Saturday, April 5, 2014

'Bout Memes and WIIFMs

Language is a virus from outer space (and hearing your name is better than seeing your face) - - William S. B.  (and Laurie Anderson)

Before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you will be a mile away and have their shoes. (Jack Handey)


This post is about the power of memes, and the most powerful one I was infected with.

It is purely my take on things and (as always) should be treated with hard headed un-seriousness.

Lets go!

What is a Meme?

The world (assuming there is such a beast) is full of ideas, possibilities, actions, directions, and is (so they say) ever changing. still some ideas seem to survive while others just come and go.

This is mainly due to the fact that we are a pattern seeking animal, hence if you try to convince me (for example) that
- if everyone will decide for themselves whatever they want the result will be that there won't be a clear direction
I won't be that impressed, and probably will forget your message mid-sentence (given the bear with little brain that I am),

but if you say instead:
- Anarchy causes disorder
I'll probably understand you waaay better, and may even be able to repeat it after a day or so. probably using more or less that same phrasing.

A Meme is exactly this, an idea that has the capability to infect you, and it is at its strongest when it is clear, provocating, and has a catchy title. (a strong visual won't hurt...)

Some examples are Troll, WASP, Bio-products, SEP-field , and even Meme itself.

It is a shortcut that (like Occam's razor) shows you the shortest path to a complex and useful idea.

All this to introduce the most useful meme I've encountered in recent years, which is - WIIFM.

What the H#@%^ck is a WIIFM?

You may be saying WTF... (another meme :-) but this concept modeled for me what makes the world tick, and how to convince and engage your surrounding.
It simply means the question I advise you to constantly pose and try answer before it is explicitly asked: "What's in it for Me?"
If I want you to read this post - Why would you? What's In It For you?
If I want the team to work as a team - Why would they? What's In It For them?
If I want someone to cooperate - Why would she?

This is why you don't fill a progress report your manager asked you, because - why should you? what would you gain from this?


So, what's in it for you? why should you use this meme? (and how?)
- It will reduce your frustration when people don't react as you want (instead of feeling frustrated, you will try to put yourself in their shoes (* see quote above.))
- It will allow you to motivate yourself (as in - 'why am I writing this post?', 'I think it is since I want to understand the idea better', 'well, do I?', 'yup...', etc...)
- It will allow you to motivate others ('Why would someone read this far?', 'since she was provoked and found it funny', 'aha! so I'll add the Jack Handey quote on top and refer to it again'...)

A final note about a Meme

One of the reasons I find the Meme concept so interesting is the inversion of control, since it is not the people who pass the idea around, but the idea itself that uses people to spread itself. and (just like Laurie Anderson's virus) the strongest one survives and flourishes.

See y'all nextime!

Your Scrum'em bear.

Drawing to Agility - a host post

A great post from Vojtěch Barta, a participant in my Drawing to Agility session in Brno.
I usually like to leave the session open so people get from it what they experience and not what I think they should,
This post makes me really happy since I get to experience first hand my session thru the eyes of a participant.

Read it!

Yer Bear. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Don't you worry 'bout a Thing!

We can't live with'em, and can't live without em...

Three things lead to this post:
- My son got a new phone, and is looking for any dead pixel, possible scratch, a-symmetry, or possible real or imaginary flow.
- A team member may start working from home, so we are starting to question how to replace (or extend) the functionality of our (prrrrecious....) scrum-board.
- A song on the radio.

I hate the idea of losing the physical connection to the scrum board and using a virtual tool, and on the other hand I would like my son to not be attached to his shiny new toy so much.
And what makes me uncomfortable is the double standard I have. but do I?

I asked for some advice regarding the scrum wall, and was suggested to replace it with the Jira Agile plugin, here is my response:

I am a great advocate of physical objects, plus you can't beat the flexibility of a real board - Jira doesn't have the following options:

  • Colored postits, and different colors to write with (nor different font and font size, and writing on the other side)
  • Putting a note on the border between two columns
  • Drawing on the board to: group postits, write a name near a post-it, draw a red arrow pointing to one, drawing arrows to represent dependency, drawing silly faces, etc
  • The cost of a two meter by one screen is too high compared to a whiteboard
  • Can't use magnets with different colors and shapes.
  • The sensation of tearing a post-it and throwing it to the garbage is (still) hard to emulate.
  • During stand-up - you can't have someone holding a post-it in her hands, or handing it to someone,
  • You can't control the width of the columns
  • You can't hand a paper that keeps track of who pair programmed with whom, or note it by a flower drawn on a task.
I could go on...

