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Using “Status” in Agile Coaching & Training

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Recently after attending a Scrum Alliance webinar on “Best Practices in Coaching,” I was reminded of my experiences teaching Acting students at university, and how I used changing status to help them achieve their best.

Status refers to the position or rank of someone within a particular group or community. I believe it was Canadian Keith Johnstone who introduced the idea of “playing status” to theatre improv teams. It is used to create relationships between characters onstage, and to change those relationships to move a story forward.

Status can be indicated through position, posture, facial expression, voice and clothing. It is a fascinating tool for any trainer or coach to use.

At the beginning of a semester with new students, I would invite them to sit on the stage floor in a circle with me. I would welcome them, discuss my expectations of their learning, and tell them what they could expect from me. We’d go over the course syllabus and I’d answer questions. I purposefully put myself in an equal status to them, as a way of earning their trust, because the processes of acting* requires huge amounts of trust. I also wanted to establish a degree of respect in them for the stage by all of us being in a “humble” position on the stage floor.

However, when I would introduce a new exercise to them that required them to go beyond their comfort zones, I would deliver instructions from a standing position while they were seated. By elevating my status, I conveyed the importance of the exercise, and it was a signal that it was not something they could opt out of. In this way, I could help them to exercise their creativity to a greater extent.

Another way I encouraged my students to take risks was to take risks myself. Sometimes I would illustrate an acting exercise by doing it myself first. For those few minutes I became a colleague with my students, one of them, equal in status. If I could “make a fool of myself” (which is how it may look to an outsider), then they could too.

I had one student who had great potential, but who took on the role of class clown and would not give it up. He fought against going deeper and getting real. One day in an exercise where they had to “own” a line of dialogue, I had him in a chair onstage, while I and the rest of the students were seated. He had to repeat the line of text until it resonated with him and became real. After some minutes, nothing was changing in him. In desperation had him turn his chair around so his back was to us. I then indicated to the other students to quietly leave the room. He could hear something happening but was confused about it. He was not able to turn around and look.

When I allowed him to turn around it was only him and me left in the theatre. I had him go through the repetition exercise again. Without an audience, and with me still seated, he finally broke through the wall he had erected and connected with the line of text from his inner self. It was a wonderful moment of truth and vulnerability. I then allowed the other students back in, and had him find that connection again with the students there. He was able to do it.

He is grateful to me to this day for helping him get beyond his comfortable role as clown to become a serious actor.

When training or coaching, it seems to me there can be huge value in playing with status. Sometimes taking a lower status, an equal status, or a higher status, can move a team or upper management into discovering whatever may have been blocking the process. Again, there are many ways to indicate status and even a status change to effect progress.

In his book, “Improv-ing Agile Teams,” Paul Goddard makes some important observations about using status. He writes: “Even though status is far less obvious than what is portrayed on stage, individuals still can take small steps to encourage status changes within their own team. For example, asking a team member who exhibits lower status behaviours to take ownership of a meeting or oversee a process not only boosts that person’s confidence but also increases status among peers…these subtle actions can help make lower-status team members feel more comfortable when expressing new ideas or exposing hidden problems.”

A colleague reminded me of a 1975 publication called “Power: How to Get It, How to Use It,” in which author Michael Korda gives advice about facial expression, stance, clothing and innumerable ways to express “power.” The idea of using status in the context I’m writing about is not about gaining power, but about finding ways through one’s own status changes to help unlock the capacity and potential of others.

How can a coach use status to help someone in management who is blocking change? Is someone on a team not accepting what others have to offer because s/he is keeping his/her status high? Is a Scrum Master necessarily a high-status team member, or rather a servant to the team (low status)?

I am curious if any coaches or trainers out there have used status in a way that created growth and change.

*Good acting is a matter of the actor finding the truth in oneself as it relates to the character he or she is playing. It requires vulnerability and courage to step out of one’s known persona and take on another as truthfully as possible. Inherent truthfulness also applies to work in any other endeavour.


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Dejirafication: Free Your Process

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Alexey Krivitsky recently posted a presentation on his blog, agiletrainings.eu, addressing the issue of so-called-agile tools, specifically Jira.

Here is a link to his presentation.

The movie images he chose gave me a chuckle and his points really hit home.

He offers 4 points to what he calls a “Jira Rehab Program” and I found the points interesting.

Take a look. See what you think.

Share your comments on your experience with agile tools here.

Have you had success with Jira or would you rather see it disposed of?

And check out Mishkin’s recent article on the ideal electronic Agile tool.

