[Tool Review] – UpstartHQ – Next Best Thing to a Physical Kanban Whiteboard

What does a little green frog, a new startup, and free software look like? It may just look like UpstartHQ, who are currently building yet another light and simple kanban tool (tailored for startups)? Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty. It’s simple… almost offensively simple. But that’s the point, right?

[Enter]: UpstartHQNot a physical kanban board, but may just be the next best thing!

Sign up, click the verification email in your email box and you’re ready to roll.

Go on, add your first story. It’s simple. If you’re quick enough, you can fill up an entire kanban board in seconds (like I did above). Continue reading “[Tool Review] – UpstartHQ – Next Best Thing to a Physical Kanban Whiteboard”

[Tool Review] – Impediment Monkey – Get Those Blockers Off Your Back

Just released: A brand spanking new tool called Impediment Monkey.

Essentially, this tool is a simple way to track bugs, impediments, issues, blockers, or monkeys on your back… what ever you call them! If you’re using Scrum, Kanban, Lean or other methods that support continuous improvement, Impediment Monkey helps you make improvements faster.

Impediment Monkey takes in, notifies, helps in resolving and makes bashing impediments exciting and objective. Additionally, Impediment Monkey lets you assign, follow up, chart trends and even provides expert services to support your impediment bashing efforts.

A pretty simple popup comes up when you want to report an impediment.

If you need to add a note, simple. Add a note!

And… that’s pretty much it for now. They’re looking to continue to improve this over time, so feel free to drop them a note as to how to improve it. So far, it’s simple and light. It may just be what you need… for your own team or your personal life! Continue reading “[Tool Review] – Impediment Monkey – Get Those Blockers Off Your Back”

Top 50 Most Influential Management Gurus in 2011- Only 1 Asian Guy

Don't Get Mad. It's funny!

Every 2 years, The Thinkers 50, publishes a list of The 50 Most Influential Management Gurus.

The list contains many well-known names here are some of the more well known winners:

  • Jim Collins (Good to Great & Build to Last),
  • Michael Porter (Competitive Advantage),
  • Marcus Buckingham (First, Break All The Rules & Now, Discover Your Strengths),
  • Don Tapscott (Wikinomics),
  • Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point & Blink),
  • Gary Hamel (The Core Competence of the Corporation),
  • Seth Godin (Purple Cow),
  • Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence & The Pursuit of WOW!),
  • Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat),
  • Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) and
  • Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Only 1 Asian Winner?

What I find interesting is that though all of the winners definitely deserve the recognition, I find it odd that there isn’t more representation from the Asia/Pacific Rim area (though there are 7 selected gurus from Indian origin). If you come from a heavy software development background, especially Agile, we have relied heavily on the influence of many a guru from the Asian lands. And I find it somewhat funny that the Asian man who did win is from France… … I could name a few successful Asian professionals…

Among Fortune 500 CEOs, seven are of Asian descent:

  • Ajay Banga of MasterCard
  • Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo
  • Vikram Pandit of Citigroup
  • Surya Mohapatra of Quest Diagnostics
  • Andrea Jung of Avon Products
  • Kevin Murai of Synnex
  • Jeff Yabuki of Fiserv

Ok ok… so researchers, supported by Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and Time Warner, conducted 2,952 surveys of working-aged men and women and gathered qualitative and quantitative data. They concluded that many Asian-Americans, whether immigrant or native born, find it hard to “fit in” the upper management ranks.

According to the report, it’s not necessarily that they’re victims of discrimination. It’s that Asian-Americans don’t toot their own horns, don’t flourish in American-style networking and office politics, and may struggle with communication.

Is that the reason why? No self promotion?

[HT: HBR.com]

Retrospective 60 – Invest in Your Team & #Agile Cults


Invest in Your Team – Know Them

It’s easy to forget that we people first, employees, team-members, SMEs, and executives second. Unfortunately the natural result is that we find variation and difference in who we are before we understand the similarities that we all share.

