Archives for the ‘Respect’ Category

What do you want to learn about Games Facilitation?

Dear Reader,

I’ve been invited to present a 90-minute session about Games Facilitation at Deep Agile 2010. And so I would like to exercise the Wisdom of Crowds and ask you this: what do you want to learn about Games Facilitation and why? Reply by submitting a comment (or two!) and I’ll convert them into a set of presentation goals with acceptance criteria.

All ideas by 1 May please! Many thanks and hope to see you at Deep Agile 2010. Be there or be square!

Help grow a Learning Tree!

Plain as the Nose on Your Face

What do you smell?
Two snowmen are standing in a field.
One says to the other, ‘Can you smell carrots?’

Out in the Field

Imagine. You wake up. It’s Friday. It’s almost the weekend. The first thing you see is a blanket of bright white snow. With a deep breath, you take in the tranquil setting. You feel quietly envigorated. A thought light as a snowflake forms in the snowdome of your mind. Yes. Today’s the day. Today marks a fresh start. A new beginning.

And the thought? It is this: ‘I can be better than I was yesterday.’ This thought always takes me back to the Agile Values. Seven simple words. Communication, Simplicity, Feedback, Courage, Respect, Trust and Transparency. How many of us know these words by heart? Words that trip off the tongue so smoothly when times are good? Those same seven words that become a thorn in our side when we come under pressure, leaving us deflated?

Thinking, Being and Doing

In Agile, Retrospectives are a good way to take time out and reflect. To have a good root around our minds to make sense of what we have done, what has come to pass and what we intend to do going forward. It’s a chance for others to show you what you cannot see for yourself. It’s an opportunity for putting those seven values into practice.

And what about the actions we can take to improve? We don’t have to wait for snow. We don’t even have to wait for a new day or  a new year. The moment is Now.

Agile 2009: Appreciations

Thank You! to Team Jenga (featuring Peter Yu, Syrous Delavari, Alex Dergousova, Boris and Kevin Mezick) for building the tallest Jenga tower at Agile 2009 by starting small!

Thank You! to Peter Yu, Syrous Delavari, Alex Dergousova and Pascal for a fun-filled day-out in Chicago – involving sensory modern art and a philosophical discussion on what it means to be an optimist and how to become one.

Thank You! to Matthew Edwards for finding the best sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to and then an act of unexpected generosity – he treated a random bunch of strangers-now-new-found-friends to dinner!

Thank You! to Matthew Edwards, Luke Amdor and Ola Ellnestam for a thought-provoking and hopeful conversation on what being agile means over dinner.

Thank You! to Jenni Dow and Ole Jepsen for their enthusiasm and open-mindedness on all things kaizen!

Thank You! to George Schlitz, Giora Morein and Brian Bozzuto for participating in The Bottleneck Game and The Business Value Game!

Thank You! to Chris Sims for his big cheer of appreciation and support when he discovered that Pascal and I share all our games under the Creative Commons licence so that we can all have more fun and be more effective at work.

Thank You! to Mark Striebeck for saying ‘Hello’ and doing the keynote at XPDay London 2009 – I’m looking forward to it.

Thank You! to Dan Mezick for introducing me to the PMI community and suggesting Pascal and I share our games with them.

Thank You! to Carsten Jakobsen for an enlightening conversation about CMMI and Agile and how they complement rather than compete with each other.

Thank You! to Tsutomu Yasui and Ebacky for sharing The Kanban Game at Agile 2009!

Thank You! to Christopher Avery for helping me better understand how to facilitate discussions about The Responsibility Model.

Last, but not least, Thank You! to the organisers, presenters and participants of Agile 2009 for making it such a great conference for learning and sharing!

Agile 2009: Mapping the Agile Enablement Battlefield

‘Change happens. It cannot be controlled. It can only be influenced.’

One of the key criteria for successful Agile Adoption is to make it grow and endure throughout an organisation. To overcome this challenge, George Schlitz and Giora Morein show us how to navigate organisational relationships using an approach called Mapping the Agile Enablement Battlefield presented at Agile 2009.

Storytime: The Story of Jorj the CSM Pig

Once upon a time, there was a friendly and happy pig called Jorj. Jorj the CSM Pig was part of a great team of pigs. Together, they delivered a successful project.

Shortly afterwards, a curious thing happened. Jorj and his team were reduced to bacon.

The moral of the story, according to Giora and George, is that organisational change is difficult. In Jorj’s case, it was very difficult indeed. It’s perfectly possible to be successful at project delivery yet fail in the overall Change effort.

