Necessity is not the mother of invention?

Two full weeks later, and I’m still reeling from the Agile Alliance’s Agile2016 conference. I’ve been fortunate enough to share out my learnings and perspective within my organization and externally to a couple of Meetup groups to keep the post-conference energy, enthusiasm, and momentum alive. The Women in Agile Slack channel is also alive and well with more and more women joining daily.

A tweet from the Agile Alliance on Stephen Denning’s What’s Missing In the Agile Manifesto: Mindset where he recaps a panel discussion at Agile Europe 2016, and it summarizes nicely the atmosphere of Agile2016 where thought leaders were sharing that an agile organization is more about the culture and enablement of an organization than about specific processes and tools.

There’s a tie-in here to the articles from a few months ago on the “Death of Agile” that I haven’t quite worked out yet because like with any product, when its market is saturated with supply (like we’re starting to see with Agile processes and tools), something new (or even just a new name) can enter and cause disruption.

Back to Denning’s post – Todd Little sums up the importance of the mindset nicely:

That’s the challenge we face in keeping Agile truly Agile. The core of Agile is recognizing that we need to get to and maintain an Agile mindset. If I have an organization with an Agile mindset, and really rock-solid product management, Agile processes and tools will evolve out of that. If you have the Agile mindset and an awesome connection with your customers and are solving their problems, things will evolve in the right way. You won’t even realize you’re being Agile. It’s just good business. – Todd Little

Denning then adds his comment, which was similar to the comments he made while on the panel at Agile2016.

If you have the right mindset, it hardly mattered what tools and processes you were using, the Agile mindset made things come out right. Conversely, if you didn’t have an Agile mindset, it didn’t matter if you were implementing every tool and process and system exactly according to the book, no benefits flowed. – Stephen Denning

It’s Ray Arell’s comment that prompted the title for this blog because he raises the point that I haven’t heard too much about when it comes to mindsets – the traditional mindset of Managers to make resources scarce to create innovation.

The traditional management mindset, if we look at what they are teaching in MBA classes in business schools both in the U.S. and worldwide, is a really nasty theory of constraints, and scarcity and cost-cutting and the feeling that, “Hey if I just make the resources scarce, innovation will pop out.” – Ray Arell

He goes on to explain that the issue is that we’re running up against the idea that management has put themselves at the top, and he suggests that we need to look at models where the organization serves those on the “front-line.”

We need to learn from companies like Starbucks. In the hierarchy of Starbucks, the person making the coffee—the barista–is on the top. Everyone else in that company is supporting that individual. Everything else is in service of that. What we have to change in the management paradigm is that if we have a team delivering, the managers work for their team. It’s their job to provide them what they need on a daily basis. It’s not the team delivering to the managers. It’s the managers delivering to the team. Until everyone has that mindset, we’re going to have a lot trouble in Agile. We will declare, “We’re Agile,” and we’ll have Agile T-shirts, and so on, but unless the managers have an attitude of enablement of the teams, the teams won’t be Agile at all. – Ray Arell

Years ago, when I was at a different organization that was going through a transformation from Waterfall to Agile, we (the managers and leaders of the organization), called ourselves the Enablement Team – we were there in service of the organization and those doing the work. It was hit and miss because for those managers and leaders who didn’t adjust their current worldview to the one needed to support those doing the work, it was a struggle, and “just another thing to do” vs. “business as usual” that this panel describes.

Todd Little also offered these words of warning:

When I think of agility, I think of it in terms adaptability. Agile shouldn’t be saying that this is the way things have to be. And sadly, this is the way a lot of Agile has been packaged. Consultants will say: “We have the answer for you. Follow these rules.” True Agile is about evolving and being able to adjust. It has to grow organically. And that takes a lot of engagement and ownership from the managers and the individual teams. – Todd Little

The panel then starts to discuss “How Do You Acquire an Agile Mindset”?

Denning and Hendrik Esser share the importance of storytelling because “it’s often the only way in which you get people to break out of their current way of looking at the world and imagine something different.

Esser also offers that the language that we use is another approach.

The way you talk, the words you use, the visualizations you use can shape your thinking. If you keep using the traditional language and visualizations, then it will be very hard to change the traditional mindset. – Hendrik Esser

Denning and Steve Holyer point out that learning by doing is also key and that changing the mindset takes time. Denning shares a really funny video of someone riding a backwards bicycle.

Day after day, for eight months, he tried to ride it and couldn’t. Then suddenly one day, he found that he could. It was an overnight thing. The day before he couldn’t. The day after, he could. Suddenly he could ride the bicycle. In Agile, we also see that kind of phenomenon—people knowing what they should be doing, but in fact unable to break their habits and so they do the opposite. Knowing intellectually what you need to do is not the same thing as knowing intuitively and instinctively what you need to do and execute it fluently. – Stephen Denning

The panel closes with what the problem is with “Fake Agile,” and what they report are cases where teams they’re working with haven’t read the Manifesto, usually can’t name one of the 12 Principles. Arell sums this up nicely:

These teams are striving towards something but I am not sure that we have the same compass that’s locked on to the same goal. – Ray Arell

Denning also suggests that we have to be willing to point out “fake Agile” – that we need to be honest and have the courage to do so. His worry is that people have a failed understanding of the objective of Agile – “twice the work in half the time.”

