All posts by Valerie Senyk

Valerie Senyk is a published author, a trainer/teacher of improvisation and a voice coach for public-speaking. Valerie is a Scrum Master and holds a Masters Degree in Theatre – with over twenty years’ experience working with university students, production teams and casts of large-scale public performance. Valerie has consulted with many organizations and is an active practitioner among the Agile community. She has published numerous articles on AgileAdvice.

Six Rules for CHANGE – Notes from a Talk by Esther Derby

Hired to help change and grow a business? These ideas are a guide for agile coaches and consultants, when you’ve been asked by a company to make them “agile.”

Esther Derby began by noting that traditional ideas of change can get in the way of real change. For example, ideas such as “Driving the change” or, “Installing Agile” or, “Evangelizing Agile” are not helpful.

What is helpful is to NURTURE complex change in complex environments.

Her Six Rules are:

1.Work from a stance of congruence.

Congruence is a place from which empathy is possible. Consider your own internal state, the context, and the situation of the people who are facing change. Think about what legitimate reasons they may have to keep things as they are!

2. Honour what’s valuable about the past and what is working now.

Don’t force people to admit they’ve been wrong. Shift your language, i.e. “This served you well when…” People don’t change because of data, but only because of what they value!

3. Assess the current situation and the current system.

How is the system working now? What holds the current pattern in place? What might shift the pattern? Who benefits from the status quo, and who will benefit from change?

4. Work by attraction.

Find those who are willing to work with you, i.e. try pair-programming with someone. Find your allies and follow the energy. Don’t rely only on the formal hierarchy. Analyze existing networks, activate and enhance them. Those who cross silos can influence others and change people’s norms. Ideas can be contagious.

5. Guide the change, and work by successive approximation.

Everything (and everyone) thrives in different conditions. Not every scrum team needs to work in the same way. Consider where global principles apply, and what can evolve locally. “When people get their fingerprints on something, it becomes theirs.” Ask for more of this, and less of that – scrum teams aren’t necessarily standardized.

6. Use experiments.

Big changes scare people. Experiments help people practice and learn. Insert at least 3 ideas – not more – then observe, evaluate and adjust.

7. (Esther tacked on this extra…) Use your own curiosity, generosity, patience and self-care. Use yourself. Change is often stressful.

These are my notes from the Regional Scrum Gathering, Toronto, March 2018, and any misunderstandings of Ms. Derby’s presentation are mine.

See also http://www.agileadvice.com/2015/02/10/referenceinformation/retrospective-technique-what-did-you-learn/


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Mastering Soft Skills as a Scrum Master

We may not normally think of a Scrum Master in the same breath as mastering soft skills, but a recent discussion with peers lead me to consider this.

In 2017, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland sought to update the Scrum Values document, and together in a video they discussed the changes they were making. They talked at some length about the Scrum Master role. To quote Schwaber,“It’s a very tough job.”

The 2018 Scrum Guide states:“The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide.” An extensive list of the Scrum Master’s responsibilities follow in the guide.

In short, the Scrum Master (SM) serves the Product Owner, the Development Team, and the Organization. All of this involves facilitating Scrum events, coaching and educating, removing impediments, and much more. It is safe to say that successfully undertaking those relational interactions requires good people-oriented behaviours, or soft skills.

In recent conversation, a colleague categorically stated that a good Scrum Master must understand 4 things: the business s/he works in, the technology s/he works with, Agile and Scrum principles, and, most importantly, people! Based on his experience, he was adamant that when people are trained to become Scrum Masters, certification is not enough – soft skills should be part and parcel of their training!

How can some of these soft skills be taught?

The Role of the Certified Scrum Trainer

Not all Certified Scrum Trainers have soft skills training or behaviours under their belts. However, the first thing a CST can do is modelsoft skills in his/her training. That means s/he will treat the attendees with respect; s/he will be clear about the goals of training; s/he will listen and be attentive to attendees questions and concerns; s/he will create a safe learning environment; s/he will be honest and trustworthy. Modelling these behaviours is one way a CST can teach without words.

