Investing in the Local Small Business Community with Dell

We had the neat opportunity yesterday to spend some time with some other local small business owners as well as an eclectic group of entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds.

Sponsored by Dell and led by Ingrid Vanderveldt, their Entrepreneur in Residence, it was an opportunity for us to come together and think strategically about our local economy, what can be done to stimulate growth, as well as suggest opportunities for Dell to partner with these opportunities to make them happen.

I was pleasantly surprised at how open and available Dell was to hear our thoughts (and our struggles) of being entrepreneurs in Atlanta and the Southeast at large and they were able to take back with them some very realistic and actionable items to help improve Georgia’s SMB outlook.

In addition, Dell sponsored a survey and white paper detailing some findings about the local Atlanta and SMB economy. Here’s what they found:

Continue reading “Investing in the Local Small Business Community with Dell”

Listen, Listening, Listened

We’ve posted in the past about effective communication and about the damage that silence creates but we haven’t spent a lot of time on what can really make or break an organizations ability to communicate.

The ability to listen effectively.

One area in which I have a lot of experience with teaching people how to listen is when I have the opportunity to share our process with a married couple. Yes, we are primarily a business focused organization who’s very passionate about team optimization, but we also recognize that some of the most powerful teams around, are the two people who make up a marriage.

Marriages, like the various corporations out there, rely on healthy and constructive communication but they also live and die by their ability to listen. Continue reading “Listen, Listening, Listened”

Leading with your Heart

I lead from the heart, not from the brain. Which according to a recent Fastcompany article, which includes some great research conducted by the Institute of HeartMath, is exactly where leadership needs to be headed.

We now know that the heart and the brain are in a constant two-way communication and that the heart sends more information to the brain than vice versa. The signals the heart sends affect the brain centers involved in our decision-making and in our ability to perceive. In other words, each beat reflects our current emotional state. If we’re angry, irritated or frustrated, the heart beats out a very chaotic message. Conversely, more positive emotions create harmony in our nervous system and the heart rhythm pattern we have when we’re in our most optimal state.

Fascinating and yet there is so much logic in this it’s a wonder we haven’t thought about this before.

Coincidentally, a Towers Watson study recently showed that the greatest driver of employee engagement worldwide is whether or not people feel their managers and organizations have genuine concern for their well-being. Heartmath’s corresponding insight: More caring leaders set off the neural machinery that produces optimal workplace performance.

Continue reading “Leading with your Heart”

Pablo Picasso was Wrong

Pablo Picasso once said the following:

I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it.

And although it’s a very inspiring saying and one that many would stand back and agree with I believe it to be incomplete and limited – you see, we believe that it’s totally legitimate and ok to try something new, experiment, and experience alternative ways of doing things and activities but a wise person will stop short of investing too much energy into a particular area, especially if it’s outside their expertise.

The plain and simple truth is that we can’t do anything that we want, regardless of what your parents once told you! As hard as  I might try I will never become an incredible basketball player – I’m short, I can’t jump high, and my ability to put a ball through a hoop is close to function random().

Add the fact that I don’t want to ever become proficient in that sport at any competitive level and you’ve got an area that I simply won’t dedicate much time to. But I will join a pickup game of hoops and I do enjoy that!

Continue reading “Pablo Picasso was Wrong”

Learn to Code – Learn Online with 6 Websites

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[Click to Enlarge]

6 Websites to Help you Get Coding

UDACITY

Udacity is one of the best-known MOOCs (or Massive Online Open Courses) available on the Web, and the content it contains can tutor you on everything from Android apps to social network analysis. Short videos a few minutes in length are punctuated by quizzes and exercises, and once you’ve signed up for a particular course it can last from a few weeks to a few months (check the information page for each individual course). You can think of Udacity as attending college over the Web, just without the fancy diploma at the end. Much of the material on the site (described as “courseware”) is available free of charge, but you do have the option to pay if you want to get one-on-one tuition or take on the interactive projects that come with the course. Some courses are funded by corporate sponsors; Google has built the Android app development one, for example. The Udacity model won’t suit everyone but it offers a broad range of useful content that you can fit around your existing lifestyle, particularly when you take the mobile apps (for Android and iOS) into consideration. Source: https://www.udacity.com/

