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”

Ambient Noise Music for Your Epic Coding Sessions

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  1. I like to have white or ambient noise playing while I study or don’t want it to be too quite when I’m alone, so I thought I’d share a list of my favorite websites in case anyone else was interested.
  2. Calm – http://www.calm.com/ – A visually beautiful website. Provides moving backgrounds and an option for guided calm which allows you to immerse yourself in the music and to relax. Has a free app for iPhone. Another one of my favourites.
  3. Showertime – http://www.showerti.me/ – The experience of taking a shower without the water. Allows you to control features such as length of shower, size of room, water pressure, etc.
  4. Coffitivity – https://coffitivity.com/ – The background noise of a coffee shop. Allows you to choose between different locations such as lunchtime lounge, morning murmur etc. Has an app for iOS and Android as well as a desktop app for OS X.
  5. Soundrown – http://soundrown.com/ – A website with a sleek minimalist design, allows you to choose between rain, coffee shop, ocean, fire, bird noises, or a combination of the five.
  6. Relaxing Snow – http://tistheseasonto.be/snowing/ – Visually beautiful falling snow, the website gives you the opinion to play music with the scenery, or to choose your own.
  7. Raining.Fm – raining.fm – This website gives you the ability to adjust the rain to exactly how you’d like it, with options to tweak thunder, rain and storm noises. Has an app for iOS and Android, as well as a timer and snooze option.
  8. Rain For Me – http://rainfor.me/ – Simple rain effects with the option to download the audio files for offline listening.
  9. Snowy Mood – http://snowymood.demouth.net/ – Inspired by Rainy Mood, this website really makes you feel like it’s winter. Perfect for playing while snuggled up in a warm bed.
  10. Rainy Cafe – http://rainycafe.com/ – Combines the sounds of a bustling cafe setting with the sounds of drizzling rain. Allows you to select the volume of each setting, or turn one off completely.
  11. Original list on Tumblr- http://belt.tumblr.com/post/86949068039/i-like-to-have-white-or-ambient-noise-playing

Your BEST Agile Tool Ever – Excel

Excel-logo.3 Reasons Excel Rules for Agile, Scrum, Kanban

Whenever I begin work with a client… one of the first tools I pop open is Microsoft Excel. I know it gets a bad rap, but it’s seriously the most dynamic and effective (functionally) tool out there bar none.

  1. Your company already owns it. You (most likely) do too
  2. Obviously, I’m a big fan of physical wallboards… but if you have to go tool, go with the most functional tool in the world
  3. Excel teaches you how to problem solve better… by learning to create functions to improve your workflow

Learn Excel:

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?

supplier-rfp-system-agile-sow

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

Tips for Resumes [Infographic]

I help a lot of people with their resumes. Lots of people are looking for jobs, especially after they’ve taken one of our training courses. Instead of writing custom letters to each person (I do a lot), here is a summary of my usual thoughts…

A couple of things:
  1. 2 pages. Perfect. More than 2 is not necessary. Most people don’t read past the first half-page anyway
  2. Almost every resume I see is pretty much EXACTLY the same, are you the same as others? Absolutely not. If that’s the case, then spend time making your resume kick some serious ass.

I would do the following:

  – For each position, don’t use paragraphs. Nobody reads them anyway.
  – For each position, use BULLET POINTS. 3-4 is max
  – Fill each bullet point with ACTION words, not passive voice. What was ACCOMPLISHED is the most important
Biggest differentiator? Online presence. Do you have a website? That’s where you put the juice. Now, you don’t have to follow my footsteps here, but I DONT have a resume. I refuse to go that route. If people want to know more about me I tell them to go to a website, like: www.myai.org/peter-saddington
If they want to know more in-depth stuff about me I tell them that I’m best at communicating it in person.
You see, you’re more than a piece of paper. By far, more than that. Here is my core philosophy on these types of things:
  1. You (employer or company) desire me.
  2. I don’t necessarily desire you (company).
  3. I’m worth every penny.
  4. I’m willing to interview you (the company) just as much as you interview me
  5. You (company) need to know why it would be foolish NOT to bring me in (or hire me)
I know this may sound harsh, but companies should fight for your time, because you’re worth it. If that’s the case then I can help you (company) understand a few things:
  1. I’m more than a resume, a piece of paper
  2. Care about me, because if you get me, you’ll want to utilize me to the fullest
  3. I’m not interested in being a cog in a wheel. I’m interested in creating value.
  4. So, (company), I’m going to help you out. Go here, here and here (websites, links, etc) about me. My resume is a start point, but after that, our conversations will lead you to a better understanding and informed decision.
Anyway. I hope this helps!
Summary:
  • Shorten your resume. People don’t read paragraphs. People read bullets
  • Make it stick. I like to use a value proposition as a header… something like: “Why you should hire me:” // “Don’t lose this opportunity:” // “Why I kick serious ass:” (understand your audience here) // “How I’ve changed companies:” // “How I create value:” // “Here’s what people are saying about me:” (insert quotes from linkedin or whatever) // “Read this first:” (I like this one, because it is a call to action for them to read THIS (whatever that is) FIRST. Get them hooked) // …. … or use a powerful action word.
  • ***EXAMPLE*** — I had one person I helped with their resume have each header be a one word power-word… Her headers were like: “Boom” // “Dynamite!” // “Value” // “Engaging” // … something like that. She actually got a compliment on her resume by her hiring boss! LOL.
  • Get online presence. Again, you’re more than a piece of paper.
Hope this helps!

