The Agile Family: How Agile Can Improve Family Life!

Do you have an Agile Family? Contrary to common opinion, Agile is not just for the business world. It can be an amazing way to further more bonding in families, and to introduce the idea of teamwork.

Some years ago, on a Saturday, I watched my eldest son create a list of household clean-up items on post-it notes, and then all four children had to choose one item to start. When they chose an item, it went into the “in progress” line, and when they finished a task it went into the “done” pile. After a task was “done,” each child would choose a new task, until all the work was completed. At that time, I didn’t realize my son was using an agile strategy to encourage everyone in the household to participate in chores. I thought he was just very clever, and why hadn’t I thought of that when I had younger children?

Soon after, when I began working for BERTEIG (my son’s company), and I had to learn a lot of new ideas from the business world, I realized he was using Scrum methodology at home.

In writing about this, my purpose is to introduce readers to this insightful online article called Strategies of Agile Families. I believe it will prove to be very helpful. Enjoy!

https://blog.trello.com/the-sage-strategies-of-agile-families?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=jan2018_newsletter1

 


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Seeking Patterns Between Human Rights and Agility

Image Attribution

Photographer:  Zoi Koraki – https://www.flickr.com/photos/zoikoraki/
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zoikoraki/15046030905/in/photostream/
License: Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Preface: To be transparent in my agenda, I firmly believe there are strong parallels between Agility and Human Rights, and I believe that is a purposeful and direct by-product of the primary outcomes of the Agile Manifesto.  However, I have attempted to make this article a little different from others by more subtly embedding the learnings and patterns within the messages and on several levels.  As such I hope the connections are still obvious, and that you find this article refreshing, insightful, appropriate and useful.

A Premise

It seems everywhere I turn lately there is a scandal of greed, lust, abuse, harassment, violence or oppression in both the workplace as well as personal life. I’d like to believe the number of despicable activities is not actually increasing but rather I am simply exposed to more because we live in an age when the speed and ease of access to information is staggering. Certainly recent events are no exception to human history that records thousands of years of oppression, subjugation, control, and violence. My question is: as a supposedly intelligent species, why is it we have seemingly learned very little over the millennia?

I propose we have actually learned a great deal and made significant advances, yet at the same time we have experienced setbacks that repeatedly challenge that progress. These setbacks are often imposed by select individuals in positions of authority that choose to prioritize and exert their power, individual needs or desires over the rights and needs of others. However, I believe if we can truly harness the power of unity and collaboration we can make a significant positive difference, and that is what I seek your help in doing.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
~ Aristotle

Finding a Beacon in the Darkness

Every day I find it disheartening to bear witness to people being physically and mentally hurt, abused or taken advantage of. In their personal lives and at home. At the workplace. In wars and conflicts. In human created environmental disasters. It seems there is no end to the pain and suffering or the countless ways to inflict it.

Meanwhile I sincerely believe many of us have the desire to make the world a better place, but given our positions and busy lives it can be daunting to make a real difference. In many instances we feel powerless to change the world because someone else has authority over us or over the system. It may also seem pointless to commit to change something we as an individual have little to no control over. It can also be risky to draw attention to ourselves by speaking against others in a position of power who may and sometimes will exert their influence to attack and hurt us as well as those we care for.

Despite the temptation to hide from the noise we must remain strong and acknowledge that by creating transparency and visibility in to dark and sometimes painful events we are actually opening the door to the opportunity for positive change. Obscuring truth does nothing to help a worthy cause or to better society. Remaining silent about an injustice does not provide the victim with any form of respect or comfort. Pretending something didn’t happen doesn’t make the consequences and outcomes any less real for the casualty. Inaction does not provide any benefit except perhaps the avoidance of an immediate conflict.

Many times, shining a light on something does provides tangible benefit. It creates visibility and awareness, and provides opportunity for the truth to be exposed. Although transparency itself may not solve a problem, reflection and openness should make the misalignment more critical and obvious. I believe the majority of us want trust, and honesty wherever we are, whether it be in the boardroom, on the manufacturing floor, in a political office, or even in a private home.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
~ Robert Kennedy

However we must also acknowledge that sharing truth may often be painful and uncomfortable, and in order to create the opportunity for truth we must first provide individuals with safety so they may find the courage to do what is right. Without safety people fear reprisals, embarrassment, retribution, consequences, and loss of respect. History has taught us that without safety and courage we can not expect most people to bridge the chasm from fear to justice, and as a result the silence will continue. With silence there will be no hope for change. So in order to help define expectations and to foster a safer environment for effective communication we need a code to live by; one that provides standards and creates safety – that serves as a beacon in the darkness so that we may uphold ourselves and one another to it.

To be absolutely clear, I am not saying that policies, processes and tools are more important than people. Instead, I am acknowledging that the right combination of policies and processes with appropriate tools and a method to uphold those ideals should serve to provide opportunity for fairness for people, which is the desired outcome.

A Disturbing Retrospective Leading to a Hopeful Outcome

At the end of World War II when “relative” safety was finally achieved, people were exhausted, shocked and appalled with the magnitude of human atrocities they bore witness to. Given the darkness of the times it may have seemed less painful to move on, put it in the past, and perhaps even obscure disturbing facts rather than revisit them in the pursuit of learning. Instead, the leadership of that time chose to leverage careful inspection to uncover truths and provide visibility with the aspiration that something good could flow out of the evil. In the end the aim was to use the learnings to create a shared understanding and define standards and expectations for a safe environment in the future.