But in two days, is role-modelling enough? Let’s look at the Scrum Guide for clues. When the values of commitment, courage, focus, openness and respect are embodied and lived by the Scrum Team, the Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life and buildtrust for everyone.” http://www.scrumguides.org/scrum-guide

To what degree are these values discussed in training? What does “courage” or “openness” look like? It seems to me that in-depth discussion with examples/activitiesof each of those values would go some way in teaching soft skills.

Soft Skills Training for Scrum Masters

Two CST’s I know invited an Agile Team Developer into their CSM classes to give a half-hour workshop on soft skills. This is a very brief time to be effective, but it provided a taste of listening skillscreativity, risk-taking, etc.

The following is from an article I previously published in Agile Advice: Everyone has the potential to grow their soft skills. However, a company may not have the resources to help unlock this potential in its employees.

If team development is not part of a company’s culture there may be discomfort in dealing with friction arising from a lack of soft skills. In this case, an external facilitator or coach can be a very helpful resource to guide a work team, using thought-provoking activities and role-playing, to find greater connection and trust amongst themselves, and to address issues with a detached point of view.” http://www.agileadvice.com/2017/05/29/scrum-team-improvement/soft-skills-revolution-may-want-team-development/

Scrum Masters can and should be offered at the very least a one-day training by a good coach/ facilitator.

Scrum Masters can be guided through specific exercises that help them understand and practice the skills of openness, courage, respect, commitment, and focus (the Scrum Values), as well as the practice of compassion, communication, creativity, listening, building trust, and so on.

This video called “Agile and Scrum Soft Skills Needed to Drive Process Success” can provide some further helpful guidance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owa1fftIfzA

As a Scrum Master, do you feel you would benefit from soft skills training?


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Agile and Scrum in Directing a Play

Before learning about and working within an Agile framework, I was a theatre arts professor, and directed countless play productions, large and small, modern and classical. I believe I took to the way of Agile quite naturally because it aligned with so much of my creative processes as a theatre-maker.

Recently, I had the opportunity to direct a newly-written script of a play called AfterWhys, which was commissioned by the Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington Dufferin. My BERTEIG colleagues supported me taking this on amidst my regular responsibilities.

After a five-year hiatus from theatre-directing work, I became extremely conscious of the natural alignment between Agile and Scrum principles and practices, and my style of directing. Here’s some of the principles and processes I used:

  • Cast actors that you can determine to have the capacity to play a variety roles – in other words, they have “cross-functional” skills as actors.
  • At first rehearsal, behave like a Scrum Master with a “team” – the director’s role is to encourage, support, and remove obstacles that may prevent them from doing their best.
  • At the first rehearsal, be vulnerable about who I am and how I work, and invite them to share their experiences and hopes as well, as in “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.”
  • In the first read-through of the script, invite the actors not to act – to just feel their way through the text and the scenes without pre-judging how they should be. Many directors pre-plan every movement and how every character should behave, sound and look before even starting rehearsals – I don’t, as in “responding to change over following a plan.”
  • Give them “the tools they need” to realize the truth of their characters and embody them – “teach if necessary,” ie. I taught the cast a new way to analyze their scenes which they found was very helpful.
  • Create the space and the environment necessary for experimentation, i.e. an environment of trust and safety, of failing fast, and learning and discovering.
  • Direct the scenes, scene changes, and costumes in response to the expressed needs of the stakeholders; in this case, the play would tour and be performed in a variety of venues, therefore simplicity of props, costumes and scene changes was a necessity.
  • Use the days and weeks of rehearsals as “sprints;” what is the desired outcome of each sprint? Rehearsals were time-boxed, and we had a four-week “delivery” goal.
  • Be transparent about progress – what’s working, what’s not, and how can I help each and all work better?
  • Hold a time of reflection (retrospective) at the end of each week or sprint – allow for the expression of feelings, concerns, questions, needs, etc. This created greater transparency, trust and unity in the “team.”
  • When actors change a direction or try something new that is not in the script (plan) and it works to enliven the play and make it more meaningful, I encourage them to keep that, as in “responding to change.”
  • The stakeholders (those who commissioned the play and organized their performances) came into the rehearsals twice to give their feedback on what we were creating. They were extremely pleased with the “product.”

