Monday, November 24, 2014

Scrum - Three Strikes and You're Out!

My rule for adopting Scrum at your organization is three strikes and you're out.

That is, if you say you're doing Scrum, but not following one of the core assumptions, you can get by, and you'll probably get very good results that help gain support to address and fix the comprimises.

If you're breaking two core rules of Scrum, that's definitely not good, but perhaps you can still get some value for the compromises that you are making. And with some value and time, maybe you'll get support to address these shortcomings.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Career Kaizen #7 - The Scrum Values

This week we'll explore the Scrum values a bit.

Monday - Courage

I share a story in my classes about courage. Some years ago, I and my family were visiting Yellowstone National Park. There are bears in Yellowstone, and when we first saw them, I was a bit nervous. I checked to make sure the car doors were securely locked and all windows were up. We were safe. But, just a few weeks later, an old couple came across a bear while on a hike in Yellowstone. It was a mother bear, and in between the couple and the bear was the cub. From 100 yards away, the bear charged. Now, some say that courage is the absence of fear, but I think you should be fearful of a charging bear. It's the appropriate response. I heard another definition of courage from Erwin McManus that resonated much more deeply - "courage is the absence of self for the sake of others". In that moment when the bear was charging, the man turned to his wife and said "Run!", but he stayed put. The husband was killed by the bear, but the wife had enough time to hide behind a log and play dead. The bear still found her. Actually picked her up by her backpack, but then dropped her, and walked off. The husband, in my opinion, was the perfect example of courage - absence of self for the sake of others.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The One Thing I'd Add to the Agile Manifesto

In class yesterday, someone asked if the Agile Manifesto was still considered enough. This was an unusually advanced group of Scrum Product Owners, so we spent some time on it.

My first answer was "No," and that I haven't seen anything needed to do excellent work that wasn't a part of it.

But then, I made the mistake of continuing to think about it over lunch. Thinking...such a bad idea. :-)

I recalled how I had written my Work Manifesto many years earlier. Why?

I thought of how my Scrum Master classes often watches Daniel Pink's TED talk on what motivates employees. Why? Partly to say that Scrum takes care of two of the three things Pink says are needed, but that not this one thing.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Career Kaizen #6 - 5 Agile Sayings to Empower Your Team's Success

This week we'll walk through some common sayings in agile and explore their meaning a bit.

Monday - The Wisdom of And

Even if you are an expert, you'll benefit from hearing
and getting input from others.
When I worked at BigVisible, one of their coach's conference themes was "The Wisdom of And." This is drawn from Jim Collins work when he talks about the wisdom of "and" and the tyranny of the "or". The point is that there are often more choices available to just either/or choices, sometimes called "sucker's choices" or "false polarity," if neither option in its entirety or alone gives everyone what they're wanting. For example, "Well, we can either go over budget to build X, or we can lose all our best customers to the competition." That's a fool's choice. There's something in the middle.

If a group is sitting around a table, the best option doesn't lie with one person. It more likely lies somewhere in the middle of the table. Even if you are an expert, you'll benefit from hearing and getting input from others.

To get more input from a quiet group, ask questions such as "Anything else on this to consider?" "Are there other options?" "Any unanswered questions?" "What are we overlooking?" "What assumptions does this depend on?" "Is there another approach?" "How could this fail?" "Let's get at least two options on the board for this issue."

And you can control difficult people by replying to their solution with, "I'm sure that's a great option, I just want to hear what others have to say." or "Yes, and I'd like to just gather additional information and input."

Homework: Practice replying to positions and opinions with "Yes, and…" instead of "Yes, but…"

Tuesday - Art of the Possible

We often think things are impossible, but in actuality are possible and likely take a lot of hard work and a long time.

For example, for many of you, running a marathon might seem impossible. It might be if it were this weekend, but if it were six months away, and you started getting up in the morning and lacing up the shoes...given enough time and effort, you could do it. And if you did, what a sesnse of accomplishment that would be. It's a big deal. That's why people put the sticker on the back of their cars with 26.2. They don't put stickers that say "I walked around the block today." That's no big deal.

Most anything important, that's of value, takes some investment of time and effort. And that journey is actually part of what changes you, grows your character, and gives you a story worth telling, a story that others want to hear.

Homework: Watch the amazing transformation of a man who commits to running the Boston marathon:

Wednesday - No one of us is as smart as all of us.

