Today I read… (10/6/2017)

Why Isn’t Agile Working?

  • Agile works if applied correctly
  • It isn’t a silver bullet
  • Unplanned work and multitasking will kill Agile teams
  • Agile teams should eliminate waste and focus on delivering value

Some suggested subtitles:

  • Why do people blame Agile when they clearly aren’t being Agile?
  • Why do we allow people to blame Agile when it’s their own fault?
  • Why don’t people take the time to truly understand Agile?

Today I read… (10/2/2017)

Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins

Chapter 3 – Master Yourself

  • Coaching starts with you, but is not about you.
  • Agile coaching is about what you can bring to the team to help them unlock the potential hidden even from themselves.
  • Bring yourself completely prepared, ready to coach.
  • Become uncluttered, grounded, open to ideas, and ready to coach.
  • Coaches don’t take over.
  • Conflict Response Mode: Assertiveness – Satisfy your own concerns, Cooperativeness – Satisfy others’ concerns.
    • Competing: Assertive and not cooperative
    • Collaborating: Assertive and cooperative
    • Compromising: In the middle on both dimensions
    • Accommodating: Cooperative and not assertive
    • Avoiding: Neither cooperative nor assertive

How violent is your communication?

  • Pay attention to your language and take responsibility for your emotional wake.

For a leader, there is no such thing as a trivial comment. Something you might not even remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone looking to you for guidance and approval. (Fierce Conversations, Scott 2007)

  • Don’t diagnose, judge, sidestep, or manipulate.

When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion. – Dr. Marshall Rosenberg

Can you be their servant?

Make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? (The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf 1991)

  • How do you feel about the duty of growing people?
  • How does it fit into your idea of coaching agile teams?
  • Do people leave the teams you coach better then they arrived?

A true servant leader listens first:

  • In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?
  • What percentage of the time do you listen first?
  • Do people have room to speak when they are around you?

Empathize and accept people as they are:

  • How likely are you to accept people as they are and honor where they are on their journey?
  • When you coach, do your judgments create a barrier between you and them?

Strength in others leads to strength in the team.

Will You Respond Intelligently?

What is your emotional intelligence quotient or EQ?

Facets of who you are as a coach:

  • How you react to conflict.
  • How you communicate.
  • How well you embrace being the team’s servant.
  • How you bring choice to emotional responses.

Be detached from outcomes – Stay at the process level.
Take it to the team – Don’t be a problem solver, take observations to the team.
Be a mirror – Reflect observations without judgement.
Master your words and face – Practice non-judgment and practice nonviolent communication.
Let there be silence – Do not fill silence. Let others fill it.
Model being outrageous – Give them wild ideas.
Let the team fail – Teams that recover together are stronger and faster.
Always be their biggest fan, but be careful – Don’t praise, but tell them how they are better as a team.

When you recognize a judgment, instead of speaking it to the team, write it down. Then , look for an agile practice, principle, or value you can reinforce with the team to help them do agile well and address the matter that caused your judgment. Write what you offered down next to the judgement. Keep this “judgment vs. agile” list going while on your judgment fast and see how much trust your can build – trust in them, in yourself, and in agile.

Choose one top thing you care about. Don’t teach any and every lesson that comes along.
Sometimes the team needs you to remain unfiltered – to see your reaction as a reflection of what just happened. More often, though, your reaction is about you and has no place in the coaching.
Treat people as people, not objects.

Are you listening?

  • Levels of Listening
  • Level I – Internal listening – Filtered through the coaches lens.
  • Level II – Focused listening – Listening from the speaker’s perspective.
  • Level III – Global listening – Listening to the speaker and the environment.

Score your listening after each interaction. Which level are you using?

Are you speaking?

  • Don’t speak because you want to appear smart or add value.
  • Ensure your words are aimed at helping them get better as a team.
  • Don’t speak first.
    • Wait for someone else to express your thought.
    • If necessary, speak with clarity and simplicity.
  • Don’t speak at all.
    • Silence can be fruitful.

Are you with them?

  • Simply be with the team.
  • Be in the present and mindful of what is really happening with the team.

Support yourself.

  • Can you extend the same compassion to yourself that you extend to others?
  • Can you laugh at “failures” and forgive yourself so you can get back to practicing?
  • Will you balance your needs with your team’s needs so you remain true to what you want from the relationship?
  • Pick a practice to keep in mind all week and use reminders to practice it.

Always work on yourself.

  • Keep learning and applying new ideas.
  • Inspect and adapt.


Today I read… (9/28/2017)

Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins

Chapter 1 – Will I Be a Good Coach?

  • Agile coaching matters because it helps teams produce products that matter in the real, complex, and uncertain world, and adds meaning to people’s work lives.
  • Teams need coaches who bring to them a clear view of agile done well.
  • Coach from the center.
  • Disciplines of an Agile Coach:
  • Facilitator
  • Teacher
  • Coach
  • Mentor
  • Conflict navigator
  • Collaboration conductor
  • Problem solver

Agile coaching is 40% doing, 60% being.

  • An Agile Coach models Agile all the time.
  • You won’t hit the mark all the time.
  • To face your mistake is to model the Agile value of openness.

An Agile Coach should have coached multiple teams and seen a range of possibilities, limitations, successes,and failures across a variety of situations.