I worry when I hear talk about Agile as: “Twice the work in half the time.” As Tobias Mayer has pointed out, this can come to mean: how to work really hard and be very busy doing things that may or may not add value. Instead, true Agile is more about radically improved effectiveness: e.g. “doing half the work while producing twice the value.” – Stephen Denning

I like the way that Denning ends the post with a summary of why Agile is a paradigm shift in management – back to the culture and the enablement of the organization – it’s not just Daily Stands, Two-Week Time Increments, Retrospectives, Kanban Boards, etc. It’s also my belief that what Denning is hitting on is why we sometimes hear “teams are doing Agile great, but outside of the team, no-way” and “we tried Agile, it just died on the vine.”

We also need to recognize that Agile is a paradigm shift of management. Management was one of the great inventions of the 20th Century and improved the material well-being of billions of people on the planet. It was a wonderful discovery. But as the century wore on, we noticed certain problems and limitations of command-and-control management and we kept developing fixes and adjustments to the basic model. Eventually in 2001, the authors of the Agile Manifesto at Snowbird figured out that you couldn’t “fix” command-and-control management. We actually needed a fundamentally different way of doing this kind of knowledge work. And it turned out that it was not just a better way of developing software. Although the guys at Snowbird may not have realized it, they had stumbled on a fundamentally different and better way of running whole organizations. – Stephen Denning

After the conference, I also started reading Reinventing Organizations, so expect to see more on organizational culture and enablement because its a topic that I’m becoming passionate about.

Agile2016 – Recap – 25 1/2 Hours of Learning!

Spent some time today recapping Agile2016 into some slides and a summary to share with the rest of team next week and thought others might be interested.

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As a cheat sheet, I also created a summary document for me to quickly see the summaries for each session I attended and quickly link off to the materials and my photos from each of the sessions. Feel free to take a look and use it here. Apologies in advance that the photos are not all the best quality.

Also, let’s not forget about the awesome feed that was happening with the hashtag #agile2016 

I am ever so grateful to have had this opportunity, and I hope I’m able to attend again next year in Orlando, FL.



Agile2016 – Recap Day 5

What a week! It was a slow start to the morning, and I enjoyed the Open Jam space session. The table I joined was on Communities, both internal and external, because we’ll I’m pretty active in external communities, I love hearing stories of how to inspire more internal self-organizing communities.

Then it was time for the final keynote, Leadership for Genius Tribes with Carrie Kish. She explains that based on her research, what separates successful teams from other teams was the culture, but what does that mean? The content is based on the book Tribal Leadership.

She talks about tribes as having 20 or more people because less than that you have the individual effect – think of a small group at a table, if another walks up, we say hello. In a large room, the individual just sits down.

The did research into the language that people used and the way that they interacted.

She shared the four Stages:

  • Stage 1 – Life Sucks (2% of Organizations)
    • In this stage, the general language is “it sucks.” It’s a culture that allows embezzling, fancy math, stolen IP, workplace violence. The advice in this stage is “get out.” There is a lot of disinfranchisation, separation, and isolation. It’s a collection of individual, and the tribe isn’t one that wants to be around.
  • Stage 2 – My Life Sucks (25%)
    • Other have it going on, and I have problems. The story of a DMV where there is a policy of no food or drink, and a person with a coffee is asked to leave, not just throw out their coffee. People silently glad that another person from the line is gone. There are complaints about the system, and this can devolve into Stage 1. People in Stage 2 want to hear “are you going to make my life suck less?” Complaints about the system and others in small pockets is another sign of Stage 2.

She shared that culture is less stable in small organizations, and people can only hear one stage above or below where they are.

  • Stage 3 – I’m Great (49%)
    • This is where the genius happens. The LA Lakers coach (Phil Jackson) on how he went from being a team of experts to a winning team – shift away from Kobe. Language and actions are “if there’s a problem, I’ll solve it,” and team members need to learn how to pass the  ball. In Stage 3, information is hoarded and there is a need to get credit. Bottlenecks are created because everything needs to pass through one person. The brain surgeon and the rocket scientist (there’s a fun video showing this behavior).
    • There is a need to prove I’m better, and people react with “you’re right, but no one cares.”
    • The goal is to be good at something and transcend it vs. everything going through me.
  • Stage 4 – We’re Great (46%)
    • Language is We, Us, Them (we know who are competition is)
    • Carrie shared the story of the LA SWAT team that she meets with and their values based negotiations, and the requirement that everyone is able to do all jobs. She shared the example of the junior team member telling a senior team member that he’s unfit for duty because the senior team member told the team that he took cold medicine that morning. This was possible because they were all thinking the same and had the same values.
    • Decisions are able to be made using the same values – there isn’t any checking with anyone.
    • This team outperforms a Stage 3 team.
  • Stage 5 – Life’s Great (2%)
    • Carrie warns that you don’t want all Stage 5 teams because it’s so chaotic. These are teams that are changing the world every day, and they are incredibly unstable. Every day is changing the world.

The goal is to have Stage 4 teams that can do Stage 5 plays.

Other tidbits include:

  • At Stage 3, you don’t need to have accountability, just manage the system and process and lead people.
  • Most people will yield their position if you give them a way to honor their values. Most people will be pissed off because their values have been hurt.
  • At Stage 4, triads (more than just 1:1 relationships), each endpoint can strength the relationship of the other endpoints. How do we all have each others’ backs?
  • Under stress, we go to Stage 3, and we need a constant reminder to go to Stage 4.

