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
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:
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:
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!”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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”
One 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.
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 hope to pursue a fulfilling career as a change agent within my company and beyond. Thanks so much for showing me the possibility!” – S. Hsu
If you are a manager, when was the last time that you inspired and instilled hope into your team?
If you work for a manager, when was the last time your manager inspired you?
I hope the answer is “daily.” If not, why? Are we not all built to create? Seth Godin says that we all were created to create. If we don’t have opportunities to create, to be inspired in our work, to hope for something better as we grow, then what are we doing?
I believe, as an Organizational Coach, my role is to instill hope in people.
I believe this is the most rewarding and fulfilling role anyone can play in a company and in other people’s lives.
Consider it. There should be a title in business like: “Chief Inspiration Officer” or “Chief Hope Officer.”
Happy 5 Years to the Agile Community! We’re glad we’re here. 🙂
TO THE CELEBRATION!
To celebrate, we’ll be giving away 3 KINDLE READERS!
The reason behind this is simple, I was given an Amazon Kindle Reader and it literally changed my life. As an (ex) analog reader who finishes about a book a week, I was incredulous about the “value” of going digital format for reading.
Someone blessed me with a Kindle. It. Changed. My. Life.
So… giving back to the community! YAY!
HOW TO ENTER:
Tweet this… AND
Leave a comment about what book you’ll load first! (Or what I should load onto mine as a recommendation!)
We’ll be running this for the NEXT 3 MONTHS (ends Dec 27th). Winners will be notified on Oct 27, Nov 27, and Dec 27!
Although there are a number of things that behavioral instruments and tools can identify, qualify, and quantify in terms of individual personality and team dynamics there are always factors that inevitably feed into the overarching patterns that may ultimately emerge.
These things are incredibly difficult to measure and determine, if not altogether impossible. And sometimes we’re acutely aware of them and other times they are simply a fabric of our everyday lives and we think nothing of them – but their impact is tried and true.
We call this group of factors that are difficult to measure and determine affinity and it’s comprised of three core elements: Leadership, Environment, and Culture.
What the natural consequence of expressly strong affinity in teams and organizations, especially ones that are self-organized and orchestrated, is that their are unique and near-tangible bonds are appreciated and leveraged for incredible team performance.
For example, there may exist even in your context a strong “bond” and relational tie to certain team members more than others and there doesn’t appear to be an easy quantifiable valuation of why it exists. It’s often expressed something like:
Well, I just know that we work well together – I can’t explain it really, it just works.
This is typically due to those three core elements:
In my current Job, we started a new project in January 2014 to build a strategic solution and completely replace an existing tactical system by end of 2014. Till date, which is September 2014 [emphasis mine], what has been done is a 50 pager BRD provided by business. This is the 1st project artifact that was provided to the technical team. Even after reading this 50 pager document, we could not understand the project requirement fully.
Thanks and Regards,
Why is this the norm? This dysfunction is far beyond reasonable, and far beyond rationale. It astounds me (but it shouldn’t by now), that these thing still exist. 9 months of work, all you have to show is 50 page document? Man, gotta love gainful employment.
Oh, and btw, Agile could’ve helped here… no facetiousness here. Really.
I am a geek through and through. My skillset is wrapped in system commands, database architecture, and servers big and small. I can quote Dr. Who and I know the question to Life, the Universe, and Everything. My geek credentials are impressive. I am happiest in front of my laptop and things like gantt charts and project plans cause my eyes to roll back in my head.
So why did I find myself sitting in an Agilescout Certified Scrumaster class in a sea of Project Managers?
Well, I accidently discovered the simplicity and elegance of Scrum. Curious, I implemented it imperfectly in a very small scale on my own team and tripled our productivity in one month. I had a taste of Scrum and I wanted to know more. So off to class I went and I have been an advocate ever since.
As I talk to my fellow techno-weenies in various parts of the enterprise I hit a lot of “I just don’t understand how it works”, “It sounds like more process and we are slow as it is”, “it’s a fad”, or “that is strange and new – kill it with fire, you heretic”.
So even if you are not one of the techno-weenies reading this article but you just want to know more, start with an entertaining read called “The Phoenix Project” by Kim, Behr, and Spafford. Trust me, you will relate to the fictional story line. You have worked there so you know how this goes. The story of a large company mired in process where deliverables are late and don’t resemble what the client needs, where there is that one rock star expert that is the only one that can do things and managers run around with their hair on fire.
“The Phoenix Project” is an entertaining fictional story that describes an Agile approach to turn the ship around. As a matter of fact, I related to the book so much that I pounded it out in three days and was cheering by the end.
This was the catalyst for me. There just has to be a better way.
After some discussion with an agile team and reading Saddington’s Book “The Agile Pocket Guide” – I convinced my boss to give it a try.
“Let’s take an Agile approach to Agile”, I said “and add one Agile feature or practice on a week”. We started with one thing – an Agile board. It was nothing fancier than a whiteboard and post-its.
We were now able to predict what we could do and how we could do it.A few things happened immediately. First, I realized my team mate was busier than I expected because I could see his work effort visually. Second, we stopped stepping on each other’s toes with system resources and duplicate tasks. Third, we could link our work to corporate projects and produce metrics to upper management on what we did in an immediate fashion. Finally, we got an idea of work effort we could handle and started to throttle when appropriate.
Just from a white board and post its.
Maybe there is something to this.
So each week, we added something new. We worked for progress over perfection and looked like a monkey fumbling a football the first week or two. Even imperfectly, there was positive change. Once we committed, we added a small change each week – story points, sprint planning sessions, stand-ups, retrospectives, etc.
Since then our Tier II and III managers and a few executives have taken notice. The experiment the techno-weenies tried seemed to work. Now there is a culture change, an openness to hear about Agile and try it, and multiple teams swapping information on how to make this successful here. Heck, I have passed out at least 15 copies of Saddington’s “The Agile Pocket Guide”.
All because of a crazy one week experiment. All hail the power of Agile.
[GUEST POST BY] Michael Krafick is a certified techno-weenie, certified Scrum Master, and IBM Champion for Information Management. He is a database administrator with experience in highly transactional databases and large data warehouses. You can read more from Michael at http://db2commerce.com where he is an occasional author.
A recent study out of the Trinity College of Dublin has discovered that there appears to be a correlation between larger brain pans and human cooperation and teamwork:
Scientists have discovered proof that the evolution of intelligence and larger brain sizes can be driven by cooperation and teamwork, shedding new light on the origins of what it means to be human.
Although I’d like to throw up my hands and say something extremely scientific as “Duh!” but these guys are fellow experts in their own field and I love learning more of the backend research around such things as these!
But what’s fascinating is how often I meet business owners of large companies as well as entrepreneurs in much smaller organizations reject the importance of the team, especially in comparison to specific and individual people.
Although you won’t hear it officially stated or on anyone’s forward facing marketing or collateral you will hear it amongst the staff and in and out of the halls of the office environment; an overly-dependent culture on the founder or specific team members thus relegating the others to simply supportive roles.