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
~ George Santayana

To this end I believe we already have a code to live by, but I surmise most of society doesn’t give it the continuous, serious consideration and support it deserves. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was created on December 10, 1948 as a direct outcome of the learnings from World War II, and in this brief but impactful document are 30 articles that define human equality and set the standards for safety. Despite some of its choice wording and age (at almost 70 years) I believe it is still directly relevant and bears serious attention.

(http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/)

UDHR
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The UDHR document transcends political borders, gender, orientation, race, religion, boardrooms, workplaces, homes, family, and economic status. Every person on this planet should not only just read it, but actively live, work, and explicitly honour the values it represents. The UDHR should become the definitive core learning article for every child. If we all continuously make a firm commitment to hold ourselves and others by the standards in the UDHR I believe we could collectively create opportunity for better safety, transparency, respect, and courage in the workplace, at home, and abroad by putting focus on what matters most – equality and the value of and compassion for human life.

The UDHR document may be policy, but with continuous effort, unilateral agreement and support it enables and empowers people. It may not be perfection, but it is aspirational towards it. It focuses on individual rights but strongly values human interaction. It promotes balance, harmony and partnerships. It demands mutual respect and caring. It is elegant in its simplicity. It promotes collaboration and shared responsibility. It defines clear expectations for a safe environment.

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
~ Winston Churchill

I believe the UDHR is the manifesto of real, human agility, and if enough of us embrace and enforce it I believe we could collectively make real, positive change.

Now, A Challenge

I challenge each and every one of you to take time to read the UN Declaration of Human Rights. I don’t just mean on the train on the way to work, or over morning coffee, or while your kids are playing soccer or hockey, or whatever you do to pass a few minutes of time. I mean take time to really, truly and deeply comprehend what each of the thirty articles are saying. Reflect on the value of wisdom that it provides and how that wisdom came from pain and learning. I then encourage you to share it with every family member (adults and youth) and ask for constructive feedback on what it says about them and personal life. I encourage you to share it with every co-worker and then have an open, honest dialogue about what your company culture and leadership either does or fails to do to provide a safe work environment and to promote equality, truth, transparency and human rights.

Then, I challenge you to ask every single day “Given the declaration, what small positive adaptation or change can I make right now to help our family, friends, peers, coworkers and humanity achieve these goals and outcomes?” You could start with something as simple as a brief conversation, and see where it goes.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I asked myself that very question after visiting the UN General Assembly and Security Council Chambers in New York late last year. In response, one of my first actions in 2018 is to publish this article in an effort to re-establish awareness about the UN declaration and how it may bring hope and positive change if we can rally enough people behind it. How about you?

A secondary (and arguably less important) challenge I am issuing for Lean and Agile enthusiasts is for you to identify the patterns and key words in this article that I have borrowed from various facets of the Lean and Agile domains (hint: there are at least 20 different words – can you spot them). I purposefully embedded these patterns and key words in this article to explicitly highlight the parallels that I see between Agility and the UDHR and I hope you see them too.


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Is There a Flaw, a Discrepancy, in the Agile Manifesto?

Recently, Mishkin Berteig recounted that one individual attending a Scrum training class with him argued that there is a misalignment, a discrepancy, in the Agile Manifesto  between these two statements:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” (1st Value), versus Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software” (1st Principle).

This left me pondering the difference between a value and a principle. My dictionary tells me that value refers to the worth, usefulness or importance of a thing.

A principle is a fundamental truth or law as the basis of reasoning or action.

Therefore, although they seem to be related, the idea of value is something that is held dear, while a principle is something one uses to reason and act from. Perhaps one can say the former is subjective and the latter is objective.

The first value,individuals and interactions over processes and tools” means, to me, that all individuals, employees and customers alike, are valued more than processes and tools. The manifesto makes it clear that “processes and tools” are still important, but not as important as individuals and interactions: That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Comparing this value with the first principle of Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer…” does not appear to be a contradiction – in fact, I believe they work hand in hand; they are “both, and.” Here’s why.

When a company values its interactions and individuals, employees will likely create products most satisfactory to their customers. Happiness and satisfaction are infectious. The principle of “early and continuous delivery of valuable software” becomes possible because both employees and customers are valued.

In another part of the online Agile Manifesto, one can read an essay on its history written by Jim Highsmith, one of the signatories to the Manifesto. For me this brief paragraph from that essay encompasses both the value and the principle in question:

At the core, I believe Agile Methodologists are really about “mushy” stuff—about delivering good products to customers by operating in an environment that does more than talk about “people as our most important asset” but actually “acts” as if people were the most important, and lose the word “asset”. So in the final analysis, the meteoric rise of interest in—and sometimes tremendous criticism of—Agile Methodologies is about the mushy stuff of values and culture.”

http://agilemanifesto.org/history.html


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Interview with Janice Linden-Reed, CPO at Lean Kanban Inc.

Janice Linden-Reed was asked to help our readers understand the efficacy of Kanban training, as well as its relationship to Agile frameworks. The following is her response (republished from the REALagility Newsletter, Nov. 2017).

“Kanban is useful in any situation where the flow of work is uneven, and/or people are swamped with too much work. It is not a replacement for Scrum; it can be overlaid in any current system a business may be using. Kanban helps organize and manage, so that everyone understands customer demand versus individual capacity. Kanban enables one to sort out, and get back into control of, their work.

There is lots of debate around the relationship between Kanban and being agile. David Anderson, Kanban’s founder, had been experimenting with applying Lean principles to knowledge work in particular. In a sense, Kanban combines being agile with Lean principles. Kanban can create order just in time for changing conditions (disruption). Kanban is not in an either/or position with Scrum; the two can be combined.

