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Showing posts from 2015

HBR:: Why Organizations Don't Learn

A nice article on HBR - "Why Organizations Don't Learn", by Francesca GinoandBradley Staats; take a look.

They list these reasons:
Fear of failureFixed mindsetOver reliance on past performanceAttribution bias The authors then give some strategies for overcoming these reasons for the lack of learning.  Many of these will be familiar to the agile community.

Who else has studied organization failure?  Well I've heard that many academics have studied the failure modes of organizations.  One was John Kotter's 8 Steps model developed by studying the failure modes of organizations trying to institute large scale changes.  Other's have studied how successful large mergers have been after the fact (some would suggest it's on the order of 20% successful).  Some have studied how successful large software development project have been (Chaos Report - it is not a good report).

So what does your leader do to encourage learning at the organizational level?  Is failure ev…

Cultivating Collaboration via intense partnerships to solve problems.

Presented at  AgileGames2016 conference in Boston, April 28, 29th.

But notAgile2016 - so you can only see it in the  Microsoft NERD center MIT.



I presented this workshop at Agile Camp - Dallas, Oct 19th.


DFW Scrum Meeting Aug. 18th 2015
It’s said that two heads are better than one, in reference to problem solving. We will use Tangram puzzles to simulate this experience, and via structured debriefs of these exercises, discover the powerful behaviors of awesome collaboration, and the negative warning signs of poor collaboration. We will jump right into simulation exercises, come prepared to have FUN and learn by doing.   No lecture - if you want a lecture… go here: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=+collaboration+pair+programming+lectures
Here are some of the resources and exercise if you wish to reproduce this workshop or want to dig further into the science behind collaboration. Presentation Cultivation Collaboration (PDF)  *UDATED 5/8/16*  Spoiler Alert - don't look at the solutions! Reference…

Retromat:: A well planned Retro

Retrospective at GameStop based upon Corinna Baldaug's Retromat.

Retro process phases: Set the Stage, Gather Data, Generate Insight, Decide what to Do, Close the Retro

REF: http://plans-for-retrospectives.com


Set the Stage: give time to “arrive” and get into the right mood and focus upon the goal
Gather Data: reflect upon what happened, create a shared pool of information
Generate Insight: why did things happen this way? What patterns can we observe?
Decide What to Do: Pick what to work on, plan concrete steps of action
Close the Retro: reflect upon the retrospective, how could it improve? What shall we follow-up upon?


Activities for this Retro:


Quick Questions 
In ONE word – what do you need from the retro?
In ONE word – what is on your mind?
In ONE word – what is you current mindset in regards to your project: are you a:
Explorer – eager to dive in and research what worked
Shopper – Positive, happy if 1 good thing come out
Vacationer – Reluctant, but retros beat regul…

On my ToDo book shelf

A wish list of books I'd like to read...

Large-Scale Scrum - more with LeSS  by Craig Larman & Bas Vodde
It describes how we did scrum 10 years ago without the need to think about scaling on a VoIP project at SpeakEasy.  Four teams of around 40 developers (programmers, testers, UI, UX, BA, system engineers, etc.), one backlog, one awesome Product Owner (with a team of help), one deliver of working tested software, on time and on budget.

My current goto resource for how to do Scrum at any scale.





Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations
by Rich Karlgaard, Michael S. Malone

"Throughout, Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone share insights and real-life examples gleaned from their careers as journalists, analysts, investors, and globetrotting entrepreneurs, meeting successful teams and team leaders to reveal some "new truths":

The right team size is usually one fewer person than what managers think they need.
The greatest question facing good te…

How could we measure Team Happiness?

Do you believe that what you measure you will get?  If so you want to start to measure team happiness.  So what techniques do we have to measure something so ephemeral?


The health care industry has studied measuring pain and have very good data on their ability to measure and administer pain drugs upon a subjective self report.  Maybe we could do the same in knowledge worker teams and work groups.

Here's a riff upon the classic Net Promoter Score for measuring team happiness.

"How likely is it that you would recommend our team to a trusted friend that is looking for a job?"
To calculate the NPS - the continuum is divided into 3 groups; the detractors (1 - 6), the passive (7 & 8), the promoters (9 & 10).  The passive are ignored - they do not promote your objective.  The NET promoter score is the percentage of people promoting your objective minus the percentage of people detracting from your objective.

     NPS = Promoter % - Detractor %  (valid range +100% to -10…

Transparency - Two Way Visibility

What does the value of Transparency really mean?
Nextgov:How do you define transparency?
Fung: My definition is quite a bit different from the conventional wisdom about transparency. A transparency system is designed to allow people to improve the quality of decisions they make in some way, shape or form, and it enables them to improve their decisions to reduce the risks they face or to protect their interests. Some of those decisions are about political accountability but some are in private life, like what food to buy or what doctor to go to. -- Archon Fung, professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government who studies government transparency.

Does your company practice fair pay?  Here's what one worker brought to Google and made a difference in transparency at the search giant.
Tell Your Co-Workers How Much You Make!There's no law against it and it increases the chances you'll be paid fairly.
Does the Agile Manifesto imply some form of organizatio…

Scrum Immersion workshop at GameStop - Case Study

Here's a overview of a Scrum Immersion workshop done at GameStop this month. A case study example.

