A Personal Touch @JerryWeinberg @donaldegray

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Having been a fan for so long of Jerry Weinberg’s work, I obviously took the opportunity to get something personal from him. His writing has so greatly influenced how I operate as a consultant and if you ever spend more than a couple hours with me, you’ll probably hear me quote him at some level.

Thanks a bunch Jerry. Even though the Law of Raspberry Jam is alive and well… coupled with the Weinbergs’ Law of Twins… sometimes statistical outliers do occur. Count me to be one of them.

Also, thank you Don Gray for being a great colleague, mentor, and friend. Oh, the client’s we’ll encounter together!

 

Transforming Your Business with Agile Culture [Guest Post]

Agile Team Structure

These days almost everyone is familiar with the benefits of Agile methodology. Marked by collaboration, self-managing teams and real-time response to customer feedback, Agile has evolved beyond buzzword status to become a pillar of the technology landscape. Its advantages are just as well-known: customer-oriented solutions, accelerated product release and cost savings, just to name a few.

The rewards are so remarkable, in fact, that some innovative companies are using the Agile paradigm to transform their business culture. My own business has done just that, and we are consistently meeting the goals we set out to accomplish. By applying the same Agile methodologies to drive business strategy and execution, many businesses – ours included – have achieved breakthrough results.

A Shift in Culture

So how do Agile businesses differ from traditional corporate cultures? It starts at the top. Many companies govern through a Command and Control management style that cascades instruction down a hierarchy. Communication and feedback are limited and slow-moving; rather than harness the expertise of the organization, the company acts on the judgment of a few, resulting in ineffective decisions.

Agile companies, on the other hand, operate with the flexibility and high performance of Agile development teams.  Because operations rely more on collaboration and communication, decisions and solutions are more accurate and effective. Employees are provided with their roles and the tools they need, then empowered to be self-managing.

Agile Business In Practice

You’re probably wondering exactly how Agile culture gets practiced on a day-to-day basis.

  • Daily meetings. Just as with Agile software development, brief and daily huddles should answer three questions. What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? What is your main impediment? To ensure thorough communication, huddles should occur first with managers, then with teams. These meetings reduce email, identify potential problems, and clarify any changes necessary for successful execution.
  • Focus on removing impediments. Agile developers tend to focus on identifying roadblocks and removing them. The same approach here can address and resolve impediments before any negative impact can occur.
  • Goals. Agile development teams start out with their end game in mind, and aren’t afraid to envision impressive products. Agile professionals should do the same, and set major goals. For us, we created a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) so that we had something to work toward. We had traditionally grown at 60 percent year-over-year but applying Agile to our business strategy has helped us position to reach our BHAG of 100 percent year-over-year growth.
  • Strategy. Working hand in hand with goals is strategy; smart Agile experts identify their desired outcome and draft a plan of how to reach it. Agile companies do the same thing by plotting a path to their goal, then empowering teams to execute that strategy throughout the company.
  • Success as a starting point. Demonstrating success right off the bat can motivate the rest of the company. Start with a department, give them an agile project with an isolated workflow, and then promote the success of that project to everyone else.
  • Self-managing teams. In Command and Control mode, you have an authority who controls and micromanages every project detail. In Agile culture, self-managing teams control their own destiny. On a practical level, this means your people must be trained and given the tools to be successful. Then you supply them with the task to be done and the timeframe, and let them execute.
  • Service. Agile teams pinpoint and prioritize “user stories” that highlight what they want to accomplish in a given time period. Once identified, the team owner assembles a cross-functional team that has the required skills to accomplish the project.  These teams self-organize and manage in way that they can accomplish the work in the require time period and produce world class service.

 

Roadmap to Revolution

As you might guess, adopting an Agile business culture can involve a learning curve. I considered it a control+alt+delete to the way we did business and still believe that you can’t dabble in applying Agile to your business strategy – you have to fully commit. The below tips can help you some avoid pitfalls. 

