Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We have moved

As of today we have moved our blog to http://peopleandleadership.wordpress.com

See you there!

The Authistic Organization

In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell tells a lot of stories about how too much or too litttle information and stress can hamper the human capability to make good decisions and cause the brain to enter an authistic mode. A lot of information gets down prioritized by our brains to prevent overload and the more stressful the situation is the more our brains filter out to keep our focus on what's most imortant. People involved in gun fights tell stories about not hearing the gun shots and seeing things in slow motion as their brain goes into overdrive to promote survival. In a stressed team you can observe the same symptoms. The more stress the team experience the less they will communicate and as the information flow decreases the quality of their decisions will decrease as well - the team goes authistic.
Being an Agile coach in large organisations in this time of financial crisis I see the same symptoms in managers. As the stress of financial survival increases a common reaction is to increase control and increased control most of the time means that someone has to measure more stuff and create reports based on those metrics. And all this leads to is an authistic organisation with loss of decision power as the result. A typical symptom of this is that meetings doesn't end in time and no real decisions are made.
The only sensible solution to this would be to provide the organisation with clear goals and make sure that everyone knows whats at stake - their jobs - and trust people to do what's best in every given situation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Stay focused!

In a team that I am coaching at the moment a problem with focus came up as they got closer to the end of an iteration. In the retrospective the team talked about the loss of energy and motivation towards the end of the iteration and decided that they had probably undercommitted and decided to shorten the next iteration since it contained less work and the goal was to get the software released. They estimated that they would be done in a week.

As the estimated week came to an end they again experienced a loss of energy and motivation. We had a discussion about it. If the length of the iteration did not stop them from loosing focus at the end then what was?

If I look at a typical iteration it contains larger chunks of work at the beginning. Towards the end the chunks get smaller; defects, adjustments, updates to documents and models and new small chunks keep appearing as the team runs test sessions. The problem seems to be that the smaller the chunks of work becomes the more the team loses focus.

In this case we solved it by shortening the lenght between team synchronization, from once a day to twice a day and that seemed to solve the problem. A simple solution to a difficult problem...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You get the organisation you deserve

The other day I did a two day Scrum Master training and found to my amusement that there were a couple of managers attending. In my Scrum classes I tend to focus quite a lot on how teams work and the importance of building small successes. By that I mean that if you are going to change something you need to have happy, motivated people and one way of getting there is to make sure that the team actually succeeds and that the success gets noticed by the organisation surrounding them. One way that I do to make sure that my teams succeed is to make sure they don't over commit during the first couple of sprints. I make sure the Product Owner presents a clear, fully achievable goal to the team and keep the team focussed on that goal and nothing, absolutely nothing, else.
When I talked about this during the last Scrum training I received a question from one of the managers: how do you prevent the teams from becoming lazy? That is, what if they don't do as much work as they could, if they have hours left and don't fill those hours with work.
How do you answer that? I answered it with a question: what does greed mean to you and how to you think greed affects productivity?
I think that it is a result of greed if you always feel that by getting what you want you always want more and greed leeds to a situation where the people giving you what you want feel (a)bused and it provides a perfect growing ground for distrust and manipulation. If you run your business by greed you will get greedy employees and greedy people tend to be manipulative. Every parent knows that kids don't do what you tell them, they do what you do. The same goes for an organisation and in an organisation it is the management that sets the agenda and the culture - you get the organisation you deserve!
My advice for managers with lazy workers would be to stop whining for just a while and look at themselves and figure out what they did to make people lazy and then adjust themsleves and see what happens to their lazy crew...

Monday, May 4, 2009

The ubiquitous lack of trust

As an Agile Coach I see a lot of efforts to make the transition into the Agile paradigm. A lot of energy is put into figuring out how to do it and how they are going te get the job done - they because it is almost never the people planning the transition who is going to get the work done.
Weeks turn into months turn into years of writing detailed process descriptions on how to deal with defects, when to abort sprints and who is responsible for what and drawing unintelligible process charts with two billion arrows, boxes and toll gates. All done with hope of getting it right the first time...

