Category - Agile

11.01 20140

Escaping Gravity

By: michelemuse Categories:Agile

Gravity holds us to the earth.  What if the earth is not a pleasant place for you to be at the moment?  Should you allow yourself to be held down by gravity?  After all, gravity comes from the same root word as grave…serious or deadly.  When we allow ourselves to be defined by the current situation, we are killing the potential we have to rise above it and find a lighter place with a better view. As an agile coach, I failed recently.  I hate when that happens.  I gave advice instead of coaching.  I did not seek to understand “why” before I made a judgment.  I put quantitative analysis before qualitative assessment.  Calculations have to make sense in terms of the present situation; however, we need to understand the context of a situation before we begin to determine what statistics and measures are required.  When we open our minds to the world of possibilities, many answers can be correct. Imagination is genius, not numbers.  Imagination allows us to escape what is not working and to move toward a different place where we can create a new reality.  Sometimes we have to use what is not working to imagine what possibilities there are to create as alternatives. We need to project ourselves forward to the ideal, instead of letting reality rule and hold us down.  Greatness is achieved when we do not accept our limitations.  We win when we redefine our situation in new and creative ways.  Cut the cord pulling you down and drift upward.

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30.09 20130

In Search of Servant Leaders

By: michelemuse Categories:Agile

My son is involved in scouting.  Boy Scouts of America is a great organization that teaches boys how to become self-reliant, to function as a part of a team, and then, in turn, to become servant leaders for the group and the community.  It just struck me recently that although this organization is now over 100 years old, it is utilizing the relatively “new” model that I am coaching business teams to follow every day.  The Agile model is considered fairly new in product delivery circles, but the techniques have been utilized under different names and for different purposes for over a hundred years. In Scouts, the first step towards success is to complete the trail to first-class rank path.  This path teaches the boys the skills that it takes to become self-reliant and that are essential for making contributions to the group.  As the boys learn these skills, they are members of tight-knit, small patrol groups inside the larger organization.  In the patrol groups, the scouts learn to self organize and to peer-train to accomplish work objectives as a team in the most efficient way possible.  Throughout their time in Scouts after first class, the boys are required to hold leadership positions in the organization, rotating the positions every six months so that everyone shares the servant leadership responsibilities.  As patrols and patrol members mature, they are expected to help the younger, less experienced scouts and patrols and increase the amount of service hours contributed to the community. My son is involved in a very active Boy Scout troop that uses a boy-led model.  This model takes servant leadership even one step farther, instilling the values of independence and responsibility.  While there are adult leaders involved to guide the boys, the troop is led by the boys themselves.  This concept is more difficult for the adults than it is for the boys.  Adults often feel like they know the best way to manage issues and concerns, and they want to tell the children the right way; however, true learning comes through discovery in a safe environment.  The adults are in the group to ensure the safety of the environment, allowing the boys to become self reliant through discovery-based learning.  Utilizing this model, the growth in the boys and the strength of the groups are tremendous. Similar to scouting, in the Agile business world, small cross-functional teams are pulled together to work to achieve organizational objectives.  A training path is offered to teach individuals and teams the new framework and skills necessary to be successful in executing project work through the Agile framework; however, the teams, composed of peers, are self led and also participate in a great deal of peer-to-peer training.  These groups self organize to deliver iteration and organizational objectives and utilize a servant leader to keep on the path of delivery.  As teams and team members mature, they are expected to take on the responsibility of training others in the framework and to speak with other groups about how to be successful using Agile techniques. In the Agile world, managers develop new leadership techniques to utilize with teams.  In a traditional environment, managers are comfortable being directive, but Agile managers must assume the new responsibility of guiding the group, rather than directing it.  Managers must use motivating leadership techniques and help prepare a safe business environment in which the teams can function and explore.  These new responsibilities are challenging when traditionally the role has been managing in a directive style; however, the new style is tremendously rewarding when the enthusiasm of the groups, their growth and the fast delivery of innovative work products are recognized. I was at a Boy Scout meeting recently in which the scoutmaster was discussing this type of self-organizing, peer-led leadership model with the adults.  He stated that many times people encourage you to stand up and do something, but here we encourage you to sit down and watch, and the progress you see will amaze you.  I believe the same is true from a management perspective when you see highly productive Agile teams in action.

