Death March – A Guide for Software Developers

death-march-developer-agile-anti-pattern

Found this at my local used bookstore where I frequent to pick up tons of used books for the uber cheap.

I scanned it for about 5-7 minutes and found it fascinating… mostly because almost everything I read I said one of two things to myself:

  • Agile can help with this
  • Wow, that’s pretty Agile (as a solution to a problem he was talking about in the book)

Yup. There are books out there on employee burnout. #sad #reality

On The Process of Education – Jerome Bruner

the-process-of-education-jerome-bruner-1960

Light reading for this week of an oldie but goodie from 1960…

As I further my own education into the world of how people operate and behave it always astounds me of the similarity and relative closeness of systems thinking and how we as people (cognitively) learn and grow. I found myself, after reading Bruner’s work this weekend and today , spending about an hour re-visiting Gestalt Theory of learning… which is very much all about human systems as we see them in corporate America.

“It is worth the effort to provide the growing learner with problems that tempt him into next stages of development.” — We learn best when we are forced to pay attention to other aspects of the problem.

“Effective intuitive thinking is fostered by the development of self-confidence and courage in the person. A person who thinks intuitively may often achieve correct solutions, but he may also be proved wrong. Such thinking, therefore, requires a willingness to make honest mistakes in the effort to solve problems. As the importance of situations requiring decision increases, as in business, the tendency to think analytically also increases. The present system of rewards and punishments tends to inhibit the use of intuitive thinking.” – Meaning, the greater the risks as we go up the ranks in management, the less actual problem solving we do, and less ‘thinking’ is done…

How is Your Boss Behaving? – Infographic

Everyone loves infographics these days, right? It’s a quick and easy way of understanding simple and/or complex data and for many of us who struggle with maintaining focus on the many things that we are responsible for we’ve got little time to read through paragraphs and paragraphs of text.

I saw one recently that focused on the management, titled “Bad Boss Diaries”:

Click the image for a larger view:

agile-the-bad-boss-diaries

It really is too bad if someone of these figures are correct (and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are, if not very close).

One of the areas listed is the Top 5 Reasons Workers are Dissatisfied:

  1. Compensation
  2. Boss
  3. Job Responsibilities
  4. Culture
  5. Commute

Although we can’t do anything about the first and last one on that list it’s the three in the middle that are of personal interest to me as I believe that those can be discovered, analyzed, and improved with a bit of help. Ultimately they all boil down to leadership.

You see, here’s what I know: Your boss and management needs just as much help, support, and encouragement as you need to get your particular job done. They have stresses, anxiety, and worry just like the next person and a lot of it has to do with those that they lead and manage.

Your boss deals with people, relationships, and managing those roles and responsibilities. There’s tons of ambiguity and gray areas to work through and it often boils down to the ability of the manager and his team to communicate. In many circumstances that’s all that’s needed – a better or more functional way of communicating needs, expectations, and everything in between.

Team Science™ does that, as well as many other communication instruments out there! It baffles me how many organizations have terrible communication amongst themselves and yet they invest all of their additional time and resources on things that don’t help them to communicate!

In addition, it doesn’t surprise me when I hear that many workers struggle immensely with their current role and responsibilities – it’s just not “suiting” them well. There’s nothing more depressing than going to a job and doing work that you are not naturally gifted at and that drains you more than energizes you.

There is nothing that can be done to fix “you” as you can’t suddenly become someone you’re not but no one’s willing to help you find a better spot in the organization (or there might not be one available). No wonder many people hate waking up in the morning and plodding off to work!

It’s up to leaders and managers to help facilitate the conversations around roles, responsibilities, and natural aptitudes for their staff. Not all leaders and managers have the right words to say, a common language, that can help them have those necessary discussions and we love coming alongside them and giving them the right dictionary and vernacular to speak well and wisely to their teams.

Finally, culture, cultureculture! Culture is both bottom-up and top-down, but it’s always started up top (via the Founders and the first players to the field, so to speak). Leadership needs to help massage the culture in a way that’s accessible, understandable, and encourages healthy and thriving teams and individuals.

It must start here. Bad boss behavior can be mitigated, managed, and corrected but it must start with acknowledging that the issues exist in the first place! Don’t be fooled, especially if you’re in leadership – your team already is aware of the disfunction; they are just waiting for you to be the leader that they know you can be.

Most Asked Interview Questions – And How to Answer Them

[Click to make larger or download]

interview-questions-infographic

I found this over the weekend. This could be helpful for those looking for a job.