CODE ACADEMY

If you want to begin right at the start, then Codecademy is a great place to dive into coding. The site is intuitive, accessible, and covers HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Python, Ruby and PHP. Each course is split up into easily digestible sections. You can see the titles of these sections, as well as the estimated time commitment required to complete them, before you get started. You won’t come out the other end as a programming master but the appeal of Codecademy lies in its accessibility rather than its depth. At the heart of the Codecademy site is the interactive portal that enables you to take lessons and exercises right within your browser, with feedback and instruction appearing alongside in an instant as you type. As you’re doing rather than simply reading or watching, you can pick up the basics very quickly, and because Codecademy is free it’s a great way of working out whether this coding lark is for you or not before you go deeper somewhere else. Source: http://www.codecademy.com/

TREEHOUSE

Treehouse is like a paid-for, more complex upgrade to Codecademy and would be the natural next step if you pass the Codecademy courses with flying colors. There are two subscription models—a basic $25/month one and a pro $49/month upgrade—but if you want to test the waters for free then there’s a 14-day trial available that you can sign up for without any obligation. As you would expect for $25 and above each month, the materials and content provided by Treehouse is consistently top notch. Videos, interactive exercises, quizzes, forums, expert speakers and other resources are all combined with Treehouse, though you’ll need to upgrade to the top subscription level to take advantage of some of the more exclusive workshops and interviews. The step-by-step, guided approach is useful for tackling areas that you’re not familiar with, and the available tracks cover HTML, CSS, WordPress, Ruby, PHP, Android, iOS, JavaScript and more. The site is slick and simple to navigate around too. Source: http://teamtreehouse.com/

CODE SCHOOL

“Learn by doing” is the mantra of Code School, though it’s an approach adopted by many of the resources we’ve mentioned on this list. This isn’t for beginners, though: you’re going to need some level of coding know-how to make sense of the material that Code School places in front of you. You could consider moving on to Code School after Udacity, Codecademy or even Treehouse, for example, though it depends on your existing level of knowledge and the type of code you’re working with. There are four main paths to choose from—Ruby, HTML/CSS, iOS and JavaScript—but other courses outside of these main paths touch on Git, Objective-C, JQuery and other more detailed coding standards. Some of the material on the site is free, though there’s a flat monthly fee of $29 to get access to everything. Like Treehouse, there’s a mixture of screencasts, video tutorials and interactive challenges to help you get on top of your chosen topic as quickly as possible. Source: https://www.codeschool.com/

DASH

Dash is a project from educational institution General Assembly that focuses on building websites, specifically HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Like Codecademy, the courses are designed to be easy to get started with and very interactive right from the beginning—if you want to be able to jump straight in with as little preamble as possible then Dash could be for you. One of the spin-offs created by Dash lets you build your own custom Tumblr theme, which gives you some idea of where this resource is pitched. You might not be able to launch a career as a freelance Web designer on the back of Dash alone, but it’s free to use and friendly for beginners, and by the time you come out the other end you’ll certainly have a solid foundation in browser coding skills. The step-by-step guidance and rigid structure of the course may feel a bit limiting at times, but if you want to be guided very carefully through the fundamentals of the Web then it’s perfect. Source: https://dash.generalassemb.ly/

CODE AVENGERS

Like Dash, the Code Avengers site focuses on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, though after a helpful introductory lesson you’ll need to pay to carry on with your coding education. HTML and CSS modules cost $29 each while the JavaScript ones will set you back $39 a pop—a lifetime access option is also available for $125. Use the free lessons to gauge whether the level that Code Avengers is pitched at fits in with where you are and what you want to learn. Code Avengers makes what can be a daunting and inaccessible topic very easy to get into. The way that repetition and reinforcement is used over each of the 12-hour courses means that you come away with some good programming habits as well as a good grounding in the ins and outs of Web development. The interface is clear and clean as well, and there’s a good mix of coding challenges, step-by-step instructions and practical projects to help you make progress with your Web development skills. If you’ve had any personal experiences with one of the resources we’ve mentioned—or you think there’s another site that deserves some attention—then let us know in the discussion below. Meantime, happy coding! Source: http://www.codeavengers.com/

Change the World by Doing

Change-Paulo-Coelho-Portuguese-Author

I always tell me class… the short answer to many issues is one thing: Execute.

