Monday, July 29, 2013

Does TV Stunt Your Agile Career Growth?

Call me goofy, but I have to be transparent and tell you of a pattern I see all the time. I often start my Certified Scrum and agile training classes with an exercise. I ask everyone line up according to how much TV they watch (or Netflix, Hulu or video games they play, etc). After a brief discussion of how the group managed to do that without detailed instructions, I then ask them to line up according to agile experience. 

Again and again I see the majority of people who watch TV (or play games) the most switch places with those who don't. That is, many people watching TV the most have the least amount of agile experience, and many who watch TV the least have the most agile experience. 

Let me suggest two stories that might be happening. 

Booby loves TV. Won't miss an episode of Real OC Vampires, Food Wars or Celebrity Dogs. He hears that his company is going to "go agile." "Cool," he thinks, "hope they pick my team to pilot it."

Peter loves learning. Won't miss a blog post, new book or even his monthly issues of Tech Talk. He hears his company is going to "go agile." "Cool," he thinks, "because I've been talking about it to my boss, my team, and the project managers, sharing what I've been reading. I'm getting a lot more out of the Scrum book I ordered, know that it may happen any day. I hope they pick my team to pilot it."

Who might you pick to be the ScrumMaster on the pilot team?

By the way, I sometimes share in my class how my pre-marriage counselor requested us not to have a TV the first year of marriage to improve our communication. Something about men not being as natural at listening as women. Not sure. I wasn't paying attention...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Why a ScrumMaster Might Lie

One question I ask in working with new groups or retrospectives is how far away is everyone now from where they were born. If we're talking about self-organization, I can ask the team to line up in that order, and watch the interactions go.

It's surprising to me how little we know about the teams we work with. That knowledge we gain, with sometimes only minutes of talking, pays dividends in a more trusting, productive working relationship and environment. 

I worked with one Project Manager turned ScrumMaster, and he was struggling with a decision the team wanted to make that he didn't agree with. He even went so far as to tell the team that their Director wanted it the ScrumMaster's way, which turned out to be not true. Not very good servant leadership. Management wondered if we needed to pull this guy out of the ScrumMaster role, for he had been an effective project manager, from what I understood. 

Then one night I ran into the ScrumMaster at Chili's and we shared a meal. In the course of that hour, I learned how he had come from a powerful Middle Eastern family. He was the eldest son and had high expecations put on him, a burden that he seemed trying to meet, thousands of miles away from his family, through work performance. All these details helped me see a fuller picture of this man who had been raised to make things happen and carry the full burden of responsibility himself. 

In this case, the struggle wasn't about Scrum, it was about a new personal definition of success and learning to trust. I would never have changed my coaching approach had I not stumbled across this new perspective of my teammate. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Where Do You Draw Inspiration From?

Where do you draw inspiration from? Yesterday I was inspired by two people in my class, Dennis and Wes. Dennis doesn't let his age, in an age-predjudice marketplace, hold him back. He was pointed out in the class as being the key contributor in solving a class problem (which he politely denied was the case). And Wes doesn't let his lack of background in IT hold him back. He was one of the most engaged people, stayed after class, and was so interactive that I kept mistaking him for an experienced Scrum team member.

You give get knocked down from time to time, and lose your strength or hope or fire. A community around you can help you draw strength when you don't have it in yourself.