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If this post resonates with you, please consider spreading the message so we can educate and inspire others. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn and Twitter. ~~~ I must confess that my Twitter knowledge and expertise is limited. I'm even skeptical of its value. But after July's Agile2016 conference in Atlanta, GA, I found that engaging via Twitter enriched my overall event experience. I learned quite a bit from the real-time chatter and continue to draw new learning moments from the pile of #Agile2016 tweets that amassed throughout the week. There is an overwhelming amount of content, so I sorted by the "top" tweets to see which moment might have resonated the most. What do you think it was? The Most Retweeted Moment from Agile2016 Credit: Shane Hastie (tweet) and Joshua Kerievsky (speaker) At last check, this one slide from Kerievsky's mid-week keynote had been retweeted 361 times (and growing). To put into context, the keynote focused on the proposed 4 principles of Modern Agile, one of which is Make Safety a Prerequisite. The website offers some clarity within this principle: Safety is both a basic human need and a key to unlocking high performance. We actively make safety a prerequisite by establishing safety before engaging in any hazardous work. We protect people’s time, information, reputation, money, health and relationships. And we endeavor to make our collaborations, products and services resilient and safe. Why is this? A reasonable level of engagement was fueled by this moment. Why might this be? Do many of our talented knowledge-working professionals still work in a toxic culture of fear in their organizations? Are people just embracing the obvious? Was it just 'conference crowd bias' kicking in? What do you think? The impact of a fearful company culture is nothing new. In the world of Agile and Lean Thinking, the impact of a 'culture of fear' is well understood in practice, and a quick Amazon search turns up thousands of books on this very subject. A common use case is when a company attempts to enact and grow Scrum within a software Product Delivery organization. Since Scrum is an expression of empirical process control, it requires transparency so that inspect & adapt interactions will result in informed decisions based on reality rather than fantasy. In a company culture that promotes transparency through courageous communication, I've often seen it lead to some amazing business outcomes. Is your organization attempting to scale using SPS/Nexus, SAFe, LeSS, etc.? If so, all of those frameworks are empirical as well, so to maximize the business and economic benefits, all arguably require that the organization Make Safety a Prerequisite. Why do I feel so strongly about this? Each of us has a professional story that is emerging each day we enter our workplaces. I've been fortunate that, in my 23+ year career, I've only lived in a couple of organizations that promoted an aggressive culture of fear. In both cases, the outcomes of the work were a mess, the people were miserable, the environment drained my soul, and success was defined by something radically different than a shared team goal. I'm hopeful that these toxic situations are a rare exception, but I imagine that they will always exist to some extent. What does the future hold? The tweet is chock full of insight. Without an open, honest and respectful company culture, people struggle to tell the truth and create a shared understanding of tough problems and solutions. That said, I've seen situations where some implementation of Agile & Lean practices garners a small benefit, even in companies that have a culture of fear. And lastly, I've also seen situations in transparent and healthy cultures where people made incorrect assumptions and placed the fear on themselves. So although the tweet sounds simple...it's actually more complex than we might realize. In my mind, the real benefit is when Agile & Lean shine a light on the issue, so that an organization can acknowledge a culture misalignment and choose to solve for it. In Closing To tie this back to empirical scaling frameworks like SPS / SAFe / LeSS, the following is another popular retweet from the conference. Is your "Agile" operating model helping illuminate the culture of fear in your organization? Credit: Paul Wynia (tweet) and Ryan Ripley (speaker) ~~~~~~ What do you make of this? Have we largely solved this problem in the Agile space, or is it a widespread issue that needs to be addressed at global scale? I hope you'll consider engaging with this post by sharing your views in the comments section below.
Aug 8, 2016 Read blog
If this post resonates with you, please consider spreading the message so we can educate and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn and Twitter. ~~~ The colorful wall posters are ubiquitous in organizations small and large. And I bet most of us are keenly aware of the 2001 Agile Manifesto and can recite the 4 value statements and 12 principles of Agile software development with supreme clarity. Sometimes compared to the Declaration of Independence, many cherish it as the timeless artifact that ultimately spawned the Agile transformation movement. Over the years, I've relentlessly referred to it and have respectfully challenged organizations to learn from 15+ years of wisdom embedded within the Manifesto. From 2001 to 2016 - Where are we now? Fast forward to 2016 and you'll see that we're in a much different place than 2001. The pursuit toward Enterprise Agile and scaling is an industry buzzword and was a major theme at this year's Agile Alliance conference. With Agile2016's attendance at 2,500 strong, the learning and cross-industry collaboration was at an all-time high. As a conference participant, I used the week as an opportunity to exchange learnings and experiences with Enterprise Coaching peers, as well as other leaders and practitioners across this vast space of "Agile" and Scrum. Through various conversations during the week, the following two themes emerged for me: Large Enterprises continue to share many of the same opportunities & challenges. We agree that a principles-first approach toward Enterprise Agile is essential for the most effective adoption of processes, practices and tools. In short, a guiding set of organizational principles helps adapt processes and practices in an organization's context while successfully moving the Agile needle in a meaningful direction. That said, I invite us to ponder the following provocative question: Are the principles in the 2001 Agile Manifesto still relevant in 2016? The mid-week keynote seemed to offer a compelling and potentially polarizing answer. Joshua Kerievsky's talk on Modern Agile focused on the evolution of Agile and our need to keep pace via an adapted set of guiding principles. Here is a picture showing the 4 broad principles from the 2001 Agile Manifesto (left) and the proposed 4 principles for Modern Agile (right): In his keynote, Kerievsky postulated that the Agile Manifesto was relevant when drafted in 2001, but in present-day, Agile has evolved far beyond its original intentions...rendering the original principles as outdated. What do you think? This keynote article summarizes Kerievsky's message, so I invite all of us to learn and draw our own conclusions. For those who weren't at Agile2016, this amazing visual summary captured the essence of his talk (credit: Lynne Cazaly): How do you make Modern Agile real in your organization? Like the original Manifesto, there is a vast body of knowledge under the covers - including theory & science, thinking tools, practices and skills that must be understood, adopted and mastered in your organization's context. However, without professional safety as a prerequisite, I might suggest that none of this stuff will work for your organization. In short, the 4 principles of Modern Agile are easy to understand .... but extremely difficult to master (just like Scrum) - especially at the size and scale of our largest global enterprises. How long have we been asking this question? This question has been posed for a number of years now, most recently at last month's Agile Europe panel discussion, and dating back to Steve Denning's May 2011 Forbes article entitled: Applying "Inspect & Adapt" To The Agile Manifesto. Even The Scrum Guide eats its own dog food by publishing carefully-crafted revisions every few years. But it was intriguing and provocative to see this question reinvigorated yet again on the big stage of Agile2016. So, what's next? In Closing I'm not smart or wise enough to predict the future of the Agile movement, but I do feel that now is the time for many larger organizations to figure this out if they want to continuously deliver valuable outcomes and effectively compete in their industries. ~~~~~~ Is it time to host a well-earned retirement party for the Agile Manifesto and align toward Modern Agile? Where should Lean principles be considered? I invite all of us to engage with this post by sharing your views in the comments section below.