It is interesting, however, that we find in research that the person interviewing you pretty much makes a mental decision about you within the first 15 minutes or so… so those first crucial minutes are the most important. We find even more, that recruiters or interviewers have an even better chance at hiring you if they are even more deeply informed about who you are prior to them meeting you, understanding your team dynamics, your personality, and even how you process data. Recruiters and hiring managers alike love Team Science™ because that’s exactly what it allows them to do, before you even step in the door.

 

Man Alone Keeps Time

time-clock

“Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”

― Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper

I know we have to make profits and such in business… but, on this wonderful Friday, I wonder… “At what cost?”

No More After Hours Calls from the Boss

Germany’s employment ministry has banned its managers from calling or emailing staff out of hours except in emergencies, under new guidelines intended to prevent employees from burning out.

The guidelines state that ministry staff should not be penalized for switching off their mobiles or failing to pick up messages out of hours.

The move follows similar restrictions on out-of-hours email imposed by German firms including Volkswagen, BMW and Puma.

VW stops forwarding emails to staff from its company servers half an hour after the end of the working day, while other firms have declared that workers are not expected to check email at weekends or in their free time.

The labour ministry’s rules only allow contact if the task cannot be postponed until the next working day. Managers should apply a principle of “minimum intervention” into workers’ free time and keep the number of people whose spare time is disrupted as low as possible.

The code is part of a broader agreement covering remote working. Ursula von der Leyen, the labour minister, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung the rules had been drawn up to protect workers’ mental health. The minister said that it was important for remote workers to know: “When they have to be available, and when they don’t. They now have this clarity in black and white.”

“It’s in the interests of employers that workers can reliably switch off from their jobs, otherwise, in the long run, they burn out,” she said.

The minister called on companies to set clear rules over the out-of-hours availability of their workers earlier this year, warning that: “technology should not be allowed to control us and dominate our lives. We should control technology.”

The culture of routinely checking emails in spare time came under the spotlight in July, when the chief executive of Switzerland’s biggest telecoms group was found dead at his flat in a suspected suicide.

In an interview in May, Carsten Schloter, boss of Swisscom, criticized the need to be permanently engaged.

“The most dangerous thing that can happen is that you drop into a mode of permanent activity,” he said. “When you permanently check your smartphone to see if there are any new emails. It leads to you not finding any rest whatsoever.”

[VIA: Telegraph]

High-Performance Organizations via Mentoring – Peter Saddington at Agile Leadership Summit

June 6, 2014. See you there?

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Link to the Agile Leadership Summit.

[Abstract]

Did you know that over half of Nobel Prize winners were apprenticed by other Nobel laureates? To grow companies and teams to performance you have to take servant leadership to it’s logical conclusion: Intentionally mentoring and growing others. This is a time-tested and practiced art. As a volunteer life coach and marriage counselor and Organizational Consultant, I’m passionate about this art and would love to share with you how to take your teams to the next level of performance. Let it be known, this is a long, tough road, but the benefits are worth more than their weight in gold. Let’s talk about mentoring and how to get started, the 6 areas of a mentor relationship and 6 tips for mentors.

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

Weekend Reading – #Deming 14 Points for Management

edwards-demming-book-quality-productivity-competitive-position

Find yourself Deming’s 14 Points for Management. You can never remind yourself enough.

  1. ”Create constancy of purpose towards improvement” – Replace short-term reaction with long-term planning.
  2. ”Adopt the new philosophy” – The implication is that management should actually adopt his philosophy, rather than merely expect the workforce to do so.
  3. ”Cease dependence on inspection” – If variation is reduced, there is no need to inspect manufactured items for defects, because there won’t be any.
  4. ”Move towards a single supplier for any one item” –  Multiple suppliers mean variation between feedstocks.
  5. ”Improve constantly and forever” – Constantly strive to reduce variation.
  6. ”Institute training on the job”  If people are inadequately trained, they will not all work the same way, and this will introduce variation.
  7. ”Institute leadership” – Deming makes a distinction between leadership and mere supervision. The latter is quota- and target-based.
  8. ”Drive out fear” – Deming sees management by fear as counter- productive in the long term, because it prevents workers from acting in the organization’s best interests.
  9. ”Break down barriers between departments” – Another idea central to TQM is the concept of the ‘internal customer’, that each department serves not the management, but the other departments that use its outputs.
  10. ”Eliminate slogans” – Another central TQM idea is that it’s not people who make most mistakes – it’s the process they are working within. Harassing the workforce without improving the processes they use is counter-productive.
  11. ”Eliminate management by objectives” – Deming saw production targets as encouraging the delivery of poor-quality goods.
  12. ”Remove barriers to pride of workmanship” – Many of the other problems outlined reduce worker satisfaction.
  13. ”Institute education and self-improvement”
  14. ”The transformation is everyone’s job”

The Life of an Agile Coach in a Song

TOPPOP: Atlanta Rhythm Section – Georgia Rhythm

Being from Atlanta… yup.