Around 2005 David Anderson was approached about a complex project at Microsoft, and started to apply what he’d been learning. By 2010 his book, Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change, was published. In 2011, the Lean Kanban University (LKU) was established because the capacities of people who were teaching Kanban varied greatly. The university ensures people use the right materials and learn all the elements of a successful Kanban curriculum. Thus an Accredited Kanban Trainers (AKT) is endorsed by LKU.

Kanban teaches: start where you are now, whatever your situation, whatever framework you may be using. The challenge with Kanban is simply knowing what you’re doing at any given moment. Kanban can help you start with getting visibility of the work, so that everyone – managers and employees alike – are on the same page. Kanban is very free about then allowing change to occur.

Kanban is used by the agile community worldwide, to differing degrees, offering both shallow visuals or deep risk management. It works mainly for knowledge and service work, i.e. insurance companies and banks – work that is essentially invisible, and is of different sizes. Because knowledge work is not visible, management may not know how much an employee has on his or her plate.

A trained AKT understands systems thinking and a pull system, all the way to applying advanced techniques to improve flow and predictability. The training will be eye-opening – time well-spent!”

Read more about Kanban at:

http://www.agileadvice.com/2017/06/01/kanban/kanban-real-scaled-agility-enterprise/


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Scrum Guide Revisions: from a Webinar with Ken Schwaber & Dr. Jeff Sutherland

If you’ve not had a chance to view this webinar which explains changes to the 2017 Scrum Guide, I offer this brief review.

Some History

The Scrum Guide by Ken Schwaber and Dr. Jeff Sutherland was first formally presented in 1995 at an OOPSLA Conference in Texas. The first version of the Scrum Guide was released in 2010 as the official “Body of Knowledge of Scrum.” This was posted in a neutral open space for anyone to access, and the authors received tons of feedback.

The 2017 Scrum Guide, according to Schwaber, provides a minimal approach to Scrum to enable people to use it, but not be restrained by it. He adds that this 2017 version was motivated by people’s feedback and input.

So what’s new?

  • The uses of Scrum – Scrum has expanded far beyond IT

  • Refined role of the Scrum Master – SM is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide, by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practice, rules and values; and, as much as is possible, within the culture of the organization, and according to the SM’s organizational and political skills, and patience. It’s a very tough job.” (Schwaber)

  • Clarifying the purpose of the Daily Scrum – The daily scrum has been a problem area; it’s more than reporting your action; it’s about replanning and refocussing, and moving the backlog to “done.”

  • Time boxes – only require a maximum length; clarity has been added around time boxes using the words “at most” to remove questions that events have to be a certain length.

  • Sprint Backlog – includes feedback from the sprint Retrospective; it’s about continuous improvement; the sprint backlog makes visible all the work that the development team identifies to meet the sprint goal; it includes at least one high priority process improvement identified in the previous Retrospective meeting. (The authors struggled with this, worried it would be too prescriptive.)

Misconceptions?

Schwaber and Sutherland also address common misconceptions in the webinar. One topic they emphasize is that Scrum is not only relevant to software delivery, but can be used in many different domains, from products to services.

They also address the idea that releases may be delivered at any time, not just at the end of the sprint. Sutherland calls this “continuous deployment.”

Another misconception the authors discuss is whether or not Scrum and DevOps are competitive.

Jeff Sutherland states: “The biggest problem in attempting Scrum is not using every part of it.” The parts are interlocking, and all need to be synchronized. In other words, use all of Scrum!

The Future

Scrum may be needed more than ever. The rate of change in the world has accelerated beyond being linear. The authors outline three universal dimensions of change:

  1. People – including markets, population, distribution, social and religious organizations

  2. Technology – !

  3. Mother Earth – including climate, desertification, oceans, etc.

Changes in these three areas cause great cultural instability. The sweet spot of Scrum is vision with a team of people who can create something new and needed!

The webinar contains valuable nuggets of information, plus it’s fascinating to watch these two innovators. Enjoy!

https://www.scruminc.com/scrum-guide-revision-webinar


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A Litmus Test for Agility

Being Agile seems to be the rage these days and everyone has an opinion on what Agility means and how to do it “right”.  This article doesn’t make process recommendations, but it does provide a quick, effective way to help your team and organization get on track with being Agile (primarily a mindset measurement) and not just doing Agile (primarily a practices measurement).  Presented below is a simple and lightweight test that can be applied by almost anyone; it provides clear steps for improvement, and it is geared for alignment with the core Agile Principles and Values.

The Need

CoachThere are lots of Agile practitioners, coaches and trainers out there claiming to be experts.  Some are genuinely skilled while others have a few key certification letters beside their name and yet little to no in depth, real-world experience.  Although most have a genuine intent to help and they might actually succeed at it, others might inadvertently do more damage and provide harmful guidance.  How can you help them help you?

FrameworkThere are also numerous frameworks, methodologies, and practices that claim they are well suited to help an organization become more Agile.  Some of them are simplistic, process-based approaches that may not account for your environment, culture, or specific business needs, while others are more complex and pragmatic.  Depending on your situation it can be tricky to know what will work best.  How can you find a suitable fit?

MeasurementThere are also many tools and approaches to measure a team’s Agility, the leadership’s alignment with Agile, or the organizational maturity.  Some of these simply measure the number of practices (i.e. are you doing Agile), others account for an in depth assessment of cultural factors (i.e are you being Agile), and some are based on scenarios that are idealistic given common real world business challenges.

Indeed there are a wide variety of indicators of varying complexity, so you might be challenged to determine if they are simply vanity measures, helpful health indicators, or suitable fitness criteria, and more specifically if they appropriately measure for the outcomes you are looking for.  How can you ensure they are providing valuable insights and actionable results so you may make data driven decisions?

Keep it Simple and Focused

Given all these complexities, how do you know what it really means to be Agile, how can you align the effort, and how do you know how successful you are?

