Archives for the Month of September, 2008

Blog Me: Do you want to blog?

Writer to Reader

P.: I compare Agile to a pair of socks.
J.: I know, I read your blog.
P: What do you think of it?
J.: I like it. It’s quirky. And it’s based on genuine coaching experience. (Pause) I’ve often thought of writing my own.
P.: That’s a great idea! For years, I didn’t think I had anything unique or worthwhile to blog about. Then I finally decided to share my take on Selfish Programming.

A Blog Reader’s Story

AS A Reader
I WANT to read about other people’s ideas, opinions and experiences
SO THAT I learn new things or re-learn things important to me that I’ve forgotten

Acceptance Criteria

[Y] Is there a steady stream of new posts to keep me reading (at least one per month)?
[Y] Is the information authentic (based on personal experience and perspective)?
[Y] Does the blog give me new ideas?
[Y] Does the blog help me develop my existing ideas?
[Y] Does the blog help me look at my bigger picture?

A Blog Writer’s Story

AS A Blogger
I WANT to share things I’m passionate about in a fun and creative way
SO THAT we become a little more agile every day

Acceptance Criteria

[Y] Does my blog have a clear purpose?
[Y] Do I share information useful to others?
[Y] Do I present the information in an engaging way?
[Y] Is the information authentic (based on personal experience and perspective)?
[Y] Do I have fun blogging?

A Portal to Endless Opportunities

I blog because it:

  • Challenges me to think deeply – to question why I’m doing what I’m doing
  • Forces me to communicate effectively – in terms of saying what I mean and meaning what I say
  • Creates opportunities, such as being invited to present at conferences like Universit√© du SI
  • Connects me with other people I would never otherwise meet, learn from and collaborate with

Why do you want to blog? Once you know why, why not create your own blog in under 25 minutes?

Challenge Your Personal Agility

‘To some, responsibility is a burden. To others, responsibility is a reward. For many, responsibility means having someone to point to.’

– Christopher Avery

It was great to finally meet Christopher Avery at the Agile Business Conference this Wednesday. His presentation on the Responsibility Model, delivered in person, was every bit as insightful and entertaining as I hoped it would be.

‘Humans are born to learn’

According to Christopher, Responsibility has long been considered as a character trait. Or, depending on your view of the world, a character flaw.

Newsflash: Responsibility is neither a character trait nor flaw. Christopher describes Responsibility as the way you respond to a problem. Responsibility is completely subjective. It’s also a feeling. This is why Responsibility is so difficult to talk about.

For me, the most effective way of thinking about Responsibility is to compare it with Accountability. According to Christopher, delegating Accountability is the first tool of management. It’s a one-sided agreement-making process in which one individual beholdens another regardless of whether or not that individual accepts the responsibility that has been thrust upon them.

Responsibility, on the other hand, empowers an individual by giving each of us the choice to acknowledge then embrace the uncertainty surrounding our lives and to do something about it.

Redefining Responsibility

There are six progressive phases in the Responsibility Model:

  1. Denial – ‘Problem? What problem? There’s no problem.’
  2. Blame – ‘I don’t have a problem working with you. You seem to have a problem with me. That makes it your problem. ‘
  3. Justify – ‘I guess it’s possible that I’ve become insensitive to other people’s feelings and needs. I can’t help it though. After all, I’ve been doing this job for a long time. It’s who I am.’
  4. Shame – ‘What have I done? I’m going to look such an idiot in front of the people at work. How am I going to live it down? Why should they help me after the way I’ve behaved?’
  5. Obligation – ‘Tell me what you think I should do. I have no choice but to do it (even though I don’t want to). I’ll do whatever you say. It’s only a job after all (no one can expect to do a job they love).’
  6. Responsibility – ‘I can wait for them to change but that could take forever. No, it’s up to me. I want to fix the problem. So how am I going to be a better colleague? I know! I’ll listen more. And be more considerate towards others. It’s a start.’

Taboo Who?

Embrace responsibility. Instead of skirting around it, talk about it. Practice moving through the 6 phases of the Responsibility Model. Help each other spot when one of you become stuck in a particular phase. The key to continuous improvement are what Christopher has identified as the Keys of Responsibility.

The Keys of Responsibility

1. Intention – Commit to doing or stop doing something.
2. Awareness – Learn to recognise when you are in each of the 6 phases. Look out for how you feel in each of those phases. Use the feeling to help you recognise which phase you’re in and evaluate why you feel that way you so that you can move onto the next phase towards Responsibility.
3. Confront – Face the truth head on. It’s sounds simple, but it’s not easy. How honest are you with yourself?

Life Isn’t a Rehearsal

Adopting Agile brings out the best in people, it brings out the worst in people. That’s because Agile is a challenge for change: for the individual, for the team and, above all, for the organisation.

For many people, Agile evokes fear. Fear of uncertainty, fear of looking foolish, fear of being held accountable, fear of the problems it uncovers, fear of having to deal with those problems. That’s a lot of fear.

But there’s more. The fear of the consequences if we ignore the problems. And the biggest fear of all: the fear of having to face ourselves.

Perfect is Poison

Our Agile process clearly isn’t perfect yet. What we need are lots more iteration zeros to get it right.

Perfect doesn’t exist. Perfect is something we aspire to, it’s elusive by design. People use it as an excuse when they’re unable to cope with mistakes, especially their own. Mistakes they made in the Past, mistakes they’re making in the Present, mistakes they’ll continue to make in the Future – if we choose not to change.

Perfect as Procrastination

Wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from learning. The most valuable learning happens when we make mistakes. That’s where Agile comes in.

Agile is about Continuous Improvement. Agile is about failing early, so that we can learn from our mistakes earlier – instead of waiting for things to be perfect. Before you can fix a problem, you have to first acknowledge it exists. Especially if it’s your fault. Don’t wait for when. Ask others for feedback then change the way you work. Now.

Teams Lost and Found

One Agile coach says to another, ‘How do you find the strength to carry on?’

The other coach replies, ‘I believe in “happily ever after“‘.

Going Off the Rails

In my experience, the toughest period on any Agile Enablement gig is the first two iterations. Some have described it as a rollercoaster ride – the corkscrew-space-mountain type where you can’t see where you’re headed because everything’s pitch black, your stomach’s one big writhing ball of worms and you have begun to doubt you’ll survive.

It’s also the roughest of rides because just when you think you’re getting it, you discover there’s more to learn. And then some. It’s harder to go on precisely because you remember the difficult road upon which you’ve just travelled. And your gut tells you that it’s going to get harder before it gets easier.

The Road Less Travelled

Agile is about Continuous Improvement. If you’re truly dedicated to improving, you will demonstrate your commitment by learning new stuff and brushing up on the old stuff. Eventually, the old stuff gets displaced by a re-combination of the old and new and you come up with better ways of working.

‘H’ for Helping Yourself

People new to Agile almost always believe they’re already agile. This is rarely the case. The penny only drops when the first person in the group openly acknowledges that, ‘Hey, it’s not a process problem we face, it’s a matter of mental attitude’. The greatest impediment to Agile adoption is people. It’s you. And me.

‘H’ for Hope

If you’re genuinely agile, you don’t just give up. Why? Because you know there’s always hope. You know being agile demands continuous improvement, so as long as you’re changing yourself for the better, you’re one small step closer to a better and happier work life. You can help make change happen at your organisation. What’s the one small change you can make to yourself today to change things for the better?