Category Archives: How-To Apply Agile

Practical or step-by-step advice and descriptions on how to do various agile practices.

Top 10 Secrets of Agile Transformation with Michael Sahota

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I dutifully watch Scrum Alliance’s webinars whenever they offer something I want to learn about, so I recently attended Michael Sahota’s “Top Ten Secrets of Agile Transformation.”

Sahota is a bit of an Agile guru, and well-respected in the community. He founded the Toronto Agile Community, and can be seen at Scrum Alliance gatherings everywhere. He also facilitates a Certified Agile Leadership course. You can learn more about Sahota by going to his website www.agilitrix.com.

The webinar he conducted was fascinating, because by the time he went from #1 to #10, I realized his “secrets” were very simple, and that one could start with #10 and work backwards to #1 and learn the same things.

By simple I mean his points were clearly articulated and comprehensive.

Before enunciating his secrets Sahota started with the idea that “Culture is the #1 Challenge with Agile.” He asked, “What are we (agilists) doing to create resistance to a change of culture in an organization?” Mindset, he averred, is more important than the practice of Agile – by which he referenced creating safe and trusting relationships, engaging with others, promoting continuous learning, innovation and so on. On a continuum line with “practices” on one end and “mindset/culture” on the other, he urged practitioners to find a balance between the two.

And now for the count-up:

Secret #1 – Clarify the purpose of bringing in an Agile coach by asking “why?” Usually the answers have to do with improving the quality of a product and encouraging more collaboration.

Secret #2 – Focus on organizational goals (and drop the word “Agile”). If the goals are clear, as those articulated above, one can drop the Agile initiative and try another. Agile is not the goal, but focussing on doing and being Agile can set up the wrong expectations. You may say, “Of course we will likely use Agile to help us achieve the organization’s goals,” but remember that Agile cannot be the goal!

Secret #3 – Focus on growth (and drop “transformation”). The idea of transformation is that it is a painful process. It also implies an end point: one is transformed. The idea of growth is more natural, and transformation is really about creating healthy change and growth. It is ongoing.

Secret #4 – Increase awareness of the global context. Global trends mean that an organization must be growing to survive. A lot of organizations do not know how to read their engagement surveys, or don’t even have them. People’s talents are wasted when engagement is low, which leads to massive financial waste. Millennials demand change – will not seek to work in an organization that’s regressive or stagnant. An agile enterprise is resilient and anti-fragile. How well is an organization set up to thrive in the future?

Secret #5 – Increase awareness of organizational context – what’s happening in an organization? However, resist telling leaders that their organization is broken. Start with humility and compassion, and then show leaders that there is a lack of engagement by their members by reading the survey. It’s not about blame – have the leaders acknowledge this and say what they want to do about it. What difficult conversations are needed here? The coach must stand in the truth of what’s happening, listen and understand. Be real.

Secret #6 – Clarify the focus of the initiative. Is more time spent on tactical initiatives (as in, how do we work?), in strategic initiatives (what do we want to achieve?), or in cultural concerns (who do we want to be?)? Discuss what percentage of time is needed to spend on culture in order to have a bright future.

Secret #7 – Build a shared understanding of what culture is. Culture has to do with both consciousness (or energetic property) and structures. Consciousness includes identity, values, beliefs, and the unwritten rules and norms in an organization. It includes values such as safety, trust, people being valued… Structure (practices) and consciousness (culture) co-exist together and are inter-dependent.  Refer to the Agile Manifesto: people over process. – focus on structures without consciousness cannot succeed.

Secret #8 – Clarify the leaders’ role in growing. The consciousness of the leadership is most important. New organizational behavior requires new leadership behavior. Growth requires leaders go first! How do we invite them to go first?

Secret #9 – Honour the leaders’ freedom to choose. Do they wish to work on something tactical? Cultural? A coach must let go of what he or she wants. We cannot coerce people into believing what we believe.

Secret #10 – Growth can happen anywhere.You, as an individual, are the limit for growth.

