The old new black

December 30, 2010

I feel that the novelty of agile has worn off quite some time ago; it has become mainstream and now about everyone is ‘doing it’.

Quite many made a good profit on enjoying the sound of their own voices for two days before pronouncing a bunch of attendees ‘The Masters of The New Black’. Now we have all those previous project leaders and a few in-some-opinions-upgraded/better-paid-as-some-kind-of-leaders developers/testers renamed to Scrum masters (nothing against them, but too often I saw an ex great developer/tester becoming a not so necessary Scrum master, mostly spending their time being drowned in administrative crap). And all those newly produced Scrum masters made the management quite hopeful that they finally obtained the silver bullet by buying a pile of titles and instant education for small money. Small? I’d say it is an awful lot of money considering the value bought.

The point has been missed often, and over and over again. At first I thought it is in human nature. I am not sure. Maybe it’s habits. Old habits die hard. Old processes, titles, values are so deeply rooted in everything we do. We give things new names, invent the new black every now and then, causing us all to run in the same direction for some time, like a herd of sheep on and on again.

I’d say – put weight on technical excellence, on forming your team out of smart people with good attitudes, right values and a healthy amount of ego (nothing kills a good team spirit like one member’s big ego). Give them open hands. Give them resources and education they ask for. They’ll figure everything out without micromanagement and full-time Masters of whatever is in fashion right now.

I am not sure why I am writing all this. It all started by me wondering about this blog and about what I will blog about here in the future. This blog has my name in its url and I want to continue blogging here. I blog elsewhere about my and my husband’s cats, and write speculative/goth/noir fiction/poetry from time to time. I still do not know what I will blog about here, but my writing probably won’t be about agile.

P.S. Dear agile (and non-agile) readers, I still believe in Lean values and I like Kanban. Scrum has a great historical value. Please, let it be just that – historical.

P.P.S. There are a lot of people I respect and value who have been teaching Scrum to others. While I think highly of them, some of our views on agile differ substantially. Vive la différence! 🙂

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Being lean and blond

February 9, 2009

Some background

This happened a while ago, long enough so that the main characters can not be easily identified. Except for me, of course. It is okay, I can take it. I am blond. And I am lean. No, I am not Paris Hilton in disguise. I am a freaky-geeky kind of blond.

Some time ago I was given an opportunity to work with an offshore team from India. It was a very valuable experience from which I learned a lot.

I never went to India. Some of the team members came to the Stockholm office, where I work, now and then, but very rarely. We had a space distance between us, yet we were working tightly, every day. That does not come easy, you have to work a lot on keeping a long distance relationship functional.

Down with the Agile bat! (Long live Agile!)

To cut the long story short – among other things, I was trying to coach the team in Agile methods. Instead of hitting them on their heads with a big bat with “AGILE” written all over it, I had this idea that we should work on adopting a set of common values as a first step.

So, I started a series of workshops we held via WebEx, since that was the best way of communication we had available. Face-to-face communication is always the best, but we could not do that. Visual conferencing involving web cameras is second best, I think, but we did not have that either. Well, we had WebEx. They could see my screen and presentation and we had an audio connection.

Long live innovative examples!

During one of those workshops I was talking about Lean principles and was trying to explain why it is important to decide as late as possible. Then I brought up one example. Now, what not all of you may know is that I am quite proud of my examples. I am also proud of the fact that very often I come up with my own ones in order to simplify and explain things. And then it came:

Decide as late as possible

“You know, it is like when a guy meets a girl. You don’t really go and say the day after you met her: “I want to marry you!”, and run off to buy a ring. No, no, you wait for some time, until you have more information about her, your feelings, her feelings, how you get along etc. THEN you start thinking about the possible proposal.”

SILENCE.

“My point is that this is an IMPORTANT decision, and that is an example why it is valuable to decide as late as possible. You will simply gather more of the relevant information during that time! You will minimize uncertain assumptions and crystal ball predictions, and maximize the facts that will help you make better decisions.”

SILENCE.

Okay, silence or not, I was so happy  how I quickly came up with such a great example, without any preparation that I just continued with my presentation.

The feedback

During the upcoming two days I did not get much feedback on my presentation, which made me feel a bit down. I was new to the assignment, it seemed hard to work with all the distance, and I was warned about the cultural differences I might encounter, but anyway – I was very enthusiastic and happy to work in such a challenging setup! Still, I got no feedback for my first action, and my enthusiasm started to suffer some damage.

It is very hard to try to coach a team you never met. You do not even get to see their faces during the workshop. We humans get so much information through the non-verbal communication, and now I was stripped of that!

And then it came – the team told me that what I did was “A Milestone for the Team!”. Wow. They liked Lean! My interpretation seemed to have helped them! My efforts were not in vain! I was sooooo happy!