The answer is keep it simple and focused, and be outcome driven. Specifically, start with the foundations of Agile and then evaluate Agility from your perspective, your organization’s business needs, your employee’s needs, and most importantly from your customer’s needs.  Then, use that information to measure and steer improvement towards your real desired outcomes of Agility.

In the spirit of keeping it simple and focused, I’m sharing a “quick” and lightweight Agility Litmus Test and Procedure below to measure how you are doing and to ensure you, your stakeholders and your approaches are all headed in the right direction.

A Straightforward Procedure

1) Align With The Agile Manifesto

Read the Agile Manifesto.  I don’t mean gloss over it on the train on the way to work, or over lunch, or during your kid’s sports game.  I mean READ it, focusing on the twelve guiding principles AND the four value statements.

If it helps, boil each of the twelve principles down to two or three key words to provide clarity.  Then, when reviewing each principle ask yourself what you think it really means, and why you think it was important enough for the signatories to explicitly call it out in the Manifesto (what the intent was).  To ensure everyone has a similar frame of reference you may find it useful to host a time boxed, focused discussion on each principle.

2) Choose Key Agile Measures

Of the twelve principles ask yourself which ones (pick 3 or 4 at most) are core, or most important to you and your stakeholders (your organization, your leadership, your customers and your team).  Don’t just speculate or guess what the answers are; you will likely need to facilitate several workshops with the appropriate people to get to the truth to those questions.

This activity in itself is a test.  If there is not close alignment on what the most important principles are then stop right here.  Do not proceed until you align on what those key principles are.  If you proceed without alignment you risk working against one another and not towards a common goal or outcome.  Note that getting alignment might prove contentious so you may need a series of facilitated sessions to hash it out.

Once you align on several core principles they become your key indicators for the Litmus Test for Agility.  These are also your defined Agile outcomes, because they encapsulate what it specifically means for you to be Agile (where you want to be).

3) Perform a Critical Assessment

Starting with your key indicators, honestly answer the question how close or how far away are we” for each one.  Use a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 means “not close at all” and 7 means “we are totally nailing it”.  I chose 1-7 because it gives just enough range to differentiate measures.  That, and it is exactly 1/2 of the pH range for a proper Litmus test!

Be sure to seek fair and equal participation in this evaluation, as it is important to help reduce bias and ensure perspectives are accounted for.  This means you should ensure you have adequate representation from as many groups as is practical.

Honesty and transparency are also extremely critical here so you may require a facilitated session.  You may also need to provide a safe environment to encourage honesty in responses, so anonymous scoring and evaluations would be an appropriate technique to use.

4) Determine Actions

Critically review the summary of evaluative responses for your key indicators.  If the average is less than 6 out of 7 then hold a strategic planning session to determine actions to get you closer to achieving those outcomes.  Note also if there is a wide dispersal of the individual responses for a key indicator that would strongly suggest there is a large misalignment amongst the respondents, and you need to address that gap.

One question to ask would simply be “what would it take…”, or “what would we need to do to get us to a 6 or higher?   When following this line of reasoning be sure to account for the coaches, practitioners and experts you are relying on by asking “What can or should they be doing to align with our key indicators and Agile outcomes?”

Also, look at the frameworks and approaches you are using and ask “How can we switch, change or improve our ways to improve Agility?”

Finally, look at the tools and measures you are leveraging and ask “Are these vanity measures or are they really meaningful?” and “How can we improve these measures (not just the values, but the metrics themselves) to provide more meaningful insights and help us better realize our defined Agile outcomes?”

As a group then choose at least one and no more than three specific actions that came out of the discussion above, implement them, hold one another accountable for them, and measure on the next round if your actions had the desired effect of improving the scores for your key indicators.

5) Learn and Refine

Repeat steps 3 and 4 of this procedure at frequent and regular intervals, being sure to not only measure but also define and take new action.

6) Reassess and Pivot as Needed

If time permits or if your key indicators all show consistent strength, consider switching to some of the other Agile Manifesto Guiding Principles.  If it seems logical you may even want to go back and repeat the entire process as your needs and outcomes may have changed.

Conclusion

The core value this Litmus Test for Agility provides is a) in its simplicity, b) in it’s inherent alignment with the Agile Values and Principles, and c) in its focus on what matters most for you and your stakeholders.  It uses the Manifesto as a foundation, and then allows you to focus on what is most important to you.

Like all tests and models this approach has some inherent strengths and weaknesses.  For example, it is lightweight, cheap, easy to implement, and aligned with core Agility, however it is not an extravagant or in depth test so it may not account for complexities.  As such it should never replace sound judgement.

Meanwhile, if you sense or feel there is something deeper going on that may be impeding your organization’s ability to become more Agile then be sure to investigate thoroughly, work with others to obtain nonpartisan assessment, and provide clarity along the way on intent, outcome, and learnings.

If you are practicing Scrum, using a more sophisticated tool such as Scrum Insight (a virtual “Coach-in-a-Box”) can provide much richer, deeper feedback and insights, including recommended actions.  Even the free version of the tool provides keen insight.

Depending on circumstance you might also find it advantageous to call in expert facilitation, advisors or coaches to either conduct an Agility test such as this or even help your team or organization get to the heart of their issues and challenges.  Organizations such as BERTEIG are not only Agile teachers but they are also hands-on practitioners that can coach your team and organization to reaching new levels of Agility, either with a lightweight touch or a fully immersive engagement.

Coincidentally, reflecting, collaborating, providing transparency, and adopting a continuous learning and improvement mindset are in and of themselves indicators of Agility.  So identifying core values such as these and then making them part of your Agile Litmus Test (i.e. making them your new Agility outcomes) shows how simple it can be to improve, adapt and grow even this lightweight approach!