The lack of trust between management and developer seems to be as strong as ever and comments like "we need to make sure that they do things the right way" and "you know how developers are, if you dont pressure them nothing will get done" or "developers just want to work with cutting edge technology" seem to float around in every management meeting I participate in.

So, with this attitude the Agile transition is planned for a couple of years and no one bothers to build in continuous improvement and no one seems to get that the most important accelerator is the empowered and self organizing team - this is 2009 and we are closer to 1984 than ever!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Teams, conflict and self awareness

Lately I and my team mates have been increasingly busy and it finally got to me. During the last two weeks I became more and more bitter, interpreting everything as personal critique, shooting down ideas from my peers and just really been in a downward spiral. I stopped communicating with my team mates and finally got angry with them because I felt they did not support me. When I finally realized that my anger might stem from lack of communication, I had waited so long with taking the conflict that I felt I did not have the time since other matters pressed. Then, yesterday, I finally erupted and confronted them. I blurted out my feeling in a crude and maybe not optimal way but boy did it feel good to get it of my chest. With one day hindsight I can honestly say that I could have handled it better, would like to have had more time since not everyone had time to speak their mind, and should by now have better self awareness then to end up in this kind of situations. But all in all, it has really helped me to move on and be energetic again. It is amazing how much it helps to be open and honest in your communication. And how terrible and devastating it can be to you as a person and your team if you're not!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Slow motion and a soundtrack of my life

All I really wish for at this moment is the ability to make the world move in slow motion and a soundtrack to go with it. How cool would it not be to have your own personal soundtrack for those action packed "bigger than yourself moments"! Like when you run for the bus (or enter an important meeting), everything slows down, you hear the soundtrack from The Rock pumping and as you step down in the water pool in the middle of the street you can see how the water spashes...

I have wished for this for a long time and at least gathered a library of soundtracks to accompany me. The latest in my compilation arrived last Friday: Echoes of War. Music from WarCraft, StarCraft and Diablo is now following my steps wherevever I go! Orchs beware!

The Art of Listening

During my career I have had the opportunity to work for a lot of different managers, project leaders and CEO's... unfortunately most of them were terrible leaders. One thing I have found that all of these terrible managers have in common is that they might listen to you but they don't hear what you are saying and the feeling of not being heard is truly a team killer.

So what is the art of listening then?
  • Just listen
  • Do not give explanations (unless they are asked for)
  • Do not interrupt
  • Do not go into defensive mode
  • Confirm what you've heard and...
  • Ask what you can do (don't offer help unless it's asked for)
That seems pretty simple, but I've met very few mangers that were proffiecent in the art of listening.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vital play

Last month I wrote a post about game play and how I wanted work to be more like that. I've spent some more time thinking and recently stumbled across this TED video about play and why it is important. It turns out that not only is it stimulating and fun but also vital for our brain and perhaps even our survival! A under stimulated being will sooner or later be depressed and this actually results in a shrinking brain!! Ouch! 

Before we continue let me just clarify what play is. The state of play occurs when no particular purpose exists for our actions. If purpose is more important than the act of doing it is probably not play.

Now why is play important then? For one thing it is the medium to link our brain to our body, this is how we learn. And play can exist in many forms such as social play (the want to belong), ritual play (sports), storytelling, imagination etc. etc. But I also believe that it is in the act of play that we get as most creative. Where we let our constraints go and dream up new ideas. Without it, a small amount of depression enters and we stagnate in our development as beings. Most of my ideas pop into my head from nowhere and then tag along for a while. But it is when I interact with others and play around with the idea that it takes off and becomes something more. And I can feed off that energy for weeks! (and if you want a money making angle on it, that energy is fueled straight into my work).