Then she gave us the Four Questions (note that the syntax for “What can be done” is deliberate and important.

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If interested in going to Stage 5, she offered these methods:

  1. Discover your outrage – for example, there is a group that’s so outraged that not all people have access to clean drinking water.
  2. Upgrade your competition – when Pixar was asked what their competition was, they said “hair.” After a lot of team effort, they figured it out, and Brave was made.
  3. Create some time pressure – Steve Jobs knew that time was limited when he became sick and put pressure on at Apple. There are also ways to gameify time and create constraints.
  4. Make History – How we do something differently than others; Virgin Galatic.

Some points on how to move between Stages:

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It was a great keynote to end the session, and after all the thank yous, applause and goodbyes to my new found friends and connections, I headed to the airport for my flight home.


Agile2016 – Recap Day 4

Maybe it’s the conference fatigue is setting in a little bit, but today didn’t have the energy that the previous days’ had – and I didn’t even go to the Collective Soul party last night.

Nevertheless, below is the round-up of the information that was gathered today.

The first session of the day was Johanna Rothman‘s Agile Program Management: Measurements to See Value and Delivery session, and I loved it. I had read her books, and it really resonated with me, and this session did not disappoint. I can’t wait to share the video of it with my team.

Loved her definition of what a Program is:

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This piece of wisdom is true; however, notice that she just said predictive measures, not containing time and/or investment. That comes later.

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Below are some of the ways to change measurement thinking and what measurements can be used (this is not measuring change).

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She also shared nuggets of wisdom around being careful what is measured, for example, if you measure Story Points and tell a team to do more Story Points, they just change their points to reflect more, but the output is the same. Do you want Story Points or do you want Working Features?

I loved this idea of measuring completed features:

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Below are some other measurements she suggested:

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Some great definitions of what productivity means in an agile environment.

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Those are just some of the highlights. The entire presentation is filled with so much great information on how programs can be measured.

Unfortunately, I had to step out during the Q&A and also miss the second morning session because of work conference calls, so after lunch at my usual place, I readied myself for the afternoon sessions.

The first afternoon session was Meeting Resistance and Moving Forward with Linda Rising.

She set the stage with the visual concept of a fencing duo that was trading jabs back and forth, one person trying to convince the other person that they were right. Argument, counter argument, until the “opponent” was lying on the ground saying, “I’m so sorry, I was completely wrong and misinformed.”

She then said, “I’m not sure anyone would appreciate being shown how stupid/wrong they are.” And then she got into how one must change in other to be the change the see in the world.

She shared the various cognitive biases like confirmation bias and the backfire effect, and I especially liked the slide on Our Narrative because it sums up nicely the thinking and behavior that we all do – “I’m a better than the average driver.”

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Other tidbits of wisdom shared:

  • There is no scientific proof that Agile is better, but we speak in the rational argument that we’re stating facts. We have stories versus case studies, and regardless, confirmation bias will keep out the information we don’t want to hear; we only pay attention to the parts that we agree with.
  • There is importance in those that disagree; leverage the power of skeptics. If we all agree, then that’s a bad sign.
  • Try to understand others’ point of view.
  • Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
  • When initiating a topic that might face resistance, show some doubt at the vary beginning. The brain will resist the resistance to the resistance.
  • A nice, clear, rational argument is needed when the individual is rationalizing after making the decision to agree.
  • All of us care and want to do a good job.
  • There will always be people in front of us, and people lagging behind.
  • By acknowledging the resistance, it can work in our favor, e.g. “I know you don’t want to agree with this” or “I know you might not want to do this, but” can help with compliance.
  • Or, “I know you have this belief…” or “We share this belief…”
  • When asking opinions, be specific, don’t ask for a high level or general opinion because it will just strengthen the opposing view.

Next, it was a session on Purpose Driven Teams. It was a good session walking us through the challenges and the current state of engagement in the workplace and why it’s important, drawing on the works of David Pink, Simon Sinek and Google.

Some examples of purpose-driven teams, includes the group in Italy that organized a concert to get the Foo Fighters to come play for them (Rock1000)

There was a exercise at the end that helped us find our purpose (using passion, potential and profit) that we could play with our teams. One of the data points that was interesting to me is that Millennials will walk out of an organization within 60 days if they do not feel engaged.

It was a great day, which was capped off by a celebration at the Georiga Aquarium. It was such a soothing way to end a week of conversations and information gathering. For those that wanted to party, there was a band and a hopping dance floor, and for those of us that just wanted to escape for a little while, we could watch this huge tank for hours.



Agile2016 – Recap Day 3

After a very good night’s sleep, it was time to start Day 3 of Agile2016. The morning Keynote was Joshua Kerievsky‘s presentation on Modern Agile. What is it the kids say these days? It was A-MAZ-ING!

He shared stories and examples of why “traditional” Agile is becoming a little outdated – the Scrum processes are like training wheels, and maybe we need something else as we learn to ride this bike called agility, like a push bike.

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Traditional Agile

The main areas of Modern Agile are 1) Make People Awesome, 2) Deliver Value Continuously, 3) Experiment & Learn Rapidly and 4) Make Safety a Prerequisite.

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Modern Agile

When the video is posted online, I highly recommend anyone reading this blog post to watch it. The area that stood out the most to me was the concept and the importance of Psychology Safety.