To sum up, although this was clearly not a technical situation or a business, many of the Agile principles were used to create a finished product – a social issue play on elder suicide that went before appreciative audiences!

When I think about so many realms of life that we all work in, it is clear that Agile principles can be used in a variety of scenarios and endeavours to ensure a positive outcome.

What endeavours have you been involved in where Agile and Scrum were useful?

 


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A Culture of Unity: Facilitating a Junior Youth Empowerment Group

Public Training Coordinator, Nima Honarmandan, writes of his experience.

What does it mean to have a culture of “group unity and learning through action” ?

When I was asked to facilitate a Junior Youth Group of 11-14 year-olds, I felt completely out of my league. I took a course called “Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth,” a secular course inspired by writings from the Baha’i Faith, which helped me understand that Junior Youth are like a vast reservoir of energy that can be directed toward the advancement of civilization.

By creating a space for them each week where they felt accepted and free to share their thoughts, the participants thrived in an environment where they could develop their powers of expression and make plans to help their community. I realised more and more that my role was to facilitate the growing bond between the group members, and to encourage their participation in each session.

Some kids were extremely shy or did not want to vocally participate, which was fine. However as time progressed, the participants looked less and less to me as a the coordinator. They started to encourage each other to read and participate. As a culture of cliques gave way to a culture of unity for the group, amazing things began to happen.

Undirected by me, the group decided to raise money for local charities and shelters, collect food for the food bank and visit a retirement residence to spend time and share photos with the residents.

Armed with the knowledge that there were no ‘bad ideas’ when it came to service, the Junior Youth tried many different projects, knowing that even if they did not succeed in the goal, their efforts resulted in ‘learning’ that would help them the next time.

In the Junior Youth sessions, I noticed that participants began to self-organise, and help each other to grapple with moral reasoning pertaining to the stories they encountered in the texts we studied. They were not dependent on me to have these deep discussions.

I discovered this statement to be true: ‘When encouraged and properly guided, the Junior Youth will grow up to be among the most valuable human resources in a community’. From my experience, I saw that it all begins by fostering a culture of safety and a unity of vision.



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How Valuable is Feedback, and Can it Help us Improve?

Do we use feedback to improve what we do?

For five years I have been monitoring the feedback and testimonials from BERTEIG’s training events, from CSM, to Kanban, to SAFe classes and everything else. Our feedback “forms” and questions have evolved over the five years, starting with paper forms then becoming electronic; and from being required to being optional.

BERTEIG’s policy is to use testimonials/feedback in two ways: 1) to learn from each class and consistently improve the quality of our training and customer service, and 2) to use testimonials to communicate our strengths.

In the first case, our trainers have become aware of their capacities and skill-sets, both strong and weak, and have endeavoured to constantly upgrade their presence in the “classroom.” They consistently work on soft-skills that help others learn, and on upgrading their knowledge. As well, those offering “customer service” learn what is required both before and after training is offered.

For the sake of specificity and transparency, here are some examples of feedback that has spurred our trainers and company to make changes (all names withheld):

Problem: Maybe I didn’t read the write-up properly but I was expecting _____ to lead the bulk of the course. _____ was great, covered the material adequately, etc but ______ was the person recommended to me. He clearly has superior anecdotes and real-life experience and if I sign up for a course with him, I don\t expect to be taught by someone else for the bulk of the material.

Solution: Emails to registrants now include the names of all trainers who will be facilitating a class. i.e. “The class will be led by _____. Everything you will need for your learning is provided at the seminar. The class will also be led by _____, who is in the final stages of becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer, supervised by _____.”

