Very few people are paid to chat or write email: executive assistants and lawyers mostly. Everybody else is paid to do other work like write code, build things, solve problems, or transact with customers. Think about what you’re actually paid to do, then do that and only that.
If the Slack channel side-bar represents your definition of “collaboration”, stop! If you need to communicate with others while doing your work, do it face-to-face whenever possible or by phone & video. To be clear: Slack channels may be good for announcements but quickly digress as water-cooler drivel and those chatbots are sorry excuses for actual event logging. Perhaps it’s reassuring to be reminded that there’s nothing in Slack (or Yammer/HipChat/Asana/Jira/Trello) more important than the work you’re actually paid to perform.
If your “Sent Items” folder is a CYA repository, stop! If it’s necessary in your organization to CYA then document your activity in a personal journal and stop involving other people in your CYA habit.
If your Inbox is your to-do list, stop! Use sticky-notes, a hipster PDA, or a calendar.
Travis Birch and I are going next week to the SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) training with Dean Leffingwell. For Berteig Consulting, this will be an opportunity to expand our knowledge and to, perhaps, offer some new services including training and consulting. Of course, there have been many articles written about SAFe from a Scrum perspective, but I’m hoping to write an article about it from an enterprise Agility perspective. I have been involved as a coach and consultant in a number of such transformations, and I’m interested to see what I can learn from SAFe and perhaps how it can help to improve our Real Agility Program. I currently consider SAFe to be a “pragmatic” approach to enterprise Agility vs. a “transformative” approach. This perspective is based on some light reading and 3rd party reports about SAFe… clearly not a good enough base of knowledge! I’m looking forward to bridging that gap!
Of course, I don’t mean to say that we should never be sceptical. Rather, sometimes we just have acknowledge reality: there is no magic to make a red line with a green marker. The role of the expert is to clarify reality to others through their knowledge and experience.
When I am doing CSM and CSPO training, I often am faced with people who want to know how to make high-performance teams with distributed team members. They are often looking for some sort of magical solution. This is an example of not being willing to face the reality that distance makes communication slower, less effective, and less likely to happen at all.
I’m sure all of you have interesting experiences of being the expert in something and your audience pushing you to find the magical solution… share your stories in the comments please!
Earlier today at the Inspirational Expo in London Ontario, I met two young, enthusiastic people: Brette Hamilton and John Preston. Brette and John told me that they had grown frustrated with working in traditional media and had started 100 Monkeys as a way to bring a positive focus to the world… to share stories that would help rather than hinder, discourage, or cause grief. Their tag line is “A positive media site”… I hope you take the time to visit them! Here is a photo from the event:
Thanks to Brette and John to a great attempt at building a professional career on something positive! I wish them well, and I hope you all visit them often, and help them out in whatever way you can! (Sharing the link is probably the easiest! Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your own blog!)
Here’s a fun article on PMI.org. By omission, it gives some very bad advice about estimation. What is it missing? Asking the people who are going to do the work!!! Any estimation method or approach that fails to ask the actual human beings who are going to do the work about the effort required is going to be badly wrong. (Of course, even asking the people who are going to do the work is no guarantee of good estimates.)
The starting point of the linked article is a study that showed 90% of projects having cost overruns. To me, this just shows the futility of predicting the future, not anything about how we can (and should?) make better estimates.
For the past several weeks, I have been helping a small charity solve a dilemma. Because the charity is well-recognized for their good work, they regularly attract volunteers who want to help. Unfortunately, the two overworked staff members are too busy to recruit, train, and manage them. My approach has been to use OpenAgile, an open source system for delivering value to stakeholders, to implement a few simple techniques to help them.
There are several aspects of OpenAgile that fit very well for managing volunteers:
1. Self-Organizing Behavior
This means people “volunteer” for tasks instead of doing them based on a tightly defined role or having someone tell them what to do. This frees the staff from having to assign work. Instead, they identify priorities and rely on the volunteer’s creativity and personal motivation to do the task in their own way.
2. Shared Responsibility for the Workload
When there is more than one volunteer, they work in a team and share the responsibility for the workload. The team of volunteers discuss the priorities of the organization, and decide among themselves what tasks need to be completed. Then, they create and commit to a 1-2 week short-term plan that will deliver those results. Finally, they come back after the 1-2 week period and reflect on what they accomplished. This pattern of action, reflection, learning, and planning is one of the Foundations of OpenAgile.
