Thursday, January 31, 2013

Repost - Buckingham on Management, Leadership & Employee Engagement

Marcus Buckingham has been one of the biggest influences on how I work with people. His books First Break All the Rules and Now Discover Your Strengths (published 1999 and 2001) are still in Amazon's Top 100 Business and Management.
I've stitched together three posts I wrote a while back that summarize Buckingham's book "The One Thing You Need to Know...About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success"

And two other summaries:
A nice, but low res, video with some key points -
And a good, concise summary of the book (and my take-aways as well):
  • Managing: "Discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it." 
  • Leading: "Discover what is universal and capitalize on it." 
  • Sustained individual success: "Discover what you don't like doing and stop doing it." 
Along the way, Buckingham provides some excellent points of focus, including a very important differentiation between managing and leading that too many of his contemporaries have overlooked: "When you want to manage, begin with the person. When you want to lead, begin with the picture of where you are headed."

Monday, January 28, 2013

We're Distributed - Can Scrum Work for Us?

Another common question at my classes - "Our teams are distributed and remote. Can Scrum work for us?"

Before I answer that specific question, let me quote something recently that struck me -

When we're trying to make distributed work as well as co-located teams, why aren't the teams co-located? Is it to save money?

Henry Ford said that if he listened to what customers said they wanted, he would have given them faster horses. That's partly because customers will ask for what they think will solve their problem, but our job is to try to solve the problem. And if it's a complex problem, then our job is to plan on making multiple passes at a solution, evaluating the results each step of the way.

So, most of the time teams are distributed because they are outsourcing because management saw it as a strategic way to save money. Traditional management doesn't understand agile, how it works and how good it can be. It's often seen as a cost-cutting approach, as well. And you can imagine the frustration, and confusion, when management expects to add another layer of cost savings (agile) on top of outsourcing, when in actuality they are mostly in conflict. Perhaps a first step is to run an experiment with a team or teams fully co-located and measure their productivity.

Sadly, every time I've asked either how the company is measuring the cost savings, or how they even measure productivity of the teams, there's no answer. This might be a good opportunity to start.

As far as making your distributed team work. Did you ever have a long distance relationship? How well did that long-distance relationship work? For those whom it did work out for, what did they do? Most often they said, "This isn't working. We either move to the same city or call it quits." Okay, but in lieu of that, how much were you on the phone? How much did you visit each other?

Keep in mind, a lot of the following involve changing behavior, culture, how we work, opinions and raising the bar. Having said that small bit...

Best practices from a number of agile leaders from companies include:

  • Most importantly, you must travel, at least yearly. Preferably quarterly. Both ways. One company measure the productivity increase at 50% after a 3 week visit by just a few people from the offshore team.
  • Video chat. Given all the options and low cost, this should be a given. Have a webcam in all the meetings, and each team member should have one and ability for others to know when they're available. And get a good, hi def camera.
  • Screen sharing. Expect developers to pull up the code with remote team members when discussing questions and issues. There are even people who pair program remotely most of the day.
  • Collaborative design tools like Cacoo, and estimate together using or everyone hitting the number key for their vote at the same time when conferencing.
  • Dedicated desk or person place. Some teams keep a computer and webcam running for the remote person. If you need to talk, just walk over to them as if they were there. 
  • Rolling video cart with multi-account video chat and large flat screen to have others join your team's meeting where ever it is. Cheaper than you think to build one yourself, and there are sites out there that provide the specs and how-to.
  • You must have the all the meetings together, as much as possible. To show respect for the other team members, alternate who (onshore or offshore) has to be joining at odd hours. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ScrumMasters, Be Different from the Inside Out

Reading up on Design Thinking, I came across this part of the process and was dumbfounded.

"Set aside emotion and ownership of ideas."

Oh, really? Is it that simple?

Personally, I've practiced self-awareness, servant leadership, and been coaching teams and individuals for years, and I struggle with setting aside emotion and ownership of ideas. What about people who don't even understand others, much less themselves?

