Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Back at 2011

I had one of those great, intellectually charged conversations the other day with a colleague and friend, one of those discussions that leaves your mind abuzz. One nugget that came out of it was what books I had read this last year that have had the biggest impact on me as an agile coach and trainer. Here's the list I shared with him:

Must Read
Switch - How to Change When Change is Hard - A great read with lots of science and stories behind how and why people and groups change. Provides a structure to follow in leading change. A must-read for coaches and those leading change efforts.

The Lean Start-up - Eric's book provides the framework, reasoning and experience on how to swiftly determine the product to build. More than that, Eric provides pragmatic understanding of why traditional businesses and management behave the way they do, and how to deliver measurable, actionable way to change that. A must-read for anyone in IT, product development, management or executive leadership (so, everyone). 

Getting Naked - Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty - Patrick Lencioni shares what makes real consultants (and consulting) awesome, versus those traditional consulting companies that we all love to hate. A must-read for anyone in consulting or in other ways provides professional services.

I would add The Goal by Goldratt because I loved the use of a fictional story to learn about lean and the theory of constraints, but it hasn't had the practical impact that the other books above did.



I'll add to this list several of "Must Watch" videos:
Joe Justice at TEDx - Agile used to create a 100 mpg road-ready car in 3 months. More lessons for all businesses in this 10 minute video than any other I know of.

Simon Sinek - Leaders, Start with "Why" - One of the Top 20 most watched TED videos. All companies know What they do, some know How they do it, very few know Why. Great for product managers, management and leadership.

Animated Daniel Pink Talk on What Motivates Workers - A very engaging video, using graphical notetaking, that I show in many of my classes that shares the three things that motivates workers (and none are money). Based on Pink's best-selling book Drive. 

Marcus Buckingham on Learning Your Strengths - A well-polished 10 minute introduction to strengths. It is part of one of several DVD's that I play for teams as part of team-building or learning self-organization in agile. 

And ONE "Must Attend" conference:
"But, wait," you're surely saying, "didn't you attend four other agile conferences (and two one-day events) in 2011?" Yes. 

And I have referenced, quoted, shared, lended more by the speakers from The Leadership Summit (Lencioni, Godin, Booker, Schlesinger, Hybels, Furtick) than all the other conferences combined and doubled. And it was only two days. And 1/10th the price. And available (almost) everywhere in the world via simulcast. 
"But, wait - again," you might be saying, "isn't that a Christian event?" Hosted by a church - yes. Goal to make attendees Christians? Definitely not. Goal to change the world? Yes. I think it's good to be around a bunch of people who really want to, and honestly believe they can, change the world. Even if that means stepping out of your comfort zone. It may just radically change your Why (just as we hope to do in the companies we serve).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Agile Presentation - Dear 31 Year Old Me

My session was "Dear 31 Year Old Me - 10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Dove Into Agile"
What agile practices were most important? What tools were most helpful? What books? How did you succeed? Where did you fail? What helped your career the most? If I could go back 10 years, there's a lot of things I wish that I could tell the 31-year-old me. Some lessons go counter to conventional wisdom, some are just not highlighted much. This session will cover what distilled, core lessons have helped me and teams that I've coached the most as we moved into agile.

Deck available here - 

There were some great questions during the Q & A session at the end of the day, including "If process doesn't save us, what does?" and "What's the best way to start up new teams in an agile adoption?"

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Three Simple Tools for New Teams

When I am delivering Certified ScrumMaster classes or starting up new agile teams, I share three simple tools that really help collaboration: creating a working agreement (also called team agreement), the art of the possible, and the fist of five. Based on feedback, these three items are often some of the important tools that team members take back and use immediately. Below is a simple way to introduce these by facilitating creating working agreements with your team.

Photo by Greencolander via Flickr.

Before you kick off your new team, get the team together and let them know the goal is to come up with some team agreements so that we all agree on how we’re going to work together. You might have some ideas, but first go around and hear others first. If you’re in a large group, pair up, otherwise each person can individually write down one statement about how their time together should be – everything from working hours to working conditions. Now collect these and put them on the wall, under the title “Working Agreements.” For general work, I often hear: take personal calls out of the working area, headphones on for music, keep your chat program on, put a flag or sign up if you don’t want to be interrupted (for less than an hour), shower regularly (seriously), no eating fish at your desk (yep, that too). Some common ones for meetings that I’d recommend are: one conversation at a time, start and end on time, electronics by exception (that is, no cell phones or computers unless it’s an emergency and everyone understands that), and have an attitude of the art of the possible.
The art of the possible means keeping an open mind that something covered here could work ormight be true, even if you disagree, instead of an attitude of “that could never work here” (even if that is your experience). There’s always a first time, and the difference of our attitude, effort and approach differ vastly when something “just might be” possible, rather than impossible. MacGyver believed in the art of the possible.
Now that we have everyone’s recommendations, decide on what the final working agreement list will be. My preferred way of collaborating on quick yes/no group decisions is with the technique called the “Fist of Five.” When you’re in a group deciding on something (such as where to go to lunch that day), you can simply say the recommendation and then have everyone hold up one to five fingers. The number of fingers represent where they stand: 5 means they love the idea, 4 means they like the idea, 3 means they’re not that happy but they won’t get in the way, 2 means they have some questions or concerns that if answered they’ll get on-board, and 1 means “No way, ever, never!” (and make sure the one finger is the index finger…) Fist of five is a great way to hear everyone’s voice and quickly see who’s not in agreement and why (and then work to get them in agreement).

I hope these tools help your team get off to a great start.

(This post also published on the BigVisible company blog at