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

elsa-let-it-go-pmi-agile-acp

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.

Business Success is about Instilling HOPE

“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

Hope

  • 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.”

What do you think?

Happy 5 Years for AgileScout! [GIVEAWAY]

agile-scout-peter-saddington-birthday

Happy 5 Years to the Agile Community! We’re glad we’re here. 🙂

kindle-reader-agileTO 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:

  1. Tweet this… AND
  2. 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!

Good luck and stay Agile my friends!

The Power of Affinity

agile-scrum-boardAlthough 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:

Continue reading “The Power of Affinity”

Standard Faire – Par for the Course

Dear Peter,
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,

M.R.

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.

crazy-stuff-most-interesting-man-in-the-world

Agile from the Techno-Weenie Perspective

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.

michael-krafick-board
It doesn’t get much more complicated than this kids. A whiteboard and post it’s. There is elegance, power, and flexibility in simplicity.

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-agileMichael 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. 

Be a Big Brained Company!

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.

Continue reading “Be a Big Brained Company!”

Thoughts on Behaviorism

behaviorismAs a organizational counselor and social scientist of sorts, I enjoy great conversation and email threads from students, colleagues, and clients alike. A recent email prompted me to share my thoughts on companies that look at behaviorism as a mechanism for productivity…. much to my sadness.

Why I can speak (somewhat) intelligently about this topic:

  • 3 Masters degrees focused on organizational design, cognitive learning theory, and social psychology
  • Social scientist who does this stuff for a living

Ok. So let’s jump in. Behaviorism was founded by John Watson back in the early 1900s. He essentially believed people can be trained (behavior) regardless of any other variables. Behaviorists basically look only at the observable actions of humans, and discount internal mental considerations. B.F. Skinner was a huge supporter of this.

Over time, this theory has been debunked as we have learned more and more about deep cognitive science and the affects of more than just environment on how people behave, act, and respond.

So, I recently received an email from a student who works for a company looking to hire behaviorists to help them improve productivity… here are two threads, his email to me (removing some sensitive info) and my response:

Peter,

This might be too difficult/long a question to respond to but I’m wondering if I can tap your knowledge.  As I mentioned previously, our company is partnering with XXX whose chief consultant/owner/leader is XXX.  From his website bio, he was deeply moved by Skinner’s behaviorism which is the foundation for all of his work… What importance, if any, do you see in behaviorism shaping the workplace?  Obviously reinforcement can produce results however upon my educational background and brief research calls into question an adoption of behaviorism in the workplace.  Noam Chomsky was a large critic of Skinner who believed more in transformational rules and wrote a very strongly worded response against Skinner’s application of behaviorism on humans.
There are two analogies that come to mind:
  1. The caterpillar into the butterfly – once changed, it will never go back.  We want negative behaviors to disappear for good, never to return.
  2. A vase of white carnations will turn color if dye is used in the water – there’s no effort on our part other than to ensure the proper environment for natural productive change.  This environment is constant and self-sustaining, least conflicting, and garners the desired response at the same rate across all participants.
I haven’t done this yet but am thinking of raising this as a concern before we dive deeper into this relationship with XXX.
I realize I may have left something out.  Feel free to fire back any questions or point me toward a good resource (book or article) that would help me understand this more.
Thanks,
YYY
OOOOOoooooOOooohhhh yeh! I love emails like this. Here’s my response:
YYY,
Ok, here we go:
– NO NO AND NO. Behaviorism has been debunked time and time again as cognitive science rose into deeper scientific understanding. Behaviorism focuses primarily on the OBSERVABLE things people do. Ok… as a counselor, we never do this. Because if we focus merely on the outside then we can never help the inside issues at stake.
A simple example would be this:
A substance abuser who smokes crack and drinks a lot.
A behavioralist would say, “That’s bad. Stop doing that, Let’s make sure we change your environment (move you out of your house with negative triggers), and have you stop associating with people who do that.”
A cognitive scientist (or counselor for that matter) would say, “That’s bad. Stop doing that. Let’s look at the inner workings of how not only environment affects your behavior, but whether there may be imbalances to your brain and other stimuli. We need to better understand the whole in order to help you change….(like if you were abused at a child, you were molested, or if you have substance abuse genetic traits in your families gene pool, or have PTSD, or I mean. shit, I could go on and on)…”
A behavioralist looks at issues from a one-view vantage point (maybe unfair, but this is the basis of their tenants). This, in my opinion is very dangerous. You could end up giving people improper advice or even hurtful advise based on YOUR (the observer) cognitive and behavioral bias AND limited understanding of the WHOLE system!
Anyway.
Your analogies:
1 – Negative behavioral patterns go away, never return? Ugh, really? This is rediculous. So myopic! Culture trancends behavior. For example. I’ve lived in India, Korea, and Japan. I have to CHANGE my behavior patterns based on cultural nuances so I can get stuff done! If I put on my hard-ass american communication style, I will NOT be affective. To consider a behavioral pattern negative is near-sighted and ignorant. Behavior MUST change based on context. We do this, btw, all the time (i.e. you act differently around your mother in law than you do your mom).
2 – Really? We just change the environment? If that works, then shit, I just need to change all my clients walls from gray to greens and blues because those colors make me feel better about my work, therefore I’ll do better work. Crap. The great assumption in this statement is that all people react the same to environmental changes…. assuming we’re all programmable the same way as each other… . Right. Until we move to the clone wars in Star Wars, we’ll never be the same. Culture/people groups/individuals will always be divergent, different, and variable. We must endeavor to understand the whole (as much as we can) if we want to improve things.
I once heard (from colleagues years ago) a funny quote about behavioralists… something like the following: “A behavioralist is merely a politician, who looks at general patterns in people and applies those patterns to the whole, unknowingly fucking everyone up when things invariably change.”
Best,
ps
The lesson for today? In my opinion, don’t spend money on this phoney baloney. It’s voodoo magic that is potentially harmful. 