 

 


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Link: Strong Teams Start With Trust

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One of the positive outcomes of an agile team succeeding in its transformation is the establishment of a high-functioning team.

A high-functioning team works more effectively, efficiently and can innovate more appropriately for the corporate advantage of the business.

Ryan Yeoman has a lot to say on the topic. Although he doesn’t mention agile specifically, he’s right on in his approach.

In his article, “Strong Teams Start With Trust: 5 Ways To Build Trust in Your Teams,” he writes that:

All of them point to trust as a critical and fundamental piece to success – in business and in life.

Piggy-backing all these thoughts and making it personal to myself, trust enables me to be more.  It enables me to:

  • Accomplish more and do better work by getting feedback and synergizing
  • Grow and learn more by allowing myself to be “open” and receive information
  • Teach more and serve by letting me focus my attention on others
  • Care more and empathize because I’m not constantly worried about protecting myself
  • Be more human

Trust helps you accept deepening relationships and removes politics and silos from the work place, creating an organization within which people feel safe. At its simplest, trust is a catalyst for your organization to be more: more nimble, more efficient, more effective.  It’s like oxygen for a successful team – one simply can’t exist without it.

I found his comments insightful and his links appropriate.

This is an excellent article for those team members who are striving for excellence and learning to trust one another, and themselves, in the process.


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Video: Managers Develop Delivery Teams

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Real Agility managers help their delivery teams to progress through the stages of team development to reach a sustainable high-performance state. Real Agility is the merging of Agile, Lean, and Community Development. Find out how managers’ roles change in this short video by Mishkin Berteig.


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Quotable Quote: Transform Culture & Business Approach

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Jerry Doucett 201601 white background - head - 275 squareAt the end of the day your goal should not be to become Agile or Scrum savvy.  Instead your real goals and outcomes should align with achieving the key benefits of Agility, and with what Scrum offers.  These should include (but are not limited to) increased customer satisfaction, faster delivery of value, improved feedback loops, adopting a continuous improvement mindset, improved employee morale and increased employee retention.  Scrum is just one of the many tools or approaches you may choose to get there, but it is certainly an important one to consider if these outcomes align with your goals.

For Scrum to be truly successful at your organization, you must dramatically transform your very culture and business approach.  To be clear, this is not easy to do but the rewards are well worth the effort.  By embracing such a transformation, the adopted change in behaviour, beliefs and practices should result in a more successful Scrum experience and a higher degree of satisfaction for both your customers and employees.


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Announcement: 4 New Steams of SAFe courses offered

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Jerry Doucett 201601 white background - large square

Jerry Doucett is now offering consulting in implementing SAFe 4.0,  as well as teaching the following courses and workshops:

1) “Leading SAFe 4.0” course for the SAFe Agilist (SA certification)

2) “SAFe Product Manager – Product Owner” workshop (SPMPO certification)

3) “SAFe 4.0 for Teams” course for the  SAFe Practitioner (SP certification).

Please reach out to Jerry by email or on LinkedIn if you have any questions about SAFe or about scaling Agility.

The next SAFe class is “Leading SAFe 4.0” on September 08 and 09.  Please see WorldMindware.com for more information including registration.


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ANNOUNCEMENT: New Upcoming SAFe Courses

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Scaled Agile Framework - SAFe Agiilist Logo

Last week 23 new course offerings were posted at BERTEIG’s Training website.

These classes are offered by Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett who has worked in Agile transformation since 2008.

More information on SAFe can be found here and you can register for any upcoming class here.

 


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Some Light Agile Humour Puts Things Into Perspective

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Have you ever wanted to run an agile project?

Or maybe you are a leader in an organization who has had an agile coach approach you requesting to run an agile project?

This light & comical sketch depicts the often humorous interactions between agile coaches and corporate leaders in various departments.

At the end of this clip, the agile coach has spoken with a CEO, Human Resources, Financial Department, etc and when he goes back to the first CEO he’s had a lot of conversations about his project, but it has not yet started.

The concept of two operating models existing within the same space is so clearly illustrated here. The one framework is about upfront-planning, documentation, assessment and projection of a plan. The other framework (Agile) is about very little upfront planning with a “jump-in-and-get-started” attitude. Adjustments are made along the way with continuous reflection and learning. The product continues to improve and is ready to deliver sooner.

The most successful businesses in the world are the ones where Agile methods have been adopted in every level of an organization.

It is just changing everything.


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Waterfall vs Agile

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A Retrospective on the
History of Project Management

Changing my Brain from Agile to Waterfall

Several months ago I enrolled myself in a project management class. I wanted to learn about the “old way” of doing things–that is, more simply what we would refer to as the “Waterfall” methodology.