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It was a provocative session because a lot of the “training wheels” that are so familiar to those attending this conference were being disputed. Combine this with Steve Denning’s comments at the conference, and it makes me wonder how all of those in the Exhibitor Hall are reacting!


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Then, it was on to Stop talking to a Brick Wall – how culture impacts conversations about Agile with Peter Green and Jake Calabrese. This is one of my favorite sessions so far because it was highly informative and the presentation method really made it stick!

In it, we covered five world views that are likely the most common to our organizations and those who are in the organizations. Peter and Jake did a great job explaining the various pros and cons for each of the world views and how they can best be leveraged.

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We went through an exercise where we role-played one of the colors and our partner had to guess which one we were playing. Then Jake and Peter brought in more of their team members for short skit of a retrospective on why the team is not meeting their commitments.

Had a lot of fun in this session and immediately downloaded the book Reinventing Organizations to read on the flight home.

Did the usual for lunch where I went to the restaurant at the hotel and had lunch catching up on emails.

After lunch, I headed down to Doc Norton‘s session on Building Blocks of a Knowledge Work Culture. Both being from Chicago, I’ve known Doc for a while now and really enjoy his perspective on culture and leadership.

Today, he shared how management styles align with the components of the Cynefin framework, and he did a great job overlaying the content so that it could be practically used because not all work is the same, and it requires different leadership styles.


In the middle of the Cynefin framework is Disorder, which is when you don’t know which context that you’re in, and in that case, we will operate in our preferred context.

Good Leaders in Command usual aren’t successful in the other contexts; when in Chaos, they’re usually seen as the Hero. In Obvious, that’s where we get most of our management success stories.

Very little is available for the management styles that support Knowledge Work, which is where most software development falls.



IMG_2198.JPGBuilding on Daniel Pink’s work in Drive, he then described the Four Factors for team motivation.


Autonomy is where team members self-organized and govern themselves – the “doers” decide. Manager just need to set broad direction and help the team move forward.

Connection builds on the understanding of the purpose or mission of the organization. Doc told the story of when NASA began working on the space shuttle, a layer of management was removed because it caused the system to be too slow, and all team members were given a radio. Each team had their own channel for their own use and to reach other teams, and every day at noon, teams would all turn to a particular channel and give updates.

Excellence means being challenged and seeing progress toward completing that challenge.

Diversity means diversity of thought. It means that when interviewing, instead of deciding if you “like” the person, if that person will flourish at the organization. Will the tension be good and healthy?

Without Connection, there are turf wars, mismatched product to market fit, brittle architecture, the bugs are in the seams between the teams.

No Autonomy means complacency and compliance and shadow systems.

No Excellence means apathy and mediocrity. This can either be in the product or how the team works.

No Diversity means homogeneity and lack of innovation.

Before his presentation, Doc introduced me to Anders Ivarsson, who is an Agile Coach at Spotify and one of the authors of the well-known Spotify Model. We had a great conversation, and I really appreciated the introduction because he gave me insight into something that they’re doing at Spotify that will help me immensely.

After Doc’s presentation, I headed downstairs to The Manager Role for Enterprise Agility – this is what Good looks like by Russ Lewis. I had very high hopes for this session, and I have to say, it was the most disappointing session for me; it was the first time that I left early. There were a couple of tidbits (below) in the presentation, but on the whole, there wasn’t much substance.

  • The key to a successful agile transformation is the people in the middle.
  • The point of agile is to solve problems.
  • A manager should ensure that the team “understands the complexities of the problem enough” for him/her to walk away.
  • The Islands of Agility will either join up or fail (Steve Denning); however, Russ hoped there was a middle ground.
  • There are three situations where middle managers aren’t applicable:
    • Developing as a community for the community with no assets, e.g. Wikipedia or Unix
    • Organizations that adopt Holocracy fully, like Zappos, but that will likely only be a for a brief period.
    • Secret military units that don’t exist.
  • Managers protect the assets of the owners and investors

I liked this slide because it showed the disparity between the expectations of managers and team members.

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Below are some of the other slides that more of the content that I was expecting; there’s good stuff here, there was just something off about the presentation and delivery.

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Then, I headed back to the hotel to jump on a call before meeting a friend for dinner. Too bad I missed the event tonight, it looked like a great event!


Agile2016 – Recap Day 2

In the orientation session, they say, take time to relax and take time out, they’re not kidding! There’s so much information that my brain is now completely fried, and I’m so glad that the panel discussion at the end of the day was recorded, but I will need to watch it again.

Let’s start at the beginning. My first session was Outcome Oriented Agility: Transformations that work with, rather than against, cultures by Jay Packlick. It was one of my favorite sessions of the conference so far. He’s very down to earth and practical and states that the point of any framework should be “helping people accomplish the goal.”

He walked the group through a set of exercises that helped convey the importance of understanding the outcomes that are most important to the organization and the team. These are individual to each team, organization, and culture, and there is not a one size fits all model.

For example, when one is trying to lose weight, they usually don’t care about the diet. His presentation also caused the group to think in different ways, for example, when viewing a photo of washing dishes, some may say the desired outcome is clean dishes, others said an empty sink and even other said a happy marriage.