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13.08 20130

Drawing the Line

By: michelemuse Categories:Agile

The Maginot Line was a series of bunkers built by France between WWI and WWII to protect its border with Germany. When the Germans invaded France in the 1930's, they simply went around the defenses by going through Belgium.  In our own lives, we too needlessly build Maginot lines, never seeing the real issues and wasting our efforts on an unnecessary defense when an offensive position would be more productive. We live our lives and make decisions based upon what we think is true, not based upon what is really true for us at the time.  Our view of the truth is based upon what we know of the past, not necessarily the conditions of the moment.  The more we try to delay reality to fit our worldview, the more collateral damage that gets done.  We will stay in relationships--both personal and professional that are very unhealthy merely because they give us a false sense of security....a sense that everything is okay because it seems to be known and predictable, but this is the farthest from reality.  When our sense of security is built upon a house of cards, eventually it will fall. In my work with project teams, I have noticed a reluctance to move away from traditional practices that cling to the idea that we can in fact control things to such a level that we can identify a complete and unchanging project scope up front.  This perceived reality drives people to focus on their plan, rather than what is happening today and, in turn, the desired end results. We need to learn to shift our focus to the planning instead of the plan, adapting to the situation.  We should fixate on the opportunity instead of the threat.  The most promising action we can take here is to deal with our own insecurities early on and alter our actions to suite a new altered reality.  In dealing with things as they are, not as we would like them to be, we grow and make better decisions than we would if we clung to the old way of being. Don't consider your sunk cost - consider your present situation.  Deal with the reality of the moment and not the loss.  Maintaining a losing position not only deepens present losses but also represents a loss of opportunity of the other possibilities that there are for you.  Live life agilely.  Deal with change early and often.

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16.07 20130

Catch the Wave

By: michelemuse Categories:Agile

I love the thought of summer.. it makes me think of relaxing things, even if I never truly get the chance to relax.  Summer is not complete without a trip to the coast.  I really enjoy the coast...there is nothing like the beauty and power of the ocean.  As we wonder out into the blue waters, sometimes we forget how powerful they really are.  Some of the most beautiful oceans in the world are not swimable due to the threat of riptides. Riptides are an interesting concept with many life lessons attached.  Waters can look calm and beautiful, but underneath there are rocks and a powerful undertow ready to sweep you out to sea.  Instructions for surviving being caught in a riptide are counter-intuitive. If you fight the currant and try to swim back to shore, you will waste your energy, tire, be pulled under and drown.  To escape a riptide, you must swim out to sea with the currant...it is scary, as you are carried farther and farther from the shore, but you must wait until the riptide subsides in order to begin to swim back to shore.  It is the only way to survive.   As we move farther and farther out, we know we will have to get back, storing up our physical and mental reserves for the journey.

Many aspects in life are like this...we must move farther away from what we want in order to reach our goal in the end.  A power greater than ourselves is in control for a period of time, and we must focus on survival and keeping our head.  Only those with mental strength and courage survive.   In business, sometime we are caught in riptides ... unpredictable, rapidly changing events, out of our immediate control.  Larger, complex issues drive our organizations, and we must find a way to swim in these turbulent seas.  This situation is when we need to heed the counter-intuitive advice.  We must swim with the business currant, even if it is appears to be taking us farther away from where we thought we wanted to go.
Survival is dependent upon an accurate assessment of the strength of the wave and our position in it.  To fight it could mean being taken under.   When we move with the current conditions and wait for a break in the surge, we find a place to regain strength and learn to rebuild again.  Not only do we survive, we find that we have been carried to entirely new place with more opportunities.  Instead of fighting the wave, we should use its power to project us forward to unseen horizons.

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