At the end of the day no analysis can ever come close to learning-by-doing. Don’t get stuck in analysis-paralysis, it never helped anyone.

– You don’t know the future.

– You can’t know all the risks.

– You cannot analyze your way to perfection.

– You cannot truly know until you execute.

Forget SMART Goals, Go VAGUE

Valuable In everything we undertake we must have a sense of the value it will provide to self, others or the world. We need purpose to make our work meaningful.

Anarchic Stop playing safe. Challenge, confront, undermine the current status quo. Strive to discover the undiscoverable.

Genuine Be true to yourself—abandon agreement in favor of passion, and then seek alignment. Don’t compromise.

Unbounded Embrace not-knowing. Avoid forcing your ideas into someone else’s box. Let your possibilities grow wings, and soar.

Engaging Keep your dreams vital, avoid repetition, continuously challenge yourself and those around you. Walk the edge.

[Big props to Tobias Mayer for the key ingredients here. Love it]

Are RFP Systems for Agile Contracts, Agile?

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Gawd. There are things I dislike… and there are things that I just severely dislike.

RFP supplier systems are one of them. Not only are they convoluted, but complicated, and arduous.

Isn’t Agile all about collaboration and negotiation with people?

If you’d like our help, please, let’s work person-to-person. RFP systems cheapen the opportunity to really understand your needs.

#OKthanksBYE

VMEdu Inc [ScrumStudy] – Spamtastic!

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These guys don’t quit. This is like the 5th time I’ve received emails from them telling me I can make a shit-ton if I use them…

 

Hello Peter,

I represent VMEdu Inc (US based company), a leading learning platform dealing with professional training and certifications. We are funded by Sequoia Capital – the leading PE fund in the Silicon Valley, which has also funded companies such as Apple, Google, Cisco, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, AirBnB etc. *REALLY?*HHMM

The VMEdu platform is a one-stop shop for training providers where they can assign coursework to students, buy courses, schedule exams and even order the study materials they need. Another unique feature of the VMEdu platform is its simple pay-as-you-go model that enables partners to join and use the courses when and where they want, taking advantage of the great flexibility VMEdu offers.

How does it benefit you………. blah blah blah.

[Consumer Alert] – If you want half-ass training. You got it. Apparently, anyone can be a trainer with these guys. Go get’em!

If you want best-in-class training. Go with the big dawgs. Find your (legitimate) course at ScrumAlliance.org

8 Ways in Which Geniuses Think and How You Can Apply This to Your Team

I love reading articles from the people that are really, really, smart – the people that are spending the time doing incredible amount of documentation and research about how we interact and the whys and hows of what we do.

Michael Michalko, the author of Creative Tinkering, has done an incredible amount of work studying creatives and geniuses and how they engage problem solving. His book is definitely one to pick up if you have time but I wanted to distill a few key points that he lays out about how strategically geniuses encounter problems, as opposed to normal thinkers.

Here they are, which his key point and some of his thoughts, as well as my additional thoughts on how it can be applied to your team and organization:

Continue reading “8 Ways in Which Geniuses Think and How You Can Apply This to Your Team”

A Personality Profile Isn’t Enough!

personality-attitude

I was speaking with the founder of a company the other day about a new potential hire and her personality survey results (they use one of many different personality surveys) – my initial comment to him was simply this after seeing the results:

Interesting…

You see, after working with his team and increasing awareness organization-wide of each person’s natural aptitudes and communication styles, it became incredibly clear that any new hire that walked in would have to fit the bill, not just functionally, but also from the cultural results that the entire team collectively creates.

I’m not familiar with the entire recruiting or interview process (and I don’t have to know) of their organization but I do know they only hire the best in class employees (like everyone, right?) and they go to extreme to make sure whether they are going to be a cultural fit.