The result? Conflict. And it’s your job to manage it well. You see, people are truly the X-Factor.

You just never know how team dynamics will play out until you grow with your team or company. Some people work very well together, some people just don’t work out at all.

I’m always hesitant when I hear that someone left a company due to “not being a good culture fit.” I believe it is the fault of the employer almost 99% of the time for the individual leaving the company. Why? Because the company or boss did not care enough to know who that person was: Their passions, drivers, or what incentives move them to action.

In fact, the culture fit probably should have been the most-vetted area, even before skill set!

I worked with a company in which there were several individuals on a team that were very hard nuts to crack. They had prickly personalities and were rough-around-the-edges types of people. The company culture was changing – they were moving to Agile under my guidance. After many different types of attempts to bring them on board it seemed that it may just be impossible to get their full support.

Something had to give. Something had to change or we were headed in the wrong direction.

Understand Your People

After many different attempts I discovered the solution – it started with one individual and was tremendously simple: A conversation, coupled with a challenge: 

“Have you ever considered that people may see you as a leader?”

“No… not really.”

“Well, people do. They need your leadership and guidance to help us build this product better…”

“Really? I guess so…”

“What do you think your attitude does to the environment your team members live in? It’s hard for them to approach you, it’s hard for them to collaborate with you because of your general attitude.”

“Seriously? Wow, I hope I didn’t offend anyone…”

“Well, you’ll have to work on that. They need a leader. I know if you get up and help out more, get involved, people will be able to work with you better and we can create a better product.”

Don’t Give Up

People are an enigma until you make the serious attempt to get to know them. In more times than most it’ll take time to get to know that person.

Sometimes, even a bit of tough love may just work. You’ve hired (hopefully) top talent to help your company grow. That isn’t where the investment stops. Invest time into your people. Get to know them. Grow your relationships. Whatever industry you are in, it is the people who help teams and companies succeed.

[VIA: CTOBlog]

Agile is a Cult – Follow the 5 Ways and Be Saved!

William Gill put together an all to funny example of how Agile is becoming like a cult:

You Are One of the Chosen:

You will read the bible, go to church and believe in God, or you will go to hell. Period.

The Founding Fathers are your gods. Respect them and prosper:

You will honour, awe and respect the agile founding fathers. The more often you can use this image in a presentation about agile the better.

You will respect the sacred parchment and laws:

The Agile Manifesto is the artifact that serves to both prove the validity and authenticity of our beliefs, and also lay down the ground rules for how your soul will be saved.

Our Strange Rituals are Rites in Which We Grow our Faith:

Secret handshakes, rituals, traditions, sacred artifacts: Standups, sprint reviews, sprint plannings, a 3-week lunar cycle…

You will read, follow, and respect the ultimate guide and rulebook:

The path to software salvation is in the handbooks on Agile.

Love it.

ScrumMaster Daily Check List

There is a reason why when you get on a flight the two pilots go through an intense check list. Why? Because check lists work. If you are the Perfect ScrumMaster, who passed all the ScrumMaster Interview Questions, this checklist may just help you:

Each day

  • Can you see the taskboard?
  • Does it have a full set of stories/tasks?
  • Does the client know what’s been committed to on the board?
  • Has it been updated since yesterday?
  • Are there ‘you are here’ arrows?
  • Are there stories awaiting done-done checking?
  • Can you see the burndown?
  • Has it been updated since yesterday?
  • Is it under the glideslope?
  • Can you see the release plan?
  • Do you know what’s likely to be in the next iteration?
  • Are most of next iteration’s stories now unblocked?
  • Has there been a daily stand-up?
  • Can you see the demo date? Is everyone who’s needed attending?
  • Can you see the product owner’s name and contact details?
  • Does the team believe in what they’re building, and why?