Jul 30, 2016 Read blog
As we approach the mid-year point in our jobs, I often find that knowledge workplaces have a tendency to slow down a bit and lose some steam - even the ones that leverage Scrum. Early-year milestones have been met (sometimes at an unsustainable pace), Teams are in 'recovery mode', and forecasts for the rest of the year are taking shape for a second-half push. However, this is an ideal time of year to avoid momentum loss by aggressively reflecting and implementing strategic improvements in ourselves, our Teams and our organizations. How can we influence this behavior in others? In last year's short post entitled The Most Dangerous Word in the Workplace, I shared my own insights on the word "why" and its potential for driving negative toxicity in an organization's culture. However, this very same word can foster positive dialogue that leads to significant organizational improvements. Asking "Why" About ... Everything I recently witnessed this mindset on display in my own company - it was inspiring to watch. It involved a number of software Product Development Teams who had just completed the launch of a highly successful new Product. Fresh off a big win, it would be easy to relax and let this success carry the organization forward on cruise control. Instead, these teams were aggressively seeking new learnings and challenging the status quo - with thoughtful multi-Team retrospection and purpose - simply by asking"Why?" about everything. Some questions that emerged for the Teams and Leaders included: "Why" do we exist? "Why" are we working on these particular Features? What makes it essential for our Customers? "Why" do we use Scrum to optimize business outcomes? How can we make it better and more focused? "Why" do we have to follow this operational procedure in this way? How can we change it to improve our organization's Agility? This powerful collaboration resulted in a reinvigorated improvement backlog for the Scrum Teams and the larger organization. And despite their recent success, there was zero complacency - teams immediately started implementing improvements that will lead them to even greater success for the rest of the year and beyond. This is the Lean pillar of Continuous Improvement in action! A Call to Action for all Scrum Professionals As you enter your workplace tomorrow, consider challenging the status quo - politely and respectfully - using "why". Discover "why" your work matters to the larger organization. Seek out a wasteful process and ask "why" do we do it this way. ~~~~~ If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to 'Follow' my professional journey through LinkedIn and my Blog. I am also on Twitter.
May 11, 2016 Read blog
Inspiring Lessons From the Life Journey of Mr. Warrick Dunn __________ As many of us in the USA prepare for the big college football rivalry weekend, let’s take a moment to learn about Agile leadership from Warrick Dunn, retired football star with a storied career in college and the National Football League. Although there is much to celebrate from his sporting success, Mr. Dunn’s real impact is now on full display through his inspiring and selfless service to society in present day. His life journey inspires me to become a better person and leader. My hope is that his story will do the same for your Agile journey. For those who might not know of Mr. Dunn, his non-profit (Warrick Dunn Charities) is dedicated to giving the gift of homes to struggling single parents across the United States. A few weeks ago, his organization reached a heartwarming milestone by giving the 144th gift of homeownership to another single-parent family. Kudos to Mr. Dunn for making a difference in so many lives around the country. The deepest part of human nature is that which urges people to rise above our present circumstances and to *transcend* our common nature. ~ Stephen R. Covey Mr. Dunn first made an impact on me over 22 years ago, when… …as a University of Florida graduate, I had a chance to experience Mr. Dunn at our annual rivalry game against Florida State in November 1993. With the game on the line and the odds stacked against his team, Dunn and the Florida State Seminoles broke my Florida Gator-faithful heart with this jaw dropping 80-yard touchdown reception that can be experienced through the YouTube replay of this classic game (starting at 3:09:19). If you look closely enough, I think you can actually see me (and 80,000 other Florida Gator fans) shedding tears during this heart-wrenching moment. As I watched him race down the sideline for the game winning score, I remember thinking: Wow, this guy is something special. As we’ll learn in a moment, special is a gross understatement. I struggle to find words to describe Mr. Dunn’s humble servant-leadership and the impact he is making in our world today. This is what makes Warrick Dunn such an inspirational leader Sure, college football fans love ‘the game’ and yes, I was disappointed to watch my team lose that day. At the time, however, Mr. Dunn was dealing with unimaginable heartbreak and responsibilities off the field. Earlier that year (in January 1993), his Mom (Betty Smothers, a single parent) was ambushed and killed while serving as an off-duty police officer. This terrible family tragedy put Warrick, at only 18 years of age, into the role of head of household by assuming the responsibility of raising his two siblings. As much as I try to empathize, I am unable to comprehend how difficult it was for Warrick and his family. Looking back on that day, I am ashamed at myself for being so upset over the outcome of a college football game, especially while Mr. Dunn was dealing with real struggles that actually matter in life. If I could hit the rewind button, I would have responded very differently. Instead of tears of despair, I would’ve shed tears of joy for a young man who deserved that timeless highlight for the benefit of his family, his football team and his proud institution. Just imagine the level of courage this young man showed as he faced the loss of his only parent and the tremendous responsibilities he had to assume as the Father figure for his family. Throughout that ordeal, he still found a way to continue his studies at Florida State and prepare for the upcoming football season. And it doesn’t end there — as fate would have it, he went on to help lead Florida State to its first National Championship that season. Warrick Dunn’s relentless focus, purpose and selfless leadership have since elevated his life journey to inspiring levels of success, including: A successful 12-year career in the NFL. Founder of the Homes for the Holidays program, which has made home ownership a reality for over 144 single parents and their families since 1997. Expansion of his mission into Warrick Dunn Charities. Since 2002, his organization has awarded millions in home furnishings, food and other donations to single-parent families and children across the nation. All I can say is … wow. What can Warrick Dunn teach us about the real leadership needed for effective Scrum? Within organizations small and large, there are many people who have a job title proclaiming themselves as leaders, but real leadership has nothing to do with our place in an organizational boss-subordinate hierarchy or a powerful job title. Warrick Dunn is a living example of real leadership, and I encourage all of us to learn from him. My professional journey continues to reinforce a powerful insight: We need more REAL leaders in the workplace, especially in the Fortune 500 space. To be clear, there are many great leaders on display in these big companies now. It’s wonderful and inspirational when I get the chance to witness the emergence of real leadership (e.g., Scrum Masters, Developers, Product Owners, and senior Management) within the challenging corporate cultures that still exist within many big companies today. However………I believe there is an opportunity to encourage even more REAL leaders in the workplace; leaders who are: 1. Selfless Let’s all learn from Mr. Dunn’s leadership and what it means to give away a personal ego for a larger purpose. Despite making millions in the NFL, Mr. Dunn has chosen to invest his good fortune into others…lifting struggling single parents to new heights. What does it take for each of us to give away our personal egos at work, so we can mentor and grow others to become better than us? 2. Courageous Imagine the level of courage Mr. Dunn showed in 1993 as he faced the loss of his only parent. His newfound Father figure responsibilities would’ve overwhelmed almost anyone, but not Warrick Dunn. He faced the moment with the courage to move forward, and look at where that took his life journey. Workplace courage pales in comparison, but it’s still an essential element of real leadership in an organization. Exemplifying courage allows you to create conditions where your teammates can speak freely when it matters most. What challenges do you face at work? Are there certain situations where you feel scared to tell the truth? Courage is your ability to confront those fears directly, so you can lead your organization toward its larger goals on a daily basis. 