Sahota suggests creating a culture-bubble in which consciousness and safety can be grown. In this last point he quotes Gandhi: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

I am aware that in the 45 minutes of the webinar, Sahota went through each point relatively quickly. Each one in itself provides room for reflection. For me, the fact that the tenth “secret”

puts the onus on each individual to grow is telling; if we change, we can help those around us in their transformation. But that requires extra-consciousness, I think, and humility. Overall, Sahota points to values and culture within and without as the key.

Michael Sahota is offering his Certified Agile Leadership class in the new year through BERTEIG – you can find dates at this site: http://www.worldmindware.com/Certified_Agile_Leadership#schedule


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Doc Norton introduces Host Leadership at 8th Annual Toronto Agile Confernce

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“Sometimes we get so caught up in what should be that we miss the beauty of what is.” – Doc Norton

At the 8th Annual  Agile Conference, held in Toronto, Ontario last week, the keynote speaker Doc Norton presented some insightful ideas on Host Leadership, about the roles people take when initiating, launching and facilitating new ideas. The basic premise of having a Host Leader mindset is to be fluid with the needs of the environment. While there is a time and place for authoritative decision-making, otherwise called gate-keeping in Host Leadership lingo, there is also a need for a humble approach to supporting an idea from conception to fruition without clinging to hard-and-fast expectations about what must happen.

In his example of applying these principles, he shared how his family decided to host a Euchre game to create an opportunity to meet new neighbours. When something different than expected emerged, he experienced the value detaching from “what he wanted it to be” and accepting “what was becoming.”

In brief, here are the 6 key aspects of Host Leadership.

  1. Initiator – The person that provides the initial spark. A new idea.
  2. Inviter – Extends the invitation to people who may be interested in the idea. Who to invite and who not to invite.
  3. Space Creator – Those who create the physical and emotional space for those in attendance to feel safe, to learn, and to engage in the opportunity.
  4. Gate Keeper – Defines and protects the space which is created. Lets people in and out as necessary or appropriate. People who enforce the rules, doing interviews and hiring.  Note: there is a right balance for this where there is not too much gate-keeping but just enough to create the right boundaries.
  5. Connector – Brings people together. They are conduits for information. They are typically the ones who know how things get done.
  6. Co-participator – Team leads participating in a retrospective as equals.

Sometimes the Host Leader sets and reinforces rules, but sometimes they serve others. This depends on the moment and context. 

Doc Norton laughed at his own story when he revealed that even though he and his wife put lengthy effort into creating “Euchre Night” he discovered that in the basement a large group of guests started playing poker. Rather than becoming disgruntled about the change, he adapted and became a co-participator. As a result of letting what was becoming just be, the neighbours found themselves carrying out Poker nights monthly for a decade.

Host Leadership is about creating space for great things to emerge and surrendering the inclination to control the outcome.

These six items are aspects of roles of everyone on a team and shouldn’t be thought of as one person per role per team. Instead, when people on a team ebb and flow around these roles the thought-processes and discoveries can be shared with the team, and the growth on the team supports the initiatives for team members.

What were his concluding words of wisdom to the audience?

He said, “Consider your leadership role at work. Regardless of your title, think about what you are initiating. How do you extend invitations? What space are you creating and maintaining? When are you gate-keeping? How are you connecting with others? How are you joining what is emerging even if it is different than what you expected?”

 The take away from this inspiring opening address was the optimistic message that what is becoming may be better than anything anyone could have hoped for. 