3. Visible Tasks
This means that all people doing the work should be able to see what tasks needs to get done, what is in progress, and what tasks are done. One technique that co-located teams often use is simply posting tasks on a wall using sticky notes. (Check out my OpenAgile Task Wall Prezi) Another cool idea is Card Meeting which works on the same principle, but it can be useful for distributed teams.
4. Learning Manifesto
The emphasis on learning is perhaps the most important aspect of OpenAgile that aligns with the needs of volunteer management. The Learning Manifesto states that “Learning is the key that unlocks human capacity.” Volunteers are drawn to an organization because of its vision but can get pushed away when they feel they’re underutilized or not able to contribute in a meaningful way. By making it explicit that the volunteer is primarily accountable for learning, the organization creates a safe space for experimentation and innovation.
Imagine your father is in surgery for a routine tonsillectomy. Something goes wrong with the anesthesia and his heart goes nuts. The defibrillator is brought out, the paddles applied to your father’s chest and the surgeon yells “CLEAR!”. He triggers the defibrillator, but nothing happens, just a small clicking noise. He quickly checks the machine, and everything looks okay. He tries again. “CLEAR!” There’s a small buzzing noise and your father’s body trembles slightly. The surgeon puts the paddles down, and, getting frantic, yells at the nurses to find another defib machine, “NOW!!!”. Thirty agonizing seconds pass. One of the nurses rushes into O.R. with a cart with another defibrillator machine on it. It gets set up. Another fifteen seconds pass. It charges and the surgeon applies it again. “CLEAR!” There’s a huge shock and your father is killed instantly. It takes a few more minutes for him to be officially pronounced dead.
Is this how projects are run in your organization?
If this had been a description of a real event, you would be furious. You would demand that the defibrillators work better – one hundred percent of the time would be about right! You would sue the hospital for buying shoddy defibrillators. You would sue the company that made them. You would sue the surgeon.
Let’s stop running projects this way. Agile is a reliable defibrillator for your organization’s heart.
I subscribe to the European Baha’i Business Forum newsletter which often posts interesting articles and interviews about the relationships between business, corporate responsibility and social and economic development. In his interview, Satareh discusses the need for closer collaboration between corporations and NGOs and how opening up this kind of discourse will contribute to advancing the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement.
I found this intriguing in light of the BCI team’s current project of developing the OpenAgile™ Learning System™ and the corporate learning institute.
Five Ways that Team Members Build Trust. The five things Esther mentions are all good and actually seem fairly comprehensive as categories. I often think about trust and it’s relationship to Truthfulness. I see truthfulness as comprising:
Integrity – acting on your principles with wisdom and without compromise.
Honesty – telling the truth as you understand it to other people.
Self-Awareness – knowing your capabilities and limits (being honest with yourself).
What else is required for Truthfulness and Trust-building?
Two very interesting videos. The first, a presentation by Rod Jeffries, goes through a treatment of “Lateral Violence”. The second is three role-play scenarios to demonstrate the concepts. Both of these videos are in the context of nursing in hospitals… however, it takes little imagination to see how they apply in other environments. I would actually assert that the problems described in these videos are endemic to most organizations.
Scrum and other agile methods all have some mechanisms for dealing with this sort of challenge, but they can start failing quickly if the sponsors of the agile effort do not overcome the habitual and cultural challengs.
Most business persons and businesses understand the concept of strategic alliances. The reason to form alliances are many and varied and include such reasons like; monetary, distribution, market access, shared technology and others. My reason for joining Berteig Consulting is a little unusual. First reason is that I am an international consultant, trainer and coach. My international work requires 100-150 days of travel outside North America every year. I have been doing this for 10 years and it does not hold the same appeal it did in the beginning of the travel. Don’t misunderstand me, I still like the travel but I pay a price physically. So joining a reputable and successful Canadian company was appealing to me.
My second reason for the alliance is that I am very impressed with the knowledge, skills, abilities and professionalism that exists in the Berteig Consulting team. Their values were consistent with mine. During the summer of 2008, Mishkin Berteig (the co-founder of the Berteig Consulting) and I began to investigate how we could work together.
Needless to say we hit it off. There is mutual respect. So I made the move to become a CSM and begin to train, coach and consult within his company. Mishkin and I have already decided to co-write a book about Agile. I have currently written 5 books which are published in 10 languages, one of which is a best seller. Mishkin and I hope to publish in late 2009. I will continue my international work to some degree, but my strategic relationship with Berteig Consuting will become more important in the coming months and years.