3. Focused Great leaders inspire others, but this inspiration is razor-focused on a shared purpose – which is the vision & mission of the organization. One look at Mr. Dunn’s charity website and you’ll feel the purpose that it serves. In your organization, great leaders understand how to translate the vision & mission into a focused set of business objectives that people achieve…not because they have to, but because they WANT to. 4. Humble Mr. Dunn does not garner the spotlight. He celebrates the continued success of his work by deflecting the praise toward his charity’s Board of Directors (who are also quite inspiring people). This is a profound trait of great leaders; the ability to melt behind the scenes as others are celebrated for their success. 5. Masters of Their Craft Great leaders bring a deep level of skills, knowledge and experience in an organization. Like Mr. Dunn, real leaders have lived in the arena (and might still play in the arena), and they use their knowledge and experience to thoughtfully mentor and grow others toward their full potential. In Closing What makes Warrick Dunn an inspiring leader to you? What other lessons can we learn from Mr. Dunn's life journey? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other. ~~~~~ If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to 'Follow' my professional journey through LinkedIn and my Blog. I am also on Twitter.
Nov 27, 2015 Read blog
Where do you spend your days in the workplace? Are you living in the Scrum-oriented trenches of your organization, like the vast majority of us? If so, then I celebrate *you* -- as a real Scrum Team Member -- the person who does the actual work that delivers value for the business. Allow me the humbling honor to present this Kudo Card to you and your Teammates for a job well done in 2015! ******* It seems that so many posts in the vast blogsophere focus on leadership and how to become a great "leader", and 'leader this leader that', so let's shift gears for a moment and talk about the workplace reality for the vast majority of us, which lies in the art and skill of being a great Team Member in the trenches - especially those of us who live within Scrum Teams. How many of us actually live in the Fortune 500 C-Suite anyway? Instead, we are the ones who live in the trenches of an organization and do the hard work needed to meet a critical set of business objectives that are borne out of the C-Suite. And doing this well requires all of us to act less as individuals and more as Team Members. But what does this actually mean? Is your annual performance review coming up? In fact, as we approach our end-of-year annual performance reviews, consider turning the table on this often soul-draining meeting by offering your manager a valuable set of learnings about great Teamwork and what it means to add value in your organization. The meeting could transform into a meaningful feedback exchange that helps you and your manager learn and grow together as workplace professionals. What is the difference between an individual and a Team Member? Showing the strength, humility and confidence as a Team Member isn't as easy as it might sound. It takes a lot for someone to transform from an individual contributor and into a real Team Member. Sure, I could sit in an office cube all day and code apps by myself, but the reality is that we work on much larger and complex projects that require me to work effectively on a Team. Great Teamwork becomes even more essential when my Team has to collaborate and integrate with other Teams in the organization. Does this describe your workplace? The following are seven recommendations that I offer individuals to help them grow into high performing Team Members. These suggestions represent growth opportunities for many of us, as it requires skills and emotional awareness to develop into a collaborative, cross-skilled and authentic Team Member. As you read through each suggestion, try pausing for a moment and ask the following self-reflective questions in preparation for your annual performance review: Where am I on the Team Member spectrum? Where do I see opportunities for personal Team Member growth heading into next year? 1 - Show Vulnerability in Front of Your Teammates. To become a great Team Member, we have to feel comfortable in our own skin, which includes admitting our weaknesses and shortcomings in front of our Teammates. As a Software Developer myself, I had days where I was just plain stuck and frustrated. I would look at a piece of defective code and couldn't figure out the root of the problem. However, I wouldn't just sit there and stare at my computer screen all day in defeat - I would reach out to a fellow Team Member, admit my frustration, and ask for help. Oftentimes, two heads are much better than one when solving a problem, and it's okay to let your guard down if you're struggling. Plus, when you're willing to be vulnerable, it encourages your Teammates to follow suit. If you have downtime over the holiday season, then I strongly recommend reading Brené Brown's Daring Greatly. It's a life changing book that helps each of us discover the power and strength when being vulnerable in front of others. 2 - Accept That You're Going to Fail. In a recent post about failure, I shared a real story about a Team Member who experienced a visible and costly moment of failure on a software development project. Look - we're ALL human and we make mistakes all the time. This might sound cliché, but a great Team Member accepts responsible failure as a reality and uses every failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. In addition, great Team Members understand that our fellow Teammates are also going to experience failure, so we must handle those situations with respect and compassion by offering a helping hand - all in the interest of learning and growth. 3 - Be Honest About Who You Are. Don't be someone you're not. For example, you are not the invincible-hero Software Developer who has all of the answers to every software development challenge. You are a real person who offers skillfulness and passion to help solve tough problems directly with your Teammates. Authenticity (i.e., your ability to be real and genuine) allows your Teammates to feel comfortable being authentic and real as well. If you walk into the office with more energy than usual, show it! Or if you're feeling sluggish on a Wednesday, admit it to your Teammates, so they can help you through the day. Great Teams ooze authenticity, which allows the Team to adapt and optimize its performance every single day. 4 - Don't Accept the Status Quo. Great Teams constantly (and respectfully) challenge the larger organization to change and improve for the Teams' benefit. As a Team Member, you can lead the charge by taking ownership of a difficult organizational issue and facilitate a broader conversation that shines the light on the issue, the impact it has on your Team, and ideas for how to solve for it. No more ho-hum: "This is just the way things are going to be and nothing will ever change" attitude. To evolve into a great Team Member, you have to be willing to respectfully & politely challenge the status quo and show some leadership for the organization's benefit. Leadership is not a job title - rather, it's the ability to inspire and influence positive changes that align with the vision and mission of your organization. You can do this! 5 - Stop Trying to Reach Consensus on Decisions. Teams make countless numbers of decisions every single day. Software Development Teams, for example, make decisions on clean-code policies, design choices, ownership of work, etc. However, be