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Three Links For Agile Product Development

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Last week, conversations in the Scrum Facebook Group clamoured around the topic of Agile Product Development and Agile Project Development or Management.
To be honest, when I posed a question on the topic I had a hint of its significance but did not have even a glimpse of the depth of this can of worms until many more conversations, online and offline, and research on websites and YouTube on the topic.
One respected coach said to me that there may be no bigger issue than this in the Agile industry. Well then, let’s explore it a little bit.
Here I’m including three links which Facebook group members recommended. I hope these links may also be useful to other new Product Owners who are grappling with the concept of “no projects” in their work environments.
This is undoubtedly by far the very best Product Owner video I’ve seen to date. It’s just 15 minutes long. The speaker is clear and easy-to-listen to. The graphics are descriptive and simple despite representing complex ideas and systems. I came away from this video with a much more thorough and concrete understanding of the role of Product Owner.
This book is recommended by a fellow Scrum enthusiast. Amazon describes it in this way,” In Agile Product Management with Scrum, leading Scrum consultant Roman Pichler uses real-world examples to demonstrate how product owners can create successful products with Scrum. He describes a broad range of agile product management practices, including making agile product discovery work, taking advantage of emergent requirements, creating the minimal marketable product, leveraging early customer feedback, and working closely with the development team.
While I haven’t had the chance to read it yet myself, I find it reassuring that a renowned author addresses this important topic and offers his valuable insight into the conversation around Product Owner and Project Manager.
agile-team-room-example
On September 09, 2016 a blog post about User stories addressed this very relevant question. The first line states, “User stories can be considered the basic units of work in organisations using an agile approach to product development.” I found this post and this website very useful in understanding the importance of user stories and how these fundamentally shift work process around delivery of value to customers.

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Leading to Real Agility – Communicate the Vision for Change

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Leading an organization to Real Agility requires that you communicate the vision for change throughout your organization.  This video introduces the four key concepts of communicating this vision for change as you and your executive team lead your organization to Real Agility.

The video presents four core concepts:

  1. Continuous communication at every opportunity: every meeting, every phone call, every email, every presentation!
  2. Simplicity of the message: short, jargon-free, concrete.
  3. An emotional component that encourages a change in behaviour.
  4. And urgency!  (A window of opportunity, a competitive threat or an internal problem that needs to be addressed now.)

Leading to Real Agility References

Here are some additional references about how leaders can help their organizations move towards Real Agility by communicating the vision for change:

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive notifications when each new video is published! (There are 15 more videos coming in this series, and more beyond that on other topics!)  You can also find the summary article that helps you find all the videos and additional references here: Leading to Real Agility – Introduction.

Mishkin Berteig presents the concepts in this video series.  Mishkin has worked with leaders for over fifteen years to help them create better businesses.  Mishkin is a certified Leadership Circle Profile practitioner and a Certified Scrum Trainer.  Mishkin is co-founder of BERTEIG.  The Real Agility program includes assessment, and support for delivery teams, managers and leaders.

BERTEIG Real Agility logo - leading to Real Agility


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Launching a New Product: #1 Question – Is this a Project or a Product?

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Recently, it’s come to my attention that a friend is experiencing nearly insurmountable financial hardship. After initially offering to help out by sharing a few food items, I realized that a few items shared once is not enough. This inspired me to consider the idea of sharing food weekly. I decided to create a regular care package of sorts, until she got back on her feet again.

She agreed to pick up a care package from me weekly. And that’s how this social action initiative was born.

Once I knew I’d be doing this weekly, several logistics had to be sorted out. Where was the food coming from? Where would I store the food between pick-ups? When would it be picked up?

Interestingly, I don’t have enough food in my own cupboards to share with someone weekly. Fortunately, I know many others who are like-minded and highly value supporting and helping others so I began to reach out. Within days I had more than seven bags of food to share and it occurred to me that this would be my goal – 7 bags for 7 days. That should get her through the week.

It didn’t take too long for me to see that if I considered myself as the Product Owner of this product – a weekly food package – that there might be valuable Agile concepts and practices which could easily help support the sustainability of this initiative. 

Is this a Project or a Product?”

 

Immediately, an Agile Coach inspired me to think of this not as a project, but as a product. The main difference, he reminded me, is that a project has a start and an end. A product doesn’t have an end date. It can always improve.