So keep on playing! If not for us (mankind) then for your own sake, and for your brain… and because it’s god damn fun!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keep you code nice and tidy

Just wanted mention a nice little post about TDD and what might happen when you don't keep your tests nice and tidy. Or as Wendy Friedlander puts it:
However, the moment the tests slow, the practices start to slip...
  1. Writing code and verifying it works by launching the app, then creating the tests
  2. Making the test pass before verifying it failed.
  3. Not running all the tests before check in.
  4. Not refactoring because it takes too long
  5. It stops you from working close to 5 because you don't want to wait for the build
  6. Not adding tests at all because you don't want to break the build and don't want to wait to find out
  7. It ruins all the fun.
Check out the rest of the post at Wunda's World

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Creative doodles

I just so happens that I have to team mates which doodle a lot (one just doodles, the other insists on drawing small people as in the picture below). Naturally they are, like me, highly creative people. Well, according to an recent article in Wired this might accutally aid them in remembering what I'm going on about. By doodling they distract the brain just enough to stop it from going off into...                  ... some daydream. I wonder if my habit of chewing on my pensils has the same effect. =/

Monday, March 9, 2009

Changes... to what, to whom?

I had a discussion with an old friend last evening, the kind of dicussion you should have over a pint or two. The subject was change and the question what; what do we try to change, behaviour or personality? (It might be obvious, if for no other reason then because trying to change peoples personality is morally wrong. Who are we to deem what is the right one.) According to my friend (and many others) personality do not change after the age of ten. I certainly remember some of my reactions from kindergarden which would be the same today. Thus, we change behaviour and by logic follows, that if behaviour can change, then we can succeed no matter who is involved. This also means that a person hiring do not need to hire the best, but rather make sure that the organisation promotes the type of behaviour we want and that the people inside lead by example.  

Another thing we discussed was if it was worth striving for building the best team, or if we should simply accept that we have what we have and try to create the best working conditions by improving processes and tools. Talking to a collegue today he put me straight. We never strive for building the best team or creating the best process. Instead, we take small steps, always improving to create a better team or process, because there is always room for improvement (and so for more consultancy ;)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Focus on the right stuff

Why is it that we, ok, I keep on focusing on the wrong stuff. I held a short 40 minute seminar this week on Team Dynamics and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Directly after I rated my performance as ok but not more than that. It could have been more passionate, I could have been more snappy and I could have been better... as always of course. Then I read the evaluation forms... I shouldn't. On a scale of one to four 25% gave me two, the rest gave me three or four. Which part did I focus on? The 25%! My "ok" took a huge fall down to "crap". Luckily, my team mates did not let me crash and burn and instead pointed out the fact that at least 75% actually got something out of the seminar. Thanks guys!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gathering Data

The other day I was attending a strategic product development meeting at one of my clients and I decided to gather some data during the meeting. I decided that I was going to count the number of statements people made and how many questions went unanswered during the meeting. After the meeting I was asked for some feedback on how the meeting went and I decided to share the data instead of my conclusions. The result was amazing!
Instead of having a lot of people trying to defend themselves againt my conclusions I got a lot of thoughts and reasoning about what the data might mean and when I shared my conclusions I discovered that I didn't really have any but instead had a lot of theories about why the data might mean. All in all, it was a great experience for me in that it actually opened my eyes to the importance of actually observing and not jumoing to conclusions right away.

Personal Insight

I had the fortunate experience of receiving some fantastic feedback from a friend of mine the other day. This is a guy who I've known for a lot of years and a while back he became a project manager at his company. At that time he asked me a lot of questions and I talked about my views on leadership, not really thinking that much about it since it is something I talk a lot about.

This weekend he told me about his current project and how he managed it and he obviously felt proud about a lot of things and I listened to him and was kind of surprised to hear that we shared a lot of views on leadership. Suddenly he told me that most of his leadership style was inspired by me and my tips and tricks as well as some of the books I had recommended. He ended his heart felt feedback by saying something that really made me think, he said: you talk about things from your own perspective, there is always a personal experience connected to all the theories and models you share - that makes me listen carefully to what you say and it makes it easy to belive in what you say.