wary of consensus-based decision protocols. If every Team Member has to completely agree with a decision to move forward, then your Team could get locked in consensus paralysis and endless debates. Instead, learn how to make decisions using consent, which allows every Team Member's voice to be heard and genuinely considered, while not having to completely agree 100% with the decision. In consent, I know that my opinion matters, so I am willing to support a decision and live by it (even if I don't completely agree with it). This technique allows great Teams to make decisions faster and with the collective intelligence of the entire Team. 6 - Demand Clarity. As a great Team Member, tune your communication skills so you can help establish clarity behind the Team's goals and decisions. Teams often falter when they realize they're lacking clarity (uhhhh, what did we decide again??), and this can hamper the pursuit of high performance. Instead, show some leadership as a Team Member by carefully articulating a goal, a decision, etc. in clear and well-understood language for everyone to consume. Make sure this clarity is made visible and transparent for the entire Team (on a wall or in the electronic tools you use for managing content). This is how a shared commitment works in a great Team. For example, I can't commit to a certain Team ritual unless we all have clarity on what it is, when it's held, and most importantly, "why" it's essential for reaching our goals together. 7 - Stop Passing Judgment. Truly genuine Team Members bring an open-minded stance into the workplace, which makes you more approachable by your Teammates. If I'm on your Team and you've already formed a (negative?) opinion about me, then you won't be willing to listen when I come to you with a thought or idea. Your ability to have an open mind is an essential and necessary dynamic in a high performance Team environment. How approachable are you if you constantly assume that your Teammates ideas aren't as good as yours? To rid yourself of Team-destructive judgment, you must be willing to look at everything through the eyes of your fellow Teammates. You don't have to completely believe what others believe, and you might even be offended by how another Team Member is behaving, but that doesn't mean that you have to assume and judge that person indefinitely. Rather than passing judgment, open your mind long enough to understand how that Team Member thinks, which will drive productive and non-judgmental conversation that helps that Team Member, and the whole Team, learn and grow together. **** In Closing What opportunities do you see for yourself to grow into an outstanding Scrum Team Member? What other qualities do you feel makes a person a great member of a Scrum Team? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other. Click here to read the original post on LinkedIn Pulse
Nov 18, 2015 Read blog
Are you considered an authoritative "leader" in your organization? Do you spend your day at the top of the tower or in the trenches? Real Agile leaders abandon the top of the tower and thoughtfully empower an organization from the trenches, which fuels the connections that lead to high-performing Agility. Let's learn more about how you can make this happen in your organization. In my travels, I am baffled by the number of large organizations that still have mass cube farms, important-people corner offices, and special conference rooms that can only be reserved for 'leadership'. However, I am starting to see more companies break these barriers and create open & collaborative workspaces that are incredibly productive and full of synergy. These workspaces hold even more potential when senior leaders work and interact in the same space with everyone else. When leaders 'walk the talk' and embody a sense of community, creativity, powerful questioning, compassion and other skills & traits of great leadership, it fuels the connections that bring out the best in everyone - and this leads to a higher level of *real* Scrum in an organization. What role can you play in fueling these connections? What can you do now to set the stage for a higher-performing workplace? 1. Move out of your corner office. If you set up camp close to the trenches, you become approachable to others. If your desk has the same configuration as everyone else, then others will recognize that they are first-class citizens in the organization - we're all in this together. Some of the best ideas in your organization surface when you're approachable, and you need these ideas to come forth in order to boost your own leadership creativity and spark innovation in your space. An "open door policy" to a fancy, windowed corner office is not as open as you might think. What needs to change to make this happen? 2. Stop referring to people as "resources". The marketplace is as turbulent and complex as ever. To increase your organizational Agility and gain a competitive advantage, you have to inject the fuel that powers high-performing Teams across your company. People are human beings in your organization that bring a mix of skills, intelligence, creativity, discipline and focus to your workplace. Fixing this one word in your leadership vocabulary will make an enormous difference in how others connect with you. You still need resources though, so you don't eliminate the word - just change HOW you use it. Tables, chairs and data projectors are resources that are used daily in high-performing workplaces. People are people. 3. Discover what's important to others. You can't lead those you do not understand. Not everyone thinks the same way you do. For example, I am natively-wired as a passionate person and am obsessed with the pursuit of high performance, but just because that's important to me doesn't mean that it's important to others that I serve. To connect with others, you have to go deeper and actually learn about the amazing people that you serve. Many years ago, I worked with an inspiring and influential leader who had the ability to connect with every single person in the organization at a deep level. As he mentored me on leadership, he unveiled a large "planning grid" in an Excel spreadsheet -- each cell in the grid represented a consultant in a 400+ person line of business. He would ask me to point at any one cell in the grid, then he would proceed to talk about that one individual with some depth - personal motivators, strengths & opportunities, hobbies outside of the workplace, etc. He knew everyone and had a special gift to motivate and influence individuals and Teams to new heights. 4. Stop "discussing" organizational issues and start fixing them. The most difficult of organizational issues are tough to fix, but just because they're tough doesn't mean that they CAN'T be fixed. If others watch you take ownership of a difficult organizational issue and actually fix it, you will fuel deeper connections between you and others. You will also establish new connections as people choose to follow you vs. report to you. One additional benefit - as organizational issues get fixed, it removes barriers that unleash your Teams to pursue higher levels of performance. 5. Stop "managing" and start enabling. Ok, so you've moved out of your corner office and now sit within proximity of the Teams. Be careful though, because if you're assuming the stance of a controlling manager, then self-organizing Teams will behave differently when you're around (usually by going silent, but sometimes with verbal attacks). As an Agile Leader, you manage in a very different way - it's through a supportive stance that learns about the work, the struggles, and the celebrations so you can mentor and enable the people around you toward a high level of performance. In fact, you are no longer responsible for the delivery of projects; that responsibility lives within the small, self-organizing Agile Teams that are doing the actual value-creation work. You're now the thoughtful leader who is responsible for creating an environment that allows Agile Teams to deliver and flourish. In Closing As we close, I offer this question for reflection: What does the provocative title of this post really mean? Should there be 'secrets' in an Agile organization? Which 1 of these "not so secret" suggestions resonates with you most? Try it and let me know how it improves your leadership ability, your Teams and your Organizational Agility.
