2017 StarEast Keynote

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2017 StarEast Keynote

On May 11, 2017 I was fortunate enough to have been invited to share a keynote at the TechWell StarEast Testing Conference in Orlando, FL. There were about 1000 folks in attendance and the talk was entitled: Step Aside - Stop Leading from the Front! I can't tell you how big a privilege it was to share my thoughts on this important topic. Many thanks to Lee Copeland for inviting me.

Here's a link to a video of the keynote.

And here is a synopsis of the talk with a nice sketcthnote: https://developer.s24.com/blog/stareast-virtual.html

I thought I'd also share an interview I gave about the keynote a few months before. Here is that interview...

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Leaders, are you ready for agile?

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Leaders, are you ready for agile?

I was chatting with some colleagues the other day and the topic of agile maturity came up. Particularly for Technology Leaders who are inquiring about agile approaches.

These could be leaders who are new to agile and want to start the transformation OR leaders who are currently engaged in a transformation and looking for assistance.

The questions were around, how to tell IF:

  • Do they truly “get” or understand agility?
  • Are they really “ready” for it?
  • Are they serious about it?
  • Are they a good candidate for a coaching engagement?
  • And, are they properly aligned with the principles of the coaching/consulting firm?

Some of the questions focused towards money. In fact, quite a few of them. Questions here were around budgets, the contractual/approval process, and payment terms.

I was almost embarrassed to admit that these are not forefront in my mind when I’m engaging clients. My feeling is that they sort of take care of themselves. What I care more about is how I perceive the Inspection Report - February 2017 client’s answers to the first set of questions AND how do they align with my own principles.

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Agile Coach Camp – An Incredible Experience

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Agile Coach Camp – An Incredible Experience

For several years, I was heavily involved in running Scrum Alliance Coaching Retreats. I probably attended 5-6 of them over time. And they filled a necessary niche where folks who were in agile coaching roles could gather together and share ideas and challenges.

But the format of the events was focused towards running small projects as Scrum teams. You can read more about that here.

Well, last week I attended my first Agile Coach Camp – US in New York City. It ran from Friday evening to mid-day on Sunday. And it was held at the Spotify offices. It was run as an Open Space.

WOW!

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Chartering, Lift-off, Setting the Stage, From the Beginning…

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Chartering, Lift-off, Setting the Stage, From the Beginning…

One of my favorite, old-time rock groups is Emerson Lake and Palmer. And their song From the Beginning seemed appropriate for this article.

One of my new favorite voices in our agile community is Sandy Mamoli out of New Zealand. I’ve read oodles and oodles of her work, but I have yet to see her in person. Fingers crossed, I get that chance soon.

One of the more interesting things that Sandy is focusing on is team self-selection when it comes to how to organize around projects and work. Recently Sandy wrote a piece entitled: Giving Teams the Best Start.

In it she emphasizes the work that Ainsley Nies and Diana Larson have done in their book Liftoff, which just released its second edition.

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Small Aha’s

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Small Aha’s

I often feel that we’re looking for very large revelations in our agile teams.

  • In our learning;
  • In our experiments;
  • In our discovery;
  • In our progress;
  • In our delivery;
  • In our experiences;
  • In our journey.

But Joshua Kerievsky reminded me in this article that agile progress, and life in general, is best experienced and measured by the smaller moments. He calls them Aha’s.

But we need to “find them”

I often ask students in my classes to identify any Aha’s they’ve had during the class. I have no magic number that I’m looking for, but I am looking for some self-discovery and inspiration for each individual.

Quite often I get very few Aha’s. Now you might be saying that it’s because I’m a boring teacher teaching less than relevant ideas. And that might be somewhat true.

But I also think the challenge is that we’ve been programmed to look for big, hairy, audacious Aha’s and to look over the smaller, incremental steps. But that's a mistake in my view. Of course, sometimes we advance by leaping a tall building. However, those events are rare. Much more often, we advance with little "baby steps" of discovery and learning. An Aha! if you will.

Josh made me re-realize how important these steps are. 

Wrapping Up

So, the one additional thought I have for Josh’s article is for all of us to be on the lookout for Aha’s.