At the beginning, I thought of this as a “project.” You know? A bunch of us getting together with the vision of sharing food weekly. It was our “Food Sharing Project.”

Before long, I realized that was an old way of thinking about work. When I thought about the food package as a product a lot changed. It became easier to see what was needed for this product to be useful to the recipient. The quality of this product became clear.

I also watched this video from Mishkin Berteig which encouraged me to think about the ways in which this package could be run with Scrum. (So far, I am the Product Owner. Now I just need a ScrumMaster and Scrum Team. You never know, maybe this will evolve some day!)

Then I read this article by Mike Caspar which got me thinking about acceptance criteria and the importance of consultation, reflection, learning and planning.

The key learning for me today is that when I think about this service of delivering a weekly care package as a product I see it’s likely it can continue indefinitely, always improving. That really excites me.

It is not a project, but a product and is being organized and delivered using Agile methods.

This is one way that Agile is being used outside of IT with great success.

 

 


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Link: Communicate The Vision

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This video, newly released on BERTEIG’s YouTube Channel, reminds leaders of their responsibility to communicate the vision to their organization. Check out the 2-minute video for valuable insight into the process.


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Week-long Sprints Work for Weekly Newsletters

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What I like the most about Agile-thinking is the principle of taking action with very little planning. This philosophy of learn-as-you-go creates space and time for the team to experiment with ideas to create a successful product.

For the past year, I have participated in an agile experiment of sorts. Basically, the goal was to write a weekly newsletter. But more specifically, the intention was to create meaningful content to readers of the newsletter which would empower them to continue to make positive change in their organizations by applying Agile methods.

Six weeks after starting the newsletter, I attended my first Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training in Toronto, Ontario. At first, I thought I could manage the newsletter content and delivery using Scrum. I quickly realized I couldn’t. Even if I viewed myself as a ScrumMaster, I wasn’t working on a Scrum team. There was no Product Owner. It couldn’t be run using Scrum.

However, I realized something essential that I could glean from Scrum and that is the idea of Sprints. I realized right away that if I viewed the creation and delivery of the newsletter in one-week Sprints I likely could be successful. And indeed, this application of a Scrum method was extremely useful.

Thinking about delivering a newsletter in one-week Sprints helped me to think about the smallest amount of content which could be easily and predictably delivered weekly. As my capacity, and the capacity of the team improved, so could the level of complexity also increase.

As the level of complexity increased, the newsletter itself improved in quality.

I would like to write more about how a newsletter can be created and distributed using Sprints and other Agile methods because doing it this way helped me to stay adaptive & flexible as the newsletter was refined.

5 keys for using Sprints to create & distribute a newsletter

  1. Understand “Done Done!” – Before CSM training, the newsletter was “done” when I pressed ‘send’ on my computer. When I better understood the meaning of “Done Done” in a Sprint I changed my thinking and behaviour. When I sent the first draft to be proof-read, this was “Done” and when it was returned to me edited and when I did final revision then it was ready for scheduling. When I pressed “Schedule” then the newsletter was “Done Done.” I would plan to schedule the newsletter three days before it was expected to be released. That gave me three days of  ‘buffer’ to accommodate last-minute changes, if necessary. I was learning to become more Agile.
  2. Learn to Accommodate Last-Minute Changes – If last minutes changes cannot be easily accommodated, then the product delivery is likely not Agile. When I started creating and distributing a weekly product, with the expectation that things could change at any time then I learned to establish a “bare-minimum” which could be produced even if changes occurred. This gave me the ability to be flexible and adaptive and much more Agile.
  3. Be Agile; Don’t Do Agile – When I went to CSM training, I thought I would learn how to do Agile things on my team. When I completed the training and started applying Sprints to the weekly distribution of a newsletter, then I realized I must “Be” Agile in my approach, in my communications, and in my creation of the product. I learned that Agile is really a state of mind and not a “thing” at all. Agile is about continuous action, reflection and planning with an open-mind and a readiness to always learn and grow and change.
  4. Action, Reflection, Planning – Before using one week Sprints, I didn’t give myself enough time to reflect and plan the next Sprint. I had a backlog with enough items to keep me busy for 6 months. My work-in-progress was a nightmare and unmanageable. I had four weeks worth of drafts saved and often got confused between what content was going out when. Establishing a regular weekly cadence helped me take control of this “mess” by just taking small action steps, reflecting on them weekly, and using the learning to plan the next steps. This revolutionized my work.
  5. Prepare For Growth – When a product is delivered successfully with Sprints, it keeps getting better and better. This leads to goals being met and growth happening on the team. In this case, it lead to increasing numbers of subscribers and the establishment of a collaborative team approach to creating and distributing the newsletter. Without Sprints, without an Agile mindset, I’m absolutely certain the goals would not have been achieved and growth wouldn’t have occurred. But with Sprints, things just keep getting better and better every week. I love it!

