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Listen to ME!

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Listen to ME!

We were sharing stories in a recent CAL class. One of the students talked about the dynamics of release engineering related to gaining customer feedback. I shared a recent post from Jason Fried where he mentioned the importance of releasing a product to get feedback. Making the point that customers are the only arbiter whether you were on track or not in your MVP development path.

Here’s the link -

https://uxplanet.org/10-things-i-learned-from-jason-fried-about-building-products-5b6694ff02aa

The young man brought up his frustration with the phenomenon of organizations often listening more to outsiders rather then listening to their own teams or internal experts. Either in person or as names being dropped in conversation.

I sometimes liken this to bandwagon syndrome and I shared on that here –

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2014/4/13/bandwagons-the-good-and-the-bad

I fully resonated with his comment. Being an outside consultant, I often hear “insiders” say something like:

I’ve been giving my leadership team that feedback for several (days, months, even years) and they’ve never really listened to me. You (consultant Bob) come in and say it once and suddenly everyone takes it seriously. 

Do you know how frustrating that is?

Actually, I do. And I’m incredibly empathetic to the point.

I remember when I was at iContact as their agile transformation coach, I had everyone’s ear for the first year or so. And my recommendations were easier to make and have them stick. But as time passed and everyone got used to my voice, stories, and style, they started to tune me out a bit.

So, this phenomenon happens to us all.

I started to bring in other thought leaders, either hired or invited, to mix the ideas (and voices) up a bit. And this seemed to work beautifully to break through the ice and renew some of my influence.

Wrapping up

While this can be a bit frustrating to folks on the inside, I think this is a natural occurrence in all organizations. Folks get accustomed to our voices and we need to augment them with book / article references, outside perspectives, and other ideas.

I think it’s simply the way it is. And you know…

It doesn’t matter where or who the idea comes from as long as the organization gains a flow of ideas, tries and experiments with new things, and continues to learn & evolve.

It’s all good.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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Back to Basics…Part Deux

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Back to Basics…Part Deux

In May of 2018, I published this Back to Basics post -  

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2018/3/5/back-to-agile-basics

The intent was to refocus attention back to some of the original thinking and mindset of the early days of agile. Not to sound too nostalgic, but life was much simpler then.

I want to add to the list I shared then:

If you want to get back to the roots of agility I encourage you to research the following…

And you might want to investigate how Spotify is implementing agile practices. Not putting them up on a pedestal but considering them a role model for learning the basics of agility in practice. https://www.infoq.com/news/2016/10/no-spotify-model

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Retrospective Redux

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Retrospective Redux

It seems like retrospectives are still one of the more challenges agile activities/ceremonies to execute and get right. Which is somewhat surprising to me in that it’s a fairly simple activity. For example –

A team sits down periodically to look in the mirror and brainstorm way(s) to improve themselves.

How hard can that be?

We could also apply the word kaizen or kaizen event to it. Here’s a snippet as to what Wikipedia has to say about its meaning

The Japanese word kaizen means "change for better", with inherent meaning of either "continuous" or "philosophy" in Japanese dictionaries and in everyday use. The word refers to any improvement, one-time or continuous, large or small, in the same sense as the English word "improvement".[5] 

Again, it’s a simple, yet core element of your agile culture and I don’t necessarily understand why it’s so challenging. But let me share a few stories to illustrate the point that it IS challenging. At least to do it well…

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Sprint Planning – Simple, and yet…

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Sprint Planning – Simple, and yet…

It’s really quite funny. I’ve been coaching and teaching Scrum for nearly 20 years. But sometimes, my knowledge and experience sometimes gets in the way, in that I sometimes forget that the simplest of the ceremonies can often be hard to get…”right”.

One of those is sprint planning.  

I recently stumbled across two references that I think are very helpful in executing this simple and important, yet sometimes hard to get right ceremony.

The graphic is from Joshua’s article. I really like it!

I’ve also written a quick helper guide around how I’ve found it best to get started in sprint planning. Mostly with new teams. It’s a recipe I’ve successfully been using for well over 10 years and I hope you find some useful hints within.

Here’s the link: https://robert-galen.squarespace.com/s/Scrum-Sprint-Planning-Overview.pdf

Wrapping Up

Sprint planning is one of those ceremonies that embodies quite a lot of agile skills:

  • Backlog refinement

  • Estimation (at a story and task level)

  • Effective story writing

  • Collaborative workflow

  • Done and delivery

Getting it “right” can help you and your teams accelerate towards delivering on the promises of Scrum.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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Checking for Safety

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Checking for Safety

Safety is a hot topic in agile contexts today. Continuously begging the question – 

Is it safe?

With a nod to the film Marathon Man. Safety is incredibly relevant to the level of true agile performance at a team level.

In the following post, Joshua Kerievsky mentioned a technique originated by Norm Kerth that explores ways to “check for” safety.

https://medium.com/@JoshuaKerievsky/norm-kerths-safety-poll-bcccd5be6e44

While this may be a relatively short post, it’s an important one. And this is NOT simply focused on safety at a team level. It’s also applicable for all levels of the organization.

I also really like that Josh gives a nod to Norm. A true pioneer in this space!

Norm wrote the book Project Retrospectives, which is a foundation for nearly all of the agile retrospective advice (books, articles, etc.) that followed it. I don’t think he gets enough credit for this important work.