However after taking this course, i’m now apprehensive to call it “Waterfall” as there are so many other outlying elements apart from what defines it as “Waterfall” (Gantt Charts). Instead i’d refer to this practice of project management as being “traditional” and respectful towards a more old-style way of conducting business; or, operating business within a reactive environment.

Reactivity – a measure of the deviation from the condition at which a nuclear reactor is critical.

You see, i’m more of an Agile/Scrum guy (in case you were unaware). I attended this class with an open-mind, glass-empty, eyes-open and ears-listening perspective. However, every class I attended, I compared the methods to Agile/Scrum and thus i’d like to share my learnings from the class.

Before I continue, I would just like to mention that I loved taking this class, I learned new skills, I met talented people, and I would happily take this class under any other conditions.

Item #1 Reporting

I learned, there’s no reports in Agile. You reading this would disagree, but compare this to Waterfall–nope. The traditional project management system is designed with reporting in mind; in fact I would say that reporting is the first item on the “to do” list.

Before building anything! We need to make a report for it. (Let’s call it RDD – Report Driven Development)

One could argue that this is incredibly important when there are millions of dollars at stake, shareholders that need to know where their money is going, and of course good record keeping in the unlikely event of lawsuits. However, in all this documentation, when does the project actually yield some development? This is why I call it reactive–because to use this methodology is to focus on avoiding pitfalls, and attempt to foresee explosions.

Personally, I think reports are silly. I once saw a young mother have to stay two hours late for work on a beautiful spring Friday because she had to finish a report. She was the only one left in the office, and I asked her “Why do you have to send the client the report? Why not just schedule a meeting during office hours, and give them a presentation or conduct discussions containing the data within the report?”

“That’s a good idea, I never thought of that” she replied.

Possibly another case where a “nice to have” feature is causing stress to a worker just because a project manager is following an outdated methodology.

Item #2 Ubiquitous Language

One thing I love about the traditional project management suite, is its dictionary of terms and definitions. A lot of really smart people developed and documented the standards that are used within PMP/PMI, such as academics, engineers and scientists. There’s now mountains of documentation supporting all of the concepts within the waterfall world, and rigorous thought-out processes for (almost) every instance that may occur in a project. Also, sidenote: I’m not saying that all of these career paths tend to rely exclusively on documentation, but there’s certainly a lot of documentation involved.

When I was a chef, if you were to cook on the east coast, you’d refer to the small crustacean “shrimp” as “shrimp”, if you were to travel to the west coast, all of a sudden the same crustacean would be referred to as a “prawn”. I’m sure you’ve been in a project where the east coast team used a term that was different from the west coast team, and if you consider communication to be the backbone of Scrum–this could lead to a failure.

Because of that, there’s not a word i’ve encountered within Waterfall that doesn’t have a standard definition. The word “baseline” is used to define the starting position, and that’s why I refer to this education as a “history” class. It’s the sort of stuff you learn before you get into large projects.

There’s a proper place and time for documentation, and in Agile it’s a discouraged practice. Because why have documentation when you should be acquiring the information from talking to human beings. Verbal conversation and timed-planned meetings can introduce subjects with greater accuracy and less time than a well-documented word file.

In dealing with million-dollar projects, and teams of hundreds of people there’s no room for ambiguity within language. And please keep in mind, documentation creates standardization, and it’s the processes required to generate the ubiquitous language that i’ve noticed is a shortcoming within Agile in comparison to Waterfall.

I’d say that the majority of the process we use in Agile project management exist foundationally within Waterfall–but we don’t even realize we use them. A tad bit of studying, and learning the baselines will enable individuals to fortify the foundation in their next project.

Item #3 Actual History

Yes, I learned about historical concepts within the project management world. Such as process theories and their corresponding theorists. It’s truly fascinating to learn about how we got to where we are today in terms of project management.

In 1962 Everett Rogers was considered an early adopter and supporter of modern change controls and change requests.

Ultimately, the sad truth is that the majority of processes we follow today in project management are just to cover ones ass. As, historically, the project manager tended to be the focus of “blame” when failures occur within a project.. and the first person to be fired.

Keep in mind that this project management approach is over a century old, and the Agile manifesto was formulated in 2001. So I like to believe Agility is devised for a new world of empowering teams and building stuff, however it’s very important to know where you came from.

Item #4 Quoting

The biggest takeaway from my history class, was learning about all the tools that currently exist within the antiquated project management methodology and their gorgeous tools for creating estimates.