Nov 11, 2015 Read blog
In Jeff Haden's recent post entitled "The One Attitude Every Successful Person Has", I was struck at how aligned this attitude is with the Agile Mindset. What do you think? An Agile Mindset... essential for healthy Scrum...is not reserved for specific people - rather, this is the attitude that anyone can have, but it might require significant changes in what a person believes...which in turn influences how that person behaves in an organization. I invite you to share in my journey through Jeff's post as I surface a few themes that resonated with me. I am a relentless and continuous learner, so consider enriching my thoughts in the comments section below, add more themes, or even challenge my thinking: 1. The reality is that small accomplishments lead to confidence -- and that talent is often overrated. With an Agile Mindset, we no longer believe that the success of complex endeavors is measured by 'all requirements on time and within budget'. Instead, the outcomes of success are measured frequently and incrementally in terms of value. Teams that are able to accomplish these small wins along the way (vs. trying to deliver everything at the end) have much higher morale and CONFIDENCE. Talent could be a competitive advantage, but without this regular feeling of accomplishment, talent is often wasted - sadly, I've witnessed situations like these play out as well. 2. Those with a “growth mindset” have a much more malleable view on success. They do not view failure as a reflection of their ability, but rather as a starting point for experimentation and testing of ideas. Add a checkmark to the Agile Mindset. Responsible failure invites learning moments in People, Teams and Organizations. In fact, The Scrum Framework uses the pillars of empiricism to encourage fast failure as a way of managing complexity and risk. 3. Talent is essentially a head start in the race to mastery — the good news is that any goal worth achieving is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. This aligns with my experience as well. But when this talent is assembled to tackle complex initiatives in a ‘Fixed Mindset’ organizational culture, then it often ends with challenging (or even disastrous) outcomes. Have you ever worked on a long, drawn-out waterfall software development effort with extremely talented people? What was it like? If those same people had formed into Teams in a ‘Growth Mindset’ culture, how might the outcomes have been different? Examining this scenario further, what if a ‘Growth Mindset’ culture had brought less-talented people to the table? Would they have achieved better outcomes than a talent-laden Team in waterfall? Success is less dependent on the hand you are dealt and more dependent on how you play the hand. 4. Focus on creating small wins through changing your habits…nail it, then scale it. For those who live and breathe the Agile Mindset, this will resonate clearly. I see changing habits as a form of organizational change. For example, those who are new to (or struggling to try and understand) Scrum have to undergo a change in how they think and act. Scrum promotes this continuous learning and improvement opportunity, which leads to the small wins that open the door for healthy scaling of Scrum in an organization. How do you see it? 5. A key trait in the growth mindset: a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. A long time ago (before my own transition away from a ‘Fixed Mindset’), I had an organizational leader once tell me: ‘Developers are not allowed to bring any technical books to their desks…we are hiring you all because you’re smart and know this stuff, so you shouldn’t need the books.’ As I reflect on that challenged statement, clearly that leader was lost in the ‘Fixed Mindset’. I find that healthy Agile environments are those where everyone in that situation embodies a passion for learning -- delivery teams, product stakeholders, managers and senior leaders. But not just in the interest of learning! Couple this with the hunger for incremental and iterative accomplishments (i.e., achieving short, frequent and valuable goals) and I believe you have a good portion of the Agile Mindset in action. 6. If you want to improve in anything, start seeing mistakes and failures for what they are — the way you learn, and improve, and eventually succeed. Reflecting on this statement, try asking yourself these questions: How healthy is the ‘Growth Mindset’ in your organization? How about in yourself? What can you do to influence your organization to fully embrace this attitude? ————————————— What did you think? If you were inspired in any way, please consider sharing so we can collectively make a difference together. Feel free to ‘Follow‘ my content and send me an invite via LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter. Try some of my recent posts and let me know if they inspire you to bring out the best in Scrum in your organization: Agile Leadership Lessons from my Dad Are Your Leaders Promoting Courageous Communication? Are You a Manager or an Enabler? 4 Secrets to Great Agile Leadership What Does a Great Team Feel Like?