Livin’ out of a suitcase
Sleepin’ in hotel rooms
Rental cars and airport bars
And dog day afternoons

My occupation is a picker
And music is my game
Sometimes it makes me crazy
But I would not change a thing

So lay down a back beat
Crank up your trusty Gibson
Let’s give it everything we got just one more time
Lovin’ the life we’re livin’
Playin’ that Georgia rhythm
Nothin’ else ever made me feel so fine

Four o’clock in the morning
Waitin’ for a plane
We passed around the bottle, Lord
And we don’t feel no pain

Life out here on the highway
Has its ups and downs
But last night the Georgia rhythm
Tore up another town

So lay down a back beat
Crank up your trusty Gibson, it’s alright
Let’s give it everything we got just one more time
One more time
Lovin’ the life we’re livin’
Playin’ that Georgia rhythm
Nothin’ else ever made me feel this fine, yeah

Alright

Rising above the madness
Homeward bound again
To normal ways and lazy days
And old familiar friends

Some conversation with my lady
Some love long overdue
God knows I hate to leave her
But I got a job to do

So lay down a back beat
Crank up your trusty Gibson, son
Let’s give it everything we got just one more time
Lovin’ the life we’re livin’
Playin’ that Georgia rhythm
Makin’ music, movin’ on down the line
One more time

Lay down a back beat
Crank up your trusty Gibson
Let’s give it everything we got just one more time, one more time
Lovin’ the life we’re livin’
Playin’ that Georgia rhythm
Nothin’ else ever made me feel this fine

Give it everything we got just one more time

Team, Work.

When we spend time with teams with often repeat a number of things over and over and over again in order that they might, at some point in time, “stick” in their minds like dried cement.

One of these is the simple fact that optimizing team performance and team dynamics takes work – and not a small amount either. You see, we can bring all the strategy, tactics, tools, technology, consulting, coaching, and we could even spend our precious time simply yelling at you (but we don’t) – and none of that would do any good unless the individuals and teams have committed themselves to do the tough work necessary of improving themselves and their team.

That’s why we title some of our activities and group assignments as “Team, Work” – reminding the group that it’s going to take your Team + Work to make this happen (or = Teamwork). Not overly clever, I know, but it does cause a few to pause when they see it.

As is often the case, many people commit to the idea of change and perhaps might even fall in love with the idea of change but it can be difficult at times to commit the actual effort that is required.

But your teams, your organizations, and the products, services, and solutions that you have for your clients and customers are worth it – and you’ll serve them better when you’re a better team and more optimized organization.

Go for it! Commit to the work, effort, and time required to help your team improve their performance and enhance the culture and everyday environment.  You don’t have to use Team Science™ to do this either as there are many options for improving team performance out there – the point is that you budget in the time, realistically, so that it can be scheduled in appropriately and intentionally.

Our passion is to see teams grow and perform better. Shouldn’t that be one of your top priorities as well?

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – A Review

safe-scaled-agile-framework-review

A SAFe Class Review for Agilists / Consultants

“When you become all things to everyone, you satisfy none.” – But maybe you’ll become a consultant.

“You strive to never compromise on your values or principles, when you do, you become nothing.” – But if you do, maybe you become a consultant.

“The difference between a methodologist and a terrorist is that you can negotiate with a terrorist.” – But methodologists can become rich consultants.

Preface

Like any method or framework one needs to be highly-contextual as to how facets of that method will work within your organization. Meaning, you have to pick and choose what works.

Being educated in a “new” idea of sorts is really (at least to me), and exercise in reflection, introspection, and self-awareness. I was, of sorts, doing reconnaissance. I was also looking for things I might be able to pull from the SAFe framework for my client and coaching work. In some deeper ways, I was looking to see whether my heart was ready for a codified framework on something I’ve been attempting to do for several years. This is an ego issue (hell, I’ve even published a book on Agile).

program-consultant
SAFe SPC Training

The first time I touched SAFe was a 2 day course held at my client 5-6 months ago (I got to participate for free because I was, after all, a coach on-site). I was aloof, un-attentive, and didn’t take it very seriously as I was also juggling other consulting duties (e.g. being pulled out of class). Now, after paying $3000+ out of my own pocket, I dug in. I got serious about learning this.