I think one of the things that makes Scrum tick is exactly this, claiming back from the virtual world what is rightfully ours, objects, sensations, smells, etc.
And this is what ticks me off at my son's (who I adore:) reaction.
He expects his real object to be virtual, to have straight-as-an-arrow corners, perfect symmetry, and no flaws. while I think these flows are the fun stuff.

A few years back I saw an old man literally cry standing in front of his shiny new car, caressing it where it had its first scratch, and it struck me so much I still carry that memory.

So my take away from all this, and my reminder to my future-self is this:

Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing! (*)
* click the link to see the video.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Prize and Punishment

Which of these you believe in?? (you can pick several) 

1. Work is a necessary evil to be avoided.
- Mark Twain

2. Work is not man's punishment. It is his reward and his strength and his pleasure.- George Sand.

3. The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.
Arnol J. Toynbee.

Yup, been thinking about work lately...
- I started to work in a place where work seems like fun, and my role includes making it fun.
- A team I work for (leader-serant, etc. you know...) has worked hard, and I rolled in my mind how the work-place could show appreciation
- In parallel, I am a graduate of this Coursera course (register now! free of charge!!)

So I got this thought that I wanted to write before I forget:

1. When for working hard the prize is vacation - work will be perceived as a chore. (- see quote #1.)
*since external reward makes the thing for which you were awarded seems like something you won't do for free)
So the logical conclusion, surprisingly is this:
2. If for working hard you receive work, you will perceive work as a prize. (see quote #2)

Assuming this works, how the heck you achieve it? (hint - note #3)
And the possible solutions I came up with:
*note to myself - try it before publishing?? naaa....
- Upgrade environment (example - buy a personal kanban board)
- Give a personal badge  (*)
- Have a YourCompany-pointsSystem to buy stuff, and give some to person AND SOME TO THE TEAM (*).
* OK, you got me, I am also taking this Coursera course now...
- Till next time,
Yer bear.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thought around a new society

Two notes of caution before I start:
1.      This post has nothing to do with Scrum, It does, however, have a lot to do with agile coaching. (well… more on the coaching part of it)
2.      All notes here are purely subjective, and are meant mainly as reminders to my future self, your experience may prove the exact opposite :)

This post is written in the train, getting back from an awesome coach retreat in Nantes, while listening to John Cale and trying to record what I learnt, click…

At the end of the day, Irene posed me back a question I asked her the day before – what do you take from today and start applying tomorrow?
-        The answer became clear just when I started answering, and it is even clearer now when John Cale’s “music for a new society” fills my ears and heart:

Note #1 - Check in and take an emotional step back, don’t mix between acute listening (with strong empathy) and emotional involvement.

The event consisted of four (fictional) coaching sessions, each with one person (call her the customer) having a problem (always the same problem) in her agile implementation, two coaches, and three to four observers, and we practiced four different ‘techniques’. I played a coach twice, an observer once and a customer once.

Note #2 – As an observer, you see very clearly the coach-customer relationship and dynamics, as a customer, you see quite clearly the problem (at least part of it), but as a coach you are in total darkness, and along with it comes the responsibility to arrive to a result in a small interval, hence to let the customer leave in a better position that she started with (be it a clearer vision, an action-plan, or a decision (this is why note #1 is so important))

Note #3 – the power of silence: I wrote about it already, but I received feedback on this today, and my (current) conclusion is that it is extremely powerful. when the customer says something strong, states a powerful insight, your natural tendency is to affirm it, say “great!”, restate it, explain it, but saying nothing and absorbing the discomfort of you two (three in today’s case) proved to be extremely effective (as a feedback from both observers and customer). HOWEVER, since it puts the customer in a strong state of discomfort, use it only if the customer trusts you!! otherwise the discomfort will be used to sabotage the relationship.

While I played the customer, during the improvisation of the scenario, I started feeling the stress of my (fictional) situation very clearly.
 my coach did not propose any solution, but ‘just’ walked me thru a clear vision of the project, and suddenly I saw in a flash all of the project’s situation like an epiphany, (the problems of unclear requirements given to dev by the PO, of mistrust by dev, of disappointment by the PO, they are all due to mistrust, to the inability to accept imperfection in the other side, which is caused by a strong pressure from top management, and the solution is to take the dev and product team, and share this insight, so they understand what I (the fictional I) see. )
If the solution I came up with was proposed by the coach, I would have treated it as a shallow one from someone who doesn't know the complexity of the situation.
Coming from me, it seemed extremely powerful, hence

Note #4 – it is waaay better to give way to the customer to see the problem than to propose a solution.

