever the work is going to be delayed, look at the Kanban board – it will give you an answer where the issues have their source.

kanban board

Source: Kanbanery

A cumulative flow diagram is created by counting how many tasks enter each state over day. This cumulative flow diagram gives us an insight into the process, and shows past performance and allows us to predict future results.

Artykuł Get started with Kanban pochodzi z serwisu Kanbanery.

Categories: Companies

Hybrid Project Management

TV Agile - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 17:59
This talk encourages you to unleash your Project Management creativity by combining the Agile and Waterfall paradigms. This speech is for you if you are interested in: * Importance of Context in Project Management; * Most frequent misperceptions about Agile and Waterfall models; * Pragmatic approach to project management: how to make a hybrid work […]
Categories: Blogs

Regina Scrum Product Owner Workshop Announcement

Notes from a Tool User - Mark Levison - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 17:46



We’re excited to announce that we will be holding Certified Scrum Product Owner training in Regina, SK on November 23 and 24. This will be our first public workshop held in Regina, so we’re looking forward to seeing all of our Saskatchewan friends. Please share this with anyone who you think may be interested.

Register now for this course! Early Bird tickets – save $300 – may still be available.

Categories: Blogs

Techniques for Improving Sprint Retrospectives – Part 2

Scrum Expert - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 16:48
After presenting some basic retrospective techniques in the first part of this article, Jesus Mendez provides in the second part some additional techniques that focuses on the facilitating part of the Scrum sprint retrospectives. Author: Jesus Mendez, Certified Agile Coach, In my previous article “Techniques for improving sprint retrospectives – Part 1”, we talk about the foundations of a sprint retrospective. We touched base to share my view about the What, When and What for of the sprint retrospective. We have also shared some techniques that could help you help your teams to get the best out of it, focusing on the forming stage of an agile team’s journey. This second part is mainly focused on the facilitator stand and some additional techniques to help you continue adding value to the team’s continuous improvement journey. The facilitator stand To get the best out a sprint retrospective, mastering facilitation techniques is a must. There are things that you might need to consider in order to become the kind of leader that inspires a team to become a great one, like those that I’ve mentioned in my article “Tips4 leaders – 3 Things to consider when facilitating” for example. But further than that, facilitation requires preparation, repetition and training. That is why I strongly recommend you to dive in into Ingrid Bens [1] books about facilitation. I can guarantee you that your perspective about what facilitation means and all that it involves, will definitely change forever. More techniques for improving the [...]
Categories: Communities

Announcement: New trainings listed for CSD, CSM, CSPO, CAL1 & SAFe this fall!

Learn more about transforming people, process and culture with the Real Agility Program

Register here for CSD, CSM, CSPO, CAL1, and SAFe for classed September through to December 2016.

Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!

The post Announcement: New trainings listed for CSD, CSM, CSPO, CAL1 & SAFe this fall! appeared first on Agile Advice.

Categories: Blogs

The Simple Leader: Remove Distractions

Evolving Excellence - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 10:00

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.

Categories: Blogs

SAFe® – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

NetObjectives - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 20:52
Abstract: If you go to almost any Agile conference these days, the topic of SAFe is sure to come up.  You are virtually certain to hear some good things and an equal number of bad things about it.  There is no question that SAFe provides some value, but why the vehement insistence by many Agile consultants that SAFe is not Agile?  Also, even though many companies that are using it, why are many...

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Categories: Companies

Scrum Product Owner Training: Reflecting on Agile in Community Settings

Learn more about transforming people, process and culture with the Real Agility Program


rachelheadshotThe 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”.Learning Circle - cropped 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.Product Owner Simulation - Product Box Example

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.

Categories: Blogs

Why Organizations Can’t Learn 2: What Does it Mean for an Organization to Learn? – Peter Senge

BigVisible Solutions :: An Agile Company - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 18:00

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
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.


“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:

Part 1: The Need to Learn

Part 3:  What Does it Mean for an Organization to Learn? – Karl Weick

The post Why Organizations Can’t Learn 2: What Does it Mean for an Organization to Learn? – Peter Senge appeared first on SolutionsIQ.

Categories: Companies

Forgotten Questions of Change

Esther Derby - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 17:30

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?

