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?
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?
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:
Get Executive Buy-in and Agile Mindset
Agile Leaders Should Get the Right Mix of Talent
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.
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.
I have a confession to make. I’ve fallen into a trap and I need to get out of it.
Gosh, Bob, what’s wrong? What is it you might ask?
I’ve been saying: “The Scrum Guide says” way too frequently. It’s almost a daily mantra and I suddenly realized that I need to stop it.
A ScrumMaster asked me the other day how they should handle the situation where half their team doesn’t seem to care about the work. They don’t seem to be motivated. They seem to be slacking…a lot. And where two individuals seem to be doing all the work. And they seem to be burning out.
A senior leader in an organization that I’m coaching asked me the following when he found out I would be meeting with his boss. He asked me to tell him that they have too much work to do. That they are being stretched over capacity and that it’s causing delivery, quality and morale problems. In fact, the house of cards is about to fall.
I was training a class at a client the other day and three individuals, not at the same time, asked me to escalate their impediments. One impediment was that their leaders were excessively interrupting the sprints. Creating chaos. Another was that the priorities changed constantly. And the final, small problem, was that the leadership team expected the team to exceed their capacity by 350%. They wanted me to address these (fix it) with their organizational leaders. And, believe it or not, they were all serious.
I see Scrum Alliance certification classes advertised this way all of the time. Declaring minimal to no, to 100% no PowerPoints in the classes. And it’s not only the Scrum Alliance classes, but many other organizations and trainers proudly declare it.
One of the trends that have influenced this is the work of Sharon Bowman and her Training from the Back of the Room approach to adult learning. I attended the training a few years ago and it definitely changed the way I approach constructing classes, the learning, and the medium/mechanisms I used to foster the learning.
That being said, I don’t have a class today that is 100% PowerPoint-free. I just don’t feel that PowerPoint is inherently bad in its use for training. I view it as simply a tool, one of many, that I leverage. But clearly, I’m a Dinosaur in my thinking, as not many others view things the same way.
Death by PowerPoint
I think one of the reactions driving these statements is the scar tissue that poorly constructed and delivered PowerPoint classes has done to people. You can see it in their eyes of countless students who have been forced to sit through such training.
The other part of the problem is we all learn in different ways. Some of us prefer PowerPoints done well and learn quite effectively that way. Others of us want a more experiential and collaborated approach, where the learning emerges instead of us being told it. Information density is also a challenge. Especially when we’re trying to convey complex information or problems.