  • To always look for them;
  • To be ready for and receptive of them;
  • To be thoughtful and reflective about them;
  • And to appreciate the Aha for the positive forward step that they are…

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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My Heroes: David Hussman

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My Heroes: David Hussman

There are individuals who have influenced my professional journey significantly. Sometimes, by working with me directly. Other times, by their writing or position in our software community. And other times, simply as a role model.

I want to start a new segment on my blog called – My Hero’s. I’ll post intermittently, perhaps every 1-2 months. But it serves as a reminder to me to be thoughtful and appreciative about the folks who’ve influenced my growth and skills. And of course, they get none of the credit for my many foibles.

The first one up is: David Hussman.

David is one of those original voices in the agile community. He’s been around for a fairly long time and I’ve interacted mostly with him at conferences. I’ve also followed his writing and conversations. One of the cool things about David is he challenges the agile status quo and always, always makes me think. Something that I value greatly.

He’s a musician, turned programmer, turned entrepreneur, so he’s followed a rather eclectic journey compared to my own. I suspect that’s what makes him have such an interesting view on things.

It so happens that he is ill now. I won’t get into the details, but to say that it is life threatening. And it’s this knowledge that influenced me to reflect on the impact he’s had on my life.

Beyond agile, David helps those in our agile community. He is generous in giving of his time and helping others whenever he can. He’s humble and all about others. And when I say humble, he’s truly humble.

I remember a year or two ago we invited David to speak at our local agile conference – TriAgile. Now David is incredibly well-known and a big audience draw. However, when we setup the rooms and tracks, we put David in the smallest room. By far the smallest room.

Needless to say, it was packed. And many were turned away. Many speakers would have been upset or affronted by this lack of awareness on the part of the conference team. David, literally said nothing. He came in, did a great job, collaborated with the attendees, and went on his way. He was far more understanding and humble than I probably would have been.

But that is David.

Wrapping Up

One of the defining aspects of my hero’s, is that they’ll probably be embarrassed to be categorized in that way. Nonetheless, they are my hero’s.

They’ve helped me to become the person, trainer, speaker, and coach that I am today. Whether they’re aware of it or not.

David Hussman, you’ve made a great impression on me in your journey that I can never thank you enough for. You’ve been a role model to me and many others in so many ways. And you sir, walk your talk. Something that I prize very dearly.

I’m incredibly blessed to know you and want you to know that you are my Hero.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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What a Drag!

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What a Drag!

There’s an Extreme Programming concept, tool, practice that many have forgotten. Sure, we remember user stories, refactoring, TDD, continuous integration, and pair-programming among the more popular XP practices. 

But there are some that were quite useful and meaningful that we’ve misplaced. One of them is release planning as described in the Planning Extreme Programming book by Kent Beck and Martin Fowler.  

Another is the notion of “Yesterday’s Weather”, which is a much simpler concept. I want to focus on it though as a powerful thinking tool for today’s agile teams.

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Building an Agile Coaching Team

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Building an Agile Coaching Team

I was writing another blog post about the lack of an agile engagement having a cohesive coaching team and it dawned on me that I’ve never shared what an agile coaching team might look like.

Given that inspiration, I thought I’d spend a few minutes discussing aspects of creating (finding, forming, and building) a great team of coaches for a larger-scale, agile transformation initiative.

Followers

I honestly don’t know where the quote comes from, but I’ve heard that in order for you to become a great leader, you need first to become a great follower. That by following, and putting on the mindset of service, you better understand leadership.

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Mixed Feelings about Roles & Responsibilities

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Mixed Feelings about Roles & Responsibilities

In our last Meta-cast, Josh Anderson and I explored the good and the bad around defining roles and responsibilities in agile contexts.

It’s a mixed bag really that requires some common sense and nuance. I think we landed on the need for them, but caution around the negative effects that they can have IF you’re trying to create a healthy instance of self-directed agile teams.

The Basics

One place to start is looking at the Scrum Guide and how it handles the Scrum roles.

Beyond the basic definitions of the roles, I really like the collaboration advice given BETWEEN the roles. I’ve found that it’s the interplay between the Team, Product Owner, and ScrumMaster that really makes the difference in high-level team performance.

I’d recommend you read (and share) the guidance in the Scrum Guide.

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