Creating estimates is tricky in Agile; mostly because to adhere to the iterative development that the Agile framework represents, you don’t ever look too far into the future. The reality is though is that most businesses need a longterm plan and a lot of us in the Agile world use duct tape and a series of levers and pulleys to make Agile work with estimates. If you’re struggling with estimates, I recommend reading the Project Management Body of Knowledge Version 5 (PMBOK).

These guys have literally been doing estimates for an obscene length of time. I believe if we can hybridize their approach while adhering to the Agile workflow, we’ll have something that can truly change the world.

Having said that, as an entrepreneur I create a budget for all my projects. I accomplish all the business goals early-on in a project so that I can work to pivot them later. Pivoting is what it is to be an entrepreneur, and something that doesn’t work well with Waterfall–which is very un-business-like.

Item #??? RFP (Request for Proposals – Procurement Management)

This is the most ridiculous thing i’ve ever seen. I’m familiar with the RFP process as i’ve worked for corporations that thrived from the activity, and during my history class we studied more about what makes the RFP “tick”. Every time I think of RFP’s, I think of how Walmart operates, have you heard this story before?

Walmart tells it’s toothbrush suppliers how much it’s willing to buy the product for, and if the toothbrush manufacturer is unable to accommodate that price, Walmart will choose to get toothbrushes elsewhere. Problem is, there’s always that factory in China who will do it for a third of the price of North America, and create miserable working conditions for the workers. Yes, that’s the world that the RFP creates.

I love the aerospace industry. And what’s the difference between NASA and SpaceX? Well that’s easily the argument of Waterfall vs Agile–as NASA is still using the RFP when they should be considering iterative in-house development. The James Webb Telescope announced in 2002, to cost $842 million and to launch in 2010 was awarded to (what is now) Northrop Grumman Space Technologies. Northrop Grumman then released separate RFP’s to build components of the spacecraft. It then became a global initiative as subcontractors from all over the world were bidding on the components. You can probably bet that those subcontractors put-out RFPs as well.. But that’s my assumption.

TLDR: As of 2013 it’s estimated to cost a total of $8.8 Billion, and launch in 2018. Oops.

Conclusion

If I could summarize Waterfall in one sentence, it would probably be something like: “Waterfall is an excellent tool to make stakeholders happy, and get money from venture capital”. Where Agile is like “Agile is an excellent tool to get shit done, and keep everybody involved in the project at a consistent level of satisfaction.”

Every time I hear about a project going over budget, extending deadlines, and ultimately creating failures within business–really breaks my heart. You know that all the troubles from such a project creates unnecessary headaches, and potentially unemployment. Be a responsible project manager and don’t focus on the happiness of stakeholders.

Learning more about Waterfall was great, and I learned a lot more about Kaizen (iterative development, or, Agile within the Waterfall world). It has also taught me more about what truly makes Agile unique, and not just a buzzword used within industry.

**subtext: if anybody wants to challenge me to building a spacecraft using Agile/Scrum — bring it on.


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Making Unconscious Habits in Culture Conscious in Agile Teams

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In the past, in our North American culture, power and authority in an organization was held by those who earned the most money, had the titles to go along with their authority, and they had the right to make decisions about where they went, when they went places and who they associated with. They also had the power and authority to decide what others did and didn’t do in their work environment. That was in the past.
 
Where we are headed in a more unified and equal culture, based on principles of collaboration and understanding is that power is now more equally distributed. Those who didn’t have access to education now do. Those who were previously barred from environments of wealth and prosperity are now welcomed in. Corporate cultures, and organizational models across the board are changing and it’s good for everyone.
 
The biggest challenge in any change arises when someone’s fear of being excluded is realized. The issue is no longer about money or time or integrity. The issue is that as work environments change, old (mostly unconscious) patterns of exclusion are changing too. It means janitors associating with doctors and delivery teams eating lunch with those in leadership (imagine that!). When an organization is going through a transformation, when they notice behaviours which were limiting and exclusive and change them, they are actively contributing to an ever-advancing civilization. They are creating a new and inclusive culture.
 
At times, mistakes will be made. Old ways will sneak their way back in and one or more team member may get snubbed or excluded for one reason or another. This happens. It’s normal and is part of the learning process.
 
But in time, the aim for any agile team is to continually make these old exclusive unconscious habits conscious so that work environments can continue to embrace a greater diversity of people, not just of cultural backgrounds but from different social and economic backgrounds, too.
 