Put your Strategic Thinking Cap on

For Agile to endure in an organisation, it needs to be part of an organisational change programme.

Agile Adoption fails at an organisational level when we:

  • Focus on delivering while ignoring the importance of organisational change
  • View organisational change as a distraction
  • Insulate ourselves from change beyond the team
  • Too much practice – not enough principles being applied

According to Giora and George, the key to the kind of Agile that endures is:

  • Develop a strategy – Find out where and when to exert influence.
  • Understand that Change is War (in that it requires a strategic approach).

The Objective: Agile Team Leads (aka Scrum Masters) need to be Change Agents. As Change Agents, their objective is to identify how to invest some effort and resources on the Change effort.

The Approach: Using a ‘Mapping the Battlefield’ approach, team leads can visually represent a system of influencers by identifying influencer types, such as ‘Ally’, ‘Supporter’, ‘Neutral’, ‘Threat’ and ‘Enemy’.

There are 3 Influence Strengths:

  • Undetermined influence
  • Strong influence
  • Weak influence.

Identifying the System of Influencers

Day 1: Establish the Perimeter – Create an alternative view of the organisational diagram in terms of influencer types.

  • Identify known influencers surrounding the team – Start with the closest people to the team
  • Identfy positive and negative influencers – Assess based on direct interaction as well as hearsay
  • Update your map as new information arrives.

Day 2: Assess the direct influencers

  • Focus on direct influencers (those who interact directly with your team)
  • Add in more influencers as you identify them.

Day 3: Assess indirect influencers

  • Indirect influencers that influence your direct influencers
  • Influence your perimeter by influencing others
  • Start with second-degree supervisors.

Day 4: Continue information gathering and analysis

  • Rinse and repeat.

Putting the Action Plan into Action

The Response Strategy is to focus on the proximity and strength of the influencers.

Priority 1 – Enagage with the strongest direct threats.
Priority 2 – Enagage with the strongest indirect threats.
Priority 3 – Enagage with the weak direct threats.

My Takeaway

The ‘Mapping the Battlefield’ approach is about information gathering and analysis and strategic thinking. It can be used as an effective thinking tool so long as we live the Agile Values and behave responsibly. As always, the most useful thing to do is look within yourself and change for the better first because true leadership is by example.

The Team Manifesto – Part 2

Leverage the Wisdom of Your Team (Duration: 15 – 30 minutes)

Now we have our team values and the team’s definition of Quality, we’re ready to create our team manifesto out of two A0 posters. A team manifesto should be created by the team for the team.

  1. Ask the team to divide up into two groups, one to produce the Team Values poster and the other for the Quality definition poster.
  2. Give each group 10 minutes to produce their poster. Tip: Ensure the posters retain the order of the original lists of team values and Quality.
  3. Ask the team to post up their poster side by side in the teamspace. Tip: Find a place that is visible from everyone’s desk and, ideally, to passers-by. This serves as a reminder and declaration of the importance of the manifesto to the team.
  4. Invite everyone to affirm their commitment to the manifesto by signing below each of the posters. Tip: If certain members are reluctant to sign the posters, find out why. It may be that the team needs to revisit certain points on the posters until they come to a consensus. We suggest adjusting your facilitation style to increase the involvement of those people during the subsequent discussion.

Why the manifesto works

  • It harnesses the collective wisdom of the team. Collective wisdom is an increasingly well-recognised approach for helping disparate groups to find solutions, gain buy-in, resolve conflict and increase respect for one another through shared knowledge.
  • It’s self-enforcing. Refer back to manifesto the regularly. Since the team came up with it, individuals are more likely to behave responsibly and encourage others to do the same.

We strongly recommend asking everyone to affirm their commitment by signing the manifesto.

Sixty minutes later and we’ve created our very own team manifesto. Smiles everywhere.
The team stands back and gazes in silence at what we’ve achieved.

The Team Manifesto – Part 1

TO create a team that delivers value now and in the future
AS A group of individuals
WE NEED to create an agreed way of working.

Immediately after the Profile Card Exercise, we create the team’s manifesto.

The Definition of Team (Duration: 15 – 25 minutes)

We begin by asking the group: “What does ‘Team’ mean to you?” We use the Clustering Exercise to ensure we collect everybody’s ideas.