Scrum depends on team. If the team isn't all in, if they're not involved in estimating the work, collaborating with the Product Owner on what, why and options in the requirements, and if they're not committing to the work, then we are missing a lot of the magic. When it comes to ideas, options on approaches, the architecture and more, no one person has all the answers. No one person is as smart as everyone else put together. One person might have more knowledge in a particular area, but others can learn that, too.  I've been amazed at how many times the new person on the team has had the best idea.

The same is true for us. On our own personal journey, on our own goals or challenges, we'll always benefit from hearing ideas from others, getting feedback, hearing their stories. We're built for community. Help yourself by getting connected in the local or online agile communities or coaching circles.

Homework: Do a quick search for local meetings or meet-ups for agile, Scrum, project or product managers, lean start-up or business sector you're in, and do the same for groups on LinkedIn, Yahoo, Facebook and other social sites. See anything interesting?

Thursday - Create your own Reality

We need to empower our teams, our team members, and
ourselves that we can create the reality we want
When I worked at Rally, this was one of their core values and sayings. And they lived it. If you felt that you needed something to do your job, if you wanted to grow into another role, they supported you in creating that reality.

I see my wife doing something similar with our two younger kids. When they say, "I'm thirsty," she replies, "So what are you going to do about that?" When they say they can't get ready because they don't have their shoes, she answers with "You can solve that problem."

We need to empower our teams, team members and ourselves that we can create the reality we want, we can solve our problems. I'm often met with the opposite in companies, a response of "Management won't let us do ____," but when I ask if they have actually asked for it, it's usually "No, but they know this is a problem." A particular training exercise I do highlights this. I do the ball point game, and the vast majority of the time, the participants don't move around to where the spacing works best for them. They just accept the circumstances or constraints without even asking me.

Homework - Think of the team, a team member, or yourself, and ask "What if..." and see what comes.

Video Fridays - What's the simplest thing that will work?

Breaking down life into what moves it forward today, not what's the best, comprehensive solution. A little like the debt snowball or weighted short job first.

To look at the entirety of the mountain to be climbed may seem overwhelming, but there is truth both in the saying that the journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step and that the joy is in the journey.

About the big challenge or goal in front of you, what's one part of it that you can do today? Even better, what's something on it that you can do before noon? You might say that that one thing isn't the most important or highest priority. True, but also perhaps not true. It is a priority in the sense that you getting a "less important" task done actually gets the motivation and confidence going to tackle, and succeed, at the big thing.

Often our risk aversion, all the unknowns, take us out of the game of tackling big and challenging goals. But the very fact that the goals are big and scary are what make them worth doing, noble even. And through that challenge of tackling what is too much for us, we are transformed from someone who could not, before, into someone who can, afterwards.

Homework: Watch the amazing transformation of a man with a broken neck learning to walk again.

Weekend Warrior
Check out the story at the beginning of Habit. Read up on Jim Collins "Big Hairy Audacious Goals" and Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Career Kaizen #5 - 5 Days of Leadership

Monday - Level 5 Leadership

Leaders help team members
solve their own problems.
Most agree leadership is important, but there are many definitions out there. Are you a leader? Do you have leadership in you? The ScrumMaster role is often described as a servant leader, so it's worth some focused time on it.

One of the classic business books is Good to Great. In the book, Jim Collins talks about Level 5 Leadership, the highest of all and a level few CEO's attain. There are good metaphors that describe that type of leader.

First, these leaders look out the window to assign credit, and look in the mirror to assign blame. Always try to deflect to the team when someone looks at the results and says "You've done a great job leading the team," especially if it's in a public situation, like a meeting. There are many ways to do this, for example, "It's not me. It's the team. Anyone could have done it if they had a team like this," or "Thank you, but really, the team is the one responsible. They have really put in a lot of time, effort and heart into this, " or even just point to some specific positive aspect of the team (perhaps from one of their retros), "The team really feels that _______ has been the key ingredient to the success we've had."

Second, these leaders want to make clock-builders, not be time-tellers. Rather than always have the answer, or be quick to solve someone's problem, Level 5 Leaders help team members solve their own problems or find their own answers. This builds their own abilities, ownership of the solution, empowers self-organization and makes teams faster. Many times making a clock-builder can be started by responding to a question with "What do you think?" I've been surprised how many times they already have an idea, they're just looking for feedback, support, or political covering. You can answer with, "Well, try that out and let me know how it goes," and watch as the team begins to solve more and more of their own problems.