The difference in life experience from someone who has lived in poverty to someone who has lived in wealth is as if they grew up in different worlds, even though we inhabit the same earth. Everything is different. Language. Behaviours. Hopes and Dreams. Everything is different on any level.
 
However, just as different races are now joining together in work and in marriage more often, so are people from different socio-economic backgrounds coming together too, in work, in community building, in families.
 
The pain of the growth is a worthwhile investment into a brighter and more unified future not just for us but for the generation to follow us.

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Video Review: Rethinking Education, David Sabine

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BERTEIG’s David Sabine presented “Rethinking Education” at the first ever TedX talk in Fort McMurray, Alberta in 2012!

“Rethinking Education” has received nearly 3000 views and offers an insightful perspective into the way youth are streamlined into either vocational or educational career paths, and the funding which supports curriculum development. He even addresses important issues such as gender bias. I like how David sees Agile Transformation as having a positive influence on change in our current educational model and how he invites a radical approach to a new way to think about education.

I absolutely love how he combines his background in music composition with his professional training as an Agile Coach at a time when his personal life was changing with the upcoming birth of his daughter. He says “What we need is a common understanding, for a collective effort, for a collective benefit. That is how collaboration will manifest in our social system.”

What an encouraging and inspiring presentation! Please watch the video and share your thoughts on how you would like to see our social education model change now for the future.


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What do we Mean by Transformation?

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IMG_8956

From the Scrum Alliance Orlando Conference ”Open Space” Discussion, April 2016, facilitated by Valerie Senyk

Transformation is a big word that Scrum/ Agilists use. It is what we promise our customers through training and coaching.

On the last day of the Scrum Alliance Conference during the Open Space forum, I posed the question: “What is transformation? What do we mean by it?” We had forty-five minutes to try and understand this issue.

Initially, discussion centered around the idea of change and some of the manifestations of change. However, it was pointed out that transformation requires more than a methodology we follow. In fact, it’s more of a way of thinking.

It is easy to say what transformation is NOT: it is not rigid, not prescriptive, not directive. It is about different ways of behaving, it is supportive, and requires a new mindset from being prescriptive to adaptive.

I asked if the participants saw themselves as agents of transformation. Almost everyone did. So, what do they do? And how do they do it?

Participants spoke of the need for greater knowledge and education around Agile, as well as the need to understand stakeholders. To be an agent of transformation is about enabling people, and to enable them we need to understand them.

One commented that when an organization experiences pain, that is an opportunity to go in as an agent of transformation and use that pain as a motivation and means to change.

Transformation is not a one-time event; it requires continuous learning. In order to have continuous learning, agents must create a safety net for innovation to occur. The mindset must be that failure is okay. Trust in the process and in the agent (agilist) is necessary for discovery.

It was understood we can achieve transformation at a surface level to begin with, but true transformation occurs at a personal level. How is it possible to achieve this deeper level?

One participant spoke about the need for love, for truthfulness and for transparency to be part of a personal-level transformation. As a member of the BERTEIG team, I know that love, truthfulness and transparency are integral to how we work, and how we deliver services.

Ultimately, there is a difference between change and transformation. Change means one can go forward but then step backward. Change is not necessarily permanent. But transformation is really about irreversible change! And small transformations are steps to larger ones.

Discussion then centered on what motivates transformation. Behavioural change needs to be felt/ desired at a visceral level. Organic analogies were suggested to help educate and motivate – that in the natural world we see constant development and change. Why would we be any different?

The question was posed: What do we transform to? People need to be shown the beauty of the next step…beauty in itself becomes a motivation.

Is it enough to help change an organization or corporation to run beautifully and smoothly within itself? Or is there a higher purpose to transformation?

One attendee spoke about how all the cells in the body work autonomously for a higher purpose, which is the functioning of a human being.

In business also, transformation can also be pursued for a higher purpose. Imagine a corporation transitioning from pursuing purely monetary rewards to its pursuit being about making a positive contribution to society. It was pointed out that studies show that companies with a higher purpose actually have higher revenue.

However, it was also expressed that everything that matters in life cannot be measured.

We concluded the session with the idea that transformation requires looking outward as well as inward. It’s not just about us and our customers – it’s ultimately about creating social good.

I have been grappling with the idea of transformation for many years, from the viewpoint of the spiritual as well as that of an artist. Hearing the ideas and understanding of the twenty-plus people who attended this session helped me see that transformation on a larger-scale requires patient but strongly-motivated steps toward an ideal that may seem intangible to some, but is worth every moment in pursuing. For it is in the pursuit of the best ways over the better that transformation is wrought.


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