Of course it made me feel very good and I thought about his words all weekend and I realized that this is the way I learn about things... I find a problem in my own, personal or professional, life and apply the models or theories I read about to it. That makes it easier for me to understand it and it also makes it possible for me to decide if it is something worth keeping in my mind. It also gives me a vehicle to convey that model or theory to others, simply by walking through my own learning experience with them.

I probably need to think a bit more about this and see if I can wrap this insight in some neat model for others to use, maybe there already is one out there?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Proposal Framework

I discovered the following framework for proposals (no not that kind!) while reading Marks and Meaning by Dave Gray. When making a proposal the golden rule is to keep it simple, brief and to the point. Here's the template Dave suggests:

  1. Why should you care: Briefly describe the problem and why the "as is" state needs to change.
  2. What you/we stand to gain: Briefly describe the "end state" you envision
  3. What I propose: Describe what you want to do, with special attention what's unique or different. You might need to explain how or why it is different than things that have been tried before.
  4. How it will work: Describe the resources you will need, and break down the entire plan into three easy-to-understand steps, complete with milestones and deadlines.
  5. Risk considerations: Take a balanced view and do your best to define the risks, relative to the rewards, of proceeeding
  6. Next steps: What specific action(s) fo you want from the person you're making the proposal to, right now?

As I jotted down this proposal I was reminded of an occasion a few months back when I excitedly shared an idea that I'd dreamed up with one of my colleagues. His response - sheer bewilderment. On reflection, I realise that I'd fast-tracked to Stage 3 and left him standing haplessly at Stage 1.

Sell the problem first before attempting to sell the solution. It's one of the cardinal rules of consultancy, i guess. If the customer doesn't realise that they have a problem then they're not likely to be too open to your solution, regardless of your tear jerking and heartfelt pitch.

3D: A Model for Learning and Improvement

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If work was more like games and play

What would work look like if it was more like a game, and playing the game was more like playing in the sand with you pals at age four? My guess it that it would be more fun,  effective and stimulating than today. This is my reasoning:
  • When we play a game, we readily, without objection, accept the rules of the game. No matter how ludicrous they might we, we simply accept that if we want to participate in this game we must obey to some laws that someone set up. And no matter how we roll the dice or upgrade our level 56 Blood Orch Mage we still accept these constraints.
  • On the other hand, when we used to play in the sandbox at kindergarten, we would dream up the most amazing stories of dragons, beasts, cars etc. And the possibilities where endless. If we wanted the car to fly it could, no questions asked.
What if we could combine these two views, and take them with us into work. How easy would in not be to try out a new process or method? We just set up Scrum for example, agree on the rules and then play! And how magnificent would not our stories, solutions and conversations be if we would just allow us to dream as we once did?! I think we would be the most creative company in the world, and having a laugh doing it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Waste of space! Or Why today’s electronic Scrum tools does not work!

I like computers. I like how they enable me to dream up things I could never have imagined, let me indulge in information from far and wide and communicate with my friends wherever whenever. I also like pen and paper (and whiteboards, coloured pens, index cards, post-it notes etc). And I like to communicate in real life!

As a coach in Scrum and team building I know what works for me in the small local team. We use all kinds of stickers, pens, flipcharts, post-its and what have you to make sure that information is radiant, free and flowing all the time. The ease of use and the unbelievable flexibility that these tools offer are probably endless. What I don’t like is stuff that interferes with this process, cramp it and my steal energy and time. Computerised Scrum tools are such tools! At least the ones I’ve tried so far.

I can understand why my clients wish their distributed organisations had the same flow as the single co-located team. I can also understand the problem with using my analogue tools over large distances. I can even understand, although I question this sometimes, the need to “document” stuff. But I can not accept the impacts it has on us. The tools often are extremely developer centric with all kinds of nifty features but not very flexible at all (also called waste in Lean). They force you into a, for me, unintuitive behaviour and after two hundred and forty eleven clicks I give up. It just takes way too much time to change a simple little number, add a special mark, or group a bunch of stories. Comments like “if froze for some reason and turned upside down”, “he’s the owner of that task but did not notice” and “the story is not in there, I can’t see it” simply never occur with analogue tools. If you add a story it’s there, right in front of you. You can touch it, change it and even remove it! And if you get short on time and need to rearrange, specially mark or add some info to a story it’s so intuitive that (believe it or not) someone without Scrum knowledge knows how to do this!