Homework: Ask yourself: Does it feel good to solve people's problems? To be needed? Or to be able to help? Is your value based in part on how critical you are for things to get done? Are you okay with them figuring out everything by themselves?

Tuesday, Common Team Needs

Marcus Buckingham said that the difference between management and leadership is that management looks at what is unique among people, and capitalizes on it, while leadership looks at what is common among people and capitalizes on that.

Knowing what the common concerns are, or addressing a common need, is important. Vision, a key leadership trait, is pointing to a common goal or destination that enables a group to rally around and towards that - a common goal or challenge as they struggle, fail, win and journey together.

Homework: Look at the common felt needs of employees compared to what management thinks they need. What do you think the top three for your team members are? List them in the next retro and have the team dot vote them.

Wednesday - Positional or Influential Leadership

The challenge, and the blessing, of leadership in the ScrumMaster role is that you do not have authority over the team. You can't tell them or force them to do anything. Yet, traditional, authoritative leadership is actually the lowest form of leadership. People aren't as likely to truly be following you as a positional leader (for example, a manager). They are doing what you say, whether they like it or not, because they have to. In those situations, they're not giving the positional leader their best, but only the minimum required. Just enough to not get in trouble or fired or noticed.

Having people listen to you, follow you, as a servant leader means you must learn and grow in the powerful area of influential leadership. Forming relationships, understanding their needs and concerns, fighting on their behalf, protecting them, taking hits for them.

Homework: Looking back over history, who do you admire? Any heroes or people that you respect the work they did, the impact they had, or the challenges that they overcame? If so, in what ways can you apply lessons from them for your life and work now? What would they tell you?

Thursday - People Development Wins Championships

You must develop team members to win championships
John Maxwell wrote a very popular book on leadership. A few quotes from him:
"You can't lead people without liking them."
"At one level, you focus on becoming a change agent - focusing on productivity."
"Productivity wins games. People development wins championships."
"Besides the obvious competence, effort and skill, leadership also depends on intentionality."
"To succeed as a leader, you must help others move forward."

Homework: Pick one of the quotes you like (or another quote from the web page), print it out large to post on your wall at work, and small to put on your bathroom mirror or car dashboard. Keep it in front of you for a week. Don't start your computer or end your day without looking at it (even better to say it to yourself) or start your car or brush your teeth without the same.

Video Fridays

Stanton Complex - face the brutal facts, but don't let go of hope. In 1965, Captain Stanton was shot down and in a POW camp in Vietnam. While others kept believing any day that they'd be released, the reality was they weren't. These people ended up giving up, or worse. Stanton was hopeful, but not unrealistically so, and faced the reality that, also, they may never be released.

On your team, in your company, it may look grim. It doesn't help to believe things will magically change based on nothing other than your wishful thinking. And yet, we have to hope and believe that there is a chance, a chance worth fighting for, that they someday could.

Always respond positively. Don't join others in their complaining. Focus on solutions - what can you change, what experiment, what can you ask for, that might help. If you're not sure, ask yourself, "Is this noble or excellent?"

Homework: Watch the video of Jim Collins (or listen to his audio clips), or Patrick Lencioni.

Weekend Warrior: Review all of Jim Collins Hedgehog Concept items. List out the five levels of leadership.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Career Kaizen #4 - 5 Ways to Make Real Change Happen

Monday, It wasn't easy - I had to change a LOT

The challenges you face are what make you better
Difficult days are rewarding. The challenges you face are what make you better, more than what you were last week or last year.

Imagine that you are observing some amazing team, better than any you've ever been around. You ask the ScrumMaster, "Wow - how did you help them get to this place?". He replies, "Nothing, they were like this when I showed up." What kind of inspiration is that?

Yet, when you feel challenged, maybe even too much at times, these are exactly the points that push you into responding in new ways, trying things you haven't before, becoming someone, perhaps, that you weren't before. So when someone asks, "Wow - how did you help them get to this place?" you smile, laugh and say, "It wasn't easy - I had to change a LOT. This is where it started…" and they will be all ears.

Homework: Do your own speedboat exercise. Draw a boat on a sheet of paper (yes, really - drawing connects with a different part of your brain). Now, draw three or so anchors off the boat that are slowing you down. For each anchor, write three actions that might help with each area. Now, choose three, and either add them to your personal kanban board, or calendar them.

