Saturday, March 29, 2014

Career Kaizen #2 - Your Story Matters - Storyline

Monday - Where do You Want to Go?

rural road through fields next to fence
Everyone is on a path. Paths take us somewhere.
Is yours taking you somewhere that you want to go?
Some say that if you don't know where you're going, it doesn't matter where you are. What are your goals? Where do you want to be, and what do you want to be doing in 6 months, a year, 5 years?

The ScrumMaster role opens up many opportunities. I've seen people thrust in this leadership role suddenly realize that they have leadership in them. I've seen people fall in love with the coaching aspect, and others grab onto the educator and trainer pieces.

Homework: Ask three people if they have, or have had, any goals. What are or were they?

Tuesday - Your Strengths, ScrumMaster Roles, and Goals

The ScrumMaster job has many roles: Servant Leader, Impediment Remover, Coach, Educator, Organizational Change Agent, Evangelist, Chief Mechanic, Shepherd and Guardian of the Process, Facilitator.

Some of these might leap out at you, or perhaps are what you're already doing and especially love.

Your strengths might shed some light on why that is. Perhaps you love coaching because you're someone who loves building deep relationships or like watching and helping people develop and grow. Or perhaps you love the mechanic role or trying out some experiment and seeing what happens because you love making things great (just being average bugs you). Or you might love being the impediment remover because it's always a clear checklist that means you've had a good day when all those things are checked-off.

When you combine the insights and fuel of your natural strengths and passions coupled with goals that move you forward and motivate you, you'll have a powerful catalyst for change and growth. Not just for you, but a better you to serve and help the team.

Homework: On a sheet of paper, list your strengths in a column on the left, and on a column on the right, list at least five roles of the ScrumMaster, preferably the ones that appeal to you. Draw a line from each of the strengths to a role to which it relates, is a part of, or might help. You might have a strength that relates to several roles, and a role that is related to more than one strength.
Pick one of these roles, or the ScrumMaster job as a whole, and use it to help determine some goals. Extend one goal for 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 18 months.

Wednesday - What's Your Story?

We, as humans, are story-driven. We love movies because they tell stories of someone who wants something and overcomes some conflict to get it. We learn best as our brains web new information much stronger via stories.

You already have part of your story - you want something. You have a goal. Now, the reality is that life can be difficult. What challenge, opposition, conflict can you anticipate that might get in the way of you achieving that goal? Is it finding the time? Getting the money? Getting approval from someone? Keep in mind that overcoming these challenges is part of what makes it all worthwhile - you come out better for it, and it makes it a better story to tell others (perhaps even inspiring). Sometimes it takes practicing on overcoming smaller challenges as part of smaller goals.

Leverage inciting incidents as a tool to move forward. These are decisions or actions that catapult you forward, partly because there's no way back. It's the signing up for the 5K race, the email to the boss asking for approval for training, submitting a proposal to speak at a conference, showing up at that local code camp or user group, emailing that famous expert to ask for advice. Not sure what happens next, but something will, and it will be different from all the nothing that happened the weeks and months before.

Homework: Create a Storyline account on and enter your goal and whatever other information you can. Take a look at some of the other goals in the community.

Thursday - Make Your Goal and Progress Big and Visible

Just like agile, make your goal a priority
and the progress towards it big, prominent, and visible.
Well, you now have a goal. Perhaps you've had some before, as well. Many people have. New Year's Resolutions are very common. Approximately half of Americans make them. But less than 10% succeed. Why is that, and what can you do about that?

One of the best things that you can do to help yourself is to tell others about your goals, preferably people that you're close to and care about their opinions. Next, just like agile, make these priorities and the progress towards them big, prominent, and visible.

Movement on some goals needs to become part of your daily routine, a habit, and therefore also have a low effort or barriers to see and update them. You might use post-its or index cards on a wall, a goal or habit tracker app on your phone or computer, scheduled reminders or appointments with yourself, or a chart that you print out and pin to the wall.

Homework: Choose at least one way that you add working on your goal as part of your daily or weekly routine. Choose a way to make the goal and progress big and visible. You could add yours as a comment on this post as one step.

Friday - You're One of the Few...

Congratulations - you're one of the few that has a goal that's known by others, has clear next steps, and has built-in support via schedule and visibility.

This is very significant, not just for you and these goals, but in other ways, too. At the meta level, you're dealing with how to change, how to improve, clarity on goals, the value of making progress. These all relate to your team and the business. And, in addition, as a servant leader, you're being a model to others on how to improve, how to grow, dealing with challenges, ambiguity, inertia, and perhaps bad history.

Well done.

Video Fridays: Watch the Storyline video by Don Miller

Weekend Warrior: Take a look at some of the posts on the Storyline blog. If this has really resonated with you, take a look at the books and audiobooks on the topic, such as the Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business , Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, and The Dream Giver (a little corny, but simple and powerful metaphor), and grab one.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Career Kaizen #1 - Who Are You?