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The Art of Agile Learning Events 101: Thoughts on Good Teaching

Teaching is an art form. Good teaching requires the softer personal skills more than hard facts and knowledge. In fact, great teaching requires consistent learning on the part of the instructor. That’s part of being agile. Every class and every new group of students, whether you’re teaching Scrum, SAFe or Kanban, is an opportunity for a teacher to learn and perfect his/her art.

by valerie senyk

The points discussed here are not an exhaustive list; they are a starting point for anyone struggling with figuring out how to train/teach anything agile – or anything, for that matter!

First impressions go a long way, so be at your best. Smile and warmly welcome your participants. Smiling helps people feel more comfortable. Try to make eye contact with as many as possible. Your introduction should be energetic. It’s a lot like writing a short story or news article – the reader’s attention has to be captured in the opening lines, or the story goes unread. When you are teaching, it does not matter if you happen to be tired or had a fight with your spouse. Participants  have paid to be there, and no matter what your personal circumstances are, you are there to deliver.

It’s a given that you know your subject and you know what to cover in the class. Do your best to state important ideas and principles with clarity. The essence of teaching and learning is communication. Consider this statement:

One of the chief attributes of a great teacher is the ability to break down complex ideas and make them understandable.”https://www.fastcompany.com/44276/attention-class-16-ways-be-smarter-teacher

Recounting relevant stories is one way to illustrate complex ideas, and the more personal your story is, the more effective it will be with your listeners.

How do you respond to tough or challenging questions? The same web article continues with this thought: “Sometimes the best answer a teacher can give is, ‘I don’t know.’ Instead of losing credibility, she gains students’ trust, and that trust is the basis of a productive relationship.” Acknowledging what you don’t know shows that you’re still learning. No one is perfect or knows everything, and the more you can be yourself, the more relatable the students will find you. Remember, too, that teaching is a dialogue, so listen carefully to your students when they have a question or comment.

Since you don’t need to be worried about not knowing all the answers, that gives you more opportunity to use humour, even to laugh at yourself, if it’s warranted. The Canadian Humber Centre for Teaching and Learning places great emphasis on this aspect. Humour is ranked as one of the top five traits of effective teachers. Laughter helps everyone relax, even the instructor, and gives the learning experience a more agile feel. Laughter definitely enriches the learning experience.

Be passionate about what you are teaching. Expertise is not enough. Passion is infectious, like a fever that your students can catch. When you care about your subject, your students will also care. Your passion also helps you change up the rhythm of your speech, so that sometimes your speech will be more emphatic, and that helps create focus in certain areas of your content and greater interest overall.

Now for the gold: it’s not about you; it’s about them. Your focus should be almost 100% on your students (and you will improve as a teacher as a result). Certainly the material you’ve prepared is important, but your preparation should be such that your awareness need not remain there. Be aware of every response;  read body language constantly. Keep them with you every step of the way. If you  love what you’re doing, and make every effort to communicate, you will not be concerned whether you yourself are doing well; you will be concerned that THEY are doing well. This is the best secret to good teaching, and will enable you to learn so much from those that have come to learn from you.

 


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The Grindstone of Agility Happens Here – A Positive View of the Future

Grindstone: a stone disk used for polishing, grinding or sharpening tools

What is it that makes the members of the Agile community so close? We come from different walks of life, yet at conferences and meet-ups, we greet each other with warmth, as friends. Perhaps it is because as trainers and coaches, we see the world through a lens that gives us a uniquely positive view of the future: in our work we are fostering collaborative and uplifting workplaces for humans, the individuals behind the shiny impenetrable face of corporations. We are working to help the humans of the workforce AND we believe that Agile actually has a wider potential reach than just the workforce.

Image result for grindstone image

The toil of corporate coaching has both marked our souls and produced an everlasting bond. We dare to imagine an Agile society, Agile schools, Agile governments: based on the Agile Manifesto’s principles. We believe in trust, respect, face-to-face interactions, people over process, motivation and self-organization. We are walking the talk: upholding these values and principles gives us a sense of purpose and a strong belief that the future will be a better place. Together we swim upstream daily (right into the waterfall you could even say).  In classrooms, corporate offices where we coach, and the blogosphere the environment is peppered with nay-sayers and pessimists. Instead one can have a more positive view of the future. This is where the learning and co-creating happen: the grindstone of Agility.

The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, and that goal applies the same in the workplace as it does everywhere else. Together we can make a huge impact on the world of work and society as a whole, with positive attitude as our vehicle. Considering many of us spend over 100,000 hours at work over a lifetime, why not improve that experience? As we all know, aiming high is a good character trait, and supporting each other, a valiant aim.

Let’s create more willingness to accept that lofty goal, and recognize that the grindstone is a long-term polishing process that requires positivity.

by Nima Honarmandan and Katie Weston

Check out the recent article by Valerie on the same topic: Build Positive Relationships with Trust in Your (Work) Life.


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Announcing the Launch of Scrum Insight – an Automated Online Scrum Coach

Scrum Insight is a tool for Scrum Masters and Scrum Coaches to help them improve their teams.  It leverages the accumulated experience of six expert coaches in an automated online tool.

Scrum Insight Logo - Online Scrum Coach

We have just launched version 1.0.  This version includes easy access  to a free report.  It also includes an optional paid Professional report that replaces the equivalent of 83 hours of on-site coaching.

For Scrum Masters this means access to Scrum coaches that may not otherwise be affordable.  For Scrum Coaches, this means leveraging your time to make progress on the hardest problems facing your Scrum teams.