Tuesday, If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

Yes, you really can change. I've wanted to learn to play guitar for years. In fact, I have one. I've had it for 16 years. Up until several weeks ago, I hadn't played more than a song within any given season for at least 8 years. Maybe picked it up once in a month or two.

But now I've played it every day for weeks. I've caught up to where I was a decade ago and passed it. I've learned new songs and notes. I have callouses on my fingertips again. Not only am I playing, but my family is often joining in singing as they walk in and out of the room. Wonderful repercussions.

Why the change? It's something that I really wanted for a long time, so not a lack of desire. Well, it's habit. I added it to one of several daily check-off items on an app I use. Just wanting to flip it to green - done - has made me stop and do it. And now that I've gotten used to just finding a moment to do so, I'm finding more moments and connecting that decision with the reward of the feeling while I'm playing.

It may or may not work for you. It actually took me a couple of weeks, and some tweaking (I had to set a goal of having at least one day where I did ALL items on the check list). But, do something, and inspect and adapt. Because, if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Homework: If you have a smart phone, check out some of the habit-building apps. Start with one positive habit you'd like to build. If you don't have a smart phone, try an online version, or try adding it to your calendar or daily to-do's via Outlook or even good old paper.

Wednesday, Help the Elephant

What specifically needs to happen to turn the elephant?
What is an intermediate achievable turn for the elephant?
The elephant and the rider. You may already be familiar with the story. Elephants can be guided by a rider down a path, but if the elephant really wants to go somewhere, it's going to go there. Same with us and our desires and goals. We may want to go somewhere, but we're often taken somewhere else by the elephant - our emotions. I may want to lose weight, but on a stressful day, I'm much more likely to eat chocolate (true). Or I can want to go running in the morning, and so set the alarm, but once it goes off at 5:30 AM, I don't feel like getting up very much. It could be the same for wanting to speak, get into training, go back to school or a certification program.

Help turn one of your goals into a reality by helping the rider. Look for bright spots - times or situations that things did go well, or you did have some progress. What was happening in that? Script the critical moves - don't inundate yourself with too many choices. What, specifically, needs to happen? Point to the destination - is there an end goal that the habit lines up with or supports?

And help the elephant, too. Shrink the change by lowering the bar so that you can get some success. One habit I had was popping my knuckles. Rather than trying to go all day, my first goal was just not to do it before 10 AM. Then it was 1 PM. Now it is all day. Studies were done that showed that people were 40% more likely to return to a car wash if they were given a 10 punch card with two punches already done, versus an 8 punch card with none.

Homework: How can you help the rider? What are the critical moves to successfully achieve the task? How can you help the elephant? What is a small starter goal to incrementally move toward success?
Share your ideas in the comments below...

Thursday, The Growth Mindset, or the Fixed Mindset

People generally fall into one of those two categories. The fixed mindset believes that we have a certain amount of abilities and that if we do or don't do well at things - subjects, jobs, life, it's because we don't have what others have. If we did, we'd do well, naturally. The growth mindset believes that we can learn, grow and change in these.

Homework: Answer the questions:
1. People are born with a certain intelligence that stays fixed throughout life. True or False?
2. Choose one: Do you demonstrate your ability or increase your ability?
3. When you fail, what does it tell you?

Video Friday:

Watch the TEDx video The Power of Belief

Weekend Warrior:
Check out Linda Risings YouTube videos on the Agile Mindset

Watch Carol Dweck's Mindset video or check out the book or audio book.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Career Kaizen #3 - Your Culture

Monday - Your Cultural Context

team meeting in  circle
Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
What is your company culture?
This week we'll be looking at your cultural context. A mentor once told me "People trump process, but politics trumps people", and for the business, "culture eats strategy for breakfast." So, what is your company culture? And what does that mean to you?

The technology innovation adoption curve is a model adapted by Geoffrey Moore that plots the relative number of people who fall across a continuum of their response to new technology. There are innovators, early adopters, early and late majority, and laggards.

This matters for you because agile is, in the same way, new. IT changes how many people in the organization work, aspects of their roles, what's expected of them, and even deeper and more importantly, it changes what's expected of people's mindsets and what the values are.

An agile survey showed that the number one reported problem with agile adoptions was management resistance.

Homework: Read up on the curve, plot where you are, where your team is and where you think your company is.