Each sprint

  • Are there cutoff lines (with risk multipliers) on the release plan?
  • Have all the clients seen the RP? Is there a stealth client?
  • Do all the clients know the current velocity? Do you?
  • Have we been paid for this iteration?
  • Is there one email per completed iteration, showing stories completed, velocity, risks and projected scope?

Retrospective 59 – Agile Sucks… and the Answer?


You Think You’re #LEAN?!?


I am often a purveyor of fresh Twitter food for my readers. I thought I would enlighten all of you noobs about what really goes on with the #lean hashtag.

Obviously you must not know!?

Not only is #lean meant for those interested in software development, manufacturing methods, and reduction of waste in any type of process… but it is also a common drink mixed and concocted by some of the best, brightest, and highest-elite of our society:

“Dat #lean got my thoed.”

“Dat #lean got my swervin.”

“Mayne… hol’ up… I got too much #lean in my cup…”

Oh… and here is one for #AGILE.

You know… if you scour twitter… you’ll see an underground economy beyond the eyes of the professional elite. My young Padawan, to learn, there is much, erhm? Oh, how we can learn from these fresh young men and woman who have such a knack for intellectually stimulating conversation and unique ideas. Oh, how I yearn to sit under their tutelage!

Agile Success Stories – Case Study Call for Submissions!

After speaking with many other Agile Coaches and Consultants out there about successes in Agile transformation and adoption… it’s about time to document them.

My desire in this initiative is to collect success stories around Agile coaching engagements.

Are You an Agile Coach or Consultant?

Submit your case study or example of a successful Agile engagement, transformation, or adoption.

Are You Looking for Examples of Successful Agile Implementations?

Look no further. I hope to build an entire collection of robust examples of Agile transformations based on real life stories. Heck, you may even find the right consultant for your business challenge… why? Because you read about his/her real life work example.

Submit Your Story!

  1. Submit your story [here].
  2. Your submission will be reviewed and posted online for thousands to see.
Simple. Fill out the form and prove to us that Agile methods truly do work.

Agile Sucks, Agile Fails – I Hate Agile

Oh Agile, why do we hate thee so much?

If you ever did a search for the terms: “Agile sucks, I hate Agile, Agile fails, Why Agile doesn’t Work,” etc… you’ll find yourself in an internet flame war against Agile. Click a couple links and you’ll find people from all walks of life flaming Agile. From developers, project managers, and even executive level folk.

So, why the backlash? What’s the problem?

Simply put. I believe there isn’t enough writing around case studies, or white papers on how Agile has succeeded. You hear a lot about agile theory, or new ideas around agile methodology (which it isn’t, by the way).

Agile is all about helping the customer. Finding the value where it can be found. In one sense, Agile is the method or process of helping people. 

Knowing the ins-and-outs of Agile, Scrum, DSDM, Crystal, TDD, blah, blah is great and all. Hey man, let’s see those case studies where it’s actually worked! My commitment next year is to only submit talks to Agile conferences around case studies. I plan on writing more about case studies here… or on another blog… … but I think I found the answer: Agile White Papers and Case Studies. Check it out!

Maybe we’ve been agilizing everything too much. Let me see where it’s worked. Sing me a song pianoman. Tell me a story.

Should Developers Know the Business Customers?

We often hear that we need to ‘know our customers.’ We need to know what their needs, wants, and desires are.

What made Steve Jobs so great at what he did was that he intimately knew what his consumer base wanted… and then created the best darn product out there. He revolutionized the way we listen to music, and changed the way we interact with technology.

As developers, we often can have a tendency to want to create something that we seriously think will be helpful or useful to others. We want to make the best products and we want to add those features that… well, we would use. We hate wasting time.

Often though, this doesn’t exactly fall in line with what the real customer might want.

“But it’s new and cool, dude.”

We hear statistics around how much of the features of a product aren’t used. I mean, look at Microsoft Word or Excel. I would bet that 95% of those features aren’t used. What the heck?