2014 State of Agile™ Survey is Open!

It’s that time of year again. You made it through the Agile show with a stack of new business cards from interesting people and minimal hangover pain. [Yeah, RIGHT! Who are we kidding? I saw you running through the Gaylord Orlando at 2 a.m. wearing Mickey Mouse ears and a grass skirt! You just don’t remember; it’s better that way].

Seems like something big in the agile software community always happens right around this time…

You got it. The State of Agile. It’s open and VersionOne is giving away something that I’ve wanted in my home for a very long time. A SONOS® system! And not just one, but NINE – because this is their ninth year running the survey.

Now these things are sweet. If you don’t believe me, go to your nearest electronics store and check them out. “But Peter, isn’t SONOS just a fancy stereo?” If that’s what you think, go back to your iPod Nano, Grandpa!!!The SONOS PLAY:5 + SONOS BRIDGE combo (which is what nine lucky State of Agile participants will get) lets you play all of your music – Spotify, Pandora, iTunes®, Rhapsody, whatever – wirelessly to different rooms in your house.

The PLAY:5 combo VersionOne is giving away includes five speakers, but is modular up to 32 speakers. So depending on how far you want to trick your system out, you can play up to 32 different songs in 32 different rooms of your home at 32 different volumes. All controlled from your smartphone or tablet… kinda like sitting in the cockpit of some bad-ass fighter jet!

Whoa! Sorry, I got a little excited for a moment. Back to the survey… If you’re a returning State of Agile taker, you’ll be happy to know that VersionOne has shortened the State of Agile this year. So it’s faster to take, and easier to get into the drawing.

Now in its ninth year, the State of Agile survey is the largest and most widely cited source for data on agile software methodologies and practices. It gives software organizations a barometer for what works and what does not when adopting and scaling agile development processes to improve software delivery.

Take it now at http://www.stateofagile.com and leave your email address at the end to be eligible for the SONOS drawings. And as always, taking it gets you onto the VIP list to receive the report before it’s publicly available.

While you’re there, you can also check out interesting data highlights from 2013 and get previous years’ survey archives. So go ahead. Take it while you wait for your next test to run. Take it instead of another coffee break or game of pool. Take it in a boring status meeting. It only takes 10 minutes.