My company has rolled out Agile at scale at several places, and one of my favorite and most successful (probably why it’s my favorite) was a $22.7M program that I was the Agile Architect for, and presented a part of our results at Agile2012 in an IEEE paper. Our company has it’s own home-brewed version of scaling Agile, and we’ve been pretty successful in multiple places. We’ve also had our failures.

That being said, taking this class on the Scaled Agile Framework has allowed me to see many things. A couple here:

  1. What SAFe espouses is pretty in-line with what we’ve done, on many levels.
  2. What SAFe prescribes is thoughtful and well-intentioned. It just takes it a bit too far and defines everything… almost too much… but I can see why this is a great selling idea.

What SAFe is Far Better At Than Most Continue reading “The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – A Review”

“Survey” – Not “Test,” Not “Assessment”

It’s a SURVEY dude.

One of the most important things that we share with our customers and those that we coach is to change their thinking (and their word choice) from “test” and “assessment” and instead use “survey” when they use our tool and instrument.

This might seem like a small thing to you but it actually makes a significant psychological difference for our users for many reasons, the largest being that the general feeling and assumption when using a word like “test” is that you can or may fail it.

The challenge was birthed out of our culture and educational system as well as the way we often approach these types of instruments. Unfortunately, there still exists a sentiment that you can actually “win” or “fail” a psychometric evaluation or assessment (and hence the word “test”) when that is completely untrue – or at least with our device.

There is no better or worse score that anyone can achieve in the results – it’s rather a statement of who you are and a statement of “what is” – 5’s are not better than 1’s and 1’s are not better than 5’s. More “flat” results are not better than big downs and ups and a rollercoaster-like score are not better than more “stable” scores (as some people may call it).

Example Team Results
Example Team Results

As a result, we kindly and politely educate our customers that this isn’t really a test at all but rather a simple survey of your responses and most natural answers to very simple questions. This enables the person to feel more free with their answers and more comfortable with their results, which is a significant win for us!

Coaching individuals and teams through our process is critical for seeing the results rightly, or with more nuance and care – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover your results and then begin to practically apply them instantly but there is a significant difference between being walked through them with a trained and professional eye.

For those that love coaching metaphors a very apt one is this: It’s like a sports team playing without a coach – sure, it’s possible and they may even do well without one, for a time – but the best teams have incredible coaches, giving encouragement, insight, direction, and guidance as well as making sure everything is in fulfilling their core objectives as one, instead of a fragmented whole.

We see our jobs as careful messengers of the results helping teams and organizations understand the results of the assessment, not as a graded exercise but as an opportunity to turn potential into incredible power.

No, this is not a test because you can’t fail it!

Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week? Not Your Fault…

There’s been a lot of discussion lately around whether the 40hr per work week is still the optimal working schedule to keep, spurred on by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg who mentioned recently that she leaves the office at *gasp* 5:30pm so she can spend more time with her kids:

I was showing everyone I worked for that, I worked just as hard. I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say, “Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.” And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.

Oh, the horror! Right?

Well, we all know intimately that most of us work way more than 40 hours in any given week. As Sandberg notes, it’s quite unfortunate that some industries and businesses still make it a big deal and make it a badge of honor to work an incredible amount of hours while industry reports and studies have shown time and time again that working more than that decreases productivity! Continue reading “Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week? Not Your Fault…”

State of Agile™ is Out – Oh Fancy Lookin’

I always look forward to reading VersionOne’s State of Agile report. It’s out this week and this year VersionOne has done something p.h.a.t. with the format.

In addition to the long PDF they always publish, this year the State of Agile has its own Web site! For all you old-timers who hate change, you can still download the full report, where there are lots of juicy stats to help you make wiser decisions around your agile initiatives. The new site simply makes it easier for us lazy slackers who just want the highlights spoon-fed to us. VersionOne has broken down the most interesting data into 5 main sections:

  • ·         Why Agile?
  • ·         Scale Agile
  • ·         Practices & Tools
  • ·         Agile Momentum
  • ·         About the Survey/Survey Demographics

What’s the most interesting thing I found from picking through it? Hmmm, tough call. But I think I’ll go with the new chart that cross-tabulates the top reasons people go agile vs. the top areas where agile delivers ACTUAL improvements. Pretty interesting to see proof that agile actually delivers on what’s most important when you compare people’s general pre-implementation “wish-list” to reported benefits afterward.

Oh, and the site finally solves the problem of Googling past years’ reports when you want to see how data has been trending over the years. All historical data back to 2006 is on the site. Nice work, VersionOne!

