Agile method for the Financial Services industry

There are two things every leader needs to know to be successful: first, a leader must clearly articulate what they expect, and second, they need to inspect what they expect on a daily basis. The big challenge though is how do you stay on top of changing priorities? And how do you avoid micro management and driving your team crazy?  This is why OpenAgile, in my opinion, will be very quickly embraced by management teams around the world. It has all the necessary tools to ensure success.
 
For the past 6 months, I have been working with a financial services team in Slovakia to introduce them to Agile methods. I started with Scrum, a methodology and framework that has been used in the Information Technology sector for the past 5-10 years.
 
The Slovak team started using Scrum with one team of 6 managers. They grew to have 4 teams actively managing their activities and projects using Agile Scrum, and another 2 teams are planning to launch soon. The feedback from the team members has been positive and the team leader is very impressed with the methodology, the activity levels, and the results. This organization/structure is doing very well in the very competitive marketplace that is Slovakia. I interact with the teams on a regular basis and often travel to Slovakia from Canada on business, so I have the opportunity to work closely with the structure, leader, and the teams.
 
The only challenge with Scrum is that it is somewhat restrictive regarding the types of work that is recorded and reported upon. Scrum does not accommodate repetitive or calendared activities. Fortunately, Berteig Consulting has developed OpenAgile as a new Agile method that allows for the tracking and reporting of all the Scrum work activities plus these new categories. I find OpenAgile more inclusive and representative of the Financial Services work environment.  
 
I’m now in the process of transitioning the Slovak teams from Scrum to OpenAgile. I believe OpenAgile will be a much better methodology for this team, and for all non-IT organizations, as it creates an environment for teams to achieve even greater success.
 
The OpenAgile method teaches the team members to self-manage. And rather than replacing the role of the team leader, that person is empowered to truly lead because they are free to focus on creating an environment where the team can thrive. OpenAgile helps the team to clearly identify the key strategic and tactical goals, and it allows the team to systematically inspects what everyone expects to be done.

There is actually a third thing every leader needs to know. It’s called OpenAgile.  And you can learn more about OpenAgile at http://www.openagile.com/ or by contacting Berteig Consulting http://www.berteigconsulting.com/Contact

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Why try to be good?

What motivates human beings to do the right thing?  To do good deeds, to be truthful, to be kind, to be helpful, to try to make the world a better place?  First of all, we have to realize that everything we say and do has an actual, real effect on our environment for better or for worse.  Every time we help someone, or tell the truth, it actually makes the world better in some small way, just as when we lie, cheat, steal or speak unkindly to someone, no matter how small the affront, we actually make the world worse.  In fact, our thoughts, words and actions can really have only one of two basic effects on the world – they can make it better or make it worse.  Period.

There are some powerful cultural forces in our society, most obviously the constant stream of materialistic propaganda through various forms of hypnotic media, that influence the way we perceive our ability to contribute to the betterment or worsening of our environment.  The basic message is that individuals can’t affect any real fundamental change in society (i.e., their environment) and that the best any of us can do is to change our position, rank or class within the permanent structures of our society.  Therefore, “only the strong survive”, “get what you can while you can” and the “pursuit of happiness” have become not only slogans that we live by, but conceptions of human nature that have constructed our social reality.

For example, the concept behind “the pursuit of happiness” is that happiness is something external and fixed that a person has to find somewhere “out there”.  Embedded in this “right” is the implicit message that “average” individuals and groups do not have the potential to exert influence on, and contribute in any meaningful and lasting way to the shaping of the prevailing social order.  Thus, there is always a better neighborhood to live in, a better employer to work for, a better school for your kids to go to, etc.  It disempowers us all from thinking that we can get together and do something right now about our immediate reality.  ”Don’t even bother”, it says, “you won’t be able to change anything anyways – you’re wasting time, effort, and worst of all – money!  Better to lie just a little, cheat just a little, step on your neighbor just a little in order to protect your own little piece of turf.”