******************************************************

If you’d like to subscribe to the weekly newsletter I mentioned here, you can do so at this link.


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5 Links To Engaging Retrospectives

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When a team starts implementing Scrum they will soon discover the value and the challenge in retrospectives.

Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews says that “retrospectives offer organizations a formal method for preserving the valuable lessons learned from the successes and failures of every project. These lessons and the changes identified by the community will foster stronger teams and savings on subsequent efforts.”

In other words, retrospectives create a safe place for reflections so that the valuable lessons can be appreciated, understood and applied to new opportunities for growth at hand.

The Retrospective Prime Directive says:

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

With these noble principles in mind, there should be no fear from any team member about the learning, discoveries and occasions for progress.

These 5 retrospective techniques may be useful for other teams who are looking for fun ways to reflect and learn and grow.

  1. Success Criteria – The Success Criteria activity helps clarifying intentions, target outcomes, and results for success criteria. It is a futurospective activity for identifying and framing intentions, target outcomes and success criteria.
  2. 360 degrees appreciation – The 360 degrees appreciation is a retrospective activity to foster open appreciation feedback within a team. It is especially useful to increase team moral and improve people relationship.
  3.  Complex Pieces – Complex pieces is a great energizer to get people moving around while fostering a conversation about complex systems and interconnected pieces.
  4. Known Issues – The Known Issues activity is a focused retrospective activity for issues that are already known. It is very useful for situations where the team (1) either knows their issues and want to talk about the solutions, or (2) keep on running out of time to talk about repetitive issues that are not the top voted ones.
  5. Candy Love – Candy love is a great team building activity that gets the participants talking about their life beyond the work activities

 


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The Scrum Team Assessment – Official Launch

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Hi Everyone,  I don’t do announcements on here too often, but I wanted to let everyone know about the official launch of our new product: the Scrum Team Assessment – an online tool for your team to get a report on how well they are using the Scrum framework… and most importantly, helpful recommendations on how to improve!  This is a fully automated Scrum maturity assessment tool!

The Scrum Team Assessment is based on the years that I and two other coaches (Paul Heidema and Travis Birch) have been working with Scrum and Agile teams to improve business and technical results.  The Scrum Team Assessment is a joint effort that has resulted in a fully automated virtual coach for your team.

The analysis is both statistical and expert-system based.  This means that the report has basic information about how the team is following Scrum, and, more importantly, clear how-to advice to get your team to make improvements.  There are “quick wins” which are easy but will have a significant impact as well as long-term recommendations that are often harder, but will drive your team to a high-performance state.

The Scrum Team Assessment includes a survey of about 100 questions that focus on seven broad categories:

  • The team’s environment
  • The basic Scrum process
  • The Product Backlog
  • Team Membership
  • ScrumMastering
  • Product Ownership
  • and Agile best practices

Every team member fills in the survey to help us generate a valid set of recommendations.

The Scrum Team Assessment is $496/team/use (that’s Canadian dollars).  If you have several teams or wish to obtain an enterprise license, please contact us at sales@berteigconsulting.com or +1-905-868-9995.


