Endless Blessings for Your Team

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Recently, I read an interview between Bernie DeKoven (who has aliases as varied as: Major Fun, The Shaman of Play, and more) and Barry Joseph (Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives, at the American Museum of Natural History). While the whole interview is delightful, and I recommend it, I was particularly struck by the game called “The Out Blessing Game”  or “Endless Blessings. Watch Bernie describe it.

I can’t wait to play it with my family.

And, I also thought, “What a wonderful game for Closing a Retrospective!” In a team room variation.

In this version, after the team has selected and committed to an improvement experiment/action for the next iteration, the retrospective leader moves on to Close the Retrospective: a brief review of the meeting and commitments, a story card to take the action/experiment into iteration planning, a discussion of what to keep posted on the walls, a team wrap up, and a brief retrospective on the retrospective.

In this instance the team wrap up activity would include the blessings. One person on the team begins the blessing by saying, “May our team…” and completes the sentence with something they fervently wish the team would receive as a blessing. Then the next person adds more, and the next adds more until someone declares the team totally “out-blessed” (or out blissed!). Then another team member begins a new blessing, and so on, until everyone on the team has out-blessing-ed the last at least once, and there are no team members left to think up a magnificent team blessing.

I can imagine many ways the blessings might start. “May our team support Joe as he…..” “May our team find a path to…” “May our team learn to…” “May our team’s relationship with….” and so on.

Try it at the end of your next retrospective. I plan to. I think it would work for virtual teams as well.

Bernie DeKoven, may you have the best job ever and may it spread playful joy all around the world!

 

Empirical “Certification”: Invest in Results

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Photo Credit: freeparking via Compfight ”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

If you’re in a particular Agile crowd, “certification” is a dirty word.

On the other hand, the Human Resources/People department in your organization looks for certifications on your resume, asks about them in job interviews, and you may get promoted or better compensated party through the accumulation of certifications. Getting “certified” as a user of a tool, or as a signal of skill acquisition may give you a personal boost as well.

So, what’s with the dirty word? What’s not to like about certification?

Well, Jim Shore has written about this – extensively. He’s even debated the merits of it in public forums.

We think anyone can agree that having the piece of paper may not accurately reflect your skillset.

The Agile Alliance opinion on the matter is that certifications should be skill-based, difficult to achieve, and not a primary reason to hire.

So in this storm of differing opinions about the upsides, downsides, and current realities about certification. It’s easy to forget the most important missing elements.

  •  Where am I on my Agile skill journey?
  •  What have I just mastered?
  •  What skill do I need to work on next?

Without this fundamental guiding compass, of “where have we come from?” and “where do we need to go next?”, Agile teams stagnate, founder, and drown in the swamp of opinions, skills, practices, philosophies, and so on, that comprise the current state of Agile.

Point being, if “Agile done well” was simple, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Anybody could do it. No problem.

By having the conversation, we can simplify the complex and create a compass for navigating the swamp.

Even better, as more of us make it through, we begin to beat a series of paths through the swamp that work for most teams most of the time, leaving the Agile landscape better than we found it. Safer. More fun. More “this is the best job I’ve ever had.” More able to deliver value.

In five years, the Agile landscape may look more like a garden than a swamp.

When you attend the Agile Fluency™ Project workshop, we won’t certify you, but you will become intimately familiar with the Agile Fluency model and the best of good practices. The model will empower you to evaluate your team and the teams of others according to their behaviors and the results they achieve. You will know just where you are coming from, where you need to go next, and the investment in skills and gear to navigate the swamp. You’ll be able to help other teams find the same knowledge. And the freedom that it brings.

Our goal is to turn the Agile community itself into the informal “certifying” authority. Your peers around you will see the results you deliver. They will look for ways they can help you become better and how you can help them.

Join us in September, and we’ll build this together.

How do you transform your Agile into the Best Job Ever!

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

 

There’s this thing…as Jim (James Shore) and I (Diana) have mentioned before, in the early days of Agile we would visit teams and hear, “This is the best job I’ve ever had. I love this work.”

People who were doing Agile (usually Extreme Programming) were excited about it, they shared it with others, who did it, and got excited.

But at some point, someone shared it with someone who got excited about it and shared it but didn’t DO it, so their sharing lost a bit of fidelity, like a copy of a copy. Hearing about a thing is not the same as doing a thing.

Both the virtuous cycle (doers sharing with doers) and the vicious cycle (talking about-ers sharing with talking about-ers) continue, but now more than ever in the internet age, talk spreads faster than action.

We’re drowning in ideas, opinions, gossip (“Tell me how you failed at Agile”) and complaints about Agile, and have less opportunity to experience the real deal. At many conferences (and now through an Agile Alliance program), Experience Reports are a sought after item. People still want to hear from the successful doers.

