Cancer-ing and Heart-attack-ing, Waterfall-ing and Agile-ing


I had a conversation with my friend & colleague Catherine a few weeks ago that I want to share with you. She told me that her mother, Claire Louis, described cancer and heart-attacks not as events or as states, but as trends. She said, “You don’t have cancer but you are cancering. You have not had a heart-attack, but you are heart-attacking.”

I was struck by the power of this and then we started to think about it in terms of Waterfall and Agile. Are you Waterfall-ing or Agile-ing? Are you applying the values and principles of Agile, even if not perfectly, but enough to start to move you in the right direction? Can you build on that tomorrow? And the next day?

On my table lamp in my home office I have a sticky note that says, “Was I better today than yesterday?” Same idea. What small thing am I doing today that makes me better than I was yesterday? It accumulates.

Are we working toward building a healthy, profitable and fun place to work, or are we doing the same old thing as yesterday? A little bit every day? And building on that the next day?

There are no short-cuts, no sliver bullets, no magic processes or quick-fixes. It is all about doing that little bit each day that incrementally, almost imperceptibly, effects you and your friends, family, employees, organizations and your quality of life. You and they will see and feel the difference. But it takes time.

Shall we “ing” together?

Share your “ing” here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.

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Deliberate Practice – the Leadership Kata


A kata is a set of actions that are assembled in sequence to help you train your mind and body to perform with precision, proper form, and to help you develop muscle memory so that these forms are available to you without thinking. The word “kata” comes from the martial arts. At the Agile2011 conference there was a tutorial titled “The Agile Leadership Kata: Discovering the Practice of Leadership” by Tom Perry. We applied the kata to the practice of leadership. Slides form the session can be found here.

Stephen Denning refers to leadership communication as performance art. All performance requires practice. Katas are a practice tool. Why bother? As a leader, why does it mater if I practice? If my current set of leadership tools are working, do I really need to develop new ones?

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Perfection and Pragmatism


This is a long post, so here is the digest version first.

  • Develop a vision of perfection for your Agile business that includes the product AND the people that create it.
  • Think about what it feels like to work in this perfect Nirvana – engage your right brain.
  • Start moving toward that vision now as fast as you can without losing control – be pragmatic.
  • Be prepared to suffer some mental pain along the way – so eat cookies and drink milk.

That’s it. The rest of the post is some ranting to prime some thinking.

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Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!


Innovation is about challenging our assumptions. It is about challenging what we take for granted. This talk is about education, but wow! It drives home so many salient points about how to bring out the best in people! Watch this talk and ask yourself how these ideas could be applied to your organization.

Tread softly, you are walking on my dreams!

Building Better Metrics


I have seen my share of good and bad metrics. And I continue to get it wrong. Then I learn and try again. Below are some of the guidelines I am using for developing useful metrics.

  1. TIE METRICS TO BUSINESS GOALS – seems obvious but a metric tells you something, and if that something cannot be tied directly to a business goal, why are you using it?
  2. GET ALIGNED ON THE GOALS BEFORE YOU START – it’s amazing how two people can look at the same goal and interpret it in completely different ways. Make the effort.
  3. BALANCED VIEW – weight your metrics so that you avoid over-rotating on any one or small set of measures. A balanced view of metrics provides a holistic picture.
  4. ORTHOGONAL METRICS – rather than use one complicated metric, develop two or three simpler ones that provide a faceted view of what you are trying to measure. The goal here is to avoid metric gaming and having a few metrics that look at a goal from different points of view. The benefit is simplicity without being simplistic. Measuring a complex system requires different views and synthesis to deliver the big picture.
  5. THE NAPKIN TEST – if you can’t write your metric calculation on a napkin and explain it in less than a minute, it is too complicated. Continue reading

Mature Scrum


This is a follow-up post to Dinner with Jeff Sutherland, where Jeff talked about Systematic and the two LEAN metrics for driving improvements; 1) Process Efficiency, and 2) Fix time after failed builds. More details are now available in a paper titled Mature Scrum at Systematic.

Systematic combined a LEAN operating model, SCRUM as the project management framework allowing for flexibility and adaptability, and CMMI to institutionalize these elements into the culture of the organization, driving discipline and measurability. More information as well on how User Stories are prepared to a READY-READY state before being allowed to enter the Sprint. The grooming of the backlog and preparing User Stories is done in parallel to the Sprint.

March 29 2010 – Dinner with Jeff Sutherland


Monday, March 29, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Jeff Sutherland and other RTP leaders. The dinner was a fundraiser for CITCON, which came to RTP in April. This was an opportunity for Agile practitioners and experts to have an informal chat about the challenges and opportunities of using Agile in the world of work.

I was interested in learning more about Systematic, a CMMI level 5 company that implemented Scrum across its entire business. One thing that sets Systematic apart from other companies is that it has really good data to prove that Scrum works, and it is a software company that can execute perfect waterfalls every time. Systematic created hyper-productive teams, and by Jeff’s definition, they are at least 4 times more productive than industry average. They cut TTM in half and the development costs by the same as well.

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