Using Scrum Insight

Using Scrum Insight is a simple two-step process:

  1. Get all your team members to fill out the Scrum Insight survey (and remember to save everyone’s “survey codes”!!!).
    Taking the survey requires between 8 and 11 minutes.  It seems like a long survey, but is actually very quick to go through.
  2. Load your survey codes and generate your team’s report.
    The free report includes a single piece of advice optimized to your team, plus a score for how well you are doing Scrum and how well your organization is supporting your use of Scrum.
  3. (Optional) Upgrade your report to the Professional version for just $500.
    The Professional report gives you much more in-depth advice, more detailed score breakdowns, a permanent link to your report and much more.

So far, 102 teams have used the Professional Scrum Insight report, and many more the free report – let your team be the next to take advantage of Scrum Insight.

We have posted a more permanent description of Scrum Insight as a page here on Agile Advice.

Reminder: when you do the survey, keep your survey code(s) and print the report that is generated.  We don’t collect your email address to use the free report so there is no permanent way to access it other than using the survey code(s).


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Mind-bender: A Scrum team increases their velocity by doing less work!

Sub-title: Breaking the Iron Triangle

Sub-title #2: Jeff Sutherland’s book could have been called: “Scrum: Twice the decision-making in half the time leading to half the work and twice the output.”
But every smart publisher would throw out that title.

A discussion is raging at LinkedIn about the Iron Triangle because Jeff Sutherland, co-author of Scrum, often says that “Scrum breaks the Iron Triangle”. This, you can imagine, causes ripples through the Project Management community. Mr. Sutherland also speaks of “Velocity” and sometimes as a way to explain the breaking of the Iron Triangle, he’s known to say that a Scrum team can increase their velocity by employing various patterns of behaviour which reduce hand-offs, increase quality, et cetera — and this “breaks” the Iron Triangle.

I have captured some thoughts on the subject below.

In Product Development, the end state cannot be known in advance of starting — that is, the scope cannot be known in advance of starting. And even after starting, the product scope changes rapidly as market conditions and users’ needs change and/or are better understood.

Therefore, the iron triangle is a weak model to apply. The Iron Triangle is a useful model only if the conditions which define scope, time, and cost have low variability. If building a house, for example, the end state can be known before starting its construction; apart from the paint colours and some finishing touches, every part of a house can be modelled and codified before starting its construction. Thus, the Iron Triangle can be useful to inform discussion and decision making: would we like to speed up construction of the house? Maybe…so let’s spend more to hire more contractors.  Will cost change if we add another bedroom and detached garage?  Probably, unless we buy cheaper materials.  See, the variables have predictable outcomes.

If developing product, such as creating software wherein the future states of the source code are unknowable, the iron triangle causes weird discussion and isn’t likely to improve decision-making. Perhaps other theories of constraints can be more useful.

Theories of constraints share a common supposition: “a chain is no stronger than its weakest link”. In complex, adaptive problems, the weakest link is neither scope, nor quality, nor time, not cost, nor knowledge, nor technique — it is common understanding or coherence.  Note, those factors are missing from the Iron Triangle. The Iron Triangle quickly becomes an irrelevant model in the realm of Product Development or complex/adaptive problem-solving. The only way to force the Iron Triangle model in this realm is to consider ‘time’ to be, not just a variable, but a changeable dimension. That is, as a Scrum team increases cohesion and alignment, they make decisions faster — this has the effect of making ‘time’ slow down, they can make more decisions per unit of time as though the team is travelling faster through time.  Weird, right?  So it’s just easier to throw away the Iron Triangle.

About Velocity

Yes, Jeff Sutherland discusses velocity in depth. But I’d like to remind everyone his definition of velocity…

Velocity is a measure of distance travelled over time. In other words, the *distance travelled through the Product Backlog* over *Sprint Length*. To say that velocity, in Scrum, is the speed of the Scrum team is quite inappropriate. More appropriately, an increase in velocity means the team is travelling further through the Product Backlog per Sprint.  It helps to stop thinking of the Product Backlog as a bunch of items and a bunch of story points. It’s more helpful to think of the Product Backlog simply as ‘the work that needs doing’ — a Scrum team can increase their rate of travelling through ‘the work that needs doing’ by…well…by learning.

An increase in a team’s velocity does not mean (necessarily) they are going faster. It OFTEN means they are going smarter. A Sprint is a learning cycle. The team learns as they work together. (Where’s “learning” in the iron triangle!??) When Mr. Sutherland  says Scrum “breaks” the triangle, I believe he is thinking of this very notion of learning. As transparency increases, the team can make better decisions, meaning they can eliminate waste (doing LESS work!!) and cohere more rapidly and achieve high-quality decision-making, thus going increasing their output.

“One of the ways a team increases their velocity is BY DOING LESS WORK.”

As a Scrum team travels through the backlog, a learning team will discover ways to reduce work per Product Backlog Item: they’ll figure out ways to automate a bunch of repetitive stuff; they’ll produce modular designs which create opportunities for reuse and adaptation; they’ll learn from their mistakes, reduce risk, and increase quality. (These are the results of learning as a team and one of the key reasons for Scrum’s rules that a Scrum team is small and has stable membership for long periods — communication saturation enables cohesion and therefore enhances learning…as a team.)

In other words, the team finds ways to travel further through the backlog each Sprint while not working harder/more.

Hence, the iron triangle as weak model for understanding the constraints in complex problems.

Tip: Angela Montgomery has written extensively about Theory of Constraints in complex settings — her writings are waaaaay more helpful to us in the realm of Product Development than the limited Iron Triangle.