Don’t get me wrong, there is a need for digital Scrum tools. But it is not a trivial task to create them! I think we need to rethink how our Scrum tools work and which parts of the process it makes sense to digitalise. And we need to stop waste time, space and energy on repetitive tasks in tools that does not support agile thinking and behaviour! 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Look on the bright side

Since I wrote the post on appreciations I have had something tumbling around in my head, couldn't figure it out until I had a coaching session with a Product Owner the other day. We talked about the problems he saw in their organization and I pointed out to him that they had a lot of great things going for them and maybe it would be a good idea to use those to get even better.

So what I just realized is that if it is more efficient to give feedback about good stuff then bad stuff, maybe the same works for organisational problems? What if we, as consultants, tried to find the things that really work at our clients instead of focusing on what's really not working. If we could point out the good stuff and strengthen them instead of trying to get rid of the negative stuff I think we could generate a positive momentum and maybe even make change easier - now all I have to do is to figure out how to do just that.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Small changes with large impact

I've just read through Getting Things Done by David Allen and it took me... about 2 months (it's 250 pages). That's bad. But during that time I've also implemented some changes and that's good. I've changed two things so far and they alone have resulted in huge savings of energy and time.

Zero mail inbox
The first thing I did was to go through my two email accounts (job/private) and reduce the amount of emails from 1600 to three and 20 in each inbox. For each account I've created a "archive" folder where all read mail goes except the two or three I still want to do something with.  To be honest I have tree major projects running so each of those got their own folder as well (two at work, one private). But it feels ok since I will archive those folders as soon as the projects are finished.  The simple fact that I now don't have to see a mile long inbox, or that the annoying inbox number now only indicates three instead of 600 emails, takes loads of pressure of my mind. 

Write down thoughts, to dos etc
What happens when you are walking home or just about to turn out the lights at night and your mind wanders? Does billions and things you forgot to do, or have to do, pop up in your head? Well it did for me! I used to be that kind of person who tried keep everything in my head and failed miserably. Instead I never got things done, I never remembered anything and I always missed stuff. Then, maybe a month or so back I started to write things down as soon as they popped up in my head, either in my mobile which I carry with me at all times, on a post it or directly into my note saving program online. The change was instantaneous. Now I get more stuff done, I can relax because I know where to find my reminders and my reminders makes me come up with more new thoughts! 

If there is two things I would recommend people like me to start doing it's those two. I'm far from the whole GTD system and I still want to get priorities and a better organisation of my reminders but it's light-years from the non existent system I hade on New Years Eve. And just as I thought I was the only one who had not grasped this I start to see people all around me who have the same problem I did... they don't manage their inbox and they don't gather their reminders. I might need to hand them that book...

Showing Appreciation

Having attended a six day PSL workshop I have come to understand and appreciate the power of appreciation. When it comes to feedback I have had some problems in the past to balance the ratio between feedback about things to change and things to keep, I find it easier to give feedback about things I think needs change since they seem to be the things that stand out.
During this week of intense training in Problem Solving Leadership we have had a lot of rounds of appreciations. An appreciation is a simple meaning along the lines of: , I appreciate you for . I found it to be a great way of discovering that I did things I didn't think much of that people appreciated and of course the other way around. Not only does it feel good to be appreciated but it also strengthen the bonds between people, expecially if you combine it with touch in some (non intimidating) way. I even found that if I gave appreciations to people I didn't really like it was more difficult to dislike them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mobile blogging set up

After a long struggle with many dead ends, thanks to Telenor, my Semc phone and my lack of competense, we can finally use the mobile to blog here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How you look at your world decides what your world looks like

The book "The 7habits of highly effective people" by Stephen R. Covey, which I'll probably have a few more things to say about, contains a very interesting passage in the first few pages. It's about paradigms and paradigm shifts. A small history is presented; the author once went by the subway and by him sat a man that brought his children. The kids were running around, throwing stuff and making big fuzz, disturbing the passengers in the same subway car. The author and probably other of the passengers was understandably irritated over the father that did not take proper care of his children. So finally the author broke the silence and told the father that the children were disturbing and would he please put an end to it. The father then tells that they just came from the hospital and that the children's mother passed away. The author suddenly saw the situation in quite a different light and asked what he could do to help out.