Another example was when eating lunch – he showed a photo of two friends having lunch smiling and laughing, where the outcome was strengthening bonds, while another was of a business lunch, where the outcome appeared to be some kind of deal. Same activity, different important outcomes – however, neither required teaching the individuals how to eat.

It’s important to pick the stuff that people care about and surface perspectives. Don’t assume that the outcomes that one organization or team values will be universal to other teams. Also, place trust in teams to pick the outcome that matters to them; it can’t be forced.

Then we went through a couple of fun exercises where we voted on the outcomes of a Standup. Materials are here and here. It was an interesting dialog based on the outcomes we individually value.

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The next exercise was about outcomes for a Sprint, which a similar voting, but this time it was Roman voting.

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Other takeaways included:

  • Outcomes are deeper than just being efficient.
  • The concept of Outcome Mapping
  • When an experiment doesn’t work, it’s learning.
  •  The concept of having a Net Promotor Score for teams – would they recommend that their friends and family work on the team?
  • People value something that they create 2×3 times more when the create it themselves – the Ikea Effect
  • Outcomes can be seen as acceptance criteria for organization agility; not heading away from a problem, but toward something and empowered to do it.
  • Don’t fall victim of the Procrustean Fallacy

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Next, it was Woody Zuill‘s The State of No Estimates. I chose this session because those that know me know that I find value in some level of estimates/high-level guesses. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I agreed with him and why he wanted to start the conversation about estimates.

He made it very clear that “it’s just a hashtag,” not a framework. Estimates are pieces of information, not facts. They’re meant to aid decision making. He’s questioning the value in spending a lot of time upfront estimating large work vs. breaking work into smaller bits to increase the chances of potentially valuable stuff. (the 80/20 80/20 rule).

As someone that would sometimes spend a month or two planning a six to eight-month project, I completely agree with this. This habit should be questioned and determine if it’s still working for the organization.

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This was my favorite quote from the session:

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He explained a situation that he encountered in his previous life that resonated with me – it was a large, many month project, and the team planned in six week increments. At the end of six weeks, they realized that their estimates were wrong and the requirements changed. So, what’d they do? They got training on how to do better estimates and implemented change control. What happened six month later? They realized their estimates were wrong and their requirements changed. What did they do? More training.. and on and on and on. Woody calls this the Cycle of Continous Non-Improvement. There was no assessment of the root cause the realizations were just symptons.

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It was a great session, and I appreciated hearing the perspective and reasoning for the conversation from Woody himself. He also offered a warning for people not to go back and propose this at their jobs because a few people have told him that they were fired for bringing it up dogmatically that estimates shouldn’t be done. More pictures can be found here.

Then, it was time for lunch. I did the same thing – had lunch at the restaurant in the hotel and did work. The person sitting next to me had been working all morning, and she missed all sessions. I felt bad for her.

After lunch, I wandered around the exhibition hall to find some materials to bring back to the office. I left the gauntlet after getting what I needed; it’s just too hectic for me to linger, play games, talk with booth reps, etc.

Then it was time for Johanna Rothman‘s workshop on Growing Your Servant Leadership. This was one of the sessions I was really looking forward to because I enjoyed Johanna’s books immensely, and I was touched that she remembered me from our email correspondence (maybe it helped that we have the same name🙂 ).

The workshop covered the basics of the areas and goals of a servant leader.

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Then we broke into triads where we practiced coaching – exchanging roles as Coach, Coachee and Observer for 30 minutes. It was fun to discuss issues with others and work on coaching and listening skills. The observations and feedback that I received were really helpful.

After the triad conversations ended, one person from the triad went up to place our issue in one of the seven Servant Leadership boards.

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Next up, was Kara Minotti Becker’s Women in Agile: I Want to See You Be Brave. It was a good session to help women find their voices, leveraging some stage acting tips. The full presentation can be found here. The exercises were a little confusing to participants, and the I gained a lot of value through the conversation that I had with my partner in the exercises. It was a high-energy session, and I’m sure participants walked away with at least one tactic that will help them.

After the sessions were done, I attended the Industry Analyst Panel Discussion: Agile Trends and Future Directions, and I’m very glad it was recorded because I’m going to need to watch it again to capture all the tidbits and insights. One of the points I tookaway was when a participant asked if the name Agile needs to change, and the consensus from the panel was “no” because Agile has such a brand now.

That wraps up another day. Can’t wait to see what I learn tomorrow!

Agile2016 – Recap Day 1

As I wrote the title of this blog, I almost wrote “Day 2” because of the wealth of information that was shared in five and a half hours of sessions (not counting the great discussions with fellow participants!) made me feel as though two days have passed!

My day started out at the New Attendee Orientation, which was a great way to learn about the flow of the conference and how to get the most of out it. Suggestions like the “law of two feet,” “it’s okay to skip a session if you need to” and “remember the important things, like drink tickets!,” helped set the cultural norms for participants.

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After the orientation, I headed down to the Open Jam Daily Huddle and was welcomed to join – even though I didn’t quite know what I was doing – it turned out to be a great session where the groundwork and format was laid out for Open Jams later that day and throughout the rest of the week. Loved the themes and motifs to post topics to – Integration (by the Dock), Adventure (by the Artic) and Safety (by the Shipwreck).

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Then it was time for the opening Keynote by Jurgen Appelo on Managing for Happiness. All 2500 Agile2016 participants gathered in the massive ballroom, and it was crazy! The largest Agile gathering yet, with participants from 42 countries.

