My colleague Linda Francis and I have created an event with The Silicon Valley Agile Leadership Network in concert with Ux Eye for the Developer Guy. We are assembling a moderated panel of respected leaders of “tribes” who are involved in manifesting valuable products and building successful, conscious organizations .
We will be breaking new ground in learning how to work more effectively across disciplines and silos in the enterprise. We will be applying lean startup and User Experience principles to the business itself! Catch this unique meetup coming Tuesday, September 11th, 2012. For more events like this check out tribalmashups.com
Posted in Uncategorized.
– September 11, 2012
Small operations rarely need much guidance for the basics. A business like an espresso cart gets such immediate feedback from their environment, from their customers and location they can connect fluctuations in supply, demand, and customer happiness nearly instantaneously because it is right in front of them. They see the delighted (or not) expressions on their customer’s faces as they drink the coffee. They notice when another vendor opens up nearby and draws customers away. Their customers talk to them directly about their degree of satisfaction. The first time they run out of sugar or cream and they hear the complaints they know they need to ensure that never happens again,and the fix is simple: a trip to Costco.
Larger operations typically exist in a massively mediated milieu. Customers are rarely seen and served at headquarters where many decisions are made. Workers are strewn across the globe in various time zones, most never having met each other.
What can we do to retain the immediacy of a small operation yet obtain the power to serve on a larger scale?
As companies scale there are demands for more and diverse talent to address more diverse needs. Drawing talent from a larger pool helps, but introduces a new problem of collaboration over distance. Several solutions are typically tried:
- Create Satellite offices or branches
- Establish Audio and Videoconferencing in meeting rooms to extend to those offsite
- Bring people in to meet and work at headquarters or a conference facility
These all can help, but have their limitations. Satellite offices typically do not contain a fully independent work group, requiring tedious teleconference meetings to stay in sync. Bringing people in disrupts their local lives, burns a lot of fuel and expense, and is exhausting to most so that when they arrive they are not at their best.
How many of you have watched expensive video conferencing facilities gather dust in the corner of a conference room? Why is this? I think it is because the work does not get done by sitting in a conference room for an appointed time. It is done throughout the day, in front of a large chart or visual project tracker, by a couple folks at someone’s workstation, in a discussion while getting coffee with workmates. That is where the meeting of minds occurs, through courageous personal discussion and casual osmotic communication.
How to make this happen in a distributed situation?
One unexpected solution I’ve come across is a tele-presence robot from AnyBot a Silicon Valley startup. It can exist with the team, go where the team members go, see and hear what they see all while conveying its perspective to an operator who could be clear across the globe or down the street, at home with a twisted ankle. I’ve tried this out and am amazed at the feeling of being there that this conveys. An operator can use a web browser to log in to the robot, see and hear from the robots location, drive it around, speak through it, display their live video feed, and point at things using a green laser. People seem to accept it readily after the ‘Gee Whiz’ factor wears off.
I can see using this when working with clients who are across the country from each other. After establishing a strong foundation in person for several days, I could leave behind my trusty Anybot and either go to the next client or return home, attending to the team during certain time slots without requiring them to stop what they are doing to file into a conference room. They would be able to ‘show me around’ to the various workgroups, workspaces and visual management tools just as if I were there. What a great way of being in two or more places at nearly the same time! I’ll have an opportunity to trial this soon and will update you on how that works out.
What do you think? Would this solve any distributed team challenges for you? Would you use it for telecommuting? Serving customers better? What would the pitfalls be for you?
In the next installment of this series I will be talking about the structure of organizations for optimum sustainability in Chaordic times, involving attributes such as robustness, agility and variation.
Posted in Scaling Agile.
– November 29, 2011
Agile Games are coming to Boston this spring!
Want to learn how to get your team to make safe and sane tradeoffs between business priority and team estimation effort?
Check out my ‘Fair Tradeoffs’ game!
I’d love to get your feedback on this agile game proposal for AgileGames2011
You can get more details and give feedback on my game at http://uservoice.com/a/1M5xu
Twitter feed is #AgileGames2011
– February 11, 2011
One of the most challenging points in sprint planning is gauging what is worth tackling for the next sprint. Product owners cheerfully come up with ordered lists of their favorite user stories, but typically falter when it comes time to make hard choices of what they want ready at the end of the upcoming sprint.
What if a story is large but very desirable? Do you trade it for 4 smaller, but lower priority stories just to get more features done? What if there are many small stories and 1 large one, but the large one is lower priority? Do you squeeze it in by dropping a small story or split it so the higher priority smaller stories can be delivered? Since stories are not immutable and can be split, opportunities for many tradeoffs exist. But how to manage them? How to visualize those tradeoffs?
Inspired by Steve Bockman’s Team Estimation Game, I added another dimension: Priority, and came up with an effort-priority quadrant for facilitating the difficult tradeoff between effort and priority during sprint planning. I tried this out several times with a complex product and diverse team, gaining quick and lasting agreement on planned work for the sprints.
Since no one can properly estimate what they don’t understand, the team reviews the stories in advance with the product owners to get an idea of what needs to be built and what it might take. Ideas for preliminary tasks or steps are appended to the story description to make it more relatable to the development team. Additional acceptance criteria are added as discovered.
To prepare for the estimation, write or print out the stories on cards or stickies so they can be positioned anywhere on a wall or whiteboard. Write discovered tasks on stickies or labels and append to their stories so the tasks can be moved together as a ‘package’ or moved to another story. You could also just write them on the story cards and rewrite them as needed.