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Finding Compassion – Lessons Learned From My Street

It may be a cliche to be talking about “Compassion” in the workplace, as it is a “concept” that has been addressed multiple times over many years.

Frankly, it is difficult to actually put into practice. And for me, it was something I explored, adopted, and then ignored, over the past number of decades as real-world priorities shifted.

But I want to share a very personal story that unfolded just today. Bear with me on this, as I will relate this personal situation to the workplace interactions we’ve all likely experienced.

My neighbour is a struggling single mother to whom I genuinely want to succeed, as she is a dedicated mother and a hard worker. However, she recently took a very base-level approach to an emotional situation that affects many people within my neighbourhood.

In short, her dog has behavioural issues which have lead to attacks and mock-attacks upon myself, my family, local contractors, and fellow neighbours. Latitude has been given to her in each instance as she has made earnest efforts to curb this behaviour, but for the most part, she has had marginal success. Most recently the dog actually attacked a local boy, who spent 3 days in hospital as a result.

Clearly, the issue with the “dog in the room” needed to be escalated and dealt with. The injured boy’s father rightly requested that a muzzle order be put in place: an order that has subsequently been appealed by the owner.

Think about this for a moment.

The position of the dog owner just changed, from “I am making earnest efforts” to “my dog is not the problem. You are the problem”.

Why?

Well, there’s been a trigger event and it’s because of a strong emotional connection to her dog. To justify this, she has created a “story” about all the people that are involved in this situation: the young boy in the hospital “provoked” the dog. The “dog doesn’t have the problem, everyone else does, and it’s all lies”. My personal situation in which I had to physically defend my family from the aggressiveness of this loose dog “never happened”. And of course the contractor who locked himself in a room until she came home……. well, you get the point.

It is very easy for me, as a professional who is accustomed to teams, and boardrooms, proper process, HR, and mature interactions that move business forward, to look at her position as an immature and flailing attempt to justify a deeper need. An  emotional need to protect the love she has for this dog and what the dog represents as part of her family.

Relating this to business, I’ve met people who have acted much like her in the workplace. The same story of innocence the dog owner positions, is often found in the boardroom! The questions are why, and secondly, do such people tend to remain in their position or do they get moved along?

They survive. While they may be unskilled and unready to address the actual deep personal issue driving their behaviour, they often position themselves in a very innocent light, and they tend to point out those “liars” around them.

The light went off for me when I found myself emotionally wrapped up in being called a liar by a person who was clearly to blame. How do you defend yourself with your “team skills” and “boardroom skills” against a person with “street skills”?

That is where I found Compassion.

As in situations with my co-workers, colleagues, clients and friends, I realized that this single mother is just trying to provide her son with a home, an education, a pet to call his own, and in between, cut the noise in her life, and find her own sense of happiness while shouldering 100% of the burden.

Moving this concept to the workplace, could it be that a percentage of your colleagues who sometimes leave you scratching your head, have some well-developed “street skills”?

After today I do believe it begins with you – not them – just as this personal revelation with the neighbour began with me.

In the end, the injured son’s father expertly resolved this emotional powder-keg: and I learned it’s not about defending against the accusations, it’s doing exactly what this father did.

He listened to all parties with genuine interest and curiosity. He asked neutral-based questions, keeping his emotions in check. He did not take the accusations personally. He sought answers and he sought consensus. He asked for timelines and process. He often asked for help, and sometimes he had to escalate (i.e. getting a muzzle order) where he needed. But he exercised Compassion at every step.

I learned that defending myself against accusations is not the name of the game: it’s about taking the father’s approach. His Compassion renewed Compassion in me.

https://businessconnectworld.com/2017/11/28/simple-ways-help-people-next-door-around-world/


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What Kanban Is (And Isn’t)

The Kanban Method is a management method for…

  • Directly improving service delivery;
  • Catalyzing improvements;
  • Evolving a business to be fit for purpose.

The Kanban Method is also…

  • An evolving and flexible system of pragmatic, actionable, evidence-based guidance;
  • Adaptable to the unique needs of each context to which it is applied;
  • Inclusive of evidence-based guidance from a broad range of professional disciplines, including economics, psychology, sociology, process management and change management.

The Kanban Method is not…

  • A project management method;
  • A software development lifecycle process;
  • Completely defined in a “manifesto” or “guide”;
  • An immutable process framework with binding rules, extant only in its entirety—in other words, you don’t need to be doing all of Kanban for it to be Kanban, nor is it advisable to try.

You would likely benefit from exploring the applicability of Kanban to your business because…

Your organization is an ecosystem of interdependent services—a complex, adaptive system. You introduce a Kanban system into it such that the complex system is stimulated to improve. – Alexei Zheglov

This wikipedia entry provides a fairly accurate description of the Kanban Method:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_(development)

The Kanban Method has 3 Agendas:

  1. Survivability (of the business, for business executives);
  2. Service-orientation (for all levels of management);
  3. Sustainability (for professional services knowledge workers);

The Kanban Method could help you if one or more of the 3 agendas above applies to you.

The Kanban Method has 9 values:

  1. Customer focus
  2. Transparency
  3. Understanding
  4. Agreement
  5. Leadership
  6. Respect
  7. Collaboration
  8. Balance
  9. Flow

The Kanban Method has 6 principles; 3 change management principles and 3 service delivery principles.

Change Management Principles:

  1. Start with what you do now.
  2. Agree to pursue improvement through evolutionary change.
  3. Encourage acts of leadership at all levels.

Service Delivery Principles:

  1. Understand & focus on customer needs and expectations.
  2. Manage the work, let people self-organize around it.
  3. Policies govern service delivery.