Understanding the truth about our reality – our potential to contribute to the betterment of the world – is what will actually begin to motivate us to be good – that is, the fact that our good thoughts, good words, and good actions can and do make the world better.  ”Better” becomes not merely an external pursuit that we fight to get our little piece of; rather, it is an organic, sembiotic process of growth.  For one thing, it requires vision: What would the world be like, for example, if everyone always tried to tell the truth?  Would it really be so bad?  Would human affairs come to stand still?  Would the economy crumble?  Or would it, rather, begin create something new… something better?

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Aspects of Truthfulness

I had a fantastic discussion this weekend while on a road trip with my colleague David Parker.  We talked about the different aspects of Truthfulness.  This is what we came up with.

Honesty

Are you perfectly honest?  Is every statement you make factually correct to the best of your knowledge?

Behaviors that are not honest include: hyperbole and exaggeration,  sarcasm, falsehoods, omissions.

Honesty is the quality most obviously associated with Truthfulness.

Integrity

When you make a commitment, do you keep it?  Are your deeds an accurate reflection of your words and thoughts?

Behaviors that erode integrity include hypocrisy, unreliability, lateness.

Transparency

When someone wants to know something can they find it out from you?  Can you provide simple proof of your words and deeds?

Behaviors that prevent transparency include stonewalling, passing the buck, verbal diarrhea, and the use of esoteric or inappropriate jargon.
Serenity

Do you accept that the unexpected is natural?  Have you given up trying to control your environment?

Things that block serenity are anxiety and worry, reactionary anger, backstabbing, and manipulation.

Humility

Do you accept that others have wisdom, knowledge and experience that you don’t?  Can you admit both the possibility of being wrong, and the fact of being wrong?

There are many things that prevent the development of humility: taking offense from comments about yourself, your ideas or your actions, insisting on your way, vanity, boasting, and even ostentatious self-deprecation.

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The ScrumMaster Training Interactive Case Study

You have just been hired to be the ScrumMaster for a team at Zysoft Corp. Your boss, Jeremy, hired you because he likes your attitude and because you have been a team lead at a competitor. But you have never been a ScrumMaster before. Jeremy assures you that you will do “just fine! Scrum is simple!” But some of the things Jeremy told you in your interview make you wonder if it will really be so easy…

The ScrumMaster Training Interactive Case Study is the latest learning tool offered by Berteig Consulting. Like a chose-your-own adventure book, you enter into Jeremy’s world and confront real-life scenarios and learn to overcome real-life obstacles.

We hope that you have fun with this and gain some valuable insights into the role.  The tool is still in beta, so we very much appreciate any and all feedback.  Enjoy!

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How the Agile Community Can Contribute to the Betterment of the World

On April 1, 2009 Scott Ambler posted on his blog “a parody of a very serious ethical lapse within the agile community.”  It was an April Fool’s joke – a fake ad for a 2-day agile certification course called “SCUM Certified™ Agile Master, or more colloquially SCAMmer”.  The mock-ad states that

We want to be perfectly clear about this, by taking this ‘certification course’ what we’re certifying is that you attended the course.  It is your choice (nod nod, wink wink) if you wish to present yourself as a professional SCAMmer.  Yes, about 99.8% of course attendees choose to do this, why would you take the course otherwise?

This piece will not be a direct response to Ambler’s joke.  That would be…well, rather foolish.  Instead, what I intend to address here are the concerns raised by his “Parting Thoughts”, which take on a more serious tone and seem to be getting to the heart of what’s really (and understandably) bothering him.

In his “Parting Thoughts”, he states “I believe we can do much better.”  He is referring, of course, to the “ethical lapse” jokingly addressed by his mock-ad.  He goes on to say:

My hope is that this joke has made you step back and think about what’s going on around you. Being a “Certified X”, whatever X happens to be, implies that you’ve done something to earn that certification. If you’ve done very little to earn a certification then at best that’s what your certification is worth: very little.  If you’re involved in a questionable certification scheme, regardless of whatever justifications that you tell yourself you have still shamed both yourself and your so-called profession.  If you turn a blind eye to people who claim to be “certified masters” after doing almost nothing to earn that certification then you too are complicit: As Edmund Burke first said, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  I invite everyone in the agile community to read Ethics for the Real World and to stand up and show some integrity.  Enough is enough.