His presentation can be found here, and below were the main points he covered were:

  1. The system needs to be managed for happiness.
  2. There are seven silver bullets for increasing happiness in the system. (link)
  3. Debunking that team members must be co-located by sharing ways that teams can still maintain “mental closeness,” one example was through Personal Maps. (link)
  4. Provided 12 Steps that make people happy (link)
  5. Sharing ideas on how to provide clarity for a team to understand the level of delegation from “management” they’re able to leverage; help teams self-organize and transparently decide who does what in your organization. (link)
  6. Shared ways to measure if an organization is living up to their values – “are we doing what we say we’re doing?” by suggesting culture books (Zappos was an example) and videos of team members’ stories.
  7. A new way of bonus assessment and distribution via Merit Money (link).
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The Seven Silver Bullets

And that was just the first two hours!!!

Then, I attended Craig Smith‘s Coaching Nightmares: Insights we can learn from Gordan Ramsey. The presentation can be found here. I really appreciate Craig taking us through the below journey using clips from Gordan Ramsey’s show.

He was able to tie in the following models as he walked us through the journey:

  1. The GROW Model (link)
  2. The Responsibility Process (link)
  3. The ACI Competency Framework (link)

My personal favorite was the “Powerful Questions Pyramid,” and him explaining that the “Who, When, Where” questions can be seen as confrontational.

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Other resources he suggested include, Active Listening, Empathy Maps, Coaching Canvas, Thomas-Kilman Conflict Modes and Non-Violent Communication.

I also enjoyed the conversation that I had with my tablemates before the session started. I learned (in the orientation) to get there early, and it also had the unintended effect of being able to chat/meet with others that also arrived early. For an introvert like me, it was way easier to open a dialog with someone at the table than go up to them randomly in the open areas.

Then, it was lunch time. I needed a little decompression time to process all that I had learned so far, some quiet time and to catch up on a few work related items, so I had lunch at the restaurant in the hotel.

After lunch, I wandered around the exhibitor hall but then ended up going to the next session early to get settled in.

The next session was Robert Wood‘s “Digital Disruption: Let’s create the future of Agile.” It was a great discussion on how Agile can adapt to help organizations have the agility, adaptability ,and flexibility to combat disruption. It was a great working session to capture what are some of the Common Limitations, Current Adaptions (to help with the limitations), Future Frameworks and the Future of Agile.

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Through an interacted discussion, we filled out the sheets below with content, and it was great to hear others’ perspectives. One comment that stood out for me was “all of this is c the lens of a person’s level of understanding of Agile and what it means” and “once we realize Agile is not a silver bullet, it’s worth its weight in gold.”

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There was a great conversation of how organizations are made up of mixed frameworks, and that might not be a bad thing because there “is no one way” to be agile, which got me thinking that the future of Agile could be how organizations can be set up to organically work to enable the work, support iteration, and the resourcefulness of team members. One person made the comment that as time goes on, the “old/process heavy” ways of working will no longer be the baseline for where teams want to improve from, it’ll be from the more agile ways of working, and thus a different mindset.

After a cup of coffee, the next session was David Hussman‘s “You Can’t Fix What You Don’t See: Visualizations That Spark Conversations and Change.” A group of us, Accidental Visualizers, as he called us, enjoyed a presentation from David, Ghera (Intel), Cliff (Spotify, who was remote from Sweden) and Brandon (DevJams).

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The session opened with a video clip from Casey Rothenthal‘s visualizations at Netflix (link – the clip started at the 26:55 mark and ran for about 5 minutes)

Ghera introduced the group to Dooley’s definition of the Complex Adaptive System – “complex macroscopic collection of relatively similar and partially connected micro-structures formed in order to adapt to the changing environment and increase its survivability as a macro-structure,” and then she shared visualizations of the that were generated from data from a story survey that was done with team members.

The survey used the concepts of Sense Maker from Cognitive Edge.

Then, Cliff shared some visualizations from Spotify. The first was a stakeholder map that one of the teams created with stickies and lines because they needed to have a visual of all the groups that were using what they were developing. The line colors represented the frequency of the communication that was needed. This helped them remember who needed to be aware of changes to their services, identify groups that used their services that they didn’t even know existed and helped better understand how their services were being used.

The next visualization helped another team understand why build times were taking longer than they expected.

The goal of these visualizations was to provide team members contextual information when they need it.

David shared an interesting evolution of a typical Kanban board that evolved into communicating the completion of the product as a whole vs. what’s in progress. It was a great walkthrough, and I hope the slides are uploaded so that I can share them here. “People freaked when we moved the lines!”

The reason for this evolution is because some people aren’t interested in a “grocery list” of features, they’re interested in the “appetizer” that the work produced. I really liked how the backlog was morphed into a map vs just being time or priority based (both which are still needed), but this shook the “in progress” mindset. The stories were organized by interactions.

Brandon then shared a few ways to look at the impact of developer interruptions on their code-writing, and with their permission, installed keystroke loggers on their machines. It painted an interesting picture of just how many hours a developer is writing code vs. in meetings or other non-coding related activities. He also created a tag cloud based on user story/defect commits in Git to determine which files are touched the most, and why – user stories or defects.

He also shared and overlapping diagram of user stories/defects based on the areas of code that each one touched so that testing would know where efficiencies could be found in regression testing.