Jul 2, 2015 Read blog
Father's Day offered an annual moment for me to reflect on the journey of a humble and influential man whose life was tragically cut short in 2002 - my Dad. Although it has been a number of years since his passing, he continues to shape my mindset in meaningful and profound ways. I hope all of our readers had a chance to enjoy Father's Day in some meaningful way - either in person or through cherished memories. As we enter another week in organizations, I invite you to consider some important Agile leadership lessons that my Dad taught me: 1. Agile leaders tap into the potential of people through kindness and empathy. As suggested by many in my profession, kindness is an Agile value that is baked into the DNA of a genuine leader. I made many costly mistakes during my childhood, but rather than 'corrective action' and a fear of unforgiving punishment, my Dad would turn my mistakes into powerful learning conversations between us - all in an effort to help me grow and improve. When I had a troubled moment, he would gently connect my sorrow to a shared experience from his own childhood, the consequences he (also) suffered, and the valuable lessons he had learned. With his capacity for empathy, we would walk the learning path together, and through a kind demeanor, he helped me keep a clear head as I would think through my own failures and search for new & improved ways of handling situations throughout my childhood and into adulthood. In my travels through organizations small and large, I (sadly) don't witness genuine kindness enough from authoritative leaders in the workplace. We have an enormous opportunity to develop our own leadership potential by simply recognizing that we all have weaknesses, we all make mistakes, and that kindness is a stance for encouraging healthy, continuous learning in everyone. 2. Agile leaders fuel connections that lead to positive outcomes. As an early riser, my Dad had a specific morning routine that led him to one of our small-town breakfast establishments where various city figures would congregate daily. The police chief, public servants and local business leaders would use those cherished early mornings to share a pot (or three!) of coffee and discuss various topics of interest. When I would visit my hometown during college breaks, Dad would invite me to join these breakfasts and I always remember how he would scan the newspaper, point to an opinion article, then ask provocative questions to the breakfast crew to generate discussion. The dialogue that followed was rich, full of productive and respectful debate (and even conflict), but with his warm smile, deep knowledge of our community's founding principles, and incredible never forget a face or a name talent, everyone would leave breakfast with an ever-stronger bond. His ability to strengthen the connections between these city leaders would have a lasting effect in our community. These were the people (in positions of power) who shaped city and county policy, and we found that the environment for these breakfast conversations always centered around a common purpose that would feed into decisions that held positive intent for the community at large. Although my Dad did not hold an authoritative position in our hometown, his conversational skills and approachable personality held great influence on how these community leaders would think and act on behalf of the citizens. It was never about him - it was always about others and influencing them to think of the greater good. You don't have to be in a titled position of authority to be an influential leader in your organization. Spend time getting to know people for real, what they care about, and learn how to facilitate open dialogue by creating trusted relationships between others where vulnerability is valued. Connect people to a common, positive purpose that aligns with your organization's vision of the future. Reinforce this common purpose when conversations get heated. 3. Agile leaders sacrifice their personal egos for a purpose greater than their own. My Dad was incredibly humble ... almost to a fault. He never took credit for anything, nor did he feel an urge to put his ego front & center for his own personal gain. The man was super intelligent, an uncanny connector-of-people, instilled a deeply-rooted value system in his boys, and sacrificed so much of himself in an effort to bring out the best in our community and our family. When he died, he only had $100 cash to his name, but if you had seen how many people came and spoke about him at his funeral, you would've thought that he rolled in riches. Despite years of mentoring from my Dad, it took a long time for this learning to sink into my natively-wired, ego-centric personality. I eventually discovered that success is not about me - it's about connecting to a larger purpose that is meaningful, positive and can change an organization for the better. With that thinking, high-performance is the lagging indicator of success. As an Agile leader, you realize that people are not a threat to your career - in fact, your goal is to lift everyone around you to become better than you. In order to align with that thinking, you must search deep into your soul and decide what's important - fueling your ego to the next job promotion, or serving a greater purpose that brings out the best in others? Daniel Sloan (IV) and Daniel Sloan (III) - Univ. of Florida Homecoming 1999 ————————————— What did you think? If you were inspired in any way, please consider sharing so we can collectively make a difference together. Feel free to ‘Follow‘ my content and send me an invite via LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter. I am living my passion at The Madison Henry Group by teaching, mentoring and coaching People, Teams and Organizations to high levels of performance in an Agile environment. I would be privileged to collaborate with you at one of my upcoming public events. Would an introductory leadership coaching session benefit you? Reach out and allow me the opportunity build a trusted relationship with you and your Teams. Try some of my recent posts and let me know if they inspire you to bring out the best in Scrum in your organization: Are Your Leaders Promoting Courageous Communication? Are You a Manager or an Enabler? 4 Secrets to Great Agile Leadership What Does a Great Team Feel Like?
Jun 22, 2015 Read blog
Do you hold the job title of Scrum Master in your organization? In most big companies today, this role is still misrepresented as a Project Manager, which is hindering the pursuit of organizational Agility and hurting the professionals who are genuinely attempting to make this challenging job change. If you are one of these people, then it might be time for you to make a change. As we enter one of my darker posts, allow me the opportunity to take you back into my prior career, and my childhood for a moment... A number of years ago, I made a professional and emotional transition and I quit my job of software development Project Manager and shifted paradigms into the foreign role of 'Scrum Master'. At the beginning of this transition, I confused it with a role I played in my childhood. Do you remember the epic role-playing game called Dungeons & Dragons? As an appointed "Dungeon Master" by my friends in elementary school, I was considered the master of all, mysterious, wise, and the one who largely controlled the fate of Teams. However, it didn't take me long to realize that the supposed "master of Scrum" is actually a very different role - it's one of service-first to others, commitment & sacrifice to a purpose larger than our own, and the wielding of unspeakable power through positive influence, persuasion and genuine appreciation rather than control and coercion. If the role (job?) is fully embraced in the C-suite, then a real Scrum Master emerges as one of inspirational and disciplined leadership that guides an organization to outstanding levels of workplace performance. Sounds magical, doesn't it? If you're someone who has Scrum Master in your job title, consider investing a few minutes into these reflective questions to reveal if this is the right job for you, or even more important, discover if your organization truly understands and embraces this important role: Does your organization reward Scrum Masters for "driving results"? Does your organization discourage failure and experimentation in the workplace? Do you refer to Teams as "my" Teams? Does the organization assign you to Teams to make them improve? Do you start sentences with phrases like: "What I would like to see from you all..." or "Please help me understand why..."