Partnerships & Possibilities – EPISODE 6, SEASON 6: DECISIONS, DECISIONS

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Partnerships & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations


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[Introduction] Sharon and Diana love helping people become effective as teams, and helping teams of people become more effective, especially when it comes to shared leadership and making good team decisions.

[03:15] What makes a team a team? Who and what is the team?

[04: 45] “Cross-functional” means every skill needed to accomplish the team goal is embedded in the team.

[09:50] Lean guides us to ask those closest to the work to make the decisions about that work.

[11:10] Sharon has heard this idea of decision-making since the late 70s – and she believes good managers have always known this. Not a new idea!

[15:45] The worst and most avoidable mistake managers can make is, after asking a team for their perspective, to weigh in with their opinion before listening to what the team thinks. Ask your question and then be quiet.

[22:30] Decades after knowing better as a business culture, managers still seem to struggle with this issue – complaining they can’t get their team’s feedback while jumping in and giving their opinions before they’ve listened to the team.

“Making Dumb Groups Smarter”, Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie – Harvard Business Review, December 2014.

“We The People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy (A Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods)” –

Partnerships & Possibilities, Episode 5, Season 6: Haven’t We Heard This Before?

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Partnerships & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations

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[Introduction] Many of the issues being raised about gender in the workplace seem to covering old ground – patterns made explicit since at least the 70s.

[02:45] We’re hoping that we can take these patterns as givens, and can then move the conversation forward.

[03:00] “Fostering Women Leaders: A Fitness test for your top team”. The author seems to not know much about the history of women and gender equity in organizations – the article states the obvious.

[04:50] The article offers “resilience, grit, and competence” as skills for women to build – as if men don’t need these same skills. Sharon believes women often have a surplus of “resilience”, as opposed to needing special training.

[7:00] Looking at the talent pipeline to make sure women are entering isn’t enough.

[9:30] Researchers looked at opinions of Gen Xers vs Gen Y about expectations around gender equity in life and work and found a sad picture of unmet expectations.

[14:00] Venture capitalists are not funding women-led start-ups at the same level as men.

[17:00] What if the reason more and more women are doing more childcare, rather than following their careers, is because their male partners have less obstacles and make more money due to bias, and they are just giving in to an unjust reality?

[24:00] Conversations about women in organizations need to happen – but we need to talk about new things, instead of having the same conversations over and over again and expecting different outcomes.

[26:40] Leaving this problem for the millennials to solve is a fantasy. We all need to work together to figure out newer solutions, including the organizations we work for.

Partnerships & Possibilities, Episode 4, Season 6: Virtual Teams, Real Challenges

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Partnerships & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations

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[Introduction] FutureWorks is a virtual team.

[01:00] In HBR’s newest issue, “Getting Virtual Teams Right” by Keith Ferrazzi.

[03:00] You can model three tiers of team members – core, operational, and outer.

[05:45] Calculate your team’s virtual distance – factors that exacerbate the challenges for a given team.

[09:00] Operational distance as opposed to Physical distance.

[10:00] Affinity distance.

[13:00] How many managers stop to think: “How I recruit, assemble, and construct this team will have a big impact on the outcomes I will get from them”?

[16:30] The moment “us” and “them” begins to form on a team, trust and therefore performance, erodes.

[18:40] When management begins to consider putting together cross-functional teams, it is worthwhile to pass out copies of Ferrazi’s article to everyone, and ask – “Have we considered all these factors?”

Harvard Business Review: Getting Virtual Teams Right

Agile Software Development With Distributed Teams by Jutta Eckstein
The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun

Partnerships & Possibilities, Episode 3, Season 6

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Partnerships & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations

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[introduction] How do things get done on a self-organizing team? It seems like nobody is directing the work…

[3:55] As a manager, knowing what leadership roles you need covered on a team would help to populate your teams.

[5:30] Look for T-shaped team members, and “Pi-shaped” team members, for bench strength.

[9:30] Knowing these roles could help you charter your team.

[10:10] Pioneer and Instructor roles are the early adopters of new ideas.

[11:40] Influencer and Follower roles.

[13:25] Commentator, Advocate, and Coordinator roles.

[16:35] CAUTION: All these roles are not job titles – they are roles that some or all team members may fluidly move in and out of from time to time.

[19:50] The Promoter, Mentor, and Peacemaker roles.

[23:00] The Critic, Gatekeeper, Dissenter.

[26:20] The Reviewer and the Monitor.

Shared Leadership Roles PDF

Partnerships & Possibilities, Episode 2, Season 6

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Partnership & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations

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How do  you observe yourself or your colleagues influencing each other? What kinds of influence do you see as critical for lasting positive changes?

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[1:40] Sharon is working with the leadership of a large non-profit with an enormous number of volunteers, who do the real work of the organization.

[4:00] Working with volunteers is all about building a sense of community and purpose to motivate people to do what needs to be done – all through “influence”.

[6:15] Power and influence are orthogonal.

[8:05] Compliance and influence are also different things.

[10:20] Motivation comes from within – it doesn’t get applied from outside. You can’t inoculate people with it.

[15:55] The model Sharon’s looking at currently looks at 6 types of influence.

[20:20] Convincing, selling, and so on, is also not influence. And influence will get you more mileage.

[22:23] Benefit must accrue on both sides for change to last – this is real influence.

[24:30] You can give feedback if you can do it with caring and respect. If you don’t care and respect the other person, don’t bother. The same is true of influencing – do I care about this person?

[28:00] An important element of influence is creating an environment that supports what you want to have happen.


Partnership & Possibilities – Episode 1, Season 6

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Partnership & Possibilities: A Podcast on Leadership in Organizations

What are you seeing in your organization relating to women’s experience in the workplace? How are you involved in the growing conversation?

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[Intro] Subject of “Women in Agile” still a hot topic at Agile 2014 Conference in Orlando.

[03:20] “…this is the first year that the Agile Alliance has been very overt about their anti-harassment policy…”

[04:35] Agile conferences have a much higher proportion of women attending than any other kind of technical conference.

[07:03] It’s time to bring back conversations about “Gender Intelligence” and the often differing working styles between men and women.

[9:50] Attendees are more open and feel safer about having these kinds of conversations at Agile conferences.

[12:50] It is a courageous thing for a young woman to decide to stand out in the technical world due to very real danger of death threats, rape threats, and so on.
[17:20] The sense of male entitlement, and the belief that “I got to where I am because I’m so smart.”


[Agile 2014 Orlando Session] Women in Agile: Creating Teams That Embrace Diversity (Diane Zajac-Woodie, Doc Norton)

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

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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.