Problem: I had the impression that we didn’t catch the trainer on his best day. He seemed nervous and uncertain at times. I’d offer the advice that he should be cautious of his body language and focus when talking.

Solution: The trainer is becoming more aware of the need to improve his delivery and clearly focus on the students.

Problem: I like the course but I think should consider that some people we are completely new and don’t assume we already have knowledge.

Solution: All registrants are clearly encouraged to do the recommended reading prior to class.

In the second instance of feedback use, our event training site has a plethora of solid testimonials and high praise for our various courses. I do not know to what extent people, looking for training, read these. However, I do know that BERTEIG has gained a reputation in the community for having a culture of learning and excellent training, and most often people attend our classes through ‘word-of-mouth.’

Still, I pose the question: how valuable is this feedback?

Jerry Doucett, Senior Consultant and Trainer at BERTEIG, has expressed it this way:

To me, feedback is the critical part of the PDCA cycle for an instructor. If there is no feedback then an instructor shouldn’t really be confident they are adjusting their approach or materials to improve. They may try to guess what to improve, but without feedback they won’t know for sure.

Tying it specifically to Scrum, feedback may be seen as the fuel for empirical process design, and it enables the Scrum pillars (Transparency, Inspection, Adaptation) to support and sustain the Scrum Values.”

Not everyone agrees that feedback is useful. Take this article from Forbes Magazine regarding employee evaluations:

I agree with you that making every employee fill out an evaluation form and sit down to talk about it every year is a huge waste of time and energy, and most employees hate performance reviews.

If the relationship is healthy between the manager and the employee, they’re having regular conversations anyway —including quarterly and annual planning sessions. If that isn’t happening, I can help managers fix that — but having more conversations doesn’t require an evaluation process.

I eliminated performance reviews at my last company and everyone was happy about it.

Of course, employees need to be able to get feedback when they need it. If they can get that feedback without being graded like elementary school students then it’s a win-win for everybody.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2018/01/14/performance-reviews-are-pointless-and-insulting-so-why-do-they-still-exist/#49cb537072d1

In an interesting article on LinkedIn, the authors explore the top 20 reasons managers (for example) don’t want to give feedback:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20-reasons-why-we-dont-give-feedback-sergey-gorbatov/

Another view of feedback’s importance comes from David Anderson, founder of Lean Kanban University:

STATIK Step 2: Understand sources of dissatisfaction with the current system.

This is done in two steps: ask the customers what they are unhappy about; ask the service delivery organization if they have any internal sources of dissatisfaction – things which are preventing them from doing a good and professional job and delivering on expectations. Often the sources of unhappiness on each side, external and internal, can be matched – fix one and you fix the other. For example, a customer might complain of unpredictable, late delivery, while internally, workers may complain of being interrupted and disrupted with unplanned or additional requests taking a higher class of service. If we can address the sources of unplanned, disruptive demand, we can eliminate the interruptions and the service delivery becomes more predictable. Fixing one problem can make both sides happier – the workers are not interrupted and can focus on doing a good professional job, and the customer receives delivery within a reasonable tolerance of their original expectation.

Sources of dissatisfaction provide input for the kanban system design. We will try to design the kanban system, its capacity allocations and its classes of service to eliminate as many of the problems as possible.”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/statik-systems-thinking-approach-implementing-kanban-david-anderson/ 

How do we handle feedback that is critical? It’s too easy to become defensive. Here’s a tip from the Harvard Business Review:

Receiving feedback well doesn’t mean you have to take the feedback. Being good at receiving feedback means just that: that you receive it. That you hear it. That you work to understand it. That you share your perspective on it. That you reflect on it. That you sit with it. That you look for that (even tiny) bit that might be right and of value. Then you get to decide whether or not to act on it.

Whatever you decide, circle back to your feedback giver to share your thinking. If you don’t, they will think you didn’t hear them, or didn’t care. Letting them know you took their input seriously will strengthen the relationship even if you ultimately go in a different direction.

https://hbr.org/2017/04/responding-to-feedback-you-disagree-with

I believe it’s safe to say that feedback from customers and stakeholders in all realms is a necessary step toward creating a culture of learning and improvement.