And yet, the doing is so small in comparison to the talk, that the effective practice of Agile is in danger of being overwhelmed by the talk.

In other words, Agile is becoming a way of achieving only, “Well, my job doesn’t suck as much as it used to.”

In yet other words, Agile is in danger of being redefined as poorly done Agile.

So what to do? To achieve Agile done well and the best jobs ever, we need to feed the virtuous cycle and starve the vicious cycle. We need doers working with doers. We need the Agile Fluency Project.

We need you. Sign up. Beg, borrow or steal the time and money and join us in September.

 

Let’s get REAL about Agile Fluency™

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Preamble: This an update for the Agile Fluency Project on Kickstarter. I’m very excited about the project and its implications for team learning and the world of Agility. Since it’s the culmination of our thinking about fluent proficiency and has implications for the Agile community, I’m including it on the FutureWorks blog.

I (Diana) noticed it first with retrospectives. Esther Derby and I worked to share our insights about this powerful tool in the Agile Retrospectives book. We created a simple, flexible framework that could be dressed with activities most relevant to that team on that day. Many people have told us how much the book means to them and their teams, the benefits from holding retrospectives, and the support they felt.

And yet…

And yet…

Other parts of the community have sung a different refrain. “We tried retrospectives and they didn’t work for us.”

Setting aside time for a shared informal learning and improvement opportunity didn’t work for them? A easy-to-use framework that focused the conversation on the nitty-gritty of their most recent work experience didn’t work for them? Discussing and planning for ways to improve  work lives, product quality,  team interactions didn’t work for them? Really?

But this isn’t about people who are too inept to use retrospective well. These people have a point, but it’s not the point they think. Because we also hear, “We tried TDD and it didn’t work for us.” “We tried pairing and it didn’t work for us.” “We tried backlog grooming and it didn’t work for us.” “We tried Scrum…Kanban…Lean…(N-methods) and it didn’t work for us.” And this is true with many other Agile practices.

Clearly this isn’t an issue with retrospectives, it’s an issue with how new Agile teams embrace, absorb and master the core elements of Agility. It’s about Fluency.

Jim and I have invested several months of our lives getting a Kickstarter event planned and launched because we see that the Agile community has reached a point of frustration that shows a critical need for a fresh perspective, a fresh approach, and a fresh way to see its own learning.

Ta-Da! We give you Agile Fluency and the Agile Fluency Workshop. Take back joyful, effective Agile. Make time for this. Sign up today. Let’s do this together.

Join the Agile Fluency Project Community

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Are you managing Agile teams? Are you wondering how to offer the best guidance so teams reach their highest possible performance? Is maximum team productivity on your mind? Are your team members telling you they need additional support to deliver the most productivity?

 Here at FutureWorks Consulting, Sharon, Diana, and our network of experienced colleagues continually look for ways to help leaders like you. We offer ideas, services and opportunities to strengthen business agility, build resilience for yourself and others, and improve how you work with Agile teams and organizations. We’ve written before about the Agile Fluency™ model developed by Diana and James Shore, and now we bring you the chance to move the model from idea to implementation, through the Agile Fluency Project.

Maybe you’ve also heard about it from your employees or teammates. However you found us, this is a great deal for you, and we’ll tell you why: This workshop will pay for itself more than 10x over in the first year. How can we be so confident?

Example: Standup meetings – Through participation in the workshop, your team members will discover how to reduce the time spent in daily meetings from 30-60 minutes to 5 minutes (or less) and make team communication more effective! Participants will more practice effective, efficient standup meetings daily throughout the week. Then when they implement this practice back on the job, you will see at least 130 hours of savings per employee in the first year. For a five-person team, that’s easily over $20K in time gained back and waste reduced, not to mention happier team members. What’s more, attendees will be able to teach this technique to everyone in your company and extend the savings even further. It’s that easy.

That’s at least a 10x return on investment, and that’s just one 30-minute segment from the first day of the workshop.

Then we get to the real value.

From the first day, people who attend Diana and Jim’s workshops gain experience with the essential skills of collaboratively working as an Agile team. Everyone learns to work from a backlog of work prioritized by customer and business value, and to produce valuable deliverables from day one as a whole team fluent in One-Star Agile (Focusing on Value)…in the workshop and back in the workplace. They’ll not only learn how to make standup meetings more efficient; all the team meetings will gain efficiency too. How would you like an iteration/sprint planning meeting regularly accomplished in under 30 minutes? What about a product demo that elicits actionable feedback on product quality? Need we mention retrospectives that teams use to continuously improve work process and practices? Your organization’s increased ROI also will come from your team’s ability to ensure the customer gets what they need from the first release onward.