What Ambler seems to be saying here is that for those of us in the agile community to “do much better”, what we really need is to do something about “questionable certification schemes”.  The “something” he proposes is that we should not “turn a blind eye to people who claim to be ‘certified masters’ after doing nothing to earn that certification”.  What he then prescribes to all of us in the agile community is to read a book and to “stand up and show some integrity”.

So I decided to take the challenge… sort of.  What I mean by “sort of” is that I didn’t read the whole book; rather, I followed the link to amazon.com and read the first chapter entitled “Almost Ethical: Waking Up to Compromise”.  I think I got it.

So, let’s say that we can all agree that integrity is a good thing and it would be  good if everyone’s actions were always distinguished by integrity and uprightness.  At the same time, let’s assume for the sake of this blog that we can also all agree that we live in a very complex world that constantly presents us with situations that make it very difficult to live up to such a standard.  Perhaps we may also all agree that in many of these situations, we often fail to live up to the standards of integrity that we espouse and would like to see established in the world.

In Ethics, Howard and Korver identify that “Lying, a form of deception, plays a central role in ethical compromise” and that lying “appears… commonly in ethical thinking.”  They point out that “Most of us are practiced liars.”  They offer the results of one study as evidence of this:

147 college students and community members kept daily diaries of lying.  The students reported telling an average of two lies per day, the community members one.  None thought their lie telling was serious (although none of them asked the people they lied to).

They go on to make the following observations:

If we hold a video camera up to our lives, we may be astonished at the incredible sweep of lies on the landscape.  If we pan that camera to view the lives of others, we see disingenuousness everywhere.  Imagine being in the shoes of the following people, whose stories are based on real events:

  • You are a consultant, and you know your bid for phase one of a project, $300,000, will turn off your client.  You could bid $200,000, knowing your client will soon agree to the extra work and expense anyway.  You are tempted to understate the cost.
  • You are a young engineer, and you can’t get a software test to run as specified before an industry trade show.  Your manager urges you to run past tapes of the test at the show, pretending that it is a live test.  You are tempted to go along.
  • You are an entrepreneur seeking money to fund your new start-up.  You know venture capitalists chop revenue forecasts by 50 percent.  You are tempted to inflate your revenue forecast by a factor of two to compensate for the expected discount.

Whether or not you’ve ever been in these situations, you no doubt have been in similar ones.  Every time, you have probably had at least one very good reason to compromise – and at times you did.  You lied.  You may feel uneasy about it.  You may even be haunted by it.

But you shouldn’t feel alone.  Using compromise as a helping hand in life has a storied, if seamy, tradition.  Even revered leaders lie routinely…

No doubt, subsequent chapters of this book offer helpful advice about how to overcome the temptations to lie that so many of us so often find ourselves feeling.  What I would like to point out, though, is Howard’s and Krover’s insight that lying “has a storied, if seamy, tradition.”  In other words, lying has become an ingrained, normal and expected habit of our culture.  Temptation is one thing, but breaking out of a culture of lying requires a sea change in human morals, standards and codes of conduct.

Now that the immensity of what we’re actually dealing with when we start talking about “integrity” has become more clear – i.e. integrity is a really hard thing to figure out in a complex world that is really messed up – what can we actually do about it?  In other words, is it futile to try to be a person of integrity in a corrupt world?  The short answer to this question is, unfortunately, “No”.  Just like you cannot be a just person in an unjust world.  A brief example will illustrate this fact:  It is almost impossible for any one person living in North America to be able to guarantee that not one article of clothing that they own was manufactured in a sweat shop or by child laborers.  Indeed, most of us can agree that sweat shops and child labor are examples of flagrant injustice.  By participating in an economy that feeds off of their existence, i.e. paying for goods manufactured under such conditions, we are investing in the system that perpetuates the oppression and exploitation of the people whose survival depends on that system.

Being a person of integrity is equally elusive to being a person of justice.  In order to survive in the jungle, you have to obey the laws of the jungle.  So what is the solution?  What can we actually do?  Is it a hopeless situation, this reality of ours?