? Do you feel an urge to assign work to Teams or solve a Team's problems to keep it on track? Are you responsible for judging the performance of Team Members and removing poor performers? Is 'Scrum Master' considered a pay-grade job title in the organization that is commensurate with a Project Manager? Did you answer YES to most of these questions? Then your job title and workplace reality are probably different. It could be time for a job change. I'll offer yet one more question in the spirit of the theme for this post: Is a Scrum Master role really a JOB? If the answers to these questions feel uncomfortable to you, then your current job is possibly confusing, or even painful. If so, then you might be on a career path that is not right for you and something needs to change. It doesn't necessarily mean that you need to leave your organization, but you might need to exemplify courage and "quit-your-job", but in the right way that involves positive learning moments for you, your peers, your manager and your organization. Positive communication will fuel connections rather than burn bridges - which (hint hint) is an attribute of the Scrum Master role. Is this post interesting to you and your professional career goals? If so, then consider these two pieces of advice for (1) leaving your Project Management job behind and fully embracing the Scrum Master role, or (2) returning back to your previous job as a Project Manager and guiding the organization to remove Scrum Master from your job title. You owe it to your own professional sanity to get this right: 1. Change your mindset and job behavior from Project Manager to Scrum Master. This can be extremely challenging for those who have been Project Managers for a long time, but it requires you to dig deep into your mind & soul and engage in a personal transformation that changes the way you think about ..... well, most everything. Then, go forth into the organization and positively influence your senior leadership on the value of this critical servant-leadership presence, how it enables higher levels of performance in the workplace, and what is means to you personally and professionally to pursue this path in a fruitful and ethical manner. Garner support for this transition. If you aren't able to gain this support, then perhaps it's time to take your service-first leadership potential to another organization where you can fulfill your professional purpose. 2. Work with your organization to shift back into a Project Manager job. Organizations have initiatives that continue to be a great fit for a Project Manager, so it's worth seeking out those opportunities if the *real* Scrum Master role isn't the right fit for you. If you have a job title called Scrum Master, but you're acting as a Project Manager, then once again - use positive communication to educate your manager on the mismatch between the job title and the responsibilities, then respectfully request the switch for reasons that best align with your strengths and career aspirations. In order to change jobs in the right way, you first have to understand what the change means to you and to the organization. If you recognize a Scrum Master as that of teacher, servant-leader, mentor and coach, then you'll find that it's markedly different than that of a traditional Project Manager. As I continue my travels through organizations small and large, I am finding that many job-titled Scrum Masters are unintentionally acting as Project Managers in disguise. This is the cause of great pain in many organizations right now. This pain is real and evokes a strong emotional response when I have the chance to coach within an organization. The emotions are that of PAIN - to people, teams and organizations. The misunderstanding of this role is literally hurting others, and it's time to get this right in the interest of workplace humanity. Am I speaking strongly about this? Yes .... I feel strongly about it. What are some of the pain points I see in organizations? What are some pain points you're feeling? Use this pain as an opportunity-creation tool when preparing to hold a job-change dialogue with your manager: 1. It's painful for those who are trying to change into the role - Because of the stark difference in mindset, these former-Project-Managers-trying-to-become-Servant-Leaders are running into an enormous mismatch in how they think and act in the workplace. To make matters more challenging, oftentimes their job description is still written with the responsibilities of a Project Manager. They might also "report to" a boss who is creating performance bonus structures to drive the behaviors of project management, but within the misunderstood role of Scrum Master. It's confusing and painful to the person trying to change, especially if the wrong behaviors are being rewarded. In what way would your job change alleviate this pain for you? 2. It's painful for Teams that are trying to learn how to self-organize - Project Managers are responsible for planning the work of a Team and essentially assigning that work to individuals. In an Agile environment, the world is supposed to work differently - Teams are galvanized by a shared vision of the future, a business opportunity, or a business problem. These Teams self-organize to decide how best to accomplish their work and meet these business opportunities. For Project Managers who are trying to serve a Scrum Master role, I often find that they revert to the behaviors of project management which is in direct conflict to the self-organizing behavior that they are responsible for promoting. It creates pain within a Team and introduces nasty conflicts and other toxic behaviors that actually make Team performance 'worse' rather than 'better'. In what way would your job change alleviate this pain for self-organizing, autonomous Teams? 3. It's painful for the Organizations that have a sense of urgency to change - For organizations that have a critical and urgent need to change, the ultimate long-term survival of the business depends on supportive senior leadership that rebuilds the organization on a foundation of trust, respect and openness - which leads to transparency and more effective and nimble decision-making in the workplace. Crippled by the command & control behaviors of old, some organizations try to "install Agile" by training Project Managers with the expectation that they will walk out of a class as proclaimed Scrum Masters. But without the right mindset of senior leadership, this training is quickly lost and the mindset behind a servant-leader role and self-organizing Teams gives way to previous behavior. In some ways, it makes this change effort worse and reduces the effectiveness of the Organization; all because of the Organization's lack of understanding and willingness to trust Teams and enable Scrum Masters as true servant-first leaders for the organization. Old-school politics and ego take over and a promising transformation to Agile is dead on arrival. In what way would your job change enable the pursuit of higher levels of organizational performance that address a critical business problem or opportunity? Remember - use these painful conditions to create positive opportunity-focused conversations with your manager. Your job might depend on it. What do you think of this advice? What advice would you offer others who are trying to become a Scrum Master but are still acting as a Project Manager? --------------------------------------- What did you think? If you were inspired in any way, please consider sharing so we can collectively make a difference together. Feel free to 'Follow' my content and send me an invite via LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter. Try some of my recent posts and let me know if they inspire you to bring out the best in Scrum in your organization: Are Your Leaders Promoting Courageous Communication? Are You a Manager or an Enabler? 4 Secrets to Great Agile Leadership What Does a Great Team Feel Like?