 As workshop teams settle into effective teamwork skills, they also improve technical practices – for the programmers that means TDD, continuous integration, and more; – for the testers that means automated and exploratory testing skills; – for the product managers (e.g., POs, BAs, PMs) that means better ways to identify the most important “-ilities” while managing customer and stakeholder expectations and re-prioritizing the backlog accordingly. And for managers, like you, it means learning how to best support the team for sustainable productivity. Everyone will learn how the illusive “no-defects” promise becomes actual fact. We call that Two-Star Agile Fluency (Delivering Value). How would you like your team to respond to customer demand by releasing software on the cadence most useful to customers?  Would more frequent, reliable, bug-free, applications please your internal customers or help your market position?

By the end of the workshop, teams will go even further in practicing fluent Agile at Three-Stars (Optimizing Value). Team members from all disciplines (programming, testing, business, UX, and so forth) will learn how to comprehend the business case for their product, share the product vision, and communicate in a way the rest of the organization can understand. As a result of their deep identification with the customer, team members will practice ways to contribute feature ideas and quality improvements to increase product value. This means better focused, more innovative products, as well as less time spent on unproductive activities (e.g., building that 40% of features that no one ever uses).

In addition, this workshop delivers particular value to teams with members who are not usually co-located. Attending together gives them the opportunity to develop good, collaborative practices, and enables them to continue those practices when they work separately. They’ll also learn a few tips for reducing the waste from mis-communication and wait-time.

Still not convinced? We offer a 100%, zero risk, satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with the workshop, for any reason whatsoever, let us know within 30 days of the end of the workshop and we’ll refund your fee. Guaranteed. Please join us and back the Agile Fluency Project.

Going Live with the Agile Fluency™ Project

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Recently James Shore posted his “Lament of the Agile Practitioner” to provide history and background, from his perspective, for how we arrived at the Agile Fluency model. And, further, for moving into the next phase that we’re calling the Agile Fluency Project.

For me, it all links to our FutureWorks Consulting vision: Contributing to the growth of workplaces where people say, “I love my work. This is the best job ever!” When we identified our vision, we intended it to apply to everyone at every level of the organization. Different strokes for different folks (as they say) and all leading to the same result. This means that everyone, from the front line operations, to supporting services, to infrastructure, to managers and executives, and all the others I’ve forgotten, gets to have this joyful feeling and the enterprise (small or large) prospers. Because it’s not that easy to love work when you don’t feel productive or proud of the products or services that you deliver.

It’s just not enough to say, “My job isn’t as bad as it used to be.” That’s not a standard we aspire to for ourselves or anyone else. Does it work for you?

Finding the spot along the Agile Fluency path that’s the best fit for your organization gives you a great boost toward creating the conditions where everyone feels his or her job is the very best they’ve experienced, so far. (Always room for improvement, right?)

If you want software development, and all the processes around it, to reach for the stars, join us at the Agile Fluency Project.

 

Partnership & Possibilities – Episode 9, Season 5

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Partnership & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations
EPISODE 9: WORK WITH US

“When I see inequity, here is how I’m responding to it, here’s how I’m trying to shift the behavior, both in myself and in creating the conditions to shift it in others.”


Running time 28:10

What are you seeing in your organization relating to gender roles and gender equality? What type of things are you doing that are helping these more subtle gender equity and equality shifts occur?

Leave a comment on this blog or email us at info@futureworksconsulting.com
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Partnership & Possibilities – Episode 8, Season 5

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Partnership & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations
EPISODE 8: WHO NEEDS ‘EM?

“Do we need managers? It depends.”


Running time 27:02

What role(s) do managers have in your organization? How are managers viewed in your place of work? What does the staffing structure look like?

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Partnership & Possibilities – Episode 7, Season 5

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Partnership & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations
EPISODE 7: OLD WINE AND GATORADE

“Technological and philosophical progress happens because it builds on the work of previous folks …we’re all part of a continuous stream.”


Running time 23:36

What are your thoughts? Are “new” ideas repackaged “old” ideas?

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Partnership & Possibilities – Episode 6, Season 5

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Partnership & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations
EPISODE 6: COMPETITION

“There are people who fundamentally believe that competition is the way to get the best out of people, and there are people who fundamentally believe that the spirit of collaboration is the way you that you get the best out of people.”


Running time 30:20

What are your experiences with staff ranking or other policies and processes in your organization that you feel have helped you perform better or have gotten in the way of performing better? Have you seen or experienced real significant differences in policies and processes between private industries or government, schools and other such organizations?

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