But what this leader was seeking counsel for was specific to the specific role they had created and whether this candidates results would function well for them and the rest of the team… and the personality profile… wasn’t enough. Continue reading “A Personality Profile Isn’t Enough!”

On Joining Agile for All – Peter Saddington

AFA
My new home 🙂

Many people have asked me for the reasons behind letting my company, Action & Influence, be acquired by another Agile consultancy. It’s been a very interesting ride… as the emails, DMs, LinkedIn messages, etc continue to pour in.

peter-saddington-new-job-agile-for-all
Lots of comments and likes. Me like!

The Agile community is a small community, in some pockets, very tight-knit. These types of major changes don’t go unnoticed and that’s ok.
To make it clear, I’m really interested in only two things:

  1. I want to be better. I want to improve my game as an organizational consultant and trainer. I want to train with the best, learn from the best, and be mentored by the best. Agile for All, LLC with Bob Hartman and Richard Lawrence are easily some of the best in this game.
  2. I want sustainable living. I grew Action & Influence to a point beyond my current capabilities of managing. It got so large in the span of 2 years that it no longer was fun. It was a wonderful relief to get acquired by Agile for All in that they can help me recharge, and focus on doing the best work I can.
Spike in traffic! People are interested...
Spike in traffic! People are interested…

I’ve sold businesses before, this isn’t my first rodeo, but this one is significantly more personal than all the rest. It’s a wonderful thing to grow a business out of nothing, grow explosively, manage a slew of contractors and employees, and even getting noticed and voted the Best Training Company in Atlanta in 2013.

It’s interesting how you can work so hard, lose sight of what made it fun, and actually want to quit. I can’t tell you how many times I talked with my wife about just closing it down and becoming an FTE at a large and clearly dysfunctional company, enjoying the fringe benefits of working a 9 to 5, getting nice healthcare, and not caring a whole lot about much else… other than eating dinner every night with my wife and kids.

Current Clients

No worries to all you out there! The top-notch (if I do say so myself) service you receive from Action & Influence will continue, just under a new banner, and now we have more capabilities! Feel free to contact us here!

On with the Future!

I’ve never been so stoked and excited to join another company since I joined my first job as a developer at a large Fortune company back in the 90’s. It’s been a long time coming and 2015 already looks wonderful.

Thanks again all for the kind words of support and love!

I’m excited to be part of the Agile for All community! Here’s to 2015!

Delta Upgrades – What a Waste

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As a Diamond Medallion [RESERVE] Million Miler+ … … … I always get a shit-ton of upgrade certificates that go to waste every freaking year.

They really need to allow me to trade them in or something. This year… I have 10 going to waste.

But! I do have two free companion tickets… that are almost IMPOSSIBLE TO USE. Trust me, I’ve tried. They put so many limitations on it, it’s ridiculous.

Remove Your Constraints

the-affect-of-constraints-agile-scrum
An exercise showing the power of removing constraints on a team… then adding constraints… and seeing the delay increase…

Considering our constraints of our system can be a powerful exercise. What is so wonderful about even [thinking] about it can reveal wonderful ideas around how to deliver effectively. Often companies want to increase speed of delivery, but speed doesn’t matter if you have a lot of constraints to delivery.

Removing constraints to delivery will allow speed of delivery to increase, but not for the sake of speed. Speed becomes an outcome of the removal of constraints.

Consider a powerful idea of cross-functionality (by me):

Teams should have all the technical aptitudes and functional roles to deliver end-to-end value without peripheral constraints

If we create an ethos of continual growth and learning on teams and empower teams (as management) to deliver without constraints… Imagine the possibilities!

This is the type of idea I use when working with management. Helping them create a vision for flow of work by considering great examples of flow that they’d like to see in their teams and work. From there we can begin considering how to change… or at least, have the conversations with the right people to remove these constraints.

Management Training – How to Win Friends and Control Everybody by Yelling

Scenario: I’m teaching a class. Next door, for two full days, are people yelling, screaming, and … well, sounded like they were fighting.

I came to learn that this was a Management Training 2-day course on how to … Control a room. Be the manager. Win friends. Become the all-seeing-and-controlling Eye of Sauron. 

Geez!