Anyway, please read the post and renew your focus on safety awareness within your teams.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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What IS your Legacy?

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What IS your Legacy?

I spent over 10 years working at a company in Connecticut called Micrognosis. I wrote about an aspect of my experience there in this post.  

During my tenure at Micrognosis we delivered many, many products and projects. We made millions of dollars on our technologies and our customers were fairly happy with our efforts. All of this happened in the span from 1986 – 1996. If you asked me today whether anyone, and I mean anyone, really cares about the efforts we made (products, effort, blood-sweat-tears, etc.), I’d say no.

One of the hidden factors in all of our legacies, and I know technologists don’t want to hear this, is that what we’re working on really doesn’t matter in the long term. No matter what you’re working on!

For example, Netflix or Google or Spotify of today really won’t matter (technically) 20 years from now. Sure, they’ll be historical notes about them on Wikipedia, but the products themselves won’t matter.

So, what does matter?

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What do I need? Everything!

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What do I need? Everything!

I’m often caught up in a pattern with clients.

They’ll come to me and ask me to help them either start on their agile journeys or improve / accelerate their current efforts.

But then, when the actual logistics are discussed, we try to minimize everything. That is coaching and training time. The primary two reasons are budget and the time investment. I guess folks are focused on getting the max for the minimum. (sounds like a department store doesn’t it?) https://m.tjmaxx.tjx.com

So, I keep reducing my recommendations and approaches until at some point it fits the budget and time tolerances. But often that comes at a cost. 10 years ago, I would minimize to the point where the results would be impacted, but I try not to do that anymore.

Now, I’m much better at holding the line. At negotiating, by keeping their needs and the ultimate outcome in mind. At keeping everyone focused on the goals. 

So, where are you going with this, Bob?

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Creating Business Agility

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Creating Business Agility

My colleague and friend, Anthony Mersino runs VitalityChicago. And agile coaching and training firm in, you guessed it, Chicago. He recently shared a post about 3 Key Steps that leaders should be taking to create business agility. The steps are: 

  1. Get Executive Buy-in and Agile Mindset

  2. Agile Leaders Should Get the Right Mix of Talent

  3. Foster an Agile Friendly Culture and Organizational Structure

While I really like Anthony’s 3 Key Steps, I’d like to add to or augment them…just a little bit.

For #1

In my experience, there’s a HUGE difference between getting buy-in and achieving an agile mindset. Most executives have a modicum of buy-in. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be embarking on an agile journey. However, achieving an agile mindset is different.

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Choosing Trust

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Choosing Trust

A colleague and friend of mine, Jamie Howard, wrote a short but interesting piece on trust. He called it Choosing Trust and you can find it here - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/choosing-trust-jamie-howard

What I found most interesting is the personal nature of it. Jamie was introspective, honest, and vulnerable all at the same time. I applaud him for the courage to share what many of us are feeling.

It’s a short read, so please take a look.

Extend Instead

But it also made me think about a different approach to it that I’ve used. I write about it in this blog post.

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2014/7/17/what-comes-first-the-chicken-the-egg-or-trust

I personally think the key is EXTENDING trust. Unconditional trust. A good example of this is the film – Yes Man. And yes, I wrote about that one here.

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2016/4/17/agile-leadersbe-a-yes-man

I’m not disagreeing with Jamie. I’m basically saying, Yes, And…and extending his thoughts ;-)

Wrapping Up

I want to thank Jamie for his courage in sharing. And for the inspiration! I also want to re-encourage all of us to aspire to the mindset of Yes, Man. Try it for a day, a week, or a month. It might be an interesting experiment for you to try…

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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The Two Most Fundamental KEYS for your Agile Transformations

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The Two Most Fundamental KEYS for your Agile Transformations

This is a short blog post. But I hope the brevity doesn’t undermine the seriousness of the message. 

Most firms focus on:

  • Reorganizations or flattening their structures

  • Bringing in coaching firms that only coach the teams

  • Buying a TON of tools

  • Sending everyone to certifications classes (everyone on the teams that is)

  • Expecting a bottom up success without top down engagement

  • Getting more done, lots more!

  • When challenged, reorganizing again…and again

  • Converting the PMO to an Agile PMO

  • Executing agile “projects” with “resources”

  • Buying a scaling framework to rule them all…

  • Literally, “leaders & managers” are focused on “making” the firm “agile”…

The most fundamental steps…

  1. Bring in a coaching partner that has real experience coaching at all tiers of your organization. Starting with your leadership team. A partner who understands the principles of agile and isn’t selling you classes, certifications, and frameworks.

  2. Realizing that your teams are your fundamental value proposition. You have to engage or invite them to participate in ALL aspects of your transformation. Listen to their ideas, trust their advice, and act based on it. No longer are the managers running the asylum, Nor the inmates. You are all in it together.

Everything revolves around activating your workforce to deliver customer value. You serve your workforce first and customer value (and ROI) will follow.

Oh, and you need expert help. Help that you trust. Help that is deeply experienced. Help that looks to partner with you, while also being willing to challenge you and tell you the truth.

Wrapping Up

There. That’s it!

Value your teams and get a trusted and experienced partner to help guide your path. 

It’s as simple as that.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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