In Agile/Scrum we have a Product Owner, sometimes a liaison, or representative of the customer. What would happen if we have the team show off the software to actual customers, get revisions and edits, and build what they want? I’m working with a company right now in which I suggested they do just that: Put their development team in a position to speak with customers. So far? It’s working.

Now, I wouldn’t suggest that all companies do this, but for this particular situation it works.

Deploy. Show your customers, get feedback. Inspect, adapt, refine. Improve. Oh wait… yes, that can include the whole agile team and developers too. 🙂

LeadingAgile + AgileScout? Pure Awesomeness in Atlanta

From Mike Cottmeyer:

Wanted to let you guys in on a little news… LeadingAgile is getting a little bigger. Dennis Stevens and I welcome Peter Saddington (aka @agilescout) into the LeadingAgile family.

Between the three of us, we have a broad and very complimentary set of skills and experiences. We are in the process of establishing the premier Agile consultancy in the Southeast. Pretty exiting stuff, huh?

Want more information about Mike, Dennis, or Peter?  Check out our bio pages:

About Mike Cottmeyer
About Dennis Stevens
About Peter Saddington

[HT: LeadingAgile]

David J. Bland, Brad Murphy, and Peter Saddington Take on Agile Questions

[Reposted from InfoQ]

The InfoQ editor Chris Goldsbury reports a Friday afternoon conversation with some noted agile practitioners covering the current state and future trends of the methodological universe and how these are playing out in the real world.

InfoQ: The Standish Group for 2011 is reporting that project success (on time, on budget, with functionality intended) improved by 5%.  From your vantage point is this a result of increased agile adoption in the market place?  Are there other factors at play?  Are we getting better at delivering software development projects consistently?

Brad: My view is that clients are being more careful about how they approach projects in general and that’s probably what’s leading to the improvement. I wouldn’t correlate agile to this improvement. It’s hard to differentiate between those who are really doing agile and those who are doing faux agile. So many times we come into a client and find they’ve only partially adopted some practices, and this watered down agility creates the mistaken belief that they’re successful at agile implementation.

Peter: I agree with Brad. Project metrics aren’t getting better because of agile. If you look at the need in the market, how it’s trending, as I do, what you see is a lot of shops doing agile poorly or in a lightweight way. People aren’t transforming their culture; they’re just going through the motions and calling it agile. Standish’s report may give companies a reason to believe agile is better at delivering projects, but that’s not what we are seeing.

Brad: Standish report metrics may be flawed. Mature agile teams are trying to optimize value. Not necessarily stick to the rigid Standish metrics of scope, schedule and budget. If we’re late, but we delivered successful functionality then is that really a failure? If we only deliver 40% of scope but that’s where the major value is…isn’t that successful? Standish doesn’t measure this.

Peter: We need a new metric for measuring software development project success. It’s not just about scope, time, budget, risks, and issues. It’s about harnessing overall value. How does Standish measure that?

David: My major issue with Standish is it is flawed from the get-go. They assume we know the solution from the start. We rarely know this. We can’t use a cookie cutter approach when doing software development and Standish assumes that our initial plan won’t adjust as we move through project delivery.

InfoQ: Is there too much hype around agile / lean or other methodologies?  How does this affect your business?  Continue reading “David J. Bland, Brad Murphy, and Peter Saddington Take on Agile Questions”

What Consultants are All About

[My Agile Coach friend sent this to me. I thought it was hilarious]

Everything You Need to Know About Consultants

A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Oliver Peoples sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”

The shepherd looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers, “Sure. Why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Apple notebook computer, connects it to his Verizon iPhone, surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his iPhone that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of complex formulas. He uploads all of this data via an email on his iPhone and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the shepherd and says,

“You have exactly 1586 sheep.”

“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my sheep.” Says the shepherd. He watches the young man selects one of the animals stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

“Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?”

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

“You’re a consultant.” says the shepherd.

“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required.” answered the shepherd. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew; to a question I never asked; and you don’t know crap about my business.