Tuesday - Lead with Vulnerability and Transparency

You are part of a team. Even more so with agile, we can't find our success outside of that. Like a relay race, you may claim a fast time for your segment, but if the baton is dropped, you still lose the race.

Patrick Lencioni wrote about what makes teams healthy, and what holds them back. The common problems are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Many teams asking for help are stuck at the first two levels, so let's focus on how you can help with those.

To help with the absence of trust, first, lead with vulnerability and transparency. Tell them how you blew it (they usually already know anyways), when you were stressed or worried. Affirm them for what they do that you can't do so well. Be the first one to share, ask the difficult question or talk about the elephant in the room. Model transparency. Affirm them when they do it.

Second, look for conflict, don't avoid it. We should cultivate environments where it's okay to disagree, and passion is okay. No personal attacks, of course, but freedom to speak your mind and have opinions.

Homework: Look at the documents on Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Wednesday - Get your Team's Perspective

What does the team think? Schedule a meeting, or include it in the next retrospective, to have them say what they think they have, both on the curve, and with dysfunctions.

Homework: Schedule the meeting (unless it will be part of the next retro) and review the documents with the team.

Thursday - The Change Agent

Healthy things grow. Growing things change.
Lead by embracing change.
How and why do people change? What motivates them? What motivates you?

There's a saying - healthy things grow, and growing things change. But we can't make people change. Just look at corrective institutions, rehabilitation centers or many marriages.

But we can lead by embracing, and living out, change. Although I may teach and coach about change, I'm surprised how often I'm actually resisting it. For each of us, this is true for many reasons, but the point is to be mindful that we all struggle with it, not just others. Is there a habit you haven't broken, a goal you haven't attained?

Two reasons that change is hard are emotion and habit.

Homework: Look at the summaries for Switch and Habit. Note three points or items that stuck out to you.

Friday - You, Your Team, and Your Response to Change

By now I hope you have some feel for both the culture around you, your team and your own response to change.

Homework: Watch these Switch and Habit videos on YouTube. 

Weekend Warrior: Do a force field analysis of what changes are supposedly wanted by the company and what is hindering them.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Career Kaizen #2 - Your Story Matters - Storyline

Monday - Where do You Want to Go?

rural road through fields next to fence
Everyone is on a path. Paths take us somewhere.
Is yours taking you somewhere that you want to go?
Some say that if you don't know where you're going, it doesn't matter where you are. What are your goals? Where do you want to be, and what do you want to be doing in 6 months, a year, 5 years?

The ScrumMaster role opens up many opportunities. I've seen people thrust in this leadership role suddenly realize that they have leadership in them. I've seen people fall in love with the coaching aspect, and others grab onto the educator and trainer pieces.

Homework: Ask three people if they have, or have had, any goals. What are or were they?

Tuesday - Your Strengths, ScrumMaster Roles, and Goals

The ScrumMaster job has many roles: Servant Leader, Impediment Remover, Coach, Educator, Organizational Change Agent, Evangelist, Chief Mechanic, Shepherd and Guardian of the Process, Facilitator.

Some of these might leap out at you, or perhaps are what you're already doing and especially love.

Your strengths might shed some light on why that is. Perhaps you love coaching because you're someone who loves building deep relationships or like watching and helping people develop and grow. Or perhaps you love the mechanic role or trying out some experiment and seeing what happens because you love making things great (just being average bugs you). Or you might love being the impediment remover because it's always a clear checklist that means you've had a good day when all those things are checked-off.

When you combine the insights and fuel of your natural strengths and passions coupled with goals that move you forward and motivate you, you'll have a powerful catalyst for change and growth. Not just for you, but a better you to serve and help the team.

Homework: On a sheet of paper, list your strengths in a column on the left, and on a column on the right, list at least five roles of the ScrumMaster, preferably the ones that appeal to you. Draw a line from each of the strengths to a role to which it relates, is a part of, or might help. You might have a strength that relates to several roles, and a role that is related to more than one strength.
Pick one of these roles, or the ScrumMaster job as a whole, and use it to help determine some goals. Extend one goal for 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 18 months.

Wednesday - What's Your Story?

We, as humans, are story-driven. We love movies because they tell stories of someone who wants something and overcomes some conflict to get it. We learn best as our brains web new information much stronger via stories.