For people who have attended BERTEIG training, how would you like to engage in the continuous improvement process beyond the feedback you’ve given in a class? Contact me with your thoughts at valerie.senyk@gmail.com


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A Case Study of Netflix’s High-Performance Culture

A year ago I attended Certified Agile Leadership  (CAL1) training. As preparation for the course, we were to prepare a case study of a few suggested companies, such as Netflix, which has a high-performance culture. The facilitator of CAL1 focused on company culture, stressing this idea throughout the leadership training.

I was fascinated to learn that Netflix has a strong focus on its culture. It describes itself as being in a creative-inventive market. No one can doubt their success. So I was quite curious to research the company and see what I could learn.

In universal terms, Netflix prides itself on having a culture that embraces the two pillars of freedom and responsibility. It lists nine qualities and behaviours that it values:

  1. Judgement – make wise decisions, treat root problems, prioritize work

  2. Communication – be concise and articulate, listen well, be respectful and calm under stress

  3. Impact – accomplish great amounts of important work, reliable, focus on great results rather than process, avoid analysis-paralysis

  4. Curiosity – learn rapidly and eagerly, seek to understand, broadly knowledgable, and contribute beyond own specialty

  5. Innovation – find practical solutions to hard problems, challenge prevailing assumptions, create useful ideas, minimize complexity

  6. Courage – say what you think even if controversial, make tough decisions without agonizing, take smart risks, question actions inconsistent with values

  7. Passion – inspire others to excellence, care about company’s success, celebrate wins, tenacious

  8. Honesty – candor and directness, non-political, no backbiting, admit mistakes

  9. Selflessness – seek what’s best for company, ego-less regarding best ideas, help colleagues, share information pro-actively

(Of course, as I reflect on the above values, I do a simultaneous self-evaluation…)

Managers at Netflix use a unique employee evaluation tool called “The Keeper Test.” It goes like this: “Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep?”

To understand this better, the idea of hard work is not relevant to the Netflix culture. Sustained B-level performance, despite one’s efforts, will win a generous severance package. To counter that, a sustained A-level performance, despite minimal effort, gets more responsibility and great pay. This high-performance culture is made for those who thrive on excellence, candour and change. They value those who are self-motivating, self-aware, self-disciplined, self-improving, and (this I especially love!) those who act like a leader but who will pick up trash from the floor.

One surprising idea in Netflix’s culture is that they believe that optimizing processes is a negative. Instead, they pursue flexibility over safer efficiency. Their option to growth and chaos is to “avoid chaos as you grow with ever-more high-performance people – not with rules.” This allows them to leverage self-discipline and attract creativity.

They use a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, which speaks volumes about their culture:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

I believe that that quote almost encapsulates the Agile way.

To read more about Netflix, go to https://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664/19-Seven_Aspects_of_our_Culture


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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 Kanban/Scrum methodologies 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

Also read this previous Agile Advice article, “Family Kanban for Cleaning” http://www.agileadvice.com/2015/01/06/scrumxplean/family-kanban-for-cleaning/


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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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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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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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Do You Want Love in Your (Work) Life?

Do you want love in your work life?  Is it a possibility?  Would love in your work life put a spring in your step as you leave home each morning?

To be clear, this topic not about romantic relationships with colleagues at your work place.  The love I’m proposing is wedding love for your work with loving affection for and from everyone you deal with in your workplace.  If your answer to the initial question is “yes,” then read on.

Personal History

I previously taught theatre courses at universities for over 20 years.  I loved my subject.  I loved watching students transform, sometimes from insecure, self-conscious, wary creatures, to confident, trusting and expressive performers.  How did this happen?

In my approach to teaching, I made every effort to nurture students with care and affection, to create a safe and trusting space for them, to provide them with the best learning tools I could find to strengthen their capacities.  I tried to understand each individual’s particular needs.  I cared that every student would advance.