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Link: Automation Testing for Agile Development

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Many times, participants in Certified ScrumMaster or Certified Scrum Product Owner courses ask about automation testing for agile development.

The article which follows provides an excellent answer to one of the most popular questions. After reading it, please consider leaving a comment below.

Automation Testing For Agile Development

By Agile Zone

Agile automation testing is particularly important in the Agile development lifecycle. Agile software development involves a constant feedback loop among team members. This is in contrast to the Waterfall model of development, where software testing only begins once the development phase has been completed.

In Agile development, software testing activities are conducted from the beginning of the project. Software testing is done incrementally and iteratively. Automation testing is an extremely important part of Agile testing. After each change in the system, it is important to run a battery of automated functional and regression tests to ensure that no new defects have been introduced. Without this automation testing harness, Agile testing can become very time-consuming. This can result in insufficient test coverage. This will, in turn, affect software quality. Automation testing is necessary for the project to maintain agility. As a matter of fact, introducing automation processes such as automation builds and automation smoke tests is important in all aspects of agile development. As budgets shrink, time spent on repeatable automation testing becomes more and more necessary.

Continue reading here. 


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Link: The Solution That Fits Our Team

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I recently came across an excellent article on how teams are taking the best of several Agile methods and combining them together into a solution which works in their specific environment.

The overview and description of the essence of Agile, Scrum and  Kanban is really helpful.

After you have a chance to read it please share your reflections in the comment section below.

Scrumban: The Solution That Fits My Team

by Serghei Rusu

Image title

If you have any issues with the methodology approach you have in your company, then you have probably heard these words already. That is our case as well. At a certain point in time, we felt like we were no longer facing the rapidly changing requirements that come from modern world business and that the software development methodology we had was pulling us back….

Continue reading the article here.


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Link: 3 Links For Agile Leaders

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My bias for Martial Arts-related Agile metaphors shows up again in this list of three links for agile leaders, developers, and carriers.

All are listed on The Pragmatic Bookshelf.

  1. 10 Tips For Agile Leaders

2. The Indispensable Developer 

3. The Way of the Agile Warrier


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David Sabine: What Real Agility Means To Me

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Image

“Real Agility to me means being aware of and accepting of the present, in order to respond and chart new courses for the future,” David Sabine

My name is David Sabine. I’m a Real Agility Coach and have been thinking about what Real Agility means to me.

My introduction to Real Agility began in 2007 when the CTO of the college I was working at in Fort McMurray, Alberta brought in Mishkin Berteig as a third party consultant. Back then, I was a software developer and what I experienced then is still true today. The value of bringing in a third party to solve business challenges is immeasurable.

Time and time again, as I have been involved with companies, either in a training or a consulting capacity, I have found that a third party presence provides or creates a break-through. The purpose is not that I go to a company as a consultant and I bring my new ideas, as though I am the only one with new ideas.  What happens instead is that I visit a company and my presence, as a coach, opens the door for the internal staff to explore their own new thoughts, or concepts or possible solutions. So the ideas that are already in the company are just allowed to blossom a little bit in the presence of a third party,because this third party allows or creates a sense of permission, a sense of autonomy for those staff. They’ve been invited to explore concepts and they’ve been invited to think through their business problems from a different perspective and I am there just to reflect what they already have or what they already know.

That occurred when Mishkin Berteig visited the college in 2007, and that occurs every time I go and visit a company for training or consulting.

To really understand what Real Agility means to me, I’d like to tell you about how I came to software development in the first place beginning back in 1993 when I was starting university and was a freelance musician.

I had two passions at the time: the pursuit of music and the logic of programming. My computer tended to pay the bills, more so than being a freelance musician, so as a career path I guess I was drawn to software development and started to build my own products early on in 1996-1997. I was writing software for small business clients with the aim to eventually build a product on my own and release it for sale worldwide.