This story is quite something, when I think about it and go through the narration I can feel a sort of shift in my mind. With just a tiny bit of information the situation changes drastically even though nothing has really changed, everything is still the same. The reality depends very much on the eyes that look upon it. This kind of shift can be achieved on purpose for yourself and yes it might be relieving to understand that the world is largely dependent on how you look at it and not only what actually is fact.

I'd like to recommend the book "Mind lines", by L. Michael Hall and Bobby G. Bodenhamer that thoroughly goes in to different ways to look at the present and change your own view of your reality. It's certainly powerful to be able to change your own reality, please try it out!

Friday, January 23, 2009


Last week I was invited by a friend to attend one of his classes, he had read a lot about Scrum and wanted to try it in student projects. He shoved me into a room with eight students around twenty years old and told the students that I was as much Scrum experience packed in flesh as they'd ever meet and to make good use of me during the half hour or so I was there. They didn't...

I decided to do a quick retrospective and some problems came up from the group, one being that they had a fellow team member who wasn't attending their team meetings where they did their planning and some coding. When I asked them what they possibly could do about it their response was "nothing, we can't really force him to come here so there's really nothing we can do". I asked if they had talked to him about it and they hadn't, when I asked if a possible solution would be to have their team meetings at his place they responded that it felt unfair that they had to go all the way to his place when he was the problem and when I asked them if it was a problem that he wasn't present they responded that it was a major impediment to the progress of their project.

I left the students feeling glad that I normally deal with professionals that are trained in problem solving and want to improve - what a comfort junky I am! Thinking about it now, a couple of days later, I am annoyed with myself for moving back into my comfort zone and not challenging myself to get those damn students straightened out... I'll get back to my friend and coerce him into having me back and coach those students again! If not for something else, at least to get myself out of my comfort zone and into the real world, I might learn something about myself!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Honest leadership start within

"Think of your life as a house. Can you knock down the walls between the rooms and be the same person in each of them?" To lead a balanced life (and be a great leader?), you need to bring together all of it's elements - work, family and friends - so that you can be the same person in each environment! 

If you aren't doing this today, who are the real you?

From the article Discovering your authentic leadership. Bill George, P. Sims, A. N. McLean, D. Mayer.  Harvard Business Review OnPoint, Winter 2008, © 2008

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The more difficult the goal, the greater the achievement - goal-set motivation

First of all, let’s establish our goal. We want to get out more bang for the buck in our development process. Since we believe in an empowered, self organized team which takes responsibility for their actions and work we need method to promote this behaviour. It turns out that using goals to steer and focus is just that method!

In this post we will look at some of the more important aspects of goal-set motivation and why it should appeal to you as a leader.

1. The more difficult the goal, the greater the achievement

This means that situation that the team, or individual for that sake, is commited and posses the ability to achieve the goal, the performance of that team or individual will increase. If not, the performance will instead drop at high goal levels.

2. The more specific the goal, the more precisely performance in regulated

This might sound desirable at first but give it another go. In reality this means that if you focus too much on details you run a very high risk of dampen or kill creativity. This is one reason we preach the usage of negotiable user stories in Scrum instead of function based planning.

3. Goals that are both specific and difficult lead to the highest performance

People do not actually do their best when trying to do their best because, as  a vague goal, it is compatible with many different outcomes, including those lower than one's best. Therefore, goals need to be both specific and difficult to maximize performance. All in accordance with statement one and two above.