Normally these workshops start with the leadership (the stakeholders or shareholders) which have a vision for a product (or project). This time we skipped this activity.

The purpose of the Workshop is to ensure alignment between the leadership team and the Agile Coaches with regards to the upcoming scrum workshop for the team(s). Set expectations for a transition from current (ad-hoc) practices to Scrum. Explain and educate on the role of the Product Owner.

Expected Outcomes:
Create a transition plan/scheduleSet realistic expectations for transition and next releaseOverview of Scrum & leadership in an Agile environmentIdentify a Scrum Product Owner – review role expectationsAlignment on Project/Program purpose or visionRelease goal (within context of Project/Program & Scrum transition)
Once we have alignment on the Product Owner role and the Project Vision we typically do a s…

Exercise: Pair Programming Simulation using Tangrams

Yesterday (July, 2015) we did a lunch-n-learn at GameStop HQ on pair programming.  I think it was a great success, largely because we serve food, and I've been told that everything goes better when people are sharing a meal together (and even better with adult beverages).


Are you interested in Pair Programming?  I'll confess, the term is a bit misleading.  I was asked by multiple people if the topic was just for programmers.  No - no it's not just a programming technique. It is also for any kind of knowledge work.  Such as testing, or analysis, or writing stories, or ... yes coding, scripting, excel spreadsheets, etc.



The Agenda: Pair Programming Simulation
Start with a warm up exercise (totally non-related to the topic).  This allows all the late arrivals to find a seat and not miss out on the real start of the session.  I've found this technique (soft start) to be a required technique for companies that have not adopted basic meeting protocols, such as finishing prior…

To be a Profession or to Unionize in the Software Industry?

Which form of industry growth would you prefer - why?

Which path leads toward the culture you desire in a software development organization?

This is a wonderful article on the topic - read it and discuss with your colleagues.


Programmers don’t need a union. We need a profession. BY
"Unions work best for commodity labor, and I use that term non-pejoratively. Commodity work is easily measurable and people can often be individually evaluated for performance. For example, a fishing boat operator is measured according to the quantity of fish she procures. A lot of very important work is commodity labor, so I don’t intend to disparage anyone by using that term. Commodity work can be unionized because there aren’t large and often intangible discrepancies in quality of output, and collective bargaining is often the best way to ensure that the workers are fairly compensated for the value they produce. Software is not commodity work, however. It’s difficult to measure quality,…

Hierarchy of Human Needs for the 21st Century

The new and revised edition of Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs for the 21st Century.



See Also:

The Starbuck's Test


Topics for Lunch-N-Learn

Brainstorming a list of topics for a Scrum/Agile lunch-N-learn session.

Pair Programming - simulation using Tangrams & Face Drawing Practices for Daily Standup - review and discuss: It's Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup MeetingsSlicing Stories – resources to slice vertical stories of value Story Writing techniques: w/ Q & A based upon participants real stories Estimation techniques: Affinity Estimation; T-shirt sizing -> converting to numbers; Planning Poker (the rule book) Team building tools: Infinite Loops; Helium Stick; Warp Speed; Pair Drawing, etc. Pair Programming - an introduction via puzzel solvingDefinition of Done/Ready exercise Release Planning How to derive duration with a complicated backlog Agile Library Initiation Bring books, make the rules, get funding, 1,2,3, GO! Management 3.0 Book Club - join a group reading the best Agile book written. Making Visual Information Radiators - define Radiator/Cooler; elements of a Scrum board Asp…

Why Visual Management Techniques are so Powerful

How does the brain process visual clues to the environment and synthesize meaning about an ever changing landscape?  Tom Wujec explains the creation of mental models and why AutoDesk invest in visual management techniques to plan their strategic roadmaps.




Also in one of Tom Wujec's talks on How to Make Toast, he explains another important point of visual management - system's thinking and group work.

Don't worry... the mind will do all the work.  It will fill in the missing details, and abstract the patterns into the concept.  Here's an exercise, Squiggle Birds by David Gray, to experience this.



On a similar topic - Your view of Time

Do you know where you perception of time comes from... it's not the same all over the earth.  It's a cultural construct.  If you are like me (English speaking/writing) you have a perception that time flows from left to right (the direction of reading written words).  Ponder that a moment... time flow is a construct from our writing…

The Simplest Systems Thinking Exercise - How to Make Toast.

For many years one example of process thinking, resource gathering, requirements, implementation and acceptance criteria has been the exercise - make PB&J sandwiches.  I've done this with groups to discuss the simple task that we typically overlook as "experts" in sandwich making, that perhaps a 5 year old will find difficulty glossing over the - get bread - instruction.


Here's a TED Talk by Tom Wujec who has analyzed a similar exercise and draws some powerful conclusions from many iterations.  Watch it and then rethink the simple acts in your life.




So tell me again why group collaboration is important when you are solving wicked problems?

See Also:

Visual Thinking