  • Be flexible. As the manager, it might feel unnatural to take on a non-management team role. But it’s important on agile teams to perform whatever work is needed at that time to succeed.
  • Establish and keep a rhythm. For our business, we set up daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual operations to ensure we had a thorough and well-executed plan. Your rhythm might be different, but it’s important to identify what your company needs, put that rhythm in place and stick to it.
  • You might not be developing software, but you do need a SCRUM Master, who is accountable for removing impediments so the team can deliver on their goals and deliverables. Make sure you have someone on the team who knows both the framework and the subtleties.
  • Give your team the tools for success. Team-oriented culture can benefit from tools like cloud platforms that facilitate collaboration and communication.

Embracing Change

Transforming your business with Agile methodologies requires a full commitment. This is a complete system overhaul, and leaders who adopt only half-measures will see inefficiency and poor returns.  But a full dive into Agile will bring the enhanced communication, empowered teams and faster execution that Agile is known for – and once you’ve experienced it, you’ll never want to go back.

Cliff Schertz is the founder and CEO of Tiempo Development, which provides cloud-focused companies with a powerful, integrated platform of services that transforms the way their products are developed, deployed and supported. For more than 25 years, Mr. Schertz has been leading and growing successful technology service companies, enabling his customers to achieve superior performance, high customer satisfaction and profitability.

Learn more about how to understand your culture using TeamScience.

3 Tools for Feeling Less Lonely when You’re Working Remotely [Guest Post]

Depression_02

[Guest post by Walter Chen] – In response to our post on depression and developers.

Developer depression is one of the most important issues that our community needs to address that no one is talking about.

The problem is often made even worse by the prevalence of remote work in companies that don’t recognize the risk of loneliness. Developers working virtually with their teams experience social isolation resulting from the diminished professional and personal interaction with your colleagues that you get from going into the office. And that literally can kill you.

A review of research published in 1988 found that “social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death” . . .

Even without indulging in unwholesome behaviors, . . . loneliness can impair health by raising levels of stress hormones and increasing inflammation. The damage can be widespread, affecting every bodily system and brain function.

Via the New York Times, Shaking Off Loneliness

Fortunately, even as technology, in enabling virtual work, facilitates an accompanying loneliness, it can just as well help us be less lonely as we work remotely. Here are 3 tools that make remote work less lonely and lead us toward making remote work what it should be: awesome.

  1. iDoneThis

Chris Savage, CEO of Wistia, told me that iDoneThis helps his company of 20 feel like it did when it was just 4 people sitting around a table.

That tight feeling of camaraderie comes from a shared knowledge on the team of what everyone is working on, feeding the sense that the team is rowing together in the same direction. And this is essential for distributed teams.

iDoneThis makes syncing up very simple and lightweight. iDoneThis emails everyone on your team every day to ask, “What’d you get done today?” Just reply. The next day, everyone gets an email digest showing the team’s accomplishments from yesterday — which gets everyone on the same page, aligned, and ready to go.

It takes the pain out of a daily standup for remote teams, which is a common source of friction. When people have to wake up at weird times and when Skype drops the call over and over, people get frustrated. iDoneThis provides a remedy because it works asynchronously over email.

For entrepreneurs, like Laura Roeder, who’ve built million-dollar businesses with happy and healthy remote teams, iDoneThis is an essential tool “to create a cohesive team where work is recognized and valued,” which is vital to combating the sense of isolation and being out of the loop that so often accompanies remote work.

  1. Sqwiggle

There’s no substitute for face-to-face conversation when it comes to fighting loneliness. In fact, psychologist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann defines loneliness as “the want of intimacy,” and talking with another person in real-time and seeing their face conveys a far greater sense of intimacy than text on a screen.

Sqwiggle is a video chat app that gives you the immediacy of being in the same office and the intimacy of face-to-face conversation while you’re working remotely. This is a browser-based video chat app that you leave on while you work. Unlike Skype and Google Hangout, you don’t have to initiate a call to talk, and unlike text-based chat, you can actually see the faces of your teammates.