“…Now give me back my dog.”

[EPIC] Continue reading “What Consultants are All About”

People, NOT Technology

One of the most important things that I’ve discovered over the last two decades of building software and leading technology teams is that technology is never really the problem, especially in terms of leadership.

People are the challenge 9 out of 10 times because it’s people that ultimately have to use the technology and the solutions that a technology manager and leader provide.

Execution is always far easier than change management and the introduction (just introducing, not implementing) new systems is always easier than getting people to like them, much less actually use them effectively and well.

The examples are too numerous to give but there are few better examples in our socially-connected world than social media and the so-called strategies therein.

For example signing up for a Facebook account for our business takes all but 15 seconds – faster if you’ve setup an account before. But executing on a Facebook page for your business is not a strategy. In fact, Facebook isn’t a strategy at all.

Any good leader knows that his biggest challenge is the people first and technology as a very, very distant second.

[VIA: CTOBlog]

Just Ship It, Execute, Continuous Delivery and Innovation Please!

Most people think innovation is all about ideas, when in fact it is more about delivery, people, and process.

Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, in their book The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge (Harvard Business Review) tell us 10 myths around the ability to continually innovate, execute, and ship ideas:

  1. Innovation is all about ideas – Ideas are only beginnings. Without the necessary focus, discipline, and resources on execution, nothing happens.
  2. A great leader never fails at innovation – The inherent conflicts between innovation and ongoing operations are simply too fundamental and too powerful for one person to tackle alone.
  3. Effective innovation leaders are subversives fighting the system – Effective innovation leaders are not necessarily the biggest risk takers, mavericks, and rebels. The primary virtue of an effective innovation leader is humility.
  4. Everyone can be an innovator – Ideation is everyone’s job but most team members don’t have the bandwidth or interest to do their existing job, and well as address major innovations.
  5. Real innovation happens bottoms-up – Innovation initiatives of any appreciable scale require a formal, intentional resource commitment.
  6. Innovation can be embedded inside an established organization – Some forms of innovation can be imbedded, like continuous product improvement, but discontinuous innovation is basically incompatible with ongoing operations.
  7. Initiating innovation requires wholesale organizational change – Innovation requires only targeted change. The first principle is to do no harm to existing operations.
  8. Innovation can only happen in skunk works – Innovation should not be isolated from ongoing operations. Nearly every worthwhile innovation initiative needs to leverage existing assets and capabilities.
  9. Innovation is unmanageable chaos – Unfortunately, best practices for generating ideas have almost nothing to do with best practices for moving them forward. Innovation must be closely and carefully managed, during the 99% of the journey that is execution.
  10. Only startups can innovate. Luckily for entrepreneurs, many large companies are convinced that they must leave innovation to startups. Yet research suggests that many of the world’s biggest problems can only be solved by large, established corporations.

[HT: Forbes]

Create a Work Environment that Values Design and UX

Jeff Gothelf wrote a very succinct and compelling article about how to better integrate design in Agile.

Critical to the success of any user experience team is an organization that values its contribution.

  1. In essence, Development managers need to set the expectation with their staff that design is critical to the team’s success. As you begin to build your UX practice in this environment, ensure that you have frequent conversations with these managers to review how their staffs are reacting to the addition of designers to their teams.
  2. Let the team into the designer’s world. Let them see what they do and how they do it, and let them experience the benefits that come from doing UX and design work.
  3. Dedicate each designer exclusively to one particular scrum team. They should feel like they are a part of their scrum team and feel connected to that team’s focus. In doing so, the designer’s priorities become clear.
  4. By creating an environment that values design, promotes its benefits and spreads this gospel through the allocation of UX resources across individual teams, companies will lay the foundation for successful team-building and adoption of the agile process down the road.

[HT: SmashingMag]

Has Soccer Changed The Way We Do Business?