You already have part of your story - you want something. You have a goal. Now, the reality is that life can be difficult. What challenge, opposition, conflict can you anticipate that might get in the way of you achieving that goal? Is it finding the time? Getting the money? Getting approval from someone? Keep in mind that overcoming these challenges is part of what makes it all worthwhile - you come out better for it, and it makes it a better story to tell others (perhaps even inspiring). Sometimes it takes practicing on overcoming smaller challenges as part of smaller goals.

Leverage inciting incidents as a tool to move forward. These are decisions or actions that catapult you forward, partly because there's no way back. It's the signing up for the 5K race, the email to the boss asking for approval for training, submitting a proposal to speak at a conference, showing up at that local code camp or user group, emailing that famous expert to ask for advice. Not sure what happens next, but something will, and it will be different from all the nothing that happened the weeks and months before.

Homework: Create a Storyline account on and enter your goal and whatever other information you can. Take a look at some of the other goals in the community.

Thursday - Make Your Goal and Progress Big and Visible

Just like agile, make your goal a priority
and the progress towards it big, prominent, and visible.
Well, you now have a goal. Perhaps you've had some before, as well. Many people have. New Year's Resolutions are very common. Approximately half of Americans make them. But less than 10% succeed. Why is that, and what can you do about that?

One of the best things that you can do to help yourself is to tell others about your goals, preferably people that you're close to and care about their opinions. Next, just like agile, make these priorities and the progress towards them big, prominent, and visible.

Movement on some goals needs to become part of your daily routine, a habit, and therefore also have a low effort or barriers to see and update them. You might use post-its or index cards on a wall, a goal or habit tracker app on your phone or computer, scheduled reminders or appointments with yourself, or a chart that you print out and pin to the wall.

Homework: Choose at least one way that you add working on your goal as part of your daily or weekly routine. Choose a way to make the goal and progress big and visible. You could add yours as a comment on this post as one step.

Friday - You're One of the Few...

Congratulations - you're one of the few that has a goal that's known by others, has clear next steps, and has built-in support via schedule and visibility.

This is very significant, not just for you and these goals, but in other ways, too. At the meta level, you're dealing with how to change, how to improve, clarity on goals, the value of making progress. These all relate to your team and the business. And, in addition, as a servant leader, you're being a model to others on how to improve, how to grow, dealing with challenges, ambiguity, inertia, and perhaps bad history.

Well done.

Video Fridays: Watch the Storyline video by Don Miller

Weekend Warrior: Take a look at some of the posts on the Storyline blog. If this has really resonated with you, take a look at the books and audiobooks on the topic, such as the Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business , Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, and The Dream Giver (a little corny, but simple and powerful metaphor), and grab one.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Career Kaizen #1 - Who Are You?

Monday - What should I do next?

The Scrum class was great!
But what now?
Many of my students come out of the class excited, encouraged, inspired, and ready for action and to change the world. But besides the obvious basics of implementing Scrum, which we'll get to, what else should you do?

Well, that depends on who you are, where you want to go, and your cultural context. So, let's start with who you are. If you're not already familiar with personality tests and have not taken one, here is some information on three popular ones, Team Science (from an agile training and coaching company), Myers Briggs and StrengthsFinder.

Homework: Review the different types of tests.

Tuesday - What did you think of the tests? 

More importantly, what will you do think the results will show you? What are the most significant aspects of YOU?

But be warned - The vast majority of people who have taken these types of tests forget the results. They never do anything with them. It doesn't change them or their work. But for every 10 of those, there's a Li.

Li, a manager, had taken the test. She loved what it showed her and had her entire team take the test. When they all got together to look at the results, she told me that was the most that team had talked in four years.

Homework: Take one of the tests.

Wednesday - Who are you? 

ID and work in your areas of strength for maximum results!
What do you love doing? Where will I see the best out of you? And where will I need to manage around or have team members cover you a bit?

What thoughts or insights have you had about your own strengths?

Most of our feedback comes in the once a year performance review, and the majority of that is spent on our "areas of opportunity" to improve. But if that's where we're weakest, there's perhaps not much that can be done to ever make that great. We get the most by leveraging where we seem to have endless interest and energy, and a history of performance and delivering results. It might be research and learning, or really getting to know people, rallying people, or fixing things.

You want to grow, get better, do your best? Than starting with leveraging specifically how you're wired is precisely the best place.

"You will grow the most where you already know most."

Homework: Post your results in the comments and look at some of the other comments, topics and conversations.

Thursday - How did it feel to be vulnerable?