The Kanban Method has 6 practices:

  1. Visualize
  2. Limit WIP
  3. Manage flow
  4. Make policies explicit
  5. Feedback loops
  6. Improve & evolve

You are “doing” Kanban if your intentions are that…

  • Management behaviour in your organization changes to enable Kanban;
  • The customer interface changes, in line with Kanban;
  • The customer contract changes, informed by Kanban;
  • Your service delivery business model changes to exploit Kanban.

LeanKanban Inc. is the authority on the Kanban Method. LeanKanban University is the accredited training organization of LeanKanban Inc.

David J. Anderson is the founder of the Kanban Method. Essential Kanban Condensed, co-authored by Anderson and Andy Carmichael, is available as a free download.

Travis Birch is an Accredited Kanban Trainer with LeanKanban University. You can sign up for his upcoming public Kanban courses in December 2017 at Berteig World Mindware.

 


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Sleep and Productivity – Sustainable Pace

Good article on sleep and productivity – you need at least 6 hours per night to not fall into a vicious cycle of lower productivity leading to longer work hours, less sleep, and then lower productivity.

The Agile Manifesto asks us to work in such a way that we can maintain our pace indefinitely.


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What if no one was forced to do Scrum?

I just commented on a LinkedIn thread about “Sprint Zero”. It occurred to me that Sprint Zero is often used as one of many coping mechanisms for people who are forced to do Scrum. It also occurred to me that in my 9 years or so working with a reliable sample size of Scrum teams, not one of those teams was populated entirely by people who were not coerced into doing Scrum.

Gut check: The percentage of people I know who are currently on Scrum teams and who would be doing Scrum if it wasn’t mandated by management could be lower than 50%. This begs the questions: What if Scrum was offered to teams as an optional way to manage their own work? Would there be less Scrum in the world?

With one exception, all of the Scrum teams I have worked with were mandated (forced) by management to implement Scrum. The exceptional team was exceptional in other ways. They were by far the happiest and most revolutionary (in terms of recognition for business success in their organization). Although one or two hesitant team members were roped in by their peers, the social climate of the team allowed the wary to adapt safely and gradually to their new reality.

For the overwhelming majority (in my experience), there is an irony, even a paradox at play. A lot has been said & written about how command and control management is antithetical to Scrum. Yet, many—if not most—Scrum adoptions are commanded by management with vanity metrics (i.e. velocity) installed to uphold the illusion of control.

What are some of the other coping mechanisms for people who are forced to do Scrum? What is driving this behaviour? How many of these behaviours have been labelled as “anti-patterns” and why?

Safety is an essential success factor for any organization. Is it safe for people to choose to not do Scrum, or express dissent about Scrum adoption in their organization? What does this tell us about Scrum itself? Does Scrum need to be reimagined or reframed in order to make Scrum adoption safer for more people? Is it safe to do so?


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Build Positive Relationships With Trust in Your (Work) Life

Trust is an exceptional quality that we humans can develop with each other. It goes a long way to building positive relationships. We hope and strive for trust in our families, and with our most intimate connections. Yet do we expect trust in our work lives?

Can you imagine the  relief you might feel entering your work space, knowing that you can do your work with confidence and focus? That encouragement rather than criticism underlies the culture of your workplace? That a manager or co-worker is not scheming behind your back to knock you or your efforts down in any way? That you’re not being gossiped about?

Trust is especially key in today’s work spaces. Teamwork is becoming an essential aspect of work across every kind of business and organization.

Here’s what one team development company writes about this subject:

The people in your organization need to work as a team to respond to internal and external challenges, achieve common objectives, solve problems collaboratively, and communicate openly and effectively. In successful teams, people work better together because they trust each other. Productivity improves and business prospers. http://beyondthebox.ca/workshops/team-trust-building/

It Starts With Me and You

As with so many qualities in life, the idea of trust, or being trustworthy, starts with me and you.

It is essential that we take a hard look at ourselves, and determine whether or not we display the attributes of trustworthiness.

To do this, I might ask myself some of these questions:

  • Do I tell the truth?
  • Do I avoid backbiting (talking about others behind their back)?
  • Do I do what I say I’m going to do?
  • Do I apply myself to my work and do my best?
  • Do I consciously build positive relationships with all levels of people in my workplace?
  • Do I encourage or help others when I can?

There are many more questions to ask oneself, but these offer a place to start.

One website proposes a template to assess employees in terms of their trustworthiness:

Trust develops from consistent actions that show colleagues you are reliable, cooperative and committed to team success. A sense of confidence in the workplace better allows employees to work together for a common goal. Trust does not always happen naturally, especially if previous actions make the employees question if you are reliable. Take stock of the current level of trust in the workplace, identifying potential roadblocks. An action plan to build positive relationships helps improve the overall work environment for all employees.

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/develop-maintain-trust-work-relationships-12065.html

This snippet comes from “Lou Holtz’s Three Rules of Life,” by Harvey MacKay:

“The first question: Can I trust you?”

“Without trust, there is no relationship,” Lou said. “Without trust, you don’t have a chance. People have to trust you. They have to trust your product. The only way you can ever get trust is if both sides do the right thing.”

http://www.uexpress.com/harvey-mackay/2012/5/7/lou-holtzs-3-rules-of-life

Asking questions helps me to be more aware and to learn. What might you change to help create greater trust with your colleagues or team?

As well, what actions can you take to help your team to experience greater trust altogether?

You can read more about Trust at http://www.agileadvice.com/2017/05/29/uncategorized/soft-skills-revolution-may-want-team-development/

Valerie Senyk is a Team Development Facilitator, Blogger, & Customer Service Rep at BERTEIG. You can learn about her Team Dev workshop at http://www.worldmindware.com/AgileTeamDevelopment


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