Below are some photos from Vinayak Joglekar:





Overall, it was an awesome day, and so much wonderful information was shared. I made new friends and connections, and even though I’m exhausted, it was worth it.

Looking forward to tomorrow!









Agile2016 – Sunday Recap

Arrived in Atlanta for Agile2016 a day early so that I could attend the Women in Agile workshop, which was coordinated by Natalie Warnet and was based on her research in how to increase the involvement of women in the Agile community. It was totally worth the extremely early flight this morning.

Before I get to the details of the workshop, I just have to say that I am so impressed with the scale of the Agile2016 event – it’s taking over two floors of the Hyatt Regency conference areas! All the volunteers have been hard at work to make sure that everyone has a great time. I’ll take me a few hours to go through the swag bag!

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On to the workshop – Natalie did a great job opening the workshop with some context-setting of her research and to highlight the main findings of her work. For example, all seventeen authors of the Agile Manifesto were male.

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Then, she turned it over to Cindy Morse, who is VP of Engineering Operations at Salesforce, for the keynote. Cindy shared the story of how she started with ExactTarget in sales, and after they were acquired by Salesforce in 2013, that she was part of the team that led the “integration” efforts for the acquisition. Then a male mentor reached out to her to run the Engineering Operations group.

It was such an inspirational story because she is one of the most humble and curious people I think I’ve met. She’s leading a team, that includes Engineering, and she has spent a total of one hour coding.

When I asked her about how she handles any issues with credibility, she replied that “it’s not her job to tell them how to do their jobs, but to make sure that they’re able to perform the best work.”

She then shared their approach to the Agile Adoption – they focused on Prioritization, Visibility, Predictability and Quality (Quality was a later add, and there’s a funny story around it).

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Then we moved into two lean coffee sessions where we were able to discuss topics like writing and blogging, corporate support, overcoming adversity, networking, mentorship and sponsorship, event coordination and “allyship”/how can men be engaged and be part of the effort. I enjoyed meeting and discussing these topics with my tablemates.

At the end of the session, we decided that the entire group (above 100 of us), would join the Slack room – 

A couple of recommendations that came out of the discussions include:

  1. Training from the Back of the Room (link)
  2. The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time (link)
  3. The Agile School (link)
  4. Salesforce Agile Adoption Case Study (link)

To see posts on Twitter, please take a look at #womeninagile.

I closed the day with a drink at the workshop happy hour with some new found friends – Sally Elata, Kellie Morrell, Lonnie Weaver Johnson and Mandy Kluver.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

Some other photos from today:

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CAOS Meetup – Women and Agile

Last night, I had the honor of participating in a Chicago Agile Open Space (CAOS) panel event with four other women. Huge thank you to Bill Allen for bringing this great group of women together to share their stories and experiences working in agile. The format was 5-7 minute talks from each panelist and then a panel discussion, and it was hosted at Centro (where I work).

My topic was the Proving and Improving Mindset and the Impact on Agile Teams because based on a 2015 Harvard Business Review study, gender played a role in which mindset an individual had a tendency to experience.

The full text of my talk is below, and the presentation can be found here.

Full Text of Presentation

One of the goals of agile teams is to become learning, adaptive and responsive to current conditions to achieve an outcome. Retrospectives are deemed by many as the most important ceremony of Scrum. Without regular feedback, assessment, understanding and a bias for improvement, an agile team cannot operate at optimum health.

Today, I want to share with you a particular barrier to achieving that optimum health, one that studies have shown to differ between genders. My hope is to increase awareness amongst the agile community.

In your organizations, do you ever wonder, “why do some people react defensively to feedback?” and “why do some take it in stride?” Have you noticed any gender differences in how people react?

In 2015, Harvard Business Review gathered data on how people react to feedback. They called the defensive tendency “proving” and the accepting tendency “improving.” Their definitions were very close to Carol Dweck’s “fixed vs. growth” mindset work.

What they found was:

“People with a growth mindset tend to focus on improving, learning, and effort; while folks with a fixed mindset assume that our abilities are based more on inborn talents and traits and unlikely to change. The former seek out challenging situations and welcome feedback, including criticism. The latter strive to prove themselves to others, using their existing skills. They tend to avoid feedback and criticism, and usually select tasks at which they can look good and succeed.”

When they reviewed the data, they found that respondents orientation to either a proving or improving mindset was influenced by three factors: Age, Self-Confidence, and Gender.

Regarding Age, as we age, there “is a gradual evolution of a proving mindset into an improving mindset.” They theorized that “as we age, we simply become more self-aware – and it may also have something to do with confidence,” which was the second major factor they uncovered.

Regarding Self-Confidence, they found:

“There is a fascinating and slightly complex relationship between self-confidence and an improving mindset. Males show improving self-confidence up until their early 40s, experience a mid-life dip, then experience rising confidence again until their mid-50s. At that point, their confidence tends to decline. Women, on the other hand, start out less confident, but show steady increases from their mid-20s until their mid- 60s, ending up more confident than the men.”

“The best predictor we could find of people having an orientation toward “proving” was their lack of confidence. Those who scored highest on our confidence percentile were more likely to have an improvement mindset.”

This is also where imposter syndrome comes into play – the fear that they don’t really belong in their role, and they’ll ultimately be discovered and fail. Imposter syndrome has been found to be prevalent in high-achieving women. This lower self-confidence also impacts one’s likelihood to speak up during retros and contribute feedback to the team.