Everyone on your team keeps Sqwiggle running in the background all day while you’re working. To speak with someone, all you have to do is click on their face in the browser. Instant connection with no dialing or inviting, and you can simply start talking.

You can use chat room services like Campfire or Hipchat with your team to maintain some degree of social sanity — but for actually, you know, seeing your team, and looking at their lovely faces, and talking like humans should, nothing really fits the bill.

Via TechCrunch, Sqwiggle Makes Working Remotely Less Lonely, More Awesome

  1. Turntable.fm

Turntable isn’t a productivity tool at all. It’s actually liable to make your team less productive in the short term — but over time, I’ve seen firsthand how it helps people working remotely feel connected through music, which is a boost for long-term productivity.

On Turntable, each person gets their own cartoon avatar. When you join the same room, which is like a virtual nightclub, you all hear the same music chosen by the room’s DJs. Anyone can be a DJ, and the DJs take turns playing music from their own personal collection or from the service’s wide song selection. If you’re enjoying a song, just click a button — your head will start bopping and the DJ will receive a point. There’s a chat feature to talk about which songs are your favorites.

It’s surprisingly fun and provides a way to express yourself through music. Exploring and discussing your colleagues’ music tastes is a great way to get the sense that you’re hanging out together. One of the biggest casualties of remote work is not only professional interaction around work itself but the missed opportunities to grab a beer after hours and chat on a social level.

Getting to know your colleagues as individual human beings is one of the most powerful sources of connectedness, a key to happiness with work. Feeling like you’re on the same boat, visually interacting with each other, and having a bit of fun all add to that all-important human connection.

Advanced Agile Webinar – High Performing Teams via Mentoring – 2013.05.23 at 2PM EST

Growing High Performance Teams Through Mentoring.

Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM PDT

Did you know that over half of Nobel Prize winners were apprenticed by other Nobel laureates? To grow companies and teams to higher performance, you have to take servant leadership to its logical conclusion: intentionally mentoring and growing others. This is a time-tested and practiced art.

As a volunteer life coach and marriage counselor and Organizational Consultant, I’m passionate about this art and would love to share with you how to take your teams to the next level of performance. Let it be known, this is a long, tough road, but the benefits are worth more than their weight in gold. Let’s talk about mentoring and how to get started, the 6 areas of a mentor relationship and 6 tips for mentors.

Presenter:

Peter Saddington owns a successful research and analytics consultancy and has been integral in multi-million dollar Agile Transformation projects with some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies, including Cisco, T-Mobile, Capital One, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Primedia, and Cbeyond. He is a sought-after speaker at many industry events and is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). He has also received three master’s degrees, one of which is in counseling, and provides life-coaching services in addition to his consultancy.

Go here to sign up!

http://www.ontimenow.com/training/scrum-webinar

Becoming a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) – More like RIP for Trees

pmi-rep-application
Almost 500 pages…for the application…proof, proof, and more proof. 

If you are a trainer, and you want to become a PMI REP so people can claim PDUs for taking your class or workshop, you have some tree-choppin’ to do. Maybe the option to submit this in electronic form is better…way to go.

Developers and Depression – Killing our Knowledge Workers

This presentation, by Greg Baugues:

“I am a developer, and I have Type II BiPolar and ADHD. It’s not something we talk about, but BiPolar, depression, and ADHD runs rampant in the developer community – they tend to correlate with higher intelligence. Many of the symptoms of this conditions make for great developers, but also cause incredible damage. We recently lost one of our co-workers because of untreated mental illness. I want to share my story – and let people know that it’s okay to talk about these things, that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and how to get help, and how to help those around them.” – Greg Baugues

If you have 20 minutes, it’s worth listening to. As a developer I fully understand this. I remember the brilliance of some of my peers… and before my studies in the social sciences, I do remember once or twice wondering whether they were brilliant not just because they were awesome, but in addition, they might have a mental condition…

It does make you wonder… or at least it makes me wonder even more… whether our (often) terrible environment of busy-work and the insanity of hustle bustle at work heightens the mental condition… in other words, makes it worse.

Are we killing our brightest knowledge workers?