 

Need some tips in an infographic? Jump on it [CLICK TO ENLARGE]:

resume-infographic

One Example of How to Use an Agile Tool with Balance

best agile toolbox
So many tools… which one to choose? Check out our great list of Agile Tools

Using an Agile or Scrum tool like many that we have in our list and those reviewed can be a challenge. We’ve helped many companies utilize their ALM’s well, and we’ve even helped even more remove the challenges that Agile tools can create… and let’s be honest, sometimes the problems they create.

I, for one, am tool agnostic, any client that’s worked with me will tell you the same. My adage when it comes to any type of tool usage is this:

The effectiveness of any tool is the discipline [enterprise-wide] to use it well.

Working with assertive people is always great, they even sometimes come up great ideas, like a colleague of mine, Jason did on their current implementation of Jira:

Current benefits of Jira

The tool provides a number of benefits if properly maintained

  • Mechanism for anyone, including customers, to quickly log issues or create stories
  • Easy integration with Confluence, the document repository
  • Easy integration with Tempo, the time tracking tool
  • Snapshot of stories and defects in the product backlog
  • Snapshot of stories and defects in the sprint backlog
  • Easy integration of combined backlogs
  • Snapshot of stories planned for a release
  • Email notifications when a ticket is created or updated
  • Quick dissemination across the team of this information, including offsite and extension to customers

Current challenges of Jira

Currently, the tool is over-engineered, resulting in abandonment

  • Too many options available; it is a Frankenstein of new fields and options built over a long period of time over many projects and types of projects
  • Workflows too complex (provide screen capture of the current WFs. They are spider webs)
  • WFs have unnecessary steps; people just ‘click along’ to close stories
  • Too much effort to move tasks and stories through the queue, resulting in waste
  • Workflows are built at the task level, requiring an unsustainable amount of discipline by every team member to keep it updated
  • Email subscriptions result in a torrent of email, so they get ignored or filtered out. Can’t differentiate between an important update versus a trivial comment
  • Too difficult to understand what’s ready/backlog, what’s WIP, and what’s done
  • Unless every team member has updated every task at all times, it’s not accurate
  • Few PMs/SMs use it for release planning; they either don’t have the time to maintain it or they don’t know how
  • Some resources rely on the tool to assign tasks, expecting the task to be done, and the task assignment to the assignee is lost in email
  • Using a tool to “assign” tasks inherently results in a push system, further resulting in pushback and missed commitments
  • Due dates are seldom applied, and when they are, they come and go. If something needs a due date, a team discussion is needed, NOT data entry into a tool that isn’t used
  • Therefore, predictably, teams have abandoned the tool. It takes ALL of these things in perfect synchronization for each piece to be meaningful. This model is unsustainable and not scalable
  • And therefore, Mgt. cannot point to a single project where the status is concise, simple, and clear to them what’s happening; it communicates little meaningful information for our managers unless a PM/SM is physically there to walk them through it. This defeats the purpose of having a web-based tool in the first place

Proposed solution

In short, use the tool to do a few things well, instead of everything for all projects

 

Things to change or stop doing:

  • Pull the existing workflows. The workflow should be one simple workflow:
    • Initial state: Open. It stays open and only open while assigned to the product backlog or the sprint backlog
    • Then you only have two options:
      • Means it’s done.
      • Means it’s rejected, duplicated, de-scoped, working as designed, etc. Keep these selections when cancelling.
    • That’s it. Anything more complicated than that and the tool will be abandoned
  • Tasks and subtasks no longer maintained in Jira. These are for the team to manage and should be done on a physical board
  • Stop relying on Jira to communicate due dates. If something is urgent and a due date needs to be committed, a team discussion should take place to understand the impact to the current work queue and negotiate what is deferred in its place
  • Stop relying on Jira to push tasks through a queue. Tasks should be pulled by the team, not pushed onto individuals

 

Things to keep doing

  • Open new defects and stories
  • Close or cancel defects and stories
  • Maintain product backlog; use the rapid boards to move stories into sprints
  • Track stories to epics
  • Track releases and release dates
  • Assign stories and epics to releases
  • Link stories as-needed to Confluence
  • Maintain relationship with Tempo
  • Assign an onsite resource to update the physical board for offsite resources; send photos of board(s) to offsite team members

VMEdu Inc [ScrumStudy] – Spamtastic!

scrum-study-spam-scam
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