My Heroes: Johanna Rothman

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My Heroes: Johanna Rothman

It’s time for me to share something about my next personal hero.

I thought long and hard and it has to be Johanna Rothman. In this case, it’s not something that Johanna particularly did for me.

Of course, we know each other and have run around the same conference circles for quite a few years. But in this case, it’s the role model aspect that makes Johanna my hero.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I was trying to find myself as a software engineer and leader. I’d been working for companies over the years, but I had this idea to establish my own brand. It started by speaking at conferences and writing.

In those early days, both of those activities were limited. I was a “new guy” on the landscape and just trying to figure out how to become more of an influencer, a subject matter expert, a consultant if you will.

So, I looked around for role models. After a while, I found one. It was Johanna Rothman. She was doing the things that I wanted to do. She was speaking and writing about software development topics like project management, leadership, and testing. She seemed to be “everywhere” to me and had a relatively well-established consulting brand.

A Confession

I have a confession to make. Over the years, I’ve received quite a bit of feedback on my incorporated name: RGalen Consulting Group. Well, I have a confession. I borrowed that model from Johanna. As well as much of the structure of her services on her website.

She gave me inspiration in how to construct a brand and a focus in the world of software development consulting when I had few ideas of my own. And it helped me to get established and gain some initial confidence.

Later

As I attended more conferences as a presenter and workshop provider, I ran into Johanna more and more often. I continued to observe how she did what she did. Her area focuses, her way of presenting and connecting to an audience. And her posture and confidence when it came to providing advice.

No, I wasn’t becoming Johanna. No one could do that. Nor was I “stalking” her. But I was learning from her and using her as a phenomenal role model in my own journey.

And the writing…

I have another confession to make. As you can see in the picture I’ve attached to this post, Johanna has written quite a few books.

When I first met her, she was just starting her book authoring. Sure, she had written many articles, but only one book as I recall. Over time I followed her as she began to share her vast experience in this medium. And it too inspired me.

You see, I’m not a natural writer. I’m still not. And it’s been one of my greatest weaknesses. But watching Johanna write, share, and seeing the impact it had on others, again inspired me to begin writing.

More than fifteen years later and I’ve written four books and countless articles and blog posts. Am I a good writer? I wouldn’t be so bold as to say that. But I’ve improved drastically over those years and I’ve come to appreciate this way of sharing my learning and experience with others.

Wrapping Up

Johanna, I want to thank you for being a role model to me and countless others as to what a professional, courageous, and principled consultant and author should be.

One of the highest compliments I can pay you is that I always saw you – walk your talk. In everything you said and did.

You are the consummate role model and professional and I am forever in your debt for your inspiration. An inspiration that you’re probably not even aware of.

Anyway, Johanna, 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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Hiring A ScrumMaster

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Hiring A ScrumMaster

From questions to ask a ScrumMaster in the interview to…questions you should be asking…THEM!

Savvy has an interviewing article here - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/savvy-360o-how-interview-scrummaster-savvy-katham

And here’s a list from the Scrum Alliance - https://www.scrumalliance.org/agilecareers/careersblog/february-2016-(1)/38-scrum-master-interview-questions

Another from the Scrum Alliance for what Hiring Managers should look for - https://www.scrumalliance.org/agilecareers/careersblog/june-2016/what-do-you-look-for-in-a-servant-leader-or-a-scru

What about “Them”?

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Value – Revisited

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Value – Revisited

In the Agile Product space there are a few figures who are leading the way.

Jeff Patton – leads the way from an innovation and creativity perspective. Jeff’s storymapping technique is being used nearly everywhere to gain additional perspectives of backlogs beyond a simple list of requirements.

Ellen Gottesdiener – leads the way from a traditional requirements mapping perspective. Ellen has a strong Business Analysis background. As agile matured, she joined that approach and has added much in the way of mapping traditional analysis to agile analysis.

David Hussman – has partnered with Jeff Patton on many an occasion in his storymapping workshops. David has the uncanny ability to “see beyond” our current approaches and to keep us ground in “what matters”, while reminding us to ever challenge our staid approaches.

Roman Pichler – leads the way from a Product Ownership perspective. He focuses on valuation, forecasting, and roadmapping. I’ve always felt that my product ownership book focuses more towards the tactical role and Roman’s on the strategic. It doesn’t that that he’s a prolific contributor to the space.

And finally, Marty Cohen – leads the way helping us understand the nuance of Product Management as it related to agile products and Scrum Product Ownership. This is often an underexplored area in agile and Marty brings deep experience in Product Management, with an “agile slant”.

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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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