The Clustering Exercise

  1. Brainstorm ideas: Pose a question to the crowd. Ask everyone to write down their answers in silence, describing each idea or thought in no more than a few words on individual Post-its. Set aside 3- 5 minutes for this.
  2. Share ideas: Ask each member to go through their entire stack by reading out a Post-it then posting it up one at a time. Ensure everyone can see the information being posted up.
  3. Cluster ideas: Ask everyone to group the Post-its by theme. The clustering must be done in silence so that individuals cannot verbally influence one another’s way of grouping.
  4. Identify themes: Select a cluster then read out the individual Post-its one by one. Ask the group to give the cluster a theme. Write down the theme on a Post-it and place it at the centre of the cluster. Repeat this step with each process.
  5. Vote for themes: Count up the total number of themes then divide it by 3. The product is the number of votes given to each member. Ask each member to vote for their preferred themes. If someone feels particularly strongly for a theme, they can allocate all their votes to a single theme.
  6. Spot the top themes: Count up the total number of votes per theme. Note down the number of votes on the associated theme Post-it.
  7. Select the top themes: Write out the question you posed to the group as a heading on an A0 piece of paper. Identify and agree with the group up to top 5 themes to form the group’s collective answers to the question. Write down the themes as a numbered list below the question heading.

Once we’ve defined the team values, we take a break. After the break, we move on to the second exercise to build up our team manifesto.

The Definition of Quality (Duration: 15 – 20 minutes)

Quality is an integral part of everything we do. We’ll have many conversations with the team throughout the project about Quality, so it’s important to define upfront what Quality means to us.

Next, we ask the team “What does Quality means to you?” using the Clustering Exercise. Again, we begin by finding out what Quality means to each individual and then come to a common understanding of what it means to the team.

Why define Quality?

  • To come to a common understanding of Quality.
  • To find out how important Quality is for the team.
  • To tap into the team’s sense of professional pride.
  • It helps team members to stick up for what they believe in, because they’re supported by the team.
  • It’s self-enforcing. Since the team came up with it, individuals are more likely to behave responsibly and encourage others to do the same.

Why is the Clustering exercise useful?

  • It allows introvert thinkers to share their thoughts and ideas without being dominated or distracted by the extrovert thinkers in the group.
  • It shows the coach how individual members behave in a group.
  • It develops a sense of solidarity as a group works together to come up with a collective answer.

Now we have the information for creating two posters that make up the Team Manifesto. Here’s what we do next.

Are you ready for Ultimate Agile?

Congratulations! THE BIG DAY you’ve been training for for the past 364 days will soon by upon us. It’s time to cash in on the benefit of the thousands of Agility exercises you’ve been putting into practice at work. Let’s hope all the agile flexing of both brain and brawn pays off. 

Ho! Ho! Ho! Contenders ready?

If you think Christmas Day is a day off, you’re wrong. The 25th of December is the single day of the year when most of us will be trying our hardest to be true to who we are and what we believe in. If that’s not hard work, I don’t know what is. Welcome to Ultimate Agile (also known as Christmas Day with all the family). Are you ready for Ultimate Agile?

Why not have black swan instead of turkey this year?

The problem with Christmas with the family is this: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve always got. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future comes in the form of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, who offers us a chance to understand how we can change our fate.

‘History is opaque,’ writes Taleb, ‘You see what comes out, not the script that produces the events, the generator of history.’ Taleb identifies three ailments of the human mind whenever it comes in contact with history. He calls them the Triplet of Opacity.

The Triplet of Opacity

The Illusion of Understanding, where everyone thinks they know everything there is to know about everything when in fact they don’t

The Retrospective Distortion, how we use hindsight to explain strange and mysterious things to make-believe that we are in control

The Overvaluation of Factual Information and the Handicap of Authoritative and Learned People, how we listen to and believe in those who appear to be experts but fail to give practical answers that work beyond textbooks

Wise is she who knows she does not know

In my experience, destructive human behaviour arises out of what Taleb calls ‘agressive ignorance’, or a fear of looking stupid that is greater than the fear of being wrong. For example, being asked something to which you don’t know the right answer is the event. Agressive ignorance is the emotional response. The script invisible to the naked eye reads:

  1. I know deep down that if I’m wrong, I may have to change.
  2. Change requires effort which I’m not sure I can be bothered to invest.
  3. The effort might go wasted if I fail.
  4. If I fail to change, that makes me a failure.

So what’s the antidote?

Whenever I’m in a spot of bother, I remind myself of the Agile Values: Communication, Simplicity, Feedback, Courage and Respect. When I feel comfortable living and breathing the first five in a given situation (Think: ‘Baby Steps’ or ‘Incremental development’), I throw in an extra two: Trust and Transparency.