My door was always open to them outside of class.  Sometimes a student would come to me with personal problems that ostensibly had nothing to do with their course work.  I listened with empathy.  I made sure that I was trustworthy in my responses and actions.

For example, I never asked anything of my students that I myself wasn’t willing to perform.  I nudged them, sometimes gently, sometimes more strongly (depending on their nature), to move outside their comfort zone.  This often resulted in break-through and exhilarating experiences for the student.

In other words, I loved my work and my students!

What Creates Safety?

The highest percentage of people who have been polled about which cultural attribute is most important to them in their workplaces list “safety.”  By safety, they usually mean things like “feeling safe to express my self;” “safe to have a difference of opinion;” “safe to sometimes fail without negative repercussions.”

If we look for the root of what helps us feel safe, I think we can trace it back to receiving human affection and loving care.  This is what causes us to stay with a marriage partner over time.  It creates lasting bonds with our children, family members, and long-time friends.  Why should this attribute be absent from our workplaces?

Have you ever asked yourself: “Do I stay in this job because I intrinsically like it, but have the urge to flee because its culture is unsafe and unloving?”

Think about yourself as a kid in school when you had a favourite teacher.  Who was s/he?  Why was s/he your favourite?  Was s/he especially kind or affectionate?  Encouraging?  Generous with her time?  Think of the way s/he managed her class of several children.

Now think about a person in your workplace with whom you do not feel safe, and imagine that this person is actually like the teacher who was your favourite. How does that change how you feel about that colleague?  How differently might you react to him/her?

Giving Love

It may sound trite, but it’s been proven that one of the ways to receive love is to give it.  It can start with your thoughts toward a difficult manager or colleague.  Reflect on this statement:

When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship and happiness.

http://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/paris-talks

A wonderful article by Sigal Barsade and Olivia A.O’Neill in the Harvard Business Review discusses a culture of love in the workplace.  Here’s a snippet from their article (which is worth reading in its entirety):

We conducted a follow-up study, surveying 3,201 employees in seven different industries from financial services to real estate and the results were the same. People who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.

https://hbr.org/2014/01/employees-who-feel-love-perform-better

Love in the Business World?

I first encountered love as a conscious factor in the business world when I joined BERTEIG.  Its founder, Mishkin, spoke often about the importance of expressing love in his training, consulting and coaching events.  I found this fascinating, because my impression of big business was that of cool efficiency.

On the BERTEIG website, you can find this Vision Statement:

We co-create sustainable, high-performance organizations where continuous improvement is deeply embedded in the culture. We believe truthfulness is the foundation of improvement, and love is the strongest driver of change.

http://www.berteig.com/about-us/

For the past five years, I have seen the benefits of that vision of love being a strong driver of change in the BERTEIG team. Despite being a very diverse group of people, we have a great deal of affection for each other. This affection enables us to grow, to continuously develop our capacities, to openly disagree with each other, and to offer our best. Clients who attend our training courses sometimes gush (yes, gush) about their trainer. Affection not only helps our own internal collaboration but our external as well.  When we commit to a project/ job/ event, we follow through because we care.

One of the beautiful things about love is that it will radiate out to whomever we work with, and to whatever social spaces we participate in.

Now – You!

Do you want love in your work life?  Do you believe love can be the strongest driver of change?  If so, how can you action this in your own workplace?

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


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Unpacking the Fifth Principle of the Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto was signed and made public in 2001. It begins with short, pithy statements regarding what should be the priorities of software developers, followed by Twelve Principles. In this article I want to call attention to the fifth principle in the Agile Manifesto, which is:

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”

https://www.agilealliance.org/agile101/12-principles-behind-the-agile-manifesto/

Although it appears to be a very simple statement, I suggest that it is jam-packed with profitable guidance, and is essential to, and at the heart of, real Agility. Human qualities must be considered.