If there is also a fear of failure environment in the organization, this can be even more pronounced and erode self-confidence.

What they found about Gender:

They found that women are more likely to have a “proving” mindset than men are, especially early in their careers. They theorized a few possible reasons, including that women are socialized to be less confident, where men are socialized to be overconfident.

Also, women are subject to the “prove-it-again” bias, in which their competence is constantly (and unfairly questioned).

Prove-it-again bias – in a study by Joan C. Williams, 2/3 of women interviewed encountered it. Women have to provide more evidence of competence than men in order to be seen as equally competent. A woman mentions an idea, the idea is ignored, a man brings up the same idea, and the idea is heard When seeking a promotion, if there are 9 things that need to be achieved, women will do 10 before asking for the promotion. Men will ask for it when they have 6.

So what can we do as an agile community?

Be aware of these tendencies as we observe our team members’ candor and ability to provide feedback to each other, especially at times of reflection and retrospection.

Looks for ways to encourage shifts in team member’s behavior to steer them toward developing a growth mindset. If someone is sensitive to feedback, suggest that they start with small doses of feedback and work their way up.

Team members can also change the language that they use when praising to foster that growth mindset – “your effort really paid off” vs. “your report is brilliant.”

Team members also need to emphasize that mistakes are learning opportunities rather than cause for embarrassment or punishment.

Thank you.

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Reference Links

11th Annual PMI Chicagoland Leadership Forum

Beyond the Trad PMO - Lead

Last Friday, I was invited to attend the PMI Chicagoland Chapter 11th Annual Leadership Forum entitled “Strategy for Innovation: The PM Advantage.” It was a full day of presentations, panels and networking held at the Chevy Chase Country Club.

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, chair of the 2016 PMI Board of Directors, was the first to present, and he gave a wealth of information on the state of the project management profession, citing references from the latest Pulse of the Profession.

Some of the takeaways from his presentation were:

  • Only two of the top 100 MBA programs teach project management.
  • When searching Harvard Business Review for content, there are only 299 were related to project management when thousands are related to strategy or other business topics.
  • He shared his perspective of the language that companies are using, for example, those on the Forbes Top 500 list are good at execution – getting the troops aligned (action vs. thinking), planning and focusing on execution.
  • Create the business case, plan and ensure follow through. Most organizations will use the terminology “initiatives” and Antonio believes that they can greatly leverage project management because they’re projects.
  • Organizations constantly face the “Execution Dilemma” – balancing the Business Operations (running the business) vs. Strategic Initiatives (changing the business).

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  • Because of this, he shared the importance of project managers understanding how the business is run because usually the priority is running the business and the projects that support it.
  • He then shared the concept of Organizational Ambidexterity and suggested the following project mix:
    • Innovating/Changing: 20%-30% of the portfolio
    • Winning/Surviving: 70%-80% of the portfolio
  • The focus on execution and being action-oriented – not just planning and thinking, “just do it.” He then shared a job description from Nike for a strategic level position in the European headquarters that included a lot of content on planning and execution, i.e. project management.
  • Project management contributes to organization agility and stresses the importance of prioritization. Silos are removed and conversations are steered to talk about strategy and triggers – e.g. a project manager’s questions (what, how, when, with whom) force the topic of prioritization.

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  • Project management brings transparency to an organization and allows for decision makers understand options, constraints, and the ability to say “no” and make choices.
  • Project management focuses on the organization and increases accountability.
  • How an organization works is 25% is driven by process, and 75% driven by leadership and culture.
  • Ideally, there is constant reinforcement to create a culture of execution, and leaders make the difference, especially when there’s a compelling story to connect the work to the purpose/reason.

He closed by offering the following advice to project managers – talk with business leaders to understand what’s important to them and how they work; be curious about their problems.

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I found the presentation extremely interesting as I am a member of two very different circles – PMI and the Agile Community, and I’m curious how the two will evolve to work closer together in the digital product development field.

The second speaker was Michael Docherty, author of Collective Disruption. Michael shared a great presentation that focused on the importance of innovation and created a compelling case of how an organization could innovate and run the business – similar to inhaling and exhaling. Look at it as a system and see solutions and options.

He shared a number of paradoxical thinking and linear thinking challenges to begin to see new options, such as what Cisco did by investing seed money in Novo Systems, and then purchasing them. Also, he shared the Adobe has a “Kickbox” program, where individuals receive an experimentation box with a $1000 gift card for them to work on whatever project that they would like following Lean Startup methods. The slide overviewing Lego below sums up example paradoxes nicely.


He shared how project management could fit into this framework by noting that it is a very emergent approach based on a vision and strategy, and there is not a lot of apparent order at the beginning. Project managers can facilitate this exploration by looking at things like 1) are we building diverse teams, and 2) guiding toward order, but not control. We can also force decision-making and challenge work that may need to be deemed as a failure and stopped. We also need to be okay embracing uncertainty and understand that leading and inspiring happens through emotion – the Neocortex (intellectual) has about 40 processes and the Limbic (emotional) has about 20 MILLION processes per second.


Then there was a panel discussion based on questions from the audience that was very informative.

I really appreciated the opportunity to network with such a great group of project management leaders and left with a lot of food for thought and education of the state of the profession, how to be more innovated and how project management can support the efforts.

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