For instance, before a discussion becomes a deafening shouting match, I ask myself: ‘How can I be a better communicator?’ to which my brain resourcefully volunteers a myriad of options such as ‘Listen more! Talk less. The two of you have reached an impasse, ask for help or clarification.’

The only thing most people seek at family gatherings is understanding. It’s the same at work. Why not treat your work self at home to a Christmas helping of black swan?

Merry Christmas one and all!

The Devil’s in the Detail

The first and most important thing I share with any team I work with are the Agile Values, also known the XP Values from Kent Beck and Cynthia Andres.

The Five Agile Values

1. Communication is a two way thing. It’s about talking and listening.

2. Simplicity is about simple solutions that do what’s required, no more, no less. Simplicity is synonymous with elegance.

3. Feedback has three axes: Giving feedback, receiving feedback and taking action as a result of the feedback.

4. Courage is about taking calculated risks. It’s about facing and voicing the brutal facts. It’s also about creating an environment where people can be courageous.

5. Respect is an appreciation that everyone can add value. It’s also about valuing diversity.

Agile Values++

During our peer coaching, Pascal and I identified two more vital values to add to the set:

6. Trust is about giving people a chance to do the right thing and to do things right.

7. Transparency means sharing information as much as possible to help create more Real Options for all parties involved.

What the Agile Values mean in practice

Newcomers to Agile often ask me: ‘How do you know if someone is really agile?‘ To which I reply, ‘They follow the Agile Values even at times of great stress.’ Those who compromise on the Values can never be truly agile, especially if they get stuck in Denial.

In my experience, Respect is the toughest and most important value because it forms the foundation for the rest. You have to respect others and yourself to really make the other values count.

The Telltale Heart

I regularly meet Agilistas who appear to respect others and themselves, yet they are incapable of accepting feedback and taking action. According to Marshall Goldsmith, the only correct response to any feedback is: ‘Thank You’. What do you say when someone gives you feedback?

People are Magic

Change Happens

P.: I hear you’re an Agile Coach.
Agilista: You are correct.
P.: What do you do as a coach?
Agilista: I change people.
P.: In my experience, you can only change yourself.
Agilista: I change people. Like psychologists do.
P.: My mistake. I thought you said you were an Agile Coach.

With great power comes great responsibility

Agile Coaching is a people business. I’m an Agile Coach because I’m interested in people. Why? Because working with others helps me better understand myself and the world around me. Learning doesn’t just help me deliver business value. Learning helps me create things of worth. I’m an Agile Coach but that doesn’t make me a psychologist.

An effective Agile Coach inspires those around them to change for the better. They lead by example. They constantly strive to improve by seeking feedback and taking action arising from the feedback. They show that change happens by changing themselves.

An effective Agile Coach learns by making mistakes. They take calculated risks by trying out new or different ways of doing things. This means sometimes things might go wrong. Making mistakes is essential in the cycle of learning. You have to do something different to change the status quo. Doing the same thing you’ve always done and expecting a different result is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

An effective Agile Coach is trustworthy. They act as the guide for a team on their journey towards becoming more agile. ‘Integrity is the opposite of manipulation,’ Pollyanna Pixton once said during a JAOO session on leadership. I take this to mean you can help people change by providing and exploring real options, but the choice remains theirs. Believing you have the power to change others sounds a lot like meddling to me. So long as people have the choice to change, you cannot ‘change people’.

Making a living out of learning

Human beings can’t help but learn. As Jim Collins (of From Good to Great fame) says, there’s no OFF switch to people learning. We’re learning all the time, whether we want to or not. Start by taking responsibility for yourself instead of trying to change others to suit you.

Happy Diwali!

Today’s a special day for my team: we’ve got one more day before our Iteration 1 Show & Tell and, of course, it’s Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. During the second part of our standup this morning (what we call ‘Information Broadcast’ where we share useful information among the team outside of the 3 usual three questions answered in a standup), I’m told that everyone will be praying to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. It’s natural to want a share of good fortune, so I ask by way of a reminder: ‘Will anyone be praying for us to reach a burndown of 0 story points by Thursday morning?’ And everyone laughs.

This is Day 18 with my team and I’ve learned many things from them including some Agile lingo in Hindi:

  • Grahak means Customer
  • Sahayog means Collaboration
  • S’mmaan means Respect

How did I come across such useful learnings? It’s thanks to one of the first team exercises we did: translating the team’s values as well as the Agile Values into Hindi. Seeing the team tackle that translation exercise is one of the most memorable events I’ll be taking with me when the time comes to move on to my next Agile team. I hope the translation exercise will somehow help Agile endure.