Monday - What should I do next?

The Scrum class was great!
But what now?
Many of my students come out of the class excited, encouraged, inspired, and ready for action and to change the world. But besides the obvious basics of implementing Scrum, which we'll get to, what else should you do?

Well, that depends on who you are, where you want to go, and your cultural context. So, let's start with who you are. If you're not already familiar with personality tests and have not taken one, here is some information on three popular ones, Team Science (from an agile training and coaching company), Myers Briggs and StrengthsFinder.

Homework: Review the different types of tests.

Tuesday - What did you think of the tests? 

More importantly, what will you do think the results will show you? What are the most significant aspects of YOU?

But be warned - The vast majority of people who have taken these types of tests forget the results. They never do anything with them. It doesn't change them or their work. But for every 10 of those, there's a Li.

Li, a manager, had taken the test. She loved what it showed her and had her entire team take the test. When they all got together to look at the results, she told me that was the most that team had talked in four years.

Homework: Take one of the tests.

Wednesday - Who are you? 

ID and work in your areas of strength for maximum results!
What do you love doing? Where will I see the best out of you? And where will I need to manage around or have team members cover you a bit?

What thoughts or insights have you had about your own strengths?

Most of our feedback comes in the once a year performance review, and the majority of that is spent on our "areas of opportunity" to improve. But if that's where we're weakest, there's perhaps not much that can be done to ever make that great. We get the most by leveraging where we seem to have endless interest and energy, and a history of performance and delivering results. It might be research and learning, or really getting to know people, rallying people, or fixing things.

You want to grow, get better, do your best? Than starting with leveraging specifically how you're wired is precisely the best place.

"You will grow the most where you already know most."

Homework: Post your results in the comments and look at some of the other comments, topics and conversations.

Thursday - How did it feel to be vulnerable?

What did you find interesting on the site? How did it feel to be open and share this personal aspect of yourself?

There is an aspect of leadership that is about vulnerability. Your people, your teams, can trust you and get behind you if they feel like they know you, that you're human. It's a little scary, I know, but you're better afterwards.

To dispel, perhaps, some concerns, I don't see that people are good or not good at certain roles because of their strengths. But I do see that people don't look at their work through the lens of their strengths. Don't feel like you should be pigeon-holed, labeled, or judged based on your strengths. There are no 'bad' or lesser strengths. People may still try, but this is often just a lack of understanding on their part (and if so, a great opportunity for you to educate them).

Homework: Post the results on your cube in the most (or at least a very) prominent place. Courage!

Friday - What are your strengths?

So, we're wrapping up the week. Of all of your personality aspects or strengths, which one in particular stood out the most to you?

You've taken a step to know yourself, to share, and to be transparent with others. You've led. It's good stuff that we'll want to do with our team and others, but that will come later.

Video Fridays: For now, watch the video The Business Case for Strengths
Weekend Warrior: Take a look at the other posts that I’ve written under the Strengths tag. If this has really resonated with you, take a look at the books and audiobooks on the topic and grab one.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Time We All Heard Crickets in the Boardroom

There was conflict between the CTO and some leaders in IT, and you could feel the impact on the mission critical project. The CEO called everyone involved, included the CTO, into the executive conference room and told us all how frustrated he was with what he was hearing about.

Then he sternly asked, "So, does anyone want to say something now about the CTO?"

Not surprisingly, no one offered up anything.

"That's what I thought - crickets!"

And the meeting was over.

But was the problem solved? No. Were ideas or input even shared? Nope.

Now, this might be an extreme case, but in general, asking your team "What do you think of the idea?" often nets you less than 100% honest engagement, feedback and healthy conflict. Especially if you work with people in IT, who are often introverts.

From Dr. Carmella's Guide to Understanding the Introverted ($2.99!)

Yet project management, managers and leaders often lean toward vocal, extroverted ways of collaborating. You might ask what people think, hear positive things from the other extroverts in the room, and then walk out the door thinking that everyone's on board. But they're NOT on board, they just have a harder time collaborating verbally, especially in public or high stakes situations. Yet these often detailed, thoughtful, less-emotion-based people might be precisely who you want to hear most before making a critical decision.

My preferred way of collaborating on quick yes/no group decisions is with something called the "Fist of Five." Especially in agile, team-based work, you often have to make group decisions, such as:

  • Is this date realistic (confidence vote)?
  • Is this the most feasible approach?
  • Team, do you want to change how the team is working based on the retrospective feedback?