I did get some feedback from some students that were in there… apparently they were sold. I got comments like:

It’s too much for us to talk to you about, it’s a life changing experience.

It’s how to project yourself as a winner, as the boss, as the controller of the room.

If you’re in your comfort zone at any time in this class, you’re not doing it right.

A ton of growth happening in two days.

I’m incredulous, but apparently this stuff sells.

Thoughts?

The Future of Recruiting 3.0 is Cultural Understanding

Ron Thomas at StrategyFocusedHR, recently wrote about “Recruiting 3.0” – the next level of recruiting based on making meaningful connections. Meaning, hire based on whether the candidate connects with your business strategy.

What happens is that a requisition for a request for candidacy goes out to the world asking that candidates create a short movie of how they fit within your culture or strategy:

Tell us your story.

Yup, you guessed it – UGC (user generated content).

I love the idea, but I also see some very potential gaps and pitfalls of this approach: Continue reading “The Future of Recruiting 3.0 is Cultural Understanding”

On Removing Organizational Mental Constraints

Joyful fun
Joyful fun

Many people may not enjoy doing classes on the weekend. However, I actually enjoy it. [Reason below]

It occurred to me during this last class, as I was discussing with the group ideas around bias, organizational constraints, and common dysfunctions around cultural change.

One student made a comment that spurred an idea in my brain:

Removing oneself from constraining cultural nuances often allows our minds to flow freely into the unknown… allowing for more emergent innovative thought processes… and the ability to speak freely about … things… anything.

I was speaking with an individual during a break about just this idea, and he said to me that he wouldn’t speak as freely if we had held this course on company property. This, is a sad fact for him! I empathized and felt a bit sad that this was the case!

Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from our current situation to see things from a different perspective. Maybe a fresh light. I think, the trouble here is… what to do with the information if you get to a profound revelation. What. To. Do.

That decision will be based on compromise… or rather, what will you be willing to compromise for (positive) change to happen.

Alvin Toffler – Learn, Unlearn, Relearn

I love this quote from the futurist Alvin Toffler, who is has studied the shifts of technology and how it changes and impacts the society at large:

The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

One of the largest challenges that any organizational change agent experiences is resistance to new ideas, new concepts, and new perspective of how to do what they do better.

When handled badly the person can be shunned, put out, or even demonized for even proposing such a “dramatic shift” that would fundamentally challenge the tightly-held philosophies and corporate culture. The problem is that they are perceived as a threat while in fact a new idea, in and of itself, is not a threat – it’s just a new idea!
Continue reading “Alvin Toffler – Learn, Unlearn, Relearn”

You Create the Ceiling for Your Organization

BU010602One of the biggest reasons why some organizations can’t seem to grow and have hit the proverbial ceiling for scalability is because their leaders have stopped growing themselves.

I can remember the first time I heard one of my mentors share this with me and it hit me like a freight train to my chest:

The organization will not be able to grow past you as it’s leader.

The context of the conversation was my ability to balance the day-to-day needs of my organization and the time allotted for continuing education for myself so that I could be personally challenged, fed into, and led myself.

I asked my mentor how, after leading (and exiting) a few multi-million dollar enterprises, how he had learned to handle that delicate balance and he just looked at me and asked me whether my current business was growing – I told him that it was but I felt like we had hit a few roadblocks, that we had slowed down a bit, and that we may have lost a bit of momentum.

He just stared at me blankly and then asked when the last time I had intentionally been fed into and allowed someone else to challenge, inspire, and lead me in a serious way. I shook my head because I knew the answer already.

Continue reading “You Create the Ceiling for Your Organization”

Let it Go. #pmiacp

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As a recovering PMP, and someone who got the PMI-ACP, I understand the pull to get these types of certifications. Whenever people ask me about “Which certification I should get?” I always respond in the same manner:

Get certifications for WHERE YOU WANT TO BE. If you want to work for a company that supports and encourages waterfall (and you want to work there), then get your PMP or PMI certifications! If you want to work for companies that love agile, then go for certifications there. It’s your choice!

Once again, I’m asked to make a decision: Renew my PMI-ACP, or let it go.

I’ll go with Elsa on this one.