Motivation

The first part of the principle urges us to build projects around motivated individuals.  What does this imply?

The idea of “building a project” makes it a process, not necessarily a fait accompli. It can change and be altered as one works toward it. There may be a structural roadmap, but many details and aspects can change in the “building.”

The second part of the statement describes motivated individuals. The verb “motivate” is an action word, meaning to actuate, propel, move or incite. Thus, in this line, is the “project” the thing which will “move or incite” those being asked to carry it out?

Or do we understand this to imply that the individuals are already “motivated” in themselves, which is an emotional condition of individuals? Is this motivation already there prior to starting a project?

The topic of motivation is rich. How does motivation occur? Is it the culture and environment of the company, lived and exemplified by it’s leaders, which motivates? Or is motivation an intrinsic quality of the individual? It may be both. (Daniel Pink, author of “Drive,” uses science to demonstrate that the best motivators are autonomy, mastery and purposeful-ness – ideas which are inherent in the Agile Manifesto.)

In any case, the line itself suggests that the project may be a) interesting to pertinent (perhaps already motivated) individuals, b) do-able by those same individuals, and c) contains enough challenges to test the mastery and creativity of the individuals. In other words, it’s going to be a project that the individuals in your company care about for more than one reason.

Environment

The second line from the fifth Principle has two distinct parts to it. The first part, “Give them the environment and support they need” puts a great deal of responsibility on whoever is assigning the project. Let’s look at the idea of environment first.

In a simple way, we can understand environment as the physical place which influences a person or a group. It can be any space or room; it can refer to the lighting, the colours, the furniture, the vegetation, the walls, whether water or coffee is available – physical elements which will certainly affect the actions of people and teams. For example, creating face-to-face collaboration environments is also part of the Agile Manifesto.

But we must remember that environment also entails the non-physical ie, the intellectual, emotional, or even the spiritual. Is the environment friendly or not? Cheerful or not? Encouraging or not? Affirming or not? We can think of many non-physical attributes that make up an environment.

Support

These attributes allude to the second part of what’s to be given by an owner or manager: “…and support they need.” This idea of support pertains not just to helping someone out with tools and responding to needs, but that the environment is supportive in every way – physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. This may be a more holistic way of considering this Agile principle.

The last part of the statement is of great importance as well: and trust them to get the job done.

If you as product owner, or manager have created motivation, environment and support, then the last crucial requirement of trust becomes easier to fulfill. There is nothing more off-putting than being micromanaged, supervised or controlled with excessive attention to small details. Trust means you have confidence in the capacity of your team and its individual members. It also implies that they will communicate with transparency and honesty with you, and you with them, about the project.

Context

The principles of Agile do not exist in a vacuum, because, of course, other principles such as the following, are relevant to this discussion:

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”

This fifth principle has application far beyond IT projects. I wanted to reflect on it because it speaks to human qualities, which must be recognized as a key factor in happy work places, and in any high-performance team.

Valerie Senyk is a Customer Service agent and Agile Team Developer with BERTEIG.

For more information please go to http://www.worldmindware.com/AgileTeamDevelopmentWorkshopStage1

Also read about BERTEIG’s RealAgility Program: http://www.berteig.com/real-agility-enterprise-agility/


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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Agile and Corporate World

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a topic that has not been fully addressed on this site, nor in the agile or corporate world, yet it has great ramifications for anyone choosing or hoping to practice Agile and/ or Scrum.

I obliquely touch on it in my article: The Soft Skills Revolution: Why You May Want Team Development and I think I can safely equate most “soft skills” with “emotional intelligence.”

My purpose is not to connect the dots for anyone, but simply to introduce the idea. If you go to the site below and read the materials and watch the videos, you may understand for yourself the importance of emotional intelligence in all that you are endeavouring to do. Thanks to John Hawthorne for pointing this out to me – enjoy.

https://www.cornerstone.edu/blogs/lifelong-learning-matters/post/are-you-emotionally-intelligent-heres-how-to-tell


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