Apr 13, 2015 Read blog
Have you ever been in a meeting where you felt afraid to share a difficult and truthful statement? Was "the obvious" in the room the whole time, but no one would speak up and talk about it? If so, then the time has come for your organization's leadership to embrace the role of a Courageous Communicator. Organizations that act Agile and responsively on the outside usually have incredible leadership dynamics operating on the inside. One critical dynamic is when senior leadership supports the role of Courageous Communicators. These emerging workplace leaders bring a fine-tuned set of skills and emotions to bear when circumstances are difficult and will surface the "hard truth" that is essential to the success (or perhaps survival!) of the organization. However, for a culture of courage to thrive, an organization's senior leadership must be supportive of open and honest behavior in the workplace. Think 'Family Core Value #6' from the often-admired Zappos company culture. For example, what if... ...a software company ships a broken feature to your smartphone prematurely and it causes you (the customer) a big headache. Application Developers might have known that the quality was suspect, but perhaps they felt management pressure to ship it because of a competitive threat or a customer obligation. Or even worse, maybe the Developers have a financial bonus that will only be awarded if they ship the feature immediately. If you were a Team Member in this situation, consider the answers to these questions: How would this management pressure make you feel? How would your fellow Team members feel about all of this? What is important to both the Team *and* Management in this situation? How can you be truthful to management without getting in trouble, losing your bonus, or getting fired? This situation can be avoided with Courageous Communication. Perhaps someone would respectfully and calmly step up to senior management and say something like: I feel like the management approach is forcing us to do something that could be damaging to our customers and our company's reputation. This feature doesn't meet our mutually-agreed standards of quality and completeness. If it isn't "done", what will happen if we ship it now? What is Courage? Courage is a profound value of great leadership, but it requires skillful communication, emotional awareness and a degree of professional safety to be effective in the workplace. Let's use an abbreviated definition from Wikipedia to dive a bit deeper: Courage - the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, uncertainty or intimidation. I've seen many great moments of courage unfold in the workplace, especially in organizations that experience a breakthrough moment in the pursuit of higher performance. Someone steps up and makes a truthful (and possibly painful) statement, but at the same time, this person fosters alignment from everyone and creates a better outcome for all. Have you ever seen this play out in your organization? An Example Okay -- let's try this one out: Imagine you're invited by a Scrum Team to observe a Retrospective at the end of a 3-week Sprint. It can be a powerful learning event if the conditions are healthy, but sometimes, it becomes another wasteful meeting where nothing is accomplished. In a productive Retrospective, Courageous Communication is critical. As you are observing as a fly-on-the-wall, the Scrum Master intentionally breaks an important rule of this event & invites senior technology managers to participate, so that the Team's performance can be "evaluated". You sense that the environment is uncomfortable for the Scrum Team, so when it's time to examine its own challenges, the room becomes eerily silent - you could drop a pin on the floor. The managers break the silence with feedback: "We have evaluated each Developer's performance and here's where you all can improve ...." <silence gripping the room> Now what? Where's the real leadership in the room? Out of nowhere, a leadership moment emerges from one of the Team Members. It might sound like ............ I feel like we all understand the importance of this work and the impact it will have on our company's success. However, I am afraid to admit that none of us understands how The Scrum Framework is really supposed to work. To be successful, we must acknowledge this and commit to a better understanding of Scrum and how we can all work together for a great outcome. This person goes on to share the issues with an individual-driven performance evaluation process and how it is putting the Team on the defensive. Suddenly, the other Team members come out of their shells and nod their heads in agreement. Even the Scrum Master realized the terrible error in judgment that was made. The Courageous Communicator also admitted a fear of being fired right on the spot for honesty, but felt that it was the right thing to do for the organization. Whoa. That incredible moment of courage shattered the current reality for the managers, but it opened the door for a shared understanding of the real problem (judging individuals), so they could move forward in the right way (empowering and trusting the Team). It changed everything for this Scrum Team's performance and the relationship with senior management. How can you become a Courageous Communicator? This type of communication isn't easy, but with practice, you can elevate your own leadership ability and exemplify courage to benefit yourself and others around you. Here are a few tips to consider as you examine your own capacity for courage: 1. Be open and honest about your own fears. Courage requires a leader to be vulnerable in front of others. If there is something about the situation that scares you, be honest and say it -- respectfully. If you do this, you will help others feel safe to speak their own views in an honest and open manner. 2. Do not judge. Read through the example above (again). Notice that the Courageous Communicator did not point fingers or verbally attack anyone. Rather, this person took a non-judgmental stance and did not blame the stakeholders. Point a finger at an issue and not at a person. If it's a 1:1 conversation, point a finger at your fears and the behaviors that are making you feel that way. Then, seek a common purpose between both of you, so you can open the door to a fruitful dialogue. 3. Stay calm. Don't let emotions get the best of you. I have seen many situations where someone tried to show some courage in the workplace, but emotions were out of control and everyone tuned out. A Courageous Communicator can state "the obvious" in a calm and seasoned manner that helps everyone accept the reality. 4. Don't wait. The worst thing you can do is go silent and wait until later. If a situation has escalated and the "hard truth" needs to be understood by all, then a great leader will step in on the spot and communicate the truth and foster alignment. The time is now, not later. Just make sure your skills and emotions are in check first. 5. Celebrate courageous moments from others. Courageous Communicators are influential leaders that live in all levels of an organization. Be on the lookout for well-timed and skilled moments of courage, and if you witness courage in action, show some appreciation and praise it! This is a demonstration of your own leadership when you celebrate and encourage others to be courageous in the right way. Are you a senior leader who just read this post? If so, then Courageous Communication starts with your willingness to 'lead by example'. If you embody this value within your organization, then you will encourage a healthy environment of professional safety where people are completely comfortable to be open and honest when it matters most. If you don't, then you will hear what you want to hear, but it might not be the truth that you need to make effective business decisions. Agile leaders understand the power of Scrum and constantly reflect the mirror on themselves in an effort to continuously learn & improve. Are *you* a Courageous Communicator? Are you fostering a culture where courage is valued? Have you witnessed Courageous Communication in action recently? What was it like? I invite you to share your experience in the comments section below. --------------------------------------- I really appreciate you taking time to read this post. If you learned something new or were inspired in any way, please consider sharing with your colleagues so we can collectively make a difference in organizations of all shapes and sizes. Scrum On! I am living my passion by teaching, mentoring and coaching People, Teams and Organizations to high levels of performance in an Agile environment. Want to experience some of my teachings in person? I would be privileged to collaborate with you at one of my upcoming events. Try some of my recent posts and let me know if they inspire you to bring out the best in Scrum in your organization: Are You a Manager or an Enabler? 4 Secrets to Great Agile Leadership What Does a Great Team Feel Like? The 1 Skill Every Agile Leader Must Learn Empathy in the Air What Does it Take to Change? The Power of Appreciating Others
Mar 2, 2015 Read blog