In 2000, I started to develop a product with a friend of mine. In 2001 we released it to other developers in the world. Our first sale of that product was in Belgium and for the next few years it sold worldwide. We had about 2000 websites that were using our product and it was translated into seven different languages by the community of users. It provided my friend and I with a reasonable income and a great opportunity. It was fun!

In 2006, I realized that my own growth as a computer scientist required working with others beyond this friend, to work in a team, in fact. I moved to Northern Alberta and worked in IT department for a college. As I mentioned, in 2007, the CTO, brought in Mishkin Berteig to provide us with a 3-day training course on Scrum. Quite immediately I loved it because I could see how it would provide us with a lot of opportunity to solve problems we were facing in an IT department and, secondly, it just seemed like a more human way to work. I was reflecting on all of these periods I had had as a musician, working with other musicians, and it just seemed like a better way to approach the creative endeavor than other project management methods that were in play at the time.

Since that time, I’ve been practicing them in a variety of settings and I’m more convinced now than ever that the Agile Manifesto provides us with a great solution space as we respond to business challenges. Recently I’ve decided not to be a developer or product owner but have decided to join Berteig full time and train and coach other teams.

So that’s the story of my personal evolution. My personal journey.

Looking back on that training I can see how I felt immediately that Real Agility was an alternative way of doing things.

I studied music since I was a child and music has always been a huge part of my life,and as a musician, one becomes aware of or familiar with continuous improvement. This is the same concept found in Real Agility. But with music it’s incremental, tiny, tiny increments of improvement over time. We respond to an audience. We respond in real time to our fellow musicians. We are always taking in input and that informs our performance of the music. As musicians, we spend a lot of personal time developing our craft. We spend significant time in performance so we can receive the audience feedback.

What I mean to say is that musicians are excellent examples of high performance teams and are excellent examples of creative excellence, who understand tactical excellence and what it means to get there.

When I joined Software development in a large, bureaucratic institution – the college – it was anything but natural for me. At that time, I was more than just a software developer. I was systems analyst, database admin and a variety of positions or roles. It just felt like an industrialized, mechanical environment where people were expected to behave as interchangeable units of skill. Work was expected to get done in the prescribed procedure. And decisions were expected only to be made by the smartest or the highest paid few and if you weren’t of that ilk, you were not expected to behave autonomously. You were expected to be just part of the machine and it felt very inhuman, as most people feel as a part of a large hierarchical bureaucracy.

When Mishkin facilitated the Certified Scrum Master training course in 2007, it just blew all those doors open. It reminded me that we can approach our work the way I had naturally approached it, as a creative individual who is capable of learning and wants to receive immediate feedback from audience or user, and who can make autonomous decisions about how to apply that feedback into the continuous development of software and systems and large infrastructure.

These business challenges are pretty common. They are delayed projects or projects that that blow the budget, or where a group of people are assigned to the project and they can’t possibly complete the scope of work in the time given. Or staff are demoralized, and how that expands through enterprises. There are many examples. The college where I was working suffered all of the most common issues and the one that hurt me the most or I felt the most was attrition. Dis-engaged staff. The reason for it was simple. The college had not presented with them a purpose or opportunity to be masterful. The extrinsic motivators, salaries and such, were just enough to keep people for a little while and then they would leave. And so the college at the time was experiencing attrition of 35-40% per year and that’s what I meant by inhuman.

“These Real Agility methods presented a change. In fact, people become centric to the purpose!”

When I read the Agile Manifesto I think that it provides us with solutions, and so if our current business problem or business circumstance is that we have disengaged staff who aren’t very productive and aren’t getting along well, then the Agile Manifesto reminds us that perhaps business people and developers can work daily throughout the project together. They can have continual interaction, and then individuals and their interactions become more valuable than the process and the organizational tools that have been put in their way. It reminds us that people should be allowed to work at a sustainable pace. We should build projects around motivated individuals. And that poses questions about how to do those things. What does it mean to be motivated, and how do we build projects around motivated people?