I'm sure there is more, but this alone was well worth it for me!

Many thanks to everyone involved! Was a delight!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The sound of Silence (or one hand clapping)

I think it was one of the greatest philosophers of our time who said: "The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face" .
I led a workshop a short while back where I experienced how powerful silence can be, and I’d like to share it.
But first…
Imagine this post would end at the line above; perhaps you’d scroll down, but find nothing below…
How would you feel?
You would have either of the following reactions (I guess)
  • Oouuf, that crazy bear, had’nough of him…
  • Oouuf, that forgetful bear, again he forgot to save the whole post before publishing
  • Hmmm… I wonder what he meant to say…

And that’s the power of silence; it forces the listener to deal with the void, to fill it with her presence, her reflections, etc.

This works in music (in its simple form, think of how your brain is trying to guess where the song continues after a pause, to the extreme, remember the John Cage piece…), in art (think of a Rothko painting) and for sure in agile-coaching.

A while back, I read a post by an agile coach who was really proud of how he solved a problem between the development (who was producing too much to be tested) and the testers who were not able to follow up, he located the problem, named it, called the teams in (mid sprint), and presented the problem he saw and the solution (VSM). I would have probably taken another way of action:
- do nothing. 
- see what happens. 

A solution to a pain is always stronger if the pain is strongly felt by the team and not by the coach... and who knows, perhaps your perception is wrong. 

So this is a segment of my response...

My response may be provocative, but I am known for this, I hope you find it interesting as well..
Seems to me you located a problem, explained it to the team, and introduced a tool to prevent it.
I’d consider a totally different approach, which is to do nothing, and let the problem happen…
I’ll explain…
Supposing your assumption is right, the sprint would have finished poorly, perhaps even failed, which may waste some work (not a lot, I’d say a few days… since dev was done) but would produce a heated retrospective perhaps some conflicts between QA dev and PO
And THIS IS GREAT! it will boost the team’s maturity and spirit enormously (if handled correctly, and remember – the retro is YOUR tool, this is where you can effect the team the most)
But what if your assumption is wrong? what if the sprint would’t have failed?
what if the QA is overbooked because they over-test? in which case there would be not so many bugs, which may lead to a change in the weight allocated to testing.
When explaining what YOU see is wrong (and you said you had a hard time to do it), and putting a tool in place, you are (IMHO) blocking the growth of the team.
And now for the hardest part for me, an apology:
- It is so easy to interpret a story when it is given to you all wrapped up and you are not involved, I remember how I was so proud with some things I did with the team, and felt so stupid when re-thinking about it months later

In the workshop last week I experienced the power of nothingness first hand. For example – the participants split into teams to gather findings, and then I asked them to present their findings to everyone.
After the first presentation they looked at us (the coaches), I waited a bit, than asked them if there are any questions to the presenter, and then started clapping (everyone joined) and invited the next presenter.
After the second one finished, they looked at me, and I did nothing… fifteen seconds of awkward silence (god – it seemed like eternity :-). 
Than someone started clapping hands, so everyone joined.
When the clapping ended, another awkward silence… people looking around – now what?! Until the next team’s speaker said “I guess now it is my turn” and got up.
For the next presentations - their 'routine' was easier, and they didn't even look at me... hence they took a step toward independence and self organisation.

I hope I made my point, just wanted to add it is not easy to be silent (certainly not for a blabber-mouth bear like me…) which makes it a great experience.

And of course - sometimes you DO have to say something... (@ least I do...)

Would love to hear your comments (silent comments are of course welcome as well :-)

Till nextime!

Yer Bear.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Dedicated to the late great Dennis Potter, half of this post is published in this blog (call it the left side of my brain), while the other is published in the competing blog (right side, etc.)

The two posts are independent, but inseparable.
The Corpus-Colosom part is for the you to exercise (or not).

Before I begin, I want to say something.

In a company I worked a longlong timeago, every employee (all over the world, thousands…) received one day a brown envelope with a book and a small handwritten dedication by the VP. The book was "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seouss

I remember the strange looks on the faces of most of my colleagues, (one that had the air of “we would prefer a bonus…”), and I also remember my thoughts, it was clear to me this guy tries to speak American biz-lang to Israelis, that he wants us to identify with the company and this is a sincere ‘technique’ to do that.

Now looking back, I have a different view of what really happened.