And here's where I think Scrum and Agile struggle. We can teach the framework and values, but it doesn't equip us for

  • the people issues, 
  • the resistance to change, 
  • the turf wars and politics, 
  • and the fear, uncertainty and doubt that these newly minted ScrumMasters will face back at their organizations.

Besides the classic resources I would recommend, I can honestly say that I think the ScrumMaster or agile servant leader needs to be a different person from most of the people in the workplace, different inside than 95% of the people around them.

  1. They need to be hopeful and believe they will prevail, regardless of the circumstances. And when bad things happen, they need to believe that good will come out of it.
  2. They need to be patient, continuing to work and work towards the goals. Not patient in terms of days or weeks of not seeing results, but sometimes months or years.
  3. They need to look for the good in people, while having firm and respectful boundaries that cordon off the bad.
  4. They need to know the worst of humanity that impacts our efforts in the workplace - ego, selfishness, inability to admit mistakes or lack of knowledge, revenge, fear, control, but not react to these when they come out

Not should they not be naive about these negative aspects of the workplace we navigate. In fact, they will have even greater impact if they have been the victim of some of these abuses and not only come through it, but have no resentments. They dealt with the emotional baggage, have forgiven the person or people, and let it go. These are people that no how the game is played, don't get angry about that reality, and are still effective in getting immediate results with that environment, while slowly helping to change it and make it less dysfunctional. When South Africa began to deal with all the residue from apartheid, Desmond Tutu actually asked for just these sort of people to lead the cultural change.

Finally, they need to have a source of fulfillment that doesn't depend on their results - personally or with their projects, because these results may or may not come, not fully in this person's control. Yet they should still be a leader in that they always have something to give others, and they can if their personal tanks are full. This could come from their own personal growth, or how they've helped others grow.

We want these leaders in our workplace, but they are rare gems indeed. Be the change you want to see. Don't try to act like someone amazing, that will run out. But start becoming someone amazing, and then the actions just become natural.

Find a guide to help you grow:

and be inspired - find some heros:

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Great Forrester Comment - "PMO's are Becoming Incredibly..."

One of my favorite quotes on the PMO comes from this frank and humorous comment from Dave West, VP Research Director at Forrester Research. You can hear him and the other panelists on Agile Portfolio Management Q & A Panel at the link below. Dave's comment starts at 1:30.

"It's interesting, what we at Forrester have observed across the industry this particular kind of  maniacal kind of addition to the program management kind of practice. PMO's have grown in size and stature in organizations and become incredibly…big, in terms of their execution. One thing that it illustrates is that complexity does not solve complexity.  As organizations wrestle with increasingly diverse portfolio, time-to-market pressures, one thing that they want to do is add more complexity. "When in doubt, add more governance!","When in doubt, add more people to manage the people that are managing the people!" "When in doubt, get more Gannt charts!" And I think that we've found that that does not work. I think it's clear that breakthrough companies or companies that are definitely driving the industry around change and innovation are not solving those problems with complexity."

Thursday, January 03, 2013

10 Most Used Resources in My Certified ScrumMaster Class

This is what I reference most often in my Certified Scrum Master training, or show during the lunch breaks in class. Enjoy!

Material Used in Class
1.     New Scrum Primer 2.0, from four Scrum Trainers -
2.     Agile Manifesto and 12 Principles -
4.     Scrum Handbook –

Videos Often Shown in Class
1.     Marcus Buckingham, Strengths. We watched one of two videos:
a.     Trombone Player Wanted
b.     The Business Case for Strengths
2.     Daniel Pink on Motivation – The longer TED talk, and the RSA animated version on YouTube
3.     Simon Sinek, Start with Why – “Very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by "why" I don't mean, "to make a profit." That's a result.  By "why," I mean: What's your purpose? What's your cause? What's your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

Videos Related to Material Often Mentioned in Class
1.     Switch, How to Change When Change Is Hard - Heath 
a.     Want Your Organization to Change? - 
b.     Why Change is So Hard - 
c.      How to Find the Bright Spots - 
d.     Shrink the Change - 
e.     It's the Situation, Not the Person -