The most common practice is with the "Fist of Five. To take the vote or get the feedback, simply have everyone hold up fingers representing where they stand, as follows:

  • 5 - They love the idea. They'll even volunteer time, or to lead or champion it. Passionate. 
  • 4 - They like the idea. Positive.
  • 3 - They're not that happy or thrilled, but they won't get in the way. Meh.
  • 2 - They have some questions or concerns. If those are answered or addressed, they can get onboard.  
  • 1 - No way. Ever. When pigs fly. Not on my watch, etc. 

Fist of five is a great way to hear everyones voice and quickly see who's not in agreement and why (and then work to get them in agreement).

For more on the introversion topic, check out the two great books Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and Quiet Influence: The Introvert's Guide to Making a Difference.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Newcomer's Bad Ethics in the Agile Community

These are not the kind of blogs I like to write, but are ones I feel I must write.

There are times in the agile community when it's so good that I forget that there is an aggressive, amoral marketplace surrounding us.

ScrumStudy is a semi-truck-in-the-face reminder.

Not sure of the trademark issues, but the obvious one seems that ScrumStudy is offering the "Scrum Master Certified" class, while the Scrum Alliance offers the Certified ScrumMaster class. Sounds like people might get confused. I had one student who took their Phoenix class and didn't realize it wasn't the "real" (his words) Scrum class. This has happened to other trainers as well.

How would PMI, of whom SCRUMStudy's parent company is a Registered Education Provider, feel if PMStudy created a Professional Project Manager credential to compete with PMI's Project Management Professional designation?

The Scrum Alliance was founded in 12 years ago and has trained and certified over 250,000 Certified ScrumMasters.

ScrumStudy launched it's classes in December of 2012. Yet in that, apparently monumental, one year, it has become "the global certification body for Scrum and Agile certifications."


The Scrum Alliance features trainers such as respected and world-renowned authors and speakers  Mike Cohn, Lyssa Adkins, Pete Behrens, Ron Jeffries, Clinton Keith, Henrik Kniberg, Mitch Lacey, Craig Larman, Tobias Mayer, Roman Pichler, Ken Rubin, Peter Saddington, Michelle Sliger, Chris Sims and over 100 others worldwide.

ScrumStudy trainers include...well, that's hard to tell since they don't list the trainers, only a company. And that company isn't even a link so that you can find out. Why is that? Why make it hard to find out about your ScrumStudy trainer? A little research might show why.

Update 6/18/14: I had Ruth's husband's name and info listed below because he had the matching last name, but I was told that he's not actually doing the training. My mistake, but there's no way to know who the trainer is since ScrumStudy doesn't list the trainers. This is the only specific item raised by representatives of ScrumStudy. There was an anonymous threat of a lawsuit, but I don't know whom that was from.

Here's the correct information on Moebes, LLC -

And the trainer (not shown) is fine, if you want to learn about...

Another is a trainer/HR "position description" writer, among many other things...

I personally think Scrum or Agile should be in the Top 25 skills for a Scrum trainer.

Maybe these don't attract students, despite the massive spend on AdWords. There have been lots of cancelled classes, and registrants are offered a discount if the person takes a course the same week 300 miles or more away. Ouch.

Well, perhaps ScrumStudy trainers aren't on the same level as Mike Cohn, but they do offer "the most definitive and comprehensive guide for Scrum available in the market." Their Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOK™ Guide) was just trademarked in September of 2013. Smart marketing, taking after the naming pattern of PMBOK, but certainly not a book filling any gap, given that there are already over 70 agile and Scrum books on Amazon. But their book isn't offered on Amazon. My guess is the complaints of paid positive comments. 

This book received approximately 26 5-star reviews within 3 weeks of publication. That's about 20x faster than the 5-star reviews for Elements of Scrum, one of the top 10 agile books on Amazon.

Finally, the event that pushed me to write this was seeing all the blog comments that I would report as spam (Lisbeth's link goes to ScrumStudy's site). 
(Update 6/18/14 - I've since had another 14+ spam comments going back to ScrumStudy.)

Normally, I would have marked them as spam and done nothing else. But I realized that if I am to be the change I want to see, I shouldn't just get mad and say, "Why doesn't somebody do something about this?" I should do something about it. Others had - Agile Cheating Stories and SBOK? Looks Like Anyone Can Create a PM Standard These Days

So, I wrote this. And reported them to PMI, because SCRUMStudy's parent company VMEdu is a Registered Education Provider with PMI, who has a very strong ethics policy. If SCRUMStudy, and it's parent company, were to lose the ability to grant PDU's for PMI credit, it would quite likely have a significant financial impact. 

Secondly,  I'm asking you to be the change that you want to see, as well - take action! Help keep the agile community free from questionable practices. Click the links below to let PMI know how you feel.

Leave a comment here for others to see. Share a comment on post on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for PMI to see - Click to view and edit your tweet. post this on Facebook or engage with PMI's Facebook page.