What did you find interesting on the site? How did it feel to be open and share this personal aspect of yourself?

There is an aspect of leadership that is about vulnerability. Your people, your teams, can trust you and get behind you if they feel like they know you, that you're human. It's a little scary, I know, but you're better afterwards.

To dispel, perhaps, some concerns, I don't see that people are good or not good at certain roles because of their strengths. But I do see that people don't look at their work through the lens of their strengths. Don't feel like you should be pigeon-holed, labeled, or judged based on your strengths. There are no 'bad' or lesser strengths. People may still try, but this is often just a lack of understanding on their part (and if so, a great opportunity for you to educate them).

Homework: Post the results on your cube in the most (or at least a very) prominent place. Courage!

Friday - What are your strengths?

So, we're wrapping up the week. Of all of your personality aspects or strengths, which one in particular stood out the most to you?

You've taken a step to know yourself, to share, and to be transparent with others. You've led. It's good stuff that we'll want to do with our team and others, but that will come later.

Video Fridays: For now, watch the video The Business Case for Strengths
Weekend Warrior: Take a look at the other posts that I’ve written under the Strengths tag. If this has really resonated with you, take a look at the books and audiobooks on the topic and grab one.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Time We All Heard Crickets in the Boardroom

There was conflict between the CTO and some leaders in IT, and you could feel the impact on the mission critical project. The CEO called everyone involved, included the CTO, into the executive conference room and told us all how frustrated he was with what he was hearing about.

Then he sternly asked, "So, does anyone want to say something now about the CTO?"

Not surprisingly, no one offered up anything.

"That's what I thought - crickets!"

And the meeting was over.

But was the problem solved? No. Were ideas or input even shared? Nope.

Now, this might be an extreme case, but in general, asking your team "What do you think of the idea?" often nets you less than 100% honest engagement, feedback and healthy conflict. Especially if you work with people in IT, who are often introverts.

From Dr. Carmella's Guide to Understanding the Introverted ($2.99!)

Yet project management, managers and leaders often lean toward vocal, extroverted ways of collaborating. You might ask what people think, hear positive things from the other extroverts in the room, and then walk out the door thinking that everyone's on board. But they're NOT on board, they just have a harder time collaborating verbally, especially in public or high stakes situations. Yet these often detailed, thoughtful, less-emotion-based people might be precisely who you want to hear most before making a critical decision.

My preferred way of collaborating on quick yes/no group decisions is with something called the "Fist of Five." Especially in agile, team-based work, you often have to make group decisions, such as:

  • Is this date realistic (confidence vote)?
  • Is this the most feasible approach?
  • Team, do you want to change how the team is working based on the retrospective feedback?

The most common practice is with the "Fist of Five. To take the vote or get the feedback, simply have everyone hold up fingers representing where they stand, as follows:

  • 5 - They love the idea. They'll even volunteer time, or to lead or champion it. Passionate. 
  • 4 - They like the idea. Positive.
  • 3 - They're not that happy or thrilled, but they won't get in the way. Meh.
  • 2 - They have some questions or concerns. If those are answered or addressed, they can get onboard.  
  • 1 - No way. Ever. When pigs fly. Not on my watch, etc. 

Fist of five is a great way to hear everyones voice and quickly see who's not in agreement and why (and then work to get them in agreement).

For more on the introversion topic, check out the two great books Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and Quiet Influence: The Introvert's Guide to Making a Difference.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Newcomer's Bad Ethics in the Agile Community

These are not the kind of blogs I like to write, but are ones I feel I must write.

There are times in the agile community when it's so good that I forget that there is an aggressive, amoral marketplace surrounding us.

ScrumStudy is a semi-truck-in-the-face reminder.

Not sure of the trademark issues, but the obvious one seems that ScrumStudy is offering the "Scrum Master Certified" class, while the Scrum Alliance offers the Certified ScrumMaster class. Sounds like people might get confused. I had one student who took their Phoenix class and didn't realize it wasn't the "real" (his words) Scrum class. This has happened to other trainers as well.

How would PMI, of whom SCRUMStudy's parent company is a Registered Education Provider, feel if PMStudy created a Professional Project Manager credential to compete with PMI's Project Management Professional designation?

The Scrum Alliance was founded in 12 years ago and has trained and certified over 250,000 Certified ScrumMasters.

ScrumStudy launched it's classes in December of 2012. Yet in that, apparently monumental, one year, it has become "the global certification body for Scrum and Agile certifications."