Indeed, it is not enough for people to just “be good”.  We must also all strive to transform the social environment, structures and institutions that we are a part of in our daily lives.  In other words, it is not enough to be a “good” person who attacks everything that one perceives as being “bad”.  You can’t just decide that you are going to be civilized in the jungle and complain about all the things that are going to eat you and hope to survive.  You also have to contribute to building the civilization that will replace it, contribute to cultivating a new garden.  You will need to find like-minded individuals and work shoulder to shoulder with them and learn to overlook all of their many shortcomings as they learn to overlook yours.

There is another good book that I’ve been reading:  Beyond the Culture of Contest by Michael Karlberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Western Washington University, whose research and writing focus on the relationship between communication, culture and conflict.  Here is how Karlberg opens his book:

We live in a culture of contest. In western-liberal societies our economic, political and legal systems, as well as many of our other social institutions and practices, are competitive and conflictual.  Surrounding this culture is a culture of protest.  In response to the social and ecological problems engendered by our culture of contest, we engage in protests, demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience, partisan organizing, litigation, strikes and other oppositional strategies of social advocacy and change.

These competitive and conflictual norms have become so ubiquitous that they appear natural and inevitable to many people.  Indeed, conventional wisdom suggests that these social norms are an inevitable expression of an essentially selfish and aggressive human nature.  The prevailing social order, according to this logic, is an inevitable reflection of human nature.  But is a culture of contest and protest really an inevitable reflection of human nature?  Or is it possible that human beings have the developmental potential for either adversarial or mutualistic behaviour? Is it possible that human culture, rather than human nature, determines which of these potentials is more fully expressed?  Is it possible that the prevailing culture of contest and protest cultivates the former rather than the latter?  And if so, what are the implications?

It seems that by taking Ambler up on his challenge, that is, in trying to figure out how to “stand up and show some integrity”, some initial conclusions can be drawn:

  1. Lying is a big, complex problem – a central part of our culture.
  2. You can’t stop the problem of lying by pointing fingers.
  3. Lying is a social problem engendered by a culture of contest – a social norm that is so ubuiquitous that it appears natural and inevitable to many people.  Many would even believe that it is an inevitable expression of an essentially selfish and aggressive human nature.
  4. Overcoming such a powerful cultural norm is not as easy as getting everyone to just read a book or attend a course.

I hope that everyone who reads this finds it to be an attractive invitation to participate in a mutualistic discourse on how we in the agile community can find ways we can work together to contribute to building a better world – a world characterized by integrity, uprightness, justice, truthfulness, prosperity and joy.

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Mentoring, Coaching and Training – What is the Difference?

Over the years working with clients, I’ve discovered that there is often confusion about what are the differences between mentoring, coaching and training.  We all know that these are ways for an expert or experienced individual to help people do something more effectively.  That’s the similarity.  But the differences…

Mentoring

Mentoring is generally an informal relationship between two people.  A mentor will do many of the same things as a coach or even someone who is a trainer, but there is no formal obligation on the part of either party.  A mentoring relationship often develops gradually from a friendship or a professional association, intensifies as the mentor discovers he has valuable insight and experience to share, and as the person being mentored discovers his desire to learn from the mentor.  The two people will at some point recognize the special nature of their relationship, but may not name it.  And as life circumstances change, the relationship will gradually de-intensify.  It will often turn into a friendship of peers.

Coaching

In working on this article, I read a number of other articles about the differences between coaching and mentoring.  All of them talk about how a coach does not provide solutions or answers.  I beg to differ.  Think of an athletic coach.  An athletic coach definitely does not simply ask the athlete questions and help them bring out their own solutions to problems.  An athletic coach helps point out problems, makes very definite suggestions, and sometimes even intervenes physically to help the athlete do the right thing.  So what is coaching?  The main difference is in terms of formality.

A coach is a coach from the start of the relationship with the person being coached.  The person being coached has a specific goal to achieve.  It can be long term or short term, but it is specific.  The coach is there to help that person meet their goal.  Once the goal is met, the relationship is re-evaluated.

