Stop Disrespecting Managers in Agile Contexts!

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Stop Disrespecting Managers in Agile Contexts!

I might be the first one to complain about bad managers. Heck, throughout my career, I’ve had more than my share of incompetent, self-centered, and poor-intentioned leaders. So, it would be easy for me to jump on the bandwagon in the agile community that lambastes managers on a daily basis.

No, you say. This doesn’t happen. We in the agile world embrace and respect all roles and all people.

Well here’s an example from the Larman & Bodde – Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) book. The reference is from Anton Zotin, an agile coach, and it was published on LinkedIn. And no, I’m not picking on Anton or the LeSS guys. I’m just using this as an example. There are countless others.

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Do Skills Matter?  Understanding Key Person Dependencies...

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Do Skills Matter? Understanding Key Person Dependencies...

One of the larger challenges facing many agile teams is having the requisite skills to deliver the goods. And it’s an insidious problem because it’s hidden by the very nature of cross-functional teams. 

When I coach agile teams, I usually emphasize a couple of things:

  • Becoming T-Shaped over time, and

  • Delivering as a Team

I often exaggerate the responsibility by saying – the team needs to “suck it up” and work together to deliver on their shared goals. Everyone chipping in and helping each other out. There are no lone wolfs in an agile team and folks often need to do work that may be beyond their skill comfort zone.

But that has a prerequisite supposition…

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Meeting them where they are…Or Not

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Meeting them where they are…Or Not

This is something I personally struggle with as a coach.

Quite often, my default style is to push my clients beyond their comfort zone. In so doing, I run the risk that it becomes MY vision over THEIR vision. Or that I may be pushing them too hard, far beyond their capacity to change.

But at the same time, meeting them entirely where they are strikes me as a wimpy approach. One that will, at best, succeed in their transformation taking many years. But it’s a common philosophy that I hear repeated by many agile coaching firms who seem to be looking more at long-term revenue flow over client adoption acceleration and ongoing success.

So, the question is – what is the right stance or posture when meeting a new client?

Should we meet them where they are and apply very little change pressure (where and when needed)? Or should we take a risk and push them out of their comfort zones?

And of course, the general answer is – it depends and context matters. But still, we need a general strategy. So which way do we lean? Let’s explore the extremes of that question…

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Competing Agile Voices

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Competing Agile Voices

I was having an email conversation with an agile coaching colleague the other day. In one of her replies, she said the following: 

BTW I really like the way you articulate your concerns about the agile community at large. It’s helpful to share with my leadership and customers as we try to navigate a very messy space of certifications, frameworks, and competing agile voices

The final point she made really struck a chord with me. The notion of competing agile voices.

It made me realize that, YES, there are many, many agile voices today. And one of the real challenges is to figure out who to listen to. Where’s the value and the experience? And how to avoid the “noise” or how to separate the wheat from the chaff?

I want to share some ideas around this challenge. No, I’m not sharing any secret filter or the 1-person to listen to. They don’t exist.

But I do want to share some advice for handling the high voice count and how to become a more discerning listener when it comes to the noise.

And it’s getting worse…

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Here we go again, picking on the poor Product Owner

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Here we go again, picking on the poor Product Owner

Joshua Kerievsky recently wrote a post entitled Eliminating the Product Owner role. As of December 3, 2018, it had received 766 likes and 162 comments on LinkedIn.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/eliminating-product-owner-role-joshua-kerievsky/

The opening premise of Joshua’s article is here:

Before I get into who or what would replace the PO role, let me offer a bit of background on this group. Three coaches, including myself, had assessed this group prior to beginning work with them. Our findings were typical:

  • Too much technical debt was slowing development to a crawl

  • There was insufficient clarity on what needed to be built

  • The developers spent little time with their Product Owner

  • The team was scattered around a building, not co-located

  • etc.

When you perform numerous assessments of teams or departments in many industries, you tend to see patterns. The above issues are common. We've worked out solutions to these problems eons ago. The challenge is whether people want to embrace change and actually solve their problems. This group apparently was hungry enough to want change.

So, springing from this problem statement, Josh makes the point that if you: 

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Push/Impose vs. Pull/Invite vs. push+Pull/Inspire

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Push/Impose vs. Pull/Invite vs. push+Pull/Inspire

Dan Mezick wrote about the Agile Industrial Complex in this article. It’s inspired me to respond with this one.

Personal Aside

I really like Dan’s work. It’s truly inspirational to me. There are folks who are leading some different thinking in the agile community, swimming upstream if you will, and Dan is certainly one of them.

Dan is expert in Open Space. He’s also introduced the notion of Open Space Agility as a means of introducing agile to organizations. One of the hallmarks of OSA is the aspect of invitation. In OSA, folks are not told to be agile, they are invited to be part of crafting the organization transformation to agility.

In other words, they’re a part of it. It’s inclusive.

Now moving on from my bromance with Dan…

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Engagement vs. Disengagement

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Engagement vs. Disengagement

There is the notion of – The ONE Metric that Matters. I want to translate that metric into the agile transformation space. 

You could also replace agile transformation with:

  • Lean Change Initiative

  • Agile Adoption

  • Digital Transformation

  • DevOps Strategy

  • Organizational Agility

I know, you’re heavy with anticipation. What IS the ONE Metric?

It’s engagement vs. disengagement. That is, how are your leaders affecting the engagement of your teams as they shift the organization towards more of an agile approach? 

Another way of looking at it is this,

  • If the leaders are engaging and pulling their team members into the process of the transformation. Asking them instead of telling them, then they are engaging;

  • However, if the leaders are more telling them what to do, deciding which specific agile frameworks and tools will be used, and then telling them from “on high”, then they are disengaging.

Of course, it’s not quite as simply as this, but you certainly get the idea.

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Meta-Cast 2018 - Halloween Special

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Meta-Cast 2018 - Halloween Special

Josh Anderson and I recently published a trifecta of Meta-cast podcasts on FEAR. Consider it our gift to you on Halloween.

I thought I’d provide links to all 3 podcasts here:

  1. Fear in the Agile World

  2. Agile Coaches are Scary - I personally resonate with this one ;-)

  3. Fear as an Agile Leader

I hope you enjoy the theme. And as always, we would love your feedback on the episodes and/or please send us ideas for future podcasts!

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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Where have all the testers gone?

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Where have all the testers gone?

I read an article by Angie Jones the other day entitled - 7 Habits of Highly Effective SDETs. If you know me, you know how enamored I am of Steven Covey and Angie, so I read it with great anticipation. 

And indeed, it was a great piece that focused on the evolution of testing and the testers role.

But it also made me think about testers in a different way. A melancholier way. It reminded me of the song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, by Pete Seeger. It’s a very dated folk song written in 1955. A year before my birth ;-)

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Employee Engagement AND Measurement

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Employee Engagement AND Measurement

I had to share this post because I think it hits on two pet peeves of mine.

First, instead of trying to measure employee engagement (morale, happiness, etc.) leaders should instead have face-to-face conversations with their teams to determine it.

We’ve sort of forgotten that old strategy of (management by walking around) which is STILL incredibly effective.

And second, it provides a sound reminder to be careful as to what you try and measure. 

In my perfect world, leaders would only measure a handful of things (1-5) that were both qualitative and quantitative. Then stay laser-focused on guiding the organization by them.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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