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Thinking about company culture

What does a company culture (wikipedia's definition) tell you about their Agility?

When I think of culture and models to describe these very complex human dynamics I think of the song "Hair Styles and Attitudes" by Timbuk 3.  In this song they sing of how scientist have categorized our attitudes into 3 basic types (a model of attitudes).  This is the Three Stooges model of attitude.  I liked this model so much that I created a slide show of my company's people as a prelude to a project retrospective.  This project had a clash with the client culture.  The project ended, but I'd have to say it didn't end pretty.  It did not end in a win-win situation.

Slide show of Hair Styles and Attitudes

Would some coaching from Lysaa Adkins on team conflict have save the contract?  Boy, I wish we would have know about it and tried.

Navigating Conflict on Agile Teams: Why Resolving it Won't Work

One of the best blogs on the topic is Michael Sahota's Agile Culture Series Reading Guide.
Michael uses the Schneider Culture Model to describe efforts to transition a culture.
This is a reading guide to the series that explores corporate culture and how that has a direct impact (sometimes very negative) on efforts towards Agile adoption. It is a must-read for anyone that is considering taking their company agile or for coaches and consultants whose trade is based on Agile. The role of Kanban is quite distinct and is discussed throughout.

I just did a refresher course on Crucial Conversations by it was an awesome course. In the course material was this question:  "Does your organization have a written cultural rule to be 'candid and transparent,' yet the unwritten rule tends to be 'disclose selectively?'"  I'd have to answer that question in the affermitive. VitalSmarts goes on to state:  "The question is not whether you have a cultural operating system - it's whether yours is one that advances or impedes continuous improvement."

Here's some good advice from HBR on interviewing the company and it's culture.

How to Tell If a Company’s Culture Is Right for You by Rebecca Knight
Have you ever wondered about Santa's ability to know which girls and boys were naughty or nice - but ignoring the bulling of Rudolph within his own deer pen?  They say culture is established by the worst behavior the leader is willing to permit - sounds like the toy shop at the North Pole is a caustic culture.


“That’s the Way We Do Things Around Here”: An Overview of Organizational Culture by M. Jason Martin

The Reengineering Alternative: A plan for making your current culture work by William Schneider.

How we do things around here in order to succeed.  Agile 2010 conference session by Israel Gat.

How to Find Out If the Company's Culture Is Right for You by Whelan Stone

End of nations: Is there an alternative to countries?  Nation states cause some of our biggest problems, from civil war to climate inaction. Science suggests there are better ways to run a planet.

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Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?

Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, …

Elements of an Effective Scrum Task Board

What are the individual elements that make a Scrum task board effective for the team and the leadership of the team?  There are a few basic elements that are quite obvious when you have seen a few good Scrum boards... but there are some other elements that appear to elude even the most servant of leaders of Scrum teams.

In general I'm referring to a physical Scrum board.  Although software applications will replicated may of the elements of a good Scrum board there will be affordances that are not easily replicated.  And software applications offer features not easily implemented in the physical domain also.

Scrum Info Radiator Checklist (PDF) Basic Elements
Board Framework - columns and rows laid out in bold colors (blue tape works well)
Attributes:  space for the total number of stickies that will need to belong in each cell of the matrix;  lines that are not easy eroded, but are also easy to replace;  see Orientation.

Columns (or Rows) - labeled
    To Do
    Work In P…

Webinar: Collaboration at Scale: Defining Done, Ready, and NO.

I was invited to participate in a Scrum Alliance Webinar.  Maybe you would like to listen to us in a discussion of techniques to collaborate at scale (remotely and with many people).  The topic is one that I've got some experience in discussions - yet I never seem to get to done...
Collaboration at Scale: Defining Done and Ready and NO for Distributed Teams
With Joel Bancroft-Connors, Agile Organizational Coach; David A. Koontz, Agile Transition Guide; and Luke Hohmann, CEO and Founder of Conteneo, Inc.

14 February 2018 11 a.m. ET (USA).

The Scrum Guide is pretty clear on the criticality of the definition of Done: "When a Product Backlog item or an Increment is described as "Done," everyone must understand what "Done" means. However, the Scrum Guide ALSO says that the definition of Done can "vary significantly per Scrum Team." This leads us to examine when and how the definition of Done should vary, how distributed teams should cr…

A T-Shaped 21st Century Knowledge Worker

Knowledge workers in the 21st Century must have many areas of deep knowledge, while also be capable of collaboration across multiple other domains with dissimilar T-shaped individuals.  This description of a person is a metaphor.  Compare it to the shape of the "I" in the classic saying there is no "I" in Team.

I first read about Scott Ambler's term "Generalizing Specialist" - but it's so hard to remember the proper order of the words... get it backwards and it has an inverted meaning... T-Shaped is easier to remember. 
A generalizing specialist is someone who:
Has one or more technical specialties (e.g. Java programming, Project Management, Database Administration, ...). Has at least a general knowledge of software development. Has at least a general knowledge of the business domain in which they work. Actively seeks to gain new skills in both their existing specialties as well as in other areas, including both technical and domain areas.  General…

A FAILURE to Communicate

I was working with a failing team some time ago.  I use "failing" to describe the outcome of the team - not the people on the team.  Are you OK with that description?

An issue arrose in the stand up - a team member that was to verify the quality of a procedure did so and reported that there were a few records that didn't match expectation in the data set.  Upon inquire the number of records not matching was over 2000.  Most people acknowledged immediately the exaggeration - I could tell by the laughter.  After about 10 minutes of discussing the details of the problem - it appeared the team had a handle on the specific situation.

I stopped the discussion and inquired if they could name the impediment.  One team member did a great job of describing the impediment as a _communication gap_.  Wonderful - I could work with that - the problem had a name and it didn't include anyones Proper Name.

"If the problem has a first name; we are going to have a problem."