Here are some of the ways that coaching can happen (actually, mentors do these things too):

  • The Socratic Coach – asks lots of probing questions.
  • The Hands-On Coach – shows people a way to solve a problem, but leaves it to the individual to mimic or do something different.
  • The Intervention Coach – mostly observes and at key moments intervenes to help an individual choose a specific path of action.
  • The Guiding Coach – provides constant (usually gentle) reminders to help an individual keep withing a specific path of action (guide rails).

Training

Classroom training is the type of training we most often think of, but it is not the only kind.  There is also on-the-job training and of course all sorts of e-learning methods of training.  Training is very formal, should have well-defined learning objectives, and is often relatively brief as compared to coaching or mentoring.

Training can also include many of the types of interaction that are found in a coaching environment, but there is a very strong focus on the trainer being a subject matter expert.  The trainer has extensive experience or knowledge in the subject that is being delivered in the training.  It is expected that the participants in the training learn from the trainer – there is knowledge transfer.  How this happens can be very flexible, of course, and good training is never just a speaker standing at the front of the room and lecturing for the whole time.  Discussion, simulations, case studies, and other forms of interaction are critical for an effective training experience.

Some other links:

Workplace Coaching and Mentoring – Some Key Differences to Maximize Personal Development

Coaching is Not Mentoring, Training or Counselling

What are the Similarities and Differences Between Coaching and Other Things?

Are You Coaching Mentoring or Training Your New Employees?  Distinctions New Managers Need to Know.

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50% Discount on ScrumMaster Training – Only 76 Spots Left

Our summer special is proving to be very popular!  We started with 100 spots at our 50% discount price of CAD995.00.  We’re down to 76 spots.  Check out our course listing page – every CSM course we have scheduled in Canada is available at this fantastic price (Toronto, Waterloo, Edmonton, Ottawa).

Even without the discount, our course is a better value than many out there.  It’s a three day course instead of the normal two.  This gives you a chance to really dig into the concepts and practices of Scrum and Agile Project Management.  Our course is really designed for project managers, team leads and other managers, instead of being for anyone interested in Scrum.  Of course, if you are interested in a leadership role, but aren’t there yet, you are still welcome to come!

Not only that, we don’t run courses in locations where it is not easy for use to support you after you take the course.  We run our business in Canada, and our consulting and coaching work is there to help you if you want further assistance with doing agile in your organization.  Even if you aren’t in Canada, maybe your organization has a group in Canada or you have professional contacts in Canada – if so, let them know about this fantastic opportunity.

Find our list of scheduled courses here.

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The Interview Question You Should Always Ask – Link

I just ran across this great little article about how to find star performers:

The Interview Question You Should Always Ask

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New User Group – Toronto Agile User Group

Hi Everyone!

Just thought you might like to know, there is a new Agile user group in the Toronto area.  The web sit for the group is at:

http://www.torontoagile.org/

They also have a Yahoo! email group (no discussion so far) at:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/torontoagile/

Scott Ambler is one of the founders of the group.  I’ve had a chance to talk with him in person a couple times and also to hear him speak.  He’s a great guy with a lot of passion about agile methods and I think he will be able to make this group a fantastic place for folks to meet and discuss all things agile.

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OpenAgile Reference Sheet Download – First Draft Available

Hi Everyone!  As you know, I’ve been working with my team at Berteig Consulting and with some of our clients to create the OpenAgile method.  OpenAgile is based on Scrum and Lean, and integrates some important learning and teamwork principles and practices.  We’ve just published the first draft of the OpenAgile Reference Sheet.  This is based on the OpenAgile Primer as well as integrating some late-breaking learning about the use of Agile in non-software environments.  I hope you like it, and let me know if you have any suggestions!  We’re going to get to an official first release of OpenAgile soon, and when that happens, we will also be starting the official “open” part of it – OpenAgile is meant to be an open-source agile method!