So Agile Manifesto presents us with some challenges, as a mental process, and then when we work through that we understand how it can inform good decisions about how to solve business problems.

Real Agility to me means being aware of and accepting of the present, in order to respond and chart new courses for the future.”

In other words, Agility means being nimble, the ability to adapt to current circumstance, but more than that, Real Agility means that we should approach our work with the intention that we stay light-weight so that when our circumstances change we can adapt without a lot of inertial resistance. So there’s two components there. One is being able to adapt quickly, and being aware of present circumstance but the other is that we don’t want to take on weight and institutional mass, because that’s inertia, the status quo.


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Scrum Product Owner Training: Reflecting on Agile in Community Settings

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rachelheadshotThe Certified Product Owner training I attended recently has me reflecting on when I first heard about Agile.

My introduction was in 2012 on one of those really cold, dark wintery nights in the now-famous Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Garry Bertieg had invited me to consult about a challenge we were facing in a community development initiative. I remember it being so cold and dark I didn’t want to leave the house. But I was curious about what innovative team-building technique he wanted to share so I went to check it out.

We weren’t dealing with a business issue. And it wasn’t tech-related. But it was complex and it dealt with many groups, many individuals, and many Institutions. He felt Agile methods could help.

He presented some basic concepts from OpenAgile. He had a large poster board, sticky-notes and Kanban-style columns showing how items can move across the board while in progress on the way to        “done”.Learning Circle - cropped He also presented the Learning Circle Model. I just made so much sense to me instantly. He remarked that he was surprised to see me so receptive to the material so quickly. It just made so much sense. This Learning Circle has formed the foundation of how I work ever since.

It was as though it combined the best of everything I had experienced in teacher’s college, in community development and in serving in community-level leadership roles for a decade.

I started applying what I learned from that 3-hour session immediately and I saw the results instantly.

 

At the time, I was operating independently, so I didn’t have a manager to run anything through, and I was running a neighbourhood children’s class, responsible for supporting more than a dozen volunteers, teachers, and other coordinators. The OpenAgile model was a perfect fit and I attribute a lot of the success of that neighbourhood class to the framework within OpenAgile.

At the time, I knew nothing of Scrum, Kanban or even the way Agile first evolved from IT software development. I didn’t know any of that. But I started working with Agile methods then and continued until now.

Certified Product Owner Training Took My Understanding To a New Level

Last week I had another agile-style life-changing experience in the Certified Scrum Product Owner training lead by Mishkin Berteig & Jerry Doucett.

I entered the class with an open mind, willing to learn, and eager to apply the learning in whatever ways are applicable in my current circumstances.

At a very foundational level I gained a new understanding and appreciation for the role of the Product Owner in creating the product backlog. I understand that is key.

I also enjoyed the simulation exercise of creating a product. The team I worked with at the table was excellent and worked so well together. At one point, we made this Product Box which demonstrated our vision for our product.Product Owner Simulation - Product Box Example

It was extremely valuable to also understand the way the Product Owner collaborates with  the Scrum Master for the best possible results.

Since I am not currently working with a Scrum team, there are some parts of this learning which are not immediately applicable.

However, the training was exceptional and I came away with a much more thorough understanding of the Product Owner’s role as a whole.

It was a phenomenal experience with an excellent facilitator team.

I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn more and more about positive ways organizations are changing every day, both inside and outside of corporate environments.

 

 

 


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Video: There’s no Crying In Retrospectives

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

Woman: “Is this a girl thing?”

Man: “No, there’s some pretty whiney people in QA that are both guys and girls.”

Okay, okay, all kidding aside…It’s easy to get a chuckle out of noticing that retrospectives can bring up emotions for people, both men and women, inside or outside of QA.

This is not to poke fun at any gender or any department but just to share some light humour around how emotional the process can be for everyone.

This emotional connection is, in fact, one of the humanizing aspects of Agile methods. Our emotions are what make us human and being agile is about being more human.

This video made me smile and I hope it makes you smile too!

 


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