4. Commitment to goals is most critical when goals are specific and difficult

Obvious perhaps but I’ll spell it out anyway. Easy and vague goals do not require much dedication and are therefore easy to commit to.

5. (This one is important) High commitment to goals is attained when:

a) the team is convinced that the goal is important

b) the team is convincend that the goal is attainable

6. Participation by subordinates yields higher commitment

For example, participation from the team leads to higher commitment. But the goals might not be set as high as of they where set by their superiors.

7. In general goals stimulate planning and leads to higher quality

Therefore we should strive for using goals in planning and in measurements. And goal setting is in fact most effective when there is feedback showing progress in relation to the goal. The goals help to orient us and affect performance by affecting the direction of action, the effort exerted and the persistence over time.

8. When people strive for goals on complex tasks they are least effective in discovering suitable strategies if:

a) they have no prior domain knowledge or no relevant training (obvious right?)

b) there is high pressure to perform well (a team where failure is not allowed)

c) there is high time pressure to perform well immediately (an already late project)

Here, feedback is very effective in motivating higher performance. But remember, feedback alone is just information. You must relate it to the goals.

9. Finally, high goals might actually lead to less performance satisfaction than easy goals

This has to do with the fact that goals server as standards of self-satisfaction and harder goals demands higher accomplishment in order to attain self-satisfaction than easy goals.

So why should you this leadership technique of self-set goals? Well, because:

It can help you to provide and communicate an inspiring vision

Let you act as a role model when aiming for a more self organizing organization

You can expect outstanding performance if you make it work

It promotes those who embrace the vision and dismiss those who reject it

It is a very efficient way of delegating responsibility and ownership

You express genuine confidence in your employees and peers

You can actually ask for commitment in public and who knows, you might finally get it as well!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Holy Grail of Measurement

Have you sworn allegiance to the secret management quest?

One measurement to rule them all, one measurement to find them, one measurement to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. 

Should you find yourself trudging through hell and high water in search of that illusive metric then I strongly advise you to rest your wary eyes on What Do We Measure and Why? 

In her superbly crafted writing, Margaret Wheatley warns us that the act of measurement does not instil upon a team the virtues that most managers seek - commitment, focus, teamwork, learning and quality.

[...] these behaviors are never produced by measurement. They are performance capabilities that emerge as people feel connected to their work and to each other. They are capacities that emerge as colleagues develop a shared sense of what they hope to create together, and as they operate in an environment where everyone feels welcome to contribute to that shared hope. Each of these qualities and behaviors-commitment, focus, teamwork, learning, quality--is a choice that people make. Depending on how connected they feel to the organization or team, they choose to pay attention, to take responsibility, to innovate, to learn and share their learnings. People can't be punished or paid into these behaviors. Either they are contributed or withheld by individuals as they choose whether and how they will work with us.

Duly chastised and mocked for our unquestioning belief in measurement as the route to these capabilities she then unveils measurement in it's rightful place.

But measurement is critical. It can provide something that is essential to sustenance and growth: feedback.

Margaret goes on to conclude the article by drawing distinction between measurement and feedback and offering the reader guidelines for designing better measures that fulfil their objective of providing feedback.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Definitions or the ability to move in the same direction

As a child I had a great friend, we loved to play with Lego, Computers and discuss various subjects such as new gadgets on the market and new scientific discoveries. Sometimes though we had arguments that could last for a couple of hours, usually these arguments were easily resolved. Often the resolution, much to our surprise, was such that we realized we actually had meant the same thing from the beginning but used different words for what we meant. Thus the words we used had different meanings for us but once these meanings were revealed we could see that we actually agreed on the subject.

Many a times I've been involved in discussions about teams, about how they ought to be organized, should there be a team leader that gives assignments to the team members or should the team members them self assign tasks. Where the team should sit, together or spread out, in small separate offices or close together in a landscape?

A minor investigation of the word Team makes a major difference to these questions. If the definition is simply a group of people making similar kinds of work or work related to the same product there is no reason to organize so the team members sits in the same spot and who should do what is often obvious. A team leader that assigns tasks and coordinates the work might be a proper way to master such a team.