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Scrum Study Guide updated with tools for new ScrumMasters

We’ve updated the Scrum Study Guide and lowered the price!  The Scrum Study Guide is an editable tool for helping ScrumMasters do their jobs.  It is like a personal assistant that helps you:

  • Keep track of the rules of Scrum
  • Find tons of concise how-to guides for common steps and activities in doing Scrum
  • Keep structured notes or a journal on your job as the ScrumMaster
  • Maintain a list of online reference material
  • Assess the progress of your team
  • Organize the obstacles you are working on
  • Modify and update the Scrum reference material based on how you are actually doing Scrum
  • Look up answers to the problems you’re having with your organization
  • Plus, every time we update content, pictures, tools, and best practices, you get the updates for free for the rest of your life!

    www.scrumstudyguide.com

    Are you one of the many satisfied Scrum Study Guide customers?  Tell us how it is working for you.

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    Agile career development

    Now is a great time to be honing your Agile skills and abilities to further your career.  Why?  Two reasons – there are actually a lot of jobs out there, and we have a great deal on Certified ScrumMaster training.

    For example, we know through our professional network of an impressive company called Point2 Technologies that uses Agile methods and is now hiring.  Check out the Job Postings section http://www.point2.com/career.asp   And there are dozens of jobs on Workopolis for people with experience working in an Agile/Scrum/XP environment.

    The other reason now is a great time to upgrade your skills is the 50% discount off our Certified ScrumMaster courses in Canada.  For the first 100 people to sign up for one of our
    scheduled courses, the price is only $995 Canadian.  You can learn more about the course and sign up online at http://www.berteigconsulting.com/CSMCourseDescription

    If you’re looking for work, keep a stiff upper lip.  There are job opportunities out there.

    In Agility,

    David

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    Special Personal Announcement!

    Hi Everyone, You know that I don’t often post personal things here on Agile Advice.  But since this is my main blog, and I would love to let everyone know…

    My wife, Melanie, is pregnant!  I found out this morning at 8:10am EST (she found out a few hours earlier).  This will be our fourth child and I’m totally pumped about it!  (It’s also scary: there aren’t many families with four kids these days!  Not many people to share experiences with! If you happen to have four kids, I would love to connect!)

    In the short term, this shouldn’t affect the business in any way.  Sometime early next year it will mean that I personally won’t be have quite the intense schedule I have right now.

    Thanks Everyone!

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    Professionalism and Agility

    Recently, I have been reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Fascinating reading. In this book, Mr. Gladwell chronicles some of the backgrounds of top professionals in artistic, sport and business endeavors. He tried to determine why these individuals/groups have accomplished so much in their lives and why they are in the top of their profession. Tiger Woods, Bill Gates and the Beatles are a few of the many professionals he examines. There should be no doubt in your mind that Tiger Woods is the top golfer, Bill Gates is a very successful entrepreneur, and the Beatles are a prolific band.

    Please forgive me Mr. Galdwell if I summarize and distill your findings into a few short sentences. The answer is 10,000 hours. Each of these individuals or groups put 10,000 hours into their chosen profession before they arrived at the top. They viewed their professions differently, were passionate about what they did and behaved differently when learning their profession. I am not suggesting you need to work for 10,000 hours before you are successful. I am suggesting if you adopt the same methods they do, you will increase your chance of success.

    As I observed these top professionals, I began to see similarities in a number of areas. They seem to share a comfort in their ability to grow and develop. I am not sure they set out to be the top but they certainly thought they would overcome what life threw at them and they trusted their own capacity to excel. I have found that giving yourself a steady message of what is possible helps you deal better with life and to overcome all the negatives around us. As an example, I seldom read the newspaper or watch the news, for this barrage of negative messages affects my outlook of what is possible. It seems to me that these top professionals insulate themselves from negative messages as well.

    Next, they have incredible self discipline skills. They practice their profession with passion. They don’t believe in luck as much as they believe in hard work. This is where the 10,000 hours come into their development. They are constantly practicing to improve and master their profession. The top professionals did not achieve their position through luck, they attained the position through hard work.

    To summarize, their methods are to be positive about your ability to cope with the future, give yourself positive messages, be disciplined about mastering your profession and be prepared to work hard to achieve the position of the professional.

    There is a quote I like that was told to me by a businessperson from Jamaica. When asked his view of life, he said “I refuse to be held hostage by circumstances!” The top professionals choose their future and are agile as they cope with what life offers.

