blog

An assortment of thoughts.  Mostly tech related.

Post-It 101 - Peel no more, pull!

So, it may seem a bit silly, but in the Post-It/sticky note world of Agile, a good technique to promote strong adhesion and reliable viewing is absolutely essential! ;)

The 'secret' is to pull...not peel!

A kinda silly, but hopefully helpful video for those embarking on their Agile journey, on how to properly remove/peel/pull sticky/post-it notes from a pad of notes for maximum adhesion, and so they'll simply sit flat on the wall and you can read 'em!

 

 

Agile Australia 2017 - Pre-Conference Thoughts

To say I have been looking forward to Agile Australia 2017 is an understatement.  Australia's biggest Agile conference is descending, and it starts today.

So...my plan.  I'm taking in the workshops session today and have been able to score a place on the session that Esther Derby is running on "Coaching Agile Teams".  I think coaching is a good fit for my personality, and I'm building my knowledge and developing my coaching experience at every opportunity, so the chance to spend some time working with someone like Esther will be really valuable.

As for the conference itself, for now, I have this as a (current) plan of attack:

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Keynotes by Barry O'Reilly, Jez Humble and Esther Derby
  • Forecasting using data - by Troy Magennis
  • Cultures of Innovation by Tatyana Mamut, Amazon Web Services
  • Continuous Learning: Ignite the curious learner in you - Belkis Vasquez-McCall, McKinsey & Co.
  • Aligning Impact from boardroom to pixels - Michael Le, Pivotal Labs
  • Global Nomads - Fabiano Morais, Envato
  • The Groupishness of Groups - Katy Rowett, Thoughtworks
  • The contagious impact of deliberate leadership - Julie Baird, The Drum (ABC)

Friday

  • Keynotes by Neal Ford, Melissa Perri and Esther Derby
  • Coaching is for Losers - Benji Portwin and Simon Cohen (Spotify)
  • The art of building a roadmap - Sherif Mansour, Atlassian
  • Can anyone adopt Agile? - Holly Brown (Australian Red Cross) and Michelle Stephens (Thoughtworks)
  • Deep dive with Sami Honkonen (Tomorrow Labs)
  • Lightning Talks (Various)
  • (fr)agile: a retro for the implementation of an Agile mindset - Kylie McKiernan and Darren Oliver from Herron Todd White

I'm really looking forward to catching up with a few people and meeting others I've read and watched online.  There's lots to learn this next few days and I'm ready to soak it all up.

Agile and the challenges that come with being a good employer

Technology is constantly improving and more and more work is classified as knowledge-work. Set these changes against the backdrop of the high cost of commercial real estate and organisations are readily changing the way they ‘house’ their employees and how (and from where) they let their employees work.

At the same time, as good employers, many private and public sector organisations are generously offering employees the opportunity to develop a better work/life balance and offer flexible working to all, enabling staff to work from a desk, or a bean bag in the office, to the coffee shop or the employee’s home office.

In the offices, staff are encouraged to float around with their laptops 'Google-style', setting up wherever they choose on a given day and to do the work they need to get done however and wherever they see fit.  Encouraged to move around and work where they please, which it must be agreed can help in breaking down organisational silos and improving communications on one level, but at the same time, it’s decimating the way teams work together.  Whatever happened to Team Spaces??

Is this Agile?

Many consider this approach to be an Agile way of working.  And I guess it is…depending on how you define “agile”.  Flexible it certainly is, but supportive of “Agile Manifesto” - flavoured "Agile"? Well, I'm a lot less sure of that.

Teams should be self-organising, and that obviously should involve organisations giving the teams the scope to choose how they want to work together, including what their work environment looks like and where they work from, and how.  Flexible working might work for the team, but they need to have a choice about that, too.

These are big obstacles

Organisations almost need to look at having a “Super Scrum Master” for the whole organisation - someone who looks at the way the whole organisation is working, understand the common impediments and obstacles across Agile teams and petition the organisation to make accommodations for a truly Agile working environment that enables self-organising teams to work as they wish.

What does the Agile Manifesto say again??

Organisations should remember the first of the four Agile Values:

People and Interactions over Processes and Tools.  People. And. Interactions.

…and too quickly we have forgotten the 6th principle of the Agile Manifesto too:

“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”

…and the 5th:

"Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the **environment** and support they need and trust them to get the job done."

...or even the 12th:

“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”

But we've got tools...

Skype, Google Hangouts, Screen Sharing, Slack, HipChat, videoconferencing and telephones et al are all great communications tools, and they certainly enable communication in teams, but they're no substitute for face-to-face communications and there's more friction involved in any tool, than being adjacent to your team - in the flesh.

TFS, JIRA, AgileCraft, Rally etc are all really great tools for managing stories, flows of work, tasks etc, but none are a substitute for a physical board that can be reconfigured in seconds.

There's a cost to this

Organisations must accept the impact these kinds of 'good employer' decisions around working practices have on a project team’s ability to become a high-performing team and accept that without significant changes to those system conditions, a ‘well-performing’ team might be the best they can get.

Distributed teams have a really high cost to them.  That cost needs to be factored in to planning, team moral, and budgets should be boosted to enable teams to gather for critical all-of-team meetings, and for regular get-togethers to ensure forming, norming and storming have the greatest chance of success.

Back to the Manifesto...

Sadly, it seems some of the values and principles have been too quickly overlooked and forgotten.

If you’re new to Agile, these principles are covered in the first couple of hours of ANY Agile training course, book or presentation, but maybe we learn too much and miss out on the important messages the Manifesto contains.

Going back to basics, and having a fresh look at the Manifesto in the context of a modern workplace might be a journey worth taking.