Graphical Instructions are in this slideshow:
At closing, hold a 5 minute meeting review (mini-retrospective) with team or just by ScrumMaster and product owner and tech lead for how things went
Of course, the ScrumMaster needs to represent all stories and tasks in an issue tracker, document repository,story map and/or agile wall to reflect effort estimation and updated priority
I hope this is clear enough for you to adopt this tool to facilitate easier sprint planning. Please let me know what you discover, improvements, advantages and drawbacks.
Posted in Techniques.
– December 10, 2010
Last night I was at the Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup with Artist Elizabeth McClellan and captured this time-lapse movie of her illuminating drawings of the event as well as some interesting photos. Google showed off Google Earth layers http://earth.google.com/tour.html and mashups, PayPal showed off open and micro payment APIs, http://x.com/ and Digital Media Factory http://www.digitalmediafactory.net/ featured their awesome design and production facility and movie/game/music/art making resources. Wine, Upper Crust Pizza (late but worth it) and lots of networking opportunities made for a high value event.
Posted in Uncategorized.
– July 8, 2010
I just returned from an empowering time at the Agile Roots Conference and saw many fun and useful presentations and workshops. I am an Official Innovation Games® Facilitator, so I was excited to help out with Luke Hohmann’s keynote presentation on Software Powered Innovation Through Collaborative Play.
After a few minutes explaining the value of games in fostering collaboration, Luke began the Innovation Game® Spider Web, where participants (nearly all conference attendees) were given 2 pieces of paper and a set of crayons, instructed to write their name at the center and draw a circle around it, then surrounding this, to draw the names of the people they interact with at work connecting those people’s names to each other and the participant. The more significant the interaction , the thicker the connecting line. After this, the participants were instructed to use the second paper in a similar way, but instead of putting peoples names, put their roles or titles. This can be useful for discovering the full milieu in which you work, accenting relationships of control and influence.
I was walking around the room making sure everyone had supplies needed and noticed the interesting variety of drawings. (there was no example given purposefully). Some drew a single large circle and put the names on its circumference, others created something that looked exactly like a real spiderweb with many interconnecting lines, others dispensed with the circles and just used text. One individual used dots and initials to represent people efficiently.
That’s the beauty of these games, everyone can work with their own imagination and knowledge in ways that they are comfortable with. In fact I overheard several people commenting on the insight they gained when they re-discovered relationships of influence. and how they were going to work those when returning to work.
Look for more experience reports in upcoming blog entries.
Posted in Agile Insights.
– June 17, 2010
For the last month I’ve been preparing for a workshop entitled: “Using Skits and Storyboards to explore and communicate the product vision” along with my colleagues, social media maven Amy Lightholder and artist Elizabeth McClellan. We’ve also been preparing to demonstrate the process of illustrating a persona with the purpose of bringing more humanity into the product vision.
I’ve learned how much better and more fun the outcome is when collaborating with others. The organizers of this conference have been so friendly and have such a light touch to what they do, the preparations and coordinations have been effortless and in a true just-in-time lean manner.
well, flight is leaving now, more later…
Posted in Uncategorized.
– June 13, 2010
While looking for opportunities as an agile coach recently, I found myself bewildered by the huge variety of expectations.
When I heard Pyxis was looking, I checked out their Agile Organizational Coach job requisition and found it to be heavily focused on management experience. “educate managers to the application of Agility to their management style” and “Over 14 years of experience in managing software development teams”.
Rally wanted consulting experience in their top qualifications: “Prior Consulting background– you will be working with multiple clients through on site collaboration and remote support. Experience leading consulting engagements.”
EBay wanted it all:
- Create & deliver Agile training…
- Coach Product Owners, ScrumMasters…
- Influence all levels…
- Evaluate current product design approach…
In order to regain peace of mind (well, not really, just backed off the edge a bit), I have broken down the role of ‘Agile Coach’ into the different styles of practice that I’ve seen along with some living examples. This helps me understand what type of coaching they are looking for as well as know better what I have to offer and where I want to grow next. I’m sure I’ve missed some styles. Please contribute your own:
Agile Expert Advisor/Therapist
Has lots of experience and facility for agile, has read most of the good stuff on the subject, a domain expert, understands and internalizes the principles. Translates that perspective into a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board. Provides advice and pointed questions for the agile naive in transition. (Henrik Kniberg)
User Experience Dude
Translates the vision into a usable solution by working with users for designing UI and interaction. (Jeff Patton)
Agile point of contact or liaison to marketing for the dev team. (Anu Ramaswamy)
Product Marketing Mgr
Assesses and addresses the market, codifies the vision, then shepherds product realization. (Kathy Rott)
Like a referee, makes sure everyone plays nice, understands and controls group behavior promoting innovation or better, quicker decisions. (III and Ainsley Nies)
Resolves disruptive conflict through strictly controlled gatherings and patiently persistent personality. (Tom Looy)
Provides a working vacation for stressed out employees and managers using games, simulations, guest speakers, demonstrations. (Chris Sims)
Demonstrates the practices and ways of the agile craft as a member of the team to speed acquisition of skills and agile thought patterns. (Elisabeth Hendrickson)
Arrives in a crisis ready to quickly triage disrupted organizations and gets them on the path to healing and harmony using social psychology. (Matt Gelbwaks)
Provides training classes so folks can get a start in a new field or meet requirements of sponsor. (Tobias Mayer)
Posted in Agile Insights.
– June 9, 2010
This blog is about helping people collaboratively build valuable, delightful and compelling tools, services and experiences for others.
Posted in Uncategorized.
– June 2, 2010