    It seems to me another reason why these individuals are so successful is that they were very agile in their approach to life. They created their future rather than follow others. Through their own personal agility they made the right decisions to gain a top position in their chosen profession.

    So the question I have been wrestling with is this: If they can be the top, then why not me? What is holding me back? Well, if you have ever spent time with me, or read any of my books, you would know the answer. The only thing holding me back is me. Can I get better? Yes, I can. Can I work harder? Yes, I can. Can I be more successful? Yes, I can. Can I be more agile in my approach to life and its challenges? Absolutely yes!

    So how about you? In these troubled economic times, we have an opportunity to re-invent ourselves. The best way to survive and thrive from our current situation is to build the future we desire. Rather than expending a lot of energy worrying about your current situation, you should be taking that energy and using it to take charge of your future and build a new reality. Approach whatever life throws at you with agility. I believe success is a choice. Make good choices and everything is possible.

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    Growth Facilitator role on an OpenAgile team

    This is my first post on the Agile Advice blog.  In fact, it’s my first blog post ever.  Before joining the Berteig Consulting team, I had never even heard the words Agile, Scrum, Lean, or OpenAgile.  After all, my background is marketing, community relations, and sustainability!  Needless to say, I’ve gone through some intense learning about the role of the Growth Facilitator.

    The responsibility of the Growth Facilitator is about more than simply prioritizing New Work goals and tasks. I see the role as contributing to the organizational culture, and helping to build the business in a sustainable way. “Sustainability” is an important concept at BCI. It means that we are committed to conducting business in a way that is respectful of the environment, society, and the economy. At the same time, it means that the BCI team operates at a sustainable pace, finding ways to balance our work and life so that we don’t burn out.

    As Growth Facilitator, I am also responsible for guiding the team toward delivering greater value for our stakeholders. At Berteig Consulting, our stakeholders don’t just include the company’s owners. Our stakeholders include a wide range of groups, including customers, suppliers, employees, and our families, all without whose support nothing we do would be possible. Delivering value to our stakeholders requires that we keep them in mind when we commit to our tasks each week.

    One of the important lessons I learned was to give the team S.M.A.R.T. – Simple, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound – goals and give them space to come up with the tasks to meet the goal. When I first started, I made goals that were broad, saying for example “to take care of our clients” or “to work at a sustainable pace.” Rather than stating goals, I realized that I was making statements of the team’s shared values. And while the team integrated these thoughts into our behavior, it was nonetheless challenging to spin off specific tasks that we could work on. Now, I try to ensure the goals I create conform to a user story format and meet S.M.A.R.T. criteria. For example “Berteig Consulting can update the Certified ScrumMaster course content so that all CSM course participants receive the best value in the market.” As soon as I made the direction clear, the team self-organized and generated tasks required to achieve each goal.

    Another key lesson of developing the direction for the team was allowing the Team Members time to review the next Cycle’s goals in advance of the Cycle Planning Meeting so that they could provide feedback and seek clarification. This became particularly important when one team member jumped on a business opportunity that created a significant amount of New Work. We simply could not overlook this great opportunity, and we moved it to the top of the New Work priority list and put it in the next Cycle Plan.

    Last, I learned that the Growth Facilitator and Process Facilitator have a complimentary relationship that requires frequent consultation. As the Process Facilitator goes about helping the team overcome obstacles, it can become clear that the team needs to address a systemic challenge during one of the upcoming Cycles. The Growth Facilitator then states the need as a Cycle goal in a S.M.A.R.T. format, allows the team time to give feedback, and prioritizes the goal in the New Work list. When the goal is brought to a future Cycle Planning Meeting, the team breaks the goal into tasks and solves the systemic obstacle that the Process Facilitator identified.

    These lessons have helped me understand how the Growth Facilitator role extends beyond prioritizing New Work and guiding the team’s value delivery. The role also fosters the culture in which the work gets done – working at a sustainable pace, taking care of our customers, and maintaining unity of vision.

    I would love to hear your thoughts about anything I’ve expressed here. Berteig Consulting is a deep-learning environment, and your feedback is invaluable.

    David D. Parker
    VP Marketing and Sustainability
    Growth Facilitator

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