I look forward to adding value to Berteig Consulting, the team members and all of our clients. I will do what needs to be done to insure the existing and future customers receive the best advice, coaching and training available in the Agile marketplace. I care about the people at Berteig Consulting and will make sure they receive value from me. There is a quote I respect … People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care! We at Berteig Consulting care about the quality of our interactions with our customers and the results of our efforts.
Most people despise the end of Sunday. This means that Monday, the dreaded start of the work week, is just around the corner. Most people don’ have a team that they trust at work. Most people are unable to be truthful with their boss, or even truthful with themselves about their work.
Fortunately, I am not one of those people. I work with great people. They are kind, honest, caring, and very professional. I work at Berteig Consulting. My team is made up of four people, one of which is me. Travis, who is very gifted in the arts is also very professional and down to earth. Mishkin is an ideal boss who cares deeply about his co-workers, and treats us all like brothers and sisters. Laila is pure and able to make others feel completely at home (she is also my wife).
I never know what will happen each week but I do know that I will be happy and enjoying the experience with such a wonderful team.
From Mishkin Berteig:
Every day that we start work, I’m happy to be here. It’s a bit cliche, but I love the people I’m working with. I also love the work we are doing. The vision of the company is maturing and our focus on education has already changed the way some things are being done. I like our work environment: there are three of us “crammed” into a small office room – we are constantly collaborating, discussing options and problems and reminding each other of work to do. Hiring Laila to work with us part time has been an incredible change. She thinks systematically about our way of working and makes suggestions in such a loving way that it is impossible to feel like we were even doing anything wrong in the first place. For me personally, having Travis focus on the role of Process Facilitator (ScrumMaster) has also been a huge relief for me. He keeps us in line with a lightweight agile process and I’m loving it!!! Finally, for me, focusing my own efforts on business value has been great – with the help of Paul, Laila and Travis, I now have the mental space and the actual time to devote to this critical part of running a business. I’m still learning like crazy, and it’s great fun! I wish everyone could work in an environment like this… which is, of course, why we offer the services that we offer!
From Travis Birch:
At Berteig Consulting, we practice Agile. I am currently working in the role of process facilitator for our new team of 4. We work in 1-week iterations. As a couple of the team members have a 4-day work week, we have our retrospective on Monday mornings at 10 AM, followed by the planning meeting for our next iteration at 11 AM. The remaining work days begin with a daily stand-up meeting using the reporting methods of a daily Scrum (each member reports 3 things to the team – “What I did yesterday”, What I’m doing today”, and “What are my obstacles”). We work in a collocated team room, with items, tasks, obstacles, definition of done and burn-down chart all up on the walls. We just completed our second iteration. As part of today’s retrospective, team members actually did some demos – Mishkin showed us some of the great changes he’s made to his course material and Paul demoed our beautiful newsletter. Laila even demoed some travel tools that she’s been working on for the trainers. We also decided to each write our reflections in order to share them with those who might find it useful as a way of wrapping up the retrospective for this iteration.
Visibility of work and openness of consultation feeds an overall feeling of excitement and optimism in the team!
From Laila Heidema:
Having worked at Berteig Consulting for merely two weeks, I already feel that I am part of a team. I feel that I am contributing in helping people with their business in an environment that is creative, supportive, joyful and cooperative. I know that each week will bring interesting new tasks that will not feel like a mundane set of work, or carried out in order to finish the week. Rather, each project is completed with a sense of contribution towards the company’s quest to be the best corporate educator for humanity. Were it not for Berteig’s positive atmosphere and team dynamic, this would not be possible.
The summer has been interesting for me. Lots of really great things including the Agile 2008 conference, some really great training experiences, and some really great business challenges. I’ve learned a huge amount over the last few months. In many ways, September always gives me the “back to school” feel from when I was growing up. This year it is particularly so. This year, I’m working with a team instead of on my own. This year, I have a systematic approach to running my business using OpenAgile. This year, I’m being deliberate about creating my corporate culture.
One thing I wanted to share publicly: Berteig Consulting has the start of a vision and mission. For several years now, I’ve been focused on agile methods. But I also have always known that in many ways those methods are not what I am committed to. Rather, there is something deeper.
Berteig Consulting is going to be the best corporate educator of humanity.
Agile methods are a tool or set of practices that are compatible with this vision. We teach agile methods, we mentor and coach agile methods, and agile methods themselves help individuals, teams and organizations to learn – to self-educate. So using agile methods enables our vision.