I found an interesting article by Todd Dewett about how “Soccer Has Ruined America.” His suggestion for how best to improve our economy in the long-term has little to do with stimulus spending or reductions in the size of government. Todd’s favorite recipe for economic recovery: the elimination of youth soccer from the United States!

The real underlying culprit is our suicidal belief that every kid deserves a trophy. The adult version of this mental disease is the belief that every employee deserves recognition as a super performer. A generation of soccer kids who were all told they are number one now dominates the modern workplace – and they want their trophy!

Interesting idea. I would agree and disagree with this statement.

Todd goes on to say that his belief is that we must treat people the same and not the same at the same time. We treat people the same by providing a positive and transparent workplace. We treat people not the same by clearly recognizing and rewarding contingent on performance. We differentiate based on performance!

While I’m all about differentiation and providing people the ability to succeed in their work, I’m not so sure that soccer… or kids sports is the real issue. As a father, good parenting goes a long way. 🙂

I think the real issue is our educational system, where we truly DO celebrate mediocrity (where you can get a certificate for being “on time” for class 30 days in a row).

None of this, however, speaks to team-building, or the facets that make up a high performing Agile team.

The question I have is: “How can you continually grow a high-performing team in a world where people feel they need to be super recognized?”

[HT: SVProjectManagement]

Props Where Props are Due?

*Edit* – Ok ok. I’m editing this like my stack exchange account. So, since posting this I’ve received 4 emails blasting me about it. Sorry! Sorry! I found this image online while searching for “Steve Jobs Innovation” on google…

*Full Disclosure* – I’m a HUGE Steve Jobs fan. I own 3 Macs, 2 iPhones, iPad2, and use Mac software. I bought his biography, I watched the Steve Jobs special on tv last week.

OK. So, I think the image above is somewhat poor taste. Though it is interesting how people are impacted by leaders in our industry differently. To me, my life has changed because of Jobs. But also Ritchie changed my life, see his Wikipedia here. Dennis Ritchie put my the position I am in today… from a developer/coder. Thanks to both. Period.

Retrospective 57 – #LeanGiving and Faking Project Management


Course Canvas – Create Your Agile Workshops

Blogger David J. Bland has created a pretty neat 1-pager that helps people create workshops, or at least, visually figure out how to build them. It’s free, it’s simple, it’s Agile. Check out CourseCanvas to use it!

I think I may just try using this to create my next workshop. See how I make a Perfect Agile Workshop here.

[HT: CourseCanvas.com]

Team Building and Casteller


In the city of Tarragona, Spain, castellers gather every two years to see who can build the highest, most intricate human castles. This uniquely Catalan tradition requires astonishing strength, finesse, and balance. Not to mention courage.

Mike Randolph captured a fantastic video of team work. So much of what happens during this contest is what software development teams (can and should) go through as well:

  • Planning – Figuring out how to build together
  • Organizing – Putting the right pieces in place (strongest guys at the bottom)
  • Building and Iterating – Level by level, they build
  • Speed – Speed is important, safety is most important. They build at the right (sustainable) pace
  • Failure – Failure happens, but no team member takes the blame. They shake off the dust, and (I suppose) try again.
  • Celebrate others – Cheers from applause comes from all sides of the arena. When one team succeeds, they all succeed

I like this video so much, I may just use it in my next Agile Workshop. 🙂

LeanSalt – #LeanGiving Workshop A Success

I have many passions as an Agile Coach. One is to give back to the community and help the world.

I do this with a partner, Scott Dunn, and we have created an initiative called LeanSalt. We hold #LeanGiving Workshops to help people in transition, and non-profits grow.

So far this year, the LeanSalt CSM classes have raised over $15,000 for various Third World needs, including orphanages, relief agencies and teachers. With students traveling from as far as New York, Idaho, and Arkansas, we have trained nearly 100 people, and helped close to 50 unemployed and nonprofit workers.

Please spend some time on www.leansalt.com and see what we’re about. We’d love to have a conversation with you about how to grow this movement!