You should definitely check it out at StateofAgile.com. Share the whole site or just individual stats; they’ve made it super easy! Got a comment? Speak up here; I’d love to know what you think.

The Best Audio Visual Tool is the Presenter

To be honest, I’m not a super-fan of using audio and visual tools in presentations, coaching sessions, and training – this is more about the overuse of these tools and technology and how they are oftentimes digital crutches for the presenter to gloss over the fact that the trainer is boring, the content is unappealing, or worse yet, both.

I have found that the most effective trainers and coaches are also incredible communicators – that is to say, they are exceptionally good at using their own voice, their strongest and most vital asset and too, to communicate life-giving truth to their listeners.

Audio and visual communication tools, like the all mighty Microsoft Powerpoint (we like to use Apple’s Keynote, a far more rich and attractive technology), exist to supplement, augment perhaps, but not replace the main communication device: The presenter.

That’s why we spend a lot of time working on our training decks and minimizing their use while increasing the time spent building relationships during our time with the individuals, teams and organizations. We also heavily invest in developing our coaching techniques to provide maximum use of our staff and our trainers instead of bulking up on training decks, slides, and technology.

We’re not interested in hiring or working with parrot presenters – and neither do the businesses and team’s that partner with us want those types of people training their most valuable asset. We find dynamic presenters, trainers, and coaches who’s core craft and toolkit are their communication techniques… and by the way, Action & Influence were voted the Best Training Company in Atlanta for 2013!

But... I do like taking breaks during training :) - Not sure why people take pictures of me doing this though...
But… I do like taking breaks during training 🙂 – Not sure why people take pictures of me doing this though…

Sure, slides and presentations, music and video files are valuable and very useful – but you and I both know (and have experienced) training classes, seminars, keynotes, and lectures that are more about us watching a video for the majority of the session while the trainer and teacher checks their mobile device and email.

Let’s be the best trainers and coaches that we can possibly be and leverage our best resource for our students and those that we train: Ourselves.

How to Build Customer Trust with Blog Content – a 4 Step Process

Ed Hill: In content marketing we’re trying to answer customer questions to help customers meet their needs. Plus if we do a good job with the content customers are gonna share this content with their friends across their social networks. But the problem is creating enough content quickly.

Fifty-one percent of marketers struggle to create enough content for their marketing blogs.

To answer this question we’re talking to Jamie Grimes.  Jamie’s worked as a content strategist for marketing websites such as Autotrader.com Apartment guide.com and Healthcare IT Leaders.

Jaime Grimes: So you can use blogs to give longer pieces of information to your customers. Maybe you’re listening through social media and you find that they want a specific topic and If want you to talk about it so you can use blogs to speak to them that way or you can use blogs to tell them about your company information in a way that you know they can relate to.
Continue reading “How to Build Customer Trust with Blog Content – a 4 Step Process”

The Half Arsed Agile Manifesto

Manifesto for Half-Arsed Agile Software Development

We have heard about new ways of developing software by
paying consultants and reading Gartner reports. Through
this we have been told to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools…and we have mandatory processes and tools to control how those individuals (we prefer the term ‘resources’) interact

Working software over comprehensive documentation… as long as that software is comprehensively documented

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation… within the boundaries of strict contracts, of course, and subject to rigorous change control

Responding to change over following a plan…provided a detailed plan is in place to respond to the change, and it is followed precisely

That is, while the items on the left sound nice
in theory, we’re an enterprise company, and there’s
no way we’re letting go of the items on the right.

Lol!

[HT: Kerry Buckley]

The Challenge of Changing Culture

people-culture-teams-agileA hot topic right now among businesses and organizations is the idea around culture development and the value of culture in the work place, environment, and employee morale.

There’s been a swing of the pendulum, perhaps, where we’re headed back to what made great companies great – incredible cultural dynamics and a rich history of employee satisfaction. Unfortunately we engage with far too many companies that say they have great culture but the employees, if you ask them honestly, will say that it’s really not true – or at least it’s not felt that way.

Most people, both individual contributors and management alike, agree that changing the culture is a “priority” for their organization because they fundamentally believe that a better culture will reveal increased productivity, increased morale, and higher value for the business and their customers.

The challenge is not that you have to sell someone on the value of a changing culture, that is, being closer to a more optimal and functional culture, but how they are actually going to get there. Improving processes, building systems, using newer (and newer) software can help a bit but it’s not a matter of tools or technology or even time: It’s about people.

The challenge of changing culture ultimately is tied to the people that run the business culture – and it’s not just those in the C-Suite, it’s everyone on staff. Continue reading “The Challenge of Changing Culture”