Wired to be an Agile Coach:

  • Ability to read a room
  • Cares about people more than products
  • Cultivates curiosity
  • Believes that people are basically good.
  • Knows that plans fall apart
  • Thirst for learning
  • Believes that any group of people can do good things
  • Low tolerance for institutional reasons
  • Believes that disequilibrium is essential
  • Risks being wrong

Chapter 2 – Expect High Performance

Motivation comes from autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose.

The High Performance Tree

  • Roots:
    • Commitment
    • Focus
    • Openness
    • Respect
    • Courage
  • Leaves:
    • Self-organizing
    • Empowered
    • Can solve any problem as a team
    • Team success
    • Consensus-driven
    • Constructive disagreement
  • Fruit:
    • Get business value faster
    • Get the right business value more often
    • Astonishing results
    • Team can truly do anything
    • Room for team and individual growth
  • Challenge:
    • Where are our roots weak?
    • What fruit do you want to get now?

Alternative metaphor for a strong foundation:

  • Empiricism
  • Self-organization
  • Collaboration
  • Prioritization
  • Rhythm

The team’s journey toward high performance never ends. Teach the team to honor their ability to fully and quickly recover from setbacks.



OMG! Another Meeting…

Is this your meeting calendar? How does this effect your productivity?


In The Case for Investing More in People, Eric Garton talks about the various ways to invest in employees and increase productivity. I encourage you to read the full article, however I want to focus on time lost in meetings because I think each of us has the power to immediately increase our productivity by attending (or scheduling) fewer meetings.

Regarding time, Garton says the following:

Our careless treatment of time represents a shocking level of underinvestment in human capital. For knowledge workers, time is incredibly scarce. Our research suggests that, on average, managers have fewer than seven hours per week of uninterrupted time to do deep versus shallow work. They spend the rest of their time attending meetings, sending e-communications, or working in time increments of less than 20 minutes, a practice that makes it difficult to accomplish a specific task and in the worst cases can lead to employee burnout. We know that great ideas that drive breakthroughs in productivity come from human beings with the time, talent, and energy to innovate.

One step in reversing this trend is to start treating hours like dollars, with a real opportunity cost. Companies should seek to systematically eradicate organizational drag — all the internal complexity that leads to inefficient and ineffective interactions.

Unfortunately, many of our meetings are ineffective interactions. And I think many of you probably have too many meetings on your calendar. This is counter to the Agile principles we subscribe to and reduces our ability to increase productivity.

For those of you on Scrum teams, I am not saying we should eliminate the Scrum ceremonies. (Although we should work to make them efficient.) Underlying the Agile tenets is the idea that we should only do things which add value. Many of the meetings we attend don’t add value. So let’s eliminate them and instead have valuable communication, planning, and time for work.

Most of us, maybe all, want to spend less time in meetings. And I think we can if we make an effort to change bad habits. So how do we know if we have too many meetings, what are some of the associated problems, and how do we change?

Signs there are too many meetings:

  • Calendars are full – we’ve lost control of time management.
  • Lots of “Tentative” meetings on calendars – we have so many invites we can’t even reply to them all.
  • Multitasking during meetings – how else are we going to do “real” work?.
  • No meeting goals or agendas – we don’t have time to define them, or we aren’t sure why we’re meeting.


  • People think work gets done in meetings.
  • Invites include too many people.
  • People don’t reply to invites so we don’t know if the meeting goal can be met.
  • People are late.
  • Meetings are used to schedule phone calls.
  • Meetings become a form of procrastination.

Challenge – Do the following for at least the next week:

  • Decline at least 1 meeting invite.
  • Reply “Accept”, “Decline” , or “Tentative” to all invites.
  • Ask 1 meeting organizer the following questions:
    • What is the goal of the meeting (if not already stated)?
    • Am I absolutely necessary to meet the goal?
    • Can the goal be met with an immediate phone call instead?

If this helps, continue indefinitely, and continue to find ways to eliminate more meetings. Regardless of which Agile framework we use, they each use some form of continuous improvement to increase productivity, such as the retrospective or Kaizen events. Use these to find alternatives to meetings.

If we spend too much time in meetings, then we have to change our thinking about how we do work. Valuable work usually doesn’t happen in meetings. Once we embrace this, I think we will accomplish things sooner and be more productive.

Things will only change for the better if we make them change. Hold yourself and your coworkers accountable to have fewer, more effective meetings.

Kanban Resources

I’m improving my knowledge of Kanban for software development teams. My current team needs to separate ad-hoc support requests from its sprint work. Our plan is to use a Kanban board to manage the support requests.


The Other Side of Kanban by Chris McDermott:

Kanban Fundamentals by Steve Smith – Pluralsight:


Essential Kanban Condensed by David J. Anderson and Andy Carmichael

Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business by David J. Anderson


Little’s Law


Today I read… (9/1/2017)

Theory of constraints

Today I read… (8/25/2017)

A Navy SEAL’s 15 Pillars of Resilient Teams

Navy SEAL Commander Tells Students To Make Their Beds Every Morning In Incredible Commencement Speech

How To Increase Mental Toughness: 4 Secrets Of Navy SEALs And Olympians


I regularly do something similar to visualization, but it isn’t as formal. For myself, I would just call it planning or thinking through the day. I generally think about the things I need to do, how they might unfold, and how I say things if I’m in a meeting or presenting something. Maybe more formal visualization will help me be more productive.