Some more feedback

Shortly after that great first feedback, a guy from the team contacted me via Skype in the evening, after the working hours. Usually all of the guys from the Team were “just business”, very nice and polite, but very serious and formal. Well, what I could not see coming at the time, their usual ways were about to change a bit.

This guy, after all the introductory apologies for what might follow, dared to ask me the following:

“Are you married?”

Hm, okay, that WAS a bit different. “Yes”, I answered.

“Love marriage?”

“Well, yes.”

Of course, I mean – the usual story – you fall in love, you date, you move in together, and then, after some time – you marry the one you love. Or – you live happily ever after without getting married. What else could it be. I was thinking… and thinking…

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. THEN it clicked for me. What I said during the presentation and all… NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

blondebaxtentialistfainting11

Love and marriage

But, my new Skype-friend continued to chat with me:

“I will ALSO get married for love!”

Aha. This was getting interesting. I was recovering from a Am_I_A_Jessica_Simpson_Clone_? experience, but put that aside quickly. What this guy had to say seemed really important.

“… Ok. That is good! I recommend it!”, I was recovering quickly.

“No one shall choose my wife! My parents will have nothing to do with it!”

“That sounds like the way to go. Yes, some parents might try to get too involved sometimes.”

My new friend did not give up on clarifying his views even more.

“I will also find love, and get married to my true love!”.

My heart melted. He was so sweet! We chatted for a while, about India and arranged marriages, among other things. I was so touched that I got to know someones private thoughts and appreciated so much a view through that window to another culture I got to experience. What I learned later, through close interaction with the guys from India, is that, put very simplified, the ones who practice arranged marriages see marriage as a union of two families, not only two individuals. That made me understand it better.

It is a very complex question, about the arranged marriages and the whole different culture than the western one. Millions of pages were and millions more could be written about it, and it is not my aim to tackle that here. Personally I do not think that there is an ultimate right or wrong way to find your significant other, and what works for one, might not work for other. Still, I am for the freedom of choice.

Embrace mistakes

I learned something that day. It is okay to make mistakes. People will forgive you as long as you are honest and true to yourself. And after a mistake is made, you will hopefully learn something. It is not what happens, but how you deal with it.

cartmanilearnedsomethingtodaysmall1

BTW, whatever your hair color might be, my dear friend, remember – being blond is a state of mind. 😉

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A bit different X-mas card

December 22, 2008

 

 Joakim and I wish you all a merry Christmas and an agile New Year with a Christmas user story:

xmas1

Turn for the conditions of satisfaction->

xmas2

(Some of our friends that are geeky enough to appreciate this got similar cards in paper via snail mail today :))

Many hugs,

Jelena & Joakim.

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How to start the transition to Agile within your organization: “Baby Steps” or “Big Bang”?

December 3, 2008

 

Why do you want to become Agile? What are the goals you want to achieve with that? Think about it. And then – think again.

In another post, I addressed some commonly used antipatterns, when one wants to get Agile just because it is cool, because everyone else already went Agile, or similar.

Here are two very different models that can be used to describe the transition to Agile from one perspective (Small versus Big). Which one is the most appropriate for your organization depends on many factors.

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55:5 – Trying to understand Albert’s world saving formula

November 27, 2008

The Guy

My first guess is that you all heard of him. He was my idol when I was a child, and a some of that infatuation remained even when I grew up (sort of), but I am not sure if he would make My Top 10 Favorite Famous People list today. (A mental note: Jelena, compile that list!)

My other guess is that you have some similar feelings of respect and amazement with the guy.

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What the Pomodoro technique is and why my cat cares

November 25, 2008

Do you want to increase the effectiveness of your working process?

Do you want to fight your tendency to procrastinate?

Do you want time to be your friend, not your enemy?

We are humans, not machines. We can not work non-stop, we need maintainable pace.

Did you hear about the Pomodoro technique before?

This is how my cat helped me capture the essence of Pomodoro on camera:

leroyexplainspomodoro

Staffan Nöteberg blogs, among other things, about the Pomodoro technique in a smart and cool way. He makes it easy to understand the mechanisms behind it.

Check out his Pomodoro Technique in 5 minutes, you may find it valuable. I recommend it!


How to make your organization Agile in seven easy steps

November 20, 2008

(common Agile transition antipatterns exposed)

(High Crap Factor warning!)

So, you want to become Agile… everyone is on that track already, and you feel that you are lagging behind. Do not worry! Agile is not hard, it is not magic. There is so much information out there, it can be overwhelming. Let me help you. Here is how to become Agile – fast.

1. Announce to everyone that from now on, you are Agile. Communicate it to your employees, put the ads in the relevant newspapers, underline that you are doing (whatever you are doing) – The Agile Way!

 becomingagilebyyelling1

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