  • One evening, this guy read a book to his kid.
  • A chord struck, he felt – hey! my company is an adventure, just like this book!, its future is open!, this book is about my company!
  • Than a crazy thought emerged: I have thousands of mates on this journey, though I don’t know most of them they are what this is about, they share my vision, I have to show them this book, they will understand!
  • And that’s what he did.
But he lost most of us…
(I still don’t like the book, but now I appreciate his courage)

I don’t know what the moral of the story is, but I know what I’d like to say.
  • In the last few months I’ve been having life changing experiences I want to share.
  • Lots of you don’t know me, of those who do, some of you don’t, of the rest, lots of you won’t understand what the heck I’m talkingbout.
  • If this is the case, feel free to ignore this post. (as you always are :-)

So now, that I got this out of the way, I can start.

A vision is a motion, if we talk Agile, a vision is an everchanging beast that changes form and direction.

I had the fortune once in my life to be a friend and a coworker of a visionary, someone I would have followed blindly to the end of the world and beyond, but I am starting to realize I totally misunderstood his role and the way he perceived it.

He was no visionary, he was ‘merely’ a focal point to the team’s energy, he would come up with a grain of an idea (or would embrace one of ours) and let us toy with it, let us lead it to where it rolls.

I don’t know if he ever realized that’s what he does, he was just thankful enough we played on the same team.

His CV doesn’t mention anything about this, but he breaths agility like a fish that swims in water, not realizing the name of this stuff, or even that there is something else.

Though I didn’t speak to him in ages, he is still my best friend and zen-master, the one who taught me everything I know.

Recently, I have a feeling of a double-déjà-vu.
  • I met his twin, only this guy knows formally what ‘Agile’ means, since he comes from that methodology/ state-of-mind, whatever.
  • I was (and still am) lucky enough to feel the sensation myself, to form a team (see my last post), and experience the sensation of taking responsibility for a group, lead it without knowing where it is going, play with it, see it take a form that is beyond the individuals in it but that consists of every participant and her (there are more she than he there :-) interactions with the rest.
Perhaps I’ll talk about the first point another time, I’d like to keep you up to date about the second.

So where were we?

As I said last time, our weekly meetings are ‘managed’ by me, and I wanted to see what happens if I give them to someone else. Last time we chatted at a coffee after the meeting, and I asked a fellow team-member if she wants a challenge, she jumped right in with great joy and no hesitation…

Not only that, she was stupid enough to pick a subject I knew is hard and frustrating, we worked only with a pencil up to now, and she picked colors as a subject. I don’t understand the first thing about colors, and I’ve been drawing for decades (wow… I really have been…)

And not only that, she didn’t even start to realize what a big responsibility it is, I mean, we talked a bit, she was happy to get any advice, but took it over-easy.

It is so frickin hard to let go, man, I’m tellin ya, till you built the team’s confidence, you invest your soul in it, and you give it to someone who will surely break it.

And on top of all this, she had our meeting at the museum of modern art, what’s there to draw?! Where are all the realistic sculptures with the fine details whose soul we wanna capture?

At the last minute I managed to save the new-comers, I thought that veteran members can withstand a session like this, so I left them at the hall of the entrance, gave her my phone number (for when she will need me, for sure she will need me!), an went to another floor with the new ones.

Such a great team of newcomers it was, but so fragile, I was grateful I didn’t leave them with her.

And you know what happened, right?

It was THE AWSOMET meeting we had so far!

This girl was rockin! The team was flying! You could light up all of Paris with the electricity the team generated (the color session was held in the electricity hall by Duffy)

I’m so ashamed of my doubts; I know I could and should have let her have the new-comers…

I will publish some of the work we did (I had the time to participate a bit) at my other blog, but I am not talking at all about the product.

The PROCESS was awesome! The exchange and the teamwork, she made everyone work with each other, and to start from the least expected.
At the end (demo?), some members didn't know who did what...

You know the funny part? at the coffee we had after the meeting, (where unfortunately she couldn’t come) they gave her complete ownership of the meeting, but they gave me complete ownership as well!

And the really funny part? I proudly accepted it!

Thank you Mari, Thanks A. Thanks K.

And a HUGE thanks to aaaall the team members (some of the things you said or wrote me almost made me cry…), I wish to god (wherever she may be) none of you reads this post…

Till nextime!

(BTW, I still took the last ten minutes of the meeting to do my crazy sh**t, otherwise I wouldn’t have been…)

The Scrum’em bear.