The Scrum Alliance features trainers such as respected and world-renowned authors and speakers  Mike Cohn, Lyssa Adkins, Pete Behrens, Ron Jeffries, Clinton Keith, Henrik Kniberg, Mitch Lacey, Craig Larman, Tobias Mayer, Roman Pichler, Ken Rubin, Peter Saddington, Michelle Sliger, Chris Sims and over 100 others worldwide.

ScrumStudy trainers include...well, that's hard to tell since they don't list the trainers, only a company. And that company isn't even a link so that you can find out. Why is that? Why make it hard to find out about your ScrumStudy trainer? A little research might show why.

Update 6/18/14: I had Ruth's husband's name and info listed below because he had the matching last name, but I was told that he's not actually doing the training. My mistake, but there's no way to know who the trainer is since ScrumStudy doesn't list the trainers. This is the only specific item raised by representatives of ScrumStudy. There was an anonymous threat of a lawsuit, but I don't know whom that was from.

Here's the correct information on Moebes, LLC -

And the trainer (not shown) is fine, if you want to learn about...

Another is a trainer/HR "position description" writer, among many other things...

I personally think Scrum or Agile should be in the Top 25 skills for a Scrum trainer.

Maybe these don't attract students, despite the massive spend on AdWords. There have been lots of cancelled classes, and registrants are offered a discount if the person takes a course the same week 300 miles or more away. Ouch.

Well, perhaps ScrumStudy trainers aren't on the same level as Mike Cohn, but they do offer "the most definitive and comprehensive guide for Scrum available in the market." Their Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOK™ Guide) was just trademarked in September of 2013. Smart marketing, taking after the naming pattern of PMBOK, but certainly not a book filling any gap, given that there are already over 70 agile and Scrum books on Amazon. But their book isn't offered on Amazon. My guess is the complaints of paid positive comments. 

This book received approximately 26 5-star reviews within 3 weeks of publication. That's about 20x faster than the 5-star reviews for Elements of Scrum, one of the top 10 agile books on Amazon.

Finally, the event that pushed me to write this was seeing all the blog comments that I would report as spam (Lisbeth's link goes to ScrumStudy's site). 
(Update 6/18/14 - I've since had another 14+ spam comments going back to ScrumStudy.)

Normally, I would have marked them as spam and done nothing else. But I realized that if I am to be the change I want to see, I shouldn't just get mad and say, "Why doesn't somebody do something about this?" I should do something about it. Others had - Agile Cheating Stories and SBOK? Looks Like Anyone Can Create a PM Standard These Days

So, I wrote this. And reported them to PMI, because SCRUMStudy's parent company VMEdu is a Registered Education Provider with PMI, who has a very strong ethics policy. If SCRUMStudy, and it's parent company, were to lose the ability to grant PDU's for PMI credit, it would quite likely have a significant financial impact. 

Secondly,  I'm asking you to be the change that you want to see, as well - take action! Help keep the agile community free from questionable practices. Click the links below to let PMI know how you feel.

Leave a comment here for others to see. Share a comment on post on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for PMI to see - Click to view and edit your tweet. post this on Facebook or engage with PMI's Facebook page.


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Upcoming Scaled Agile Certification Training

I will be facilitating the first ever Scaled Agile Framework SAFe Agilist certification training for Los Angeles and Orange County at the end of this month. 

For those who aren't familiar, the Scaled Agile Framework is a set of practices and additional roles that sit on top of Scrum that allow scaling to the program and portfolio levels. 

Personally, I have seen it address issues in aligning multiple (5+) teams, provide clear guidance and real support for architecture and UX needs, transform culture and deliver astonishing results. 

On the practical side, my view is that we are in the Late Adopter stage of agile adoption, and that group is typically quite risk averse and prefers a plan. Compare this with typical agile coaching that I have done where the plan is almost 100% contextual (figure it out). Not that that's bad, only that it really needs several things to be successful - a culture that is comfortable with a lot of unknowns and loose plan, support from mid-management and departmental leads, and dedicated coaching.
"The SAFe Agilist certification program is for executives, managers and Agile change agents responsible for leading a Lean|Agile change initiative in a large software enterprise. It validates their knowledge in applying the Scaled Agile Framework, lean, and product development flow principles in an enterprise context so they can lead the adoption of the Scaled Agile Framework."

Hope to see you there!