If what you want is rather a group of people working together to reach a common goal the answers to the questions above would probably be quite different. It would probably be appropriate to let the team sit together and decide who should do what together.

Simply put you need to get each other's definitions clear before its time to argue about what is the right way or the wrong way to go!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Power of Music

As everyone probably knows, music is an integral part of our lives whether it is as muzak playing softly in the super market to lull us into a calm and submissive spending state or it is as part of a movie to strengthen the emotional state of what is shown on screen.

I have tried different kind of music in different kinds of situations and it is amazing to see how the pace and mood of the music affects the discussions and moods of people.

Try this when doing a brain storming session or team excercise the next time and see what happens. Then try this and see if something changes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My problem! Or yours?

We all know customers don’t know what they want. But they do know what problems they have! During my work as an Agile coach I tend to come across numerous problems waiting to be solved. And eager as ever you might dive straight in to start solving the one you've identified as the prime one. The biggest, badest and most vexing problem you could see. Only the problem being, it might be your biggest problem, not your clients. We often try to listen hard and then create our own definitions of reality when we instead should do our hardest to understand our friend on the other side of the table.

I recently read a summary written by Don Gray at the Amplifying Your Effectiveness Conference about creating better problem definitions. He lists a few good principles which have helped me at work:
  1. The Pause principle: pause before you try to solve it. Critical when strong emotions are involved, especially when they belong to you!
  2. The Pay Attention principle: Intake, Meaning, Significance and Response. Meaning what I hear, what I think you say, how it affects me and my reaction or response to it all. If any of these four parts of the process goes wrong, the whole conversation gets distorted. Pause before going into response mode remember ;)
  3. The Partnership principle: find a solution that your client feels connected with. If you don't, your client will move on and the problem will be yours alone. You are there to help your client solve his/her problem.
  4. The passion principle: Don't care too much, at least not more than your client does. If he/she is not passionate about solving the problem they really don't have a problem in the first place.
  5. The person principle: who is this a problem for? Find that person and tailor the solution for them! At Don writes: "you aren't only dealing with the people themselves and the problem itself, but also gow these people feel about the problem, about each other, about you and about the attributes of whatever solution you come up with. And that is your problem".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Creative Measurement

Much that we'd might love to envisage our life in a world of unbounded possibility, when it comes to stimulating our creativity and resourcefulness there's really nothing quite like a constraint. Agreed?

You're a hard audience. Let me (you?) demonstrate.

Imagine (go on i dare you) that you've been arrested by the measurement police for subjecting teams to your experimental metric whims. Citing your mindless adherence to a host of management references in your defence the judge takes pity and offers to release you on conditional parole. The condition being that from this time forth, you shall utilise only ONE single measurement to guide you and your team on their quest for continuous improvement.

You duly accept your lifeline and have 24 hours to deliberate. What measurement would you choose?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Team Building Games

Since I am a gamer at heart I'm always on the lookout for cool games that can be used professionally in my work as an Agile Coach. Games I have used with some success are Werewolves of Miller's Hollow and Robo Rally but it has been mostly as a simple and fun way to get people from different backgrounds in projects socializing .
Last year I went to Spiel08 in Essen, Germany, together with a couple of friends where I stumbled upon a great game that really shows the importance of team work - Space Alert. It is a cleverly designed cooperative board game where you have to learn how to prioritize, communicate and self organize. I've played it some thirty times with different people and still want more. Hopefully we can find a way of incorporating this game into a team building workshop of some kind...

Leadership defined

I've been looking for a good definition of leadership for a long time. Some argue that you need to have followers to be a leader and some say that leadership is influence, others mention authority together with leadership or want to give the leader the ability to tell people what to do.
When I read 'Becoming a Technical Leader' by Gerald M. Weinberg I found a definition that fits perfectly in with my own views and thoughts on what kind of leader I want to become:

"Leadership is the process of creating an environment in which people become empowered"