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Categories: Blogs

Announcement: Updates to Berteig’s Training Site

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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.

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Categories: Blogs

The 3 Best Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Resources for Beginners

Agile Management Blog - VersionOne - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 14:30

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 site includes a graphical representation of the framework, … Continue reading →

The post The 3 Best Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Resources for Beginners appeared first on The Agile Management Blog.

Categories: Companies

3 things you need to increase productivity

Leading Agile - Mike Cottmeyer - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 13:29
Increase Productivity What I Believe

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.


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.

  • 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.  [1] I do this to remind myself what I recently got done.  [2] It allows me to verify if I finished something the day before but forgot to pull it to done. [3] 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.


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!


The post 3 things you need to increase productivity appeared first on LeadingAgile.

Categories: Blogs

The Five Belts Of The Product Owner

Xebia Blog - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 09:35
One of the cool things that Europeans added to Judo is the belt system. Japanese are patient by nature, they either do or don't. In fact they distinguish only the black belt, you either have it or are progressing towards it. We need a bit more guidance to know we are on the right way,
Categories: Companies

The Pressures of Demand and Supply: Making IT Better, Faster, Cheaper

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.

Categories: Companies

Sabine’s Principle of Cumulative Quality Advantage

Learn more about transforming people, process and culture with the Real Agility Program

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.
With Regard to People
  • 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.
With Regard to Technology
  • 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

This post is inspired in part by these awesome texts:

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Categories: Blogs

Video: There’s no Crying In Retrospectives

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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!

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Categories: Blogs

80 Agile Links Right Here on Agile Advice!

Learn more about transforming people, process and culture with the Real Agility Program

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

Introductory Material:

Agile Axioms
Agile Manifesto
The OpenAgile Primer
OpenAgile Resources and Presentations – English & Chinese available
Agile Work Cheat Sheets and White Papers – Berteig Consulting Inc. [pdf]

Agile Software Focus:

Extreme Programming
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 Forums
Implementing Scrum

Project Management:

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 Management Yahoo! Group
Slow Leadership – the opposite of Agile?
Adaptive Management – Jeffrey Phillips

Adult Education:

The Self-Educative, Narrative and Metaphorical Faculties of the Soul – Alexei Berteig (pdf)

Team Building:

The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization
Retrospective Patterns by William Wake
How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie

Community Development:

Corporate Culture:

Catastrophic Organizational Change – Tobias Mayer
The Corporate Culture Survival Guide – Edgar H. Schein
Good to Great (fastcompany article) – Jim Collins

Agile Services:

Berteig Consulting – Agile Work Coaching, Training and Consulting
CC Pace
Digital Focus
Israfil Consulting Services Corporation
Scrum Alliance
Tobias Mayer
David Chilcott
Joe Little
Michael Vizdos

Agile in Other Domains:

Extreme Project Management for Architects

Experiences and Stories of Applying Agile in Other Domains:

Agile Documentary Video Project
Agile Publishing

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

Agile or Not Agile?
Trust and Small Groups

Empower the Team

Launching an Agile Team – A Manager’s Howto Guide

Amplify Learning

Abe Lincoln’s Productivity Secret – a nice little bit about being properly prepared (although caution should be taken not to over-prepare!)

Eliminate Waste

Self-Organizing Team

Variations on the Daily Standup – Rachel Davies
Scrum from Hell – William Wake
Team Formation Stages – Forming Storming Norming Performing

Iterative Delivery

Are Iterations Hazardous to Your Project? – Alistair Cockburn

Adaptive Planning

Maximize Communication

Edward Tufte’s web site with lots of great info about the visual display of information
Human Tools for effective communication
Eight Barriers to Effective Listening
Facilitation Skills [pdf]

Test-Driven Work

The Qualities of an Ideal Test

Appropriate Metrics

Appropriate Agile Measurement White Paper (pdf)

Removing Obstacles

The Art of Obstacle Removal

Intros and Summaries

The Seven Core Practices of Agile Work

Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on WorldMindware.comPlease share!

The post 80 Agile Links Right Here on Agile Advice! appeared first on Agile Advice.

Categories: Blogs

Knowledge Sharing

SpiraTeam is a agile application lifecycle management (ALM) system designed specifically for methodologies such as scrum, XP and Kanban.